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15 May 2019

Mental Health Awareness Week 2019: A spotlight on body image

Stu Bramford, Manager for Palmwood Court, shares his thoughts on this year’s theme:

“Body image is more in the spotlight now than it has ever been, with companies such as Dove using 'normal' people in their ad campaigns rather than models and the increased diagnosis of eating disorders in young people linked to the unrealistic images portrayed on social media and in magazines, just to name a few examples. So I thought I'm just going to write about my experiences in general when it comes to body image as I in no way want to detract from the very real, and sometimes fatal results, that people experience when it comes to body image.

“The first real memory I have of considering body image was when I started doing my Sports Studies GCSE at school and we looked at the three main body type categories (ectomorph, mesomorph & endomorph if you are interested) that people fall into. Until then I hadn't really given it much thought or consideration. Although I now knew the scientific names for these body types, so I was indirectly more aware of other peoples’ body shapes due to this, it was never something I really cared about.

“It was then towards the tail end of my time studying for my GCSEs that I now see I started to experience my first symptoms of depression and what was the lead up to many of the hardest and darkest years of my life. So any active thought process in regards to the way I looked, body image or anything else went out the window.

“Bringing things more up to date I think I am probably more bothered about my body image now than I ever have been previously. I think I am slowly (very slowly!!) starting to accept that I'm not as young as I once was and I'm not going to have the lean, trim, athletic body that I once had. Mainly because I don't do anywhere near as much exercise as I used to, but also because I am much more aware and concerned about the importance of being healthy. I'm having to accept now that I have a bit of a gut and I'm probably not going to ever have a flat stomach again. My muscle mass has steady just been turning into 'mass' and not bothering with the muscle part, but that's okay. As I am learning more and more each passing day that time does catch up with us. But we need to be realistic about where we are and what we are doing about it.

“The point I was on my way to making was that most people want to be a certain way, maybe how they used to look or how they would like to look in the future, but the key is to be happy within yourself and to achieve this through healthy, productive means. It is also very important to not use social media or glossy magazines as a measure or target of what you would like to achieve, as they are not realistic goals. Just because somebody looks a certain way that doesn't mean they are healthy, there is always genetics to factor in too. More often than not this plays a major factor as it isn't something that can be easily checked/tested and there is no way of knowing how this is affecting your body. We need to be kind to ourselves and focus on the positives. Don't put yourself down for having that extra biscuit last night, make the decision to get off the bus a stop earlier instead. So you didn't beat your personal best on your Park Run this week? That's cool, the fact you completed a Park Run is the important bit. Not been able to get to the gym this week because of work and other commitments? That’s okay, take your kid to the park and run around with them or play with them instead, it's much more fun than going to the gym in my view. All too often we focus on the negative and what we haven't done rather than what we have done, what we could do as an alternative or the genuine reasons why we haven't been able to achieve whatever it is we are hoping to achieve.

“While Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 is taking place, and hopefully beyond, just have a think about your own relationship with body image and how it has affected you or the way you've interacted with others. We are constantly told we are living in a society which is becoming more and more stressed and frantic so we really need to try and not put any more pressure on ourselves, as that could just be the straw that breaks the camel's back.”