Body Image Dissatisfaction as a Motivator for Healthy Lifestyle Change: Is Some Distress Beneficial?

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Hypothesizes that body image dissatisfaction is not always a negative process. It is argued that some degree of dissatisfaction may be helpful and necessary to motivate individuals to engage in healthy behaviors such as exercise and restricting fats and calories. The assumption that dissatisfaction with weight is universally deleterious is questioned. It is suggested that to further analyze the role of body image dissatisfaction in eating disorders, one might examine how body dissatisfaction interacts with motivation and participation in healthy behaviors. Theoretical background and empirical support for these hypotheses are offered. The following issues are reviewed: the relationship between body image dissatisfaction and dieting behavior; the public health problem of obesity, body image, and dieting behavior in overweight and obese populations; the research examining the possible beneficial aspects of body image dissatisfaction in predicting weight loss and exercise behavior; and theories from the health psychology literature supporting the notion that distress may serve as a motivating factor for engaging in health behaviors. Implications for this reconceptualization of the hazards of body image dissatisfaction are offered and research directions are discussed.

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Body Image Dissatisfaction as a Motivator for Healthy Lifestyle Change: Is Some Distress Beneficial?, in R. H. Striegel-Moore & L. Smolak (Eds.), Eating Disorders: Innovative Directions for Research and Practice, American Psychological Association, p. 215-232