The idea of thinness in today’s society is omnipresent and is leading to body dissatisfaction thereby encouraging unhealthy eating and exercise practices in not only women, but also in men who are increasingly focusing on their appearance. This study aimed at identifying the risk factors for weight concerns and physical appearance displeasure among 300 students, aged 18 to 25 years, at the University of Mauritius. Factor analysis was used to identify the following common weight loss behaviors which the participants adopt: “Concern about dieting and weight”, “Physical Activities” and “Controlling the amount of food intake”. Binary logistic regression analyses revealed that age, gender and region had an impact on one’s willingness to maintain the ideal body weight and shape. There was also an interaction between age and region on body dissatisfaction.
Keywords: Depression; Prevalence; Anorexia nervosa; Dieting; Fitness
In today’s world, our society and media defines our physical appearance and determines what constitutes ‘beauty’, although these ‘perfect’ images to which we aspire are more often than not digitally enhanced (airbrushed) and manipulated before final production. Thus, it is not surprising that, instead of accepting and embracing our unique physique and morphology, we tend to focus on an illusory and unattainable perfection which can only be detrimental to us [1,2]. Various factors such as poor body image, negative body weight perception, media influence, and health problems have been linked to our obsession with thinness [3-6]. In particular, body image, defined as the way people see or think about their bodies and how they are viewed by others , has attracted lots of attention recently as people are very determined to improve their appearance when they perceive a gap between their own body and their “ideal” body. This gap results in body dissatisfaction, defined as a person’s negative thoughts about his or her own body , low self-esteem [3,9,10] and also results in a significant increase in state depression [11,12]. Furthermore, distortions in body image and the resulting body dissatisfaction can be used to explain the prevalence of eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa .
Individuals’ weight management practices such as diet or exercise control is determined by one’s body weight perception , which is one’s self-evaluation of one’s weight as underweight or normal weight or overweight irrespective of actual weight . This perception of one’s own body  is influenced by factors such as age, gender, family, peers, media, and ethnicity . Indeed, children as young as 8 year olds reported body image concerns , with the notion of an ideal body becoming more salient in adolescence .
Additionally, body weight perception varies across different ethnicities  with white Americans and Japanese idealizing the ultra-thin body while African-Americans preferring larger bodies [20,21]. Past research on body weight perception was focused mainly on females because of the sociocultural accentuation given to skinny appearance for females . However, recently body dissatisfaction has affected adolescent boys as well . Yet, negative body image is expressed differently between the sexes-with women displaying an obsession with thinness [24,25], and men displaying an aspiration to lower body fat  or gain weight to look muscular . Despite the contradictions, research suggests that the average weight boy is satisfied with his body mass and has a positive body weight perception . Dieting has always been considered as the perfect strategy towards weight loss  among not only people who are normal and over-weight, but also those who are underweight. Yet, research demonstrates that, in the long run, restricting caloric intake will anticipate weight gain, instead of weight loss [25,29]. Whilst it is commonly known that females, as young as 13 years, consistently diet, males also diet to decrease body fat and gain lean muscles . The quest for the ideal body has not left Mauritians unaffected. Fitness facilities are mushrooming around Mauritius, highlighting a drastic increase in the practice of physical activities in adults aged 35 to 54 years .
Additionally, weight loss programs, such as “Weigh-Less”, proposing specific diet and/or exercise plans catered to individuals’ needs have experienced sustained success in the country. Weight loss supplements such as ‘Slim & Trim’, ‘Dr. Ernst’ and ‘BioSlim’ have also proved to be quite popular among the population since they are perceived to provide quick results. Since individuals worldwide experience societal pressure to be thin and consequently experience body dissatisfaction, this study aimed at investigating the perception of body image, strategies of weight reduction and management, and the social factors influencing body dissatisfaction among male and female students at the University of Mauritius.
Data was collected using standardized questionnaires. Factor analysis technique was used to obtain the set of factors that influence perception of body image, strategies for weight control and social pressure to be thin. Stepwise logistic regression analysis was done to assess whether the factors Gender, Age, Region, Ethnicity, Faculty, Waist Circumference, and Body Mass Index predict body dissatisfaction amongst the youth of University of Mauritius. The organization of the paper is as follows: in the next section, the methodology part is described in detail consisting of the sampling strategy, the factor analyses and the step-wise regression analysis. The conclusion is presented in the following section.
