Body Pride

9 Jun

Body confidence, body respect and body hatred, all are ideas that most people are aware of or familiar with, the hot button issue within the fashion and media industry with thousands of books, classes, articles and websites devoted to helping people with these issues. So why are hundreds of people still suffering with feeling inadequate about their bodies and what can be done?

The Dove advert using 'real' women...more media companies are starting to cotton on and do the same

With statistics from the female body survey showing that the average woman in the UK thinks about the shape and size of her body every 15 minutes, and that a small 4% of women are completely happy with their body, it’s easy to understand why the diet industry is worth £100 billion a year with the amount of anxieties in women, and also men that it has to prey on. The Atkins diet, Cambridge diet and Weight Watchers are only some of the more popular diets that we have all heard of and most likely tried in desperation at some point to feel better about ourselves, however Lucy Aphramor a dietician and founder of the ‘Be Well’ course, promotes a different way of feeling good about who we are and our bodies, without the need for crash diets and extreme weight loss.

Lucy, a dietician working in Coventry with seven years experience has a different approach to health; her ‘Be Well’ course has captured interest from the local community and council. Her classes instead of berating people for their weight ‘promote good health at any shape and size.’

“The focus on weight as a measure of health has brought forward a number of assumptions, such as you have to be thin to be healthy” Lucy says “that you can’t be fat and be healthy and that weight is actually a reliable measure of health. Healthy people come in all shapes and sizes and the important thing is that people have a healthy relationship with food and their bodies, if they have that they’ll eat well and keep active.” Lucy’s passion for helping people overcome body hatred began after clients coming to her for help with weight loss, were no happier or healthier for losing weight.  “Body hatred and dissatisfaction can be found in people of all shapes and sizes, it’s not about trying to fix fat people but trying to fix the way society sees and treats people.”

Lucy’s approach may seem familiar, but she claims it’s far more than just a two dimensional ‘love yourself’ approach to tackling body self consciousness. “It’s working with people trying to get across the message that they and everyone else deserves body respect, not only helping people find acceptance but helping them deal with this sense of shame that they shouldn’t have. We look at social pressure, stigma and oppression”

Lucy’s crusade for ‘good health at every size’ has also gained recognition from other health professionals, Bally Dhugga, a nutritionist now working with Lucy agrees, that her approach is the way forward. “This approach is more structured and ethical, after meeting Lucy I’m now working with other health professionals to raise awareness.”

Bally and Lucy believe that discrimination due to body size is now so common place that it is unchallenged, and both are worried about the effect this will have on the younger generation, Bally has worked with children from local schools and revealed disturbing results. “We did some work with Colewisemen School on self esteem and body image, the kids couldn’t find anything positive to say about themselves, they were convinced that they weren’t good enough” Bally said.

To counter act this, Lucy is looking to the future and aiming to take her ‘Be Well’ course to schools, “we should help kids to start thinking critically about the messages society exposes them to, we could start with size and then there is always the potential to apply this critical thinking to other kinds of discrimination” Lucy says.

Shelia Barsden is a mental health worker who has seen firsthand what the effects of discrimination against size has on mental health in both adults and young children. “The prejudice from society about food and size builds and becomes a mental problem, children should enjoy being children and not worry about what their eating, working with Lucy I have become even more aware of how size and the issues that come with it are related to mental health, in a society where peoples self esteem is now dependant on how you look, depression is common.”

Lucy, Bally and Shelia all agree the media could do more to fight prejudice “the media could be promoting more positive messages” Lucy comments “but the real danger is the health messages that lend credibility to the idea that you should be thin, that diets work and that to be accepted or valued you have to be thin.”

“Children are becoming more body conscious earlier” Bally says “teachers aren’t trained for this and are struggling, what is worrying is that companies are making money off of peoples suffering and that isn’t right is it, it’s about people’s lives and people are suffering.”

Lucy’s class should remind us that we all deserve respect whatever our shape or size, and that much like discrimination against race, gender or background, discrimination against size is just as much a crime and a violation of our human rights. We should have pride in our bodies and ourselves and that diets, self help books and websites can tell us what to think about ourselves and what to change about ourselves, but you know your body best, and should trust it.

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