The research carried out by UNC Health Care and published online in the Journal of Women & Aging, examined women who say they are satisfied with their body size as it looks to unlock the secrets of body satisfaction.
Defined as having a current body size equal to their preferred size, body satisfaction was endorsed by only 12.2% of women ages 50 and older and was associated with better overall functioning.
Interestingly, even though these women were content with their body size, a sizeable number still reported dissatisfaction with other aspects of their appearance, with the majority (78.8%) citing their skin as the main problem.
This minority of midlife women who report being satisfied with their body size is associated with effortful process, not passive contentment, according to Cynthia Bulik, PhD, corresponding author of the study.
In addition, they are not impervious to dissatisfaction with other aspects of their physical appearance, especially those aspects affected by aging such as skin, she adds.
“Of course the fact that so few women are satisfied with their body size is concerning,” continues Cristin Runfola, PhD, first author of the study.
“But we were interested in how some women remain happy with their size and shape, given ubiquitous social pressures to retain a youthful thin appearance, and the influence of a multibillion dollar anti-aging cosmetics industry.”
The study, used a sample of 1,789 women in the United States aged 50 years and older from the Gender and Body Image (GABI) study to characterize the profile of mature women who report body size satisfaction based on silhouettes.
Respondents answered a wide array of questions about their history with dieting and weight control, current eating disorder symptoms, current weight and shape concerns, and quality of life.
Further, weight monitoring and appearance-altering behaviors, such as cosmetic surgery, did not differ between satisfied and dissatisfied groups, and weight and shape still played a considerable role in body size satisfied women’s self-evaluation.
“Our findings underscore the need for a multifaceted approach to studying and assessing body image in women as they mature, as their bodies undergo constant age-related change,” concludes Bulik.