Athletic-ideal and thin-ideal internalization as prospective predictors of body dissatisfaction, dieting, and compulsive exercise

Body Image. 2010 Jun;7(3):240-5. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2010.02.004. Epub 2010 Mar 11.


Although internalization of the thin ideal has been extensively researched and is now regarded as a risk factor for eating disturbance, endorsement of the firm, athletic body ideal has received only minimal attention. This short-term longitudinal study explored whether internalization of two aspects of the current cultural ideal (thinness and athleticism) prospectively predicted three potentially deleterious outcomes: body dissatisfaction, dieting, and compulsive exercise. Undergraduate women (N=231) completed self-report measures at the beginning of the academic year and again 7 months later (N=156 at Time 2). Athletic-ideal internalization predicted change in compulsive exercise over the 7-month study period but not body dissatisfaction or dieting; thin-ideal internalization predicted change in all three outcomes. When both internalization measures were tested simultaneously, neither contributed unique variance. Results suggest that athletic-ideal internalization is not as detrimental as thin-ideal internalization.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Image*
  • Compulsive Behavior / psychology
  • Culture
  • Diet, Reducing / psychology
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychometrics / methods
  • Self Concept
  • Social Values
  • Students
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Thinness / psychology*
  • Universities
  • Young Adult