The role of the 'Healthy Weight' discourse in body image and eating concerns: An extension of sociocultural theory Academic Article uri icon


  • Sociocultural models of body image and eating concerns have highlighted the role of the social discourse in promoting the pursuit of the thin-ideal. Recently, another weight-focused social discourse has gained ground, focused on the goal of maintaining body weight within the boundaries of a weight-range defined as "Healthy." This discourse is somewhat different to the promotion of the thin-ideal; however, it might also be implicated in the development of body image and eating concerns. The present study aimed to extend sociocultural theories of the development of body image and eating concerns by (1) proposing a theoretical model accounting for pressure to maintain a "Healthy Weight", and (2) reviewing the existing evidence for the pathways included in this model. In the proposed model, pressure to maintain a Healthy Weight leads to the internalization of anti-fat attitudes and the need to control weight as well as beliefs in the controllability of weight through diet and exercise. These beliefs may then lead to body preoccupation and disordered eating. The extant literature provides initial support for these relationships; however, empirical testing of this model is necessary to determine its usefulness as an explanatory model and in providing intervention targets for future prevention and intervention efforts.

publication date

  • 2016