Survey: 97 percent of women say mean things about their own bodies

Photo from ThinkstockPhoto from ThinkstockHow often do you look at yourself in the mirror and think that you don't like the way you look? According to Glamour, 97 percent of women have at least one "I hate my body" moment per day.

The beauty magazine asked 300 women of all ages and body types to pay attention to their internal monologues and keep track of every negative or anxious comment they made about their own bodies in one day. The results? Women surveyed had an average of 13 negative thoughts about themselves on a daily basis, and some really set their inner mean girls loose on themselves, with as many as 100 nasty, ego-bruising comments in a day.

Why do we say things about ourselves that we'd never say about our friends?

"It's actually more acceptable to insult your body than to praise it," points out Ann Kearney-Cooke, a psychologist based in Cincinnati who specializes in body image (she also helped Glamour design the survey).

Women tend to bond over depreciating comments, and even if you aren't selling yourself short out-loud, what you hear your friends say about themselves can affect how you think about yourself. And then there are the images we see every day: Commercials showing perfectly toned athletes hawking fitness products, thin women promoting diet pills, and pretty models selling makeup also play a part in how critical we are about our own bodies. While contestants on reality shows like "The Swan" and "Extreme Makeover" compete for plastic surgery, everyday women are left wondering, not whether we should consider a little peel, nip or tuck, but when.

How mean are we? Take a look at some of the things the women Glamour surveyed recorded about themselves:

  • "Fat-ass. Lazy b---- . I hate my thighs. I hate my stomach. I hate my arms."
  • "Don't eat that. You could probably use an eating disorder."
  • "Your stomach is fat. That is why you are alone."
  • "Oh my God, look at her waist and legs! We're the same height. She looks like a model. I look like a lumpy sock."
  • "You're obese. All the pretty girls are size 2."
  • "I'm ugly. Too skinny. Look sick."

And, what's worse is that the negative thinking starts young-really, really young. In a 2009 University of Central Florida study of 121 girls, age 3 to 6, about a third wanted to change something about themselves, like their hair color, and nearly half said that they worry about being fat.

Not all women are dreaming of perfection. So how can you be realistic about your body image without bombarding yourself with negativity? Glamour has a few suggestions, among them:

  1. Keep track of the good as well as the bad. If you automatically criticize your looks, take a moment to write down the things you like about yourself, suggests Kearney-Cooke, the psychologist who helped design the survey. "It's absolutely possible to create neural pathways that favor affirming thoughts," she says. Jotting down the things that make you feel good about your body "puts positive stuff front-of-mind and starts becoming instinctive."
  2. Figure out what you're really upset about. Sometimes when we complain about how we look, we're actually taking issue with something we did-it may or may not have anything to do with our body image at all.
  3. Exercise. Of the women surveyed, those who worked out regularly reported fewer negative thoughts about themselves than those who didn't exercise often. The feeling of accomplishment you have after a good work out can boost your mood as well as your body.
  4. Be yourself, and play up your strengths. "You can't make your curly hair straight no matter how many irons you take to it, but you can have your stylist show you how to rock your natural texture," wrote Marie-Gael Gray, a 30-year-old form Athens, Ohio, who took part in the survey. "Taking ownership of your choices gives you power. I'm never going to look in the mirror and see a blond surfer girl, but neither is Christina Hendricks, Zooey Deschanel or Janelle Monae. Those are all stunning women who stand out because they aren't trying to alter their true nature."

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