[THE IMPACT OF OTHERS]
Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who has the best body image of all? When Tracy Tylka, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Ohio State University in Columbus, polled 801 women about body image for a study published in January, their responses surprised her. “We assumed that the biggest factor would be how much a woman weighs, given the emphasis on weight in our culture,” says Tylka. Instead, her findings showed that the most powerful influence was the opinion of others. “If a woman is surrounded by people who accept her as she is, who don’t talk about weight in a negative way, she’s much more likely to have a positive body image,” she explains. “No matter how heavy a woman was, if she had positive social support, she tended to have a positive body image.”
Liking your reflection in the mirror is more than a matter of vanity. A positive body image is associated with life satisfaction, better coping skills and healthy behaviors, including more physical activity and good eating habits. “Women who appreciate their bodies are more likely to take care of themselves—for example, by getting regular breast-cancer screenings,” says Tylka.
Originally published in the October 2011 issue of More.
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