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Eat Behav. 2007 Dec;8(4):429-39. Epub 2007 Mar 28.

Prevalence and magnitude of body weight and shape dissatisfaction among university students.

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  • 1Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, 351A Martha Van Rensselaer Hall, Ithaca, New York 14853, United States.


Although prevalence of overweight and obesity is increasing, prevailing sociocultural influences lead females to desire a thin body and males a muscular body, often resulting in body dissatisfaction (BD) because many cannot achieve the cultural ideal. This study examined the magnitude of BD in university undergraduates (n=310). Body weight dissatisfaction (BWD) was measured as the difference between current and idealized body weight; body shape dissatisfaction (BSD) as the difference between and current and idealized body shape. Overall, females expressed greater BD than males. Overweight individuals expressed the greatest BWD and BSD, yet half desired a weight that would maintain their overweight body mass index (BMI) classification. Normal weight females desired a slightly thinner, lighter body, while desires among normal weight males were mixed. Underweight females and normal weight males expressed little BWD and BSD, commonly idealizing a body weight maintaining their BMI classification. However, results may suggest a shift in body size ideals in an era of prevalent obesity, with overweight males and females expressing less BD and few normal weight individuals, particularly females, idealizing a very thin body.

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