All hail the fuller figure

20 June 2017 - 08:45 By SUTHENTIRA GOVENDER
A 'plus sized' model walks down the catwalk. File Photo.
A 'plus sized' model walks down the catwalk. File Photo.
Image: Daniel Born/The Times

Images of plus-size models in fashion magazines make women feel more satisfied with their own bodies and promote greater psychological health.

This is according to a new study by Florida State University which reinforces what body-positive advocates have campaigned for - a more realistic portrayal of women by the media.

Researchers recruited 49 university students, all of whom hankered to be slimmer. They were shown images of thin and full-figured models on a TV screen.

With thin models, the participants came away from the experiment with less body satisfaction. But shown their curvier counterparts they reported feeling more satisfied with their figures.

Researchers concluded that there's a clear psychological advantage when the media show more realistic body types than the traditional slender model.

Pop star Rihanna - who hit the headlines for gaining a bit of weight - received praise for her extra pounds, mainly from women.

Meg de Jong, MindTheCurves blogger and plus-size model, welcomed the findings.

"It's awesome that there is research to back up what we have known all along. When women only see one kind of body type or skin tone represented in the media day in and day out, they begin to believe this is the only definition of beauty. If they don't look the same, they aren't beautiful."

De Jong said having a greater variety of women in the media - including all body shapes, skin tones and ethnicities - helped women to accept their own bodies "are beautiful too".

Clinical psychologist Ingrid Artus said when women compared themselves with traditionally thin models, it evoked a negative body image and associated emotions.

"The research appears to indicate that when advertisers use desirable yet attainable images, it evokes a positive effect. It's wonderful when media celebrate women in all their glorious shapes and forms so that women can unlearn destructive self-criticism and re-learn healthy self-acceptance of their bodies," she said.

She cited the example of Cuban women, who have limited exposure to advertising and "have very healthy body image - no matter what shape or size they are".