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New study is ‘food for thought,’ says National Eating Disorders Association

November 14, 2012
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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Academic British researchers recently published a new study that suggests the obsession with being thin and unrealistic body image could be altered if advertisers utilized more plus-sized models.

The study was published Nov. 7 in an international academic journal, PLOS ONE, and was led by Durham University with colleagues from Newcastle University and the VU University Amsterdam.

Looking at more than 100 women, the study, titled “Visual Diet Versus Associative Learning as Mechanisms of Change in Body Size Preferences,”provides evidence to support calls for fashion models to be more representative of the actual population, which could ultimately help girls and women to develop  healthier body image and attitudes towards food and exercise. In the preliminary study, women who strongly preferred thin body shapes were significantly less attracted to thin bodies after viewing photos of plus-size catalog models. Conversely, showing slim models increased women’s preference for thin bodies. Additional research, which will also include men, will be conducted to examine the change in preferences in more detail.

Lynn Grefe, president and CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) commented, “This study is yet more evidence that unrealistic body images in the media are a trigger to developing poor self-esteem and, in those who are pre-disposed, eating disorders. It is time to make a significant change in our societal views, to embrace diversity and to raise our kids to live happy, healthy and confident lives.”

NEDA also has a Media Watchdog advocacy program,’ which encourages concerned consumers to write to companies and advertisers and ask them to send healthy media messages regarding body size and shape.