Objective: The purpose of this study was to discover whether the weight-related messages and themes from food advertisements in women's magazines reinforce or contradict the messages communicated in nutrition-related articles focusing on weight control within the same magazines.

Design: Content analysis of 48 issues of weight-related content six popular women's magazines, 2001-2002. There were three magazines in each of two categories, "homemaking" and "health." All food and nutrition advertisements were analyzed (n=954), along with all nutrition articles (n=336). Advertisements and articles were identified as being either weight-related or non-weight-related. Type of food/product advertised, claims used to market the product, and weight-control themes present were documented for each advertisement. Type of content, major topics discussed, food/diet recommendations, and weight-control themes were documented for all weight-related articles.

Statistical analyses performed: Chi-square (Χ^2) analyses were used to test for statistical differences between frequencies of coded categories between two magazine types. Logistic regression was used to analyze differences in the presence of the weight-related themes in both ads and articles and between magazines types.

Results: Articles were more likely to refer to body weight than advertisements (p<.0001) and health magazines were more likely to have weight-related content than homemaking magazines (p=.044). Fruits and vegetables were the most frequently promoted foods in weight-related articles, but there were no weight-related advertisements for fruits or vegetables. Recommendations to avoid or reduce certain foods in weight-related articles most frequently mentioned sweets, fats, and caloric beverages, yet fats and sweets were the most frequently advertised food category overall (18.5%). Health foods represented 49.6% of all weight-related advertisements. Advertisements were more likely than articles to suggest that weight control is important for appearance (p=.001) and does not require avoiding favorite foods (p=.016). Articles were likely to suggest weight control is important to health (p=.002) and is a chronic effort (p=.002).

Conclusion: There is a discrepancy in foods promoted for weight control and weight-related messages among food advertisements and nutrition articles in popular women's magazines. Messages in diet articles tend to reflect professional guidelines while those contained in advertisements may promote undesirable weight control beliefs and practices.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Science



Date Submitted


Document Type





weight, weight loss, magazines, advertisements, nutrition, content analysis, social comparison theory