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Media's focus on ideal body shape can boost women's body satisfaction -- for a while
Date:4/11/2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio When researchers had college-age women view magazines for five straight days that only included images of women with thin, idealized body types, something surprising happened: the readers' own body satisfaction improved.

But the boost in body image came with a catch. Those women whose body satisfaction improved the most also were more likely to report that they engaged in dieting behaviors such as skipping meals or cutting carbohydrates during the course of the study.

That suggests these women may be inspired by the images they view and become momentarily hopeful that they can improve their own body shape and possibly even achieve the same thin-ideal bodies they see in the magazines, said Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, co-author of the study and associate professor of communication at Ohio State University.

"The media are saturated with images of idealized body shapes, which may make viewers and readers aspire to achieve the same," Knobloch-Westerwick said.

"But it is a losing battle. Women are motivated by these fitness and beauty magazines to try to attain these supposedly perfect bodies, and may even get a short-term body image boost when they start dieting. However, research shows that most diets fail and they're eventually going to be back being unsatisfied with their bodies."

These results contradict hundreds of previous studies suggesting that the media obsession with promoting ideal bodies only damages women's satisfaction about their weight and their body, Knobloch-Westerwick said.

But this study's design included a more realistic simulation of how women actually use the media, she said. The women viewed full magazine pages with text, instead of only photos of ideal bodies, as in many of the earlier studies. As a result, the findings can help explain why fitness and beauty magazines remain popular, even though their images may make many women ultimately feel inadequate and unsatisfied w
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Contact: Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick
Knobloch-Westerwick.1@osu.edu
614-247-6801
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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