1 in 4 of us is obese. We are bombarded daily with statistics telling us that our love of all things fried will put as big a strain on our hearts as it will on the NHS in years to come. And yet, it is estimated that between 1.1 and 1.6 million people in Britain are affected by an eating disorder.
It is easy to blame the media, with their unrealistic portrayals of what a human body should look like. Beyonce is reported to have refused to allow H&M to use altered images of her in a bikini . When asked for her beauty secret, she always points to sacrifice and hard work. She did not want an unrealistic, hairless, ‘thigh-gap’-happy, distorted image of her figure to dishearten her female fans.
Another renowned beauty, Shakira, proved that the distorted reality of body image does not just come from the media, but often from within ourselves. In 2010 she reported needing years of therapy to help her ‘love her body’. Women the world over contemplate what they would do for her looks, be it murder, yogalates or root canal surgery. I drew the line at torturous spin classes and renouncing caramel slices. The point is, Shakira’s insecurity goes to prove that body confidence has little to do with your body. It’s all in the mind.
We live in a world of mixed messages. Television is a confusion of dieting programmes, ad breaks filled with ladies drifting blissfully down rivers of Toblerone, and the Great British Bake Off. My favourite magazine, Elle France, had a promising front cover a couple of weeks ago: ‘Ditch your body hang-ups this summer’. A double page spread was filled with well meaning cliché on how to ‘love the skin you’re in’, followed by a diet plan to lose 3kg before hitting the beach. What the hell are we supposed to do with that?
A recent study suggests that women in their 30s are most happy with their bodies, partly because they’ve settled in to a regime that works for them, and partly because they give fewer shits what the world thinks. I think it’s ludicrous that we should spend our twenties getting to a stage which should come naturally.
Caitlin Moran says in her book How to be a Woman, that if can find a dress you’re comfortable in then you’re doing just fine. I say amen to that.