Body Image

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Body Image
by Karla/ on 30 Sep 2017

Body Image

Sex and Gender-based Analysis of this topic


Body image refers to subjective body-related perceptions and attitudes including thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and behaviour about one’s body, often related to the physical appearance of the body, especially aesthetics and attractiveness [1]. Individuals with a positive body image often feel comfortable with their bodies and feel positive with their physical appearance, regardless of shape or size. Poor body image, on the other hand, is often associated with body dissatisfaction and poor self-esteem, as well as negative self-thoughts [2,3]. High rates of underweight among younger women can be attributed, at least in part, to poor body image, dieting, and eating disorders.

Sex Issues

Women often experience more dissatisfaction with their body weight and shape than men do and more frequently engage in dieting and other weight loss efforts [4]. Body dissatisfaction was measured in the 2007/2008 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) by comparing BMI with perceptions of weight. Among women aged 18 to 24yrs, close to 50% of women considered underweight recognized that they were underweight, while the other half considered themselves as either at a normal weight or too heavy [2,5]. Results from the 2000/2001 CCHS showed that women of all ages within the “normal” weight range reported wanting and attempting to lose weight [6]. Alcohol use may be particularly harmful for women with a poor body image or weight concerns because women who do not eat properly or who have a low caloric intake may have an increased risk of intoxication and alcohol poisoning [7].

Gender Issues

It has been suggested that contemporary culture plays an important role in perpetuating the idea that a woman’s self-worth depends on her appearance [8]. Findings from a study based on 2000/2001 CCHS data suggest that women from all ages within the ‘normal’ range report both wanting and attempting to lose weight [3]. Women within the ‘normal’ range, as well as women deemed as underweight, demonstrate distorted weight perceptions (i.e., reporting they were a larger size than they actually were) [6]. Further, research suggests that women are more likely than men to equate self-worth with what they think they look like and what they believe other people think they look like [9].


Results from the CCHS suggest that women of all ages’ report that they want or attempt to lose weight, suggesting that their body image may be poor. Some suggest that lesbians may be less preoccupied with achieving an ideal body weight and report higher rates of body image satisfaction [10]. Education and ethnic, cultural and social status are also important factors in how people perceive their bodies and how they feel about how they look [11].


Media and popular culture are considered important contributors to poor body image and idealizing thinness. The media and society may also fuel discrimination against larger body types. Some argue that the healthy living discourse’s preoccupation with obesity affects women and their health, specifically through stigma, discrimination, and poor body image which has encouraged, rationalized, and reinforced an emphasis on thinness [12-14]. Successful programming and interventions for girls and young women should consider establishing healthy female body images.