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Oct. 13 2009 - 4:44 pm | 167 views | 0 recommendations | 4 comments

Warning: If You’re Overweight, Don’t Read Women’s Magazines

Your Va-jay-jay

Image by TheeErin via Flickr

Makes perfect sense that if you’re overweight, looking at photos of extremely thin models might deflate your self-esteem. But according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, looking at models of any size is a bad idea if you’re on the wrong side of the scale.

The study examined shifts in self-esteem among overweight and underweight women when exposed to advertising photographs of various sized models.  When underweight women viewed photos of overweight or thin models, they felt better about themselves.  When overweight women looked at the same photos, they felt worse. 

Presumably this is because underweight women compare themselves equally to thin models and favorably to overweight models, but overweight women compare themselves unfavorably to thin models and find their similarity to overweight models depressing. 

Quoting one of the study authors:

“Underweight women’s self-esteem always increases, regardless of the model they look at…On the other hand, overweight women’s self-esteem always decreases, regardless of the model they look at.”

(via EurekAlert)

But here’s the rub: before looking at any of the ad photos, overweight and underweight women’s self-esteem was roughly the same.  Exposure to the photos made all the difference. 

Besides giving us another reason to consider really thin people an aberration of nature, I think this study has an important message: not only is advertising the unreality industry, it’s also the make-you-feel-bad-about-yourself industry for anyone not in the sanctified portion of the BMI scale (which is most of us). 

Skip the Cosmo, you’ll feel better about yourself in the morning.


Comments

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  1. collapse expand

    I must have been the exception to the rule, because when I was severely underweight (but, I guess in that “sanctified” BMI region you mention), I still thought I looked massively obese compared to magazine’s models. And I’m inclined to suggest that most anorexic/disordered women would feel similarly.

    Oh, and bonus tip – skip the magazines AND the BMI Index for an even bigger self-esteem boost.

  2. collapse expand

    But if I skip the Cosmo, how will I know the “5 things never to tell my guy”?

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    I’m a freelance writer, blogger and research wonk who writes about science, technology and the cultural ripples of both. Along my winding career route I've been a public outreach specialist, editor, research analyst, proposal writer and part-time journo. When I’m not writing for True/Slant, I’m blogging about neuroscience and a medley of ‘ologies’ at Neuronarrative.com, and writing freelance for Scientific American Mind.

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