Body Image And Eating Behaviour Psychology Essay

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The complex relationship between body image and eating behaviour have become a major research. Eating practices vary around the world .There is a rapid change in culture due to fastest means of communication. This swing of culture has created affects in developing cultures of Asia, including Pakistan.An ideal figure of extra skinny and underweight model is causing stress and psychological disruption in eating behaviour of both genders. All individuals in their life are conditioned to turn to food for satisfaction and reinforcement. In the college years ,these reinforcements become risky, hazardous and harmful.An evidence found from the fact that after obesity and asthma, the most ordinary chronic illness among youth is disordered eating. (Muazzam & Khalid 2008)

Evaluating own body individually through related feelings and attitudes is body image. The persistent and obsessive search for weight loss in the course of excessive diet is eating disorder behaviour, which results in an unbalanced diet both quantitatively and qualitatively (Boschi et al., 2003).

Many researchers found number of sources of eating disorder.body image is the major source which plays important role in contributing to aquire an eating disorder.The mental image we hold of our bodies including both perceptions and attitudes is known as body image. Having a negative body image can take many forms through cognitive, behavioral, perceptual, and affective manifestations . Feelings of depression, sadness, humiliation, guilt, and stress occurs due to exposure to images of thin models. The amount of satisfaction people have with their body as a whole and as separate parts is body cathexis. Self-esteem and body image is essential part according to many researchers.People compare themselves with others that effects their body image perceptions and force them to diet and exercise excessively.The cycle of lowering their body image could possibly change their clothing choices as well.(Hill,1999)

Many young people undergo from disturbed eating behaviours such as dieting and striving for thinness. Many variables are related to self-satisfaction and to their effects on eating behaviour, eating attitudes and body image dissatisfaction or satisfaction. They also affect many areas of emotional function in young people including depression and nervousness and leading to lack of confidence. (Zofiran et al.,2010)

According to Monir et al. (2010) eating disorder is more common among overweight-obese adolescents of high social class and they conclude that social background, obesity, pessimistic body image and depression are the main risk factors for developing eating disorder. During adolescence, people are assuming responsibility for their own eating habits, attitudes and behaviours. In fact, attitudes play a significant role in the adoption and maintenance of a range of healthiness and nutritional behaviour that is patterns of eating and time intervals.

Awareness about healthy foodstuff choices and food safety can be predisposing factors for recovering eating habits and to adopt a healthy diet, although it is inadequate to motivate healthy eating. Factors that influence eating behaviours need to be better understood to develop helpful diet interventions tailored to persons to improve their healthy eating. Hence, determinants such as behaviour, attitudes, self-efficacy, barriers to change and the meaning of healthy and unhealthy diet and food must be considered. (Turconi et al., 2006)

Eating disorders represent severe disruptions in normal eating patterns. The two main

diagnoses of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Obesity is not

mentioned as a disorder. Individuals with anorexia nervosa have a fear of gaining weight,

becoming fat, and refuse to maintain a normal weight. Those suffering from bulimia nervosa

engage in over-eating episodes, binge eating, and perform acts that rid the food from their

system, such as purging. Some anorexics or bulimics will use laxatives or vomit to counter their over-eating.Individuals with eating disorders are very restrictive about their diet and weight, while desiring the approval of others.(Hill,1999).

Anorexia Nervosa ,an eating disorder categorized by rejection to maintain a healthy body weight, an obsessive fear of gaining weight, and an unrealistic perception of existing body weight. On the other hand, some patients can undergo from anorexia nervosa unconsciously. These patients are classified under atypical eating disorders. Anorexia can cause menstruation to stop, leads to bone loss or loss of skin integrity. It greatly stresses the heart, increasing the risk of heart attacks and related heart problems. The risk of death is greatly increased in individuals with this disease. Social pressures in society and media play an important role in individual’s obsession on their outer appearance. The most underlining factor researchers are starting to take notice of is that it may not just be social, but it could also be related to biological and genetic components. Bulimia characterized by recurrent binge eating followed by compensatory behaviours such as purging. (Fairburn, 1997)

