Published: 01/09/2005, Volume II5, No. 5971 Page 27

Martha is assistant director of modernisation at a primary care trust.

At the end of a busy week, she collapses in front of her PC to e-mail Mary, a former colleague, who has escaped Down Under

Hi Mary

Just read a survey that says only 2 per cent of adult women are happy with their body. Who are they? I am newly honed and still look a million times worse than those supposed uglies in the Dove campaign. (Note the hidden message: fine to be a larger lady, NOT fine to have cottage-cheese thighs. ) I suppose Helga, the girlfriend of our revered head of modernisation Rog, might be one of the chosen few, with those trim salsa legs of hers. And then There is Melody, the Ex's bit of stuff, and of course There is the other half of Kevin the Unavailable, who is a blonde version of Angelina Jolie (plus, she has a PhD, but I haven't seen any surveys about the percentage of women who feel insecure because of their degree). Oh God.

On second thoughts, I realise I know the entire UK Miss Beautiful Body community. They're all attached to the men in my life. No wonder I am addicted to the treadmill.

Anyway, I was sharing these thoughts with Jenny, Roger's deputy, while we were pretending to brainstorm for tomorrow's breakfast meeting with Rog about the meeting We are having next Thursday with PEC chair Dr Armani about something much, much more boring than wibbly thighs.

'You need to stop obsessing about looks, ' said Jenny, wisely. Very conveniently, too, as she has recently discovered a penchant for double choc eclairs, and happened to be biting into one at the time.

'I would be very happy to go for inner beauty, if men were not so impressed with the outer kind, ' I said. 'Remember, I am a single woman about town, or rather, a single woman sitting in front of Casualty, trying to remember what town looks like.' Jenny laughed. 'There you are, Martha. Sense of humour! That is your thing, rather than having Jennifer Aniston's rock-hard upper arms.' She was trying to be positive, but I felt somewhat miffed, and have now embarked on a programme of special arm-firming exercises, just to show her.

Love Martha

Next week: the need for speed. . . dating