Young women place looks and counting calories above health, say US researchers.
Maria Len-Rios, associate professor of strategic communication, Suzanne Burgoyne, professor of theater, and undergraduates from the University of Missouri (UM) studied how such women view their bodies and how they feel about ads aimed at women.
"During our focus group conversations, we learned that young people don't think about nutrition when it comes to eating," Len-Rios said. "They think more about calorie-counting, which is not necessarily related to a balanced diet."
The focus groups included college-age women, college-age men and mothers of college-age women, who discussed how body image is associated with engaging in restrictive diets, irregular sleep patterns and over-exercising, according to a Missouri statement.
"We receive so many conflicting media messages from news reports and advertising about how we should eat, how we should live and how we should look," Len-Rios said.
"Some participants said they realise images of models are digitally enhanced, but it doesn't necessarily keep them from wanting to achieve these unattainable figures - this is because they see how society rewards women for 'looking good'," added Len-Rios.
The researchers also completed in-depth interviews with nutritional counselors who said lack of time and unhealthy food environments can keep college-age students from getting good nutrition.
"Eating well takes time, and, according to health professionals, college students are overscheduled and don't have enough time to cook something properly or might not know how to prepare something healthful," Len-Rios said.
These findings were presented at the annual Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Conference in Chicago.