Feel manipulated? Anxious? Tune out the hype and learn to love your body

Group therapy programs aim to counter the influence of these images and reduce body dissatisfaction. Flickr/jaimelondonboy

Welcome to part three of The science behind weight loss, a Conversation series in which we separate the myths about dieting from the realities of exercise and nutrition. Here, Professor Susan Paxton, from La Trobe University’s School of Psychological Science, takes a look at body image pressures and disordered eating:

You just need to catch a glimpse of a magazine news stand or a fashion billboard to get a sense of why so many Australians are dissatisfied with their body shape and weight.

Our society vigorously supports an unrealistically thin body ideal for women and a lean, athletic body ideal for men, and ascribes qualities of moral virtue to the few who achieve these ideals.

On the other hand, people with larger body sizes are stigmatised and assumed to be morally deficient.

Consequently, a very large proportion of the community lives in a state of anxiety and self-criticism related to their body size and shape.

Just look at the findings of the 2010 Mission Australia Youth Survey of over 50,000 young Australians: body image was the number one concern for one third of young girls and 27% of boys.

One in three young girls say body image is their number one concern. Mike Baird