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Body image-boosting TV shows make viewers feel worse: study

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If you're feeling self-conscious about your figure, change the channel the next time How to Look Good Naked comes on. Researchers have found television shows aimed at encouraging real people to embrace their bodies unintentionally have the opposite effect.

According to the Huffington Post, a study to be published next year in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology shows that these kinds of body image-boosting TV programs can actually make viewers feel worse.

The study examined the mood, body anxiety and weight dissatisfaction of 120 female college students, who were divided into three groups. One group was asked to watch the British version of How to Look Good Naked, a program geared toward promoting a positive body image. The second watched Britain and Ireland's Next Top Model, a show promoting an idealized, thin body shape. And the third watched a neutral nature documentary.

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Participants who watched the nature documentary were found to be happier afterward, while those who watched Next Top Model were less happy than they were before seeing the show. Participants who watched How to Look Good Naked recorded no change in mood. However, both How to Look Good Naked and Next Top Model significantly increased participants' body anxiety and weight dissatisfaction, the Huffington Post reports.

Lead researcher Viren Swami told the Huffington Post a major problem with body image-boosting shows is they still emphasize attractiveness.

"Because the focus is on the body, you become more aware of your own concerns and how you feel about your body," Dr. Swami said. "The women [on How to Look Good Naked]all have problems with their bodies and are trying to improve them. The implicit suggestion is that you should be doing the same."

As the Huffington Post points out, you're probably better off watching the Discovery Channel or turning off the television altogether.

Do you feel worse after watching programs intended to make you feel better about your body?

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More

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