In this section, three important components are discussed. Firstly, the data collection and sampling layout are presented followed by the results of the factor analysis and lastly, the Generalized Linear Regression Model (GLM) is established to measure the contributory effects of the different factors influencing whether an undergraduate student is satisfied with his/her body image.
Data collection and sampling strategy
The target population was the undergraduate students who were enrolled at the University of Mauritius (UOM) for the academic year 2015/2016. Using the sampling strategy, an unbiased sample of students aged 18 and above was selected from the sampling frame that comprises of students from the different cohorts via a list submitted to us by the UOM registrar.
The table below provides the details on the sampling selection exercise from the different faculties at the University of Mauritius with FOA: Faculty of Agriculture; FOE: Faculty of Engineering; FOS: Faculty of Science; FLM: Faculty of Law and Management; FSSH: Faculty of Social Studies and Humanities (Table 1).
|318/8013 × 300 ≈ 12
|2265/8013 × 300 ≈ 85
|868/8013 × 300 ≈ 33
|2867/8013 × 300 ≈ 107
|1695/8013 × 300 ≈ 63
Table 1: Sample determination.
Factor analyses for the different likert scales questions
The results from the factor analysis yield the followings (Table 2-4):
|Strategies of weight control
|Factor 1: Physical Activities is Important
|Factor 5: Not wasting Food
|V8 Physical Activity
|V28 Do not read calorie content
|V12 Weight Control
|V29 Eat due to frustration
|V11 Duration Of Physical Activity
|Factor 6: Emotional Eating
|V13 Feeling Refreshed
|V15 Eat less
|V9 Exercise is Important
|V17 Leave food on plate
|Factor 2: Control the amount of food you consume
|Factor 7: Controlling your food consumption
|V20 Feeling Hungry
|V22 Avoid fried foods
|V21 Tasty Food
|V30 Eat less
|V19 Large Portion
|V31 Eat due to depression
|V18 Love for Food
|Factor 8: We can eat dessert and still look healthy
|V33 Eat more due to relationship problems
|Factor 3: Concern about weight control and Dieting
|V32 Eat more when depressed
|V2 Eating less when breaking diet
|Factor 9: We consume more junk foods when we are anxious
|V3 Preoccupied with Weight and Shape
|V24 Eat dessert
|V5 Embarrassed about food intake
|V35 Stress Eating
|V1 Rewarding oneself when losing weight
|Factor 10: We eat more sweets when we are frustrated
|V4 Not worrying about weight gain
|V27 No junk foods
|Factor 4: Pastries
|V7 Not worried about gaining weight
|Factor 11: How emotions affect your eating
|V23 Avoid butter
|V14 Avoid sporting activities
|V25 Eat sweets
|V26 Avoid ready-made foods
|V10 Healthy without exercise
Table 2: Strategies of weight control.
|Factor 1: How you feel about your body
|V1 Should diet
|V5 Feel fat due to pastries
|V8 Worrying about body shape
|V6 Feel large
|V4 Feel fat
|V14 Need for exercise
|V9 Lack of self-conscious
|V10 Seeing rolls of flesh
|Factor 2: How you see your body
|V13 Among friends
|V3 Bad shape
|V2 Self-conscious about your shape
Table 3: Perception of the body image.
|Factor 1: Pressure from family and friends
|V11 Look thinner
|V12 Improve appearance
|V16 Develop appearance
|V15 Get thinner
|V13 Decrease body fat level
|V17 Look in better shape
|V14 Get in better shape
|V18 Decrease level of body fat
|Factor 2: Athletic figure
|V7 Look athletic
|V6 Look More athletic
|V2 Looking muscular
|V1 Important to look athletic
|V10 Look more muscular
|Factor 3: Media pressure
|V21 Good appearance
|V19 To be in better shape
|V22 Less body fat
|V20 be thinner
|Factor 4: Thinness
|V3 Look thin
|V5 Thinking to look thin
|V4 Little fat
|V9 Little body fat
|V8 Look very lean
Table 4: The Social factors.
