The myth fuelling eating disorders
In real life Barbie would be 179cm and 50kg. Her Body Mass Index (BMI) would be 16.2, just above the level that theWorld Health Organisation deems as severely thin (a healthy BMI is between 20 and 25). Her neck would be twice as long as an average woman’s but much thinner – so much so in fact that she would be unable to support the weight of her head. She would also have a 40cm waist, which would be narrower than her head.
Her abdominal cavity would be so restricted she would have only enough room in it for around half a normal-sized adult liver and a few centimetres of intestines. Her digestive system would be unable to function.
Her wrists would be too thin to support heavy weights, so she would be unable to carry anything heavier than a few kilograms, and her legs would be much longer than average but with a greatly reduced thigh circumference. With tiny ankles, child’s size-three feet and a massively disproportionate top-to-bottom weight distribution, the real-life Barbie would have to crawl to the nail salon!
Barbie’s beauty is a myth that some argue can give young girls unrealistic ideas about what beauty is and lead to the type of insecurities in later life that fuel eating disorders.
Our love/hate relationship with beauty is nothing new. While we appreciate it on a deep level, it also drives us to distraction. One of the beauty myths is that as we age we become less beautiful. And because of this, the anti-ageing industry, backed by scientific research going back decades, is big business.
But despite all the products aimed at making us more beautiful, it appears that how others perceive us in terms of beauty may not be that important for confidence after all, as studies have shown that we have a tendency to see ourselves through rose-tinted glasses.
Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago and ErinWhitchurch of the University of Virginia conducted a series of studies that showed we see ourselves as better looking than we Marilyn Monroe are said to have a waist measurement exactly 70 per cent of their hip circumference actually are. The researchers took pictures of study participants and doctored them to create more and less attractive versions. Participants were told that they’d be presented with a series of images including their original picture and modified images. They were then asked to identify the unmodified picture, but the subjects tended to select an attractively enhanced picture.
The study also showed that people display this bias for themselves but not for strangers. The same procedure was applied to a picture of a stranger, who the study participants met three weeks earlier during an unrelated study. This time participants tended to select the unmodified picture of the stranger.
This inflated opinion of our own physical appearance is a manifestation of what psychologists call ‘self-enhancement’. It is believed we develop this trait to boost confidence, which in turn plays a role in social status. Confident people are seen as better leaders and also better mates.
Science has also proved that beauty is ultimately only skin deep. In an experiment, researchers showed two lots of people the same photograph of a man but attributed different values to him.
In one group the man in the photo was assigned positive character descriptions, such as ‘friendly’, ‘nice’ and ‘welcoming’, and in the other negative attributes such as ‘mean’ and ‘offensive’.
Scientists discovered that the information given about the personality of the person affected how attractive those looking at the picture found him. Although the face was the same, the perceived beauty of the person changed as a result of the information given about them.
So while we may be biased towards beauty, we are not always deceived by looks. Perhaps beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.
Kate Moss and
In real-life terms, Barbie would never be able to walk upright