In an age where fit is the new skinny, expectations of body image have reached a new level of unattainability for the vast majority of society.
Marika Tiggemann started researching body image perception in the 1980s, when it was far less influential and, as time has passed, has watched her research topic become a key element of modern culture.
“I never could have guessed when I first began my study just how much it makes so many of us unhappy,” Professor Tiggemann said.
Messages about what constitutes the perfect body now come from a multitude of sources and drive sales of magazines, clothes, food and even discretionary surgery.
Professor Tiggemann is interested in normative body dissatisfaction, where the average population experience ongoing feelings of unhappiness based on their body image. This has largely been the preserve of women and girls in the past, but is increasingly afflicting males.
“There is a new trend called fitspiration, which is about people promoting health and fitness through posting photos of themselves exercising and looking good,” Professor Tiggemann said.
“Fitspiration may sound like it should have positive impacts, but the reverse is happening for many girls and women. It still perpetuates the perception that there is one perfect body type.
“Our latest study on the fitspiration trend has shown that people do feel more inspired to get active and eat well and try to emulate these people, but it also negatively impacts on their thoughts and feelings of their own bodies which makes it potentially an unhealthy motivational tool.
“An entire cultural change around appearance is needed for the body dissatisfaction rates to reduce and I am hopeful that one day soon we can make it socially acceptable to be happy and comfortable in your own skin.”