Makino, Tsuboi and Dennerstein, (2004) found that eating disorders, namely anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, are characterized by clinical disturbances in body image and eating behaviours. For example, anorexia nervosa sufferers have the feeling of being fat even when emaciated. They deny the seriousness of low body weight and have a morbid fear of weight gain with the relentless pursuit of thinness. Bulimia nervosa is defined by an overvaluation of weight shape and the behavioural symptoms of recurrent binge eating accompanied by purging and fasting there have been many reports about eating disorders in Western countries in the late 20th century. It has been claimed that those with eating disorders have mostly been white women and that few cases have been seen in non-Western countries other than Japan. Recently, eating disorders have been reported in non-Western countries, such as the Middle East and the People’s Republic of China. These recent studies suggest that the prevalence of eating disorders has been rising among non-Western countries as well. However, eating disorders may present differently in different cultures, and diagnostic criteria based on Western norms may not always be appropriate. One of the reported explanations for the development of eating disorders is the social pressure resulting from the standards of female beauty imposed by modern industrial society or Western culture. The increasing globalization and exposure to Western media have been suggested to increase the rate of eating disorders in non-Western countries.

Eating disorders are more common in women than men. More men have started entering treatment centers for eating disorders now than in the past. College students have a higher risk of developing an eating disorder, and female students are at an even higher risk. While competing to do well in class, they may also be in competition to be the most attractive.(Hill,1999).

College-aged women tend to suffer more often from lower body images as well. One study showed that 61% of college women were participating in severe or subtle actions to manage their weight .Other researchers report that a woman’s body image may be a more vital factor in developing an eating disorder than her actual weight. Objectified body consciousness is the extent to which a woman focuses more on her appearance rather than her internal characteristics. This type of consciousness has three different categories: “body surveillance, internalization of cultural body standards, and beliefs about appearance control”. Body surveillance, which involves the idea that a woman’s body is to be desired by men, is the main factor inobjectified body consciousness. Therefore, women will constantly survey their bodies to confirm their adherence to cultural norms. Women begin to see their bodies as outside onlookers . Surveying one’s body constantly can lead to a lowered body image and possibly to becoming vulnerable enough to develop an eating disorder. Internalization of cultural standards occurs when the social standards seem to be coming from within rather than as external pressures. The standards have been integrated and now are part of their lives. This makes one extremely vulnerable and more willing to abide by them. As previously addressed women are experiencing societal pressures constantly. This can lead to the experiencing of multiple negative emotions. Finally, responsibility for appearance is the belief that women are responsible for how their bodies look. They have the power to make their bodies beautiful or unattractive. This leads to the constant judgment of their bodies. Judging one’s body also can lead to a lowering of body image and becoming at risk for developing an eating disorder. One study found that the more negative a woman’s objectified body consciousness is, the higher the eating disorder symptoms (Tylka, 2004).

The notion of ideal body image directly impacts a person’s body image satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Body image satisfaction refers to one’s personal body image being akin to one’s concept of his/her ideal body image. One’s ideal body image represents the physical ideal that one seeks to copy, be that a high-fashion model, celebrity, movie star, fitness professional, or other such role model. Body image dissatisfaction refers to the level of one’s personal body image differs from one’s perceived ideal body image or one’s individual feelings of dissatisfaction with one’s physical look. Body dissatisfaction is a precursor for negative self-perception or self-worth and can lead to the increase of eating disorders. (Martin, 2010).

Having a deformed body image among teenage girls has been related to the development of dysfunctional eating patterns and even disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder for girls brings with it characteristics often perceived as less worthy, as girls generally get rounder and have increased body fat. These changes can serve to extra enhance dissatisfaction among adolescence girls .During puberty, peers can affect body image as well as psychological health. Some girls can become very self-conscious about their weight, which reduces their self-esteem. During that time, girls are susceptible and sensitive (Huebscher, 2010).

