Friday 23 March 2018

The (Ironic) Dove Effect - Plus size models are contributing to obesity crisis says study

Models walk the runway during a presentation as part of Fashion Weekend Plus Size Autumn/Winter 2013 collection show in Sao Paulo
Models walk the runway during a presentation as part of Fashion Weekend Plus Size Autumn/Winter 2013 collection show in Sao Paulo
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

A new study suggests that plus size models used in advertising are contributing to the obesity epidemic.

Many top brands, including Dove and Boots, regularly use larger size and plus size models in their advertising as a way to counter-balance the industry norm of very thin models.

These skinny models are often blamed for giving young girls an unrealistic impression of what constitutes a healthy body and for contributing to women's dissatisfaction with their own bodies.

However, according to a study published in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, the influx of images of plus size models is going too far the other way and contributing to obesity.

Researchers Lily Lin and Brent McFerran call it 'The (Ironic) Dove Effect' in reference to Dove's #RealBeauty ad campaign which features women of all shapes and sizes.

They suggest that when larger women are promoted in ad campaigns it becomes “socially permissible, and individuals exhibit lower motivation to engage in healthy behaviors and consume greater portions of unhealthy food.”

They conducted several experiments, one of which saw women hold photos of a thin mannequin and a large mannequin while walking past a clothing store and rate statements about how they felt themselves size-wise.

Women who were shown the larger mannequins felt that being overweight or obese was more socially acceptable.

Another experiment saw women given a cup of seven chocolates before looking at photos of plus size women with different captions - 'for normal women', 'for plus-size women' and 'for women'.

The women shown the photo 'for normal women' at the most chocolate.  The researchers concluded that certain images and captions make consumers believe larger bodies are fine and those people increase their unhealthy food consumption as a result.

Women were also asked to create their perfect meal and the women who saw larger body types as fine created higher-calorie meals.

The researchers concluded that "drawing attention to any body size and suggesting it is an accepted standard may be a poor idea" and added that advertisers and policy makers should "refrain entirely from drawing attention to the body size issue."

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