Terry Nelson

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Jeremy Lipschultz


The purpose of this study was to examine what health and fitness magazines tell women about their bodies and health, particularly Shape, Self, Fitness, Fit, Women's Sports & Fitness, and Health. Guided by several mass communication theories that suggest mass media is particularly powerful in its ability to construct, establish and reinforce a culture's definition of beauty, this inductive analysis focused on the latent meanings in the texts. The study's objective was to determine if these magazines were true to their health premise. The texts analyzed included visuals, how-to articles, body transformation stories, celebrity features, and texts that focused on a woman's body image. Results showed that numerous panoptic mechanisms were used to encourage women to scrutinize their bodies regularly; women were told that with enough effort and determination, for example, they could achieve the ideal thin look. Appearance was at the forefront in the texts analyzed; health was a secondary issue. Thin women were glamorized and hailed for their weight achievements; fat women, on the other hand, were portrayed as depressed and ashamed individuals. Normal to heavy weight women were underrepresented.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Communication and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 2000 Terry Nelson.

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