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What Is the Connection between Body Image and Obesity?

By Kelly Ferguson
Updated May 17, 2024
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The connection between body image and obesity is not as clear as many people might think based on common sense. It is difficult to determine whether a person's body image is changed by his or her obesity, or if his or her weight is affected by body image. Additionally, if the latter were true in an individual's case, it might be equally possible that high body image resulted in obesity rather than low body image, as most people would expect. Some studies even question whether body image and obesity have much of a relationship at all, though many have found links between the two.

Despite some findings that body image does not really change when associated with higher obesity levels, most surveys and studies find them at least moderately correlated. It has also been shown that, in individuals who do have a lot of dissatisfaction with their body image due to being overweight or obese, body image improved dramatically when they were able to lose weight and get closer to an ideal body weight. Since this is not a representative sample of the general population because these individuals were picked because of their issues with body image and obesity, it cannot be said that these findings would be true of everyone. It does show, however, the possibility of it and supports the claims that, at least in some people, low body image and obesity are very much related.

While most people expect that obesity will lead to a low body image, it is entirely possible that the reverse is just as true. Individuals with low body image may be less inclined to take good physical care of themselves with exercise and a proper diet, eventually leading to obesity. It is less common in most cultures today to associate high body image and obesity rather than low body image. Some individuals may be perfectly happy being obese, while others may be indifferent about it. Individuals like this may weaken the correlation between obesity and low body image in the general population, but they are usually in the minority and will not be numerous enough to cause a correlation to appear between obesity and high body image.

It is important to study the relationship between body image and obesity because it can help individuals suffering from either low body image or obesity to recover. Also, obese individuals with high body image may be less likely to take action to lose weight for self-esteem reasons. They, therefore, may need medical reasons provided about why a healthier lifestyle might be a better choice.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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