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Susan Cowden, MS

Plus-Sized Images Can Change Body Size Preferences

By November 8, 2012

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Eating disorder professionals and advocates have long discussed the effect of the 'thin-ideal' on body-image and self-esteem.  Westerners see an average of 2,000 images in advertising alone, on a daily basis, and images of thin bodies far outweigh the number of normal and plus-size bodies seen in the media.  There have been multiple studies on how this may play into the creation of eating disorders and how it affects the self-image of people who don't have eating disorders.

Interestingly, there is new research that society's preference for small bodies could be changed by viewing more images of plus-size models.    A study done recently at Durham University in the United Kingdom, showed women images of both slim bodies and plus-sized bodies.  When shown the photographs of the plus-sized models in 'aspirational' settings (such as a beauty product or fashion advertisement), the preferences of the women being surveyed changed.

Although it is unknown if viewing larger people would change preferences long-term, it is an important finding and one that encourages fashion designers and magazines to continue to increase the number of plus and normal sized women who are featured on their pages and in their shows.

What do you think of this study's results?  Do you think that viewing more normal and/or plus-sized women would change your preferences?


Lynda G. Boothroyd, Martin J. Tovée, Thomas V. Pollet. Visual Diet versus Associative Learning as Mechanisms of Change in Body Size Preferences. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (11)

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November 22, 2012 at 4:48 pm
(1) Miss .M says:

I would like to add to this hypothesis, that youth would just as likely be inspired byteachers,administrators,and coaches,etc who are of at least normal to above the average body weight.
. Anyone youth may look up to in envy of their status , power, and position in society would most likely influence their attitudes and feelings of body image.

The mere idea that only commercial models of above average, or above the average weight make an influential difference, is just one observation of one aspect of persons in society.

I think you should compare other types of role models that youth interact with, besides commercial models, and then do the research on the preference and influence of body image acceptance outcomes as a bar graph. Comparing the differences in types of persons that are inspiring, in spite of being large sized people in society.

Look at football players for example, and medical doctors, and dentists, and college professors. Most persons would probably prefer these persons to look healthy as their role models than skinny , undernourished leaders or professionals interacting with youth influenced by images of perfection.

I bet you would find as well, that the 1st groups you used , if you had one, would also be influenced by people of power and leadership as well. That’s still just a hypothesis, because it has to be compared to the other types of factors too.

Thoughtfully yours,
Miss Moynihan

November 22, 2012 at 5:14 pm
(2) Miss M says:

I don’t agree with this hypothesis. I believe other factors of influence and inspiration should be compared to just the one factor of large sized models influencing body size preference. For example what about teachers, professional persons of influence such as doctors and dentists, nurses, etc. These persons would certainly be of influence to persons easily inspired by power and position in society. Look at rich athletes who are overweight ; for instance Football Players. They are no super models but I think if they were left in charge of a room full of skinny chicks, and had access to food all around them, then they role modeled proper eating and etiquett after eating, such as Not Running out to the Toilet Immediately after eating. I hypothesize that women and men would also be just as easily influenced by these people of influence and prestige, as eaqually as posters of overweight or average weight Commercial Models, which is Hardly Ever Anyhowe.

I don’t think that the body size really makes a difference, it’s the fact that these are examples of persons in society who are Elite, well paid, powerful, and influential persons of interest to persons easily influenced by this type of factor.
” who they would chose most likely to look up to as role models?”

This was only a single factor survey but a multivariable survey and write up would be more realistic and allow for more decision making choice in deciding on the outcome for the most influential role models affecting the group of persons being studied and their reaction to these persons of influence…..


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