Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Karren Brady talks body confidence

Karren Brady (43) is currently vice-chairman of West Ham United and is one of Lord Sugar's aides on The Apprentice (BBC).

Karen also writes a regular column in Woman & Home magazine. In the August edition of the magazine, Karren spoke about body confidence.

“Being happy about your shape comes from accepting what you have, rather than what you don't,” she said. “And it is also about accepting that you are never going to have it.…. It’s actually quite liberating to accept that I am what I am and celebrate that fact”.

“When I was younger”, she continued, “I wanted to be tall and skinny. And because I wasn't, I was disappointed. The great thing about getting older is that I've come to accept my shape and embrace it. The other great thing is that I have stopped making the fatal mistake of trying to follow fashion. I now try to follow what suits me”.

Karren admitted that she is mindful of her weight, but not to the extent that she channels her willpower (refrain from eating/drinking what she likes) into being super thin.

“I've been to some glamorous parties where there are some very beautiful and very thin people. Then along come the canapés. But they don't touch a canapé or have a drink. And they have that pinched, pained expression. Obviously, I don't want to be huge, but the pain and dedication and the willpower to be thin would be a full-time job in itself.”


Monday, July 30, 2012

The objectification of women

Objectification is the practice of perceiving something that is not an object, as though it was a concrete object/thing. Over the years we’ve read studies and had numerous discussions about Objectification, particularly the objectification and sexual objectification of women.

A US study, published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, has found that when looking at images of men, both men and women looked at the whole image (“global” cognitive processing). However, when looking at images of women, both genders viewed the image as a collection of individual parts (“local” cognitive processing).

In the study:
    1. An equal number of men and women were shown a set of images depicting a head
        to knee shot of men and women.
    2. All the images were fully-clothed and looking straight ahead, into the camera.
    3. The process was repeated, but this time they were shown two pictures, the original
        and an edited version of the original showing the groin area.
    4. Participants were then asked to indicate the image that they had already seen.
    5. Irrespective of gender, group members typically selected the head-to-knee image of
        the male images and the groin area of the female images.

"It could be related to different motives," said Sarah Gervais (professor of psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln). "Men might be doing it because they’re interested in potential mates, while women may do it more of a comparison with themselves”.

Researchers, who conducted the study, were unable to identify the reasons behind the results. "What we do know is that they’re both doing it”, concluded Sarah Gervais.

The studies findings are interesting. However, it would have been more informative if researchers had factored in and accounted for the role of the media, advertising, culture (social/celebrity) and gender roles. These all have a significant effect on perception, attitudes and behaviour, particularly mindsets and associated behaviour that are formed over time (conditioning).


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hair Types - Francesco Group

Not long ago, I was talking to a self employed black hairdresser; who had a couple of salons.  During our discussion she told me the biggest business problem that she faced was the common belief that she was an Afro Caribbean hair expert and was not competent to work with other hair types.  This inaccurate assumption was pigeonholing her business and undermining its growth potential.

This weeks Under Cover Boss (Channel 4), highlighted the opposite side of the same coin i.e. non ethic salons inability to cater for Afro Caribbean hair.  

Posing as a new customer, senior manager Jacqui McIntosh went under cover in Francesco salons.  She booked an appointment to have her hair done in a Shropshire salon. After being seated and offered a drink, Jacqui was then left waiting for a long time and she increasingly became aware that staff were discussing an issue which clearly involved her.  

Eventually, a stylist approaches and tells her that they don’t specialise in Afro Caribbean hair. The stylist also informs her that the Francesco group do have some specialist salons and helpfully gives her a few telephone numbers.

Knowing that every Francesco salon should be able to deal with every hair type and that all salons stock two brands of shampoo and conditioner that could be used; Jacqui persisted and asks why they felt unable to wash and  blow dry her hair. In response the stylist repeats that her hair type is specialist, they don’t have the required products and that she had never been trained.

“As a group that’s something we have to look at”, said Jacqui commenting on the incident moments after leaving the salon. “That is not a good client experience”, “There sending me 30 minutes away to get my hair done. Who is going to do that, because I’m not.  I can understand if I was looking for a chemical service, but something as simple as a shampoo and blow dry. I just think that’s disgusting”.



Monday, July 23, 2012

All inclusive waist line lessons

I’ve just got back from a 2 week all inclusive holiday in the sun. I’ll confess to feeling a little guilty when corresponding with family and friends who all complained about the UK’s wet and cool summer; while I was enjoying all day sun shine in an average of 28 degrees.

