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Exploring Women’s Body Ideals: Internalizing Ideals and Eating Restraint

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Appearance ideals are standards of beauty imposed by a culture or society, that are unrealistic and impossible to achieve. Research documents the existence of three appearance ideals, thin, muscular and

Appearance ideals are standards of beauty imposed by a culture or society, that are unrealistic and impossible to achieve. Research documents the existence of three appearance ideals, thin, muscular and hourglass ideals. The thin ideal is the pursuit of a very thin and low body weight. The muscular ideal is the pursuit of a toned and fit body. The hourglass ideal is the pursuit of a shapely body with bigger breasts and hips/buttocks than waist. These ideals are associated with disordered eating. However, no current study has examined the prevalence of all three ideals, or how the combination of ideals relates to dietary restraint, one example of a disordered eating behavior. This study was conducted on 505 undergraduate women at Arizona State University, who were completing research credit for a psychology course. The women participated in an online survey that assessed their demographics, each ideal, and dietary restraint. Results show that all combinations of ideals exist. Specifically, 41.5% of the sample endorse high levels of all three ideals, while 12.5% report thin and muscular ideals, 9.5% report thin and hourglass ideals, 9.9% report hourglass and muscular ideals, 8.4% report low levels of all three ideals, 6.4% report muscular ideal only, 6.4% report hourglass ideal only, and 5.6% report thin ideal only. Endorsing more than one ideal significantly associated with dietary restraint. Findings fulfill an important gap in the literature, suggest future directions for research, and have important clinical implications.

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  • 2021-05