The media is still dominated by images of slim women and this one-dimensional illustration of beauty is affecting the way we view our bodies.
New research reveals staring 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 industrialized societies.”
In a bid to investigate how our media exposure to different body types impacts our thoughts, the researchers traveled 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 the computer software the researchers taught them to use.
The researchers then split the villagers into two groups, with half shown photos of slim models (UK dress size between 4 and 6) while the others were shown images of plus-sized models (UK dress size between 16 and 28).
The researchers then asked the two groups to repeat the first task and draw what they considered to be the ideal female body.
The group that was shown the photos of slim models created drawings that were thinner than those they had originally made.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.
According to the researchers, “analyses revealed a significant interaction between time and group, meaning that exposure to media images shifted the subjects’ ideal female body size.”
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.”