Body Image: A Handbook of Theory, Research, and Clinical Practice

By Thomas F. Cash; Thomas Pruzinsky | Go to book overview

46 Weight Loss and Changes
in Body Image

GARY D. FOSTER
PATTY E. MATZ

Rosen (1995) has described body image as "a person's mental image and evaluation … of appearance and the influence of these perceptions and attitudes on behavior" (p. 369). Discontent with one's body (image) has been labeled in various ways, including negative body image, body image disturbance, and body image dissatisfaction. For the purposes of this chapter, we call this phenomenon negative body image, and we limit our discussion to the affective and evaluative aspects of body image rather than its perceptual dimensions.

Negative body image is most often related to body weight and weightsensitive body parts (e.g., abdomen, waist line) and is often higher in overweight than nonoverweight people, particularly women (see Schwartz and Brownell's chapter in this volume). Surprisingly, variability in body image among overweight persons is not related to the degree of overweight. Negative body image (or concern about appearance) is an important factor in deciding to lose weight and in selecting how much weight to lose. Given that changes in body image are an expected benefit of weight loss treatment, it is disturbing that the effects of weight loss on body image have not been well studied. Such information is necessary to help patients and practitioners make informed choices about the most effective methods to improve body image in those who are overweight or obese.

This chapter discusses three issues related to weight loss and body image in overweight persons: (1) the effects of weight loss and weight regain on body image; (2) the effects of body image treatments, either as adjunctive to, or separate from, weight loss treatment; and (3) the implications for future research.

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