When you look back through history, the beauty standards for women in Western culture have changed a lot. From the tiny waists of the 1910s and hourglass figures from the 1950s to the lean bodies in the 1970s and the washboard abs of the 2000s – we’ve seen it all.
It seems times are changing yet again, however, as a new psychological study published in Springer found that the slim supermodel body many of us aspired to is being replaced by a fitter, more muscular figure.
“We sought to evaluate whether the ideal female figure has incorporated increased muscularity into the existing ideal body type that already emphasizes thinness,” wrote lead study author Dr. Frances Bozsik, Professor of Psychology at the University of Kansas, Missouri, and colleagues.
Having noticed an increase of “thin and toned bodies” in social media, researchers wanted to find out if the ideal beauty standard had truly changed from thin to athletic. “Although it is clear that the media are portraying images that idealize a fit physique, few studies have examined whether women have internalized these media messages,” wrote Dr. Bozsik.
To begin with, the researchers looked into the history of Miss USA beauty pageant winners. In a study of 78 undergraduate women, the team showed bikini competition photos of the winners from 1993 to 2003 and asked them to rate their attractiveness. The results found that the winners pre-2003 no longer fit today’s idealized beauty standard.
A second study saw participants shown two identical photos of contestants. The first was digitally altered to show a thin physique while the other showed a thin physique with muscle.
Participants overwhelmingly deemed the muscular women more attractive. “When participants had a choice between the two images in the image pair, there was a clear preference for the figure that was both thin and muscular. These results suggest that media featuring muscular, thin bodies may be considered a ‘new’ ideal,” concludes the study.
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This shows a positive step towards moving away from the dangerous image of thin that isn’t achievable by everyone – in fact, only 5% of women have the body currently coveted by society. However, it’s important to remember that you’re not required to fit into a box drawn out by the media. Our bodies come in different shapes and sizes and it isn’t healthy to force your body to become something it isn’t.
Whatever you have going for you, work it. For some, a Kim K booty isn’t possible but you might have some killer abs or really strong arms. Embrace your strengths, love your body and don’t dwell on your weaknesses.
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