Plus-size models may boost body image: Study

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(thephotoholic/shutterstock.com)

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, Last Updated: 3:12 PM ET

The cultural obsession with slim female figures could be overturned if advertising flaunted fuller-sized models, a new British study suggests.

Researchers from Durham University in the UK enlisted 100 women to view pictures of models of various sizes. The more images of thin models the subjects saw, the more they preferred thin bodies. However, women who habitually strongly preferred thin models were "significantly less keen" on thinner body types after they'd been shown photos of plus-sized models. The effects also worked when showing women images of ordinary women as well as models.

"Power of exposure"

"This really gives us some food for thought about the power of exposure to super-slim bodies," says lead author Dr. Lynda Boothroyd from the university's psychology department. "There is evidence that being constantly surrounded through the media by celebrities and models who are very thin contributes to girls and women having an unhealthy attitude to their bodies."

"This study points towards an important aspect of our modern lives," adds Susan Ringwood, chief executive of the British eating disorders charity Beat. "We see an average of 2,000 images a day in advertising alone, and most of these include bodies that are more slender than average." She adds, "Increasing the diversity of body shapes and sizes portrayed in the media could rebalance our views about our own bodies in an emotionally healthy way."

The fashion industry responds

Meanwhile, there has been some movement in the fashion publishing industry to change its ways. The editors of all 19 editions of Vogue around the world pledged this spring to use only healthy models no younger than 16 on their editorial pages. This summer, Seventeen magazine, responding to a gutsy high school student's petition, also pledged to feature only real, unaltered images of girls in its pages.

The new study was published online in the journal PLoS One on November 7. Access it here: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0048691


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