Body image is a multifaceted concept which includes the following components: the thoughts and feelings an individual has about their own body, the perception they have towards their body and the behaviours carried out which affect their body (NEDC, 2020).
Negative body image
Negative body image involves negative emotions towards one’s overall body image and as a result, is a risk factor for a variety of unhealthy behaviours.
It can also predict
- low self-esteem
More importantly, it has been deemed a key risk factor for the development of an eating disorder and body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). Factors which can contribute towards negative body image are social norms and expectations as well as unrealistic beauty standards presented in the media and society (Alleva, 2015).
- Anorexia nervosa –misconceptions about the individual’s own body shape and weight, desire to be ‘thin’. Implemented by restriction of food and induced vomiting or laxatives (Attia & Walsh, 2007)
- Bulimia nervosa –includes the same misconceptions about one’s body as Anorexia with different behaviour but with episodes of binge-eating and ‘purging’ (Rushing et al., 2003)
- Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) – believe that they are ‘ugly’ or there is something wrong with their appearance when in fact, there is nothing wrong with their appearance and they have a warped perception of their appearance (Phillips, 2004).
How do negative influences of body image affect women of colour (WOC)?
WOC experiencing eating disorders or other severe body image conditions are affected in other ways. WOC experience pressure to maintain a beauty standard suited to the ‘majority’ (white, relatively thin, conventionally- attractive features such as a small nose, etc.). WOC also face racism and colourism, which also impacts their self-perception (Awad, 2014).
There must be more awareness and education amongst researchers, clinicians, and educators carrying out studies – efforts must be made to enhance their awareness of factors influencing minority communities. This development of awareness must extend to the wider community.
These factors include
- differing worldviews, values, and beliefs
- assimilation, and immigration patterns
- impacts of oppression and ethnic identity
- individual differences within every ethnic and racial group (National Eating Disorders Association, 2012).
Body image in women of colour
Researching and reporting bias
Exact figures and studies on the pervasiveness of eating disorders among WOC are not easily available. There is a lack of research utilising women from racial minority groups because of the historically biased opinion that eating disorders only affect white women. Despite this, there is an increase in the number of reported eating disorders among women of colour. Part of the increase might merely reflect a rise in reports of these issues instead of an actual increase.
A study was conducted with the aim of gaining a deeper understanding of racial and ethnic diversity in body image among women. It suggested that practitioners are advised to avoid making assumptions and widen the scope of the issue beyond physical characteristics e.g. facial features and hair, etc when dealing with body image issues for WOC. It is crucial for studies in the future to include and understand which characteristics promote positive body image in women of colour. Applying these measures across a wide range of racial and ethnic groups is a key measure to develop specific intervention programs designed for the prevention of eating and psychological disorders. Further research should be conducted while considering social class, age, racial or ethnic identity, sexual orientation and influences of these ideals (Winter et al, 2019).
Regular therapies and treatments prescribed to those suffering from body image issues and conditions derived from these must be tailored to women of colour in these instances. A recent study testing the efficacy of treatments such as exposure-based cognitive-behavioural body image intervention on participants with Bulimia have produced positive results. However, such studies should be conducted with a larger pool size, including women of colour and participants from overlapping intersectional groups of the community (Lewer et al., 2017).
RationaleThis topic was chosen due to the lack of information available currently for body images experiences unique to women of colour and I believe there needs to be light shed onto the issues faced by minority groups such as this instance. It is also a topic which is close to me since I am a member of this group and have experienced what other WOC have experienced to a certain extent. I wanted to research and present information about this topic because, as mentioned in the poster, there is a large bias in the reporting of issues affecting women of colour in general and more research needs to be conducted to cater to the issues of WOC in order to sufficiently cover their issues.
The sources cited in the poster provide detailed information about body image issues and how women of colour are affected in an unbiased, objective manner. The sites included at the conclusion of the poster which are available for further help and information regarding body image images and eating disorders. Unfortunately, there is a lack of services and organisations in addition to early prevention, prevention and intervention and treatment options which specialize in treating eating disorders and body image problems for women of colour.
- Alleva, J. M. (2015). Body matters: interventions and change techniques designed to improve body image. Datawyse / Universitaire Pers Maastricht. Retrieved from https://cris.maastrichtuniversity.nl/ws/files/1429541/guid-73c30008-0245-46fe-821c-f72ce60db8cc-ASSET1.0
- Attia. E. & Walsh. B.T. (2007). Anorexia Nervosa. The American Journal of Psychiatry. Retrieved from https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ajp.2007.07071151
- Awad, G. H., Norwood, C., Taylor, D. S., Martinez, M., McClain, S., Jones, B., Holman, A., & Chapman-Hilliard, C. (2015). Beauty and Body Image Concerns Among African American College Women. The Journal of black psychology, 41(6), 540–564. https://doi.org/10.1177/0095798414550864
- Lewer, M.., Kosfelder, J. and Michalak, J. (2017). Effects of a cognitive-behavioural exposure-based body image therapy for overweight females with binge eating disorder: a pilot study. J Eat Disord., 5 (43). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40337-017-0174-y
- National Eating Disorders Association. (2012). Eating Disorders in Women of Colour: Explanations and Implications. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/sites/default/files/ResourceHandouts/EatingDisordersinWomenofColor.pdf
- National Eating Disorders Collaboration (2020). Body Image. Retrieved from https://www.nedc.com.au/eating-disorders/eating-disorders-explained/body-image/
- Paxton.S. (2011). Psychological prevention and intervention strategies for body dissatisfaction and disordered eating. InPsych, 33. Retrieved from https://www.psychology.org.au/for-members/publications/inpsych/2011/aug/Psychological-prevention-and-intervention-strategi
- Phillips K. A. (2004). Body dysmorphic disorder: recognizing and treating imagined ugliness. World psychiatry: official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), 3(1), 12–17. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1414653/
- Winter.V.R., Danforth. L.K., Landor. A., Pevehouse-Pfeiffer. D. (2019). Toward an Understanding of Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Body Image among Women. Social Work Research, 43(2), 69–80. https://doi.org/10.1093/swr/svy033
- Rushing, J. M., Jones, L. E., & Carney, C. P. (2003). Bulimia Nervosa: A Primary Care Review. Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry, 5(5), 217–224. https://doi.org/10.4088/pcc.v05n0505