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Healthy Body Image & Facts

Here are some interesting facts about Body Image and why many of us may be suffering from a poor body image:

* In 1920, women attained the right to vote. This was also the first year of the Miss America Pageant.

* A poll conducted by a popular women's magazine found that 75% of women thought they were "too fat" (Glamour,1984). A large scale survey conducted by Garner (1997) found body dissatisfaction to be "increasing at a faster rate than ever before" among both men and women. He found that 89% of the 3,452 female respondents wanted to lose weight.

* Many women suffer from body dissatisfaction, and assiduous dieting and the relentless pursuit of thinness has become a normative behavior among women in Western society. Thinness has not only come to represent attractiveness, but also has come to symbolize success, self-control and higher socioeconomic status. Market data Enterprises, Inc. estimated the size of the weight loss industry for 1994 at $32,680 billion.

* Body image dissatisfaction and eating disorders are more prevalent among females than males. This gender specificity is apparent in that over 90% of patients with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa are women.

* Body image dissatisfaction and dieting behavior isn't restricted to adolescents or adults. In a study of almost five hundred schoolgirls, 81% of the ten-year-olds reported that they had dieted at least once. A study of 36,000 students in Minnesota found that girls with negative body image were three times more likely than boys of the same age, to say that they feel badly about themselves and were more likely to believe that others see them in a negative light. The study also found that negative body image is associated with suicide risk for girls, not for boys.

* Wooley and Wooley (1980) found that girls are more influenced and thus more vulnerable to cultural standards of ideal body images, than boys are. A recent national health study, that studied 2,379 9yr and 10 yr old girls (approximately half White and half Black) found that 40 % of them reported that they were trying to lose weight (Striegel-Moore et al, 1996).

* Bar-Tal and Sax (1961) found that our culture places a higher value on physical beauty in the evaluation of females than males. Garner, Garfinkel, Schwartz & Thompson (1980), have found that the average size of idealized woman (as portrayed by models), has become progressively thinner and has stabilized at 13-19% below physically expected weight. Rodin, Silberstein, & Striegelmoore (1984), suggest that this thin ideal is unachievable for most women and is likely to lead to feelings of self-devaluation, feelings of dysphoria (depression) and helplessness.

* The discontent with one's body shape and size doesn't seem to be confined to White women alone. A survey conducted by the largest African-American women's publication in the U.S. (Essence magazine) served as an eating disorders study. The results from over 2,000 respondents indicated that African American women are at risk for eating disorders in at least equal proportions to their White counterparts. Analysis of the results also revealed that African American women have adopted similar attitudes towards body image, weight and eating to White women (Pumariega, Gustavson, Gustavson, Stone Motes & Ayers, 1994).

* Shame seems to be another component of women's attitudes toward their bodies. In a Kinsey survey it was found that women felt more embarrassed when asked about their weight, than when they were asked about their masturbation practices, or occurrences of homosexual affairs (Kinsey et al., 1953).

* Women and girls are also consistently taught from an early age that their self-worth is largely dependent on how they look. The fact that women earn more money than men in only two job categories, those of modeling and prostitution serves to illustrate this point (Wolf, 1992).

* In a sample of male and female high school students, two-thirds of boys and girls believed that being thinner would have an impact on their lives. The majority of girls believed that this impact would be positive, while the majority of the boys believed that the impact would be negative. The gender groups did not differ significantly in their weight distribution around the expected norm for their group. Girls had higher body dissatisfaction scores than boys on all measures. Girls reported magazines as their primary source of information regarding diet and health, whereas boys reported their primary source to be parents, followed by two other categories before mentioning magazines (Paxton, Wertheim, Gibbons, Szmukler, Hillier, & Petrovich, 1991).

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