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Body anxiety traps millions in poor health

Figures released today (13 October) reveal that the pressure of trying to achieve an unrealistic ‘ideal body’ is trapping millions of people in the UK in an unhealthy cycle of depression, short-term dieting, cosmetic intervention and eating disorders.

  • 16 million people in the UK ‘depressed’ due to the way they think they look
  • 18 million people do not exercise due to body anxiety
  • One in four say body image has held them back from a fulfilling relationship and one in five have avoided going for a job they wanted

New campaign launches to build a body confident nation

The findings 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.

Be Real has been created to stop the physical and mental health impacts that low body confidence has on people of all ages. Sixteen million people currently feel depressed due to how they look, 1.6 million live with an eating disorder and 18 million do not exercise because of body anxiety.

A quarter of those surveyed said they struggled to keep up exercise and diet regimes, and a fifth said they skip meals to lose weight. A third 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.

More than one in seven people have considered cosmetic interventionsvii and almost a fifth of 18-24 year olds are currently taking muscle building supplements to improve the way they look.

Be Real’s research suggests the way people 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 relationshipix, one in four say they have avoided speaking out at school or in a meeting due to body issues and a fifth say anxiety around the way they look has stopped them going for the job they wanted.

Be Real has been founded in partnership with Dove and is coordinated by YMCA. It is sponsored by bareMinerals, Debenhams, Facebook, Forster Communications, Government Equalities Office, N Brown, New Look, Superdrug and YMCA, with All Walks Beyond the Catwalk as a lead ambassador. 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.

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.

She continues: “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.”

Almost three quarters of adults agree the UK is suffering from a body confidence epidemic and 50 percent of people think issues relating to body image are increasing. Over half the population 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.”

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.’

For further information, resources and advice visit www.berealcampaign.co.ukfacebook.com/BeRealBodyConfidence or join the conversation @bereal_campaign#bereal

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For more information, case studies or interviews with key spokespeople, please contact Becci or Tom at Forster on 020 7403 2230 or Becci@forster.co.uk / Tom@forster.co.uk

Notes to editors

About Be Real: Body Confidence for Everyone

  • Be Real is campaigning to change attitudes to body image and help all of us put health above appearance and be confident in our bodies.
  • Be Real is a national movement made up of individuals, schools, businesses, charities and public bodies.
  • Be Real was formed in response to the Reflections on Body Image report from the All Party Parliamentary Group for Body Image. Chaired by MP Caroline Nokes and run by YMCA, the campaign was founded in partnership with Dove and is sponsored by bareMinerals, Debenhams, Facebook, Forster Communications, Government Equalities Office, N Brown, New Look, Superdrug and YMCA, with All Walks Beyond the Catwalk as a lead ambassador.
  • Be Real unites individuals and organisations, amplifying the voices of those working to change attitudes and behaviour. Supporting them with research and resources, we’re bringing together their expertise and influence and working collectively to build a body confident nation.
  • www.berealcampaign.co.uk | @BeReal_Campaign | Facebook.com/BeRealBodyConfidence

What are the aims of the campaign?

Real education

We want to give our children and young people a body confident start to life so that they can achieve everything they want to.

We’re calling for:

  • Schools to take a whole-school approach to promoting body confidence across early years, primary and secondary education;
  • Parents to set a positive example and encourage body confidence;
  • Young people to support each other to be body confident as they grow and develop.

We’ll support this by:

  • Gathering and sharing best practice, information and resources;
  • Raising awareness and understanding of the issue, and building the case for change;
  • Piloting programmes in partnership with schools, early-years providers and out-of-school groups to ensure the right information and resources are available to help build body confidence.

Real health

We want to ensure that healthy living and general wellbeing are prioritised over appearance and weight. We want to see a dramatic change in the way health initiatives encourage and support everybody to be healthy and happy.

We’re calling for:

  • The healthcare sector and those in the diet, health and fitness industries to promote long-term healthy living and wellbeing ahead of a short-term approach focused on weight loss and appearance;
  • Individuals to celebrate feeling good and being healthy, and encouraging them to promote brands and initiatives that support body confidence and challenge those which don’t.

We’ll support this by:

  • Gathering and sharing best practice, information and resources;
  • Raising awareness and understanding of the issue, and building the case for change;
  • Piloting programmes in partnership with public health, sports and nutrition providers to ensure body confidence is rapidly integrated into health and wellbeing programmes.

Real Diversity

We want media, businesses and advertisers to positively reflect what we really look like – whatever our age, gender, ethnicity, size and shape, and regardless of whether we have a disability.

We’re calling for:

  • Media, advertisers and publishers to use images that show what we really look like so we can feel more confident about who we are;
  • Individuals to use their power as consumers by buying from businesses that support body confidence and challenging those who don’t.

We’ll support this by:

  • Gathering and sharing best practice, information and resources;
  • Raising awareness and understanding of the issue, and building the case for change;
  • Piloting programmes in partnership with media, advertisers and businesses to ensure beauty, fashion and retail help individuals build their body confidence.
Katya Bridges - UK and Ireland Media Relations Manager

T: 01372 945925
M: 07785 450287

katya.bridges@unilever.com

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