Tuesday, June 28, 2016

How attractiveness affects safe sex decisions


A study by the University of Southampton, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), has found that the good judgement (common sense) practise of safe sex is often abandoned when men are faced with women that they find very attractive.

“Traditional approaches to sex education tend to assume an element of rational behaviour”, said lead researcher, Anastasia Eleftheriou; “in the sense that people will try to reduce the risks they take once these risks have been pointed out to them. This study shows, in an innovative way, that there are limits to this self-protective and careful approach”. This fact has “important implications” that could change the way that safe sex is promoted.

“Young People need to be well-informed of the different ways in which they and others make decisions” said Ms Eleftheriou, “and need to be supported and encouraged to engage with the realities of their social and sexual lives. ”

Study: bmj

I found this study interesting because it lines up with similar studies highlighting the differences between how people who are considered attractive are perceived/treated compared to those who are seen as less attractive.

Excerpt Wikipedia:

Beauty premium phenomenon:
Studies show that a better physical appearance contributes to the belief of a person being better, smarter, more successful, more important, and more valuable:
- The scores of those physically attractive are higher than less physically attractive people on measures of affect and mood.
- People tend to believe attractive people as smarter, more successful, more sociable, more dominant, sexually warmer, mentally healthier and higher in self-esteem than physically unattractive people.
- Physically attractive people are more sociable and less socially anxious and lonely than less physically attractive people.
- Physically attractive people are more popular than less attractive people and people are more likely to have an interaction with people who are physically attractive.
- Individuals are more likely to give personal information to physically attractive people than less physically attractive people.
- A physically attractive person is more likely to be reinforced than a less attractive person.
- Physically unattractive people with psychological disturbance are judged to be more maladjusted and to have a poorer prognosis than physically attractive people with the same psychological disturbance.
- A physically attractive person is more likely to be found less guilty than a less attractive person while they are charged with the same crime.
- Physically unattractive defendants are considered to be more dangerous than physically attractive offenders in sex-related crimes.


Friday, June 24, 2016

Eating disorders in older people

New research by the BBC's Breakfast programme shows a rise in the number of people in England and Wales who are middle-aged or elderly and struggling with eating disorders.



I was 44 years old and it was a massive shock … massive. [I believed] it doesn’t happen to older people and it definitely doesn’t happen to me. For me being that age when I was diagnosed, I really felt that I should have known better.

I knew I wasn’t eating, I knew I was depressed, but I had no idea that I couldn’t physically eat. In 4 years I lost two thirds of my body weight. I lost my husband and my job and I almost lost my life.

If there were people of a similar age that I’ve got a connection with, I would acknowledge that this does happen to people like me; its not just young people who suffer.


“What am I gong to eat? When am I going to eat. What plate am I going to eat of? You know; is that too much? Is that too little; it dominates your life very much.

“If you don’t get treatment early on, then recovery becomes difficult. You end up going back to hospital again and again and again. The last time I was in hospital, it really bought me face to face with what I’d lost. To anybody who is funding treatment or anything like that I’d say: ‘Give those people a chance, give them the treatment now, because it can stop’ ”.

BBC Breakfast:

The accepted wisdom is that eating disorders strike the young, but Julie and Chris are two of a growing number of older people with anorexia.

While the overall rate of eating disorders is thought to be in decline, research carried out by BBC Breakfast, show that in older age groups it is significantly increasing. The number of people in their 60’s receiving specialist outpatient treatment increased by almost a quarter (24%) in the last 4 years. For those in their 50’s there was a sharper increase of almost a third (32%). Last year one in every 6 (who received specialist treatment) was over 40*.

The government is investing in the area (eating disorders), but only to improve services for the young. In a statement the Department for Health said: “We are investing £150 million to develop services for children and young people and have set targets for their care. There are also plans to develop standards that will improve care for adults with eating disorders”. Age UK  said: ‘eating disorders for older people are a serious issue and are often overlooked by health professionals. There is a need for better awareness and support in treatment which is largely focussed on the young’.

*Source: BBC FOI to mental health trusts in England and Wales.



Monday, June 20, 2016

Transport for London ads

Previously we have talked about advertisements displayed on the London underground (here and here) that were criticized for their negative body image slant.

The mayor of London Sadiq Khan, making good on his mayoral election manifesto pledged to ban adverts promoting "unhealthy or unrealistic" body images, has banned such images across the Transport for London (TfL) network from next month.

