Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Body Gossip: The Positive Body Image Campaign

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

"Body Gossip is a positive body image campaign that is working to banish body shame, encouraging everyone to be the best version of themselves and rock their very own brand of gorgeous"

Last Wednesday was World Mental Health Day, and, as promised, today I'm going to talk about my own personal experiences - in particular, eating disorders and distorted body image problems.

MY STORY

For a lot of people, there's at least one thing they would change about their bodies.  Like those people, I've never been 100% comfortable with my own body, and wished I looked different. Sadly, my lack of acceptance for my body got to the point of where I hated it.  For years, I believed I was fat. To this day, I'm still fighting this self-limiting belief. Ever since I hit adolescence, it's been a constant battle between my body and mind - my mind telling me there was something wrong with me, and my body (I thought, at the time) fuelling my unhappiness with how I look.

Before I continue, I'd like to point out that I have never officially been diagnosed with an eating disorder. I have never been to see a doctor about it, but this is mainly due to the fact that for so long, I believed my thoughts about myself, my obsessive pre-occupation with food and weight, were normal. They are not. They are common, yes, especially in girls my age, but in no way are they healthy or rational behaviours/attitudes to posses.

A lot of people tend to assume that you can only have an eating disorder if you are anorexic/bulimic. I used to think so too. Then one day, after coming home from my local shop with a bag full of more junk food than you could possibly need and stuffing my face needlessly, I stopped.

"Why am I eating if I'm not hungry? Why do I feel the need to do this? Why am I doing this to myself?"
I was desperate for answers. I just could not understand why, so often, I had this huge desire to eat almost everything in sight. I couldn't wrap my head around the idea that, by trying so hard to deprive myself of these certain 'forbidden' foods, I was, in essence, torturing myself. I was only making myself crave it more, to the point of where I could not stop, even when I wanted to.

And after a bit of googling, I discovered something I had never come across before - binge-eating and compulsive-eating disorder.  I took a quick test on a website I had found, and it turns out I had many symptoms of those of an eating disorder.  Here are just some of the symptoms of these disorders:


  • A feeling of being out of control when eating
  • Thinking about food all the time (excessive pre-occupation with food, your body and weight)
  • Eating in secret
  • Eating until you feel sick
  • Eating to escape from worries, relieve stress, or comfort yourself
  • Feeling disgusted and ashamed after eating
  • Feeling powerless to stop eating, even if you want to

Unfortunately, for so long, I tried to deal with my eating habits in the completely wrong way. In fact, up until only recently, I believed that my eating was the problem. 

I kept trying diets. I used to try and starve myself (but luckily failed). When I was much younger, I remember a few instances where I had tried to make myself throw up after eating, but also failed. I compared myself unfairly to those with different body shapes than mine. I restricted my calorie intake everyday to a certain number to try and lose weight/maintain a healthy weight. I was terrified of being overweight, yet still hated my own body, despite always being a healthy weight. Even when, last year, I had gained a stone due to medication I was taking, I was still a healthy weight, but believed so strongly that I was repulsive and fat. I attempted to work out to the point of exhaustion. I attempted to control my weight with laxatives. I felt crippling guilt after eating anything 'bad'. After any diets, I would binge again, and the cycle would repeat itself over and over. I scrutinized my appearance, day in day out, telling myself how ugly and disgusting I was. How I needed to lose weight.

Yet, I had no idea that the primary reason I believed such horrible things about my body was a result of our 'thin is in' culture and society.

WHERE DO EATING DISORDERS ARISE FROM?

There are a few theories as to what causes an eating disorder in the first place, and in this particular case, binge-eating and compulsive eating. For example, biological factors suggest that the chemical found in our brain serotonin (responsible for our happiness) can cause compulsive eating, which isn't surprising if you think about it - depressed people are likely to reach for food to comfort themselves and deal with difficult emotions (I know I do).

Psychological issues, such as depression once again, and anxiety, are highly linked to binge eating and eating disorders. Low-self esteem, loneliness, and body dissatisfaction all also contribute to this disorder.

