Evidence suggests many people – men, women and children – suffer from negative feelings about their body shape and this can influence their wellbeing and have a negative impact on different aspects of their lives. Even the skin colour and ethnicity can have an impact.
But all this may soon change with the government’s Body Confidence campaign launched to challenge the culture of conformity.
The campaign aims to reduce the burdens that popular culture places on an individual's wellbeing and self-esteem.
The Home Office said: `The government has convened a group of experts to identify non-legislative solutions to tackling low levels of body confidence. This includes representatives from healthcare, fashion, beauty, media, advertising, and the voluntary sector.
`Every year people are confronted with thousands of images through the media and advertising. These images create a culture of conformity, not individuality, and they do not reflect the diverse society we live in.
`Evidence suggests that many people – men, women and children – suffer from negative feelings about their body shape and this can influence their wellbeing and have a negative impact on different aspects of their lives.
`There is also concern that people feel pressured to focus their energies on how they look. People should feel valued not because of what they look like, but for what they can contribute and achieve’.
The government through the campaign wants to raise awareness about body image and encourage a more open and public conversation.
This is the first step to changing our visual landscape to show variety in size, shape and ethnicity across images of men, women and children.
The government also wants to ensure people have healthier and happier futures where a wider spectrum of male and female body shapes is represented, and people recognise that their value is worth so much more than just their physical appearance.
Another aim is to widen the definition of beauty to include all ages, shapes, sizes and ethnicities. `We need to counter the homogeneity of body image which we have now been receiving for several decades,’ the Home Office said.
The government is taking action in a number of areas to move the campaign forwards.
An expert group on body confidence meets two to three times a year to gather industry support and steer the direction of the campaign.
Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone also gave a speech on body confidence at an International Summit.
An educational institution teaches fashion graduates to design clothes for a diverse range of body shapes.
In partnership with Media Smart, a media literacy teaching pack on body image has been developed to help children understand how the media often alters images and the impact these images can have on self esteem.
Featherstone also delivered a speech at a sports and fitness event hosted by the Fitness Industry Association. This encouraged gyms and health centres to promote healthy and achievable bodies as part of the body confidence campaign.
The body confidence campaign team works closely with other departments on related policy areas.
On 15 March 2011, the Department of Health launched the Public Health Responsibility Deal. This has been established to tap into the potential for businesses and other organisations to improve public health and tackle health inequalities through their influence over food, alcohol, physical activity and health in the workplace.
On 13 October 2011, the Department of Health published Healthy lives, healthy people: a call to action on obesity in England. This sets out how a wide range of partners can work together to ensure that people get the right support and information to help them reach and maintain a healthier weight.
On 6 June 2011, Reg Bailey published his independent review into the commercialisation and sexualisation of children, Letting children be children, which calls on government, businesses and broadcasters to play their part and protect children from the increasingly sexualised ‘wallpaper’ that surrounds them.
In response to the Bailey review, the UK's media regulators have launched ParentPort. This website helps people understand the standards expected from the media, make a complaint and share their views with the regulators.