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The monster in the mirror: reasons for wanting to change appearance

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Eating and Weight Disorders - Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity Aims and scope Submit manuscript



Many adults are dissatisfied with their body, regardless of their weight, and weight loss is commonly perceived as an effective solution to this dissatisfaction. The main purpose of this study was to examine the reasons for wanting to modify one’s bodily appearance (shape and weight), and to compare these reasons by sex, age, and weight group.


The sample consisted of 796 French-speaking Canadian adults (100 men, 696 women; M age = 27.00 years, SD = 7.88, range 18–64; M body mass index = 24.99 kg/m2, SD = 6.37, range 12.6–66.5 kg/m2) who were asked online whether or not they wanted to change their appearance and if so, why. Answers were subjected to a content analysis wherein recurrent themes were grouped and labeled.


Most participants (83.2 %) wanted to change their appearance. Women, participants with a higher BMI, and older participants were significantly more likely to report this desire. The three most frequently evoked reasons were body dissatisfaction, well-being, and health/shape.


The results suggest that body dissatisfaction constitutes the primary motive for change for both men and women of all ages, especially for those who are of healthy weight or underweight. Women and younger adults seem to be under the impression that in changing their appearance they will be more comfortable in their own skin. Men, older adults, and overweight adults, on the other hand, are more preoccupied by their health/shape and seldom relate their appearance to their psychological balance.

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Correspondence to Julianne Vandervoort.

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Vandervoort, J., Aimé, A. & Green-Demers, I. The monster in the mirror: reasons for wanting to change appearance. Eat Weight Disord 20, 99–107 (2015).

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