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The Body Project

What is Body Image?

Many people think the topic of body image only applies to women and girls. But while researchers differ when defining body image, there is no question that body image is an issue that affects anyone, regardless of sex, ethnicity, or age.

Body image can be a tough topic. Lots of people struggle with theirs. The Body Project recognizes this problem and seeks to challenge the ideal body form and bring awareness to its negative consequences in our society. We do this by providing information to our campus to help individuals understand how widespread unrealistic body image is and overcome personal unhealthy body image.

Understanding body image in order to tackle these issues doesn’t have to be difficult. Essentially, body image is just how we think and feel about our bodies. Researchers investigate whether or not we are content with our bodies, and how that level of contentment affects our behavior (e.g. are we comfortable, do we diet, do we exercise, do we engage in negative body talk, do we develop deeper psychological issues).

Still, the individual definitions of body image from different researchers can be interesting and help reveal deeper meaning. Some stand-outs:

  • Ridgeway and Tylka (2005) define body image as how we internally represent our outer appearances to ourselves.
  • Leone et al. (2011) add that, while body image is constructed, it nonetheless has a powerful impact on the quality of our lives and is an integral part of the structure of identity.
  • Other researchers inform us that body image is made up of two parts: evaluation, which is how satisfied or dissatisfied we are with our bodies; and body image investment, which is how much stake we put into how we look (Brennan, Lalonde, and Bain 2010, and Hargreaves and Tiggemann 2006).

As these samples show, issues of body image are not limited by gender, race, or age. All of us can be affected by unrealistic or unhealthy body image.

Throughout our website, you’ll find pages discussing causes and effects of unhealthy body image in both men and women, juxtaposing body image with gender studies, shedding light on how bodies are perceived from cultural and racial standpoints, and ultimately highlighting some of the most severe consequences of body image problems, including eating disorders and varied psychological disorders. Since we want to equip individuals with the ability to fight back against unrealistic body image, we also have information about ways to alter our attitudes toward body image and to find healthy ways of achieving healthy bodies.

Why this Website?

The Body Project was developed by the Women’s Studies Program of Bradley University in cooperation with the University’s Center for Wellness and Department of Sociology. We invite you to use this site

  • To challenge the way you think about current standards of beauty and fitness;
  • To locate books and videosfacilities and programsactivities, and courses to help you on your way to body acceptance;
  • To expand your understanding of the links between current body ideals and the political, economic and cultural force that shape them;
  • To get information and assistance with balanced nutrition and eating disorders;
  • To have your say on issues of body image and standards of beauty and fitness;
  • And to start down the path to a positive body image.

The Body Project is for women and men of all ages, in the Bradley community and beyond. Join us in increasing awareness and acceptance of the human body in all its shapes and sizes.