Dear diary, why does my bum look so big after reading chick lit?

 

Self-scrutinising fictional heroines like Bridget Jones could be bad for your health, a new study has warned.

Research by Virginia Tech found that reading so-called “chick lit” books in which the protagonist worried about her weight made women uncomfortable about their own body image.

It looked at “the effect of protagonist body weight and body esteem on female readers’ body esteem” and concluded that “scholars and health officials should be concerned about the effect chick lit novels might have on women’s body image”.

The report’s authors took passages from two chick lit novels in which the protagonists have “healthy body weight” but “low self-esteem”. They then adapted the text from chapters of Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed and Laura Jensen Walker’s Dreaming in Black and White into nine different versions in which the heroine’s self-body image was distorted. One variation read “I’m 5’4”, 140lb, and a size six”, and another, “I’m 5’4”, 105lb, and a size zero”.

The pages were then distributed to 159 students who were asked to note how they rated their own sexual attractiveness and body parts while reading each passage. Participants said they felt “significantly” less sexually attractive when they reading about a slim character, and significantly more concerned about their own weight when reading about a protagonist with low body esteem.

Melissa Kaminski, co-author of the report, entitled Does this book make me look fat?, who is a self-confessed chick lit fan, said she was compelled to launch the study after noticing that “body image research frequently looked at how visual images of thin women negatively affected women’s body esteem, [but] no research had examined how textual representations of body esteem and body weight affected female readers’ body esteem”.

The study is the latest evidence suggesting that self-esteem in the UK has taken a knock in recent years. Last year, a parliamentary inquiry found girls as young as five worried about how they looked.

The inquiry claimed half of Britons, male and female, had problems relating to their own body image, with the pressure to achieve an unrealistic “body ideal” now an underlying cause of serious health and relationship problems.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

    £40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor