An “unattainable” figure made popular by the Kardashians has been criticised in a study that found Kim’s photos fuel negative body image.
Comparison is the thief of joy — or, in this case, a robber of confidence.
Unfortunately for Kim Kardashian and her loyal disciples, a study conducted by Toronto’s York University discovered that “slim-thick” imagery online causes more body dissatisfaction among young women.
The study actually named the Kardashian mogul and her sister Kylie Jenner as influencers who contribute to the discontent women feel about their bodies because of their online content, the NY Post reports.
The “slim-thick” body ideal — defined by the researchers as “a curvier or more full-body type, characterised by a small waist and flat stomach but large butt, breasts and thighs” — has become more idolised in mainstream media in recent years.
Kim’s infamous curves were at the centre of the study, in which she’s name-dropped alongside her sister Kylie Jenner. Picture: Instagram
“The hashtags #thick, #thicc and #slimthick have 6.2 million, 3.4 million, and 1 million posts on Instagram respectively, and the hashtag #slimthicc has 134 million tags on TikTok,” the researchers said of 2021 social media trends.
But those curves aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
The family of influencers is regularly outed for egregious photoshop fails, including this week when Kim’s leg fell victim to some heavy-handed editing, prompting its removal from her Instagram.
It’s become routine to digitally alter photos, the York University study said, “thus making the thin ideal even thinner and less attainable for the average woman”.
The social mogul, who regularly flaunts her body online, has faced backlash for digitally altering snaps, which contributes to women’s body dissatisfaction. Picture: Instagram
While it’s not illegal to alter a photo or get plastic surgery, of course, body acceptance influencer Mik Zazon, 26, told The NY Post it’s “manipulating authenticity” by not being transparent about it.
The Ohio-based content creator, who has one million followers, said an example is when Kardashian shared her psoriasis outbreak on her face in a selfie posted to Instagram, which made fans believe she was being more “unfiltered”.
“They’re sharing photos that seem to be candid and effortless to show that they are human too, yet putting extreme filters on photos and videos to uphold their image,” Zazon said of the Kardashian family.
“It’s so easy to see something and believe that because [Kim’s] showing her psoriasis, she can’t be editing other parts of her body.”
Kim Kardashian regularly posts photos wearing bathing suits. Picture: Instagram
Researchers Sarah McComb and Jennifer Mills were prompted to study the correlation between the emerging body ideal and physical satisfaction, surveying 402 women participants, ages 18 to 25, who are proven to be the heaviest Instagram users.
The pool of women viewed 13 photos of influencers with less than 60,000 followers with different body types characterised as slim-thick, fit and thin.
The slim-thick body ideal caused “more weight and appearance dissatisfaction” than the thinner imagery, the study found.
But the implications of social media comparison stretch far beyond the screen.
The study branded ‘slim-thick’ as ‘not a positive alternative’ in terms of beauty standards. Picture: Instagram
According to the study, appearance perfectionism — like attempting to unhealthily attain the body of a Kardashian — can cause disordered eating, unhealthy weight-control behaviours, low self-esteem and social anxiety.
So, when social media feeds are drowning in “slim-thick” body worship and the pressure to fit their curvy mould is bearing down, it could be beneficial to hit “unfollow,” according to Zazon. Instead, she advised her fans to “follow people and surround yourself with those that inspire you and make you feel your most confident self”.
The 402 women participating in the study viewed photos of influencers who had body types that were similar to those of the Kardashian-Jenner clan. Picture: Instagram
While body acceptance and size diversity are pushed more so than ever before, the study actually found that curvy imagery “is not a positive alternative” to the worrying thinness of the past.
In fact, it could be considered more dangerous to promote, especially for women who don’t desire to be extremely thin and would rather have curves, authors wrote.
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“The slim-thick ideal was most harmful to women’s appearance, weight and overall body satisfaction,” the researchers concluded. “[It] may still represent an ideal of beauty that women find threatening and personally unattainable.”