The study you mentioned highlights an interesting finding regarding the impact of appreciative words related to the body on reducing the negative effects of viewing objectified pictures of female fitness influencers. In summary, the study conducted by Washington State University (WSU) suggests that when individuals view idealized images of female fitness influencers on platforms like Instagram, it often has a negative impact on their mental health, particularly among younger women. These images can promote unrealistic beauty standards and contribute to body dissatisfaction.

However, the WSU study found that including a body appreciation message in the captions of such images, such as “Love your body. See what it can do,” can help counteract some of these negative effects. This simple message appears to enhance viewers’ self-compassion and their appreciation of their own bodies, at least in the short term.

In essence, the research suggests that by promoting self-compassion and a positive attitude toward one’s body through captions or messages accompanying fitness influencer images, the negative impact on mental health caused by the objectification and idealization of these images can be mitigated. This is a valuable insight for those who aim to promote healthier and more positive body image and mental well-being on social media platforms.

“These captions could serve as a protective factor,” stated Jessica Willoughby, the study’s senior author and associate professor in WSU’s Murrow College of Communication. “This is something that’s really small, just a couple of comments, that influencers could be putting on their posts.”

In this study conducted by Washington State University (WSU), researchers explored the impact of objectified images of female fitness influencers on the mental health of young women, particularly on platforms like Instagram. These objectified images often promote unrealistic beauty standards and contribute to body dissatisfaction. However, the study found that including body appreciation messages in the captions of such images could help mitigate these negative effects.

The research involved 200 college-age women who were shown manipulated Instagram posts from real fitness influencers with millions of followers. Some of these posts contained objectified images, characterized by scantily clad influencers emphasizing specific body parts, while others featured “unobjectified” images that portrayed influencers in tight sportswear but with a focus on actions like demonstrating exercises.

After viewing the posts, the participants were asked to rank their agreement with statements related to self-esteem, self-compassion, and their views of their own bodies at the moment, as well as their more long-term perception known as “trait body appreciation.” The results showed that body appreciation messages, even when paired with objectified images, had a positive impact on participants’ self-compassion and their immediate views of their bodies. However, there was no significant connection found to improve self-esteem or long-term body perception.

“If you are in a difficult situation, self-esteem sometimes goes away, but self-compassion typically stays because it’s a way of talking to yourself when you need it,” she stated. “Knowing these messages have an impact on self-compassion is really powerful because it’s something that can impact you even when you’re not having a good day.”

While the study primarily captured short-term effects, it provides encouraging results, particularly because self-compassion was found to be more protective than self-esteem in this context. Nevertheless, more research is needed to understand the cumulative effects, considering that many young women encounter numerous such images regularly.

The findings also suggest potential interventions, such as ensuring that young women who regularly view this type of content see other posts reminding them to think positively about their bodies. The researchers recommend that fitness influencers consider adding body appreciation messages to their posts or, ideally, reduce the frequency of over-idealized and sexually objectified images, despite the potential for fewer “likes.” These actions could contribute to promoting a healthier and more positive body image and mental well-being on social media platforms.

Instead, it may be up to Instagram users to change how they interact with these accounts.“Pay attention to how these posts make you feel,” Willoughby stated. “Is it actually inspiring you? Or is this something maybe you need to take a break from?”


The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as a health advice. We would ask you to consult a qualified professional or medical expert to gain additional knowledge before you choose to consume any product or perform any exercise.

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