When was the last time you shopped for a sports bra or some running leggings and the mannequin or model wearing them was anything over a size 10?

You’re probably struggling to think of such an occasion as much as we are because the examples are few and far between.

Now a personal trainer based in Magherafelt has called out one of the biggest global sportswear brands for perpetuating unrealistic body expectations.

Mark Shiels has hit out at Nike and its use of mannequins complete with six-packs to show off its clothing range.

In a post on Facebook, he explains he was prompted to comment because of a sense of responsibility towards his two daughters and wife.

Expressing disappointment to use the ultra-toned mannequins as “pretty crap”, he states: “As if any woman should see this and think that is the standard that should be set.

“How many men have you seen with a six-pack? Loads. How many ladies? Not many.

“That’s because it is extremely tough for a woman to achieve a six-pack. Mainly because they have such vital organs around that area that need to be protected.

“A lot of things can go wrong for a woman who is this lean, so why should it be the standard to achieve?

“And this isn’t criticism of any lady who has abs – in fact, I’ve got nothing but respect for you as I know how bloody tough that is to achieve.

“Probably overreacting a little here, and no harm meant by Nike, I’m sure.

“But I’ve got three girls at home that I really hope don’t grow up thinking this is the only way to achieve fitness, health or any kind of love for themselves.”

So, what do you think?

Here at Local Women, we’re applauding Mark for bringing back some realism.

Getting a six-pack requires a body fat percentage of near single digits and we all know that’s no easy feat.

Diet, time restrictions, genes, hormones – they all play a part.

Meanwhile, we all know by now that you can’t just spot-reduce fat, and with all the other demands in daily life, many of us have to accept – if not learn to love – our belly rolls.

That’s why Mark is so right.

Of course, people shopping in Nike are doing so presumably because they’re heading to the gym or planning on working some kind of sweat.

But that doesn’t mean we’re all athletes with ripped abs to die for.

And as Mark tells Local Women very few, if any, of his female clients ever express a wish to get a six-pack.

He says abs don’t necessarily mean a person is healthy and, in fact, someone without a six-pack may actually be healthier.

He also worries that by using these mannequins, it increases the reticence of some to finally bite the bullet and make that first self-conscious trip to the gym.


As Belfast-based influencer Gemma-Louise Bond believes, it’s time for retailers to do more to appeal to all their customers – not just select mannequins that appeal to aspirations of so-called perfection (particularly when they’re so hard to achieve).

It’s coming up to six years since Gemma-Louise took the plunge and posted a picture of herself rocking her swimsuit while on holiday.

She says: “The famous swimsuit picture? I posted that on holiday many years ago because of my little cousins and teenagers in my life were really struggling with body confidence and really the crux of why I did it was about the fact you don’t know what someone is struggling with.

“You don’t know if someone is struggling with health issues, fertility issues, if they have cancer.

“It’s just someone on the beach trying to enjoy their day which is very much where I was at that point in my life.

“I was in my 20s on holiday having a good time and you don’t care what you look like when you’re having a ball.”

That’s why Gemma-Louise’s decision to make her holiday shot public was so spot on.

You wouldn’t dream of telling your little girl, your best pal, or your mum that they look fat.

So, why do we do it to ourselves?

It’s not just the likes of Nike that we need to hold to account for the way we see our bodies – we also need to give ourselves a break.

But it would certainly help when going into a shop to pick an outfit if the mannequins were a more accurate reflection of the diverse customers walking through the door.

Gemma-Louise believes advertising campaigns such as the one run by Dove, which included a host of women of differing races, ages and body sizes, have helped to address body confidence, however, she says there is more work to be done.

In particular, she would like to see a time when all sizes are included in the core range and not marketed as plus size.

She wants the notion of plus size to become a thing of the past and for companies to cater for all shapes and sizes – big and small – and treat all their customers as equals.