Thursday, November 29, 2012

Health discussions and proposals

This week the British general public has been at the centre of health related discussions and proposals; all aimed at improving our health and reducing NHS costs.

1. Lifestyle costs

We heard the views of Dr Phillip Lee, the Conservative MP for Bracknell, speaking to the Institute for Economic Affairs. During his talk he suggested that individuals with medical conditions that are diagnosed as being ‘lifestyle’ based, should be made to contribute to the cost of their healthcare. The NHS, Dr Lee argued, was under "increasing burden”. He evidenced this by explaining that the number of diabetic’s is estimated to increase by 700,000 by the end of the decade. 90% of diabetes cases will be Type 2, which is often (not always) aggravated by an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise and being overweight.

"This clearly isn't a sustainable position," Dr Lee stressed.

Commenting on the issue, the Department of Health stated that the NHS was committed to meeting “patient’s needs and expectations in the face of growing demand from the public”. They continued:

"Decisions on treatments should be made by clinicians taking the needs of each individual into account”.

2. Parking charges

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), who sets national standards for healthcare, is calling for initiatives that will have the effect of “encouraging people to walk or cycle”. They believed success “could be achieved, for instance, by introducing restricted parking and higher parking charges”.

They hope that increased exercise will improve the population’s health and fitness levels and reduce ill-health going forward.

However, NICE have added caution by conceding that anyone considering such a scheme would need to ”consider how this would impact on car owners living in areas where the environment is not conducive to walking or cycling, or where there is little real alternative to driving.”

3. The price of alcohol

The government has outlined the start of consultations, on their plans to curb the excesses of Britain’s binge drinkers. It includes the introduction of a 45p minimum unit price for alcohol.

The home secretary, Theresa May, said in a statement that she hoped the price increase would “turn the tide” away from irresponsible drinking. The price increase is also expected to prevent 714 alcohol-related deaths , reduce crime and hospital admissions by 1 and 1.2 million respectively and save the British taxpayer £21 billion each year.

Multi-buy deals are also under scrutiny and could be restricted / banned. 

What do you think?

i) We have a wise and proactive government (and government agencies), looking after the welfare of the UK public, maintaining law & order and effectively managing it's budget.


ii) There is too much state interference, points 2 and 3 in particular. 


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Friends and body image

If you want a positive body image; you should deliberately socialise with healthy, confident friends. Why?

Researchers (Mount Allison University) have carried out a study to ascertain how adults felt about their body image and their attitudes to losing weight. They looked at 75 pairs of female friends, who were asked to state the frequency in which they confided to friends about issues concerning, appearance, weight, diet or fitness level. The study found that those individuals with friends, who were overly concerned about such issues, could “catch” the obsession.

The research points to the fact that body image issues and the pressure to lose weight is not, as you would naturally assume, related to a woman’s actual body size or weight. Instead it is correlated to a woman’s social network and the inherent body image issues within the social network itself.

Dr Louise Wasylkiw and Molly Williamson, who led the study, said: “Our research demonstrates that friends influence each other through at least three processes: perceived pressure to be thin; body-related talk; and perceptions. Although these perceptions are somewhat grounded in reality, ie close to the truth, they are more influential than reality.”

We wholeheartedly agree that perceptions are often “more influential than reality”. This is something that we see and hear about on a very regular basis. Our aim, especially in our workshops, is to bring reality to the fore and shed light on the truth.

I’ll finish with the famous and pertinent words from Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your own consent.”


Friday, November 23, 2012

I want to change my body

On Monday, I watched BBC3’s I Want To Change My Body.

The programme promised, ‘30 young people, filming themselves. Their stories, in their own words’.

In the event the program focussed on a small subset of the group. As a member of the viewing audience, I naturally slotted each individual into groups of my own.

My heart went out to a couple of them e.g. Chloe, who had suffered terrible burns, when her hair accidently caught fire. Chloe felt ugly and wandered if anyone would be able to look beyond the scars in order to form a relationship with her. Then there was Amber, whose severe chronic acne was painful and stubbornly resistant to prescription, over the counter and alternative treatments. Luckily, help came in the form of laser treatments, resulting in significant improvements in both her condition and level of happiness.

