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Stop promoting ‘miracles’ – Jo

January 7, 2013

Jo Swinson MP called on magazine editors to think twice about the effect that coverage of ‘miracle diets’ has on the health of women and girls.

Commenting Jo said:

“Surely by now we’re all aware that there are no miracle diets or if there are, they are miracles that come with a cost.

“Given that most diets fail within a very short time, it is irresponsible for magazines to offer ‘tips’ ‘tricks’ and ‘simple steps’ so that people can be thin.  Not healthy or vibrant, just thin. 

“One resolution that is actually worth making, for all of us, is to resolve with friends, family, and colleagues to challenge the default setting of self-criticism, and help each other to do so.” 

Jo’s open letter to the editors of Women’s, Men’s, Health, Celebrity and Gossip Magazines is below:

Dear Editors,

Every January readers are treated to articles reminding them that they have overindulged during the end-of-year festivities and must resolve to lose their holiday weight. 

I am sure that you want to promote a healthy lifestyle for your readers but at this time of year in particular far too much of magazine coverage tends to focus on irresponsible, short tern solutions and encourages readers to jump on fad diet bandwagons.

As editors you owe more to your readers than the reckless promotion of unhealthy solutions to losing weight. If your aim is to give practical, sensible advice about losing weight – and not how to drop a stone in 5 days – you should encourage reasonable expectations, instead of dangerous ones, along with exercise and healthy eating.

So may I suggest a New Year’s resolution for 2013?  Shed the fad diets and fitness myths on your pages and instead celebrate the beauty of diversity in body shape, skin colour, size and age.  I think your readers will appreciate it.


Jo Swinson

Media reaction to Jo’s letter:

Latest news

October 31, 2012


The award-winning Body Gossip campaign turned the body stories they’ve been collecting from all over the UK since 2006 into an anthology of more than 300 short stories.

Candid, at times funny, often controversial and always inspiring these stories cover topics ranging from pregnancy to disability, ethnicity to diets, and sport to ageing.

The book includes a foreword by Gok Wan, as well as entries from a number of high profile celebrities and politicians including Alesha Dixon, Anne Diamond, Nikki Grahame, Craig Revel-Horwood, Jermain Defoe and MP Lynne Featherstone.

For more information on the book and Body Gossip’s campaign to promote diversity and acceptance visit


Endangered Bodies recently obtained funding from Rosa UK to launch ‘Shape Your Culture’, a project with schools and community groups around London and the South East.

Shape Your Culture facilitates girls and young women in taking charge of their personal bodies, and in becoming advocates for transforming visual culture to represent their desires, their aspirations and their individual talents.
From launching a zine, creating performance art, a documentary or fashion show, to campaigning and lobbying, Shape Your Culture offers guidance, networks and encouragement for these young women’s projects.

In the summer of 2013 their work will be celebrated in a topical event at London’s Southbank Centre.  Keep up tp date by visiting the site


Diversity NOW! isthe first nationwide student competition to explore and celebrate the power all fashion students have to create positive messages about body image and individual beauty. Developed by All Walks Beyond the Catwalk and the All Walks Centre for Diversity the aim is for a future that reflects a broader range of beauty and body ideals.

Diversity NOW!

in association with i-D Magazine

Sept 2012 / June 2013

Sponsored by Succeed Foundation

Supported by Arts Thread

Graduate Fashion Week

and Own Label



In the UK half of teenage girls aged 14-15 want to lose weight

July 24, 2012

Despite the fact that many 14-15 year old girls are the picture of health more than half want to lose weight. That’s the astonishing finding of a new study done by the Schools Health Education Unit who found that 58 per cent 
of female pupils that age would like to shed some weight.

Also troubling were the findings that a quarter of girls had no breakfast on the morning they were questioned and 20 per cent skipped lunch the day before.

The survey of 31,354 children, between ten and 15, across the UK, also found half of 12 to 13-year-old girls would like to lose weight.

Commenting on the report Campaign for Body Confidence co-founder Jo Swinson said:

“It’s really worrying these kind of figures, but it’s not entirely surprising.

“The message sent out to young girls is how they look [is important], rather than what they say or do.

“Girls take that message and do some of the damaging things like skipping meals.

“We need a change in the culture of judging people on appearance. If we look at people paraded as role models, they fit one particular body size.

“But there is no reason for a girl to look a particular way.”

Photo credit: Central YMCA


June 22, 2012

A guide to help parents educate children about how the media alter images and the impact this can have on self esteem has been backed by Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone today.

The body image parent pack, developed for 6-11-year-olds by not-for-profit organisation Media Smart, marks the latest contribution to the government’s Body Confidence campaign.

