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‘I think a little bit of a kick is sometimes what you need’: Women’s Accounts of Whole-body Scanning and Likely Impact on Health-related Behaviours

Grogan, Sarah and Siddique, MA and Gill, S and Brownbridge, K and Storey, E and Armitage, CJ (2017) ‘I think a little bit of a kick is sometimes what you need’: Women’s Accounts of Whole-body Scanning and Likely Impact on Health-related Behaviours. Psychology and Health, 32 (9). pp. 1037-1054. ISSN 0887-0446

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Abstract

Objective: This study was designed to investigate whether whole-body scanning might promote healthy eating and physical activity in women, and to explore the effects of scanning on body image. Design: Fourteen women aged 22-45 years without histories of eating disorders or whole-body scanning, took part in semi-structured interviews before and after scanning. Data were analysed using inductive thematic analysis. Results: Scans did not look as expected, and participants expressed ‘surprise’ and ‘shock’. Participants focused on perceived negative aspects of their bodies as revealed in scan images, and agreed that women with body concerns would find scans too ‘real’ and ‘raw’. Eleven women who met UK government physical activity and healthy eating guidelines reported that the scan provided additional motivation to maintain, and in nine cases to increase, those behaviours. Two women who neither exercised nor ate healthily would not increase physical activity or change their diets following scanning. Conclusion: 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. Participants engaged in unhelpful body critique when viewing scans; scanning needs to be confined to contexts where support is provided, to avoid increasing body-related concerns.

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