Having a distorted view of one’s body has been linked to low self-esteem among girls, which in turn has been linked to the development of eating disordered behaviour. Research indicates that between 50-88% of adolescent girls feel pessimistically about their body shape or size, while 49% of teenage girls say they know someone with an eating disorder. Furthermore, only 33% of girls say they are the right weight for their bodies, while 58% want to lose weight (Croll, 2005).

In contrast to males, females are much more likely to think their current size is too large because they are exposed to thin models on TV, magazine and show lastly, it indicates that for girls, the way they look is the most important pointer of self-worth .During teenage years, some girls go through an awkward phase as their bodies begin to vary, and they become self-conscious. In another survey by the American association of university women (1994), only 29% of the adolescent girls surveyed expressed self-satisfaction, while more than half of the boys felt good about themselves. (Huebscher, 2010)

It has been said that more than half of adolescent girls are or think they should be on diets,

especially when they go through puberty. This makes sense, because many young females experience weight gain as puberty start. This leads many young women to desire to lose the heaviness in a try to conform to societal expectations (Huebscher, 2010)

Body dissatisfaction, the individual assessment of one’s figure or body part, has been conceptualized to be a vital part of body image disturbance .In three large community-based studies, the proportion of adolescent girls reporting body dissatisfaction varied between 24 % and 46 %, where the respective proportions of boys ranged from 12 % to 26 %. Body dissatisfaction appears to either remain stable or increase during adolescence among girls. Among boys, body dissatisfaction has been reported to either decrease or remain stable as they move towards maturity. However, boys are nowadays known to be under increasing pressure to meet their unlikely lean and muscular body ideal. (Makinen ,2012)

Body mass is the most reliable biological factor correlated with body dissatisfaction, although the relation seems to differ between genders. Boys have been reported to feel dissatisfied with their bodies when either below or above normal weight, and to be most satisfied when they are of regular weight. In contrast, girls showed a positive linear relationship, such that their body dissatisfaction increased as a function of body weight. Dissatisfaction with one’s body tends to manifest in attempts at weight loss in girls, whereas dissatisfaction in boys can either appear as weight gain or weight loss. (Makinen, 2012).

According to Davidson & McCabe (2006), a poor body image may hamper adolescents’

development of interpersonal skills and positive relations with other boys and girls.For

instance, “physical attractiveness has been found to impact on peer relationships all the way back from elementary school, with attractive girls engaging in more positive social interactions than less-attractive girls.There is a relationship between body image and psychological functioning during adolescence.Lastly, they found a strong association between body image concerns and low self-esteem among adolescent girls, which has lead to constructions of body image as an impoltant aspect of female self-esteem .

The family plays an important role in the influence of eating behaviors of adolescents,

especially girls.Children learn their morals and values from their parent or guardian, and many times model their behavior based on their parents In regard to healthy eating, each family constructs what they feel is necessary and correct in terms of nutrition .Parents or guardians have an important role in a child’s life in regards to how to eat, what to eat, and the portion size, which has the potential to influence a person’s life-long eating habit and nutritional understanding. Family environment also could influence an adolescent girl’s self-esteem due to “weight or shape-related criticism by family members or others.The

research indicates that family members who criticize their adolescent daughter contribute significantly to body dissatisfaction .As adolescent girls go through the changes that puberty brings, family members sometimes say negative things that can contribute to their adolescent daughter feeling sad, depressed or convinced they must lose weight to make their family love them. 19 percent of high school girls replied receiving direct encouragement from parents to diet” . Research indicates if a member of a family stresses an individual within the family to conduct a diet, he or she may develop low self-esteem or body image. Within the family realm, children may feel the direct pressure to meet the demanding standards in their education, sports, and peer relationships, which may result in poor body image and selfesteem (Green & Pritchard, 2003).

Parents who give parental feedback in terms of dieting, may have a tremendous impact on their adolescent daughter’s overall development of body satisfaction (Green & Pritchard, 2003). Therefore, if an adolescent girl has a mother who is very critical about weight control, and stresses that looking thin is the only way of looking good, it is known that the adolescent will model her weight control behaviors in order to lose weight. The adolescent girl may stm1 to think the same way as her mother and likewise believe the only way a person is attractive is if they are thin. Because of the beliefs adolescent girls learn from their mothers, it has been said “that girls whose mothers diet and are concerned with their weight and shape are more likely than their peers to develop unhealthy weight control and practices” (Field et al., 2001).

