Looking at a Picture of a Skinny Model While Dieting Might Actually Make You Gain Weight, But That’s OK Because a Little Extra Weight Is Just Fine


If you think about it, things are pretty terrific, but they are also pretty fucking terrible, too. Your life is going perfectly well, but looked at from another angle, you are a complete and utter disappointment to everyone. You’re really pretty, except when you are not. And the world is a welcoming, open place, when it isn’t totally hostile and indifferent. See? It all balances out like one giant, cosmic bathroom scale of justice.

Consider that scale maddeningly balanced yet again.

A new study found that female dieters who were given a diary to record food intake featuring a pic of a skinny model actually gained weight instead of lost it — but that’s OK! Because another study found that a little extra weight is not going to increase your mortality risk any more than normal-weight people.

The premise of the dieting/skinny pic study is that, like the vacation penny jar with a tranquil image of a tropical beach, people ostensibly tape an aspirational, thinspo picture on the fridge of a person they’d like to look like in order to motivate them to bypass the cinnamon bun and reach for the yogurt while running the dieting gauntlet. But does it work?

Turns out it does not. Rather than motivate, for the half of the dieters who received a diary to record food intake featuring a skinny model, weight loss didn’t happen. They actually started sneaking in more snacks and put on more weight. To make sure it was the skinny model pic and not some other factor affecting the weight gain, the experimenters changed out the picture of the skinny model and replaced it with a more average-sized woman (curvy? Ha!), and the weight loss resumed.

This lines up with conventional wisdom about success regarding change. A challenge must be difficult but possible in order to meet it successfully, key word being possible. I, for one, probably wouldn’t choose a picture of Angelina Jolie’s leg to motivate me to lose weight, but I also would never want to look like a leg, no matter how supple. However, those women who DO almost already look just like a supple leg are in luck, right? See? Not everyone is screwed all the time (skinny people who look like a leg), even though they are (we all die).

And not only do we all die, we all die at the same rate! Take that, legs of the world. Basically, anyway. For every weight gain story there is another weight gain story. The other half of this weight-loss promoting apple is that people who are a little overweight do not have a higher mortality risk than average-weight people, whatever that is.

In this study, which has been done before but not as well apparently, researchers discovered that if you’re what’s considered slightly obese, which means a BMI in the 30 to 34.9 range, that you aren’t going to die any faster than someone with a BMI in the normal range, assuming you have no other indicators of poor health.

So, in conclusion, you probably can’t ever look like a model, but you won’t be dying faster because of it. That’s my takeaway. Don’t you love it when two conflicting feelings/forces/weight gain stories cancel each other out, leaving with you a big bowl of just-OK-oatmeal?

Who cares, anyway, right? Model-good looks and lasting don’t really go in hand in hand. Better to focus on the always and forever and the more, not the here, and the now and the less. Which reminds me, do keep eating. Whatever you are doing, definitely eat. It won’t help, but it won’t hurt. Except when it will, and even then, not always.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin