The ‘not-so-healthy’ appearance pursuit? Disentangling unique associations of female drive for toned muscularity with disordered eating and compulsive exercise

Mitchell L. Cunningham*, Rebecca T. Pinkus, Jason M. Lavender, Rachel F. Rodgers, Deborah Mitchison, Nora Trompeter, Kyle T. Ganson, Jason M. Nagata, Marianna Szabo, Stuart B. Murray, Scott Griffiths

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

Today, many women are driven to subscribe to a more athletically oriented appearance ideal hallmarked by muscle tone (referred to as athletic- or fit-looking). However, the constellation of unhealthy eating and exercise behaviors that may accompany the pursuit of toned muscularity among women is not yet well characterized. To address this knowledge gap, our study evaluated the associations among the female drive for toned muscularity and both thinness-oriented disordered eating behaviors (e.g., dietary restriction) and muscularity-oriented disordered eating behaviors (e.g., excessive scrutiny of macro-nutrient values of food), as well as dimensions of compulsive exercise. Participants were 388 Australian undergraduate women who completed an online questionnaire including self-report measures of said constructs. Hierarchical regression models were used to determine whether the drive for toned muscularity accounted for unique variance in eating and exercise behaviors after adjusting for theoretically relevant covariates. Results indicated independent relationships between the drive for toned muscularity and several facets of thinness- and muscularity-oriented disordered eating, as well as compulsive exercise (e.g., exercise rigidity). Our findings further contribute to an emerging literature illustrating that women driven to attain a toned appearance may be vulnerable to engaging in a wide range of maladaptive eating and exercise practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-286
Number of pages11
JournalBody Image
Volume42
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Body image
  • Compulsive exercise
  • Disordered eating
  • Eating disorders
  • Female drive for muscularity
  • Toned muscularity
  • Women

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