Too Fat or Too Thin, Stop Body-Shaming Full Stop

Opinion

I can honestly say that Cheryl Fernandez-Versini (or Cole, if you prefer) is not a figure who has ever been of particular interest to me. I have never disliked her, but equally I have never liked her enough to care. Sure, I have found her accent mildly irritating at times and have experienced the occasional hair envy, but until now that’s about as far as it went. Recently however, I have found that I am not indifferent to Cheryl’s extremely high profile media persona any longer. I have found myself standing quite firmly alongside the rest of Team Cheryl, I am even cheering from the sidelines.

What could have possibly brought on this sudden shift in opinion? For that, we need to talk about body-shaming. You’re probably used to hearing the term quite often by now, because we live in a culture obsessed with doing exactly that, body-shaming. Society does it, the media does it, even we as individuals do it – whether we share this outwardly or keep our guilty, intrusive thoughts to ourselves. For some reason, which is utterly lost to me, we live in a society which is obsessed with slagging others off, and our favourite genre is the body, particularly – but not exclusively – the female body.

This is not news of course, it has been happening forever – or at least since the Daily Mail was let loose on society – but I’m bringing it to attention now because of two instances which in my eyes, highlight just how ridiculous this body-shaming thing really is.

Example one: newlywed Jennifer Aniston returns from her honeymoon, positively glowing and presumably still on a high – as you would be if you had just married Justin Theroux and spent the last few weeks at the Four Seasons in Bora Bora – only to be publicly body-shamed, ridiculed and humiliated by everyone’s favourite newspaper tabloid. What did she do to deserve this? Supposedly ‘over-doing the dinners’ and relaxing her diet whilst on honeymoon, heaven forbid. Apparently we live in a world where people, or rather those people over at the Daily Mail who actually consider this to be a work of journalism, are more comfortable criticising someone for their body (what happens to actually be an extremely enviable body, I feel I must add) instead of just being happy for them. Sorry Jen, we can no longer label you the poor, jilted women, we’ll just have to call you fat instead.
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Then at the other end of the scale there’s Cheryl, who has also fallen victim to the body-shaming culture. Her crime? She’s far too thin. Cheryl’s noticeably slim figure has had tongues and tabloids wagging non-stop since the start of the X-Factor, accusing her of being ‘too thin’ a ‘bag of bones’ and even a negative influence on young girls. Even though Cheryl had already spoken out honestly about her weight loss, putting it down to illness and stress caused by a recent personal trauma, the skinny-shaming was so insistent that Simon Cowell jumped to her defence, reassuring us that Cheryl was in fact eating properly.

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As I have also lost weight recently due to illness, I too, have of course found myself at the receiving end of body-shaming comments (whether these are intentional and malicious or not, the end result is the same) you’ll now understand why I am completely resonating with Cheryl on this one. It is equally as hurtful and frustrating to be labelled as “too thin” and constantly told to eat more and gain some weight, as it is to be told the exact opposite. So if no one can win, why can’t we just stop the body-shaming full stop? Public shaming, in the cases of Jen and Cheryl are not just one-off media assaults on individuals, they are attacks on all women, proving to us that no matter what we do or perhaps more importantly, what size we are, we will never be good enough. At least not in the eyes of the Daily Mail anyway.

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Why NOT to detox this January

Uncategorized

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It’s a new year, that must mean a new you, right? And when I say a new you, I mean a skinnier, healthier, fitter, less toxin filled version of last year you, of course. Which newest, craziest celebrity fad diet are you using to attempt to achieve this “new you”? Well if you’ve been reading the tabloids of late it’s probably Gwyneth Paltrow’s Red Carpet Detox Diet, but don’t panic if this isn’t the detox you’ve opted for, the Red Carpet Detox adheres almost exactly to every single other detox cliche around, it just happens to be this one which has the media’s attention at present.

Alongside articles related to said diet, I keep coming across the question, can celebrities make you fitter? “No. No they can’t” I want to scream. They’re not nutritionists or personal trainers, they are simply people in the public eye, who for whatever reason society has chosen to idolise, and therefore will believe anything they say.

What I’m getting at is, this January don’t fall for the detox diet. A diet which recommends excluding almost entire food groups and advocates obsessive, unrealistic eating is not just unhealthy but nutritionally ignorant and encourages weight obsession. Although thankfully most people will never suffer with an eating disorder, many at some point in their lives, will experience phases of disordered eating, of which detoxes such as this are a prime example. While it is disgusting that the media promotes this disordered eating, by forcing these diets and detoxes upon us, it shouldn’t surprise anyone – the western world is obsessed with food, with eating it and not eating it. So much so, that what we eat has almost become a statement about our life and who we are. At the end of the day detoxes are fashionable, just as being skinny is, and who doesn’t want to be fashionable and skinny? Even if they do come at an ever-increasing price, that price being your health.

