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Body Dissatisfaction and Disordered Eating in Three Cultures: Argentina, Brazil, and the U.S.

Abstract

Body dissatisfaction and associated attitudes were studied in 18–24 years old women from universities in Rosario, Santa Fe, Argentina (N = 118), João Pessoa, Paraíba, Brazil (N = 81), and mid-Atlantic U.S. (N = 102). Based on anecdotal reports, theoretical concerns, and empirical studies, we expected greater body dissatisfaction and negative body attitudes in our Argentine and Brazilian samples than in the U.S. sample. Body dissatisfaction was a significant problem in all samples, but we found few differences in levels of body dissatisfaction. The Argentine and Brazilian samples scored lower than the U.S. sample on measures associated with disordered eating, experienced less pressure to be thin, and were less likely to internalize the thin body ideal. Body shame was highest in the Brazilian sample and lowest in the Argentine sample. Cultural features in Argentina and Brazil that may offer some level of protection against the thin body ideal were discussed.

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Correspondence to Gordon B. Forbes.

Appendix I

Appendix I

Scale items in the original English with the Portuguese translation in italics and the Spanish translation in bold. Items marked (R) are reverse scored.

Body Esteem Scale for Adolescents and Adults (Mendelson et al. 2001)

  1. 1.

    I like what I look like in pictures. Eu como com os olhos quando vejo imagens de comidas gostosas. Me gusta cómo salgo en las fotografías.

  2. 2.

    Other people consider me good looking. As pessoas me acham atrativa (ficam olhando para mim). Las personas me consideran atractiva.

  3. 3.

    I’m proud of my body. Orgulho-me de meu corpo. Estoy orgullosa de mi cuerpo.

  4. 4.(R)

    I am preoccupied with trying to change my body weight. Preocupa-me sair de meu peso atual. Me preocupa cambiar mi peso corporal.

  5. 5.

    I think my appearance would help me get a job. Creio que minha aparência ajudaria a conseguir um trabalho. Creo que mi apariencia me ayudaría a conseguir un trabajo.

  6. 6.

    I like what I see when I look in the mirror. Eu gosto de mim mesmo quando me vejo no espelho. Me gusta lo que veo cuando me miro en el espejo.

  7. 7.(R)

    There are lots of things I’d change about my looks if I could. Tem tantas coisas do meu aspecto físico que se pudesse, eu mudaria. Hay muchas cosas de mi aspecto físico que si pudiera las cambiaría.

  8. 8.

    I am satisfied with my weight. Estou conformada com meu peso. Estoy conforme con mi peso.

  9. 9.(R)

    I wish I looked better. Desejaria ver-me melhor. Desearía verme mejor.

  10. 10.

    I really like what I weigh. Estou conformada com meu peso. Realmente estoy conforme con mi peso.

  11. 11.(R)

    I wish I looked like someone else. Eu queria parecer outra pessoa. Desearía lucir como otra persona.

  12. 12.

    People my own age like my looks. As pessoas de minha idade gostam de como eu sou, de minha aparência. A la gente de mi edad le gusta mi apariencia.

  13. 13.(R)

    My looks upset me. Não gosto de como eu sou. Mi apariencia me disgusta.

  14. 14.

    I’m as nice looking as most people. Sou tão atraente como a maioria das pessoas. Soy tan atractiva como la mayoría de las personas.

  15. 15.

    I’m pretty happy about the way I look. Estou tão feliz como sou (com minha aparência). Estoy bastante feliz con mi apariencia.

  16. 16.

    I feel I weigh the right amount for my height. Creio que meu peso é adequado para minha altura. Creo que mi peso es adecuado para mi altura.

  17. 17.(R)

    I feel ashamed of how I look. Sinto vergonha de como me vejo. Siento vergüenza por cómo me veo.

  18. 18.(R)

    Weighing myself depresses me. Quando me peso fico deprimida. Pesarme me deprime.

  19. 19.(R)

    My weight makes me unhappy. Não estou feliz com meu peso. No estoy feliz con mi peso.

  20. 20.

    My looks help me to get dates. Minha aparência me ajuda a conhecer outras pessoas. Mi apariencia me ayuda a conocer gente nueva.

  21. 21.(R)

    I worry about the way I look. Preocupa-me como eu me vejo. Me preocupa la forma en que me veo.

  22. 22.

    I think I have a good body. Penso que tenho um bom corpo. Pienso que tengo un buen cuerpo.

