Study: Photos of Kitty Cats, Air Make Women Feel Fat

New study shows even plus-sized models make women feel badly about themselves.

Sigh. Is there anything that doesn’t make us women feel like monstrous, overstuffed cows?

We know pictures like this and this do the trick.

Friends make us cry fat tears, too.
High school cliques bulldoze body image, sororities are breeding grounds for anorexia and billboards like this throw us into a fat-and-calorie tizzy.

I’m surprised that when Sea World trainer Dawn Brancheau was recently tragically killed by Tilikum the 12,000-pound killer whale, headlines didn’t scream “Warning: Images of killer whales make women feel like bloated Shamus!”

So I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised by this new Arizona State University study that shows plus-sized models – the very women who are supposed to provide salvation from bad body image – make us feel craptastic, too.

In this shiny new age of Crystal Renn and Lizzi Miller and the Dove girls, the hope was that seeing different (read: bigger-than-size-two) body types would help us women at home relax and step off the Crazy Train for a little while. But ASU researchers found that the showcasing bigger models doesn’t make most women feel good.

“We found that overweight consumers demonstrated lower self-esteem – and therefore probably less enthusiasm about buying products – after exposure to any size models in ads (versus ads with no models),” said Naomi Mandel, marketing associate professor in ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business. “Also, normal-weight consumers experienced lower self-esteem after exposure to moderately heavy models, such as those in Dove soap’s ‘Real Women’ campaign, than after exposure to moderately thin models.” Larger women felt better about themselves when ads don’t include any models at all.

Oh, some good news: When skinny, low-BMI women look at models of any size, they tend to get a self-esteem boost because they can relate to the thin models and feel superior to the plus-sized ones! How nice.

If you’re wondering why a business school prof is the one commenting about this phenomenon, here’s your answer: Because normal-sized women get bummed out by seeing images of their plus-sized counterparts, they (the bigger gals) would be perfect to feature in ads for weight-loss products, diet plans or health clubs. Basically, the normal-weight-but-poor-body-imaged woman see the ad, feels even less confident in herself, and immediately zooms to the story to buy that potentially dangerous appetite suppressant. Way to prey on our insecurities!

I’m not sure if this theory extends to men, but if it does, I give it two weeks before we see start seeing Viagra ads on TV featuring John Goodman and Kevin Smith.


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