Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Body Image - Google-fu edition...

So due to a recent post on NSWATM I tried searching for data on body image again and see what I came up with. Expect walls of text:

On body satisfaction, self esteem & co:

The relationships of body satisfaction, self-esteem, dieting, and exercise were studied in 92 men and women. Men and women did not differ in degree of body dissatisfaction as assessed by three different measures. However, on the direction of body dissatisfaction, men were as likely to want to be heavier as thinner, whereas virtually no women wished to be heavier. Although overall body esteem was correlated with self-esteem for both men and women, measures of weight dissatisfaction were not associated with self-esteem for women. The normative nature of weight dissatisfaction for women today may serve to buffer its effects on self-esteem. Women reported exercising for weight control more than men, and exercising for weight control was associated with disregulated eating. - Behavioral and psychological implications of body dissatisfaction: Do men and women differ? Lisa R. Silberstein, Ruth H. Striegel-Moore, Christine Timko and Judith Rodin

The present study examined body image and associated psychological traits in 154 college men. The comprehensive battery of measures included a novel computerized test of body image perception, the Somatomorphic Matrix, in which subjects could navigate through a range of body images, spanning a wide range of body fat and muscularity, to answer various questions posed by the computer. Subjects also completed paper-and-pencil instruments assessing depression, characteristics of eating disorders, self-esteem, and use of performance-enhancing substances. Findings suggest that contemporary American men display substantial body dissatisfaction and that this dissatisfaction is closely associated with depression, measures of eating pathology, use of performance-enhancing substances, and low self-esteem. Muscle belittlement, believing that one is less muscular than he is, presented as an important construct in the body dissatisfaction of men. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved) - Biceps and Body Image: The Relationship Between Muscularity and Self-Esteem, Depression, and Eating Disorder Symptoms. - Olivardia, Roberto;Pope Jr., Harrison G.;Borowiecki III, John J.;Cohane, Geoffrey H. - Psychology of Men & Masculinity, Vol 5(2), Jul 2004, 112-120

Both scientific research and popular attention have begun to focus on the neglected issue of body image in boys. We reviewed the findings of this emerging literature. Using computer and manual search techniques, we located 17 studies that assessed body image attitudes in boys under age 18. We located 17 studies, most performed within the last 10 years. Eight studies used exclusively questionnaires or interviews; the rest also used figure drawings from which the subjects could choose specific images in answer to questions. Although boys generally displayed less overall body concern than girls, many boys of all ages reported dissatisfaction with their bodies, often associated with reduced self-esteem. Whereas girls typically wanted to be thinner, boys frequently wanted to be bigger. However, most studies failed to distinguish between “bigness” due to increased muscle and that due to fat. Body image dissatisfaction in boys is common and often associated with distress. To better assess this phenomenon, future studies should take care to separate the indices of muscle and fat. - Body image in boys: A review of the literature - Geoffrey H. Cohane, Harrison G. Pope Jr

Dissatisfaction with body image is thought to be a key factor in the etiology of eating disorders among women. In contrast, men are reported to be generally satisfied with their body weight and body shape. The present survey study examined the relative desire for thinness or weight gain among 226 male and female freshman students. Most 18-year-old women (85%) wished to lose weight. Men expressed conflicting views regarding desire for thinness and were almost evenly split between those who wanted to lose weight (40%) and those who wished to gain weight (45%). The proportion of men and women who expressed no desire for weight change was comparable. Men and women who wished to lose weight shared negative body perceptions: both groups viewed themselves as overweight, and both expressed dissatisfaction with body shape. However, men used exercise for weight control while women resorted to restricted calorie diets. A key risk factor for eating disorders may be dieting itself. - Men and body image: are males satisfied with their body weight? - A Drewnowski and DK Yee

OBJECTIVE: The authors tested the hypothesis that men in modern Western societies would desire to have a much leaner and more muscular body than the body they actually had or perceived themselves to have. METHOD: The height, weight, and body fat of college-aged men in Austria (N=54), France (N=65), and the United States (N=81) were measured. Using the somatomorphic matrix, a computerized test devised by the authors, the men chose the body image that they felt represented 1) their own body, 2) the body they ideally would like to have, 3) the body of an average man of their age, and 4) the male body they believed was preferred by women. The men’s actual fat and muscularity was compared with that of the four images chosen. RESULTS: Only slight demographic and physical differences were found among the three groups of men. Modest differences were found between the men’s measured fat and the fat of the images chosen. However, measures of muscularity produced large and highly significant differences. In all three countries, men chose a ideal body that was a mean of about 28 lb (13 kg) more muscular than themselves and estimated that women preferred a male body about 30 lb (14 kg) more muscular than themselves. In a pilot study, however, the authors found that actual women preferred an ordinary male body without added muscle. CONCLUSIONS: The wide discrepancy between men’s actual muscularity and their body ideals may help explain the apparent rise in disorders such as muscle dysmorphia and anabolic steroid abuse.


