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Overweight girls who accept their bodies exhibit more self-esteem, fewer destructive behaviors

Heather Rudow April 30, 2012

(Photo:Flickr/Salma Rashad)

A soon-to-be-published study from the University of California, San Diego reveals that young women can be happy with their bodies at any size. Overweight women who reported being satisfied with their size and shape were also shielded from some of the harmful behavioral and psychological effects that can be associated with being overweight.

The study examined the relationship between body satisfaction and healthy psychological functioning in overweight adolescents, assessing factors such as body satisfaction, weight-control behavior, the importance placed on thinness, self-esteem and symptoms of anxiety and depression in 103 participating adolescents.

The researchers found that girls who reported being happy with the size and shape of their bodies had higher levels of self-esteem.

“We found that girls with high body satisfaction had a lower likelihood of unhealthy weight-control behaviors like fasting, skipping meals or vomiting,” said researcher Kerri Boutelle.

She added the positive relationship between a girl’s happiness with her body and her behavioral and psychological well-being suggests that improving body satisfaction “could be a key component of interventions for overweight youth.”

“A focus on enhancing self-image while providing motivation and skills to engage in effect weight-control behaviors may help protect young girls from feelings of depression, anxiety or anger sometimes associated with being overweight,” said Boutelle.

The May issue of Counseling Today looks at the important role counselors can play in addressing childhood obesity. Read “A family affair” here.

Source: University of California, San Diego

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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