Are you surrounded by people who are not that body conscious? Then there is good news for you as a new study suggests spending time with people who are not preoccupied with their bodies can improve your own eating habits and body image.
In this study, examining how social interactions influence body image, researchers found that in addition to the previous findings that being around people preoccupied with their body image was detrimental, spending time with people who were non-body focused had a positive impact.
Non-body focused people are those who are not preoccupied with their body weight or shape or appearance.
"Our research suggests that social context has a meaningful impact on how we feel about our bodies in general and on a given day. Specifically, when others around us are not focused on their body it can be helpful to our own body image," said Kathryn Miller, postdoctoral student at the University of Waterloo in Canada.
For the study, the team involved nearly 100 female undergraduate students aged 17 to 25.
They measured the participants’ frequency of daily interactions with body focused and non-body focused people, their degree of body appreciation (how much one values their body regardless of its size or shape), and body satisfaction, and whether they ate intuitively in alignment with their hunger and cravings rather than fixating on their dietary and weight goals.
The findings, published in the journal Body Image, showed that body dissatisfaction is ubiquitous and can take a huge toll on our mood, self-esteem, relationships and even the activities we pursue.
"It’s important to realise that the people we spend time with actually influence our body image. If we are able to spend more time with people who are not preoccupied with their bodies, we can actually feel much better about our own bodies," said Allison Kelly, Professor at the varsity.
In addition, they also found that spending more time with non-body focused individuals may be advantageous in protecting against disordered eating and promoting more intuitive eating.
"If more women try to focus less on their weight or shape, there may be a ripple effect shifting societal norms for women’s body image in a positive direction. It’s also important for women to know that they have an opportunity to positively impact those around them through how they relate to their own bodies," Miller suggested.