What we should be aware of is that these diets are concocted on the belief that women are so shallow and silly, they will follow anything they’re told to, just because a celebrity has been name-dropped in there. Yeah its offensive, but sadly its true, and even more worryingly, quite often the theory works.

Celebrities can’t make you fit or help you lose weight, only you can do that and the only sensible, effective way is to eat well and exercise often. Don’t detox, its unnecessary, unhelpful and unhealthy.

How Is the Fashion Industry Affecting Your Body?

Fashion, Opinion

https://i-d.vice.com/en_gb/article/how-the-fashion-industry-affects-the-bodies-of-young-women

As I was reading this fantastic article, taken from the 1993 Beauty Issue of I-D magazine, I couldn’t help, not only completely agreeing with everything Avril Mair says, but also finding that many of the issues are still of extreme prominence today. I find myself asking the question, has anything actually changed?

I mean, apart form the obvious differences, the increase in statistics of Eating Disorder sufferers, and the celebrities who we are choosing to idolise, the basic principles remain the same.

“A woman’s experience of her own body arises from how she believes it compares with the magnified images of women that surround her on billboards, on television, in films, magazines and newspapers.”

“A consumer society in which women’s bodies are used to sell products while being presented as the ultimate commodity creates all sorts of body image problems.”

These quotes, taken from the original article, seem obvious, common knowledge to us today, but yet that doesn’t make them any less accurate. Even though the issue of the negative body image caused by the media has been recognised and addressed in recent years, making us aware of what we are being sucked into when we open up a magazine or switch on the TV, this realistically hasn’t changed a thing. Consumerism is all around us, in the digital world we live in, it is impossible to avoid and impossible to live without. Just because as a society we are aware that the media can have a negative effect on body image does not stop it from happening, or even help us recognise when it is.

“No matter how many ‘feminist’ features magazines may run, body fascism is reinforced by the advertisements, the fashion stories and the beauty pages”

The truth is, women’s magazines are still full of diet tips and the latest fat-busting work-outs, they are still full of photographs of celebrities looking their “flabbiest” at a size 10. The models filling the fashion pages are still painfully thin, they might not be size zero anymore but they are certainly not the same size as you or me. Yet even though we are now more informed, more aware, and we know it’s all an unrealistic expectation, we can’t help ourselves but be sucked in. Because it’s consumerism, and at the end of the day we are consumers.

Today, the diet industry is still without doubt, one of the fastest growing industries in the world and we still face the problem that almost half of British females are on a diet at any one time, yet most of these are not obese or even over-weight. The UK diet industry is worth £2 Billion, yet as a nation we are still only growing fatter.

As for the men, it goes without saying that the affect the media has on male body image has certainly not improved. Men suffering with eating disorders is still something which is rarely discussed, viewed as shameful and not masculine, but the same time it is a problem which is only expanding. The worrying thing is, we can have no real idea of the scale due to the only small numbers of men who feel comfortable enough to speak out and seek help.

21 years on from when this article was written, I am struggling to recognise any major developments in the effect the media has on our body image, in fact, this piece could of been written today were it not for the few differences.

If anything, I fear the media has only become more obsessed with our bodies and how we should look, whether it be “too fat” “too thin” “plus-size” or “anorexic” the media is constantly comparing, judging and sending out subliminal messages to its audience, and now with the power of digital and social media, it is almost unstoppable.

Avril Mair was right, enough was enough a long time ago.

 

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Who What Wear – Mind Media Awards 2014

Fashion, News

Last night saw the Mind Media Awards take place at BFI Southbank in London. The awards ceremony celebrates the best examples of reporting and portrayal of mental health in print, broadcast and digital media and recognises media professionals, organisations, students and individuals who report responsibly and sensitively on mental health.

This year, Channel 4 won three out of the four television awards, My Mad Fat Diary won the Drama Award, Embarrassing Bodies: Live From The Clinic took the Entertainment Award and News and Current Affairs Award was won by Channel 4 News for their Life In Chains: Somalia’s Mentally Ill report.

The event, which was hosted by writer and journalist Helen Lederer, saw BBC’s Michael Buchanan and Community Care’s Andy McNicholl share the award for Journalist of the Year, for their investigations which exposed the crisis in mental health care, including shortage of beds, cuts to community services and children being placed on adult wards.

