Nov. 3, 2006 —Young women obsessed with their own body image eat more food after looking at magazine advertisements that feature the "ideal" thin body, research shows.
But those with a healthier body image, who you might expect to be less influenced by the ads, eat less.
The Australian study shows that advertising affects eating behavior, just not necessarily the way we think.
The researchers publish their study in the November issue of the journal Eating Behaviors.
Fiona Monro, a PhD student at the University of New South Wales, explained the results.
"We would expect people who value the way they look would be reminded by viewing the image and not eat," she said.
"We're not sure why we found the reverse but possibly because of stress....[Women obsessed with their appearance] see the idealized image and think about their own body so turn to food.
"They might think 'what's the point, I'm never going to look like that, I may as well eat' or the image makes them think they're thinner than they are so they eat more," said Monro.
Two hours after their last meal Monro asked 68 female university students to rank the importance of physical attractiveness, health and physical fitness to determine whether they value the way their body looks more or less than the way it functions.
The researchers were interested in the notion of self-objectification, the way some people view themselves and their bodies as an object to be valued for external appearance.
The women's answers categorized women as low or high self-objectifiers, with high self-objectifiers valuing appearance more.
Participants then viewed six magazine ads for body-related products like diet pills, some containing images of idealized female models, some not.
Body-obsessed people (or high objectifiers) ate more food and sweets after viewing idealized body ads than ads without models.
Low objectifiers ate less food after seeing idealized images than the other ads.
"There's no doubt these images have an effect on some women and can lead to changes in eating behavior, especially when you consider how many images people are exposed to every day," Monro says.
She says in future eating disorders might be reduced by identifying high-objectifiers in schools, enabling education to change emphasis on appearance and promote a broader acceptance of body shapes.
makes you think twice about "thinspiration"...