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Plus-sized Models and Growing Obesity Rates - a Connection?

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The use of plus-sized models in advertising could be linked to growing obesity rates, a new study reveals - highlighting complex issues that have to do with body image acceptance and the normalization of weight gain in modern culture.

The study, conducted by researchers from Simon Fraser University's Beedie School of Business, found that increased exposure to larger body types could have a "detrimental" effect on overall public eating behaviors and lifestyles.

Researchers are careful to point out that while accepting larger body types was associated with negative consequences in this study, "fat shaming" has also long been linked to negative outcomes - and fails to improve the motivation to lose weight.

The findings

In a series of five experiments, researchers aimed to see how participants would react when given cues that suggested obesity is "acceptable."

Results showed that subjects were more likely to consume unhealthy food and had a reduced motivation to engage in healthy lifestyles - outcomes that were driven by an increased belief obesity was socially acceptable, per the cues the participants were given.

Researchers suggest that marketing efforts to show more diverse body types may actually be causing heightened "body anxiety," which is the opposite effect they are trying to achieve.

"Since neither accepting nor stigmatizing larger bodies achieves the desired results, it would be beneficial for marketers and policy makers to instead find a middle ground - using images of people with a healthy weight, and more importantly, refraining from drawing attention to the body size issue entirely."

Source: Simon Fraser University

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