Thursday, February 25, 2021

Are our brains hardwired to hate our bodies?

May 18, 2010 by  
Filed under Body Image, Self Esteem

Do you have a positive body image? Do you place your external traits above your external traits? (Yes, yes! Well…yeah, I think so?)

Hold on sister, check this out;

A new study published  in the journal Personality and Individual Differences shows that woman’s brains are showing “eating disordered” traits regardless of how they “think” they actually feel about themselves. That was a mouthful, so let’s read what the doctors have to say;

“Something is happening for women with regard to shape and weight, and that’s for real,” Greg Siegle, a neuroscientist at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.This study is showing it at a biological level. It’s not just a myth.

“This is kind of validating the suspicion that most women are teetering on the edge of an eating disorder,” said Mark Allen, a neuroscientist at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. “If the brain response is so strong in these apparently healthy women, maybe most of us could use a little dose of what it is that you go through in an eating disorder therapy. Based on the new results, it now appears that there is a finer line between women with and without eating disorders than scientists previously suspected”

Read all the brainy details here, here the gist of the study;

The study looked into hidden feelings about body image by scanning the brains of 10 healthy women. The women were thin, but all had passed eating disorder screening tests with flying colors. So, theoretically, they felt just fine with their bodies.

While hooked up to brain scanners, the women looked at images of avatar-like models in skimpy bikinis: some overweight, some skinny. With each image, the women were told to imagine that someone else was saying the model looked like her.  When overweight images popped up, their brain lit up like a Christmas tree in all of the women; simply imagining that they might be overweight seemed to make the women question their sense of self (even though they claimed afterward that the test was boring or meaningless).

“Women are actually engaging in an evaluation of who they are and whether they are worthwhile as a person,” Allen said. “Even though women might claim to be well adjusted and not care about body issues, subconsciously they might care.”

At the very least, the new work helps validate what women go through in our society day after day, said Greg Siegle, a neuroscientist at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Amen to that brother,


BTW – Most men, with the exception of Bodybuilders,  showed no response at all to pictures of other men in bathing suits, either fat or thin (can I be a guy?)



7 Responses to “Are our brains hardwired to hate our bodies?”
  1. Jacqueline says:

    In fact, the study doesn’t seem to imply that it’s hardwired so much as culturally conditioned. Having a biological manifestation, cells in certain parts of the brain being active, is not the same as being hardwired. That detail I think is very important. It is, however, a less sensational title. (I know you took it from the original article.)

    It was interesting that the article was accompanied by a video, not directly related to the study, talking about how important appearance is. That video was saying that our ideas of beauty are hardwired.

  2. Jenni says:

    I want to second what Jacqueline said. This study hardly says anything conclusive and does nothing to explain what might cause this reaction, especially considering the small sample size.

  3. nommh says:

    This is oh so wrong. Who sets up “experiments” like this? Who pays them? Radical anti-feminists? The beauty/fashion industries? Who else would want to know?

    And where was the editor in chief when Emily Sohn came up with that title for her story? Hardwired? Worthwile science knows more and more about the incredible plasticity of the brain. There certainly cannot be anything hardwired with a bit of bloodflow.

  4. FatNSassy says:

    Not a very scientific study. 10 women is not a big enough sample. And it you are going to attribute something to biology, you need a cross cultural perspective. Would someone whose culture values fatter women, or is neutral about body size react the same way? Is it body hatred, or an intense need to conform to whatever norms society has set?

  5. Mike in Philly says:

    From a male perspective, when I see pictures of beautiful women in bathing suits, I say to myself. “Damn I should start working out”.

    • Jacqueline says:

      This is a great example of why I stopped dating men. It’s really rough because I have a high libido and miss the sex, but their obsession with a woman’s appearance and their inability to stop talking about it has really begun to eat away at my sense of self.

      I’m a very kind person and highly intelligent. I want to be valued for something other than my appearance. Like most women, I have a great deal of ambivalence about the way I look and it causes me great anxiety. When men drop hints about what they like about the way a woman looks it just feeds that anxiety. It seems that the heels are never high enough, the skirts, never short enough. One day I woke up and said, “Enough!”

      Thanks for reminding me why I stopped dating.


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  1. […] Are our brains hardwired to hate our bodies? “A new study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences shows that woman’s brains are showing ‘eating disordered’ traits regardless of how they ‘think’ they actually feel about themselves. “ […]

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