Overcoming Body Image Disorders in the 21st Century. Media, Sports and Societal Influences.
There has never been a time in history where there wasn’t an ‘ideal’ body type. You were either naturally ‘gifted’ or were expected to strive to achieve it. This thought alone scared the crap out of me and my insecurities, as I’ve always hoped for the day when I wouldn’t look at myself in the mirror and only see what I had to change.
Although society is slowly shifting into a body-positive mindset where all body types are loved, there will always be a ‘perfect’ body-type, whether it is an individual ideal or a shared belief. Now, this doesn’t mean you need to completely forget about your body goals because you can still strive to achieve those, it is more about shifting from an unhealthy mindset of not accepting yourself until you look a certain way into a mindset of constantly working to better yourself in every aspect of life.
(I was 10 years old in this photo. I was already watching my calories and constantly judging my body)
My body has always been a sensitive topic for me. I never talked about it, but I seemed to be thinking about it 24/7. During the years of my life that I could have been taught to handle the body image stress, I was training my butt off in the ice skating rink trying to make it into the national team. The training wasn’t the hardest part of the journey. It was the constant comparison to all my naturally ultra-skinny competitors and the idealism of what a figure skater should look like. Worst of all, I fell for all of that doctrine about eating less, exercising more and constantly assessing my body. I was a 9-year-old with body image issues. It only got worse after I quit.
(I was 14 years old in this photo)
Naturally, the amount of exercise I was doing after I quit skating was a lot less than whilst competing. I gained a bit of weight and unfortunately for me, some people weren’t scared to tell me. Not only was having myself as my biggest critic challenging and harmful but having people who were close to me tell me I was getting fatter was the cherry on top of my insecurity cake. From the age of 13 to 17, I basically tried every single fad diet on the internet - from a Keto diet to the completely opposing vegan diet. These super restrictive diets definitely shredded some excess fat...and in doing so, also messed with my mental health.
(a couple of years after quitting skating. I was very insecure about my body and had already tried several dieting plans. I remember taking every opportunity I could to judge my body in a mirror)
I started looking at food as evil rather than something used to fuel my body. My biggest achievement was eating under 1000 calories a day. I started to label specific foods as an ‘absolute NO’ and would consider purging whenever I ate until I was full. My motivation to continue eating nothing manifested from the disgust I felt when looking at myself in the mirror. It got to a point where even a salad wouldn’t sit well in my mind. I was 14-years-old.
I knew I was in a bad headspace, but I was scared to accept my body because I was scared I wouldn’t accept myself if I was fat. HOW MESSED UP IS THAT?
Now, although I am aware of how certain thought processes and dieting habits will cause my mental health to deteriorate, I still think about my body in a negative light and I am still constantly beating myself up over what I put into my body. I am grateful that I do manage to catch myself in the process and revert my thoughts to something healthier… but this has taken me years to achieve, and I still often fall into traps of negative thinking.
I am not writing this to share a happy ending. As much as I wish this has passed over and is all happy and jolly, it isn’t. This is the reality I and many other people have to live with daily. This is a societal problem that has long prevailed but has become even more pronounced with the rise in popularity of social media.
( This was me quite recently. I did judge aspects of my body, such as my arms and my waist but I tried to push past this negative thinking)
Here are some tips to help you shift out of a negative thought cycle. I am sharing this with you to remind myself of what to do in times of need.
1. Find something to occupy your mind.
This is something my mum has always told me to do when I would ask for advice. If you are managing to spend all your time thinking about how much you hate your body, you have too much time. Yes, I know this isn’t a long-term solution to these problems, but finding something you love doing will take your mind off these thoughts AND it will ultimately boost your mood. You could take up a sport, learn a new skill, your options are endless.
This is a good one that I got from “The Positivity Blog”. Are you being rational with your thoughts? Will thinking about this really help? Is it worth all your energy? What has caused you to suddenly think about this?
3. Remove the bad influences
This could be removing people on social media that make you feel bad about yourself or people that put negative energy in your life. This person is NOT WORTH YOUR MENTAL HEALTH. I have used this tip, but I need to keep reminding myself of it .
Some weeks ago, I heard this on Insight Timer by Andrea Wachter who is a psychologist who deals with eating disorders.
SIX THINGS WE CAN DO TO UPGRADE OUR CULTURE’S OBSESSION WITH PERFECTION: (according to Andrea Wachter)
1. STOP FAT CHAT
fat chat is a term used to speak negatively about fat on bodies and in food. All this does is contribute to fear, obsession and rebellion, and it leaves most people either avoiding fats or overdoing them because they feel so deprived. Another aspect of Fat Chat is using the phrase I FEEL FAT. Do not use the words good or bad to describe how you feel after a meal.
2. STOP DIETING
Dieting is a set-up for obsession and rebellion. Dieting leads to over-eating. Practice tuning into your natural hunger signals and then eating delicious, nutritious foods and learning to stop when you feel satisfied.
3. STOP JUDGING
Do not judge a person based on what you see. In truth, we have no idea how healthy or happy someone is, based on their appearance. Treat people respectfully. Send them the same well wishes as you would want to receive from them.
4. MANAGE MEDIA
what if we all refuse to buy magazines or look at websites that feature emaciated, unrealistic looking models. Let's stop reading articles and responding to ads that teach and preach about unhealthy ideals about how a body should look like.
5. EARLY PREVENTION
If you see your child or a friend restricting food groups, over-exercising, bingeing or struggling with body image, take action, the same way you would if you found out they were using drugs. The sooner you treat body image disturbances, the sooner they will stop blooming into full-blown disorders.
STOP BERATING OUR BODIES AND START APPRECIATING OUR BODIES FOR WHAT THEY DO FOR US.
To the many of you with similar habits and experiences, I really really do hope this has helped you. Whether it is just knowing that you are not alone in what you're experiencing or learning what can help shift you out of that negative headspace.
Feel free to message me if you have any questions or need to talk xx