The amount of media exposure an adolescent girl receives also can affect the way she

perceives her body and can lead her to become dissatisfied and believe she needs to diet. The

media portrays an image that if you fit the thin ideal, then you are more outgoing, successful,

popular and satisfied, which are not attainable for those who do not fulfill the ideal of being thin .The media also does not show that airbrushing is almost always used to modify appearances .So when adolescent girls look at these distorted images, they do not realize that a computer has helped create the thin, beautiful model who does not look that way in reality . (Green & Pritchard, 2003).

The thin ideal is communicated through society’s stereotype of obesity, meaning that being “fat” is bad and “thin” is good . Dealing more with magazines and seeing frail thin air-brushed models can make an adolescent girl want to look like that. “Magazines targeted at female adolescents are full of images of young, slim, attractive, blemish-free females with small waists, large chests, and only ever-so-slightly-rounded hips”.Disproportionate dolls also give off a negative body image for young teens. “If Barbie were real, her neck would be too long and thin to support the weight of her head, and her upper body propOliions would make it difficult for her to walk upright” (Croll, 2005).


Many college students especially female suffer from disturbed eating behaviours such as dieting and striving for slimness. Body shape is one of the most important concerns among females .the rationale for choosing this topic was to aware the society, parents and peers not to criticize others body shape and eating behaviour. Parents and society criticize adolescents specially girls due to overweight or too slim. The purpose of this study is to find out the relationship between body shape and eating behaviours among college students.

In Pakistani society the ratio of disturbances in eating habits is increasing day by day it is now one of the most prevalent mental health issues resulting from psycho-social conditions. With day to day development and progress in field of health a countless number of patients suffering from severe mental disorders visit hospitals and clinics for the treatment. Unfortunately there is no concrete information available regarding the prevalence of disordered eating behaviours so far in Pakistan. So far no efforts have been made to overcome the maladjusted eating behaviours in society.

In this modernized culture of 21st century, females having zero size physiology are considered to be ideal. We might even say that it is the culture that idolizes role models who represent anorexia. Our children, teens and young adults are influenced by these role models by seeing them in glamorous situations on television, in magazines, on the Internet, in large display-ads at the mall, on billboards and in other public advertising venues. Engrossed in a world filled with the ultra-thin role model, it has become too difficult for regularly-sized girls to feel good about their appearance. This is particularly to be disappointed that our clothing manufacturers design the majority of best fashion out fits for small-sized bodies. Earlier researches has shown that exposure to ultra-thin models in fashion magazines leads to excessive dieting and body dissatisfaction among adolescent girls. Only those girls who already had body-image problems were at risk for negative effects.

With emerging trends and concepts regarding body image/body dissatisfaction and the presence of eating disorder in Pakistan. Unfortunately, very few cases have been reported to doctors and mental health professionals due to stigmatization in our society people are very reluctant to admit eating a problem. During the last decade some awareness and knowledge about eating disorder has grown considerably but the concept of disordered eating is still neglected and unresolved in Pakistan. Pakistani media and Barbie doll images plays a crucial role in prevalence of symptoms of disturbed eating behaviour in females. People in Pakistan avoid consulting mental health professionals for their problem, due to stigmatization.

Therefore in such a situation current study is an effort to find out the existence of disturbed eating habits and satisfaction level towards individuals body image which can help in future remedies to overcome the health risks especially in youngsters.


Find out the relationship between body image and eating attitudes among girls and boys

Compare the concern for body shape among boys and girls

To investigate gender differences in eating attitudes and behaviors


H1: There is significant relationship between body shape and eating behaviour among girls and boys

H2: Girls are more concerned with body shape than boys

H3: There will be significant difference between the eating attitudes of both genders.



