Women have been objectified since the beginning of time.
Hollywood propagates this ideal, fashion dictates how women should look and what size they should be, and magazines and billboards bombard us with images of tall, skinny women who make up a small percentile of the real women in the world today.
Women obsess about their bodies about every 15 minutes and what they see in the mirror is nothing like what they look like to others. But there’s the problem: women are more concerned about what other people think about their bodies. This has profound effects on a woman’s life.
Scientists looked into this fact of life and found that when a woman is shown to appreciate her body from the inside out, she can love herself better and treat her body the way she should be treated – with respect.
“Women who focus more on how their bodies function and less on how they appear to others are going to have a healthier, more positive body image and a tendency to eat according to their bodies’ needs rather than according to what society dictates,” said Tracy Tylka, associate professor of psychology at Ohio State University and senior author of the study.
If you’re going to respect your body, you have to like it first.
“And it turns out we look to whether others accept our bodies to determine whether we appreciate them ourselves,” Tylka said. “It’s not our weight, but instead whether others in our social network appreciate us. That implies that people should be convinced to be less judgmental and to focus less on weight.”
Published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, this study was based on a model that Tylka created from surveying women aged 18 to 65. These women were divided into three different age groups:
- Group 1: aged 18-25
- Group 2: aged 26-39
- Group 3: aged 40-65
Women were asked a series of questions about their body image in relation to their social networks, media and society in general; how their bodies function; and how they treated their bodies as far as diet and exercise.
Age didn’t seem to affect the outcome of the answers given. For the women with strong social networks, their body image was less of a concern to them and treating their bodies well was more important.
“It was a cool finding, that BMI’s association with body appreciation is mediated by how we view others’ acceptance of our bodies,” Tylka said. “So if women are heavy, they can have a good body image if they don’t perceive that important others are trying to change their body shape or weight and instead accept them as who they are. And vice versa, if women have a low BMI, they might have a poor body image if they perceive that influential people don’t accept their appearance, but not because of their weight.
“One clinical implication is to educate partners, family, friends and the media on the importance of accepting others’ bodies and to stop criticizing people about their bodies and appearance.”
Ohio State University. “Women’s body image based more on others’ opinions than their own weight.” ScienceDaily 29 Mar. 2011. Web. 5 Apr. 2011.