I felt sympathy for Tom, who suffered from perfuse underarm perspiration and was pleased when Botox resolved the issue.

The remainder of the group left me feeling concerned, largely because I was not convinced that surgery would solve their body image issues. These individuals were very unhappy with their appearance, so much so that they were prepared to pay thousands and suffer pain or discomfort, in order to change their breast size, nose, weight or hair-line. “They go through that… just to make themselves look a little bit more fake”, commented Chloe.

My concerned seemed well founded when at the end of the programme:

i) Katt, who had breast augmentation that took her from a 32A to a 32D, was thinking about additional surgery because she wanted to “go bigger eventually”.
ii) Tom (number two) whose nose surgery was featured, later revealed that following his surgery, he had undergone a cosmetic procedure on his teeth.
iii) Alex, who also had nose surgery, ended by saying she wouldn’t mind having her breast done in the future, not due to their size, but because she wanted them “rounder.”
iv) What happens if the change in my body doesn’t change the way I feel about myself?
Hazel had asked the question prior to her gastric sleeve surgery. At the end of the programme, 13 weeks after surgery and after a 61 pound weigh loss, she stated:
“I am still not at the stage where I’m happy with my body, no way near. I look in the mirror and I still see a fat girl. I want to get to a stage where I am healthy and slim”.

One criticism I have of the programme, is that it was too long. It could easily have been 15-20 minutes shorter (and better) without losing any of the underlying message.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

This picture is for ....

When 18 year old Stella Boonshoft posted a picture of herself, in her underwear, on the internet; she was unprepared for the response.

The blog and picture, that revealed Stella’s size 16 (U.S. size 12) body went viral and has been viewed over 4 million times. The post/picture has also ignited a body image debate across the US.

The commentary began with the words:

'WARNING: Picture might be considered obscene because subject is not thin. And we all know that only skinny people can show their stomachs and celebrate themselves. Well I’m not going to stand for that. This is my body. Not yours. MINE. Meaning the choices I make about it, are none of your *** business. Meaning my size, IS NONE OF YOUR *** BUSINESS'.

It continued:

 'If my big belly and fat arms and stretch marks and thick thighs offend you, then that’s okay. I’m not going to hide my body and my being to benefit your delicate sensitivities.

This picture is for the strange man at my nanny’s church who told me my belly was too big when I was five.

This picture is for my horseback riding trainer telling me I was too fat when I was nine.

This picture is for the girl from summer camp who told me I’d be really pretty if I just lost a few pounds.

This picture is for all the *** stupid advertising agents who are selling us cream to get rid of our stretch marks, a perfectly normal thing most people have (I got mine during puberty)'.

In an interview response to the heated public debate Stella, told the Today show:

“I got an outpouring of love, like pretty much instantly. It was also extremely overwhelming because I made myself so vulnerable on the internet. It's a one-way conversation with people.”
Explaining why she had posted the message and picture on a public website she said:
“I finally came to a place where I was really happy with the way I looked... and I wanted to, you know, give a message to the bullies who had tormented me and show them that it didn't work….
“We don't have the authority to go judge other people's beauty, and we don't have the authority to make, you know, assumptions about other people's health based on the way they look….
“It's not to promote being unhealthy. It’s not to promote anything like that. It's to take away the stigma of overweight people in America …”


Monday, November 19, 2012

Female athletes - body beautiful?

On Thursday, BBC Radio 5 live broadcasted a ‘Body Beautiful’ themed programme. The programme deliberated on the body related criticisms that some British female Olympic athletes received during the games.

In the studio Denise Lewis discussed the issues raised; ably supported by Jess Ennis, Zoe Smith and Hollie Avil, who enriched the discussion by adding poignant personal experience.


Denise Lewis, Olympic heptathlete gold medallist: "It comes back down to not wanting to stand out …. Girls need to know it is ok to look a bit different and a bit talented and gifted."

Hollie Avil, former triathlon world and European champion, commenting on her eating disorder: "I was actually doing really well (performance wise). I was running super quick, because I was really light. My coach said he wouldn't work with an athlete with an eating disorder. I did put on weight, but I was still very weight conscious. It's sad to look back on it...".

