Women who have more attractive partners feel greater motivation to diet, new research finds.
Women who are more attractive than their husbands, though, do not feel the extra motivation to diet.
In contrast, men’s diet motivation is low whether or not they are more attractive than their partners.
Ms Tania Reynolds, the study’s first author, said:
“The results reveal that having a physically attractive husband may have negative consequences for wives, especially if those wives are not particularly attractive.”
It is important to understand what might predict eating disorders among women.
Dr Andrea Meltzer, the study’s first author, said:
“The research suggests there might be social factors playing a role in women’s disordered eating.
It might be helpful to identify women at risk of developing more extreme weight-loss behaviors, which have been linked to other forms of psychological distress, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse and dissatisfaction with life.
In order to better understand women’s dieting motivations, the findings of this study highlight the value of adopting an approach that focuses on a couple’s relationship.”
Studies have previously found that marriages are more successful if the woman is more attractive than the man.
Some women, though, feel extra pressure from their partners to be thin.
Dr Meltzer said:
“One way to help these women is for partners to be very reaffirming, reminding them, ‘You’re beautiful. I love you at any weight or body type.
Or perhaps focusing on the ways they are a good romantic partner outside of attractiveness and emphasizing those strengths: ‘I really value you because you’re a kind, smart and supportive partner.'”
The next step is to test the effect of attractive female friends on a woman’s motivation to diet, Dr Meltzer said:
“If we understand how women’s relationships affect their decision to diet and the social predictors for developing unhealthy eating behaviors, then we will be better able to help them.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Body Image (Reynolds et al., 2017).