And lastly, the social pressure surrounding our society and cultural values that thin is 'perfect' brings binge-eaters shame, and frankly, anyone with an eating disorder. For most people, including myself, it is what caused the problem in the first place - believing that, because we may not fit to an 'ideal' portrayed so strongly in the world of the media, there is something wrong with our bodies.

BODY GOSSIP - WHAT THEY DO

Body Gossip, as briefly described at the top of my post, are a campaign aiming to promote positive, healthy, and happy body images of men and women everywhere, of all different body shapes and sizes. They encourage acceptance of our bodies, a high self-esteem, and a willingness to ignore and 'fight back' the self-defeating messages of society and media that tell us if we aren't a certain height/weight/width, we are not beautiful or wonderful human beings that deserve happiness and self-acceptance.

They now offer self-esteem and confidence building classes known as 'Gossip School', with the mission to help teenage boys and girls aged 13-18 feel better about their bodies, and begin to love what they are. I personally think the campaigne itself, and Gossip School, are a brilliant idea, and I could only wish that I had been a part of it when I was younger.

" Research shows that 70% of girls and 30% of boys aged 11-19 cite their relationship with their body as their 'number one worry'. "
This shocking statistic really demonstrates how much of a problem negative body images can be, and just how important it is that we, as a society, do all that we can to support the message of this campaign and change our cultural attitudes towards body weight for the better, to eliminate the low confidence and awful consequences of eating disorders.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

For those who think they may have an eating disorder:

If you believe you may be suffering from an eating disorder of any kind, whether like mine or more/less severe, I encourage you to seek help immediately. Don't be like me and take no action - don't feel scared, hopeless, or helpless. You can get through this. Luckily, mine is no longer as severe as in the past, but if the idea of talking to a professional is a little daunting to you right now, then I can suggest purchasing a self-help book like I recently did.

  • Overcoming Overeating by Jane Hirschmann and Carol Munter: Don't be fooled by the title of this book - whilst it seems pretty vague, I bought this book after reading some good reviews, and it really is thought provoking and eye-opening. It talks about the importance of abolishing the diet mentality and diets once and for all, and gets you to understand how your emotions fuel your 'need' to eat. It's helped me so far in learning to distinguish between 'stomach hunger' and 'mouth hunger' (eating for any other reason than physiological hunger) and allows you to realise that we do not have a 'food' problem  - we have a problem with anxiety, and dealing with it in a healthy, beneficial way.
Through reading this book and learning that I have some deeper, unsurfaced issues in my life that I have attempted to eradicate with food, I have also made the decision to book an appointment with my GP to seek help for my depression, and whilst I'm there, I'm sure the topic of my eating disorder will arise too. I'm terrified, of course, but I try to think of it this way - what are the consequences of doing nothing?

Seeking help does not make you weak. It means you've been strong and reliant on yourself for too long, and are smart enough to realise that doing something pro-active about your struggles can only result in good things.

If you know someone who has an eating disorder, or suspect they might do:

Firstly, look out for the signs. When I was weighing myself frequently, my sister expressed her initial concern to my parents, and at the time I was angry and dismissive of their worries. I thought what I was doing was harmless, none of their business, and frankly, none of their concern anyway. It's only now I realise they were looking out for me. Any strange behaviours, such as symptoms I've mentioned in this post or anything else suspicious, talk to them about it. 

Be gentle in your approaches, especially if they're the first to confide in you. From personal experience, when I've told others how I suspect I may have a problem, they've often dismissed it and said things like "but you're eating aren't you?" and "don't be silly". THIS IS THE WORST THING TO DO. Listen, try to understand, and offer any help you can. Just be there for them, even if you initially believe there is nothing wrong with them. You don't know what goes on in their mind, so you can't possibly know how they feel.
Lastly, try to encourage them to seek help when they're ready, and intervene when things get terribly serious.

Show your support for campaigns like Body Gossip and help raise awareness - you can donate, purchase a slogan t-shirt like I did (above photo), or buy their new book. Spread the word! 

