Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Medical and Health Sciences

First Supervisor

Dr Leesa Costello

Second Supervisor

Dr Julie Dare

Third Supervisor

Dr Elizabeth Reid Boyd


This PhD thesis seeks to contribute to a nuanced understanding of positive body image and how it is expressed among a group of women participating in holistic health culture in a modern Western society. Qualitative data were collected from in-depth ethnographic interviews with 25 women in Perth, Western Australia, to illuminate an understanding of their holistic health beliefs and practices, perceptions of appearance and health ideals, as well as their understandings of positive body image. Thematic analysis of the data through Nvivo revealed several overarching themes, demonstrating how certain aspects of holistic health culture may encourage or dissuade the development of positive body image. Overall, while some aspects of holistic health culture may help facilitate positive body image (e.g. a focus on wellbeing, embodying self-care, feminist identity), other elements of holistic health culture (e.g. nutritional regimes, rigid and idealistic health standards) have the potential to reinforce self-objectification processes, which are antagonistic to the development of positive body image. The findings from this thesis assist in considering the possible influences that may facilitate or dissuade features of positive body image among women, and provide timely guidance on the design of interventions to promote positive body image in the field of public health.