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The Thing Most Americans Can Agree to Not Love

Photograph by Twenty20

Americans—especially female Americans—are a pretty negative bunch, especially when it comes to loving the one thing we're all stuck with: our bodies.

A recent Yahoo online survey of 2,000 men and women around the U.S. found that, overall, only 1 in 7 considered themselves "body positive," meaning they feel positively about the way their body looks. Men were nearly twice as likely as women to be body positive, and teen boys are more than 3.5 times as likely to be body positive—even though the overall percentage was still pretty small.

No surprises here, according to an expert who spoke to Yahoo Health. Sari Shepphird, a psychologist and body image expert, said women are sent negative images about their bodies—even directly—more more than men are.

"Within our culture, it's fair game now to comment on a woman's weight, regardless of her age," she told the website. "It used to be that only happened for women who highlighted their bodies, like models."

And it starts pretty young. The survey found that "94 percent of teen females have experienced body shame, but only 64 percent of teen males have experienced it."

Honestly, the numbers are awful but really no surprise, especially to women. But here's where the survey gets interesting: The body positivity rate increases as women age while it decreases as men age. Women hit peak body positivity between ages 35 and 54—but, even still, that only happens to 13 percent of women. Men haven't been subjected to the negative commentary all their lives, which explains their late-in-life self-loathing.

Half of the women surveyed felt either neutral or negative about their bodies.

So if culture plays a role, what can we do now to lift up how all people feel about their bodies, themselves? The same survey found that those females who had a mom who was not self-critical of her weight "made them nearly 40 percent more likely to be body positive or body neutral."

In fact, any authority figure who talked about her body in a neutral or positive way influenced a more accepting stance toward one's own body, the survey found.

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