The Relationship Between Body Dissatisfaction and Eating Disorder Among Exercisers (Part 5)

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Sue-Yee Tan, Wan-Ping Yew

1.6 Literature Review
In recent years, topics related to body image have become the ‘hot’ issue discussed among people, particularly among female adolescences and young adults. Body image is defined as a “loose mental representation of body shape, size, and for which is influenced by a variety of historical, cultural, and social, individual, and biological factors, that operate over varying time spans” (Slade, 1994). Besides that, body image is also described as how people perceive their bodies and this is reflected through the level of satisfaction they have with their physical bodies (Reboussin et. al,. 2000).
In the past, people only believed in ‘inner beauty’, such as personality, intelligence, thoughts and value system, as the most essential element for a person to be classified as beautiful and precious. However, the trend had changed where the importance of inner beauty has been taken over by a person’s body figure or physical appearances. According to a study done by Leung et. al., (2001), there is a downward trend of BMI among the Miss Hong Kong Beauty Pageant contestants from 1975 to 2000. Results suggests that Chinese people in Hong Kong prefer a relatively tall and slim body figure, those with this type of body figure are considered to be beautiful women. This study has shown consistency from past research done by Garner et. al., (1980) that the desirable body shape had changed from the voluptuous body figure to today’s ideal body shape that is extremely thin by using the bust and hip measurements of Playboy magazine models and Miss America Beauty Pageant contestants between the years 1959 to 1978. Certainly, one’s body image has played an important role in today’s world; a positive body image would help a person to gain self-confidence, self-worthiness and even make a good impression to others in society (Robert-McComb et. al., 2007). Consequently, the newly concept of having an ‘ideal’ body shape has spread all over and has been triggering people’s emotions and self-esteem. The high level of body dissatisfaction among people can be easily found in people who are overweight and obese. However, many of those who are in the normal weight group are struggling to be as thinner as well. According to Duke Medicine (2010), approximately 50 to 60 percent American girls who were in the normal weight group have a false perception that they were overweight; nevertheless, only 15 to 20 percent of them were actually overweight.
Body dissatisfaction is defined as negative judgments of one’s physical body, such as their figure, weight, stomach, and hips (Stice & Shaw, 2002). Today, people commonly believe that they are ‘fat’, regardless gender, age or socioeconomic status. People who are over concerned over their body shape come from all walks of life; children as young as six have been found to be hospitalized due to their overly concern for their body image. Even pregnant women do not loss interest in keeping their self ‘fit’ and nice (Robert-McComb et. al., 2007; Kendall et. al., 2001). According to a study done by Grabe and Hyde (2006), Asian American, Hispanic, and White women experienced almost the same levels of body dissatisfaction. In fact, results show that White women experience slightly higher levels body dissatisfaction than Black women in U.S (Grabe & Hyde, (2006); Overstreet et. al., (2010).
However, females are not the only ones suffering from eating disorders; it is prevalent among males as well, even though females appeared to be more dissatisfied with their bodies than males (Ogden, 2010). A study from Australia by the Better Health Channel (2011), indicated that approximately one out of four Australian men who were in the normal weight range considered themselves to be fat, and about 45 percent of men were depressed because of their current body shape compared to 25 years ago. Gay men, models and athletes were found to be more vulnerable to poor body image as they were more likely to be judged by others, leading them to feel insecure about their body image (Better Health Channel, 2011). According to a study done by Watkins et. al., (2008), overweight and obese men have a significantly high degree of body dissatisfaction compared to the men who are in the normal and underweight group. Specifically, obese men have shown lower levels of body satisfaction compared to overweight people. Hence, it is justified that both genders might be at the risk of developing an eating disorder caused by body dissatisfaction due to psychological disturbances.
According to American Psychiatric Association (2000), body dissatisfaction has been categorized as one of the main diagnostic features under eating disorders. Past studies have demonstrated that body dissatisfaction of an individual, in both genders, is correlated with eating disorders. Feelings of dissatisfaction with their body image has lead them to engage in unhealthy weight regulating behaviors, such as vomiting after eating, fasting or skipping meals in an attempt to control their weight to adapt to current, popular thin-culture society (Tylka, 2004).
The idea of an ‘ideal’ body shape has not merely occurred in certain countries, but is widely spread around the world. With a society that emphasizes the ‘ideal’ body shape the results have been that there are many people suffering from issues with their body image (Turner et. al., 1997). An astounding result was revealed from a surveyed done by PsychologyToday magazine that indicated that 15 percent of women and 11 percent of men are willing to sacrifice more than five years of their lives, and 24 percent of women and 17 percent of men would rather sacrifice more than three years of their lives as a trade-off to have the ideal body image. Hence, this phenomenon describes how important it is to have an ideal body shape in a society that values life only when their body image is more satisfying to them (Garner, 1997).
In Western societies, a lean body shape has been associated with positive characteristics such as pleasure, success, youthfulness and social acceptability. In contrast, over-sized body shapes have been described with negative traits such as laziness, lack of discipline and being vulnerable (Grogan, 2008). According to national survey data from China, in the year 2000, the ideal of slenderness for women’s body image had become apparent in China, as well as other Asian countries (Luo et al., 2005).
(to be continued)


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