Hearst is aiming to change the way women think about their bodies

Publisher is partnering P&G and launching its biggest-ever research revealing negative thoughts that women have about their bodies.

Women's Health: one of six titles involved in initiative
Women's Health: one of six titles involved in initiative

Just 6% of women agree with the statement "I love my body", while 37% hate their body. The alarming statistics are part of the findings of Hearst UK’s biggest-ever research project – surveying 2,500 women around the country aged between 18 and 65, with the help of SuperHuman.

It’s the basis for the publisher’s Project Body Love initiative, which aims to change the negative narrative around women’s bodies to a positive message for adults and children.

Running across six magazines – Women’s Health, Cosmopolitan, Red, Elle, Good Housekeeping and Prima – it is the first time Hearst has run a campaign across so many titles.

With Procter & Gamble as main sponsor until June 2020, Hearst aims to reach every woman in the UK. P&G’s Venus is sponsoring all Project Body Love content in Cosmopolitan, Pantene in Elle and Always in Women’s Health, Good Housekeeping and Prima.

The brands will have a small logo next to any Project Body Love content within the titles, supported by display ads in print and online. This partnership was brokered by Publicis Media. After June, Hearst will either renew the contract or work with another brand.

Project Body Love launched in May and is an evolution of Women’s Health’s "In shape, my shape" campaign that ran last year. As the research – which is published this week – developed, Hearst decided to make this a cross-brand initiative.

It means that the six magazines will all report on the findings in some way in their October issue (out this week) and help to change the way women talk, think and feel about their bodies. A quote in Hearst’s research said: "When I was six or seven, I saw my mum getting ready and saying she looked fat. I thought: ‘If she thinks she’s fat, what does that make me?’"

To help parents and teachers change this mindset among children, Hearst is creating an e-booklet launching on 11 October. Split into three parts, it gives advice on how to speak in front of and to children at different ages: pre-school, primary and teens.

There will also be a month-long podcast series launching in November. At just three minutes per day, it is filled with positive messaging and designed to be listened to in the mornings while getting ready. Hearst’s research found that 55% of women said that looking at themselves in the mirror or in photos damaged their body confidence.

On the podcast, Women’s Health editor Claire Sanderson, who is spearheading the project, said: "It’s a body-confidence journey that you can take every day. Women will be given tasks to do and the idea is that you will have improved your body confidence at the end of it." 

The course was designed by Nadia Craddock, PhD candidate at the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of the West of England, and will be narrated by model Jada Sezer. To tie in with the launch of the podcast, Sezer will become the third plus-sized model to grace the front of Women’s Health on the December issue.

The next phase of Project Body Love has yet to be decided on. Alun Williams, managing director of health and fitness at Hearst, explained: "Body confidence isn’t something that you can flick a switch and it will improve, but we know that the positive influence we have with our readership that we can make a difference. So one of the things that we will do is a temperature check annually."

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