the literature on body image perception in men is far more limited, and the available scales are less well developed (3–6). However, accumulating evidence suggests that many men also suffer from disorders characterized by altered perceptions of their bodies. For example, in two studies, both American men (7) and European men (8) with eating disorders rated themselves as feeling significantly fatter than subjects without eating disorders. Also, recent studies of athletes have described a converse syndrome: men who perceive themselves as small and frail when in fact they are large and muscular. We have previously called this syndrome "reverse anorexia nervosa" (9) and have subsequently renamed it "muscle dysmorphia" (10). Individuals with muscle dysmorphia may exhibit striking psychiatric morbidity. For example, they may refuse to allow their bodies to be seen in public settings; they may relinquish important social, recreational, or occupational activities to work out compulsively at the gym; and they may abuse anabolic steroids in an attempt to overcome their chronic preoccupation that they look too small.
Given these observations of men with various forms of body image pathology, it is of interest to assess body image perception in unselected groups of men. In recent decades, men in Western societies have been exposed through the media to an increasingly lean and muscular male body ideal (11, 12). Therefore, we hypothesized that in both the United States and Europe, men would desire to have a body much leaner and more muscular than the body that they actually had or the body that they perceived themselves to have. We also hypothesized that men would think that women in their societies preferred a very lean and muscular male body. We believed, however, that men’s estimates of women’s preferences might differ from women’s actual preferences. - Body Image Perception Among Men in Three Countries - 2000

Research shows that today’s college men are reporting greater levels of body dissatisfaction, and this is true for both gay and heterosexual men

Males associate their attractiveness with increased muscle definition, and are concerned about body shape (as opposed to weight) and increasing their muscle mass (Knowlton, 1995; University of Iowa Health Care, 2002)
Eating disorders in males typically involve a constant competition to stay more defined than other men (University of Iowa Health Care, 2002)

Gay and heterosexual men have equivalent levels of body esteem, satisfaction with body shape, and desired levels of thinness (Yelland Tiggermann, 2003). However, gay men are more likely than heterosexual men to be treated for eating disorders

Disordered eating and exercising behaviors among men are associated with obsessive feelings of inadequacy, unattractiveness, and failure

The viewing and purchasing of muscle and fitness magazines was associated with body dissatisfaction in both gay and heterosexual men (Duggan & McCreary, 2004)

Gay and heterosexual men involved in sports that emphasize strict body weight adherence (such as swimmers, runners, wrestlers, and jockeys) are at higher risk for developing eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia (Ennis, Drewnowski, & Grinker, 1987; Knowlton, 1995) - Source


Evolution of the ideal for male bodies and the media:

Abstract: Objective: We sought to assess whether cultural ideals of the male body, as illustrated by magazine models, have changed over the past 25 years. Method:We examined 115 male centerfold models in Playgirl magazine from 1973 to 1997. Using the models’ heights and weights quoted by the magazine, together with visual estimates of body fat, we
calculated the body mass index (BMI) and fat-free mass index (FFMI) of each model. Results: The Playgirl centerfold models became increasingly “dense” and more muscular over time, as indicated by the significant correlations between BMI, FFMI, and year of publication. Discussion: These observations, in combination with previous studies, suggest that cultural norms of the ideal male body are growing increasingly muscular.


