I imagine there are days when each and every one of us feels a little low. I know that no matter what, some days I just feel fat and it makes no logical sense when I am the same weight as I was yesterday. These days usually occur after I have been reading a fashion magazine where the models or ‘ideal woman’ portrayed in the magazines are about 20% below average weight. A frankly unachievable size for the standard woman. I don’t actually need to lose weight or want to be that thin but I do feel unhappy after seeing the images. I wonder who would want to be that thin anyway? Well, quite a few if statistics are to be believed. A majority of girls in a 1999 study (59 percent) reported dissatisfaction with their body shape, and 66 percent expressed a desire to lose weight. Only 29 percent of the girls were overweight. Another study found that by age thirteen, 53% of girls are “unhappy with their bodies.” This grows to 78% by the time girls reach seventeen and a 1995 study found that three minutes spent looking at models in a fashion magazine caused 70% of women to feel depressed, guilty, and ashamed.
There may be more to it than just seeing too thin models and reading fashion magazines though. Our fast paced world of concrete, computers and man made materials is a relatively new experience to us as humans. Roughly 200 years ago, most of us still lived in rural areas and this only started to change with the industrial revolution. The world has changed a great deal in those 200 years and our biology is not able to change or evolve at the same speed and we still need to interact with nature. Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson calls this idea “biophilia” – an inherent need to connect with nature and other living beings. Women benefit from being in nature more so than men.
In fact body image research published in the journal Ecopsychology found that women who spend time in nature or outdoors have a stronger sense of self-worth and a stronger body-image. Not only that, but the more time spent outside the more self-worth was gained. Researcher Kari Hennigan suggests “The more time one takes to experience her surroundings, the less access she has to images of stick-thin models, weight-loss programs, and make-up ads promising perfection.” This is encouraging news for every woman, not only those with body issues.
So, the next time you feel like your body is not up to par, go to the seaside, head for a walk or even climb a mountain.