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Chick Lit and Body Image Study

Book Characters Could Harm Body Image More than Superskinny Celebs

If you want to have a positive impact on your body image, you might have a better luck trading chick lit in for high-fashion magazines. A study released recently found that book characters can negatively influence body image, while another found that Hollywood's standards aren't as powerful as you would think.

Researchers at Virginia Tech looked into the impact chick lit can have on a woman's body esteem and found that when a protagonist expresses negative feelings about her body, it has a negative impact on the reader's own concerns about her weight. Reading modified passages from Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin and Dreaming in Black and White by Laura Jensen Walker, the study participants felt less sexually attractive themselves when they read about slim women and more insecure when reading about a character with body insecurities.

Meanwhile, at Texas A&M International University, researchers concluded that exposure to television and social media do not predict eating disorders or dissatisfaction with your own body. Rather, peer competition and not Hollywood's narrow beauty ideal leads to negative body image, suggesting young women compare themselves more harshly to their friends than their favorite celebrities.

On the surface, these two completely independent studies seem to find opposite conclusions about the impact of media on a woman's body image. One says characters in books have an impact, while the other says it is our real-life peers, not the images we see in the media, that influence how we feel about ourselves. But looking at them together, the findings could indicate that unlike celebrities or television characters, women relate to characters in literature similarly to how they relate to their real-life peers. I think we just found a topic for a new study.

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