The pack encourages children to think about how and why images may have been altered and the effect this can have on their own body image. It also explores how ideas about the ‘perfect’ body have changed through the ages and offers tips for parents on how to talk to their child about the subject.

Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone said:

“Young people are being set an impossible standard by images in media and advertising which can erode their self esteem.

“As parents, we are often aware of these issues, but may not have the advice and guidance we need to talk to our children.”

Parents will be able to download materials – which include digitally enhanced pictures of celebrities – to help their children gain more realistic perceptions of the images they see.

Download the pack at



May 30, 2012

The new report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image states that body image anxiety is damaging society and shows over half of the public suffer from negative body image. The problem is so acute that girls as young as five now worry about their size and appearance, half of girls and one quarter of boys believe their peers have body image problems, and appearance is the largest cause of bullying in schools.

View the report here

A selection of media coverage:

The Telegraph

The Guardian

The Independent

BBC News

BBC Radio 4’s Today programme (at 1:52 in the broadcast)

The report was co-authored by a cross party group of MPs and health and education charity, Central YMCA. The response to the three-month public inquiry co-ordinated by the APPG was that media (43.5%), advertising (16.8%) and celebrity culture (12.5%) together account for almost three quarters of the influence on body image in society, yet the “body ideal” that they typically present was estimated to not be physically achievable by nearly 95% of the population[vi]. Central YMCA will now take forward the report’s recommendations in a national campaign, to be launched in the autumn in partnership with several other organisations. The campaign will include the creation of a brand, or “kite mark”, which will be awarded to socially responsible businesses taking action to tackle negative body image.

Jo Swinson MP, Chair of the APPG said:
“Body image dissatisfaction in the UK has reached an all time high and the pressure to conform to an unattainable body ideal is wreaking havoc on the self-esteem of many people. Our inquiry took evidence from academics, the public, industry, charities and other experts, whose submissions formed the basis for the recommendations in the report. I welcome the work of Central YMCA and other organisations in taking these recommendations forward.”

Rosi Prescott, CEO Central YMCA, said:
“It’s clear that there’s something seriously wrong in society when children as a young as five are worrying about their appearance, based on the messages they are seeing all around them. The findings of the report are shocking; body image has become more important in our culture than health, and children are mimicking their parents’ concerns about appearance. We all have a responsibility to act now to bring about the attitudinal and behavioural change that’s necessary to prevent damage to future generations and that is why we are urging the public to give us their views to help shape the campaign we will be launching this autumn.”

Feelings of dissatisfaction and inadequacy, often driven by weight stigmatisation and the desire to achieve the unattainable “body ideal” are causing many people to sacrifice health for appearance. The inquiry heard that:
• Getting rid of dieting could wipe out 70% of eating disorders.
• More than 95% of dieters regain the weight they lost
• By the age of 14 half of girls and one third of boys have been on a diet to change their body shape
• 1.6m people in the UK suffer from eating disorders, which have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness
• Up to 1 in 5 cosmetic surgery patients could suffer from Body Dysmorphic Disorder
• Girls who diet are 12 times more likely to binge eat
• One in three men would sacrifice a year of life to achieve their ideal body
• One in five people have been victimised because of their weight
The report makes a series of recommendations targeted at policy-makers, healthcare professionals, industry and the education sector, designed to change public perceptions, attitudes and behavioural patterns.

These include:
• Teaching colleges to include body image and self-esteem within training for new teachers
• Support for new mothers and for primary and secondary school pupils
• Commitment from advertisers to develop campaigns that reflect consumer desire for authenticity and diversity
• A review of broadcast and editorial codes on reporting body-related issues
• Explore alternatives to the use of BMI alone as a measurement of health
• A review of the evidence base to support the long term efficacy and safety of diets
• Reframe public health messages to weight-neutral language
• A separate code of regulations governing cosmetic surgery advertising
• Mandatory screening of patients prior to them undergoing cosmetic surgery and further research to assess the long-term impact on patients’ psychological wellbeing
• Creation of an independent patient group which would provide impartial information, advice and support on body enhancements, including cosmetic surgery, skin whitening, supplements and steroids
• A review into whether the Equalities Act should be amended to include appearance-related discrimination

In advance of the launch of the campaign in the autumn, the public are now being invited to submit their views on the report and participate in an online survey to shape the campaign at


April 20, 2012

Facebook photo album here!

And the winners are:


‘Growing up’ by Dove – for communicating the 2012 Dove campaign whereby Dove brings self-esteem education to girls in the UK.


Boots No7 ‘Ta Dah’ range – for their decision to eschew retouching and for celebrating the idea of real women


Caitlin Moran for ‘How to be a Woman’ –  best seller book that combines contemporary feminist observations about bodies, beauty and what it is to be a woman in an appearance oriented society with page turning humour.


