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Creating healthy body image

Modern Western cultures place a high importance on physical appearance. While men can probably get away with more in terms of both physique and even age-related things like wrinkling, women in particular have to measure up to some idealistic standards. There is certainly a move to encourage a more realistic appreciation of the human form but the “thin and beautiful” ideal still persists. A new University of Arizona study however, has outlined five factors that can help women have a positive attitude toward their body.

The research focused on women of university age as they are at high risk of having eating disorders related to body image. The research involved hundreds of women and the researchers measured how a range of factors impacted the women’s reaction to real-life situations. As a result they found five factors that were linked to a positive body image in women.

Those five factors supporting positive body image are: high levels of family support; low levels of perceived pressure to be “thin” from friends; rejecting the need to be a “superwoman” excelling in all things; a positive view of your own physical competence; and having effective strategies to reduce stress.

That is all well and good but the real question is how do create those five factors to support a positive self-image? The researchers say that a start is to exercise (to create feelings of physical competence, not to lose weight), learning to be comfortable with often contradictory expectations, and seeking balance as a goal.

This still sounds a bit waffly and abstract still but it is a start at least to have these things as goals rather than simply falling back on media driven imagery as the aims of life. What the research does point to though is the clear and unequivocal health-promoting potential of family and friends. Make your family relations strong and loving, and embrace friendships that nurture and support you. As this study suggests, positive relationships with others are the bedrock for a positive relationship with yourself.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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