In addition the mayor has asked TfL to set up its own advertising steering group. The group will advise TfL's advertising partners and stakeholders of the mayor's new policy and will ensure adverts continue to adhere to the regulations set out by the ASA.

Mr Khan said: "As the father of two teenage girls, I am extremely concerned about this kind of advertising which can demean people, particularly women, and make them ashamed of their bodies. It is high time it came to an end."

Graeme Craig, TfL commercial development director, said:
"Advertising on our network is unlike TV, online and print media. Our customers cannot simply switch off or turn a page if an advertisement offends or upsets them and we have a duty to ensure the copy we carry reflects that unique environment."

The deputy mayor for transport Val Shawcross said the policy was not meant as a "moral judgement", rather the mayor's office was working with the advertising industry to ensure images were not used that were potentially harmful to young people's mental health and how they viewed themselves.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The secret is...


Many people who struggle with their weight tend to cover themselves up, in the belief that their body is not good enough. 21 year-old Lesley Miller was no different, until she decided that a change of attitude was long overdue.

In an open, inspiring and courageous Facebook post (shared by ‘Love What Matters’), Leslie how revealed she has ultimately learned to love herself: “The secret is”, she penned; “I was always enough. And you are too.”

Leslie’s post:

"I've spent the past 18 years of my life waiting.

I kept my body covered up and hidden away. I told myself that one day I would finally let myself be seen; I would finally do all of the things I dreamed of when I was enough. Thin enough, happy enough, confident enough. When my body looked the way that it was "supposed" to.

I fought my body every step of the way, continually ashamed and silent.

When I was three my classmates asked why I was so much bigger than them. Why I didn't wear the same smock they did.

When I was seven, I lied to the lady at Weight Watchers, desperate to sit in on meetings full of middle aged women trying to shed a few pounds.

When I was nine I went to weight loss camp and stood in line the first week to take my "before" photo.

When I was eleven the surgeon cut into my stomach, and he told me how happy I would finally be. I was the youngest person to have weight loss surgery.

When I was fifteen, I started cutting into my own skin. I thought I deserved it.

When I was twenty, I lost half my body weight in nine months, my worth for the day solely determined by the number on the scale being lower than the day before.

And then I got tired of waiting.

So now I'm twenty one and I bought my first bikini. EVER.

You can see it all. Weird bulges and rolls of fat. Hanging excess skin. Stretch marks, cellulite, surgical and self harm scars. Awkward protrusion on my abdomen from my lap band.

I want to learn to love all of myself, not just the parts I've been told are "acceptable." Because the secret is, I was always enough. And you are too." :)

Positive Comments included:

     Tammy Gazzola - I hope she sees the love and support here. She is just lovely and deserves to be happy. The struggle is real. And she is not alone‬ ‪❤‬

     Diane Marie - Thank you for sharing your story. There are bits of all of us in your story

     Debbie Sanford - Thank you for sharing! Women and girls need to know they are perfect just the way they are! Be a good person inside, the outside doesn't matter!‬


Monday, June 13, 2016

Recent body image surveys


Two recent body image surveys conducted by US universities investigated:

i) The source of negative comments that adversely affected body image.

ii) How body image affects overall happiness.

i) The source of negative comments that adversely affected body image.

Clemson University surveyed female university student’s (attending Southeast public university) to find out if they had received negative comments regarding 8 non-facial body features.


The mean number of features for which participants reported having received negativity was 3.84±1.85 for sexually inexperienced women and 4.46±1.66 for sexually experienced women. A negative correlation was observed between the number of features for which women had received negativity and their level of satisfaction with their physical appearance. The sources of negativity depended on both the particular body feature and sexual experience.

85.8 % of the women surveyed felt pressure about their weight. 81.7 % said that pressure came from the media, 46.8 % said it came from friends /acquaintances and 40.4 % said it came from their mothers.

58.4 % women said they felt pressured about their breasts, with the majority of that pressure (79.1%) coming from the media, followed by friends / acquaintances and finally from their boyfriends.

46 % of woman confessed to feeling pressured by the media about their buttocks.

ii) How body image affects overall happiness.

The body image study conducted by California’s Chapman University collated information from over 12,000 male and female participants. The study detailed their weight and height, body image, attitudes and overall level of happiness and satisfaction.


For both sexes, body image had an important role and significantly affected their level of satisfaction and overall wellbeing.

For women, the level of satisfaction associated with their appearance was the third most important predictor for how happy they were with their lives, behind financial health and happy relationships.

