Over the past several years, the cultural ideal of female physical attractiveness has shifted away from an extremely thin body ideal towards a more muscular, ultra-fit body ideal . But despite evidence that women desire to be athletic, muscular, and toned (not just thin), no effective body image test has yet been developed to assess the female’s desire for both thinness and muscularity. In an effort to rectify this problem and better detect body image disturbances among the modern female population, the Body Image Matrix of Thinness and Muscularity – Female Bodies (BIMTM-FB) was developed.
What is Body Image & Why is it Important?
Before taking a closer look at the Body Image Matrix of Thinness and Muscularity – Female Bodies (BIMTM-FB), it’s essential to first define what body image is and why it matters so much. In “Body Image in Anorexia Nervosa,” Peter Slade defines body image as “the picture we have in our minds of the size, shape, and form of our bodies; and our feelings concerning these characteristics […]” .
In other words, body image refers to how someone sees their body (its shape, size, and form) and their feelings towards their body. Body image disturbance (or negative body image) is when an individual has an unrealistic and negative view of their body.
Body image disturbance is a widespread problem among individuals with eating disorders (ED). In fact, ED specialists consider negative body image to be a critical component in the development, maintenance, and relapse of both eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder .
Because of the crucial role body image plays in eating disorder development, body image disturbance has become one of the key criteria for detecting eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder .
The Need for a New Body Image Rating Scale
While several different body image tests and figure rating scales have been used to uncover body image disturbances and diagnose possible eating disorders, the majority of these tests focus primarily on the thin female body ideal.
Meaning the questions and visual figures included in these tests are designed to only detect body image disturbances that directly relate to the female’s drive for thinness. The problem is, in the last several years, there has been a major sociocultural shift away from the thin female body ideal towards a muscular, athletic female body ideal.
This means more and more women now experience body image disturbance that does not primarily focus on a drive for thinness but instead relates to a drive for muscularity. In fact, recent studies show that women rate other female bodies as more physically attractive when they are thin and muscular instead of just thin .
Body Image Matrix of Thinness and Muscularity – Female Bodies (BIMTM-FB)
With the sociocultural ideal of attractiveness shifting towards an ultra-fit, athletic female body (instead of a purely thin body), the majority of body image tests and figure rating scales for women are now obsolete. The Body Image Matrix of Thinness and Muscularity – Female Bodies (BIMTM-FB) was created to rectify this problem.
The BIMTM-FB figure rating scale consists of eight rows of eight female body figures (64 figures in total). The figures cover a wide range of body shapes, going from very unmuscular to very muscular and very thin to obese.
Each figure is numbered, and participants are prompted to write down the number of the figure they believe most resembles their actual body figure (“What do you actually look like?”), their felt body figure (“What do you feel your body looks like?”), and finally, their ideal body figure (“What do you want your body to look like?”) .
While the BIMTM-FB is a relatively new body image test, a recent study involving 639 female participants found that both the body-fat dimension and the muscularity dimension of the BIMTM-FB strongly correlated to other previously-authenticated body image tests like the Contour Drawing Rating-Scale (CDRS), the Body Appreciation Scale, and the Drive for Leanness Scale (DLS).
They also confirmed that the BIMTM-FB was able to distinguish between females with and without eating disorders. Further, since such a wide range of figures are depicted, the study affirmed that BIMTM-FB is especially helpful when working with extremely obese, thin, or muscular patients . These results led the researchers to conclude that “due to its high reliability and validity, the BIMTM-FB can be recommended in research and practice” .
Resources: Steinfeld, B., Hartmann, A.S., Waldorf, M. et al. Development and initial psychometric evaluation of the Body Image Matrix of Thinness and Muscularity – Female Bodies. J Eat Disord 8, 75 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40337-020-00345-w  Slade, P. (1988). Body Image in Anorexia Nervosa. British Journal of Psychiatry, 153(S2), 20-22. doi:10.1192/S0007125000298930  Steinfeld, B., Hartmann, A.S., Waldorf, M. et al. Development and initial psychometric evaluation of the Body Image Matrix of Thinness and Muscularity – Female Bodies. J Eat Disord 8, 75 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40337-020-00345-w  ibid.  Bozsik, F., Whisenhunt, B.L., Hudson, D.L. et al. Thin Is In? Think Again: The Rising Importance of Muscularity in the Thin Ideal Female Body. Sex Roles 79, 609–615 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-017-0886-0.  Steinfeld, B., Hartmann, A.S., Waldorf, M. et al. Development and initial psychometric evaluation of the Body Image Matrix of Thinness and Muscularity – Female Bodies. J Eat Disord 8, 75 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40337-020-00345-w  ibid.  ibid.
About the Author:
Sarah Musick is a freelance writer who specializes in eating disorder awareness and education. After battling with a 4-years long eating disorder, she made it her mission to help others find hope and healing in recovery.
Her work has been featured on numerous eating disorder blogs and websites. When she’s not writing, Sarah is off traveling the world with her husband.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published January 6, 2021, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on January 6, 2021, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC