Obsessed With Thin: How Media Goes Too Far

Can you recognize the illusion?


These days, it seems as though not only during the summer months, but year-round, the newsstands are displaying magazines of which almost every issue has a thin, beautifully airbrushed swimsuit model on its cover. Your television is showing a growing number of these unhealthily thin actresses. Bones are jutting out and implants are taking the place of real breasts. Most of these supermodels and actresses are so unnaturally thin that they risk infertility, osteoporosis, and ultimately, kidney damage.

Obsessed With Thin: How Media Goes Too Far

Jennifer Aniston’s former trainer says “[Jennifer’s] new figure did not come from working out with me. She lost body fat (seemingly all of it) by drastically reducing carbs in her diet – a way that’s not healthy in my books.”

“The media creates this wonderful illusion-but the amount of airbrushing that goes into those beauty magazines, the hours of hair and makeup! It’s impossible to live up to, because it’s not real.”- Jennifer Aniston in Vanity Fair


Obsessed With Thin: How Media Goes Too FarDoes anyone ever think about how the overload of these images in the media affects the average woman? Well, for most women it doesn’t exactly have a positive effect. In fact, the idea of the media’s (and consequently, everybody else’s) “ideal” woman often makes “normal” women self-conscious — even if they have nothing to be self-conscious about.

There is a definite impact these Hollywood role models have on younger viewers. For most teenagers, the ideal person they want to be is a famous model or actress – and the emphasis is very much on external appearance. Perhaps this is part of the reason that so many teenagers today are unhappy with their appearance and are often on a diet.

Judging from what I’ve seen at the beach, not many men feel the same way. This bad self-image and shyness that many women feel, in most cases, can be directly linked to what they see in fashion magazines, on the runway, and in other forms of the media.

What most women and men don’t realize is that every image of a model or actress in a fashion or beauty magazine (or catalog) has been touched-up using the latest computer technology to remove bulges, pimples, stretch marks, etc. Elizabeth Hurley even admitted that her breasts were electronically enlarged for the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine.

“On my last Cosmo cover,” she explains, “they added about five inches to my breasts. It’s very funny. I have, like, massive knockers. Huge. Absolutely massive.” – Elizabeth Hurley in Details magazine

Obsessed With Thin: How Media Goes Too Far

Christy Turlington explains to Elle magazine… “Advertising is so manipulative,” she says. “There’s not one picture in magazines today that’s not airbrushed.”

“It’s funny,” Turlington continues. “When women see pictures of models in fashion magazines and say, ‘I can never look like that,’ what they don’t realize is that no one can look that good without the help of a computer.”

Beyond that, there are about 100-300 professional photographs taken for each published image you see. They are taken from the absolute best angle in perfect lighting with the clothes pinned just so. And as if that wasn’t enough, the models hair and makeup is always professionally done and is constantly touched up by a makeup artist and hair stylist standing by to make sure nothing looks less-than-perfect.

“I think women see me on the cover of magazines and think that I never have a pimple or bags under my eyes. You have to realize that’s after two hours of hair and makeup, plus retouching. Even I don’t wake up looking like Cindy Crawford.” – Cindy Crawford

Obsessed With Thin: How Media Goes Too Far

Obsessed With Thin: How Media Goes Too FarAccording to Prevention magazine, a “healthy weight” for a woman who is 5’9″ is 129-169 pounds. An average 5’9″ model’s weight is somewhere around 105-115 lbs. Cindy Crawford is an example of an exception to the rule: she is a model (although it’s not very often that you see her–or anyone her size–anymore), and yet she’s not stick-thin. Cindy Crawford has lots of muscle–and it looks good. She is the kind of woman more magazines need to have on their covers and in their editorials. She projects strength and beauty.

“I am not the skinniest model,” says Cindy. “But I have had success as a model, so I feel more confident putting on a bathing suit and standing in front of a camera. In life, I have all the insecurities anyone has. It’s a cliché, but we’re our own worst critics.” ~

“I finally realized that I don’t have to have an A-plus perfect body, and now I’m happy with the way I am.” – Drew Barrymore

Obsessed With Thin: How Media Goes Too Far

A recent survey commissioned by a British magazine found that:

  • 79% of the two thousand women surveyed thought that their social lives would improve if they were thinner.
  • 83% thought that overweight celebrities led unhappy lives.
  • 70% believed that overweight people were generally seen as less intelligent and less attractive.
  • 88% of girls feel the need to “look perfect”.
  • 60% say their appearance is their biggest concern in life.

Recent statistics provided by Natural Health magazine found that:

  • 44% of women who are average or underweight think that they are overweight.
  • The average woman’s dress size is 12 and the average mannequin’s dress size is 6.
  • The average height and weight for women age 18 to 74 years old: 5’4″, 138 lbs.

