It's time women learn to love their body

It's time women learn to love their body

The pressure of trying to achieve an unrealistic ‘ideal body’ is trapping millions of women in an unhealthy cycle of depression, short-term dieting, cosmetic intervention and eating disorders, according to new research.

9.7 million women currently feel depressed due to how they look, 1.6 million people live with an eating disorder and 10.2 million women do not exercise because of body anxiety.

A quarter of those women surveyed said they struggled to keep up exercise and diet regimes, and similarly a quarter said they skip meals to lose weight. Four in 10 women said they return to their previous weight after dieting, indicating that a short-term, quick fix mindset is stopping individuals from achieving long-term healthy lifestyles.

The findings were released to mark the start of Body Confidence Week and the launch of Be Real: Body Confidence for Everyone, a new campaign to change attitudes to body image and help people put health above appearance.

Caroline Nokes MP, chair of the APPG for Body Image, says: “Low body confidence is a critical public health issue that we cannot ignore. It affects everyone – all ages, both sexes – and starts as young as five years old. Be Real wants to change attitudes to Body Image, and help all of us, whatever our size, ethnicity or ability, to put health above appearance and be confident with how we look and feel.

“Through this campaign, we’re driving change through three priority areas. We want to ensure children and young people are educated about body confidence from an early age, to promote healthy living and wellbeing over weight loss and appearance, and to encourage the media, business and advertisers to recognise diversity and positively reflect what we really look like.”

Be Real’s research suggests the way women feel they look is having a detrimental impact on their personal relationships and achievements. A quarter say their body image has held them back from having a fulfilling relationship, a third say they have avoided speaking out at school or in a meeting due to body issues and a quarter say anxiety around the way they look has stopped them going for the job they wanted.

Almost four fifths of women agree the UK is suffering from a body confidence epidemic and 54 percent of women think issues relating to body image are increasing. Over half say they feel powerless about society’s obsession with looks and by uniting schools, businesses, charities, public bodies and individuals, Be Real wants to change this and help everyone to celebrate real, healthy and diverse bodies.

Denise Hatton, Chief Executive of youth charity YMCA England, says: “Too often the way we look becomes a measure of who we are and there is a growing pressure to achieve an aesthetic ideal that few of us can live up to. When we feel bad about how we look, we make bad choices about our health and are stopped from achieving our full potential. We are seeing this amongst young people, both boys and girls, across the country and urgently need to help them become confident about who they are and what they look like.”

Be Real has been founded in partnership with Dove and is coordinated by YMCA. It is sponsored by Bare Minerals, Debenhams, Facebook, Forster Communications, Government Equalities Office, N Brown, New Look, Superdrug, YMCA and All Walks Beyond the Catwalk. It was formed in response to the 2012 Reflections on Body Image report from the All Party Parliamentary Group for Body Image and responds to the growing urgency for change.

Mark Bleathman, VP Brand Building at Unilever, the campaign’s founding partner says: “At Dove, we are committed to building a world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety. Through the work of the Dove Self-Esteem Project, we create educational resources for young people to help inspire them to feel good about their appearance and to reach their potential in life. Working with the Be Real Campaign, we will continue to champion a broader, more inclusive definition of beauty.’

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