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'The quest for the perfect body can become an obsession'

CONFIDENCE BUILDING: Former bodybuilder Yvonne Bignall now helps women face their self-doubts

A FORMER Miss Universe contender and bodybuilder who discovered the sport could encourage unhealthy habits 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 preoccupation.

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.”

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

FITNESS FIXATION: Yvonne during her bodybuilding days

The mum-of-one from Radstock said: “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.”

Bignall believes that this increasing pressure is linked to our digital lifestyles. “Social media – where tales of body shaming are regularly reported – can further lead to feelings of inadequacy,” she said.

“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.”

The former Miss Great Britain finalist’s comments come in the wake of 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.

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

She said: “I think it’s important to nourish our bodies, rather than comparing ourselves to others or aiming for unattainable body image ideals.

“I believe eating well, exercising and working on our self-confidence is the way forward.”

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

An award-winning personal development facilitator and life coach, who has worked as a business consultant for nearly a decade, Yvonne found that many of the women she worked with also masked their self-doubts.

This realisation drove her to set up Women Unmasked, an event 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, with the current venue being the boutique hotel No.15 Great Pulteney Street.

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.

For more information about Women Unmasked, visit

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