Thursday 18 January 2018

Herald survey: How happy are you with your body?

We all want the body beautiful, but how many of us really believe that a better life comes with a flatter stomach? In the first of a four-part survey, we probe the image issues draining our confidence and look at the influences behind the all-pervasive pursuit of body perfection

Cheryl Cole
Cheryl Cole
Nicola ROBERTS and Cheryl COLE and Sarah HARDING and Kimberley WALSH
Cheryl Cole of The X Factor
Holly Willoughby
Actress and mum-of-three Kate Winslet

WHAT do you see when you look in the mirror? It turns out that the answer has a huge impact on how women feel about themselves.

In this week's Herald Body Image Survey, the results suggest that we are not particularly happy with the shape of our bodies, with a third of us actively disliking how we look and only 10pc of us liking our body shape "a lot".

Not surprisingly, those who have not gone through the body-ravaging effects of pregnancy and childbirth are happier about their bodies, with 56pc of women with "no dependent children" ticking this box.

Dubliners would also appear to be happier at 58pc of those who like their body shapes. But there is some good news. Most of us like our hair, face, height, hands and ears (all over 50pc).

It's our bums, legs, teeth, arms and feet that we're not so pleased about (all under 50pc).

And nearly three quarters of us hate our tummies. This is hardly surprising as the increase in stress in our lives, experts say, produces cortisol which puts extra weight specifically around our middles. So, we're not imagining it, our tummies are becoming wider by the year!

Body hair is also a big problem with only 20pc of us satisfied with our natural hair growth and half of us actively disliking it a little to a lot!

When asked if they "worry about their body image more than most women", the majority said "about the same". This presents a nonchalant attitude to our bodies, but I suspect the norm may veer nearer to paranoia.

Worryingly, more than a quarter of 18-24-year-olds say that they worry about their body image more than most women, suggesting that our preoccupation with body image is increasing with the younger generation - only 8pc of women aged between 45-54 say they worry more than other women and a good 20pc say they worry less.


Whatever the "ideal body shape" is, most women don't think they are near it at all, which is particularly sad; 51pc of us saying we're "not at all close" or "not very close" to what we believe is an ideal shape.

What influences your perceptions of body image? Poll: Millward/Brown
What influences your perceptions of body image? Poll: Millward/Brown
Who do you most want to look good for?
How close are you to your 'ideal body shape'?
How would your life change with your 'ideal body shape'?

Also worrying is the fact that most of us think our lives would change if we achieved our "ideal body shape", with 19pc saying it would "change a lot" and 37pc agreeing that it would "change a little". And again, the highest proportion of these are in the 18-24 category with the least, at 45pc, in the older 45-54 age group.

Over a third of us feel that it would help us with our relationship(s) and that we would socialise more (34pc); nearly a third (31pc) of us think that other people would treat us differently if we achieved our ideal body shape; and 14pc of us think it would get us a better job.

Why is this? Why would we think that prospective employers would be more likely to hire us if we had achieved our ideal body weight?

Is this a bit of a cop out? Is it convenient for us to blame our weight or shape for not getting the job we'd like?

Or do we really believe that the confidence a perfect body shape would bestow on us would automatically make us more successful, sociable and employable? Are we deluding ourselves?

On a more positive note, half of us believe that whether we lose weight or not wouldn't make a difference to how attractive our partner finds us. Yet more than a third of us think that our partner would find us more attractive - and this percentage rises higher among single (40pc), 25-34-year-olds (45pc), and those who live in Dublin (38pc).

Another positive is that most of say that we want to look good for ourselves, (a whopping 82pc) but yet, we judge ourselves very harshly.

Nearly three quarters of us say we put ourselves down when we receive a compliment (74pc), 63pc of us put ourselves down in front of others, 57pc of us zoom in on photos of ourselves for imperfections and half of us have avoided intimacy because we've felt insecure about our body shape.


Interestingly, the vast majority of us (84pc) say we have never dressed inappropriately for an event to show off our figure (really?) and only 20pc have either cancelled a date or decided not to ask a person out because we didn't feel good about ourselves.

This seems to contradict our earlier assumptions that changing body shape would make us more sociable and attractive and change our lives.

Saddest of all the analysis on how we perceive our body shape is the fact that nearly half of us admit to having cried at some stage about how we look.

It's certainly an eye-opener to see that how we perceive our body image is that important to our self worth.


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