who have a healthy body image still have underlying concerns about their
weight, at least thatís what their responses on a tried-and-true
psychological screening showed.
A Brigham Young University study showed that thin women who were shown a
picture of a fat woman and told to imagine themselves looking like the image
showed distress on a brain scan.
Men did not show signs of any self-reflection in similar situations, the
"These women have no history of eating disorders and project an attitude
that they donít care about body image," said Mark Allen, a BYU
neuroscientist. "Yet under the surface is an anxiety about getting fat and
the centrality of body image to self."
Allen makes his report with grad student Tyler Owens and BYU psychology
professor Diane Spangler in the May issue of the psychological journal
Personality and Individual Differences.
Spangler and Allen collaborate on a long-term project to improve treatment
of eating disorders by tracking progress with brain imaging. When anorexic
and bulimic women view an overweight stranger, the brainís self-reflection
center - known as the medial prefrontal cortex - lights up in ways that
suggest extreme unhappiness and in some cases, self-loathing.
The motivation for this new study was to establish a point of reference
among a control group of women who scored in the healthy range on eating
disorder diagnostic tests. Surprisingly, even this control group exhibited
what Allen calls "sub-clinical" issues with body image.
Seeing that, Allen and Owens ran the experiments with a group of men for
"Although these womenís brain activity doesnít look like full-blown eating
disorders, they are much closer to it than men are," Allen said.
Spangler says women are bombarded with messages that perpetuate the thin
ideal, and the barrage changes how they view themselves.
"Many women learn that bodily appearance and thinness constitute what is
important about them, and their brain responding reflects that," Spangler
said. "I think it is an unfortunate and false idea to learn about oneself
and does put one at greater risk for eating and mood disorders."
"Itís like the plant in my office," she continued. "It has the potential to
grow in any direction, but actually only grows in the direction of the
window - the direction that receives the most reinforcement."
- ANI / Times of India