Could having fat friends sabotage your body image?

Kim Hookem-Smith
Yahoo Lifestyle
7 November 2012

Our friends could be more important to how we perceive our bodies than our actual shape and size, according to a new study.

Researchers studying female relationships, suggest that the key to positive body image lies in women surrounding themselves with friends of a healthy weight – and who don’t not obsess about it.

[Related: Is this the real reason you're overweight?]

Of the 75 pairs of female friends involved in the research, those with overweight friends who constantly complain about being fat and needing to lose weight, tended to have a more negative view of themselves, regardless of their actual shape and size.

Friends who regularly indulge in ‘body talk’ (discussing exercise and diet) were found to have higher levels of body dissatisfaction. Researchers asked the women how often they confide in friends about weight loss, exercise, appearance and diet and found that those who felt under pressure to be thin and shared their neuroses were more likely to have body issues.

[Related: 10 diet foods that make you fat]

Study leaders Dr Louise Wasylkiw and Molly Williamson, explained that the way women perceive what others think puts more pressure on them than the reality.

This study, published in the journal Sex Roles, also backed up previous research suggesting that if you have fat friends or siblings you’re more likely to struggle with weight management yourself.

[Related: Dawn French on understanding her body ups and downs]

To ensure a healthy attitude towards your weight and size, surrounding yourself by people who are happy with how they look is key. And for female friends, constantly talking about losing weight, diets and exercise could do more harm than good - so ladies, let’s start chatting about other (more interesting) things!

Do you feel pressured by your friends into feeling bad about your figure? Join the debate on Twitter.

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