  23. 23.

    I’m looking as nice as I’d like to. Vejo-me tão bem quanto eu quisera. Me veo tan bien como quisiera.

Eating Disorders Inventory: Drive for Thinness Scale (Garner et al. 1983)

  1. 1.

    I eat sweets and carbohydrates without feeling nervous. Como doces e carboidratos (massas) sem ficar desesperada. Consumo dulces y carbohidratos sin sentirme nerviosa.

  2. 2.

    I think about dieting. Penso em fazer dieta. Pienso en hacer dieta.

  3. 3.

    I feel extremely guilty after overeating. Sinto muita culpa se como em excesso. Me siento muy culpable si como en exceso.

  4. 4.

    I am terrified of gaining weight. Fico preocupada em aumentar de peso. Me aterra subir de peso.

  5. 5.

    I exaggerate or magnify the importance of weight. Exagero ao dar muita importância ao meu peso. Exagero la importancia del peso.

  6. 6.

    I am preoccupied with the desire to be thinner. Preocupa-me em querer ser mais magra. Me preocupa el deseo de ser más flaca.

  7. 7.

    If I gain a pound, I worry that I will keep gaining. Se eu engordo um quilo a mais, fico preocupada em seguir engordando. Si engordo un kilo, me preocupa la posibilidad de seguir engordando.

Eating Disorders Inventory: Bulimia Scale (Garner et al. 1983)

  1. 1.

    I eat when I am upset. Eu como quando estou aborrecida. Como cuando estoy enojada.

  2. 2.

    I stuff myself with food. Como até quando estou cheio ou saciado (quando na agüento mais). Como hasta que no doy más.

  3. 3.

    I have gone on eating binges where I have felt that I could not stop. Tenho muita vontade de comer sem parar. Me he dado atracones sin poder parar de comer.

  4. 4.

    I think about bingeing (overeating). Penso em comer exageradamente (deixa-me atraída). Pienso en comer en exceso (darme un atracón).

  5. 5.

    I eat moderately in front of others and stuff myself when they’re gone. Como moderadamente frente outras pessoas, porque quando se vão como de tudo. Como con moderación delante de otras personas, pero en exceso cuando se van.

  6. 6.

    I have the thought of trying to vomit in order to lose weight. Penso em vomitar para perder peso. Pienso en vomitar para perder peso.

  7. 7.

    I eat or drink in secrecy. Como ou bebo em segredo. Como o bebo en secreto.

Perceived Sociocultural Pressure Scale (Stice et al. 1996)

  1. 1.

    I’ve felt pressure from my friends to lose weight. Sinto-me pressionada por meus amigos para perder peso. Me he sentido presionada por mis amigos para que pierda peso.

  2. 2.

    I’ve noticed a strong message from my friends to have a thin body. Noto que meus amigos me olham de um jeito para que eu seja mais magra. He notado un fuerte mensaje por parte de mis amigos con respecto a tener un cuerpo delgado.

  3. 3.

    I’ve felt pressure from my family to lose weight. Sinto-me pressionada por minha família para que eu emagreça. Me he sentido presionada por mi familia para que adelgace.

  4. 4.

    I’ve noticed a strong message from my family to have a thin body. Noto, por parte de minha família, um jeito de me olhar para que eu seja mais magra. He notado un fuerte mensaje por parte de mi familia con respecto a tener un cuerpo delgado.

  5. 5.

    I’ve felt pressure from people I’ve dated to lose weight. Sinto-me pressionada pelas pessoas com quem saio para que eu seja mais magra. Me he sentido presionado/a por personas con las que he salido para que adelgace.

  6. 6.

    I’ve noticed a strong message from people I have dated to have a thin body. Noto, por parte das pessoas com quem tenho saído um jeito de me olhar para que eu seja mais magra. He notado un fuerte mensaje por parte de personas con las que he salido con respecto a tener un cuerpo delgado.

  7. 7.

    I’ve felt pressure from the media (e.g., TV, magazines) to lose weight. Sinto-me pressionada pelos meios de comunicação (por exemplo, televisão, revistas, etc.) para que eu perca peso. Me he sentido presionada por los medios de comunicación (por ejemplo televisión, revistas) para que pierda peso.

  8. 8.

    I’ve noticed a strong message from the media to have a thin body. Noto, por parte dos meios de comunicação, informações para que eu tenha um corpo magro. He notado un fuerte mensaje por parte de los medios de comunicación con respecto a tener un cuerpo delgado.

