“Honey, do I look fat in this?” These six little words that instill fear in all men everywhere, because if men answer incorrectly, it’s like stomping on paper thin ice. But why is that? Why do we get so upset when someone else has something negative to say about our body image? Studies have shown a number of things that try to answer that very question. There is a tie between weight and body image.
Some arguments claim that losing weight and your body image are practically synonymous. According to Livestrong.com, one’s body image and their self-esteem closely correlate. That would explain why we’re either ready to flaunt our bikini bodies at the beach or hide under your towel. Now, this doesn’t mean to go exercise extensively and you’ll automatically love yourself. Getting to a healthy number on the scale and having a high self-esteem requires two things: of course, shedding pounds, and being comfortable in your own skin.
However, it’s not that easy, says Purdue Sociologist Sarah Mustillo. After conducting a case study that followed around two different groups of teenage girls from two different races, she found that one group was happier with being overweight while the other was self-conscious. As a result, she claimed that body image and weight do not go hand-in-hand. She explains that when somebody loses weight, gaining the expected body confidence may take longer than anticipated. Mustillo also states that one’s perception of their body is deeply embedded with an overarching sense of self. In other words, when we compare ourselves to other people and feel inferior, it’s not only due to our bodies; it could be hair, skin, height, even intelligence, kindness, and skills. We also crumble under a societal force to be the to best, unique, and so on. This is what encourages us to compare ourselves to each other, and in most cases, our bodies.
So, what can we take away from this? Mustillo says that to build a better body image, you need to start on the inside. She points out that girls who have a strong hold of who they are and their identity tend to have a better body image. She’s not the only one to claim that a better sense of self contributes to better body image: a study at Mount Allison University in Canada also supported the claim that more self-compassion and self-esteem in your skin were associated with a better body image.
All in all, losing weight may not guarantee that you feel better about yourself, but loving the healthy and fit body that you possess may be the key to a better body image.