The Social Impact of Advertising: How Commercial Weight Loss Program Advertising Promotes Thinness Ideology

Mihyun Kang, Wan Seop Jung


Raised body mass index (BMI) is one of the significant risk factors for non-communicable diseases. Regardless of their BMI, more than half of Americans strongly desire to lose weight. As a result, commercial weight loss programs (WLP) have emerged and proliferated in the United States. This study examines WLP advertising as a vehicle for promoting the thinness ideology and how these advertisements impact women’s beliefs and attitudes about self-perceived ideal body image. This study defines thinness ideology as emphasizing being thin and self-perceived ideal body image as individuals’ desired body shapes formed by internalization through advertising messages. By employing four significant theories, this study focuses on how women form their self-perceived ideal body image and, as a result, change their beliefs and attitudes as measured by their changing levels of self-esteem and body (dis)satisfaction. The model is theoretically based on the elaboration likelihood model (ELM) and has been incorporated with social learning theory, social comparison theory, and satisfaction theory. The model also explains the linear transmission of weight loss program advertisements and changes in individuals’ perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes about ideal body image. According to the model, beliefs and attitudes change depending on individuals’ self-esteem and body dissatisfaction levels, often influenced by WLP advertisements promoting the thinness ideology.

Keywords: Weight loss program advertising, Theoretical Mapping, Thinness Ideology, Elaboration likelihood model, Social learning theory, Social comparison theory, Satisfaction theory

DOI: 10.7176/NMMC/102-03

Publication date:October 31st 2022

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ISSN (Paper)2224-3267 ISSN (Online)2224-3275

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