In 2017 the media is still dominated by images of slim women and this one-dimensional illustration of beauty is affecting the way we see our bodies.
According to new research, looking at photos of slim women for just 15 minutes changes our perception of what the “ideal body” is.
“The thin ideal is the western concept of an ideally slim or underweight female body, and its omnipresence in the mass media has a negative impact on women’s health,” the researchers, from the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, said.
“Media consumption is associated with a drive for thinness, body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, and disordered eating in women of western and/or industrialised societies.”
To investigate how our media exposure to different body types impacts our thoughts, the researchers travelled to rural villages in Nicaragua, to meet men and women who’d had very little exposure to such images throughout their lives.
The participants, who ranged from the ages of 16 to 78, were first asked to draw their ideal body using computer software they’d been taught to use by the researchers.
The villagers were then split into two groups, with half shown photos of slim models (UK dress size between 4 and 6) while the others viewed images of plus-sized models (UK dress size between 16 and 28).
The two groups were then asked to repeat the first task and draw what they considered to be the ideal female body.
Those who were shown the photos of slim models created drawings that were thinner than those they had originally made. In contrast, those exposed to the plus-sized models created new images with an increased body size.
“Analyses revealed a significant interaction between time and group, meaning that exposure to media images shifted the subjects’ ideal female body size,” the researchers said.
According to New Scientist, lead researcher Jean-Luc Jucker said: “We are trying to raise awareness of this thin body ideal and of eating disorders like anorexia.”
The study is published in full in an online journal, here.