A Healthier U

Body Image Perception

Did you know, the way we perceive our body may influence us more than we think? Research shows that negative body image perceptions are related to depression and low self-esteem, disordered eating and the participation in weight-loss strategies that may be unsafe. Body dissatisfaction can take a toll on our psychological and physical health. Weight bias internalization, or holding negative ideas about oneself due to stereotypes based on weight is also damaging and can result in similar dangers as that of negative body image perceptions. Body image as well as weight bias internalizations are important areas to focus on improving in order to increase self-esteem and body confidence in individuals and the community. Various studies have been performed in order to test strategies to improve body image such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness, compassion, acceptance and many other approaches. Writing-based interventions have also been examined as a potential way to improve body image, with results varying on effectiveness.

In a study done called “An Attitude of Gratitude: The Effects of Body-focused gratitude on Weight Bias Internalization and Body Image,” Jamie Dunaev et al decided to take a different approach to a writing-based intervention. The main focus of this new intervention was on gratitude. In this article, gratitude is explained as a “wider life orientation towards noticing and appreciating the positive in the world.” Research shows a positive correlation between gratitude and welfare, so why not try and incorporate it into an intervention for body image? The purpose of this study was to test whether a body-focused gratitude exercise would increase body satisfaction and reduce weight bias internalization. Those in the gratitude intervention group were asked to think about features of their body that they were grateful for and to come up with five things, choose three of the five features, and write about why they were grateful for those aspects. On a completely different note, those in the control group were asked to describe their ideal vacation. In the end, after participants took various surveys, results showed that the people in the gratitude intervention group showed greater appearance evaluation and body satisfaction and significantly lower weight bias internalization compared to those in the control group. So what does this mean? This study shows that focusing on gratitude may be a helpful intervention on improving body image perceptions and lowering weight bias. Something as easy as writing down what we are grateful for about our body and why we are grateful for it can put us on the road to a healthier psychological and physical well-being. Next time someone is feeling down or upset about their bodies, encourage one another to take a second and think about the positives of their body and functionality. By supporting one another and building each other up in this sort of way, we can begin to create a positive environment full of self-love and health-promoting behaviors.

References

Dunaev, J., Markey, C., & Brochu, M. (2018). An attitude of gratitude: The effect of body-focused gratitude on weight bias internalization and body image. Body Image, 25: 9-13.


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