We asked five random women that if they could change one thing about them magically and immediately, what would it be, and without batting an eyelid, three out of them said “I wish I could be thinner.” This is not surprising, considering that there are so many of us who’d love to be thinner. Some scientists are now claiming that they know why this is so.
According to an article published in the journal Evolution and Human Behaviour, it is not size zero models that make women want to be thinner; it is images of successful people irrespective of their size. So, even if that brilliant advertisement for that great car in which a super skinny model hogs on high calorie foodstuffs because “curves are back” made you feel glad, it won’t affect your wanting to get more attractive.
This study, conducted by Norman Li – a psychologist of Singapore Management University – and his colleagues, showed portraits accompanied by character descriptions to 841 volunteers in Austin, Texas (USA) and found that heterosexual women were unhappy with the way their bodies looked and were more likely to change their eating habits after seeing pictures of successful women. Surprisingly, heterosexual men did not give the same response. Even more surprisingly, lesbian women did not give the same response, but gay men behaved exactly like straight women. In the researcher’s words, “These findings support the idea that the ultimate explanation for eating disorders is related to intrasexual competition.”
An ANI (Asian News Network) article quoted Li as having said that this behaviour has an evolutionary origin and suggested that since people in the west tend to gain weight as they get older, they have come to equate thinness with youth and attractiveness, and competitive advantages in general. Thus when we see ultra thin celebrities in the media, our competitive instincts go into overdrive.
Delhi-based Life Coach and counsellor, Dr. S.P. Sharma seemed to concur with the findings. “What we see in the media plays a large role in how we view ourselves,” he said, “It makes us feel ugly and be thinner, leading to problems like BDD (body dysmorphic disorder), anorexia and bulimia.”