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Shift in women's self-body image favors healthy lifestyle, study says

Posted at 4:50 PM, Apr 12, 2018

If you thought thin was in, think again.

A study shows the perception of the ideal female body shape among U.S. women has significantly changed over time.

Graduate student Frances Bozsik of the University of Missouri at Kansas City is working toward a Clinical Health Psychology Ph.D. 

One of Bozsik's studies had a sample group of 78 undergraduate women. They were shown swimsuit photos of winners of the Miss USA competition from 1999 to 2013.

The undergrads ranked the winners on how well they fit current beauty standards like muscle strength, thinness and attractiveness. 

Results showed recent winners no longer only exemplify the body ideal of thinness but have also become increasingly muscular over the past 15 years.

Bozsik believes there has been a cultural shift that now includes the appearance of physical fitness through muscularity. That is also backed by another portion of Bozsik's research.

In a second study, students ranked thin and thin and muscular photos of women equally. But, when compared side-by-side, they chose thin and muscular.

This is something Fusion Fitness supports from a young age.

They have a class called Strong Like Mom that encourages a positive self-image for women.

"Kids are hearing so much from social media, friends, magazines, focused on these perfect images, which are not real," explained mom and instructor Shauna Pierce.

She brought her 8-year-old Sienna to class on Wednesday. She said she is learning to make her own life choices.

"You have to eat a bunch of healthy food and exercise a lot," said Sienna.

Her mother said the real learning comes from her daughter watching her own decisions.

Wednesday's class was a circuit style that promoted both strength and cardio training. There was an easier and advanced version for kids of all ages and levels.

The Pierces said they have fun taking the class together and that it's a bonding experience.

"At first during a class, I was like, I want to be like her when I grow up," said Sienna about her mom.

Sienna also laughed saying her mom can do some moves she can't, but that she tries anyway. That's OK with mom, who says pushing and accepting yourself is a game changer.

"It's mentally, it's physically, it's the way that you feel. Strong bodies, healthy lifestyles," said Pierce.