A woman’s image of her body is strongly linked to her perception of what she thinks her husband would prefer, finds a series of studies, suggesting that women are happier with their weight when told that men desire larger-bodied women.
“Results of three independent studies suggest that a woman’s body image is strongly linked to her perception of what she thinks men prefer,” said lead researcher and social psychologist Andrea Meltzer from the Southern Methodist University in the US.
Prior research has shown that women satisfied with their body and weight tend to eat healthier, exercise more and possess higher self-esteem.
They also tend to avoid unhealthy behaviour such as excessive dieting and suffer less from depression.
The research also showed that women unhappy with their body and weight are not content with their sexual and marital life.
“It is possible that women, who are led to believe that men prefer women with bodies larger than the models depicted in the media, may experience higher levels of self-esteem and lower levels of depression,” Meltzer added.
In all three studies, female participants viewed images of female models with bodies larger than the thin-ideal wearing a variety of clothing, ranging from typical street clothes to bathing suits.
Women felt higher levels of satisfaction with their own weight after viewing the images of the larger women, who were portrayed as attractive to men.
“The findings suggest that interventions that alter women’s perception regarding men’s desires for ideal female body sizes may be effective at improving women’s body image,” Meltzer said.
The findings could have significant implications for women’s health and well-being.
Although the current studies demonstrated that telling women that men prefer women with body sizes larger than the thin-ideal can have immediate positive effects on women’s body image, it is unclear how long these effects may last, the researchers said.
The findings were detailed in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.