Ed Balls admits body image issues and tells Gary Barlow: 'Keep your shirt on'

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Ed Balls has admitted he struggled with his body image before shedding pounds while competing on Strictly Come Dancing.

The former shadow chancellor, 49, who was the surprise break-out star of the show, said losing weight had changed his relationship with clothes.

However, he said he does not believe only those perceived to have perfect bodies should be celebrated.

Loose Women
Ed Balls and Judge Rinder on Loose Women (ITV)

Discussing on ITV's Loose Women Gary Barlow's recent weight loss and subsequent topless scene on his new TV show, Ed said: "I did used to feel sometimes like I've put weight on, I didn't like it that much and wished that I could change and there are also people out there who are not really, really sleek and we shouldn't be saying to our kids 'the only time you should be proud of your body is when you look like Gary Barlow'."

Ed, who surprised the nation with his energetic dance routines on BBC dancing series, defying low marks from the judges thanks to viewers' votes, appeared on the special Loose Women And Men edition of the programme alongside his fellow Strictly contestant Judge Rinder and regular panellists Andrea McLean and Nadia Sawalha.

Gary Barlow
Gary Barlow (Victoria Jones PA Wire/PA Images)

He said: "I'm really pleased that he has lost weight and is feeling good about himself but in my view, Gary, keep your shirt on.

"I sort of think there are loads of men in their 40s, 50s and 60s who maybe haven't got Gary's body but they should still be able to take their shirt off on the beach, but the idea you can only do it if you look like Gary Barlow."

However, after objections from TV judge Rinder, who showed off his own toned physique during the dancing competition, Ed relented, saying: "OK, Gary should take his shirt off, I back down."

Ed Balls and Judge Rinder
Ed Balls and Judge Rinder (ITV)

The panel showed the audience an older picture of the former Labour MP playing football while showcasing his stomach and Ed, who is married to Yvette Cooper MP, said: "The truth is I did lose a bit of weight, but there are men up down the country who look like that and that's OK, they should be able to play football and go on the beach."

However, he said losing weight has changed how he feels about clothes, telling his fellow panellists: "Until I did Strictly, the only things I've been out in public in were a suit or Lycra because I used to do marathon training and then Yvette said 'you're going to have to get some leisure wear' and I didn't know what it was.

"I thought smart casual meant wearing a suit and taking your tie off but it turns out people wear corduroys."

His venture in leisure wear was aided when the show offered him a makeover by a stylist and he was kitted out in a brown checked coat and waistcoat and a jacket and polo neck, with his grey hairs concealed by dye.