"Thinspiration," or "thinspo" for short, may be a scary term associated with twisted "Pro-ana" groups, but it's not exactly a foreign concept to anyone who has grown up female in this country. Practically the time we're hangin' in our mother's wombs, we're encouraged to look at photos of skinny models and wish we were them. From tween's lockers to grown women's refrigerators to just about every magazine cover on newsstands, skinny models appear everywhere. And this is supposed to be "aspirational." It's supposed to make us want to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and go to the gym -- for one reason alone: So we can look like lose ridiculous amounts of weight and look them, duh. But does it actually work?
According to Anne Klesse, a researcher at Tilburg University in the Netherlands who recently did an experiment that asked this very question, nope!
Klesse and her colleagues recruited female volunteers who signed up for a weight-loss program and gave them diaries in which the volunteers could note precisely what they ate and when. Half of the volunteers got a food diary that had a skinny model on the cover and on every page. The other half got diaries with a neutral logo. The results, reports Klesse to NPR:
Those people that saw the diary without the model on top — they were actually able to lose weight. Surprisingly, the people that [had the diary with the model on it] were not able to lose weight, and, even worse, they even slightly gained weight.
Shocked? You shouldn't be. This isn't exactly a newsflash or rocket science. The researchers admitted that the reason may be what you'd probably guess ... The women who had to be reminded of that skinny model every time they thought about or reported their meals were simply reminded that looking like that was unattainable. So why shouldn't they rebel and sneak that extra snack? Who cares? They're just average women trying to achieve a normal, healthy weight, after all! They'll never be Kate Moss!
Surprise, surprise. Unrealistic ideals aren't encouraging. In fact, I'd go so far as to say something that incites fear or negativity is rarely, if ever, motivating -- particularly when it comes to weight loss. It clearly pays to be much more realistic about your goals and have some self-compassion. In other words, instead of vying to look like that faceless size 0 chick in a bikini, aspire to look like the best version of yourself. After all, science that's what will translate to the results you desire anyway.
What do you make of this research? Do skinny models motivate or discourage your weight loss/fitness efforts?
Image via o5com/Flickr