Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Hot or Not: Reality TV can be harmful to women

The show "Are You Hot?" may trigger unhealthy habits

'Are You Hot?," the ABC reality show in which comely competitors
submit to a panel of judges for appearance-rating, might not be so hot
for young female viewers, says one eating disorders expert.

The more frequently young women watch the show, which seeks to
crown the sexiest people in America, the more dissatisfied they are with
their appearance and the more likely they are to resort to unhealthy
weight control habits, says Randall Flanery, Ph.D., an associate
professor of community and family medicine at Saint Louis University in

"[The show] emphasizes that how you look is more important than who
you are or what you do. It really narrows the worth of the individual,"
Flanery says. "The viewer identifies with the person being scrutinized,
but at the same time can participate with the critics and make fun of the
person. The net result is the viewer gets reinforced that appearance is
the most important thing, and they are not measuring up."

Though female adolescents and young women are most prone to
developing negative body images from shows like "Are You Hot?" they are
exactly the individuals who tune into such shows and other potentially
harmful media, says Flanery, who also runs an eating disorders program.
"Those who we're most concerned about are going to watch it more and be
most influenced by it," he said. "The more you're primed to look at those
factors, the more they affect you."

A study recently published in the
American Journal of Health and Educationshowed that
women who read health and fitness magazines were significantly more
likely to have practiced unhealthy weight control methods than were
moderate or infrequent readers, says Steven Thomsen, Ph.D., the study's
author and an associate communications professor at Brigham Young
University in Provo, Utah.

Nearly 80 percent of frequent readers had induced vomiting, 73
percent had taken diet pills and 60 percent had used laxatives. And women
who limited their daily caloric intake read health and fitness magazines
more frequently than those who did not restrict their diets.

Flanery put the onus on young women's parents to be assertive and
prohibit their daughters from watching "Are You Hot?" and similar
programs. "They can counterbalance that distorted view of what's
important and emphasize a healthy alternative message," he said. "You're
more than what you look like."

"Are You Hot?" airs Thursday nights at 8:00 p.m. on ABC. Eating
Disorders Awareness week is February 23 - March 2.