A new study from common sense media has shown that by the age of 10 80% of girls have been on a diet. Ten. That’s year 5. I can honestly say I was more worried about betty spaghetti and Bluetooth then than even thinking about my body. But then I wore multi-coloured over the knee socks until year 7, so I’m not sure I’m an accurate case study. But regardless of my garish fashion choices, or as my mum called them ‘original’, body image was something I had never really struggled with.
The media undoubtedly plays a terrible part in girls’ negative body image but we have to start looking hard in the mirror. Stop focusing on what we see in ourselves, that wonky nostril, that chubby elbow, and see what we do to other people. Phrases like ‘Oh I shouldn’t’ ‘Oh I’ll be bad’ or ‘oh I’m having a fat day’ just aren’t ok. We constantly subtly body shame each other. Calories are not inherently evil. Fat doesn’t kick kittens. Carbs don’t push toddlers over in the street and laugh. But most importantly eating is not bad. We cannot feel guilty for doing it. Surprisingly enough, you actually have to. To survive.
Everything is good in moderation. That is actually a fact. I mean maybe a part from murder or speedos. But in the case of food it’s actually true. You actually need fat in your diet and carbohydrates are what give you energy. These are things we all know, but they somehow get lost in all the talk of bikini bods and how much we want abs. I definitely do it. I have been known to shout ‘Abs, Abs, Abs’ in the gym in what some may call a laddy fashion, and I will always check my stomach post gym session in the hope my incredible six pack has come bursting through. But when it is constant, it is damaging. We harm ourselves and we harm other people by constantly feeling guilty for something that we need to do.
Nine out of ten teenage girls are unhappy with their body type; this isn’t an issue for the few anymore, it is by far the majority. We are constantly bombarded by negative comments about our bodies and sadly it’s working. The daily mail puts horrible red rings around the slightest wobble and adverts challenge us to be beach body ready. The negativity is constant and it is relatively impossible to avoid. But this doesn’t mean we have to give in to it. Each time we self-shame the daily mail gets a little pat on the back Katie Hopkins has a cheeky grin. If that isn’t enough to make you gush about custard-creams, I don’t know what is.
Body image is complicated and it’s not going to be solved just because everyone starts savouring their bourbons a bit more, but next time you have a kit-kat, try not saying ‘I shouldn’t’, loudly smack your lips and say ‘god that was brilliant’ or ‘gordon bennet what a delight’. Swap your shaming for happiness and maybe the year fives can go back to worrying about what they’re meant to. Which is art attack, and nothing else.
Image courtesy of Samantha Jade photography