The event saw a diverse group of celebrities step out to show their support. Take a look at who was there and who wore what.

 

Denise Welch

Denise Welch, who attended with her husband Lincoln Townley, wore a bold monochrome mini-dress dress with black blazer and ankle boots.

 

JAMEELA

Jameela Jamil dazzled in a white strapless dress with structured skirt and an awfully cute pair of heels.

 

ceska

Made in Chelsea’s Cheska Hull was glowing in a floral strapless number.

 

DR DAWN HARPER

Embarrassing Bodies’s Dr Dawn Harper looked the picture of elegance a black off-the-shoulder satin dress and eye-catching necklace.

megan cox

Katherine Welby-Roberts and Megan Cox arrived together sporting glossy curls and delicate lace. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s daughter made a statement with a cobalt shoe.

gail porter

Meanwhile, Gail Porter chose to go casual, in a camouflage jacket, her guest looking very of-the-minute in a wide-leg pinstripe trouser.

The Weight of Living

Fashion, Food, News

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In a country where obesity rates are soaring, but at the same time roughly 1.6 million people are suffering from eating disorders, there is no doubt something needs to be done to help people’s health, the solution? Stepping on the scales to see which celebrity you are weighing in at.

According to Superdrug, one of the best ways to help people be more open about discussing their health needs, is the introduction of weighing scales which don’t tell you the figure you weigh, instead, they replace the numbers with the names of various celebrities and compare you to these famous faces, in front of your very eyes. As if our own mind isn’t good enough at comparing us to every other woman encountered, these scales will instantly compare you to some of the most celebrated women on the earth.

It’s a joke you must be thinking, and you’d be right to. If it wasn’t such a serious issue the whole thing would be laughable. Superdrug have since released a statement saying they wont be trailing the scales in their stores after (unsurprisingly) receiving a great deal of public backlash, but what concerns me is how Superdrug thought this was a good idea in the first place. In fact no, scrap the ‘good,’ how did they even think this was an idea?

It is widely known that the celebrity culture of society today has an immensely negative effect on women and young girls when it comes to self esteem and body confidence. This product is exhibiting the very worst of this culture, if I was to create a product that depicted everything that is wrong with the media culture we have today, this would be it.

The celebrities used on the scales, including, Cheryl Cole, Ellie Goudling, Adele, Gemma Collins and even Kate Middleton – even royalty can’t escape the wrath of the bathroom scales – have obviously not given Superdrug permission to involve them in such a monstrosity. Therefore, their weights are more than likely to be presumed, though this is besides the point, as our weight fluctuates anyway and actually tells us very little about how healthy we are since it is made up of muscle mass and fluid as well as a proportion of fat.

Cheryl Cole tweeted a genuinely shocked response when she saw an article about the scales, posting “..Pls do not include me in your scales. Girls should be worried about the number on their exam page not a weight scale ffs.” True as this may be Cheryl, it couldn’t be further from reality, especially when this is one of our leading high street brand’s idea of a solution.

'Jimmy P. (Psychotherapy Of A Plains Indian)' Premiere - The 66th Annual Cannes Film Festival

Kesha – Showing the World She is a Warrior

Features, News

 

Kesha Sebert wallpaper

 

On Friday, singer Kesha became the latest celebrity to speak out about her eating disorder, when she checked into the Timberline Knolls Centre and gave this statement to the press:

“I’m a crusader for being yourself and loving yourself but I’ve found it hard to practice, I’ll be unavailable for the next 30 days, seeking treatment for my eating disorder … [and] to learn to love myself again. Exactly as I am.”

Being in the public eye, a celebrity always receives much more of a reaction from society when going public with an issue like this, which is why I have to admire Kesha’s bravery and that of the other celebrities who have spoken openly about their problems over the years.

However, going public is a gamble and there are both positive and negative repercussions when a celebrity admits to having an eating disorder. In some cases it can be a valuable and important message to others who may be suffering, particularly young girls who might idolise and look up to these celebrities, and I would like to think that it may encourage others to get help themselves.

However, unfortunately, the media has a tendency to focus on the negative aspects. I have already read a number of online articles scrutinising Kesha’s weight over the years and discussing her previous diet and exercise regimes. The other worry is the glamorisation of eating disorders, which often happens when they appear in the public eye associated with celebrities and supermodels. As much as society has started to move away from the idea that anorexia and bulimia are glamorous lifestyle choices, rather than serious diseases, there is still no doubt that young people and teenagers are susceptible to being influenced by the lifestyles of celebrities.

