Former Miss Universe contender encourages healthy body image

A personal trainer and life coach speaks out during Mental Health Awareness Week, which focuses on body image and how we think and feel about our bodies.

A former bodybuilder and Miss Universe contender is calling for women to embrace healthy and realistic body images.

Yvonne Bignall discovered striving for the ‘perfect body’ in the world of bodybuilding could become an unhealthy obsession.

And social media – where tales of body shaming are regularly reported – can further lead to feelings of inadequacy, she warned.

Unattainable body image ideals

The mum-of-one from Radstock said: “I think it’s important to nourish our bodies, rather than comparing ourselves to others or aiming for unattainable body image ideals.

“There seems to be increasing pressure to be what we’re not and splash out on enhancements or surgery in a bid to look better and feel better.

“But I think self-acceptance is so important, whatever our age. Our bodies are amazing tools and it’s important to make our health a priority.”

 Body shaming online

The former Miss Great Britain finalist’s comments come following calls for internet companies to do more to tackle body shaming online.

The issue was highlighted at Parliament’s annual Youth Select Committee, where it was reported many young people suffer from online abuse.

But Yvonne, who has since hung up the dumbbells, believes attractiveness comes from confidence and being kind to our bodies.

The personal trainer said: “The search for the ‘perfect body’ can become an obsession. I saw it while I was bodybuilding – this fear of being too fat or too thin.

“I think it’s important to look after our bodies, without obsessing over them. I believe eating well, exercising and working on our self-confidence is the way forward.”

Growing old gracefully

Yvonne trained twice a day, seven days a week for two years during the height of her bodybuilding career. She found the sport sometimes masked deeper insecurities.

Now 53, Yvonne says she wants to grow old gracefully, but has not ruled out competing in senior events – as long as she can still live the life she wants.

The award-winning personal development facilitator and life motivator, who has worked as a business consultant for nearly a decade, found many of the women she worked with also masked their insecurities.

Women Unmasked

It led her to set up Women Unmasked, where women meet monthly to offer practical support to each other, gain insight from experts, and hear inspirational stories.

The meetings usually take place on the last Wednesday of the month at  No.15 Great Pulteney Street in Bath.

Women in the group are encouraged to share their stories and challenges, offer practical support, gain insight from experts in various fields and hear inspirational stories.