The first time I went on an all inclusive holiday, many years ago, I gained over a stone in weight. I am under no illusion about how my weight piled on. I’d spent two weeks lazing on the beach, coupled with a few Piña Coladas each day and the novelty of being able to enjoy exotic buffet style, multi course breakfast, lunch and dinner, in addition to snacks on demand.

This time when I stood on the scales on my return, I was pleased to see that I had not gained any weight; I’d actually lost a couple of pounds.

The change from significant weight gain to small weight loss occurred because I’d learned some ‘all inclusive waist line lessons; lessons that I’ll share below:

1. All inclusive holidays can save you pounds (£) in the pocket. When chilling out on holiday, we often want to forget about many things e.g. work. One thing you should not push to the back of your mind is your calorie intake. Thinking about it will insure that pounds saved don’t become pounds (lbs) gained.

2. Eating to ensure that you get value for money may cost you more later e.g. buying new clothes, diet club membership etc.

3. Liquid calories matter. A ‘free bar’ can lead to you piling on the pounds. E.g. Piña Coladas (depending on serving size and recipe) can contain 300-500 calories. A pint of draught beer contains approximately 200 calories.

4. When confronted with salad bars with an abundance of food stuff that you don’t normally see in the UK, avoid calorie laden dressings.

5. Remember that low calorie drinks are refreshing on a hot summer’s day and won’t add to your waistline.

6. Don’t pile your plate. Remember your normal portion size and stick to that. If you want to sample several things, simply put a small amount of each on your plate.

7. Swim, go to the gym or enjoy long walks on the beach. Exercise will keep you active and help to burn calories.

8. Enjoy your holiday!


Wednesday, July 04, 2012

What is beauty?

School hall where the Body Image workshop took place. The girls were seated in groups of four.

“If you type the words ‘beautiful women’ into Google,” I said to a group of year 10 public school girls, “the following results will be returned.” After giving the group time to view and think about the contents of the page, I asked.

“What is beauty?”

“I think that beauty is inside”, said a confident girl on my left. Before she could continue the room was filled with agreeable sighs, ahs and even sporadic applause. After a short pause and embarrassed laugh, she continued.

“But… in the world we live, everyone sees beauty as the way we look.”

“Thank you”, I replied before asking, “anyone else?

“Everyone compares themselves to everybody else, but beauty is what you are inside”, said another pupil.

“Is beauty within”? I asked.

“I want that to be true”, said a voice from the back, “but I don’t think it’s actually true. Most people think that beauty is the way you look … really”.

“What we are inside is important”, she continued, “but I don’t think most people think beauty is on the inside”. This statement was greeted with agreeing nods and supporting murmurs. “I just thought that I’d say it”, she ended.

“If you know someone”, commented another pupil, “then it is possible to say that they beautiful, because you know what they are like. If you don’t know someone, you only call them beautiful if you are talking about how they look”.

From here the conversation moved on to wider discussions about beauty in our society.

Later, reflecting on the workshop, I was pleased that everyone in the group was thinking deeply about the subject matter and were giving well thought out articulate responses.

NB. The workshop program has ended.


Monday, July 02, 2012

Professional females are getthing thinner

As a professional business woman, I was pleased to learn that I am in the only social group that, over the past 15 years, have been winning the battle to lose weight.

The National Obesity Observatory (NOO) has released the results of their survey, evidencing the fact that 15% of professional women were obese in 1997; a figure that fell to 14% in 2008. In contrast the number of overweight professional men rose from 15 to 20% during the same period.

Andrew Hill, professor of medical psychology at Leeds University, interpreted the weight discrepancy with the following statement:

“Appearance is the most important attribute for women in our society. Valuing them only for their appearance is a way for me to subjugate them ... There's no doubt that to be fat in our current society is a disadvantage particularly if you are female.”

16 stone Barrister Helen Jackson told the Sunday Times that obese male lawyers were accepted in her profession but female ones were not. "The pressure on women to look the part has definitely got worse since I was called to the bar in 1975," she said. "Women now are slaves to their appearance more than they ever were."

I will add my own observations on the matter; something that has not been highlighted in the report. Weight concerns, of professional women, are not solely about physical attractiveness. An overweight person is associated with negative connotations e.g. being lazy. This and other undesirable stereotypes about overweight individuals have been highlighted in many surveys e.g. 2011 Arizona State University.

Professional women want to be respected in the workplace by their colleagues, both male and female. This necessitates them being seen as proficient and in control.

For many, control starts with self control. It entails controlling their behaviour e.g. food consumption, in order to obtain the desired outcome (admiration, respect etc) both inside and outside work.