Weight and Shape Ideals: Thin Is Dangerously In


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Patricia Owen, Department of Psychology, St. Mary's University, One Camino Santa Maria, San Antonio, TX 78228-8573.


Thinness as an ideal of feminine beauty is nowhere more evident than in the popular media. The trend toward an increasingly thinner standard and a more tubular body shape has been documented in Playboy centerfolds from the 1960s to the 1980s. The present study provides information about body standards into the 1990s. Body measurements of two groups of models were compared: contemporary Playboy centerfolds and ready-towear and commercial print models advertising on the Intemet. Results revealed that thinness is increasing for centerfolds, many of whom meet weight criteria for anorexia. Results also showed unhealthy levels of thinness in the Internet models. Body shape for both cohorts is curvaceous, results which do not support prior research indicating an increase in the tubular body. Discussion focuses on the role that both the media and the health industry play in contributing to Western culture's adoption of an unhealthy body ideal.