A study was conducted to examine how body image, Body Mass Index (BMI), and eating attitudes were related among students of age 18 to 26 years old. The samples were made up of 356 students, where 165 were male while 191 were female. Body image was assessed using the Figure Rating Scale. BMI was calculated based on measures of height and weight, and eating behaviour was assessed using Eating Behaviour Patterns Questionnaire. This study found the relationship between eating behaviour and BMI status, only snacking and convenience as well as emotional eating is associated with BMI status. While for relationship between eating behaviour and body image, only body image perception was found to be associated with emotional eating. For relationship between body image and BMI status, body image perception was found to be associated with BMI status. Male adolescents were more prone to be affected by snacking and convenience as well as cultural and lifestyle. Male adolescents were prone to be affected by body image. Gender did not have an effect on BMI status. This study underlines the importance of being aware of the relationships between body image, BMI, and eating behaviour.(Zofiran et al. 2011)

Makinen et al. (2012) conducted a study to examine body dissatisfaction and its relationship with body mass, as well as self-esteem and eating habits, in girls and boys. Body dissatisfaction is often associated with body mass, low self-esteem and abnormal eating habits. Many researches investigating body dissatisfaction and its associations were conducted on females but few suggest that males also suffer from these problems. Participants were 695 girls and 711 boys with age of 17 to 21. The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale and the Body Dissatisfaction subscale of the Eating Disorder Inventory were used as self-appraisal scales. Eating data was also self-reported. Results show that girls were less satisfied with their bodies than boys. Boys expressed greater satisfaction when they were underweight and most dissatisfaction when they had excess body weight. The boys reported higher levels of self-esteem than did the girls whereas girls expressed most satisfaction with their bodies when they were underweight, more dissatisfaction when they were of normal weight and most dissatisfaction when they had excess body weight. Their self-reporting abnormal eating habits were less satisfied with their bodies than those normal eating habits.

A study was conducted on 235 students who were given the questionnaires of eating attitudes, self-esteem, reasons for exercise, and their ideal versus current body size and shape. Prediction was that boys want to be heavier whereas girls had no such desire to be heavier. Only girls were associated with body dissatisfaction with the concept of self esteem. Specific reasons for exercise were found to correlate with low self-esteem and disordered eating, regardless of sex. The differences were not extremely significant (p < .01) among all variables. Girls expressed a greater discrepancy than boys between ideal body shapes; they expressed greater weight dissatisfaction, and had higher rates of abnormal eating attitudes and behaviours. Girls often involved in exercise for weight loss than the boys. Boy’s reasons for exercising were for body fitness. There was an overall difference that the girls exercised for negative reasons more often than the boys did. The results show that the girls were more dissatisfied with their body image than were their male counterparts. (Furnham et al. 2012)

Tylka (2004) states that body dissatisfaction is so prevalent among women in our society that it isn’t very useful in identifying women who may have eating disorders, women are more likely to have eating disorders when their body dissatisfaction is accompanied by other issues most importantly, a tendency to obsessively examine their bodies and think about how they appear to others. From her study she concluded that about 3 to 8 percent of women have some type of eating disorder, but many women — maybe most women are dissatisfied with their bodies. It shows that there are factors such as constant body monitoring that strengthen the relationship between body dissatisfaction and eating disorders and may help identify women at risk.” The detailed findings of this research were published in a recent issue of the Journal of Counselling Psychology. In two related studies, Tyke tried to identify factors that strengthen the link between body dissatisfaction – a woman’s unhappiness about her overall body shape or about specific body parts such as stomach or thighs and eating disorders. One study involved 304 college women and the other 373 women aged 17 to 58. The results showed “body surveillance” was the strongest factor that predicted which women with body dissatisfaction were likely to report symptoms of eating disorders. Body surveillance involves actions like continually looking at yourself in the mirror to see how you look,” Tylka said. “Women who do this tend to ignore their internal feelings and emotions and concentrate on their outward appearance. They think of their bodies as objects.For example, some women may ignore their feelings of hunger because they are more concerned with how eating may affect how they appear to others. Tylka discovered that another factor that strengthened the link between body dissatisfaction and eating disorders is neuroticism – a personality trait in which people tend to be anxious, nervous, worrying, and insecure. The third related factor was having a family member or friend who has an eating disorder. Women who have any of these three factors – coupled with body dissatisfaction – are the ones who may be most at risk for disordered eating.