Binary logistic regression analysis
In this subsection, the outcome variable (binary) which is “satisfied’ or ‘not satisfied” is regressed on a set of predictor variables. The explanatory variables that may influence the response variable are as follows: Gender, Age, Region, Ethnicity, Faculty, Waist Circumference, and Body Mass Index.
The below table illustrates the variables with their p-value and their reduction in deviance represented by the G-statistics (Table 5).
|Body Mass Index
Table 5: Reduction in deviance.
The first three variables listed were significant, namely: Gender, Age and Region with their p-value<0.005 and higher decrease in deviance (Table 6). The best model is defined as follows:
|Variable and Category
|Age-Region: 22 to 25-Urban
Table 6: Best model estimates.
Satisfaction with body image=Constant+Gender+Age+Region +Age*Region
k: 1= Rural, 2= Urban
The odds ratio and the probability that a student is in the age group of 22-25, male and living in an urban region and including an interaction effect between age and region is shown below:
Odds Ratio, 1.8685(1)−0.4364(1)−2.2172(1)−1.8436(1)+1.1826 = 0.236
About 30.80% of the student is satisfied with their body image if they fit in the age category 22-25, being a male and living in an Urban region and with an interaction effect of age and region.
This study was designed to explore the reasons for weight concerns and physical appearance dissatisfaction among undergraduate students at the University of Mauritius. 300 questionnaires were distributed to the students through PPS sampling technique where 183 of the respondents were female and 117 were male. In this study, we observed that both males and females are preoccupied with thoughts of their weight and shape. The response rate was 6% for “Strongly Disagree”, 13% “Disagree”, 10% were “Neutral” and the highest rate was 46% for “Agree” and 25% for “Strongly Agree”. It is noteworthy that 40% of the respondents who agreed being worried about their weight and shape also agree that they engage in physical activities for their health. This is consistent with the reasonable BMI of 62.3% of the students falling in the normal weight range which is between 18.5 and 24.9.
The effect of gender on body shape concerns was justified with female respondents being more dissatisfied with their body shape with a response rate of 67% “Usually True” for “Have you been so worried about your shape that you have been feeling that you ought to diet”. As expected though, male respondents rated this question equally with 20% “Almost Never True” and 20% “Usually True”. Next, the body image perception, when asked to compare their profile with the body image contouring drawing, 26% opted for profile 4 and 24% profile 5 which represent the average body profile. Hence we conclude that most students perceived themselves as having an average profile. Only 1% of the sample perceived themselves as having the extreme body type that is profile 1 and profile 9 representing extremely underweight and extremely obese.
Results from the sociocultural attitude test revealed that male counterparts favour a muscular body with 51 out of the 117 respond “Mostly Agree”. Whereas for majority of females which was 61 out of 187 responded “Neutral”. However, the response rate for a thin body was highest as expected with 75 “Mostly Agree” among females and only 41 from males. The power of the media was justified with the highest records for “I feel pressure from the media to improve my appearance” being 54 “Mostly Agree” for female and 35 “Mostly Agree” for male. The results of the first factor analysis performed showed that “Physical Activities”, Control of amount of food consumed” and “concern about weight and shape” are the 3 most popular weight loss behaviors to maintain the ideal weight. The second factor confirmed the fact that the way we feel and see our body influences our willingness to lose weight.
The Last factor analysis was about sociocultural attitude which demonstrate that the “Pressure from family and friends”, “Athletic Profile”, “Thinness” and “Media Pressure” have a direct impact on body dissatisfaction. Binary Logistic regression was performed to assess whether University of Mauritius students experience body satisfaction or not. The variables Age, Gender and Region were found to be significant and were the risk factors for body image.
It is also worth noting that as age increases body dissatisfaction decreases. The best model consists of Gender, Age, Region with an interaction between Age and Region. The data collected and the findings only show the causes of body image dissatisfaction in the sample and their willingness to maintain an ideal profile in society. Further research should aim at clarifying body image disturbance in early stages of childhood and more efforts could be made to sensitize individuals against these false ideologies about beauty.