As-Sunnah Vol. 2 Issue No. 3


Notes: Marketing Body Image and Eating Disorders

The Wish to be Thinner
= The number one wish for girls aged 11 to 17 is to be thinner. 40% of nine and ten-year-old girls are on diets; girls as young as five have expressed fears of getting fat.(10)

= As many as ten million females are struggling with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia; most anorexics and bulimics are between 11 and 25 years old. (11)

Boys are not Immune
= Increasingly, boys are also dissatisfied with their bodies. The increasing muscularity in toy action figures helps set unrealistic body ideals for boys.(12) Much of the entertainment marketed to boys particularly professional wrestling, features extremely muscular body types. In one study, more than half of boys aged 11-17 choose as their physical ideal an image only possible to obtain using steroids.(13)

Marketing is a factor in eating disorders

= Even as kids are being assailed with messages to eat junk food, they, especially girls - are being sold the notion that they are supposed to be impossibly thin.(14)

= Adolescent girls' discontent about body image is directly correlated to how often they read fashion magazines, which are filled with ads featuring underweight models.(15) Girls with eating disorders are more susceptible to messages about body image than girls with normal eating patterns.(16)

= Viewing television commercials leads to increased body dissatisfaction for both male and female adolescents.(17)

= After television was introduced in Fiji, there was a significant increase in eating disorders among adolescent girls.(18)

= 50% of advertisements in teen girl magazines and 56% of television commercials aimed at female viewers use beauty as a product appeal.(19)

= A study of 500 female models found that almost half were malnourished according to World Health Organization standards.(20)

= A life-size barbie doll would have a sixteen-inch waist.


10. Schreiber G.B. et al. (1996). Weight modification efforts reported by black and white preadolescent girls. Pediatrics, 98(1): 63-70.
11. Crowther, J.H., Wolf, E.M., & Sherwood, N. (1992). Epidemiology of bulimia nervosa. In: M. Crowther, D.L. Tennenbaum. S.E. Hobfoll, & M.A.P. Stephens (Eds.) The etiology of bulimia nervosa: The individual and familial context. Washington, D.C.: Taylor & Francis, pp. 1-26.
12. McLean Hospital. (1999). Body Image Disorder Linked to Toy Action Figures' Growing Muscularity. Press Release.
13. Cloud, J. (2000). Never too buff. Time, April 24.
14. Kilbourne, J. (1999). The more you subtract the more you add. In: Deadly Persuasion. New York: Free Press, pp. 128-154.
15. Field AE, et al. (1999). Exposure to the mass media and weight concerns among girls. Pediatrics. 103:E36.
16. Verri, A.P. et. al. (1997). Television and eating disorders: study of adolescent eating behavior. Minerva Pediatrica, 49(6): 235-243.
17. Hargreaves, D. & Tiggemann, M. (2002). The effect of television commercials on mood and body dissatisfaction: The role of appearance-schema activation. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 21, pp.465-477.
18. Becker, A.E. et al. (2002). Eating behaviors and attitudes following prolonged exposure to television among ethnic Fijian adolescent girls. British Journal of Psychiatry, 180, 509-514.
20. Owens, P. (2000). Weight and shape ideals. Thin is dangerously in. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 979-990.

Taken from As-Sunnah Newsletter -


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