Health & Fitness: Mental health concerns as half of women have zero body confidence

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Diets, dress sizes, and doubt are part and parcel of what women tackle on a daily basis due to society’s obsession with beauty standards. From photoshopped Instagram posts to airbrushed skincare adverts, women are constantly told their bodies are wrong.

Women feel they have no body confidence for an average of 15 days every month © Erinada Valpurgieva/ Unsplash Women feel they have no body confidence for an average of 15 days every month

The impact of this is that the average British woman spends half her life believing her body is inadequate. Body positivity movements have come a long way but new research shows that women are still suffering from negative body image.

In the study conducted by Symprove, a gut health brand, only 6% of women described themselves as very body confident. This compared to half who said they had no body confidence at all on a day to day basis.

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On average, women said they only felt body confident for about eight days each month but felt distinctly lacking confidence for 15 days per month. That is half of each month or 180 days each year where most women are feeling negative about themselves.

Feeling negative about themselves impacted more than just their mood with six in 10 believing a lack of confidence has affected their sex life or relationship. More extremely, a fifth had even cancelled social plans because they did not feel good in their clothes.

This has a knock on effect with relationships and the woman’s ongoing mood as if they cannot socialise they could begin to feel secluded. Loneliness combined with anxiety is a recipe for depressive episodes which could spiral into worse situations.

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Symprove found that on average women rated their happiness in their own skin at 5.6/10 with bad skin days and bad hair days key factors in knocking confidence. Just under a third surveyed admitted that social media impacted their self worth on a daily basis.

When asked about the most common barriers to body confidence, women cited feeling tired and bloated as well as struggling with ill-fitting clothes. Fashion and commodified bodies combined with the smaller sizing mentality mean clothes are often designed to fit one body type.

This leaves all other women who are not built like models struggling to find clothes that fit them adequately. Three quarters of women said their stomach was the area which they felt least confident about.

Issues like bloating play directly into this insecurity with 60% of women saying this was one of their main reasons for feeling down about their body image. Periods and gut related issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) cause some women to bloat regularly, knocking their confidence even more.

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While 63% said they faced ‘off days’ on a weekly basis, this figure shot up to 73% for women with IBS. Sammie Gill, gastroenterology dietitian at Symprove said: “Bloating is not something women should put up with, there are many strategies available to help alleviate it - including diet and taking a targeted science backed probiotic like Symprove.”

Gut related issues were considered embarrassing by 55% of the women surveyed with many saying they would not discuss it with a partner. When bloating, cramping and constipation affects most women regularly this taboo about stomach and gut health keeps women feeling insecure.

Body confidence is a learned behaviour but with the resurgence of Y2K fashion and concern growing for the return of 00s ideals, this issue needs to be addressed. Start with tackling gut health issues that could be a sign of further illness and then tackle the mental barriers to feeling beautiful.

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