A new ecologically valid method to assess body size estimation and body size dissatisfaction


  • RS is a Wellcome Trust Advanced Training Fellow (055112) and CGF is a Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow (046386).



The primary aim of the present study was to develop an ecologically valid method for assessing the perception of body size (as opposed to the memory of body size).


Women with clinical eating disorders (N = 14) and no eating disorder (N = 24) estimated their actual and desired body size while looking in a mirror. Estimations were made using projected images that were the same height as the participants' reflections in the mirror.


This new method assessed the perception of body size under conditions that resembled the real-life situation of viewing oneself in a mirror. Participants with eating disorders significantly overestimated their body size relative to controls (p < .05) and tended to be more dissatisfied with their body size (p = .07).


It is argued that the new method assesses the perception of body size, is ecologically valid, and is the most clinically relevant of the methods developed to date. © 2002 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 32: 458–465, 2002.