AI technology

With the recent boom of AI technology, it’s interesting to observe how artificial intelligence imagines things. After all, it was based on human knowledge but also human biases, stereotypes, and preferences.

The Bulimia Project wanted to see how AI imagined the “ideal body,” and the results are concerning, to say the least. They used different text-to-image generators and prompts, and nearly all of them produced images of men and women with highly unrealistic body types. After analyzing the images, they concluded the unrealistic beauty standards we have set for ourselves – and it’s pretty discouraging.

Related reading: This is why Instagram is such a big mental health issue, especially for women

Prompts and resulting images

For their research, The Bulimia Project team used AI tools Dall-E 2, Stable Diffusion, and Midjourney. They used prompts to discover how AI sees “ideal” and “perfect” male and female bodies on social media and in general. Considering that text-to-image generators have been developed in recent years – their results reflect the current beauty standards, which isn’t a big surprise. But it does show how rooted they are in the present.

Here are some of the results for the prompt “The ‘perfect’ female body according to social media in 2023.” I was surprised to see one full-figured woman, built kinda like me:

artificial intelligence

But all the others are slim, with a six-pack, mainly blonde – and highly sexualized:

AI didn’t spare male bodies either. Again, there are a bunch of highly sexualized images of half-naked bulky dudes. Here are the results for “The ‘perfect’ male body according to social media in 2023′”:

When asked to imagine the “perfect” man and woman based on images across the internet, the AI showed a little more versatility. But flawless skin and slim figures are still inevitable in images of women, and a strong jawline seems to be the only acceptable feature of a “perfect” man. I also find it really interesting that so many of these AI men have the same hairstyle, popular in the last few years.

The numbers

Here are some of the key takeaways after the team analyzed the AI-generated images:

  • 40% of the images overall depicted unrealistic body types.
  • 37% of the images of women depicted unrealistic body types.
  • 43% of the images of men depicted unrealistic body types.
  • When it comes to women, AI-generated images tend to have a bias toward blonde hair, brown eyes, and olive skin.
  • 37% of the images included blonde hair.
  • 30% of the images included brown eyes.
  • 53% of the images included olive skin.
  • When it comes to men, AI-generated images tend to have a bias toward brown hair, brown eyes, and olive skin.
  • 67% of the images included brown hair
  • 23% of the images included brown eyes
  • 63% of the images included olive skin.
  • 47% of the images included facial hair.


“Social media’s impact on children’s mental health has been a hot topic among psychologists lately, with some pointing to it being a source of body image and self-esteem problems,” The Bulimia Project writes. “Although young users might be the most impressionable, the pervasive promotion of idealized body types on these platforms also takes its toll on adults.”

As I mentioned, AI has been trained and developed by real people, and based on their photos too. Hence, the results we get when using text-to-image generators can tell us a lot about our society, which I find really interesting. What isn’t so interesting is that this research only confirms what’s been a huge problem with social media – they impose unrealistic beauty standards, for men and women equally. I think this study is also a great way to implement AI in a sociological study, and I hope to see more projects like this: embracing new technologies and raising awareness about important issues. make sure to see the entire gallery on The Bulimia Project!

[via My Modern Met; credits: The Bulimia Project]

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