Mind over Matter: Exploring the Power of a Positive Body Image
This dissertation examines positive body image and its relationship with appearance-related commentary, body weight, and impression formation among young adult women. It explores how women’s unique individual experiences are constructed within social interactions. The present dissertation examined weight using a dynamic approach - weight trajectory (i.e., whether someone is gaining, losing, or maintaining weight). In study 1, body appreciation and a body image coping strategy (i.e., positive rational acceptance coping), which are characteristics associated with positive body image, were tested as mediators in the relationship between the frequency of positive appearance-related commentary and the effect elicited from those compliments. Only body appreciation produced indirect effects, as the frequency of appearance compliments only impacted the effect felt from those comments through body appreciation as the processing mechanism. In study 2, women were interviewed about their body image experiences with appearance-related commentary at differing weight trajectories. Women described how their body image was influential in filtering appearance-related commentary both while a higher and lower body weight. A more positive mindset (e.g., body acceptance), rather than weight loss, fostered positive effects from positive appearance-related commentary. Study 3 determined whether information provided about a female target’s weight trajectory and/or body image altered the participants’ impression of that target. The target described as on a weight loss trajectory compared to a weight gain trajectory was rated more favourably on certain personality and physical characteristics. Further, the target described as having a positive body image (including high self-esteem) compared to a target described as having a negative body image (including low self-esteem) was also rated more favourably on numerous personality and physical characteristics. All three studies demonstrated the value of having a positive body image both from an intrapersonal and interpersonal perspective. This has important implications for future research and body image programs designed to foster positive body image.