According to Davis (1999), girls often engage in “fat talk”, in which they complain and find fault with their bodies. When a girl’s friends constantly talk about how fat and ugly they are, she may begin to feel the same. This can lead to an unhealthy and difficult cycle to break. Further, friends may encourage each other to engage in unhealthy behaviours such as dieting and eating disorders and even compete to be the thinnest or smallest. Unfortunately, this pressure to conform is perpetuated by media and culture.

According to Health Canada (1997), “In the western culture, slim is promoted not only as beautiful, healthy and sexy but self-disciplined and good. Attractive people are perceived to be kind, interesting, outgoing, and to have a variety of socially desirable character traits” (p.28). Therefore, a cultural value system becomes equated with thinness, and in turn attractiveness, so that anyone who deviates from this ideal may view oneself as incompetent, bad, and ugly.

Approximately two-thirds of adolescent girls at any age are dissatisfied with their weight, the proportion increasing with actual weight. Slightly more than half of all girls are dissatisfied with the shape of their bodies, an attitude which also is positively correlated with body weight. Girls are most likely to be distressed about excess size of their thighs, hips, waist and buttocks, and inadequate size of their breasts. Those who are dissatisfied with their bodies are more likely to engage in potentially harmful weight control behaviours, such as dieting, fasting, self-induced vomiting, diuretic use, laxative use and diet pill use. Those who diet are more likely to begin in early adolescence, to be white than black, to be of higher socioeconomic status, to engage in other eating-related practices and to have a poor body image and self esteem. Boys who are underweight are most likely to be dissatisfied with their weight and many with normal weight wish to weigh more. Approximately one-third of boys are dissatisfied with their body shape, desiring larger upper arms, chest and shoulders. Dieting and purging are less likely than exercise to be chosen by boys as methods of weight control. Dieting among boys is more likely to be associated with increased body weight and some sports, such as wrestling. Body consciousness and altered body image are widespread among adolescents, and may be associated with potentially harmful eating practices in both sexes, but more so in girls. (Moore, 1993).

This study was conducted to examine the prevalence of eating disorder symptoms and body image disturbance in a group of adolescent females. Two groups were included in this study. One of them was the inpatients diagnosed with mood disorder and other were community group taken from colleges. The study measured attitude toward eating and body image using the EAT-26 and the BSQ-34. There was no difference in the risk of developing an eating disorder between the psychiatric group and the community group (p > .05). ). A significant difference was observed in age (p < .01) and Body Mass Index (p < .01). Body Mass Index and anxiety were shown to be significant predictors of disordered eating in both study groups. The results show that eating disorder risk factors are more prevalent among females suffering from problems related to being overweight and anxious. (King 2012)

Johnson, Powers and Dick(1999) found in their studies that 9% of the female college athletes were diagnosed for an eating disorder where as 58% was found at high risk for development of disordered eating behaviour. The same study reflects 1% of male diagnosed as eating disorder and 38% were at risk for developing disordered eating behaviours.

Eating disorders have become very prevalent in today’s society, especially among college

Females. Multiple factors are involved in the development of an eating disorder. This experiment tested the primary research hypothesis that college females are more susceptible to develop an eating disorder after being exposed to pictures of women’s bodies. As a result of new research, the testing of males and more minorities was also included in this study. A pilot study involved college females (n=18) viewing a PowerPoint presentation (independent variable) and completing a survey. Pilot data showed no statistically significant effect of the independent variable. The present study found strong correlations relating both genders and their susceptibility to develop an eating disorder: females with a low self-esteem and negative body image, who feel pressure from the media, along with males with high muscle dissatisfaction are more likely to develop an eating disorder. (Hill, 1999)

Mousa et al. (2009) The study indicated that young females often experience eating disturbances associated with weight concerns, particularly in Western and developed countries. The ob

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