Looking good and judging gazes: The relationship between body ideals, body satisfaction and body practices among Norwegian men and women


This article compares how people with normal bodies and bodies that deviate from dominant media-depicted body ideals, live with and accept their bodies. Media images of ideal bodies encompass judging gazes. These gazes affect and discipline people and may make it challenging for them to accept their bodies. The data material is part of the interdisciplinary Nordic project called “Beauty comes from within: looking good as a challenge in health promotion”. Based on 20 interviews with Norwegian men and women, of whom 10 have particular appearance-related problems, the article discusses the relationship between the media-depicted body ideals, descriptions by informants of what a good-looking body is, body satisfaction and body practices. The article shows resonance between how people describe good-looking bodies and satisfaction or not with own bodies. Women express more dissatisfaction with their bodies than men, but the article shows that many have strategies for trying to accept their bodies as they are. The comparative perspective highlight that the people having deviant bodies, more than those with normal bodies, balance the idea of “being myself” with the idea of “doing the best out of my (bodily) situation”. Most interestingly, they show that it is harder to accept handicaps that are changeable, like overweight, than harelips, deformed legs and skin injuries. As such, overweight becomes a double burden.

Share and Cite:

Rysst, M. and Klepp, I. (2012) Looking good and judging gazes: The relationship between body ideals, body satisfaction and body practices among Norwegian men and women. Health, 4, 259-267. doi: 10.4236/health.2012.45042.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Steen-Johnsen, K. (2004) Individualised communities. Keep-fit exercise organisations and the creation of social bonds. Ph.D. Thesis, Universityof Oslo, Oslo.
[2] Wachs, S.L. and Dworkin, F.L. (2009) Body panic. Gender, health and sellingof fitness. New York University Press, New York.
[3] Featherstone, M. (2010) Body, image and affect in consumer culture. Body & Society, 16, 193-221. doi:10.1177/1357034X09354357
[4] Bugge, A. and Lilleb?, K. (2009) Fit, not fat! Change, improvement and imperatives of amendment (fit, ikke fet! Forandring, forbedring Og forvandlings imperativer). In Jacobsen, E. and Asdal, K. Eds., The Responsibility of the Consumer (Forbrukerens Ansvar), Cappelen, Oslo.
[5] Rudd, N.N. and Lennon, S.J. (2000) Body image and appearance-management behaviours in college women. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 18, 152-162. doi:10.1177/0887302X0001800304
[6] Edmonds, A. (2010) Learning to love yourself: Esthetics, health, and therapeutics in brazilian plastic surgery. Ethnos, 74, 465-489. doi:10.1080/00141840903201829
[7] Jones, M. (2008) Makeover culture’s dark side: Breasts, death and lolo ferrari. Body & Society, 14, 89-104. doi:10.1177/1357034X07087532
[8] Foucault, M. (1976) The historyof sexuality. Penguin Books, London.
[9] Rose, N. (1989) Governingthe doul. Free Association Books, London.
[10] Strauss, C. and Quinn, N. (1997) A cognitive theory of cultural meaning. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
[11] Crawford, R. (2006) Healthism and the medicalization of everyday life. Health, 10, 401-420. doi:10.1177/1363459306067310
[12] Rose, N. (1999) Powers of freedom: Reframing political thought. University Press, Cambridge. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511488856
[13] Foucault, M. (1979) Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. Vintage Books, New York.
[14] Champion, H. and Furnham, A. (1999) The effect of media on body satisfaction in adolescent girls. European Eating Disorders Review, 7, 213-228. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1099-0968(199906)7:3<213::AID-ERV229>3.0.CO;2-W
[15] Bordo, S. (2003) Unbearable weight. University of California Press, London.
[16] McRobbie, A. (2009) The aftermath of feminism. Gender, culture and social change. Sage, London.
[17] Rhode, D. L. (2010) The beauty bias. Oxford University Press, New York.
[18] Atkinson, M. (2008) Exploring male femininity in the “crisis”: Men and cosmetic surgery. Body & Society, 14, 67-87.
[19] Throsby, K. (2008) Happy re-birthday: Weight loss surgery and the new Me. Body & Society, 14, 117-133.
[20] Wasylkiw, L., Emms, A.A., Meuse, R. and Poirer, K.F. (2009) Are all models created equal? A content analysis of women in advertisements of fitness versus fashion magazines. Body Image, 6, 137-140. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2009.01.005
[21] Moore, S.E.H. (2010) Is the healthy body gendered? Toward a feminist critique of the new paradigm of health. Body & Society, 16, 95-118. doi:10.1177/1357034X10364765
[22] Banner, L.W. (1983) American beauty. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
[23] Beuf, A.H. (1990) Beauty is the beast. University of Pennsylvania Press, New York.
[24] Freedman, R.J. (1984) Reflectionson beauty as it relates to health in adolescent females. Women & Health, 9, 29- 45. doi:10.1300/J013v09n02_03
[25] Hesse-Biber, S. (1996) Am I thin enough yet? The cult of thinness and the commercialization of identity. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
[26] Labre, M.P. and Walsh-Childers, K. (2003) Friendly advice? Beauty messages in websites of teen magazines. Mass Communication and Society, 6, 379-396. doi:10.1207/S15327825MCS0604_3
[27] Gilbert, K. (1998) The body and young children in popular culture. In: Yelland, N. Ed., Gender in Early Childhood, Routledge, New York.
[28] Moore, L. and MacKinnon, D. (2001) Preadolescent girls and the presentation of self: A dramaturgical perspective. The Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 407, 309- 324.
[29] Smeesters, D., Mussweiler, T. and Mandel, N. (2009) The effects of thin and heavy media images on overweight and underweight consumers: Social comparison processes and behavioral implications. Journal of Consumer Research, 36, 930-949. doi:10.1086/648688
[30] Ehrenreich, B. (2009) Bright-sided: How the relentless promotionof positive thinking has undermined America. Metropolitan Books, Croydon.

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.