Changing Faces – for their fight to change public attitudes towards people with disfigurements and their ongoing support for those with disfigurements and their families

Central YMCA Health, Sport and Fitness Award

Virgin Active’s Oomph campaign – for using a range of shapes, ages, sizes and ethnic diversity and pushing the more intrinsic benefits of being physically active


‘Body Image in the Primary School’ by Nicky Hutchinson and Chris Calland – for their realising there was nothing for teachers to use in the classroom to confront body image issues and writing an invaluable book for schools to deliver high quality lessons

All Walks Beyond the Catwalk Fashion Award

Mark Fast – for introducing the mix of realistically proportioned models within his catwalk shows at London Fashion Week since September 2009


Debenhams – Debenhams – for their ongoing Inclusivity Campaign showcasing imagery that is inspirational and realistic by using models who are older, curvier and in Shannon Murray’s case – visually disabled to inspire modern day women. modern day British women .

Mumsnet Award for promoting body confidence in children

Pink Stinks – decided by the votes of Mumsnet members

Celebrity Ambassador of the Year Award

Davina McCall – decided by public votes

The award winners of the first ever Body Confidence Awards presented in association with bareMinerals were announced at an event at the House of Commons.

The event was an electric celebration of the winners’ inspirational and deserving efforts to promote body confidence, diversity and the acceptance of broader beauty ideals.

All who were there agreed it was a game changing event. By turning the spotlight on those clever enough to weave conscious thought into the business of making money by considering self-esteem, the organisers aimed to shine a light on the way forward.

Jody Furlong from The Eye Casting presents Advertiser Award to Dove

Minister for Equality Lynne Featherstone said:

“Whether it’s a perfectly toned ‘six pack’ or a painfully thin ‘size zero’, men and women are bombarded everyday by airbrushed body images which bear little or no resemblance to reality. These images can cause real damage to self-esteem.”

“The government has set up a national body confidence campaign and is working closely with the media and other industries to reverse this trend and promote more honest and diverse depictions of men and women.

“The All Party Parliamentary Group is carrying out some great complementary work in this field. These awards demonstrate real support across industry to tackle the issue head on.”

Andrew Rodgers, European Marketing Director, bareMinerals said:

“bareMinerals are delighted to have supported the first Body Confidence Awards.

Jo Swinson and the campaign organisers have done an amazing job of bringing together a truly diverse group of individuals, organisations and companies who are all working towards a common goal.

Meeting with others and celebrating best practises across different industries – has been incredibly thought-provoking and I know that the awards will continue to bring attention and generate conversation about this important issue.”

Award winner Mark Fast with Caryn Franklin from All Walks Beyond the Catwalk - Photo credit: Annabel Staff

Caitlin Moran accepts her award Photo credit: Annabel Staff


April 17, 2012

First ever Body Confidence Awards Shortlist announced


‘The Woman’ by Breast Cancer Care; ‘Growing up’ by Dove; ‘100 Days of Summer’ by New Look; ‘Fotoshop by Adobé’ by Jesse Rosten


Boots No7 ‘Ta Dah’ rangeIllamasqua; Look Good… Feel BetterMAC


Beautiful MagazineCaitlin Moran for How to be a WomanGok’s Teens: The Naked Truth; Guardian Weekend Magazine: Fashion for all ages


Body GossipChanging Faces; Katie PiperMiss Representation.

Central YMCA Health, Sport and Fitness Award

CurvesDance UK’s Healthier Dancer ProgrammeVirgin Active’s Ooomph campaign


Body Gossip’s ‘Gossip School’ education programmeBody Image in the Primary School by Nicky Hutchinson and Chris CallandGirlguiding UK’s Peer education initiative

All Walks Beyond the Catwalk Fashion Award

Giles Deacon; Mark Fast; Vivienne Westwood

Mumsnet Award for promoting body confidence in children

Cerrie Burnell from CBeebies; Ellie SimmondsPink StinksGok Wan


ASOS CurveDebenhamsLa RedouteVivien of Holloway

Celebrity Ambassador of the Year Award

Decided by public votes. To be announced at the ceremony 

In a looks-obsessed society where 47% of girls think the pressure to look attractive is the most negative part of being female[i] and 38% of men would sacrifice at least a year of their life in exchange for a perfect body[ii]  it is time to recognize the power of media, individuals and corporations to promote better body confidence for all.

The APPG on Body Image is delighted to announce the UK’s first Body Confidence Awards presented in association with bareMinerals.  Mounted by the APPG and with the support of the Campaign for Body Confidence founded in 2009, the ceremony will be held on 19 April 2012 at 7:30 PM at the House of Commons.  The Awards will recognise and celebrate the achievements and best practice of those who promote body confidence within various industries.

