Fitspiration, the New Thinspiration?: The Impact of Viewing Fit-Ideal Media on Female Body Dissatisfaction
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Background: The benefits of physical activity have spurred the proliferation of exercise and fitness media, advertisements, and programs. Concurrently, research demonstrates the detrimental effect of thin-ideal media on female body satisfaction. This study seeks to determine the effect of fit-ideal media on female body dissatisfaction and the differential effect from that of thin-ideal media. Methods: Participants (n = 248) were recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk. Eligibility criteria included female gender, ages 18 through 29, residing in the United States, English fluency, and no current eating disorder diagnosis. Participants were randomized into three groups exposed to different media foci: thin-ideal, fit-ideal, and neutral. Participants completed demographic and baseline measures. Participants completed a manipulation check, followed by a measure of state body dissatisfaction, the Body Image States Scale, a measure of conditioned body dissatisfaction, the Body Image Concern Inventory, and a pictographic discrepancy measure, the Current and Preferred Silhouette Measure. Results: Based on a one-way multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA), group assignment did not have a statistically significant effect on the outcome variables of conditioned, states and pictographic body dissatisfaction when the effects of media usage, eating disorder pathology, drive for leanness, and internalization of the thin-ideal on body dissatisfaction were controlled, Pillai's trace = .02, F(6, 480) = .81, n = 248, p = .57, partial n2 = .01. Exploratory multiple regressions revealed that compulsive exercise, depression, pressure from the media, eating disorder pathology, and media usage contribute significantly to a combined measure of state and conditioned BD, R2 = .63, F(10, 237) = 40.25, p < .001. Outcomes and Implications: Our study did not find immediate effects of fit-ideal media on body dissatisfaction; we did find associations between variables of concern, particularly compulsive exercise, pressure from the media, media usage, weekly exercise, thin-ideal internalization, internalization of the muscular/athletic ideal, and the outcome, body dissatisfaction. Media literacy and critical consumerism can mitigate the effects of media. Simultaneously, policy level changes can affect what is displayed in the media.