Sociocultural Attitudes Toward Appearance Questionnaire: Internalization Scale (Heinberg et al. 1995)

  1. 1.

    Women who appear in TV shows and movies project the type of appearance that I see as my goal. As mulheres que aparecem no cinema e televisão têm para mim o aspecto físico ideal. Las mujeres que aparecen en el cine y la televisión tienen para mí el aspecto físico ideal.

  2. 2.

    I believe that clothes look better on thin models. Creio que a roupa fica bem melhor em modelos magras. Creo que la ropa luce mejor en modelos flacas.

  3. 3.

    Music videos that show thin women make me wish that I were thin. Os vídeos que mostram mulheres magras me fazem querer ser tão magras quanto elas. Los video-clips que muestran mujeres flacas me hacen desear ser tan flaca como ellas.

  4. 4.(R)

    I do not wish to look like the models in the magazines. Não desejo me ver como as modelos das revistas. No deseo verme como las modelos de revistas.

  5. 5.

    I tend to compare my body to people in magazines and on TV. Tendo a comparar meu corpo com as das pessoas que aparecem nas revistas ou na TV. Tiendo a comparar mi cuerpo con el de las personas que aparecen en revistas o en la TV.

  6. 6.

    Photographs of thin women make me wish that I were thin. As fotografias de mulheres magras me fazem desejar ter esse mesmo aspecto. Las fotografías de mujeres flacas me hacen desear tener ese mismo aspecto.

  7. 7.

    I wish I looked like a swimsuit model. Desejaria ver-me como uma modelo de biquíni. Desearía verme como una modelo de ropa interior.

  8. 8.

    I often read magazines like Cosmopolitan, Vogue, and Glamour and compare my appearance to the models. Às vezes leio revistas como Boa forma, Corpo a Corpo, Manequim, Claudia, entre outros e comparo minha aparência com as das modelos. A veces leo revistas como Cosmopolitan, Vogue, o Para Tí y comparo mi apariencia con la de las modelos.

Objectified Body Consciousness Scale: Body Shame Scale (McKinley and Hyde 1996)

  1. 1.

    When I can’t control my weight, I feel like something must be wrong with me. Quando não posso controlar meu peso, sinto que algo deve estar errado comigo. Cuando no puedo controlar mi peso, siento que debe haber algo malo conmigo.

  2. 2.

    I feel ashamed of myself when I haven’t made the effort to look my best. Envergonho-me de mim mesma quando não fiz todos os esforços para me ver como a melhor. Me avergüenzo de mí misma cuando no hago todos los esfuerzos para verme lo mejor posible.

  3. 3.

    I feel like I must be a bad person when I don’t look as good as I could. Quando não me vejo tão bem como poderia, me sinto tão mau. Cuando no me veo tan bien como podría me siento una mala persona.

  4. 4.

    I would be ashamed for people to know what I really weigh. Eu ficaria envergonhada com as pessoas se elas soubessem qual meu peso real. Me avergonzaría que la gente se enterara de mi peso real.

  5. 5.(R)

    I never worry that something is wrong with me when I am not exercising as much as I could. Nunca penso que existe alguma coisa errada comigo quando não fiz toda a atividade física que poderia fazer. Nunca pienso que hay algo malo conmigo cuando no hago toda la actividad física que podría.

  6. 6.

    When I’m not exercising enough, I question whether I am a good enough person. Quando não me exercito o suficiente, me pergunto se estou bem. Cuando no me ejercito lo suficiente, me pregunto si soy una buena persona.

  7. 7.(R)

    Even when I can’t control my weight, I think I’m an okay person. Mesmo que não possa controlar meu peso, ainda assim, me sinto muito bem. Aún cuando no puedo controlar mi peso, pienso que soy una buena persona.

  8. 8.

    When I’m not the size I think I should be, I feel ashamed. Sinto vergonha quando não tenho uma roupa deveria ter. Siento vergüenza cuando no tengo el talle de ropa que debería tener.

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Forbes, G.B., Jung, J., Vaamonde, J.D. et al. Body Dissatisfaction and Disordered Eating in Three Cultures: Argentina, Brazil, and the U.S.. Sex Roles 66, 677–694 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-011-0105-3

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Keywords

  • Body dissatisfaction
  • Eating disorders
  • Thin ideal
  • Cultural differences
  • Argentina
  • Brazil