A judging panel made up of representatives from B-eat, the Centre for Appearance Research, All Walks Beyond the Catwalk, AnyBody, Stephanie Heart Enterprises, Mumsnet, and the Central YMCA along with Jo Swinson MP sifted through countless nominations to come up with the shortlists.

The nominees were chosen for a number of reasons including aspirational diversity in size, age and skin tone; responsible use of body imagery and the consideration of diverse body sizes, shapes and beauty; promotion of active and healthy lifestyles and less sexualised imagery.

Commenting on his nomination fashion designer Giles Deacon said:

“I am thrilled to be nominated for a Body Confidence award. Since launching my eponymous label in 2003 I have worked with a wide range of ages and body types and a particular highlight for me was working with Verushka who modelled in my in Spring Summer 2011 collection closing the runway show age 73. I like to work with this wide range of women as body confidence and character pervade.”

Commenting on his nomination fashion designer Mark Fast said:

“Over the years I have been privileged to work with some of the most beautiful and shapely women in the world and it is true to say that even the most beautiful (by any standards) have moments of doubt and insecurities. I want to celebrate women and make them feel good in my clothes”.

Commenting Susie Orbach from AnyBody said:

“The media influences us all and affects the well-being of young women and men so it is important to acknowledge examples which promote body confidence and counteract the damage. Advertisers and marketers can be so imaginative. These are examples of the direction to aim in.”

Commenting Jo Swinson MP for East Dunbartonshire said:

With these awards we want to publicly recognise positive steps taken by industry groups, businesses and campaigners.  In highlighting their leading work and body confidence initiatives hopefully they will inspire others to follow in their footsteps.”

Commenting Caryn Franklin Fashion Commentator and Co-Founder of All Walks Beyond the Catwalk said:

“Fashion design can be a huge force for good when individuality and diversity are celebrated. At All Walks, we love fashion for all ages, sizes and skin tones.”

[i] Girlguiding UK Girls Attitude Survey 2010

[ii] According to research commissioned by Central YMCA and the Succeed Foundation


March 28, 2012

Sorry but nominations for Celebrity Ambassador are now closed!


There’s still time to nominate for the Celebrity Ambassador of the Year award!  You have until 5 PM Monday 16 April. Just follow the link below:

Nominations are now closed for all other categories.


The first ever Body Confidence Awards presented in association with bareMinerals on 19 April 2012 at the House of Commons. The awards will recognise and celebrate the achievements and contributions of those who help to promote better body confidence.

Awards will be given out to winners, decided by a combination of public votes and our panel of judges,  in the following categories:

  • Retail
  • Fashion
  • Advertising
  • Campaigning
  • Beauty
  • Broadcast/Print /Radio
  • Education
  • and the Central YMCA Award for health, sports and fitness.

In addition there are two awards that will be decided only by the public:

  • the Mumsnet Award for promoting body confidence in children
  • and the Celebrity Ambassador Award

Petition launched for labelling of airbrushed images

March 20, 2012

Israel has just passed new legislation that forces magazines and papers to make it clear when they have used air-brushing.  The legislation also bans  the use of underweight models.  Here in the UK, a government e-petition with similar aims has been launched, demanding that all airbrushed images in advertising and the media be clearly labelled.

It is widely accepted among mental health experts that the ubiquity of airbrushed pictures is having a profoundly negative effect on body image and the standards by which we judge appearance.  At least 1.6 million people in the UK are suffering with eating disorders, and institutions such as The Priory Group and The National Eating Disorders Association attribute this to the decline in self-esteem that is associated with unrealistic images in the media.

Labelling airbrushed images has been the subject of campaigns before; most notably the Girl Guides launched a movement in 2010 calling for the initiative.  An independent Home Office review conducted by Dr Linda Papadopoulos in 2010 also concluded that the labelling of digitally-enhanced images would be beneficial, with Papadopoulos arguing- “Evidence suggests that even brief exposure to airbrushed images can lead to acute body dissatisfaction”.

The link to the petition is

Show Us Your Glad Rags!

March 14, 2012

This month national women’s charity Platform 51 are running a YouTube campaign called ‘Glad Rags’ to encourage women to come together to break the stigma around poor mental health and empower women to share experiences in a positive way.

They’re asking women to upload videos to their YouTube channel where they are wearing an outfit that makes them feel good about themselves – this could be their favourite dress, or the suit they wore to a successful job interview – to encourage them to engage with mental health issues in a positive way. By sharing the outfits and styles that make women feel good – inside and out – they’re aiming to stir up debate on women’s mental health.

You can find out more about the campaign by visiting the YouTube page ( and by sharing your ‘Glad Rags’ too by uploading your video.