Body Image in the 21st Century



Who is affected?

Body image affects both genders. However, studies have shown that females want to be smaller and reported more body dissatisfaction than did males.

Caucasian females have been found to report the most body dissatisfaction.

The development of one’s body image begins at a young age but often undergoes changes during adolescence, particularly during the stages of puberty.

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Body Image Among Teens

Teenagers are believed to be among the heaviest users of many forms of mass media, particularly magazines and television. Research has revealed that women do feel more guilty, anxious, and depressed after viewing thin models in the media.

Research studies that reviewed several magazines marketed for teenagers found that the magazine content supports the idea that female happiness and success are tied to physical appearance. In addition, the content emphasizes ultra thinness being the preferred state of health and beauty as well as the most important form of self- improvement.

The prevalence of diet and exercise articles in women’s magazines has grown exponentially, and the physical appearance of the average fashion model is achievable by only 3% to 5% of the population

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What influences body image?

Body image is shaped by a variety of factors, some of which are controllable and others which are not:

  • Comments from family, friends and others about any person’s body
  • Ideals that we develop about physical appearance
  • How often we compare ourselves to others
  • Exposure to images of idealized versus normal bodies
  • The experience of physical activity
  • The experience of abuse (this can include sexual, physical, and emotional abuse)
  • The experience of prejudice and discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, ability, sexual orientation or gender identity

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Body Image Statistics

Twenty years ago, models weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today, they weigh 23% less than the average woman.
The average American woman is 5’4” tall and weighs 140 pounds. The average American model is 5’11” tall and weighs 117 pounds.

If Barbie was a real woman, she’d have to walk on all fours due to her proportions.

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About 7% of 12th grade males have used steroids in order to become more muscular.

If GI Joe were human, he’d have larger biceps than any bodybuilder in history.

One out of every four college aged women has an eating disorder.

It is estimated that 40 to 50% of American women are trying to lose weight at any point in time.

Americans spend more than 40 billion dollars a year on dieting and diet-related products – that’s roughly equivalent to the amount the U.S. Federal Government spends on education each year!
Almost half of all women smokers smoke because they see it as the best way to control their weight. Of these women, 25% will die of a disease caused by smoking.

In 2007, there were about 11.7 million cosmetic procedures performed in the U.S. Ninety one percent of these were performed on women.


A study found that 53% of thirteen-year-old American girls are unhappy with their bodies. This number grows to 78% by the time girls reach seventeen.

According to the Girl Scouts Research Institute, one-third of all girls have a distorted idea about their weight.

What is body image?

Your body image is the way you see yourself and the way you imagine how you look. Body image also includes how you feel about your body and how you sense, feel and control your body as you move.

Positive Body Image

When we have a realistic perception of our bodies AND we enjoy them just as they are.

Involves understanding that healthy attractive bodies come in many shapes and sizes, and that physical appearance says very little about our character or value as a person.

Negative Body Image

A distorted perception of size or shape, as well as more global feelings of shame, awkwardness, and anxiety about the body.

Feelings that one’s size or shape is a sign of personal failure, and that it is an important indicator of worth.