The Week That Was

07/01/2012 22:46 GMT | Updated 08/03/2012 10:12 GMT

You'd have been forgiven for thinking The Sun had taken over the national press this week what with all the column inches devoted to British women's breasts - although sadly actual bags of silicon don't make for such eye-catching pictures as boobs bolstered by them.

As thousands of women counted down the days and hours to discover the official line on the potential ticking time-bombs sitting within their bodies, arguments raged over whether it was fair the tax payer foot the bill for the removal of the PIP implants and in amongst it all we appeared to gloss over the more important issue at hand: why so many thousands of women, year after year, feel compelled to have surgery in the first place.

Right up front, let me say this isn't a polemic against those who choose to have surgery, a debate I've already had with a number of men this week who were unable to understand the depths of depression the 'wrong' size breasts can and do cause for millions of women.

I'm very much in favour of changing things that make you unhappy. Hate your weight: do more exercise. Unfulfilled in your job: look for a new one. Miserable in your relationship: end it. There is no point moaning about something to everyone around you if you're not prepared to be proactive yourself.

However, and this is a big however, taking risks with your health is very infrequently the answer. It is a wonderful thing that medical science has evolved so that women who suffer from breast cancer can face the world again with reconstructed breasts, and I loved the positivity that Hollywood star Christina Applegate faced her double mastectomy with some years ago saying, "I'm going to have the best boobs in the nursing home."

However, we can't ignore the fact we live in a world where a mother buys her seven-year-old daughter a plastic surgery voucher for her birthday and a liposuction voucher for Christmas.

It's not just the surgery of course, it's the cosmetic injections - the Botox and fillers - that are available on every high street now, unregulated and potentially dangerous. As recently as Saturday, senior surgeons called for fillers to be reclassified as medicines (they are currently classified as 'devices') and their use to be more tightly moderated after women who'd had them injected 10 years back came forward and complained about how the substance had moved around their faces, causing discomfort and disfigurement.

The silver lining to this medically complicated cloud is that the debate about cosmetic surgery is back in the spotlight - now we need to begin having a sensible conversation about it.

As a start, society needs to start taking responsibility for the impossible ideals of womanhood we keep thrusting forwards: the tiny waists and huge bosoms (and not a wrinkle in sight).

Better instead the gorgeous photos of Jessica Ennis in next month's Marie Claire, popping up in numerous newspapers yesterday. If we're looking for a poster girl for young women, scratch that, women of every age, here's a front-runner (no pun intended) for the job. And yet even lauded for her success and gracing the cover of a glossy fashion mag, those deep-rooted, omnipresent female insecurities are ever present. "I don't even see myself as that attractive. My fiancé would say I am but I don't see it," Ennis admits in the accompanying interview.

However, there's a positive message to take away. "I've gone through teenage years when I wanted a figure like everyone else," she adds. "But as I've got older, I've been able to see my body in a different way - it's a tool for my job."

We can't all have the bodies of Olympic athletes, but healthy fit bodies seem something more aspirational to strive for than artificially curved ones.