09/14/2010 10:05 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

What Michelle Obama Can Teach Us That Models Can't (1 Year Later)

A year ago, I wrote about Spring 2010 Fashion Week because I was finding it quite uncomfortable to look at most of the models. Now, Spring 2011 Fashion Week is occurring and I'm finding that I'm having a similar reaction.

It's no less serious. Eating disorders are not a joke. Eating disorders kill at disproportionate percentages, and I'd rather be a broken record than not sound the alarms.

There are two differences:
  1. I'm not focusing on Ralph Lauren's ridiculously Photoshopped model.
  2. I wanted to share something that I'd written in last year's comments:

    A friend of mine who's designed outfits for a few fashion shows said that a designer told her that the models are essentially supposed to be hangers - the items on which the clothes are hanging. That way, people will focus on the clothes and not the models.

Without further ado:

New York Fashion Week Spring 2011 is currently occurring. Normally, I avoid looking at runway pictures, but wanting to see if there was a Michelle Obama influence at the shows, I decided to look. On the sites that I visited, people were commenting on how beautiful -- or how ugly -- certain outfits were. I barely noticed the clothes because I was so distracted by the models underneath the garments. Line after line, show after show, model after model looked the same: jutting chest bones, sharp clavicles, bony knees, and so on.

As someone who has struggled with eating disorders, I was particularly disturbed by most of the models. I've been to in-patient and out-patient eating disorder facilities and more support group meetings than I can count. When I was looking at a lot of the models from Fashion Week, I thought the same thing: Those models look like so many girls I met in treatment. She needs to be hospitalized right now. In an in-patient facility. For months. And she needs feeding tubes.

It wasn't just their thinness that triggered these thoughts -- after all, there are plenty of healthy, naturally thin women. It was that a lot of them looked eating-disordered sick.

Last year, when I originally wrote this, I saw the new issue of Prevention, which featured FLOTUS on the cover in an attractive Jason Wu dress. Then I saw a picture of a model wearing the same dress during his Fall 09 runway show. I thought the dress looked much better as a form-fitting frock on Michelle than the draping piece on the model.

I don't expect fashion shows to feature more realistically sized females any more than I expect fashion ads to stop excessively trimming their models. That's how the fashion world is. The models and images aren't there to help us feel better about how we look. They're there so we can feel inadequate but tell ourselves, If I wear this outfit or if I buy that accessory, maybe I'll look and feel better. I do hope, however, that seeing images of healthy, strong, beautiful women like Michelle Obama will encourage us to feel more comfortable with ourselves and celebrate our bodies.