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Women spend an average of 355 hours — two weeks — working on their appearance each year.
 
These numbers are from the recently released TODAY/AOL Ideal to Real Body Image Survey, which found women spend an average of 55 minutes each day primping. But according to an article at www.today.com , for many women, this fixation goes beyond working on their appearance to worrying about it unhealthily — especially when faced with a barrage of picture-perfect images in the media.

 “We are constantly confronted with images,” the piece quotes Ann Kearney-Cooke, who is the director of the Cincinnati Psychotherapy Institute and helped develop some of the survey questions, as saying. “It’s nonstop — you can sit on the subway, or anywhere, and you can also then be looking at this. And the ideals are totally unrealistic.”

Among the findings of the survey were these:

Adult women worry more regularly about their appearance (67 percent at least once a week or more) than they do about finances (62 percent), health (49 percent), family/relationships (46 percent) or professional success (40 percent).

Whether they are engaging in “fat talk” or “old talk,” 77 percent of adult women and 80 percent of teen girls complained about their appearance to someone at least once in the past month.

Appearance worries hit moms doubly hard; 73 percent of moms regularly worry about their appearance, compared to 65 percent of women without children. Plus, 57 percent of moms worry about how their own body image affects their children.

Forty-one percent of adult women say that selfies and other flattering online photos make them “feel more confident,” but 46 percent say “overall, social media makes me feel more self-conscious about my appearance.” Sixty-five percent of teen girls say selfies and flattering online pictures make them feel confident, while 55 percent report feeling “selfie-conscious.”

Seventy-eight percent of women surveyed said they spent almost an hour a day on their appearance to “feel better about themselves.” Looking good seems to be its own reward for women.

Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of Millennials (those ages 16 to 34) worry that people are judging their appearance. On the upside, we fret less with age: 51 percent of Gen Xers (ages 35 to 49) and 35 percent of Boomers (ages 50 to 68) share that worry.

Eighty percent of teen girls compare themselves to glamorous celebrity images. Among those, nearly half are left feeling dissatisfied with their appearance. It makes sense that 56 percent of teen girls wish photo-shopping of models and celebrities would stop.

To combat these unhealthy feelings about appearance, Jonathan Rudiger, a clinical psychologist in Nashville who is quoted in the “Today” piece, recommends appreciating the body for what it can do rather than fixating on how it looks.

“When we move away from ‘pretty’ and ‘ugly’ labels, we can start to appreciate just how amazing our bodies really are,” he adds. “When we set healthy goals and stop focusing on what is wrong with our bodies, we can finally start to appreciate life and enjoy our connection to our body.”

 By Erin Wisdom

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