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Live mindfully

TEXT EMMA LAWFORD PHOTOGRAPHY BECKY LONG

Inspiring lives

EMMA LAWFORD INVESTIGATES THE GLOBAL ISSUE OF BODY LOATHING AND THE GROWING COMMUNITY OF BODY POSITIVITY.

The beauty of

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IMPERFECTION


Live mindfully Inspiring lives

TEXT EMMA LAWFORD PHOTOGRAPHY BECKY LONG

“I USED TO BE SOMEONE WHO THOUGHT THE ONLY THING I HAD TO OFFER ANYONE WAS WHAT I LOOKED LIKE”

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I look up at the magazine shelf stacked with all sorts of publications from Vogue to Vice, Inside Soap to Ideal Home, yet one thing stands out to me the most. Amongst all of these, what I really see, right in front of my eyes, is women. A mass of carefully airbrushed women staring directly back at me. I stand there and ask myself, “Why do I not look like that?” I then start to think about the young girl who will stand in this exact spot picking out the Dora magazine with the free colouring book, and what goes through her mind when she innocently looks two shelves up? Worse, six shelves? There’s no questioning that our saturation of digitallymodified images and “flawlessness” starts from a young age. We live in a time where we’ve accepted the idea that “sex sells”, to the extent where ad executives feel it compulsory to use female sexuality as a commodity to sell everything from cars to boxes of cereal. Women in particular are naturally forced to compare themselves with every glance, injected with

the constant need to achieve perfection. In an age where Photoshop and altering our image is growing larger than ever, I start to worry about the impact this has upon our future generation, or rather the impact it’s already had upon our current generation. Global research conducted by Dove highlights the universal issue that whilst beauty-related pressure increases, body confidence decreases as girls and women grow older. Dove’s most recent study, The Real Truth About Beauty found that only 11% of girls globally are comfortable describing themselves as ‘beautiful’ and a figure of 72% of girls feel tremendous pressure to look a certain way. Worse, 9 in 10 women will stop themselves from eating or otherwise put their health at risk. 9 in 10 women will stop themselves from eating because society says they need to be thinner, society says they are not good enough, society says they need to be altered. But what if we challenge society? What if we turn it around and start to think of ourselves as already beautiful, imperfectly

perfect, a work of art. What if we embraced the beauty of our imperfections rather than waste precious time trying to achieve something that undoubtedly, doesn’t exist. It turns out I’m not alone in this thinking. Formed in 1996, the Body Positive Movement is a feminist movement that encourages people to adopt more forgiving and affirming attitudes towards their bodies with the goal of improving overall health and wellbeing. Body Positive Activist, Megan Jayne Crabbe, also known as “bodyposipanda” on social media is a wellknown advocate of the community. Megan, 23, may look like a confident, free and vibrant young woman now, but her past reads very different. Behind her glowing complexion, brightly coloured hair and pink lipstick is a girl who at one point weighed just four stone. Megan was diagnosed with anorexia-nervosa at the age of 14 after years of loathing her body and battling body image issues. “I used to be someone who thought the only thing I had to offer anyone was what I looked like. The dieting _ 13


Live mindfully Inspiring lives

ANASTASIA AMOUR

ILLUSTRATION KELSIE ANN

“THE BEAUTY INDUSTRY DISSECTS OUR BODIES INTO INDIVIDUAL PARTS THAT EACH NEED SPECIAL ‘WORK’”

MEGAN CRABBE bodyposipanda.com Instagram: @bodyposipanda

started when I was ten and over time it suddenly escalated into something terrifyingly out of my control,” she says. Fourteen year-old Megan was told she would soon die if she didn’t do anything about her weight, “The one thing that made me step out of it was seeing my dad cry for the first time. I thought to myself, the strongest man that I know is standing in front of me and breaking,” she says. After a lengthy recovery and the battle between gaining and losing weight, today Megan stands stronger than ever, “We have so much more to give the world than how much we weigh or how much weight we can lose. You just have to believe that you are deserving of it, because we all deserve better than the hand we’ve been dealt by diet culture.” A report commissioned by Beat estimates that more than 725,000 people in the UK alone are affected by an eating disorder. The most common of these include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder. The National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC) lists socio-cultural influences as