Continue Reading


Thursday, November 15, 2012

The media and body size concerns

Recent research (100 women) conducted by Durham University has established that the size of models featured in photos have a powerful impact on attitudes to body size and shape.

The study entailed showing participants images of thin and plus-size models and ordinary women in plain grey leotards.

Respondents initially showed a penchant for thinner women in the images of models shown to them. This tendency reduced when they were later exposed to images of larger women, but increased if additional images of slim models were presented to them.

Dr Lynda Boothroyd, who conducted the study stated that the media was an important and "powerful factor in creating body dissatisfaction.”

She continued: "There is evidence that being constantly surrounded through the media by celebrities and models who are very thin contributes to girls and women having an unhealthy attitude to their bodies.

Dr Lynda Boothroyd added: "Although we don't yet know whether brief exposure to pictures of larger women will change women's attitudes in the long term, our findings certainly indicate that showing more 'normal' models could potentially reduce women's obsession for thinness …… Thinner bodies are definitely in vogue and, within Western media, thinness is overwhelmingly idolised and being overweight is often stigmatised.”

Rachel Cowey from South Shields, who developed anorexia at 16, told the BBC: "Within the media, being thin and attractive is linked to being successful.

"The doctors told me it was impossible to survive at the weight I was, yet the media constantly showed skinny celebrities who were apparently absolutely fine."


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Movember, facial hair and appearance

The Movember campaign, raising awareness about and helping the fight against prostate and testicular cancer, is currently being supported my thousands of men across the UK and around the world. To show support as well as raise funds, individuals can play an active part by growing a moustache throughout November.

Siobhain Fletcher (36) is a woman who will show her support by growing a mustache like her male cohorts. She is able to grow a mustache, unlike the average woman, because she has the medical condition, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). The disorder has given her high levels of testosterone, which results in the growth of facial hair.

On a normal day Siobhain, would shave before leaving her house. However, she has decided to forgo her normal routine in order to support this month’s Movember campaign.

"If I can go out on the street with a beard or moustache for a month”, she said, “then surely men who are experiencing health problems can go and get themselves tested”.

"My facial hair used to contribute to depression and anxiety”, Siobhain said in a statement that makes it clear that her condition has often resulted in painful experiences. “But”, she continued, “this is for a good cause”.

Siobhain is also hoping that supporting the campaign will also have the added benefit of educating others to look beyond physical appearance.

“I want to highlight that people shouldn't judge you on what you have on your face, it's what is inside that matters… The hairs on your face should not define who you are” she said.


Thursday, November 08, 2012

Lisa Riley - judgements about larger women

Hats off to Lisa Riley, who has more than achieved her goal of not becoming the “joke contestant” (weight related) in the current series of Strictly Come Dancing. She succeeded admirably when, in the first episode, judge Craig Revel Horwood stated; “you can dance”.

Lisa, who is partnered with Robin Windsor, told the Daily Mail that she had accepted the invitation to take part in the show, to encourage larger women.

“When you look at the statistics”, she said, “they tell us that 42 per cent of the women in this country are 16 plus; not that you’d know they exist. So if I can go out there and shake my booty on a Saturday night and give these women a bit of courage, well then that’s great.”

“There are so many judgements about larger women, even though there are a lot of us”, Lisa continued. "People think we're lazy, that we just sit and eat and that's just a massive over-simplification. There's a lot of prejudice attached to it. Many would give their left arm to be thinner. Not me.”
Lisa also made her view on the current beauty trends and the associated pressures.

"I hate this obsession with looking a certain way," she stated. "These days you've got to have your tan, your extensions … it's a sheep mentality".

"It's okay to be orange and fake", Lisa added, "but not to be bigger. But who decreed that? And the result is a vast number of women thinking, 'I can't be that', and becoming insular, losing their confidence. And it's wrong."

"The pressure to be glossy and perfect is unbelievable and I think it’s got worse and worse in the past few years. Now it’s not even enough to be a size ten, you have to be a size six."

