More and more researchers are suggesting that a negative body image might be more detrimental to one’s health than one’s actual weight while a positive mindset will contribute to engaging in healthy behaviours more.
Nearly a decade ago, body dissatisfaction was found to be a budding problem among the youth, specially teenagers. Now, years later, researchers have brought forth more and more clarifications.
A number of studies have correlated the concept of weight dissatisfaction and its adverse effects on health. In an article published on Quartz, Harriet Brown, the author of “Body of Truth”, makes an exposé of an extensive body of research dealing with the unpleasant impacts pertaining to a negative perspective on one’s body.
Negative body image was correlated with a decreased quality of life in a 2002 survey that involved over 100 female college students. If this was not bad enough, a study conducted last year links the mindset with the eventual development of type II diabetes.
Conversely, people who are comfortable with their bodies tend to care for themselves, for instance, by exercising more regularly, regardless of their weight. A 2013 study puts this into perspective: people with “greater weight satisfaction” display “more positive health behaviours”. This would be true for overweight people as well: a 2007 study shows that overweight teenage girls having greater body satisfaction would gain less weight over a five-year period while those found who were unhappy with their weight would take care of themselves to a lesser extent, work out less, and put on more weight.
It appears that the latter tie themselves in a vicious cycle, if another more recent study was to relate to these findings. A 2012 paper suggests that regular exercise contributes to a better sense of body image, regardless of weight change in the long run. This further adds weight to the concept that being comfortable in one’s skin, and our ability (or willingness) to take care of ourselves, are not necessarily associated with weight and/or appearance.
To summarise, those with a positive body image exercise more, and those who exercise more have a more positive body image while those with a negative body image exercise less.
Taking the growing body of research into account, one might argue that learning to love ourselves would be the ideal first step. As a matter of fact, Quartz reports the statements of Christine Blake, a professor from the Arnold School of Health in South Carolina, who says that health experts should help patients to “accept their bodies first before focusing on any weight issues”, since weight dissatisfaction appears to keep people away from engaging in healthy behaviours.