Research by the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway reveals that those who can concentrate and listen to their heartbeat accurately are more able to listen to their bodies. The study involved healthy women between the ages of 19 and 26 and showed that the more accurately they could perceive their heartbeats, the less likely they were to see their bodies as mere objects.
Dr Manos Tsakiris (one of the researchers) said: “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.”
The problem here is that women who self-objectify this way become more vulnerable to eating disorders as well as other conditions such as depression and anxiety.
A different study took place last month at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany that showed people with eating disorders thought of themselves as bigger than they were due to ‘connection errors’ in the brain.
This study looked into the network of brain regions that are active when we look at body shapes. The researchers asked 10 anorexic women and 15 healthy women to pick which silhouette corresponded best to their own on a computer. A further 10 women used as control subjects were asked to match the photos of the test subjects with their silhouette.
Results showed that the healthy subjects rated themselves as slimmer than the control subject’s choices, while those with eating disorders saw themselves as larger.
The test subjects were then asked to take part in a MRI scan while they were shown pictures of bodies. The researchers found that connections within the fusiform body area and the extrastriate body area were much weaker among anorexic women. These areas have been shown to be critical for how people process images of bodies.
If you are suffering from an eating disorder, hypnotherapy could help to alter thought processes leading to negative body image perception. To find out more, please see our page on Eating Disorders.
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