Magazines have gotten a bad rap--for a pretty long time--for publishing photos of beautiful models instead of "real" women. The message that media sends about body images has always been a hot topic, and we're not about to open up that can-o-worms. But some new research recently blew us away: It turns out that reading a magazine like FITNESS--with hot bodies and all--isn't so bad for your self-esteem.
Dr. Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, an Associate Professor at Ohio State University, did something different than the other researchers out there...she focused on what types of articles were surrounding the pictures of the beautiful models. Her and her co-author Joshua Romero's ground-breaking findings: People who identify themselves as dissatisfied with their bodies were much more comfortable looking at images of ideal body shapes when the photos were surrounded by articles or content suggesting that they too can be as attractive as the models. But if the articles or content don't inspire them, then they tended to avoid the photos. Take a look below to see how this is illustrated. Fun fact: These are actual images that were shown in Dr. Knoblock-Westerwick's study!
How it works:
If you see the hottie H&M girl, and then an article that's unrelated to your appearance, you feel more comfortable then looking at an ordinary photo and you avoid images of ideal body shapes. But if you see the hottie H&M girl, and then an article that tells you how you can achieve a better-body goal, you're more comfortable with pictures of ideal body shapes. And when I say "more comfortable," I mean that Dr. Knobloch-Westerwick actually timed how long people would spend looking over the pages.
And not only did we score some real photos from her study, but we got Dr. Knobloch-Westerwick to answer a few more of our questions...
FITNESS: What surprised you the most about your research findings?
DR. K.: A lot of earlier research finds that seeing images of ideal bodies has a self-deflating effect. So we wanted to see whether that self-deflating effect of ideal body image exposure would emerge if those images could be avoided by the reader in the first place. What surprised us was that we didn't find any significant impacts on body satisfaction...despite hundreds of earlier (forced exposure) studies that showed self-deflating impacts. It was also somewhat surprising that the impacts were so parallel for men and women.
IN OTHER WORDS: Even if you can avoid the pictures of the beautiful people, you don't necessarily feel any better about yourself.
FITNESS: What about if you see an image of something like a chocolate cake...next to an article telling you that you can lose weight? What happens to readers' emotions then?
DR. K.: I would suspect they feel frustrated; but there are just so many different facets of being a woman that it's difficult to avoid. On one hand you might want to be a "good mom," but on the other hand, you want to be hot.
IN OTHER WORDS: We're totally going to keep telling you to get enough sleep, but to also fit your workout into your day. And if you feel frustrated, we understand, but we "get" you more than you know. Winky face.
FITNESS: What else are you studying that magazine readers might like to hear about?
DR. K.: I'm about to release the findings of what happens when someone reads a beauty/fashion/fitness magazine for five days in a row, versus those who don't...
IN OTHER WORDS: Check back here to see what else Dr. K. reveals...
And until then, take our poll!