Body Image Satisfaction and Dissatisfaction, Social Physique Anxiety, Self-Esteem, and Body Fat Ratio in Female Exercisers and Nonexercisers

By Koyuncu, Mehmet; Tok, Serdar et al. | Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, May 2010 | Go to article overview

Body Image Satisfaction and Dissatisfaction, Social Physique Anxiety, Self-Esteem, and Body Fat Ratio in Female Exercisers and Nonexercisers


Koyuncu, Mehmet, Tok, Serdar, Canpolat, A. Meliha, Catikkas, Fatih, Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal


The ideal body image for females portrayed in the media has recently become unrealistically thin compared to past ideals. Furthermore, popular role models such as movie and television stars, female athletes, and models only serve to confirm this unrealistic standard. However, it is a standard that is nearly impossible for most women to attain and because it is idealized by media and other social institutions, it may negatively influence the way many women perceive their bodies. As women are prone to compare their bodies to those of professional models, they focus their attention particularly on aspects associated with weight and sexual attractiveness (Franzoi & Klaiber, 2007). Consequently, many women may experience body image dissatisfaction (BID) and related negative affective states.

In many studies aimed at examining the relationship between BID-related negative affective states, and exercise-sport participation have used Leary's (1992) self-presentation framework or Festinger's (1954) social comparison theory have been used. According to Leary (1992), self-presentation refers to the process of monitoring and controlling how one is perceived and evaluated by others, with the goal of creating a good impression. For females, what comprises a positive self-presentation is strongly influenced by cultural ideals concerning the female body shape. In order to be perceived positively by others, women may believe that they must present a fit, thin body--one that resembles the cultural ideal (Krane, Stiles-Shipley, Waldron, & Michalenok, 2001).

Also, according to Festinger's (1954) theory of social comparison, people have an innate desire to evaluate themselves, and they do so by comparing themselves with others when objective standards are unavailable. These comparisons tend to occur with others who have similar attributes such as age, race, appearance, and other dimensions that are self-relevant (Festinger, 1954; Salovey & Rodin, 1984). Social comparison and attention to cultural standards are important means by which people evaluate their bodies (Franzoi & Klaiber, 2007). It has been observed that the pressures amongst females to achieve a thin body shape may arise from comparisons of their own figures with the perceived ideal female figure. These comparisons of current and ideal body shapes may lead to heightened body-related anxiety (Sabiston, Crocker, & Munroe-Chandler, 2005).

The perceived discrepancy between the ideal and actual or real body image can lead to social physique anxiety (SPA) and BID. Hart, Leary, and Rejeski (1989) describe SPA as the concern that others are negatively evaluating one's body or physical appearance. Within the self-presentation framework, SPA is an affective response reflecting the concern for how one's body is judged by others (Leary, 1992). Because exercise and sport settings put women's bodies on display, SPA and BID are significant in both settings. For example, the group aerobics environment is one in which the body is the central focus (Greenleaf, McGreer, & Parham, 2006). Exercisers in such groups wear tights and revealing clothes in a room that is designed to provide considerable visual feedback to participants. Such an exercise environment often leads to raised bodily awareness (Katula, McAuley, Mihalko, & Bane, 1998) and heightened social comparison (Frederick & Shaw, 1995). Raedeke, Focht, and Scales (2007) also argue that social-environmental factors in an exercise setting influence psychological responses to acute exercise, especially in individuals with body image concerns and SPA. In addition to the exercise environment, a performance sports setting also has an influence on women's BID and SPA. With regard to the relationship between female athletes and their athletic environment, Greenleaf (2002) states that the athletic environment is a setting in which women's bodies are evaluated not only in terms of performance, but also of appearance. …

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