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Better Body Image Aids In Weight Loss, Says New Study

First Posted: 07/18/11 04:52 PM ET Updated: 09/17/11 06:12 AM ET

Body Image

It's no secret that many women are unsatisfied with the way their bodies look, but new research says that developing a better body image can help you lose weight.

That may sound like putting cart before the horse, since being overweight or not measuring up to societal standards of beauty can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self esteem. But feeling better about your body might be key to reaching a healthy weight.

e! Science News reports that researchers from the Technical University of Lisbon and Bangor University enrolled a group of overweight and obese women in a year-long weight loss program. Half of the women were given general health information about proper nutrition and stress while the other half attended weekly group sessions where issues regarding "exercise, emotional eating, improving body image and the recognition of, and how to overcome, personal barriers to weight loss and lapses from the diet were discussed."

They found that for women who participated in the group sessions, the way they felt about their bodies improved. They were also better able self-regulate their eating habits and lost much more weight compared to the other group.

The study's lead researcher told e! Science News that body image problems often lead people to seek solace in food, which in turn can exacerbate a weight problem. The study showed that the better the women felt about themselves, the more they were able to embrace positive changes in their eating.

Again this sounds like a catch-22. It might be easier to lose weight if you feel better about your body, but it often takes getting your body to a weight you are more comfortable with to improve your body image.

It's well documented that most women don't feel great about the way their bodies look. A recent poll of 8,000 women in the U.S and U.K found that only 15 percent of American women gave a positive response about their overall body image, and only one out of ten UK women felt they "were made to be naked."

Body image issues are ingrained in women from a young age; last month Good Morning America gathered a panel of 5- to 8-year-old girls and asked them about how they perceive weight and what size person they consider fat. Their answers mirrored the results of a 2009 study that found that nearly half of 3- to 6-year-old girls worry about being overweight.

The newer study of adult, overweight women showed that in group sessions where participants worked out some of their feelings about their bodies, they were able to start making choices that helped them lose weight. But there's one question this research implicitly raises and doesn't answer: How can women like those participating in the study learn to feel good about their bodies while being told they need to change those bodies?

What do you think?

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Filed by Stephanie Marcus  |