There are so many different types of mental health illnesses, many different causes and many symptoms. Mental health is so vast and difficult to understand. But there’s one topic that everyone is focusing on for Mental Health Awareness Week 19: body image.
So what is body image?
According to nationaleatingdisorders.org, “Body image is how you see yourself when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind.
- What you believe about your own appearance
- How you feel about your body, including your height, shape, and weight.
- How you sense and control your body as you move.”
Body image negatively impacts our mental health as it’s yet another thing that we focus on and reflect upon. I’m always doing it, always criticising my own weight and body. I don’t think I’ve ever been “happy” with my body. When I was younger, all I wanted was to be more tanned, have a more curvaceous body and I would have felt down frequently. But now? It has been even worse since I became a mother. My body has changed. Now I wish I didn’t have so much of a curvaceous body! I would still like to be more tanned though.
Social media influence
Social media doesn’t help. Especially Instagram. I follow a few of the Love Island stars on there, and I am so envious of their beautiful faces and figures. But do you know what they have that the every day person doesn’t? Lots of money, time, a personal trainer and they can get gifted certain healthy food subscriptions or protein shakes. So, it’s a lot easier for them to watch their weight.
A couple of celebrities I would say that have broken the mould, however, making it refreshing to see this rather than the millions of celebrity fitness videos – are Alexandra Cane and Stacey Solomon. Alexandra (@alexandralouise_) has often posted about her ‘bloated tummy’ and IBS symptoms. In fact, one recent post of hers was all about not wanting to fit into ‘beauty standards’ and knowing her own worth.
Stacey Solomon (@staceysolomon) is one celebrity that I also look up to for body positivity. She’s been previously open about her stretch marks, her stomach ‘fuzz’ and her ‘jiggly bits’ but I see her as one of the most beautiful souls out there. Stacey spreads the message that even celebrities don’t look perfect. She’s often shown the process it takes to get her ready and glam for a red carpet event. They have teams of people to help them to look the way they do.
Magazines don’t help either. The same magazine could have articles on how to lose weight; how to be body image positive and embrace your curves. Then they have recipes on cute cupcakes and a celeb that shares their weekly food intake. No wonder it’s a confusing world to live in! We’re constantly being told what to do, what to eat and what to look like.
ASOS were recently exposed for using pegs to pull in the clothing on the models; they had left the pegs in an image and forgotten to photoshop them out. This had a really negative impact as it just showed how unrealistic the fit of clothing is portrayed online.
Since having my children, I’ve really focused on my body and not overly been happy with it. I want to be healthier and shed a few pounds, but life seems to get a little in the way. And you know what? I’ve been quite ok with that. After suffering with anxiety, I decided that I would focus on my mental wellbeing more than anything. And if that meant sharing some Ben and Jerry’s with my husband – then great. Or if that meant taking a long stroll in nature with my children – great. As long as YOU are happy with yourself and your body image, then no other opinion matters. And if you’re not, ask yourself why?
The main voice that we need to listen to, is our own. We need to accept ourselves and feel positive about our own skin. However, it is also important to take care of yourself. Eating the right foods, plenty of fruit and vegetables and exercising regularly, will help to boost your mental wellbeing and keeps your body healthy and happy. But, do it for yourself, no one else.
What can you do to boost how you feel about your body image?
1. When you look in the mirror each time, pick out one thing you like about yourself. To begin with, you might find it difficult to do this, but this will get easier with time and practise.
2. Surround yourself with positive people. If you have friends and family that are constantly putting yourself down, then you will begin to feel and believe in the words they are saying. When you have a positive circle of friends around you, you will believe the positive and uplifting things they are saying. You’ll feel more upbeat about your body and self.
3. Write your body worries down on a piece of paper and fold them away for a couple of days. When you come back to the worries, start to tackle each worry and think logically and positively about each worry. Are there any practical ones that you can do something about? For example, if you don’t like your hair currently – can you treat yourself to a hair cut?
4. Eat healthily and exercise regularly. Exercise boosts mood and has its physical benefits too. When you are taking care of your body AND mind, you will boost your body image and positivity with ease.
And finally, don’t forget to be kind to yourself. The celebrities and images we see on social media and in the media, magazines, clothing websites are all unrealistic portrayals of what we should look like. We have to accept ourselves and start to build up our own self esteem and self worth and start to create body positivity in our lives.