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What can my body do vs. how does it look?: A qualitative analysis of young women and men's descriptions of their body functionality or physical appearance

Journal article
Authors Jessica M. Alleva
Kristina Holmqvist Gattario
Carolien Martijn
Carolina Lunde
Published in Body Image
Volume 31
Pages 71-80
ISSN 1740-1445
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 71-80
Language en
Links https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.20...
Keywords Body functionality, Body image, Embodiment, Physical appearance, Qualitative analysis
Subject categories Psychology

Abstract

The aim of this study was to explore the themes that emerge when individuals are asked to describe their body functionality, and those that emerge when individuals are asked to describe their physical appearance. Data were gathered from undergraduate women and men's (N = 75, Mage = 20.66) responses to a writing exercise (Alleva et al., 2014), wherein they were either asked to describe their body functionality or their physical appearance. Through thematic analysis, six themes were identified from participants’ descriptions of their body functionality (ordered by frequency): (a) evaluating the functionality of the body, (b) positive body-self connection, (c) resilient body, (d) comparisons to the norm, (e) body behind the scenes, and (f) enjoyment of body functions. Five themes were identified from participants’ descriptions of their physical appearance (ordered by frequency): (a) comparisons to the norm, (b) evaluating the appearance of the body – own evaluations, (c) evaluating the appearance of the body – other people's evaluations, (d) the body project, and (e) appearance appreciation. Overall, the findings suggest that the themes that emerge when people are asked to reflect on their body functionality tend to be more positive, as they can be linked to positive embodiment, gratitude, and less self-objectification.

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