Plastic Surgery and Body Image

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

woman-doctor-and-patient-blood-pressureIn our society and culture today, plastic surgery has become more common and accessible to the general public. There are hundreds of procedures available that can transform body parts and facial characteristics alike.

Plastic surgery has become ma form of instantaneous gratification to countless individuals who feel unhappy or dissatisfied with the way their body looks and feels. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the top 5 plastic surgical procedures in 2014 include the following1:

  • Liposuction
  • Breast Augmentation
  • Eyelid Surgery
  • Tummy Tuck
  • Nose Surgery

The top 5 nonsurgical procedures in 2014 were as follows:

  • Botulin Toxin (including Botox)
  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • Hair Removal
  • Chemical Peels
  • Microdermabrasion

Rates of Plastic Surgery in the United States

eye-413734_640Whether for fighting the natural aging progression, attempting to “reverse” the clock or to change a perceived flaw, plastic surgery is becoming more utilized and common throughout the country. Statistical data has also revealed that more than 12 billion dollars was spent on surgical and nonsurgical procedures in 2013, indicated a 12 percent overall increase in cosmetic procedures performed in the United States1.

This equivocates to more than 11 million cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical procedures performed in the United States alone, which was the most Americans has spent on cosmetic surgery alone since the recession of 20082. Over 90 percent of the total number procedures were performed on women, signifying an increase of over 471 percent since 1997.

Is Plastic Surgery the Only Option?

In response to these statistics, Dr. Jack Fisher, President of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery shared, “The numbers do not come as a surprise. Technological advances, less-invasive procedures, greater accessibility are making aesthetic procedures, surgical and nonsurgical, far more attractive to the public at large.”

However, one might wonder how the option of plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures has addressed the body image concerns that many more individuals struggle with across the country.

Unrealistic Expectations of How We Should Look

Sadness_in_her_eyesUnfortunately, our society is saturated with images that project an unrealistic expectation of what the female and male body “should” look like, giving countless people a hopeless standard for which they are striving for.

In fact, the average size of the idealized woman (which is commonly portrayed via models, photo shopped images, magazine ads, etc.) is 13-19 percent below healthy weight2.

Striving towards this unrealistic thin ideal leads most women to experience feelings of depression, helplessness, and self-devaluation3. With digital altering available to construct these unrealistic images seen in advertisements, it is no wonder that more and more people are turning to cosmetic surgery as a means of dealing with body dissatisfaction.

Dealing with the Underlying Problems of Poor Body Image

The reality is that cosmetic surgery can fix poor body image and low self-esteem. Individuals who struggle with negative body image likely have other underlying issues are influencing the way they feel about their body.

Cosmetic surgery may seem like a tangible way to alter something that is disliked about the body, but this can in no way help a person heal from emotional pain and distress. In a world where it is easier to fix your physical appearance than it is to tend to your emotional needs, the focus remains fixed on physical ways in which a person is able to change himself or herself.

If you have found yourself struggling with body image issues and turning to cosmetic surgery as a Band-Aid for the pain you may be feeling, it is important to address the concerns and issues you have. Professional help and treatment is available and may be helpful in addressing any underlying situations that may be contributing to negative body image. Do not settle for a quick fix and get to the heart of the matter – you are deserving of it!

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

How do you think the option of plastic surgery has transformed how people feel about themselves and their body? What do you think the relationship is between plastic surgery and body image in our society today?


  1. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, “Statistics: Top 5 Procedures: Surgical and Nonsurgical” Accessed 25 June 2015
  2. Garner, D.M., Garfinkel, P.E., Schwartz, D., & Thompson, M. (1980). Cultural expectations of thinness in women. Psychological Reports, 47, 483-491.
  3. Rodin, J., Silberstein, L.R., & Striegel-Moore, R.H. (1984). Women and weight: Anormative discontent. In T. B. Sonderegger (Ed.), Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, 32, Psychology and Gender. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984. 267-307.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 7th, 2015
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