Does a better body really mean a better life?

Last updated at 13:06 02 August 2005

More than half of women believe a better body and improved looks would help them speed up the career ladder, a survey reveals.

Growing numbers of cosmetically enhanced celebrities appear to be helping undermine the 'brains over beauty' battle in the workplace, the research found.

A survey by Top Sante magazine found that 51% of women thought their careers would progress at a faster pace if they had a better body and were more attractive.

More than eight out of 10 women (83%) also said that the modern celebrity culture had made men's expectations of women's bodies too high.

As a result of pressures at work and in relationships, growing numbers of women are considering cosmetic surgery.

But it is not just men who are pushing women to extreme measures - 78% said other women were more

critical of their weight and shape than men.

Brains over beauty

The survey of 2,000 women also found what has long been known - hardly any women are completely happy with their body.

Only 0.5% of those questioned said they had the "perfect body", while only 2% felt happy about their body. The majority (95%) said they felt unhappy about their body on a daily basis.

Two-thirds of women said they would have cosmetic surgery - either "definitely" (41%) or "possibly" (26%). Only 33% ruled it out completely.

Seven out of 10 women (71%) felt that their body image was preventing them living the life they wanted.

The survey found that if they had a better body, 65% of women would change their lifestyle, 46% would change their career and 12% would change their partner.

Two-thirds (64%) thought their whole life would be improved if they had a better body.

The old problem of weight was also highlighted by the women questioned. Only 8% were happy with their weight, while 92% said they wished they were slimmer by an average of 9lb.

Women were also terrified of looking old, with 58% jealous of women their own age who looked younger.

Four out of 10 (42%) were jealous of good-looking female friends and 36% envied all younger women in general.

The survey found that those questioned believe women look at their very best aged 31 and then it was downhill all the way. They notice their first real wrinkles at 36, and by 47 believed their looks are fading fast.

Lauren Libbert, editor of Top Sante, said: "Women today are judged on their body image more than at any other time in history.

"They are constantly faced with body perfection and cosmetically enhanced celebrities - and they see good-looking women seemingly achieving more than just clever ones.

"No wonder more and more ordinary women now see cosmetic surgery as the key to changing their lives - be it their career, partner or general lifestyle.

"Women today see their body and face as their fortune and they want a quick fix to lose their excess weight and wrinkles.

"They see celebrities and friends looking fantastic and they want a slice of the action."

The survey revealed the usual suspects when it came to the parts of the body which caused the most unhappiness - including hips and thighs, stomach and breasts.

Liposuction was the top choice (64%) among women considering surgery.

This was followed by a tummy tuck (49%), lines and bags around the eyes (33%), facelift (32%), skin resurfacing (25%) and breast enlargement (24%).

But cosmetic surgery did not always live up to women's high expectations.

Of those who had already undergone cosmetic surgery, 25% said they were not pleased they had it done.

Only 59% said the results were as good as they had hoped and 41% were disappointed.

Only 26% said cosmetic surgery had greatly improved their life and 50% said it had slightly improved. A quarter (24%) said it had not improved.

Three-quarters of those questioned wished that celebrities would be more open about what surgery they had done so ordinary women had a better idea of what is achievable.

Only 47% of women regularly let their partner see them naked, while a third (32%) never did. Six out of 10 (60%) felt embarrassed about their body during sex.

Ms Libbert added: "These women have worked hard to maintain their body and looks and now they want some extra help - liposuction as opposed to years of diets and exercise - and they want a nip 'n' tuck to hang on to their youth.

"Ageism is rife and to do well in their career they feel they need to keep looking young.

"However, we need to protect women from the cosmetic cowboys, manage their expectations and responsibly guide them through the quagmire of surgery choice and surgeon."

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