InBrief: The Science of Neglect
5 Factors That Foster a Positive Body Image
If the thought of swimsuit season makes you shudder, consider these five researched-backed ways to improve your body image.
By Annie Hauser
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FRIDAY, May 11, 2012 —Women feel the absolute worst about their bodies while they are trying on swimsuits, recent research published in the journalSex Rolesrevealed — causing most women to react with a collective "duh!"
Women are also more likely to feel ashamed of their bodies when they feel they are being watched by others, as opposed to self-critiquing behind a dressing room door. In the survey, 70 percent of the women were normal weight, yet considered themselves to be slightly overweight. To help calm dressing-room fears, researchers suggested that store owners might want to avoid displaying stick-thin mannequins and posters.
However, a new study, also published inSex Roles,found that a woman's body image — in or out of the dressing room — is determined by much more than just mannequins. Five distinct factors influence how positive a woman's body image is likely to be, researchers at the University of Arizona found after surveying 301 first-year college women. And, they say, knowing these factors could help prevent eating disorders.
Here are the factors researchers found to positively influence self-image:
- A supportive family.
- Little pressure to conform to a body "ideal."
- A rejection of the concept of the "thin and beautiful" ideal woman.
- Positive feelings about their body's abilities, as opposed to just shape.
- The strategies necessary to healthfully cope with stress.
These concepts could be used to help other women, researchers say, by creating eating-disorder prevention programs that help women become comfortable with multiple ideas of female beauty. Young women should be encouraged to exercise for health and wellness, instead of just weight loss, and ideas of holistic well-being and balance should be promoted, lead researcher Sharon Snapp, PhD, wrote in a release.
"It is particularly important for women to develop a sense of self-worth that is not solely based on appearance, and to build resilience to pressures they may receive from family, friends and the media," Snapp said.
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