Body issues: Are we really proud to be curvy?


Body issues: Are we really proud to be curvy

As we watch once hard-bodied celebrities throw in the dumbbells and embrace their softer silhouettes, Anna Pursglove asks…

Model Robyn Lawley is 6ft 2in and a size 16. 'I used to do everything I could to lose weight,' she says. But as soon as she signed to a plus-size agent her career took off

Model Robyn Lawley is 6ft 2in and a size 16. 'I used to do everything I could to lose weight,' she says. But as soon as she signed to a plus-size
agent her career took off

Call me cynical, but after years working on the glossies I am filled with scepticism when told that ‘curves are back’. Scratch the surface of this pronouncement and it always turns out to be the clothes that are required to be curvy but never the women wearing them. /11/08/article-0-15A3BA54000005DC-368_306x423.jpg” width=”306″ height=”423″ alt=”'I'm going to live to be 100 and show my thighs every day till I die' lena Dunham” class=”blkBorder” />

'I'm going to live to be 100 and show my thighs every day till I die' lena Dunham

'I don't have the drive to be the thinnest' Salma Hayek

'I don't have the drive to be the thinnest' Salma Hayek

'If you can work it, that confidence is going to shine through' Christina Aguilera

'If you can work it, that confidence is going to shine through' Christina Aguilera

'I am proud at any size' Lady Gaga

'I am proud at any size' Lady Gaga

And not only does body honesty do wonders for your self-esteem, it won’t do your career any harm either. When Wisconsin TV anchor Jennifer Livingston stood up on air to a man who had emailed her accusing her of being an unsuitable role model for girls because of her weight, she became an overnight celebrity and a poster girl for anti-bullying. Emmerdale actress Lisa Riley (who announced she had entered Strictly Come Dancing ‘for chubbers everywhere’) is a serious contender in the competition after bookies slashed odds on her winning following outstanding performances.

So are these the first rumblings of a backlash against the ultra-thin and cosmetically enhanced models of female perfection A movement towards embracing our natural body shapes

Body-image experts are divided on the issue. Professor Sarah Grogan of Staffordshire University’s centre for health psychology and author of Body Image: Understanding Body Dissatisfaction in Men, Women and Children, says, ‘Women are much better informed about airbrushing techniques and are more critical of media imagery than formerly, and many say that they would like to see a range of bodies presented in the media.’ She also adds that women such as Gaga and Aguilera have a crucial role to play in influencing younger women, as her own research suggests: ‘Younger women are more likely to compare themselves with celebrities than older women [those over 40] are.’

Grogan warns, however, that we – particularly younger women and girls – are a long way from making peace with our natural weight and shape. Although increasing numbers of us believe that the media and TV present unrealistic images of female bodies, she says we continue to strive for those ideals even while knowing them to be artificially constructed and often unattainable.

Consultant plastic and aesthetic surgeon Garrick Georgeu (who recently spoke to colleagues at the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons about the latest innovations in breast enhancement) agrees that age very much influences body image. ‘It is usually the younger women who want that false, Towie look,’ he says. ‘They want their breasts to look very big as this is their perception of what is normal today. Older women are now tending to opt for the new conical implant shape, which creates an uplifted, fuller, perky breast with a natural shape.’ Those Christina Hendricks silhouettes are going to be popping up all over.

So it seems that while older women may finally be making peace with their bodies, it’s the younger generation who really need to hear the message from the likes of Gaga and Aguilera. Jo Swinson, minister for women and equalities, who this year chaired an all-party parliamentary group on body image following a three-month public inquiry, warns against complacency on the issue. ‘Just take a look at this year’s Girlguiding UK’s Girls’ Attitudes survey, where we’re seeing some very worrying trends [including one in three secondary-school girls saying they would consider surgery to alter their appearance and 68 per cent of girls believing that women are judged more on appearance than ability],’ she says. ‘What would really show progress would be to reach a point where we aren’t discussing weight at all but looking at other qualities.’

It’s a view shared by counsellor and psychologist Amanda Hills, who runs a private practice in Southwest London treating people with eating disorders and body-image problems. While she acknowledges that it isn’t a bad thing for high-profile women to be publicly body confident, she urges everyone to remember that positive body image begins not on MTV but at home. ‘Mothers really need to think about what they are saying in front of their daughters,’ she says. ‘Are you fixating on weight and diet Are you complimenting other women by remarking that they have lost weight Are you sitting down with your children to eat Unless we start to change the way we educate our children about diet, weight and body image, I’m not sure there’s a great deal even Lady Gaga can do to make things better.’