Attaining Idealized Status: Motivation to Diet and Exercise after Exposure to Women with Ideal Body Types in Relationships
We examined if exposure to idealized images of women would impact women’s perceptions of themselves and their likelihood of engaging in unhealthy behaviors. We used different images for conditions of idealized relationship status and body image. Participants completed this study in two parts. In the first part, they completed questionnaires to assess internalization of the idealized thin body image and feelings about the self. In the second part, participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions. Participants saw a picture of a woman with or without an ideal body who was either with or without a male partner. After viewing one image, participants reported their desire to look like the model, feelings about themselves, and the length of time they felt motivated to exercise. Our results show that idealized images of women’s bodies influence behaviors and feelings of women who have internalized idealized media images and have weight concerns. Specifically, after viewing a thin model, women who have internalized the thin ideal and those who have concerns about their weight reported greater desire to look like the model, felt worse about their bodies, and reported that they wanted to exercise for longer. Being exposed to idealized images of women in relationships did not influence women’s motivation to engage in unhealthy behaviors or negative self-perception. These results add further support to previous research that demonstrates that media images impact how women feel about their bodies and can motivate women to engage in unhealthy behaviors to obtain idealized images.