This self-compassion may protect girls and young women against unhealthy weight-control practices and eating disorders.

"Women may experience a more positive body image and better eating habits if they approach disappointments and distress with kindness and the recognition that these struggles are a normal part of life," explained professor Allison Kelly from the department of psychology at the University of Waterloo.

The study gathered data from 153 female under-graduate students and used BMI calculations based on each participant's self-reported height and weight.

The research team administered a series of questionnaires assessing levels of self-compassion, self-esteem, body image and eating behaviour.

"We found that regardless of their weight, women with higher self-compassion have better body image and fewer concerns about weight, body shape or eating," Kelly noted.

According to her, "there is something about a high level of acceptance and understanding of oneself that helps people not necessarily view their bodies more positively but rather acknowledge their bodies' imperfections and be okay with them".

The study appears in the journal Body Image.

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