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Your body image is impacted by those around you

How social interactions influence body image?

Body image is a complex multidimensional construct composed of thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and behaviors related to one’s body and weight. A plethora of research indicates adverse outcomes associated with poor body image including increased risk of psychopathology such as anxiety, depression, and lower self-esteem.

Now a new study by the University of Waterloo, suggests that spending energy with individuals who are not engrossed with their bodies can enhance your own dietary patterns and body image.

Scientists examined the way the social interactions influence body image. They found that the social context has a meaningful impact on how we feel about our bodies in general and on a given day.

During the study, scientists asked 92 female college understudies aged 17 to 25 to complete a daily diary for more than seven continuous days and reflected their cooperations with body-centered and non-body centered individuals.

The investigation estimated members’ frequency of daily connections with body-centered and non-body centered others, their level of body appreciation which means how much one values their body regardless of its size or shape, and body satisfaction and whether they ate instinctively in arrangement with their hunger and desires as opposed to focusing on their dietary and weight objectives.

Allison Kelly, a psychology professor in clinical psychology at Waterloo said, “Body dissatisfaction is ubiquitous and can take a huge toll on our mood, self-esteem, relationships, and even the activities we pursue. It’s important to realize that the people we spend time with actually influence our body image. If we are able to spend more time with people who are not preoccupied with their bodies, we can actually feel much better about our own bodies.”

Kathryn Miller, a Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology at Waterloo said, “If more women try to focus less on their weight/shape, there may be a ripple effect shifting societal norms for women’s body image in a positive direction. It’s also important for women to know that they have an opportunity to positively impact those around them through how they relate to their own bodies.”

The study also suggests that spending more time with non-body focused individuals may be advantageous in protecting against disordered eating and promoting more intuitive eating.

The study appears in Body Image, an International Journal of Research.

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