Although Kesha has done an extremely courageous and brave thing by getting the help she needs and doing it publicly, what her fans and the rest of the general public will never see or hear is the hardship she will face on her journey to recovery and for long afterwards. When celebrities do speak about their eating disorders the common occurrence is for them to emerge from rehab after a short time and as far as anyone is concerned, they are perfectly healthy again, all relationships with food restored. In reality of course this is not the case and Kesha among many others will still be battling her eating disorder behind closed doors for a long time to come.

These factors make me question just how positive celebrities speaking out actually can be, does it paint an unrealistic picture of an eating disorder? In 30 days time when Kesha makes her post-treatment statement to the press, some will know what is going on beneath the bravado, the challenges she has still to face and what recovery from an eating disorder is really like. I hope that her courage continues and that her influence will encourage others to take the same brave steps.

“There Are No Good or Bad foods, Only Good and Bad Attitudes”

Food, Opinion

I first heard this statement from a dietician and it has stuck with me ever since. It is perhaps, the sentence which has allowed me to have a healthy lifestyle and a better relationship with food.

Every day we are told by the media what we should and shouldn’t eat, and every week there is a new diet craze, instructing us that if we eat anything other then cabbage for the week then we will remain fat, forever. We are endlessly being warned about the foods that give you cancer, make you obese and only end in diabetes. Then, there is the other end of the spectrum. The “super foods”, the “I’ll make you skinny foods”, the foods we must be consuming every day in order to live to a ripe old age. Yes, it is important know what is good for you and what isn’t so good, and it is important to pass this on to our children, but what actually needs to change in most cases, is the attitude, not the food.

It’s simple, people who have a good attitude when it comes to food are fitter and healthier, both mentally and physically. We don’t need a complex study to determine this, it is an obvious fact of life. Whatever food someone may be eating, whether it be ”bad” or “good”, if their attitude is distorted and unhealthy, they are always going to struggle with themselves, it could be by binge eating, obsessive dieting or in extreme cases, eating disorders.

Society doesn’t need to separate foods off into “good” and “bad” groups, so that one group is forced  upon us and the other is forbidden fruit (although not so much fruit, in this case) and it is clearly not working as a way of getting Britain healthy – we all know how the human brain works, when we tell it it can’t have something, it only makes us want it more. It shouldn’t be a case of having to eat something you don’t like just because it is “good for you” or being miserable because you are constantly denying yourself food, and we shouldn’t be overcome with guilt if we have dessert. I hate the phrase “everything in moderation” but it definitely applies here.

What we should be doing is trying to change our attitudes. Recognising if we have an unhealthy relationship with food, and trying to change it for the better. This won’t happen over night, and it is up to the individual as much as it is up to the media, but eventually we would all be healthier and happier, for longer.

‘It’s Okay to be Overweight’ – Say Size 16 Mannequins

Fashion, Opinion

As fashion department store Debenhams take the bold and brave step of introducing size 16 mannequins to their high street stores, I’m wondering if this is a step too far? Don’t get me wrong, it is definitely a positive sign that fashion retailers are starting to acknowledge the unhealthy body image issues that surround their models and campaigns, I just fear that this is the right move but in the wrong place.

It is quite a remarkable move for Debenhams to make, although they must believe there is a profit to be made from these, equally unrealistic, overweight mannequins. Size 16 might be the average women’s size in Britain, but generally speaking, size 16 is not a healthy size to be. Britain is not a healthy nation. I’m not discriminating against those who are naturally a size 16 and for whom this is a healthy weight to be, I’m talking about the majority of those size 16’s who are so because they lead an unhealthy lifestyle, of eating too much and not exercising enough.

I don’t believe shops should be promoting the message that it is okay to be overweight, it is not, and the government spends millions of pounds telling us this. This isn’t because the media says a size 16 is fat and only size zero is beautiful. It’s not okay to be overweight because its dangerous for our health. This is mind, I can’t help but wonder why Jo Swinson has decided to undo some of those millions by reassuring and encouraging people that – to put it bluntly – it’s okay to be fat.

It is the attitudes of the media, and women themselves that need to change, not the size of the shop mannequins. Of course the mannequins are not a realistic model of the average size 16 woman, with flat stomachs  and legs slimmer than my own ‘size 10’ legs, but that is because they are just that, mannequins. Dolls. Not real. Therefore, I am doubtful about how they are going to make real women feel better about their bodies. This change needs to be applied to the real women who front the fashion industry, then maybe we will get somewhere in the battle for better body image.

 

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