one of the main contributors to the onset of unsettled eating, alongside genetic vulnerability and psychological factors. Body Confidence Coach and Founder of Heart Your Body, Judi Craddock says, “The media is constantly telling us what our bodies should and shouldn’t look like. The beauty industry dissects our bodies into individual parts that each need special ‘work’ to make them better, while the diet industry tells us we can’t trust ourselves to know what to eat and how much. It’s no wonder that we don’t really know what is natural or normal for our bodies.” Nevertheless, Judi argues that while it’s easy to complain that such industries are responsible for creating impossible beauty standards, if as individuals we don’t take some responsibility for creating a different way of thinking, nothing will ever change. “You internalise what you are exposed to on a daily basis, including images, conversations, and advertising messages. If you want to create a different world, you need to start behaving differently,” she states. Author of The Beauty Myth,

anastasiaamour.com Instagram: @anastasiaamour

Naomi Wolf, articulates this best: “A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience.” Anastasia Amour, Body Image and Self-Esteem Coach, plus author of Inside Out, found herself trapped in this obsession at the tender age of just 12, “Although you might not know it from how happy I look these days, but for a very long time, I wanted to die.” Like Megan, Anastasia experienced her own battle with anorexia for five long years. She lost more than 50% of her body weight, hadn’t had a period in years, was deathly pale, malnourished, grew lanugo all over and was dangerously close to death. Having been recovered for nearly six years, she now dedicates her life to helping women from all over the world to overcome eating disorders and body image issues of all kinds. She tells me, “It’s my goal to end that sense of isolation, equip women with the tools they need to come to a place of peace, acceptance, radical self-love, and show women that even in a society that profits on our insecurity, it is possible to fearlessly love your body.”

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3 1. Anastasia Amour 2. A page taken from Anastasia’s book, Inside Out 3. Megan Crabbe, photo taken for project by Becky Long 4. An illustration of Megan drawn by Kelsie Ann

4 ILLUSTRATION KELSIE ANN

“EVEN IN A SOCIETY THAT PROFITS ON OUR INSECURITY, IT IS POSSIBLE TO FEARLESSLY LOVE YOUR BODY’”

Listen to ‘Body Positivity Is For Everyone’ including more interviews at buzz.bournemouth.ac.uk/2017/01/body-positivity-everyone

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Live mindfully Inspiring lives

used to seeing bodies like this, therefore to me, it looks wrong and unhealthy?” or “I’m not used to seeing videos of someone eating donuts therefore I think this is unclean?” Does this argument come down to a list of things that actually, people are “not used” to seeing? Megan argues that such criticism of the community could not be further from the truth, “Body positivity is about promoting mental freedom. How that is going to look on different people, that’s none of our business. There are fat people who are metabolically healthy and there are thin people who are

very unhealthy.” She adds: “When we teach people to feel good about themselves, evidence shows they are more likely to take care of their bodies properly. And when we think about it, what are you most likely to take care of? Something that you love or something that you hate?” In the event that someone is legitimately mistreating themselves around food, movement and the way that they treat their body, is the solution to hit them with more material to fuel their self-hatred? What if instead, we tell them that they’re worthy and deserving, and encourage them to view themselves with kindness, with the hope that their selfacceptance will flourish and guide them to make choices that enrich their quality of life. Self-love is for everyone and body positivity is arguably the answer all round.

TEXT EMMA LAWFORD PHOTOGRAPHY BECKY LONG

The body positive movement has grown significantly over the past year particularly on Instagram with thousands of women sharing un-posed photos and showing parts of the body that would usually go unseen; for example, stretch-marks, scars and cellulite. Of course, this has generated mixed views amongst society. The key argument being that while the movement promotes that all bodies are beautiful, it endorses obesity and an unhealthy advertisement for an “eat whatever you want” attitude. Does this argument come from sincere concern or from a place of, “I’m not

AN INTERVIEW WITH: ESSIE DENNIS

Student and plus-size model, Essie Dennis believes that self hate is an epidemic and must be overcome. “It has become apparent to me that once I accepted myself, all other elements of my life fell into place. I would like other young people to know what can be achieved once they accept themselves,” she says. Hear more from Essie in our video ‘Meet Essie’ at buzz.bournemouth.ac.uk/2017/01/meet-essie

iamessie.co.uk Instagram: @khal_essie

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