Fewer studies have examined the evolution of society’s ideal for the male body. In one study of male and female magazines for 18–24-year-olds, Andersen and DiDomenico (1992) found that men’s magazines published significantly more advertisements and articles about changing body shape than about losing weight, suggesting that men might be
more concerned with overall physique than with fat. Another study found that between 1980 and 1991, men’s fashion magazines printed an increasing number of articles on men’s weight and health concerns (Nemeroff, Stein, Diehl, & Smilack, 1994). A third study noted a trend for the greater use of young male bodies in fashion magazines and in
marketing a variety of products (Davis, Shapiro, Elliot, & Dionne, 1993). In another study examining the evolution of boys’ action toys, Pope, Olivardia, Gruber, and Borowiecki (1999) found that figures such as GI Joe have become increasingly muscular over time, with many contemporary figures having physiques more muscular than is humanly

These trends in cultural ideals for body image may contribute to psychopathology. Among women, it has been hypothesized that cultural ideals of thinness may contribute to the rising prevalence of eating disorders (Garner et al., 1980; Wiseman et al., 1992). Among men, cultural ideals of muscularity may contribute to lower self-esteem about the body (Blouin & Goldfield, 1995; Pope, Gruber, Choi, Olivardia, & Phillips, 1997; Leit, 1998)
and possibly to abuse of anabolic-androgenic steroids (Pope & Katz, 1994). To augment the available data on trends in cultural ideals of male body image, we followed the strategy of Garner et al. (1980) and Wiseman et al. (1992) described above, but instead examined the dimensions of Playgirl centerfold models over the magazine’s 25-year history.

- Cultural Expectations of Muscularity in Men: The Evolution of Playgirl Centerfolds - Richard A. Leit, Harrison G. Pope, Jr. and James J. Gray

We hypothesized that the physiques of male action toys — small plastic figures used by children in play — would provide some index of evolving American cultural ideals of male body image. Method: We obtained examples of the most popular American action toys manufactured over the last 30 years. We then measured the waist, chest, and bicep circumference of each figure and scaled these measurements using classical allometry to the height of an actual man (1.78 m). Results: We found that the figures have grown much more muscular over time, with many contemporary figures far exceeding the muscularity of even the largest human bodybuilders. Discussion: Our observations appear to represent a “male analog” of earlier studies examining female dolls, such as Barbie. Together, these studies of children’s toys suggest that cultural expectations may contribute to body image disorders in both sexes.
- Evolving Ideals of Male Body Image as Seen Through Action Toys - 1999

Hypotheses regarding contemporary men’s body image distress have been presented by researchers in the field of psychology. It appears that the media plays a significant role in this by presenting the public with unrealistic images of the ideal male body. Consider the following:

GI Joe is to boys what Barbie is to girls (Pope, Olivardia, Gruber, & Borowiecki, 1999). Over the past 20 years, these G.I. Joe toys have grown more muscular and currently have sharper muscle definition. The GI Joe Extreme action figure, if extrapolated to a height of 5’10”, would have larger biceps than any bodybuilder in history.
A Playgirl centerfold model of 1976 would need to shed 12 lbs of fat and gain 27 lbs of muscle to be a centerfold of today (Leit, Pope, & Gray, 2001).

In addition, the male body is increasingly being objectified and sexualized in popular print ads. For example, advertisements promoting weight lifting, exercise products, and underwear present the model as dehumanized (the gaze of male model is not at viewer) and the body is objectified (bodies are shown in parts, such as from the shoulders down). Additionally, the naked male body is increasingly portrayed in magazines targeted towards women and gay men.

The drive for muscularity

The Drive for Muscularity – a concept operationalized by psychologist Dr. Don McCreary – represents an individual’s perception that (1) he is not muscular enough, and (2) bulk should be added to his body frame (McCreary & Sasse, 2000).

Research shows that young men tend to see themselves as thinner and less muscular than they actually are. In contrast to women with body image concerns, who typically seek to shed pounds and achieve a specific body weight, men with body image concerns want to bulk up. Because men are socialized not to discuss their body image concerns, their silent anguish may lead to feelings of isolation, distress, depression, and anxiety. The Drive for Muscularity in young men has been associated with low self esteem, neuroticism, and perfectionism (Davis, Karvinen, & McCreary, 2005).

The drive for muscularity becomes pathological when it causes significant distress and interferes with social and occupational functioning. Any of the following signs are cause for concern:

Neglecting school, work, family, or friends to spend more time at the gym
Persistent fear and anxiety of appearing too small
The use of steroids or other performance enhancing drugs

- Source

In the study, published in the February issue of Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, researchers had nearly 160 male college students watch an old episode of Family Feud, but they were divided into two groups that saw different commercials during the show.

One group saw ads for financial, telephone, and automobile companies that featured men over age 30 dressed in business or casual attire in a home or business setting. The other group saw commercials that featured muscular, young, and bare-chested men hawking cologne or deodorant.

Researchers found the men who saw the buff male model ads reported feeling more depressed and less satisfied with their own muscles than the men who saw the neutral ads. - Source

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