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Body stereotypes affect women's long-term health

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With rates of obesity escalating worldwide, a new survey of 500 American women reported that 70 percent of overweight women (compared to 41 percent of thin women) like their bodies less than they like themselves.

According to the study, which was conducted by KRC Research for Shape Up America!, these women said their negative body image is fueled by unrealistic images of women portrayed in the media.

Comparing the attitudes of overweight women 35 and over with their thin or normal-weight counterparts, the survey found that many overweight women are stigmatized about body image. This negativity translates to a higher prevalence of unhealthy behaviors among overweight women.

"This survey shows that the perpetuation of an unattainable body image for American women is not just demeaning, it's a public health threat," said Barbara J. Moore, Ph.D., president of Shape Up America!

The study found that overweight women are less likely to exercise and more likely to use dieting and diet pills to manage their weight.

Unhealthy behaviors such as eating disorders and the use of appetite suppressants were more often reported by overweight women.

"Regardless of whether women seek weight loss or the prevention of further weight gain, these results highlight the critical need for support," said Dr. C. Everett Koop, former surgeon general and founder of Shape Up America!. "Preoccupation with body image is undermining and diverting energy that is better invested in healthful changes in behavior."

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