Body Image and Magazines:

Sleek, skinny models staring at you on the pages of beauty and fashion magazines can play a starring role in how you feel about your body.  True or false?  Body image, magazines, and depression are somehow intertwined.  True or false?  You can improve your feelings about your body by limiting the time spent looking at beauty and fashion magazines.  True or false?

I’ve just pored over some of the scholarly research on this subject, and many researchers’ findings are that:

  • The American “ideal body type” for a woman has decreased significantly in weight since the 1940’s, with a drastic decrease after 1979.

Marilyn Monroe


  • The measurements of the “ideal body type” have become much more straight.  A flatter bust and larger waist is much more prevalent than it was decades ago, with the most drastic shift after 1979.
  • We are flooded with these images.  Most Americans will see over 250,000 ads depicting the “ideal body type” by the age of seventeen.
  • Most researchers see a profound relationship between the degree of dissatisfaction with one’s body and the amount of time spent looking at beauty and fashion magazines.  However, some researchers don’t see a difference unless the person had a negative body image to begin with.

In the studies I read, I saw a variable which may have a significant impact but which was not measured.  I think it confounds the results.  That is, we are unable to measure the saturation with such media before the experiments.  So the researchers are assuming that it all would level out.  Obviously this type of research would be exceptionally difficult to conduct.

Some studies suggest that after women look at beauty and fashion magazines for ten minutes, they feel somewhat depressed.  Saturating ourselves with ultra-thin model images takes a toll on how we feel about ourselves.  Or do you disagree?

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Anita says:

    I think watching movies & TV does more damage to our body image than fashion magazines. And I don’t think that the media is purely to blame for the shift if body image. Women are more athletically active today than 30-40 years ago. Half of my own battle with body image is wanting to have a body that can do the activities that I want to do.


  2. I definitely think that magazines play a big role in increasing the amount of girls with body image problems and low self esteem. So much so that I’ve started a project involving creating a prototype magazine to show to the editors of Cosmopolitan and Cleo magazines in Aus to show them how mags could be improved. If you’re interested in reading more about it then there’s a video on this site that explains my project:
    I’d also really like to put your site on my blogroll – would that be alright?


    1. Jessica,
      Thank you so much for the email. I’m glad you are calling the magazines to glory! Here in the US, a seventeen year old girl wrote a petition to Seventeen Magazine. She wanted them to have real models in the magazine, and they started to put one in each issue. It’s certainly a start, but I hope the major photoshopping and airbrushing can stop. Have you seen the Dove Real Beauty campaign photo of a model from the time she comes into the studio with no makeup, to the end results on a billboard? It is done in time-lapse photography and is less than two minutes long.

      I would be honored to be on your blogroll. 🙂

      I will go to your site now and see what you’re doing.

      Keep in touch,



      1. Hi Cherrie,
        I was inspired to get my project launched after seeing the actions of Julia Bluhm actually. It only takes one person to get the ball rolling and fingers crossed it won’t stop until everything is fixed…
        The Dove video is amazing – a great thing for all young women to watch and understand.
        Fantastic, I’ll get your site added to my blogroll in a couple of hours.


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