Women More OK With Their Bodies Than They Used to Be

Women More OK With Their Bodies Than They Used to Be JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Go to your nearest mirror, take off all your clothes and study yourself closely.

Are you feeling happy with your body? Cool with cellulite? Worry-free about wrinkles? Or are you frowning, groaning and shaking your fist at the sky at the image staring back?

If you're the former, you're probably a woman. The latter, and you're probably going to identify as a male.

Hmm. Maybe that's a bit much. But researchers who conducted a meta-analysis of more than 250 studies over the period of 1981 to 2012 found that while women, as a group, have consistently reported being more dissatisfied than men about their weight over the decades, that dissatisfaction has declined over time. Men, on the other hand, have remained consistently dissatisfied.

So the mirror test probably isn't going to reveal your gender identity, considering women are still frowning in the mirror — albeit less — and we're talking weight, not necessarily body image. But the results of the analysis prove a bit surprising, considering obesity rates among the U.S. population (more than one-third of adults in the U.S. are obese).

Acknowledging that males and females conform to different standards of weight-consciousness, the researchers also looked at 81 studies related to muscle size, a body image issue that traditionally might be more fraught for men. They found that men were more likely to find their musculature lacking, but those results didn't change significantly over the 14-year period for either gender. 

This new study may be a sign that women are accepting some of what research has pointed out: that overweight doesn't necessarily mean unhealthy. It also may indicate that societal pressures related to being thin may be easing up somewhat for girls and women.