Body dissatisfaction and obesity: Consequences and implications for intervention (#19)
Body dissatisfaction, broadly defined as negative evaluation of body size, shape, and weight, is accompanied by feelings of distress, associated with low quality of life, and is a risk factor for the development of low self-esteem, depressive symptoms, weight gain, and eating disorders. Given the pervasive sociocultural pressures that reinforce the desirability of the thin-ideal appearance, it may be assumed that all individuals who are obese, and therefore highly deviant from the thin- ideal, would experience body dissatisfaction. In addition, it has been argued that the presence of body dissatisfaction may be helpful in promoting weight loss attempts and that weight loss is the most effective pathway to improving body dissatisfaction. This talk aims to provide an overview of the experiences of body dissatisfaction for people who are obese, and will focus on the consequences of body dissatisfaction and options for treatment. First, the talk will define body dissatisfaction and explore the characteristics of obese people who experience positive body image as a means of recognising the limitations of the view that all obese people will necessarily be dissatisfied with their bodies. Second the consequences that result from body dissatisfaction will be described by providing a summary of findings from cross-sectional and prospective literature. Third, it will be proposed that approaches that encourage stigma towards obese people and highlight body dissatisfaction for the purposes of promoting weight loss are at best unhelpful, but more likely potentially harmful. Finally, benefits of interventions that focus on acceptance and self-care, rather than weight loss, will be discussed as the preferred option for improving body dissatisfaction in obese people.