- This man’s behaviour was totally disgusting
- New research into this anxiety problem 1 in 8 people will get this, and it’s shocking
- Why the diet industry is partly to blame
One of my wife’s friends rang her in tears a few days ago.
She’s a 50-year old theatre promoter who used to work as an actress in her youth – even got a few telly bit parts in her time.
However, despite her bubbliness and apparent confidence, she suffers from anxiety.
A lot of it is related to the fact that she’s not as slim as she used to be, and because she has so many old photos – and lots of footage – that people see, she worries that people think she has “let herself go”.
As Lara says, it’s clearly not the case but that doesn’t stop her friend from thinking these thoughts.
Anyway, she has being trying to lose weight and started going to the gym recently.
The other day, she didn’t have time to change so decided to take the short walk from the gym to her office in her leggings.
She says it did worry her, being a little exposed by going out with just leggings and a T-Shirt on, but thought that she should put her anxious thoughts to rest.
After all, she keeps getting told that her worries are all “in her head”.
As she was trying to get past a middle-aged man on a very narrow strip of pavement next to heavy London traffic she said, “Excuse me, can I just squeeze past?”
He said, “No, go around me,” which meant the road, then added as she tried to skirt past without getting run over, “and cover up your big fat backside while you’re at it.”
So you can imagine how she felt, based on all her anxieties.
The man’s disgusting rudeness aside – (he was hardly an Adonis, my wife’s friend said, he was balding and as overweight as she was) – this is an example of a health epidemic that’s not being talked about, or taken seriously, enough.
Why body image anxieties are becoming increasingly deadly
A few days after my wife got that tearful call, I read an article in The Guardian that revealed a new poll by the Mental Health Foundation.
It has found that one in eight adults in the UK have been so distressed about their body image that they’ve considered suicide.
It made me stop and think…
One in every eight of my readers might be so upset by the way they look that they’re at the point of utter despair.
That’s awful to think.
How did our society come to this?
Of course, a lot of it is caused by magazine, film and TV representations of women (and men) which suggest a level of conventional beauty that the vast majority of us will never have – nor NEED to have.
Conventions of beauty are just that – conventions.
They’re cultural norms that have no objective basis, and yet so deeply conditioned that it’s hard for anyone not to compare themselves to the “ideal”.
Mark Rowland, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, told The Guardian:
“There has always been idealised body representation across media, but it’s the quantity of those images and the frequency in which we see them [now] – that’s what we’re worried about.”
But there’s another cause too…
Why the diet industry is also to blame …
As the Summer approaches the media is full of “How to get beach body ready” articles. They bully and pressure people into pursuing an ideal fantasy body size so that they’ll buy more magazines and more diet products before they head off on holiday.
The women and men shown in these articles and diet product adverts are professional MODELS – the vast majority of us will never look like that, ever.
What’s worse is, by going on a severe diet before your holiday you lose out on vital nutrients and put your body into starvation mode. It means that when you DO finally indulge in meals and treats on holiday your body stores more of it as fat.
In other words, you end up fatter than you began. And by Autumn it’s as if your diet never happened.
The media and the diet industry make a lot of capital out of the anxieties people have about their bodies, without offering real, lasting solutions.
They want you to DESIRE to be slimmer… but they don’t want you to STAY slim. Their best interest isn’t cure, or long-lasting remedy, but a constant cycle of anxiety, so that people keep buying diet products for a lifetime.
Of course, if you want to lose weight, that’s fine, but don’t crash diet so you can wear last summer’s shorts. And don’t think you have to be model standard slim, or Hollywood actor thin, for you to be worth something as a human.
Weight loss will only ever work if you make sustainable changes to your entire lifestyle and do so over a long period of time.
That includes eating more whole foods in a more varied diet. It means cutting down on sugars and processed foods. It means trying to get a good night’s sleep. It means finding ways to reduce stress and do more exercise. It means finding activities that give joy and meaning to your life.
These kinds of tips are what I mainly try to pass on in these letters because they’re about “being” healthier, and feeling better about yourself… not just “looking” healthier because you are skinny.
The aim is to live a good life, not to correspond to other people’s ideas of what you should look like.
Sorry for the rant, but it does make me upset when I see so called “health” media causing such terrible anxieties about body image, as if the way to a healthier life is somehow through shaming and guilt-tripping people.
It isn’t – and the latest shocking mental health statistics only go to show the terrible consequences.
Anyway, on a FAR lighter note…
If you hate being bitten by insects, then look out for an email from me on Sunday with something you might never want to leave the country without!