IT’S one of the more insensitive things I’ve heard on a shoot. But also the most telling. It’s a reminder that it’s not just thin bodies, but the thinnest bodies that are the gold standard for selling things – a product, a lifestyle, a place. In the fashion world there has been some progress on runways – where underage, underweight models and even heroin chic was a thing – now many countries have adopted a minimum BMI and age requirement. Though in magazines and advertising, where the resize and airbrush tools can do what regulations prevent, they’ve operated largely unchallenged. However, things might be about to change.

As of yesterday, in France it’s now illegal to use a digitally slimmed or bulked-up photo without a cigarette-packet-style warning, “photographie retouchée”. And the stock photography giant Getty Images has followed, announcing a blanket ban on weight-manipulated photos going forward. Could a revolution be brewing? It’s been a long time coming.

Back in 2003, Photoshop was a newish word in my vocabulary. I had it on my brick of a laptop but used it mostly to make terrible memes for a high-school forum. The word was also synonymous with editing horrors – frankenwomen made of three different bodies, girls with two right feet, no knees and missing belly buttons.

This was also the year 28-year-old Kate Winslet went to town on GQ. They crossed a line, slimming and stretching her to spaghetti-string proportions. Winslet sued. The alterations were made without her consent. She won. She’s since won libel suits against Grazia and The Daily Mail for stories about dieting and her weight, insisting on printed apologies to encourage women to take pride in their unaltered bodies.

Non-consensual digital alteration is rife. Actress Kerry Washington’s skin was lightened by In Style. Keira Knightly was given new boobs. Faith Hill needed 11 different types of alteration to be good enough for the Redbook cover. Recently, size-6 supermodel Cara Delevingne was slimmed down in Suicide Squad’s post-production. So while digital tools are giving us shadow correction and noise reduction, they’re also bleaching the skin of black women and chopping bits off of real women’s bodies, to name just a few of their more sinister regular applications. The implication is clear: if you can look like Washington, Winslet and Delevingne, and still be subject to digital perfecting, what’s considered beautiful has no basis in reality. Real women aren’t good enough for the media.

But. It’s. So. Tempting. Especially when so many of us have body hang-ups compounded by these idealised images. A few swipes of the retouching tool and we can have what would take years of dedication or the halting of time to achieve.

In seconds we can see idealised selves. Fat melted away, eyes and teeth brightened, blemishes erased. In a society where youth and beauty are prized, who wouldn’t be seduced by it?

I’ll confess: every week I cringe when I see my photo in the paper. It’s not that it’s a bad photo – technically it’s perfect. But I can’t help but tear it apart because it’s so real. I can’t look at it with acceptance and instead list the things I think are wrong with it. It’s two years old, my eyeliner is smudged, my hair’s a mess, I’d stopped dieting. I could go on listing the litany of faults that largely live inside my own head, that I know a bit of’’shopping from a generous photo editor would fix. And I hate that I’m bothered by it because my “best” self is based on a lie the media have been selling me my whole life.

The perception I have of my best possible light is undeniably shaped by the sorts of images we see around us. The nipped and tucked magazine ads, the well-lit TV stars, the heavily filtered Instagram images. Like the red circles of shames in women’s mags, we can’t help but turn the scrutiny on ourselves.

Though online, something of a backlash is brewing. Self-love posts that celebrate diversity and deviations from this ideal are popping up in my feeds. It seems many of us are starting to catch up with Kate, so can we chill with the Photoshop now, please?

I want to see some real women, with grey hair, and pubes, and lines, and stretch marks and cellulite. Because acceptance of ourselves can be inspired by what we see in others. If the magazines say “enough”, maybe we can be a bit kinder to ourselves.

Of course, Photoshop isn’t going anywhere, and neither it should. It’s a great tool when used responsibly. Our most celebrated image-makers, from painters to film directors, have always offered us a polished, stylised version of reality.

And that’s what we love about them. They present an aesthetic unreachable, unknowable to us inhabitants of the real world. But when the boundaries start to blur between this and someone else’s imagination, there’s a problem. It’s too easy to hold yourself up and tear yourself down against someone else’s fabrication – a place where no-one has pores, everyone’s a gym rat and has great dental care. No-one should feel bad about themselves for not meeting dreamworld beauty standards.

Will France’s move halt the self-image crisis? No. But making it clear when you’re imbibing body ideals from a work of fiction is a good start. The media we consume colours how we see the world, and seeing a more authentic version reflected back at us is a win for tolerance, diversity and equality. France has decided to get real, taking a bold step for its citizens’ wellbeing. I hope more countries follow.