It’s that time of the year again. The time where many of us become obsessed with weight and races to get their “summer body”.
The struggle to start or even finish this weight race often comes with stigma and judgement which has been shown to increase the chance of suffering from mental health issues such as stress and anxiety.
Research by Leeds Beckett University, shows that children as young as three are stigmatised because of their weight, with children as young as six worrying about their body image. I don’t know about you but I was appalled by this as during childhood, we build the foundations for our mental health and the quality of this foundation directly impacts the rest of our lives. However, these foundations are weakened when we advance society’s negative self image perceptions.
It is up to each one of us to continue the conversation about a healthy weight and mind. Research suggests that we think stigmatisation can help reduce obesity when it actually does the opposite. It threatens health and can cause people to experience mental health issues such as anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, reduced quality of life, substance abuse and in some cases self-harm and suicide. It even interferes with effective weight reduction interventions.
So, rather than stigmatization as a misplaced attempt at prevention, how about getting educated about the different factors that could be leading to the weight gain.
Before we begin to make judgements, we need to look at the person as a whole rather than what weight they appear to be. There are many resources out there such as healthy food charts and recipes that we could share with each other to continue to promote a healthy lifestyle.
Here are tips that may help you to focus on what is important when it comes to your health:
1) Focus on your health
It’s no secret that everywhere we turn, we are bombarded by doctored images of the “ideal body”. We all need to focus on taking good care of ourselves by staying active, eating nutritious and energy filled meals that are suitable for our physical body. If we do this regularly, then it shouldn’t matter what weight we appear to be. Loving yourself and being healthy is more important than fitting any social norm.
2) Stay Positive
Many of us would never comment on a friend’s weight loss/gain negatively or in harsh ways. We can all agree that these comments come from a caring heart. Yet, we sometimes don’t extend this to ourselves. Criticising ourselves and actively looking for flaws can lead to low self esteem. So, instead of saying “I have such chunky thighs, I wish they were thinner”, why not try, “I’m so glad, I have strong legs, I know that if I keep exercising a few times a week, I can tone it up to a shape that works for my body”.
3) Get a good role model
Research shows that sometimes, looking up to someone can inspire and motivate us. However, it is important to pick a role model that is healthy. To do this, remember that we all come in different shapes and sizes and what works for them might not work for you. So be realistic in your goal setting and find your own balance.
4) Consider discussing your goals with another person
I have found that having a sounding board, someone you can discuss your ideas with to be helpful in clarifying and expanding your thinking.
Seeking support from people such as therapists or counsellors is also a great option as they are trained and have already examined their prejudices and issues. Therefore, they are more attuned to your fears, shame and any experience of being judged. Sherman(2011), states that “one of the goals of therapy is not simply a healthier lifestyle, but helping each person feel good about themselves no matter what the scale says”.
We all have to be willing to change the little things we can and accept the things that we cannot. It all starts with us. As Ed Sheeran sings “Remember life is more than fitting in your jeans. It’s love, understanding and positivity”.
If you’re struggling with body image or self-esteem, please contact us at 076 680 1060 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to talk to a member of our team.
Written by MyMind Intern Cynthia Ebere-Anaba