Lisa might not have set out to lose weight, nevertheless she is visibly slimmer.

"I've not done Strictly to lose weight, but with all the training it just falls off you,” she commented in a separate interview.


Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Inactive Britain ranks 8th in the world

We know that the UK stands in the unenviable position that, as a nation, we are the ‘fattest in Europe. Thanks to a recent Canadian ‘physically inactive’ study, we now know where Britain stands in the world, in regards to our level of physical activity.

The study, published in the Lancet, acquired its data from individuals in 122 countries. Each person aged 15 or above, reported the activity that they had undertaken.

Physically inactive, was defined as not completing:
- 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on at least 5 days every week.
- 20 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity on at least 3 days every week.
- an equivalent combination achieving 600 metabolic equivalent (MET)-minutes per week (where MET is the energy spent when sitting quietly).

In addition to activity levels; the data also revealed that inactivity levels:
- increase with age.
- is higher in females.
- is higher in more developed (high income) countries.

Once all the data had been collated; the top 10 ‘physically inactive’ countries were identified.


1. Malta 71.9 %
2. Swaziland 69 %
3. Saudi Arabia 68.8 %
4. Serbia 68.3 %
5. Argentina 68.3 %
6. Micronesia 66.3 %
7. Kuwait 64.5 %
8. United Kingdom 63.3 %
9. United Arab Emirates 62.5 %
10. Malaysia 61.4 %

Evidence* suggests that worldwide, physical inactivity accounts for:
- 6% of coronary heart disease
- 7% of type 2 diabetes
- 10% of breast cancers
- 10% of colon cancers
- 9% of premature deaths

Food for thought:

If inactivity levels reduced by as little as 10% or 25%, more than 533 000 or 1.3 million deaths, respectively, could be avoided each year.

* Dr. I-Min Lee’s research team at Harvard Medical School Boston (2008).


Friday, November 02, 2012

Stereotypical Western beauty

When you think about the facial features of an Asian, more specifically a Korean female, one of the characteristics you are likely to identify is the narrow, when compared to western women, appearance of their eyes.

Recently, a Seoul Fashion Week documentary (Vice magazine's online series Fashion Week International) gave us yet more evidence of the spread and impact of Western beauty standards.

South Korea is now the main cosmetic surgery hot spot in the world. It performs the highest number of surgeries per capita; an unenviable position when extrapolating this to the body image/confidence of is people, particularly young females.

The Seoul Fashion Week documentary clearly highlighted the quest, of the young women featured, to attain stereotypical Western beauty.

The transformation, from Asian to Western requires surgery. One surgical procedure in this category is double eyelid surgery, which has become common place. Double eyelid surgery creates a crease in the eyelid that many Asian women don't naturally have. The procedure results in a Caucasian-like ‘open eyed’ appearance.

Host Charlet Duboc questioned a K-pop singer from the band D-Unit on the reasons why 20% of Korean women undergo surgery, of one type or another.

“Because of their distinctive looks”, came the response. “Our ideal appearance would be that of westerners……Big round eyes, straight nose, round face.”

Plastic surgeon Dr Seo also underscored the growing South Korean desire to have Caucasian features.

“Most of our customers are eager to have facial features like yours”, he said to British (Caucasian) Ms Duboc.

“A face with more volume is considered to be more popular these days”, Dr Seo continued. “Having an apple shape face means there's more chance to change a person's destiny; they think their fortune will change for the better”.

I was pleased to see that the programme makers did not support the westernisation through surgery trend.

First Miss Duboc explained that there were a growing number of people who supported a natural appearance. She then discussed the issue with a young fashion student.

“If a person is doing it to boost their confidence by covering up their handicaps”, responded the student, “I think its fine, but to completely change the way one naturally looks is totally wrong.”

Agreeing with the student’s sentiment, one of the programme’s make-up artists commented; “I hate people getting double eyelid surgery, personally I like the natural look.”

The trend to reject ones natural, often ethnic related feature to acquire another is worrying and cannot have a positive outcome in the long term.

There is beauty in diversity. How boring the world would be if we all work up one day and found that flowers, birds, animals or people all looked the same.