Body appreciation and internalization of body ideals in Black women: Protection or increased risk for eating pathology?

Alice S. Lowy, PhD

Boston Children’s Hospital
Body appreciation and internalization of body ideals in Black women: Protection or increased risk for eating pathology?

Scientific Abstract

Background: Current research consistently demonstrates that eating pathology stems from the internalization of societal pressures to attain mainstream ideals emphasizing thin and toned bodies. However, some studies suggest that body appreciation and internalization of culturally- specific ideals may protect Black women from internalizing mainstream body ideals and eating disorder symptomatology.

Methods: The present study investigated how the internalization of different body ideals and body appreciation relate to eating pathology among Black women. A sample of 170 Black women, mean age = 23.21 (5.09) years, completed an online questionnaire examining body appreciation, eating pathology, body dissatisfaction, and internalization of different body and beauty ideals, including the Body Appreciation Scale (BAS), Eating Disorder Diagnostic Scale- DSM-5 Version (EDDS-5), Dutch Restrained Eating Scale (DRES), Racial Body Image Questionnaire (RBIQ), Sociocultural Attitudes Towards Appearance Questionnaire (SATAQ-4), and Black Beauty Ideals Scale (BBIS). Pearson product correlations were conducted to assess the relationships among variables.

Results: Findings revealed that body dissatisfaction was positively associated with eating disorder symptomatology (r = .45, p < .001) while body appreciation was negatively associated (r = -.55, p < .001). In addition, eating disorder symptoms were significantly associated with internalization of the thin-ideal (r = .49, p < .001) and muscular-ideal (r = .15, p < .05).

Surprisingly, internalization of culturally-specific ideals was also significantly associated with fear of fat (r = .30, p < .001), dietary restraint (r = .28, p < .01), and general disordered eating (r = .16, p < .05); however, no significant associations were found between internalization of mainstream ideals and eating disorder symptoms.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that body appreciation may serve as an important protective factor of eating pathology in Black women, as well as elucidate how internalization of different body ideals relates to eating pathology in this population.

research Areas

Authors

Alice S. Lowy, PhD, Debra L. Franko, PhD, Jennifer B. Webb, PhD, Rachel F. Rodgers, PhD