Heartbeat count can boost body image

Last Updated 07 February 2013, 17:42 IST

Women who are able to listen to their body’s ‘internal signals’, such as accurately counting own heartbeats, are less likely to think of their bodies as objects, a new study has found.

The findings have important implications for understanding body image dissatisfaction and clinical disorders which are linked to self-objectification, such as anorexia, said researchers from Royal Holloway, University of London.

They found that women who are more aware of their bodies from within are less likely to think of their bodies principally as objects.

The authors asked healthy female student volunteers aged between 19 to 26 to concentrate and count their own heartbeats, simply by “listening” to their bodies.

Their accuracy in this heartbeat perception test was compared with their degree of self-objectification, based on how significant they considered 10 body attributes to their sense of self.

Attributes were both appearance-based, like attractiveness and body measurements, and competence-based, such as health and energy levels.
The more accurate the women were in detecting their heartbeats, the less they tended to think of their bodies as objects.

“People have the remarkable ability to perceive themselves from the perspective of an outside observer. However, there is a danger that some women can develop an excessive tendency to regard their bodies as ‘objects’, while neglecting to value them from within, for their physical competence and health,” said researcher Dr Manos Tsakiris.

“Women who ‘self-objectify’, in this way, are vulnerable to eating disorders and a range of other clinical conditions such as depression and sexual dysfunction,” Tsakiris added.

“We believe that our measure of body awareness, which assesses how well women are able to listen to their internal signals, will prove a valuable addition to research into self-objectification and women’s resulting mental health,” researcher Vivien Ainley said in a statement.

The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

(Published 07 February 2013, 17:42 IST)

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