Chief Executive of the Central YMCA and co-founder of the Campaign for Body Confidence , Rosi Prescott, talks about the body beautiful, and how important it is to change the way we see ourselves and what she is doing to #bekindtoyou this week!
Here, in our 24/7 21st century, we shouldn’t perhaps be surprised that the media, advertising and “celebrity culture” account for the overwhelming influence on how we see ourselves. We should, however, be concerned that the ‘body ideal’ they typically portray – fat-free, perfectly toned and too often brushed with magic air – cannot be physically achieved by 95% of the population. The consequences are no laughing matter: more than half of us now suffer from body image anxiety, feeling under-confident about our appearance and how our body appears to others. It’s a major contributor to low-self esteem, depression, lack of participation at school and progression at work and causes long-term health and relationship problems.
This scourge is affecting how our children are growing up. Girls as young as five now worry about how they look; by the age of 10, body image is the biggest single concern for a third of girls and a fifth of boys. Appearance is the largest cause of bullying in schools. It gets worse: most young people say they’d rather be thin than healthy and by 14, half of girls and a third of boys have been on a diet to change their body shape. Girls who diet are 12 times more likely to binge eat. Eating disorders (from which 1.6m people suffer in the UK) have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. And while we’re at it, the vast majority of people who diet regain the weight they lost…and then gain some more. Diets don’t work.
Little wonder we struggle to be kind to ourselves.
So how do we change such ingrained attitudes and behaviour? At Central YMCA, the country’s leading health and education charity, we’re working with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image and a group of some 25 other charities to raise funds to launch a new campaign that aims to help everyone in the UK enjoy a healthy attitude towards their body and a positive body image. Focusing on education, health and wellbeing, as well as social responsibility in media and advertising, the Campaign for Body Confidence will call for:
When we live in a world in which we accept that human beings come in different shapes and sizes with body types that naturally predispose us towards being thin, fat or muscular; in which good health, wellbeing and a multitude of other personal attributes, such kindness and generosity, are deemed more important than weight and appearance and in which this reality is positively reflected by the images and messages with which we’re saturated everyday, then we, our children and their children, will be happier, healthier and more fulfilled.
As for being kind to myself: a jog on the South Downs at the weekend, followed by a massage and a bubbling, hot bath (sometimes with a glass of something red) invariably bring a smile to my face. And we all know that’s the most attractive thing about anyone, don’t we?
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