Thin models in magazines aren't to blame for making women feel bad: it's the mildly plump ones we should avoid, say psychologists.
When women look at pictures of skinny, but not skeletal, models, their self-esteem goes up says a study in the Journal of Consumer Research. The women also feel thinner.
When the same group of women were shown shots of "moderately heavy" models, they were much more likely to focus their thoughts on how fat they felt, says the Tilburg University study.
This clearly helps to explain the success of women's magazines that use models who are thinner that their readers. But why do women like seeing them?
The answer may lie in another study out this week, which says that women are far more likely than men to be influenced by role models of the same gender. The study, in the Psychology of Women Quarterly, indicates that women are far more likely to identify with their peer groups. So a magazine full of healthily slim women make them feel better by association.
But if women's magazines editors really want to cheer up their readers, they could try another tack: the Tilburg research found that pictures of extremely heavy women made readers feel thin and confident by comparison. Such is human nature.
Thoughts? Some of the points here seem fairly obvious - seeing someone who weighs a lot more than you will undoubtably offer you some comfort about your own weight. But what about ED sufferers who actually want to look skeletal and emaciated? Does the promotion of very-thin-but-not-sick looking women in magazines encourage eating disorders, in that they offer what one might consider a idyll - a very thin women who still looks happy and healthy?