by Natalie Shoemaker
Women often receive conflicting messages about body image. Cosmo will release article after article of how to lose those love-handles next to an image of a supermodel, meanwhile Bruno Mars sings over the radio that he loves you just the way you are. But researchers say it may all come down to loved-ones to influence a healthy weight change.
Olga Khazan from The Atlantic highlighted a recent study that shows body-positive messages from partners encourages women, who want shed some pounds, to lose weight. The study consisted of 187 women from a university in Canada. They were all asked questions concerning their weight, ideal weight, and self-esteem. Then to assess levels of support, researchers asked if they ever talked to their significant other about their weight and, if so, what their reaction was to the question. The researchers filed the responses in two categories where the messages were either those of acceptance towards a participant's weight or pressure to lose weight.
Over the course of nine months, those who received responses showing acceptance to their current weight either maintained or lost weight, shedding about 0.17 units from their body mass index (BMI). While those who felt pressure to lose actually gained more weight (about 0.75 units in their BMI).
From these results, the researchers believe that the group that received more acceptance found better, more productive ways to lose their weight. While the other group may have been driven to diet in less sustainable ways that ultimately led to weight gain. The authors wrote in their study:
"Weight concern may primarily reflect the knowledge that one’s weight could lead to rejection that could lead to stress and shame that interferes with weight loss attempts."
What's more, over time the weight-positive women found themselves less concerned about thoughts of their size. It would be interesting to see if the same motivations could hold true for men as well.