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J Adolesc Health. 1994 Sep;15(6):464-72.

Nutrition, dieting, and fitness messages in a magazine for adolescent women, 1970-1990.

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University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.



This study was designed to characterize nutrition and fitness messages presented between 1970-1990 in a magazine for adolescent women; to evaluate whether these messages changed over time; and to assess the body shape portrayed as desirable, and whether this changed over time.


A data collection form was developed to code nutrition and fitness-related written items, advertisements and recipes, and the page coverage allocated to these items. Body shape was assessed by measuring bust:waist and hip:waist ratios of photographs of models wearing bathing suits or underwear. Magazines from even years between 1970-1990 (n = 132) were coded.


Both nutrition-related and fitness-related coverage emphasized weight loss and physical appearance. Half the major nutrition-related articles presented a weight-loss plan, and weight loss was frequently addressed in other nutrition articles. The primary reasons presented for following a nutrition of fitness plan were to lose weight and become more attractive. Statements that the product or service would promote weight loss were found in 47% of nutrition-related advertisements. Nutrition coverage did not exhibit a net change over time, whereas fitness coverage increased (F = 6.6, p < .005), and the ratio of nutrition: fitness coverage changed from 10:1 in 1970 to 0.75:1 in 1990. Models' body shapes were less curvaceous than those in magazines for adult women, and the hip:waist ratio decreased over time (F = 7.3, p < .01).


The nutrition and fitness messages in this magazine for adolescent women emphasize body shape and appearance, similar to findings from adult women's magazines, and contribute to the cultural milieu in which thinness is an expectation for women. Between 1970-1990, the emphasis on fitness increased, and the body shape of models tended to become more linear.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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