Excellent body image as damaging for women as poor image

May 8th, 2009 - 4:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, May 8 (IANS) For many women, a poor self-image can spark a host of mental and physical health problems. Now a study has found that an extremely good body image can be just as damaging to women’s health.
Temple University (TU) researchers studied the body image perceptions of 81 underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese women in the North Philadelphia area.

They found that as their body mass index (BMI, an indicator of obesity) increased, two-thirds of the women still felt they were at an ideal body size.

“So the question for doctors then becomes: ‘How can we effectively treat our overweight and obese patients, when they don’t feel they’re in harm’s way?’” asked study co-author Marisa Rose.

Rose is assistant professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the TU School of Medicine (TUSM). “It stresses a need for culturally sensitive education for this population,” she said.

All participants were measured for height and weight and completed an anonymous survey to determine their self-perceived, current and ideal body sizes.

Each woman was then shown an illustration of different-sized women that correlated with increasing BMIs, and were asked which size they felt they were at currently, and what their ideal would be.

While most of the participants selected illustrations of women in the normal to overweight range, about 20 percent of the obese women selected an overweight or obese silhouette as their ideal body shape.

Further, 68 percent (15 out 22) of overweight participants and 84 percent (26 of 31) of obese women underestimated their current BMI.

African-American and Hispanic women had significantly underestimated their current body size, while the white women overestimated, said a TUSM release.

Rose and her fellow researchers say this is the first study to evaluate body image discrepancy specifically in the inner-city population of women seeking gynaecologic care.

These findings were published in the current issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

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