Body trouble - pursuit of perfection

IS the body beautiful an achievable aspiration or are the nation's women simply giving themselves a hard time unnecessarily?Here, as a new survey reveals the low state of women's body image in this region, Debbie Watson reports on our endless – and costly – drive for perfect beauty.

By Debbie Watson

IS the body beautiful an achievable aspiration or are the nation's women simply giving themselves a hard time unnecessarily?

Here, as a new survey reveals the low state of women's body image in this region, Debbie Watson reports on our endless – and costly – drive for perfect beauty.

DISAPPROVING of our looks, desperate to lose weight and reasonably happy with our breasts – that's East Anglian women for you!

According to a new survey out this week, women from our region are so obsessed with achieving the body beautiful that the vast majority have been on a diet and many of us would seriously consider cosmetic surgery.

Poor body confidence is no new phenomenon among Britain's women.

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Health experts have frequently spoken about the modern day problem of females continuously pursuing physical perfection. They claim that media images and a growing number of skinny celebrity females help to give women a distorted view of how they ought to look.

It is a reality that has been blamed for the rising number of young women who appear to be succumbing to eating disorders.

This latest survey, compiled for women's magazine REAL, reaches revealing conclusions about female body perceptions.

Of the 5,000 women surveyed during the course of the research only 3 per cent were able to say that they felt happy with their body. In fact, three quarters of British women appear to be unhappy with their shape, 71 pc unhappy with their weight and six out of ten positively 'depressed' about the way they look.

For East Anglian women specifically, the rate of 'body satisfaction' falls even lower. Only one per cent of females in our region refer to themselves as 'happy' with their body.

This comes as little surprise to people who work in the field of improving 'body image'.

Jan Hamilton is a volunteer at Body Matters, a set-up which is based at Ipswich's St Clements Hospital and helps those with weight problems to gain better personal confidence.

"I'm not particularly surprised by the survey results. I think we live in a world where people are very conscious of how they look and it stands to reason that that will make our confidence about ourselves very vulnerable.

"Here at Body Matters we see people with body image problems and who have a difficult relationship with food.

"We try to encourage exercise and complementary therapy as a means of breaking the cycle and making people feel better about themselves."

Body Matters works on the principle that a healthy mind and a healthy body are very much linked.

Jan added: "It's very effective if you can offer exercise and thinks like aromatherapy as a way to encourage wellbeing.

"Unfortunately there are a lot of other people who go it alone and can end up very down.

"I personally think that a lot of the problem is in the unattainable images that we are constantly seeing in the media. We need to be rational and no that it is unrealistic to aim for the body shape of these women."

Most frightening is the survey's revelations about the extreme measures that so many British women have gone to to try and improve their overall look.

The statistics show that 84 per cent of all women have dieted at some stage, with 21 pc having popped slimming pills and 53 pc of underweight women admitting that they are still unhappy with their body.

Mary McDermott, who is a specialist dietician based at Ipswich Hospital, claims a huge proportion of women are prone to this problem.

"Generally I would say a lot of women suffer from some sort of disordered eating in modern society," she said.

"That could mean skipping meals, feeling guilty about eating certain types of food and also the beginnings of starving and binging."

Like Jan, Mary also believes that unrealistic representations of women are to blame.

"It's very easy to blame what we see on television and in magazines but very often we are rational enough to know that these women have been changed to look even more beautiful.

"We have to look beyond the media as well. There is certainly one theory that suggests while men have historically competed at work, women have historically competed through their looks."

She added: "I think it's unlikely that the media are going to completely stop using the beautiful people to sell their programmes and their magazines.

"Beauty does sell after all.

"We just need to be sensible enough to make our own choices and be rational about whether we are trying too hard to change ourselves beyond any sensible proportion."



Just one per cent of women in East Anglia think they have the perfect body.

Whatever their shape, 95 pc say they are unhappy with their hips and thighs.

A total of 92 pc have tried to diet.

37pc would rule out cosmetic surgery. This makes East Anglian women the most likely to do so.

58pc are happy with their breasts – more so than any other women in the UK.

Which celebrities have the perfect body? (according to the REAL survey).


Best face – Catherine Zeta Jones

Best Bust – Liz Hurley

Best Bum – Jennifer Lopez

Best Legs – Kylie Minogue

Best Hair – Catherine Zeta Jones


Best Face – Brad Pitt

Best six-pack – Robbie Williams

Best Bum - Mel Gibson

Best Legs – David Beckham

Best Hair – Hugh Grant

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