In a survey conducted by Better Health Channel, they found:

  • Normal weight men and women – 45 per cent of women and 23 per cent of men in the healthy weight range think they are overweight.
  • Underweight women – at least 20 per cent of women who are underweight think that they are overweight and are dieting to lose weight.

According to a recent Prevention/NBC Survey,

  • 60% of women have dieted or are on a diet,
  • 44% of women refuse to be photographed in a swimsuit,
  • and 37% of women won’t play beach games while wearing swimsuits.

There are over one million anorexic women in the UK alone.

Please note: The models shown are to demonstrate the trend in stick-thin models. We in no way endorse the use of emaciated models and feel that it is much better to use more natural looking women in fashion and magazines.


Avatar of Hilary Rowland

A writer, artist, and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary taught herself code and created Urbanette when she was a teenager. Currently, she lives in Monte Carlo, but spent the past decade living in NYC, still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. She's always traveling, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and life hacks to bring to Urbanette readers.

Reader Discussion: 23 Comments

  1. Avatar of Hannah Banana

    Hannah Banana

    The reason for a model’s success isn’t appearance — by now it’s common knowledge that even the most unattractive models can be made to be gorgeous through erasing blemishes, wrinkles, scars, discolorations. The reason for a famous model/singer’s success isn’t appearance or even talent it’s having a good personality. How their abilities to affect connect socially might affect her ability to be successful in general employment. Why can’t we realize that after almost 23 years of media-fed images?

  2. Avatar of Jessica Fox

    Being size 0 is the work of clothing lines that only design clothes for the runway on paper thin mannequins. Then they give it to living models expecting it to fit and failing miserably. The model then blames herself and then they stave themselves just to fit for the next dress.

  3. Avatar of Angelika J. Huntington

    Kudos to the companies who are now saying that they are willing to cast “regular” size models into their marketing campaign. At first this brings a round of applause from woman everywhere, who feel they will finally be recognized curves and all. But as you glance at these new advertisements, you wonder who determines “regular” size and further than that, why do these women still seem flawless? Lets make something clear, there is nothing “regular” about this new segment of the modeling world. While they may not be a waif, like the famed Kate Moss, they certainly are not bigger than a size zero or shorter in stature than Wataru Misaka from the Knicks (by the way he is 5 foot 7 inches). Along with that in a world where there are over 2198 photo editing apps in the Apple store, we are well aware that these models are air-brushed and enhanced prior to hitting the magazine stands. So while the concept of using the “regular” sized models sounds empowering, we still have a long way to go till reality meets the eye.

  4. Avatar of Ansley Barrington

    You are very right! Photoshop does wonders! But I would admit that I'm personally affected with what I see in magazines (and in my photos) and strive to maintain thin body.

  5. Avatar of Courtney Watson

    Courtney Watson

    Personally, I’ve observed that most women think “being thin” is a MUST and that to be “in” you have to be “thin!”

  6. Avatar of Arabella Clarington

    I really hate to think that my daughters are going to grow up having these body image issues, but it seems inevitable. I’ll definitely print this article and save it for them. The best thing I can do for them is make them aware. Thanks, Urbanette.

  7. Avatar of Joanne Samonte

    Joanne Samonte

    I personally think that we should not blame it all on the media. We can also blame ourselves for being influenced by media! We all have a choice and we should make the right one!

  8. Avatar of Paula Lowe

    Paula Lowe

    We live in a society that people completely misunderstand the meaning of healthy living/healthy being. How many times I heard people talking about the Victoria’s Secrets’ fashion shows and thinking how they need to start dieting to look like them? I’ve lost track of the numerous comments on how women want to be like that actress, or singer; have you notice how many people worship Beyonce and want to be like her? Don’t get me wrong – I admire a lot of artists that can inspire someone else in some way, but the whole aesthetic aspect of it shouldn’t be a goal. We need to accept our body and our beauty, because we are real and we look real: magazines, ads, video clips are just a lot of skilled people and photo editing programs combined to create a perfect picture. We all know perfect doesn’t exist.

  9. Avatar of Hannah Mayers

    Hannah Mayers

    Lately, I have observed that women are obsessed with “yoga, exercise, healthy eating, ‘diet’..” and others of some sort. I can’t help but wonder, are they aiming for a healthy lifestyle or do they just want to be thin?

    Media has really gone too far. It is really influencing us, supposedly for the better, but it is causing influence in a negative way 🙁

  10. Avatar of Sandra Brown

    Sandra Brown

    I love being thin but that doesn’t mean I’m obsessed with being thin. Though admittedly, I sometimes do crazy things just to achieve my desired weight.

    I totally agree that media had somehow gone too far, most young ladies aspire to be perfect, to achieve a perfect weight, but there’s no such thing as “perfect weight” it’s just what the media wants us to believe… and unfortunately, media’s winning in portraying a “wrong” belief.

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