Why Do Women Feel OK About Their Bodies Until Other Women Show Up?

Feeling Fat Thinking Thin

Most people feel they are smarter, funnier and more attractive than others. Except, when comparing body weight, women have erroneous body image of themselves.People like believing they're above average: Studies have shown that most people feel they're smarter, funnier and more attractive than the next person. Unfortunately, new research suggests that this same tendency exists when comparing body weight--particularly among young women.

In a study conducted by Catherine Sanderson, Ph.D., an Amherst College psychology professor, college women tended to believe that they exercised less and ate and weighed more than the average person. Her study also found that this misperception increases over time, as seniors seem much more likely than freshwomen to misjudge the weight and habits of others.

According to Sanderson, the trend goes something like this: "Jane," the average college-aged woman, first arrives at school weighing 130 pounds. When asked, she estimates that other students weigh approximately 130 pounds--and she's right. Years pass, and Jane observes other college women eating less and bragging about rigorous exercise regimens and skipping meals. By her senior year, Jane has put on a few pounds. Weighing in at 135, she estimates that the average female student weighs 125 pounds. This time, she's wrong. The average student weighs what she does--yet Jane doesn't see it.

It's a dangerous trend, Sanderson says, because, "the more women perceived themselves as being different, the more symptoms they showed of anorexia and bulimia." However, after explaining the misperception to women who reported primarily comparing themselves to other campus women, she found that they adopted a more accurate outlook. "Letting women know they're wrong could really help," Sanderson says.

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APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2008, November 20). Why Do Women Feel OK About Their Bodies Until Other Women Show Up?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 18 from

Last Updated: January 14, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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