For men, counter-intuitively, appearance came in second behind financial health in determining their overall level of happiness.

Sadly only 20% of women and 24% of men stated that they were happy with their bodies. Those who were unhappy with their bodies also reported issues with their sex lives and lower self-esteem.

“These findings”, said Dr Frederick, “are consistent with the emphasis placed on the importance of being slender for women and for appearing athletic and/or lean for men. It would seem therefore, that we still have a long way to go before we achieve the goal of Americans being truly happy with their bodies.”


Wednesday, June 08, 2016

I pity trolls who hate me because I'm fat

The American feminist performer Lindy West happily describes herself as fat, but she can't understand why strangers think her size gives them the right to send her abusive messages online. Speaking to the BBC, she explains that when she finally got the chance to confront one of her trolls, she ended up pitying him.

Today I woke up to an email with the subject line "Fat". The body of the email simply read "Oink, oink". I get emails and tweets like this every day and this is one of the mildest ones.

The sender and thousands like him can't stand that I'm a fat woman living a happy, fulfilling and joyous life.

Getting comments like this is cumulatively draining and it's alarming that so many people in the world are so eager to be cruel. Yet as a writer and a performer I'm expected to put up with such hate as it's "just part of the job".

But can you imagine if this happened at any other workplace? If it was acceptable for thousands of people to come up to you and say the most hurtful, violent and threatening things they can think of?

Continue reading


Monday, June 06, 2016

Obesity - Parents and midwives

This week we were sent a picture (above) of a winning star letter that earned the author a £50 prize. I should also add, for reasons that will become clear, that the person who sent the image is a nurse.

The star letter* read:

I watch Channel 4’s One Born Every Minute (right) transfixed, but I’ve noticed that most of the mothers are overweight and their unhealthy diets shows in the choice of labour snacks. The cameras also show the biscuits and chocolates that some of midwives eat during breaks, with no mention of nutrition. To me this offers a shocking insight into the nation’s obesity problem. And the babies may follow in their parent’s footsteps; perpetuating the problem.

There is clearly lot a truth in the letter; snacks that are high in refined sugar and saturated fats are calories dense, with limited nutritional benefits and can lead to weight gain. The nurse that contacted us was not disputing this fact. Her comment that accompanied the photo was not focused on the letter’s statements about snacks, obesity or the parents, but on the opinion it expressed about the midwives. She wrote:

“Hope you can read the star letter. What this lady doesn't realize is that it's probably the only thing that the midwives have managed to bloody eat quickly in 12 hrs!”

There are always at least two sides to every story. Most situations are not black or white, but reside somewhere in-between along the grey spectrum. An easy example of this is the fact that many people (myself included) give midwives large boxes of chocolates, biscuits, sweets etc as a thank you gift.


* Daily Mail TV guide


Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Face and confidence

Recently, I was reminded how changes to a person’s physical appearance can greatly damage or enhance their self confidence and body image. A person’s physical appearance, particularly if it affects the face as it is the first thing people see, can also advance or disrupt plans such as their career and relationship aspirations. Channel 4’s ‘Never seen a doctor’ highlighted two people whose appearance perfectly demonstrated this fact.

Ben (excerpt)

“I have got very bad teeth” said 21 year old Ben; “my condition worsens daily”.
Ben is one of the 14% of people who are afraid of the dentist. “For me the worst type of hell is having to sit in the dentist chair and have a man drill into your skull”, he explained.

Between the ages of 14 and 17 Ben wore dental braces; during that time he did not clean his teeth properly. When the braces were removed, the full scale of the damage to his teeth that they had hidden was revealed for all to see.
“I cried”, said his mother, “because they were so black. When he had a brace removed every single one of his teeth was rotten, so he wasn't able to smile”.


Hayley (excerpt)

Six years ago Hayley, then 18 years old, gave birth to her first child. Shortly afterwards acute acne broke out all over her face (which had been clear up to that point). The condition became progressively worse and left her face red and covered in spots and scars. She had spent 100’s pounds on skin products and had given up hope of a cure.

“I won't go out the house without my make-up on”, admitted Hayley, “even when doing the school run I make sure my face is done. I wouldn't even answer the door without make-up on. If somebody came to the door, I just wouldn't answer it. My make-up routine is four or five layers of foundation to try to hide the redness and then I'll do my powder, eyes and lips. That’s quite a lot of make-up I have to wear which probably isn't helping my skin”…


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