Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Weight Status and Body Image Satisfaction in Adult Men and Women

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Weight Status and Body Image Satisfaction in Adult Men and Women

Article excerpt

The self-concept is the awareness one has of oneself. It consists of perceptions of the self as object and as doer, together with the feelings and values associated with these views (Rogers, 1951). The self-concept is not a singular notion but rather a collection of hundreds of self- perceptions. Among those perceptions it is possible to identify specific clusters of selves. One of those clusters is body image, which may be defined as the perceptions of and attitudes toward one's own physical appearance (Cash, Phillips, Santos & Hrabosky, 2004).

Body image is not simply a mirror-like reflection of external reality. Although the body concept includes objective physical attributes, its contents and associated positive or negative interpretations are highly subjective and influenced by one's environment. One tends to internalize into one's bodily self-concept the reactions and expectations of others which are communicated through interpersonal feedback, through the media, or through cultural attitudes. The integration and interpretation of this information affects one's body image, one's body ideal, and one's level of satisfaction with one's body.

Negative attitudes toward certain body-images are often communicated in Western society. They reflect a prejudice against larger individuals that is conveyed though the media, conditioned into our children, evident in hiring practices, and present in everyday discourse (McEvoy, 1994; Schwartz & Brownell, 2004). Anti-fat attitudes in Western culture reinforce the belief that being thin is desirable and beautiful; slimness is often equated with personal success, popularity, and attractiveness (Hawkins, Richard, Granley & Stein, 2004). Many feel pressured to conform to this ideal (Foreyt et al., 1994). Those who fall short may feel self-conscious, if not ashamed (Puhl & Brownell, 2001), and may develop a negative body image (Tiggemann & McGill, 2004).

The effects of these physical ideals held by society and communicated through the media (Botta, 2003; Cusumano & Thompson, 1997; Durkin & Paxton, 2002; Hargreaves & Tiggemann, 2003; Harrison, 2003) are already noticeable during adolescence and earlier, particularly in girls. Long before adolescence, many girls worry about their weight and want to be thinner (McKnight Investigators, 2003). During adolescence, girls often are concerned about gaining weight (Nichter, 2001), and a large percentage believes that they are overweight even though most of them are not (Siegel, 2002). Many are self-conscious about their appearance and are dissatisfied with their bodies (Granleese & Joseph, 1993; Simmons & Blyth, 1987). This body dissatisfaction increases during adolescence and continues into adulthood (Rosenblum & Lewis, 1999). Body dissatisfaction is found less often in boys (Vincent & McCabe, 2000), who worry less about their weight and are more likely to be satisfied with their bodies (Walcott, Pratt, & Patel, 2003). Unlike girls, who tend to be critical of their appearance, boys place a lower value on physical attractiveness but instead may worry about their physical abilities (Jaffe, 1998). This emphasis on appearance in girls and ability in boys parallels the two main aspects of the self-concept, that is, self-as-object and self-as-doer (Rogers, 1951; Hamachek, 1985). Self-as-object is the image of oneself as a "me" or an object; in terms of the bodily self, one sees oneself as a person with particular physical characteristics. The self-as-doer refers to the perception of oneself as an "I" or a person who physically can perform in a particular way. It appears that as far as the bodily self is concerned, girls emphasize the self-as-object aspect, whereas in boys the accent lies on self-as-doer. This gender difference continues into adulthood with women focusing on display (physical appearance) and men on functionality (physical abilities) (Halliwell & Dittmar, 2003). …

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