Women frequently compare their bodies to those they see around them, and researchers have found that exposure to idealized body images lowers women's satisfaction with their own attractiveness. One study found that people who were shown slides of thin models had lower self-evaluations than people who had seen average and oversized models, and girls reported in a Body Image Survey that "very thin" models made them feel insecure about themselves. In a sample of Stanford undergraduate and graduate students, 68% felt worse about their own appearance after looking through women's magazines. Many health professionals are also concerned by the prevalence of distorted body image among women, which may be fostered by their constant self-comparison to extremely thin figures promoted in the media. One should not forget that over seventy-five percent (75%) of "normal" weight women think they are overweight and 90% of women overestimate their body size and actively try to remedy the situation (Knapp, 27). This presents a great health problem for these women.
It should also be noted that female and males dissatisfaction with their bodies causes many women and girls to strive for the thin ideal which is almost impossible to achieve. The number one wish for girls ages 11 to 17 is to be thinner, and girls as young as five have expressed fears of getting fat. Eighty percent (80%) of 10-year-old girls have dieted, and at any one time, 50% of American women are currently dieting. Some researchers suggest depicting thin models may lead girls into unhealthy weight-control habits, because the ideal they seek to emulate is unattainable for many and unhealthy for most. One study found that 47% of the girls were influenced by magazine pictures to want to lose weight, but only 29% were actually overweight. Research has also found that stringent dieting to achieve an ideal figure can play a key role in triggering eating disorders.
Other researchers believe depicting thin models appears not to have long-term negative effects on most adolescent women, but they do agree it affects girls who already have body-image problems. Girls who were already dissatisfied with their bodies showed more dieting, anxiety, and bulimic symptoms after prolonged exposure to fashion and advertising images in a teen girl magazine. Studies also show that a third of American women in their teens and twenties begin smoking cigarettes in order to help control their appetite.