Image via Giphy
Stats from a YouGov survey in March have been doing the online rounds with the news that in the past year, 20% of UK adults have felt shame, 34% felt down, and 19% felt disgusted – all due to their bodies.
Body Image is this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week theme, and not a moment too soon. With the effects of a negative body image ranging from low self-esteem, self-worth and confidence, to behavioural changes to both ends of the spectrum (including both over and under exercising and eating), it can even affect how well we communicate with one another, as feeling uncomfortable in your own skin can completely dry up once easy conversationalists.
Negative comparisons are a key trigger to body image issues, and easily the largest factor is representation: it’s why we emphasise the importance of authenticity within our Conscious Marketing promise. Dove got the ball rolling a few years ago with their Real Women campaigns, and they have (grudgingly) been followed by fashion brands.
Pretty Little Thing recently helped to cut down some of the guesswork (and returns) from many women who struggle to imagine what clothes will look like on them, rather than the tiny models in the pictures. The brand now shows models in two different sizes, to show the ways clothes will hang on different bodies. There is still a long way to go, but even acknowledging different sizes is a start.
Dove, the first brand to represent real women have once again nailed it, with a recent collaboration with Getty images, collecting 5,000 photos from female and nonbinary photographers. The project, #ShowUs, showcases all types of femininity in true to life scenarios, and provides a real-world relief against airbrushed perfection.
While women are most often featured in body diversity debates, men aren’t immune to body shame, with 69% feeling unrepresented by brands (New Macho), and a quarter reporting feeling depressed from concerns about their body image (Mental Health Foundation).
Getty is once again a hero here, having added to their image library last year, a range of photos that show all sides of men, rather than the standard masculine stereotypes. Men’s wellbeing platform Manual have also answered the call for equal male diversity with their ‘Men of Manual’. Launched as part of Mental Health Awareness Week, the campaign answers the standard, unrealistic ‘Gillette model’ with a celebration of real men, of different shapes and sizes.
Issues are brought into light on social media, and body image is no exception. Social media can be toxic and empowering in equal parts – it’s all in who you’re choosing to fill your feed. So if you’re feeling dissatisfied with your appearance after scrolling (and 22% of adults do, according to MHF), it may be worth reassessing the people you’re following. If there are specific brands or people that consistently make you feel bad about yourself, head straight for the unfollow button. You don’t owe anyone social media engagement, and no one is worth sacrificing your mental wellbeing for.
While there’s nothing wrong in following the odd ‘fitspo’ account, it’s important to remember to have varied representation. If you’re finding the people on your IG feed overwhelming, here are a few accounts you might like to follow instead:
@midsizecollective is champions ‘not petite but not plus-sized’ women, in OOTD posts featuring ladies between size 10 and 18.
@menofmanual , for a page of real men that care about their mental wellbeing. Mentioned in more detail in the blog, but they’re basically amazing.
@mynameisjessamyn a yoga teacher, showing self-love and exercise look amazing at any size.
@jamakings Who says body positivity can’t be found on social media? James Makings changed the people he surrounded himself with, and learned to love his body. Come for the fashion shots, stay for his captions that explore the challenges of of plus-sized male models.
@iamkej Model and trans activist, Kenny Ethan-Jones, takes gorgeous selfies and (through amazing dedication and hard work) is bringing diversity to the London fashion scene.
@iamdaniadriana Satisfy your wanderlust with Dani Adriana, a body positive travel blogger from Australia who confronts a lot of issues faced in the plus-sized world with her #FatAndEating and #FatAndLoved series.
@i_am_morgie is a musician and fitness blogger, who said goodbye to shaving and rocks a natural look.
@hannahmummymills is a fitness blogger who shares how her body has changed and advice on working out post-pregnancy (and the cutest baby photos possible!)
@mamacaxx is a beautiful model and advocate – read the captions of her high fashion photos for serious inspiration and candid chats about losing her leg to bone cancer.
Don’t see anything that fits? Create some posts of your own, using this week’s Mental Health Awareness hashtag #BeBodyKind. We’d also love to hear about your inspirations – tag your favourite body positivity account in the comments.