Fashion Week models have spoken out about the dramatic and sometimes dangerous diets they and their friends use to lose weight quickly.

Three models spoke to the Herald on Sunday on an assurance of anonymity as they feared they might jeopardise future work.

One model, already a veteran at 21, said she would be walking in a show almost every day of the coming week. "You see girls doing disgusting, horrible things but, hey, it happens," she said.

"One year a girl I worked with would dip cotton balls - the stuff you use to clean nail polish - in orange juice and eat it. It stopped her from being hungry or wanting to eat for, like, four days. The orange juice was so she could swallow it."

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The model said she grew up in the industry. At age 16 she would eat only apples for a week and would go for runs covered in food wrap to sweat off kilograms in the lead-up to Fashion Week.

She called for regulations to protect models before New Zealand industry expectations reached European levels.

"I hope those girls get to a stage where they don't feel like they have to live that kind of lifestyle and they realise living like that is not conducive to happiness," she said.

"You are supposed to look a certain way, despite what people say, and if you don't fit into the clothes or if you're the biggest girl there, that's a horrible feeling.

"There might be food backstage and a girl might say, 'I've already eaten muesli today' and you'll be like, 'well it's 4 o'clock in the afternoon, that's a little bit weird'."

Other models said the industry's demands were often exploitative and unrealistic.

"Before I started [modelling] I never thought my legs were big, but you start realising all these little problems," said one. "Knowing that there's always something to improve is hard to deal with."

But another girl said her agency told her that if she ate healthily and exercised she would be able to book more, better-paying jobs.

"Agencies don't tell you to be skinny or stop eating - they tell you to get off your ass and go for a run."

Metro Consultancy dietitian Amy Liu said many crash diets had potentially dangerous side-effects.

"Models who follow any type of starvation diet can be left weak, dizzy and undernourished," she said. "They're definitely high risk."