As a study reveals most of us have body image issues, Sarah Vine opens up on her own

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Just the other day, a very nice lady from ITV rang me up and asked whether I wanted to go on This Morning to talk about something or other in the news. As it was back to school week, and I had a lot on at work, I had to turn her down. But that wasn’t the only reason.

The truth is, I can’t bear to look at myself on screen. I just don’t like it. Nor, for that matter, do I like having my photograph taken. Because no matter how much makeup  I’m wearing, or how much effort I’ve made with my hair, I never like what I see.

It's not so much the face that bothers me, although there are plenty of things about it that are wrong. It's my body. I’m bulky, with broad shoulders and a hopelessly short neck. My hands are big and awkward. I don’t look in any way, shape or form the way I feel I’m supposed to look. And no matter how hard I try, I can’t stop it from getting to me.

And it seems I’m not alone. A whopping 85 per cent of adults in the UK say they are unhappy with their body shape. A quarter say their body makes them feel anxious. And 16 million - 26 per cent of the adult population - say they feel depressed due to the way they look.

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Why is this? After all, our bodies are miraculous things, exquisite pieces of bio-engineering, performing extraordinary feats with every heartbeat. Why should we feel so negative about them?

Simple: because we live in a culture that idolises a certain type of appearance above almost all else. Super slender, with elongated limbs, a heart -shaped face, big eyes, and full lips. Basically, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Even the recently married and ever beautiful Jennifer Aniston isn't safe from taunts about an unflattering running photo .

Of course rare beauties such as the lovely Rosie have always existed. But the difference now is that there’s no escaping them. More than ever before, we are bombarded with images of physical perfection, many of which are increasingly digitally enhanced.

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Where once extreme beauty was to be admired, now it's to be emulated. In some extreme cases, through plastic surgery, in others through diet, exercise and makeup. Young girls, in particular, are highly susceptible to this pressure. You see them in Topshop, posing and pouting for selfies on their smartphones, or adjusting images of themselves on Instagram. The gulf between what we actually look like and what we want to look like is growing ever wider - and that cannot help but generate a negative reaction, especially in the young.

So how can we begin to re-establish a level of sanity? Well, through a wonderful initiative called the Be Real campaign . Formed in response to a cross-party report on body image, the campaign was founded in partnership with Dove and has various sponsors, including bareMinerals, Debenhams and Facebook. Its aim is to improve body confidence of all ages, both sexes and especially in the young with better, real education, a focus on real health (that doesn't just focus on weight), and by calling on the media and advertising to positively reflect what we as human beings really look like. Amen to that.

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