Body Image: Understanding Body Dissatisfaction in Men, Women and Children (4th Edition)
Interest in body image has increased in the last few years, and high-profile initiatives aiming to promote positive body image, such as the Dove® Be Real Campaign, have highlighted some of the dangers inherent in the cultural idealisation of slender and toned bodies. Body dissatisfaction is important in its own right as a threat to well-being, and also because it is associated with various health-related behaviours, some of which present significant risks. For instance, the twenty-first century has seen a significant increase in cosmetic surgery and use of drugs such as anabolic steroids and ephedrine in men and women who are dissatisfied with their bodies. Indeed, health psychology research suggests that even relatively minor body concerns may lead to exercise avoidance, unhealthy eating, inability to quit smoking, and greater incidence of risky UV exposure. By identifying factors that predict dissatisfaction, we may be able to produce useful ideas for encouraging more positive body image in those who are dissatisfied, and improve health and well-being.
Based on evaluation of
available evidence, it is concluded that the representation of a narrow range
of idealised body shapes in popular media, including in social media, sends
clear messages to viewers about how they are expected to look. The dieting and
cosmetic surgery industries benefit from body dissatisfaction by offering
apparent solutions. In the long term, it will be important to
reduce cultural objectification of the body and to shift body aesthetics to
encompass a variety of body shapes and sizes; various activists within the
fashion world, as well as academics, are trying to shape these kinds of social
changes. In the short term, interventions to improve self-esteem and
self-efficacy, and to reduce the internalization of thin/muscular ideals,
social comparison and self-objectification, may be useful. Work on positive
body image has already shifted the ways that we think about body image, away
from pathology and body dissatisfaction and towards body appreciation and
acceptance. Encouraging acceptance of body types that differ from the
prevailing aesthetic, and celebrating uniqueness, seems likely to result in
improved quality of life, and reduce linked health-risking behaviours.
Grogan, S. (2021). Body image: Understanding body dissatisfaction
in men, women and children (4th Edition). London: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003100041
Sarah Grogan is Emeritus Professor at Manchester Metropolitan University
and can be contacted on email@example.com.