A new report out of Southern Methodist University indicates that a woman's body image is linked to her perception of what she thinks men prefer. In other words, if women are told that men desire women with larger bodies, then they are more content with their weight.
"On average, heterosexual women believe that heterosexual men desire ultra-thin women," said Andrea Meltzer, an assistant professor in the department of psychology at the university, in a statement. "Consequently, this study suggests that interventions that alter women's perception regarding men's desires for ideal female body sizes may be effective at improving women's body image."
Even if you're not working towards a weight goal, you probably still have some sort of effort aimed at losing or maintaining your weight. So, we asked around to hear why women are actually trying to shed pounds. Their responses...
One woman said her doctor wanted to put her on medication to treat the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome, but she wanted to go the natural route and lose weight. She removed dairy from her diet, which is typically high in estrogen.
"I saw results within my next menstrual cycle. I'm now down almost 20 pounds in three months, and I'm so close to ovulating again," she said.
"The hardest part has been having the patience to not take meds, surprisingly. It's so tempting to just treat the symptoms rather than the cause," she said. "I have to focus on the future: self-confidence when I fit my clothes better, getting pregnant and carrying a pregnancy to term, avoiding diabetes, having more energy, sleeping better and predictable periods that don't surprise me and ruin those nice-fitting clothes!"
One woman said that extra weight means upping your risk for disease. "There’s no way around that," she said. "I have just been through a health scare, so I know that nothing tastes as good as being healthy. Everyone doesn’t have to be skinny, but everyone should be fit."
Thin may not be a job requirement, but one woman said it would help her stand out in the career arena.
"Being fit shows people that you have discipline. People are more likely to hire and trust someone who seems decisive and disciplined," she said.
Another woman agreed that looking good was great for a gal's career and her own body image.
"My perception of my body is directly related to my level of confidence," she said. "To be fit, healthy and comfortable in my clothes boosts my self-esteem in a way that allows me to leave a lasting impression... a necessary trait in the PR industry."
Sometimes, the benefits of losing weight really are about looking good — and feeling it. "I am trying to shed pounds because it's so much easier to get dressed in the morning when I don't have to try on 50 things to find one thing that looks good," one woman said.
Another woman who worked in the medical field said she typically wears scrubs. When I go out and wear a dress or a cute pair of fitted jeans, I don't want to have to keep putting on Spanx or suck-me-in corsets just to have a nice look. It's so uncomfortable to wear them and then try to eat, let alone trying to unbutton them when you have to go to the bathroom," she admitted.
One woman recalled her favorite uncle, who passed away in his 50s due to obesity. She said she wants to shed pounds because she doesn't want to get too fat and wind up not being able to get help. "I want to live, to be able to go to Disney World and ride the rides, to sit in a chair at a concert and be comfortable," she added.
Many women experience weight fluctuations, but one woman told me her weight fluctuated from 110 pounds to 150 pounds after she had her first child. "What I've noticed is that my weight reflects how much emotional baggage I'm carrying," she said. When at her ideal weight of about 118 to 122 pounds, she carries around "just enough emotional stuff to be a grounded, responsive person." But when that number goes over 125, "I'm bogged down with regret, sorrow, guilt and anger," she said.
Looking to kick the habit? Start working out — it may deter you from lighting up. "I've been trying to quit for a year and nothing helps. None of the tricks I've read about, not the gum, not the patches, have helped me. The only thing that has helped is working out," a woman said. "If I have a cigarette, my workout that day or the next day is ruined, I just can't keep up. I also don't have the urge to smoke either. Instead of smoking, I do something active and it's really been helping."
A blogger told me that she was gaining weight because of her sedentary lifestyle working at a desk. "I have four dogs that I write about and they're an active pack and I couldn't keep up with them," she confessed. She started eating better and working out, and also drank more water and cut down on sugar — that helped her shed about five pounds in less than two weeks.
"Now I can walk all four dogs for miles without breaking a sweat," she said.
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