COMMON MYTHS ABOUT EATING DISORDERS

For those of you who struggle to understand eating disorders, I figured it may help to identify and disprove some common myths surrounding the whole topic:

  • People with eating disorders starve themselves/don't eat

Not necessarily. It's mainly common in those with anorexia, but those with compulsive and binge-eating problems tend to do the very opposite (though as a result of trying to restrict or deprive themselves of certain foods)

  • People who claim to have an eating disorder are attention seeking
NO. Absolutely not. If a person comes to you, and confides in you with this, they are doing anything but. Sure, in some rare circumstances, they could be overreacting, but more often than not, it's a cry for help. Same goes for if they say frequently "I'm so fat". Most of the time, we are genuinely dissatisfied with our bodies and trying to vocalise it in any way we can.


  • People who diet definitely have an eating disorder

False. They may be going about the whole thing the wrong way, with trying to lose weight, but it doesn't necessarily mean they have an eating 'problem'. If this were the case I think the majority of the population would suffer from eating disorders!

  • All people with compulsive eating problems are fat
Whilst it is predominantly overweight people who suffer from a compulsion to overeat, there are cases when a person's tendencies to overeat do not show. For example, I compulsively eat, yet am not overweight. A lot of the time it has to do with genes and metabolic rates. But remember, these people tend to see themselves as fat anyway, or 'feel fat'.


I'm slowly starting to accept my body the way it is, despite my treacherous journey always trying to change everything about it. Campaigns like Body Gossip, and the book I'm currently reading, are teaching me that all our beliefs about ourselves not being "good enough" stem from society's misleading messages about what is a 'good' body and what is 'bad'. The fact is, we are all different shapes and sizes, and we are all beautiful. It may take some convincing and time for me to get there, but I'm confident that one day I will, and one day I will be totally comfortable with the body I was born with.

I'm hopeful we can all get there - with the help and support of others, and the faith and compassion for ourselves.

Do you or anyone you know suffer from an eating disorder/body image problems? What's helped you begin to overcome these issues?

I'd love to hear your stories or thoughts, guys - have a beautiful week!




                                                            

5 comments:

  1. Emily! Wow, you need to write a book about this article, you are so good at what and how you've done so far. you're also smart to turned yourself around but then again you were a bit younger then. people, when they were young, they'd such thing that we call "stupid" So when we grown up and looked back, we will say, why did I do that or did I really do that? It's part of a grow up thing. You're beautiful and attractive young lady also smart. You sure now growing up to the next level of your human life being. Keep being who you really are, you will be just awesome.
    Thank you for being so kind and care enough to push me do and continue blogging of my passion. I'll keep and continue blogging :).. I didn't know, you also knows about the meditation, I love doing that since I was a young girl. See? Emily, you're such smart young woman. when I didn't see you on my blog, I kept thinking to myself, I need to take time to look for her link in some of my oldest post. I am glad I did, you have no idea how much I love to come to your blog, You have so much to shows me and others.
    I love the cute Be you tiful top. how cute the top is.
    Hugs and kisses,
    http://www.attraction2fashion.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. You are simply stunning!!

    International Giveaway by Vintagebuying!!
    win some awesome clothes & shoes of ur choice..

    http://www.beautyfrontline.com/2013/10/international-giveaway-by-vintage-buying.html

    ReplyDelete
  3. I went through the same thing - and now I obsess about healthy eating, but I think I'm abnormally obsessive. I've accepted that I'm going to always be a little weird about food though.

    I love this article - I know there's plenty out there, but it's always good to get the message out more.

    http://lasaloperie.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you gorgeous, and thanks for commenting!


    Have a lovely day x

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Isa,


    I'm sorry to hear that, I know how tough it can be. Well I think acceptance is the most important first step to make, but I'm sure over time that could definitely change! Stay hopeful :) if you ever need to talk I'm here!


    And thank you, that means a lot. Exactly, I think it helps for everyone to share their story, helps everyone else feel a little less alone!


    Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely week x

    ReplyDelete

Thanks so much for commenting - make sure to leave your blog link and I'll definitely check it out! x

Emilicia STYLE © 2014