Sandra Dick: Perfect body pursuit makes us real dummies

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There’s a woman at my gym who slaughters herself every time, emerging at the end in a puddle of sweat. She’s dropped from size 20 to a slimline 12. “But,” she says, flicking a wobbly sliver of skin that dangles from her underarm, “look at this.”

Another does a double step class and sweats buckets at interval training. “It’s my belly,” she moans pointing at a wee bit of padding, the equivalent of a hearty meal.

Middle aged and with the scars of childbirth, none of us are likely to revisit the lost figures of our youth. But it turns out that even back then with fewer saggy bits to moan about, we still couldn’t bring ourselves to be happy.

We nodded knowingly as each told of avoiding countless parties and nights out, too self-conscious of some wobbly flesh to possibly go and have fun.

Never mind that. Years back and an acceptable size 12-14 – although I didn’t think so – I couldn’t stomach squeezing into a wedding dress so selfishly disappeared instead to Italy to marry. “Too busy for a big wedding,” I claimed. The reality was I couldn’t bear, even at that fairly healthy size, to be seen as a hideous lardy bride.

Last week MSP Dennis Robertson, whose beautiful daughter died as a result of anorexia, called for retailers to follow Debenhams’ example and use size 16 mannequins. Some say that will ‘normalise’ fat, yet there’s little particularly normal about a 5ft 8ins size eight, with pert boobs, mini hips and endless, cellulite free legs.

Body-conscious girls are surrounded by these distorted images: Barbie’s ridiculous waistline, airbrushed movie stars, flawless models. Some look in the mirror and, even when they look fine to everyone else, ache with total self hatred, don’t eat and exercise like mad, pop diet pills, drink putrid shakes and just not go out.

Back in the real world women are many shapes and sizes, have jelly bellies, flappy arms and chubby thighs – yes, even when we exercise and avoid the biscuit tin. Instead of putting life on hold in pursuit of an impossible dream figure, perhaps we should ask ourselves who the dummies really are?