Body image and learning to love yourself

Body image and learning to love yourself

Hi All. I hope that you have all had a good week. How did you find my blog post from last week? Did you take on board any of the advice about morning walks and motivational podcasts? Let me know as it would be good to know. Plus if you want any more advice around that area please let me know.

As you may know, at the end of each week I post a wellness blog in which I look at aspects of physical health or mental health, exploring ways to improve both, as well as exploring my personal fitness and wellness journey.

This week though is different.

For one, I am not posting it at the end of the week. And for good reason.

This week I am posting about something bigger, something bigger than me, something bigger than my journey. This week I am talking about mental health awareness.

I have worn many hats in my short time on this enormous spinning ball of earth and water. I have been a bartender. I have been a fitness instructor. I was nearly a teacher. I did a Masters. I am currently working in the mental health sector. Which hat I wear tomorrow will be a combination of met ambition, new skills aquired, and dipping my toe into further unchartered waters.

The hat I wear today though is that of supporting individuals with challenging mental illness and personality disorders. And in this role I have been made aware of Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from May 13 – 19. And in my role I wanted to share this information with you.

What is Mental Health Awareness Week, you may ask?

Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Awareness Week takes place from 13-19 May 2019. The theme this year is Body Image – how we think and feel about our bodies.

Body Image


Having worked in the fitness industry and now working in the mental health sector, I have had an experience of both worlds: of the world of the mind and the world of the body. And these worlds are linked closer than we may wish to admit.

I have seen how people have over exercised and gone on extreme diets. I have battled with emotional eating, eating when I have been stressed or saddened in the past. I have seen how people have become obsessed with how they look and the lengths they have gone to look ‘the perfect way’.

This has led some people toward eating disorders, harming themselves, and developing unhealthy obsessions with how they look.

‘Body image’ is a term that can be used to describe how we think and feel about our bodies. Our thoughts and feelings about our bodies can impact us throughout our lives, affecting, more generally, the way we feel about ourselves and our mental health and wellbeing.

How does body image affect mental health?

Having body image concerns is a relatively common experience and is not a mental health problem in and of itself; however, it can be a risk factor for mental health problems. Research has found that higher body dissatisfaction is associated with a poorer quality of life, psychological distress and the risk of unhealthy eating behaviours and eating disorders.

Higher body dissatisfaction is associated with a poorer quality of life, psychological distress and the risk of unhealthy eating behaviours and eating disorders.

Conversely, body satisfaction and appreciation has been linked to better overall wellbeing and fewer unhealthy dieting behaviours. Though feeling unsatisfied with our bodies and appearance is often more common among young women, body image concerns are relevant from childhood through to later life and affect both women and men.

Body satisfaction and appreciation has been linked to better overall wellbeing and fewer unhealthy dieting behaviours.


What causes body image concerns?

The way in which our experiences and environment affect our body image will be different for everyone. However, overall, the research suggests that body image can be influenced by:

  • our relationships with our family and friends
  • how our family and peers feel and speak about bodies and appearance
  • exposure to images of idealised or unrealistic bodies through media or social media
  • pressure to look a certain way or to match an ‘ideal’ body type

There are further issues relevant to body image and mental health that are specific to certain factors and experiences, such as:

  • long-term health conditions
  • cultural differences around body ideals
  • gender and sexuality

The above are often linked to other societal factors and discrimination.

New body image statistics

New online surveys were conducted by the Mental Health Foundation with YouGov in March 2019 of 4,505 UK adults 18+ and 1,118 GB teenagers (aged 13-19). The results highlighted that:

  • One in five adults (20%) felt shame, just over one third (34%) felt down or low, and 19% felt disgusted because of their body image in the last year.
  • Among teenagers, 37% felt upset, and 31% felt ashamed in relation to their body image.
  • Just over one third of adults said they had ever felt anxious (34%) or depressed (35%) because of their body image.
  • One in eight (13%) adults experienced suicidal thoughts or feelings because of concerns about their body image.
  • Just over one in five adults (21%) said images used in advertising had caused them to worry about their body image.
  • Just over one in five adults (22%) and 40% of teenagers said images on social media caused them to worry about their body image.

What can we do?

Clearly action is needed to build and promote positive body image and support good mental health and wellbeing in relation to our bodies. Everyone has a right to feel comfortable and confident in their own bodies and our report highlights key recommendations for:

  • Effective regulation of how body image is portrayed.
  • The need for commitment from social media companies to play a key role in promoting body kindness.
  • Taking a public health approach to body image by training frontline health and education staff.
  • Individually being more aware of how we can take care of ourselves and others in relation to body image.

There is too much pressure on people these days to look a particular way, and this is having a detrimental effect on the mental health and physical health and wellbeing of many people.

Learn to love the beautiful body you are blessed with. You are blessed with a truly amazing gift: you. Cherish it. Celebrate it. Don’t compare it. Yours is unique and amazing. 

If you feel like some of what has been mentioned in this blog has resonated with you, or if you feel effected by your body image and would like further help, there are services available. You can ask for help at your GP, or for further information:

Remember: it’s a journey. It will take time. Have patience in the process. You will get there. Until then, stay happy, stay healthy, and have a lovely week wherever you are on the planet.

And remember: love yourself. 

A bit about the author:I am a guy who is (nearly) 40, who is sharing a journey of weight management and wellbeing.I am also a mental health professional with a wealth of years of experience in supporting individuals who have challenging mental illnesses and personality disorders. Prior to my current professional role, I spent several years supporting members of the community as a fitness professional, assisting individuals with weight loss and health improvement programmes.I completed a PGDip in Mental Health Nursing in 2013, and an MSc in Advanced Practice in 2016 in which I looked at improving nurses’ level of engagement with patients with challenging personality disorders. In 2018 I successfully undertook a Clinical reasoning in Physical Assessments course with the view to start studying toward becoming an Advanced Nurse Practitioner in late 2019.In 2015 I also undertook a Mentorship for practice (BSc Hons) course and have been supporting future nurses with their training and development. I have also recently supported a Healthcare Assistant Staff toward training in and successfully passing and achieving a Foundation Degree in Mental Health Nursing.In my current role I am a person looking to support the physical and mental health and wellbeing of the individual. As part of my role within the health services in supporting individuals with mental health care needs, I am also currently looking to develop myself as a Wellness Coach, to support the individual with weekly wellness blogs, with the view to support individuals on a 1:1 basis as well as holding motivational lectures and seminars.

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