Whole-body scanning may be the motivation many women need to commit to and maintain healthy lifestyles, according to a new study.
For many women, improved appearance and body image are the main incentive to eat healthily and be physically active but the strict regimens are often difficult to stick with.
A new study published in Psychology & Health reveals how using the scanners to generate accurate three-dimensional (3D) images of the body can be a useful tool in motivating women to continue with their diet and exercise plans.
Researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Manchester investigated the women’s responses to seeing their own scans, and the impact this had on their motivations to live more healthy lifestyles.
For the women involved in the research, the scans did not look as expected and participants expressed ‘surprise’ and ‘shock’ at their own body images.
Sarah Grogan, lead researcher and Professor of Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “Looking at whole-body scans gave the women access to a more comprehensive view of their bodies than possible through looking in a mirror. The scans offered a unique view of their bodies in three dimensions and from all possible angles.
“The women involved in the study did have a positive body image to begin with but despite their body confidence, we found that the women often focused on the perceived negative aspects of their bodies as revealed in scan images.
“Some participants used the ‘problem areas’ revealed in the scans as a guide to where they wanted to make improvements, and see changes on their body.”
During the interviews process, one participant said: “Even if there is stuff I don’t like, I’m hoping it will give me that bit of an extra push to carry on and lose a bit more weight. If the scan is not as bad as I thought, I’m hoping that will just be a nice boost and encourage me to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Another participant said: “I think a little bit of a kick is sometimes what you need.”
Despite the positive impact of the scans on some women, some participants did not alter their lifestyles. Other participants agreed that women with body issues and concerns would find scans too ‘real’ and ‘raw’, which could increase their body-related concerns.
Professor Grogan added: “Our study showed that whole-body scanning may enable maintenance or even acceleration of physical activity and healthy eating, but is unlikely to be useful in promoting initiation of these behaviours. Developing this method further could be a great way of helping women stay on the right track.”