BRITISH men look in the mirror and they like what they see, according to a poll of more than 2,000 of our self-confident countrymen.

And after all, who can blame them? Personally, I'd be delighted to see Jude Law, Clive Owen, Ewan McGregor or Colin Firth first thing in the morning. Any one of them, or any combination... beggars can't be choosers.

Trouble is, though, not all of our home-grown talent is quite as Godlike as Jude or Ewan, and some of those who think they're pretty hot do in reality bear more resemblance to Mr Bean than to Mr Darcy.

Only 40 per cent of the chaps in the survey thought they might have love handles or a spare chin or three, according to the survey, which seems a bit strange when you read on to find that 65 per cent of British men are actually overweight or obese.

I wonder what would have happened if the survey workers had asked British women about their self-image? The poor old experts would probably never get to report back.

Twenty-fifth century explorers would one day discover them, still out there like Japanese soldiers who don't know the war is over, reeling from their nine-hundredth encounter with a female bundle of neurosis obsessed with bum size or bingo wings.

Why is it we women are so much more self-conscious than our menfolk, I wondered as I flicked through yet another article promising a beach body like Kelly Brook/Posh/Denise Van Outen.

It's probably because, while we are poring over images of Kelly, Posh and Denise, our blokes are poring over pictures of...Kelly, Posh and Denise.

Or maybe it's because most women prefer a bath to a shower. A bath is relaxing and peaceful, but it also takes time; time in which to contemplate your ever-expanding navel and study at close quarters the other dodgy parts of your anatomy.

A shower, by contrast, is a speedy, bracing, wash-and-go affair in which you study the grouting, scrub your hair and reach for the towel.

There could be something else in it, too. According to our friends in the world of science, who seem to keep almost as busy as researchers, showering can give you brain damage.

It's the manganese in the water, apparently. In small doses, it's fine, but breathing fine particles in the shower every day can give you learning difficulties and behavioural changes.

This could explain a lot, including, perhaps, why some men are blithely unaware of their little imperfections. Instead of pausing to reflect on the fact that they can no longer see their feet, they emerge from the bathroom feeling sure that they still have the body of a young Adonis, and that the pretty little thing in admin really does enjoy their jokes.

Could be it's time for women to start showering more than we bathe. A little brain damage might be good for us, but we'd have to stay in there all day to fall for the latest big thing in the fight against the flab.

The National Obesity Forum is currently testing out a new implant that, it is claimed, can fool you into thinking you've just eaten when you haven't had a meal since last Wednesday.

Speaking for myself, the implant that I need is the one that reminds me I really have just eaten, and don't need to graze on chocolate for the entire four hours between now and my next square meal.

Updated: 08:52 Wednesday, July 06, 2005