Body Image and Ethnicity

Body Image and Ethnicity

Although some groups espouse thinness as an ideal body type, others do not. In many traditional African societies, for example, full-figured women’s bodies are seen as symbols of health, prosperity, and fertility. Asian American women often utilize the same unhealthy weight control behaviors and may be prone to developing eating disorders at rates similar to young European American women. African American teenage girls have a more positive body image than white girls; in one survey, two-thirds of them defined beauty as “the right attitude,” whereas white girls were more preoccupied with weight and body shape.

Nevertheless, recent evidence indicates that African American women are as likely to engage in disordered eating behavior especially binge eating and vomiting as their Latina, Native American, and white counterparts. This finding underscores the complex nature of eating disorders and body image.

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Avoiding Body-Image Problems

To minimize your risk of developing a body-image problem, keep the following strategies in mind:

• Focus on healthy habits and good physical health.

• Put concerns about physical appearance in perspective. Your worth as a human being does not depend on how you look.

• Practice body acceptance. You can influence your body size and type through lifestyle to some degree, but the fact is that some people are genetically designed to be bigger or heavier than others.

• Find things to appreciate in yourself besides an idealized body image. People who can learn to value other aspects of themselves are more accepting of the physical changes that occur naturally with age.

• View eating as a morally neutral activity eating dessert isn’t “bad” and doesn’t make you a bad person.

• See the beauty and fitness industries for what they are. Realize that their goal is to prompt dissatisfaction with yourself so that you will buy their products.

The effects of TV commercials using less thin models on young women’s mood, body image and actual food intake. Body Image 6(4): 270-276. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2009.07.007. Epub August 20, 2009; retrieved May 23,

The role of the media in body image concerns among women: A meta-analysis of experimental and correlational studies. Psychological Bulletin 134(3): 460-476. (http://lilt.ilstu.edu/ mjreese/psy453/Grabe%20et%20al%20 2008.pdf, retrieved May 24, 2013); Nouri,

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