Friday, September 26, 2014

How cancer affects body image

Thousands of individuals across the country have or are planning to take part in a Macmillan Cancer Support coffee morning. The objective is to collectively raise large amounts of money for the charity.

Cancer is a terrible disease and we hope that progress with both prevention and treatment will one day enable humanity to beat the disease.

One aspect of cancer, particularly for women is the devastating effect it can have on their sense of femininity, attractiveness and body image.

The fundraising events have brought to mind a previous colleague and current friend (of a member of our team) who was unfortunately diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago.

Here is a snapshot of Sarah’s (not her real name) story:

“I was very worried about having my breasts removed. Not so much about the scar, but about losing my breast, because it has been a part of me for so long. It was an important part of my identity… an integral part of the person that I am...."

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

British women and body satisfaction

A survey of 3000 British women, to determine how satisfied they are with their appearance, has found the following levels of satisfaction:

63 per cent of women in the 18 to 34 age group.

57 per cent of middle-aged women (aged 35 to 49)

71 per cent of women aged 50 to 64,

64 per cent of those aged 65-plus

In an interview discussing the findings with The Sunday Times, Jo Swinson MP (Women and Equalities Minister) said:
“Life brings with it wonderful challenges at all ages and we should be relishing it and looking forward to things, rather than thinking that everything needs to be tied up in appearance and in particular trying to look like you are 20-years-old”

Low satisfaction occurs when someone has greater expectations, than they perceive themselves to have achieved.

Where does this viewpoint originate from?

In my experience, it is often the result of unfavourably comparing yourself to others.

If you are going to compare yourself to others (we all do it from time to time), you should take into account the differences in genetics, lifestyle, age, health and how natural the other person is i.e. whether they have undergone cosmetic procedures or partaking in extreme dieting and exercise regimes.

Last, but not least, it is very important to reflect on whether you are comparing yourself with a real person ….. or a false (airbrushed) and unattainable media image of perfection.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Modern teenagers have common sense

Modern teenagers are often on the receiving end of, for want of a better term, bad press.

This week a report from the Department of Health in conjunction with data from the Office of National Statistics, painted a very different story. A story, reported in the Guardian, that depicts teens as:

‘less likely to take drugs, smoke and drink. And over the past 40 years, and especially the past 15, teen pregnancy rates have been in decline, while abortion rates for under-18s have also fallen. Seemingly, anything mum and dad got up to is now considered passé and pathetic, even sex, drugs and rock and roll.’

As someone who regularly talks to teenagers in schools; I am also the mother of two teenagers and associate frequently with their friends, it is good to see the news catching up with what I have known for a long time.

Many teenagers today are smart, courteous, funny and (as the study pointed out) endowed with a good measure of common sense.

Click on image to view enlargement.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Fat shaming

Being obese or simply fat/overweight in our society often leads to feelings of embarrassment or shame for the person concerned. Being overweight can also lead to individuals finding themselves on the receiving end of unwelcome stares and ridicule.

The common belief is that making someone feel self-conscious or ashamed of their weight will result in weight loss. I am sure that this has been the case for some people.

A recent survey* by University College London, conducted over 4 years looking at 2,944 British adults over the age of 50, has found that a situation in which fat shaming leads to weight loss is the exception rather then the norm.

Researches found that individuals who experienced 'fat shaming' gained rather then lost weight. An average of .95 kilograms gain was recorded for those who had experienced shaming, while those who were not on the receiving end of the negative experience lost an average of .71 kilograms.

Sarah Jackson (study’s lead author) said:

"Our results show that weight discrimination does not encourage weight loss, and suggest that it may even exacerbate weight gain. Previous studies have found that people who experience discrimination report comfort eating. Stress responses to discrimination can increase appetite, particularly for unhealthy, energy-dense food.

"Weight discrimination has also been shown to make people feel less confident about taking part in physical activity, so they tend to avoid it."

* This is a survey not experimental data. Therefore it is not conclusive evidence pointing to the fact that fat-shaming causes the weight gain.


Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Ugly fruit and vegetables

We live in a society that places significant weight on physical appearance. We have observed this phenomena as it applies to human beings; particularly those in or are heavily influenced by Western culture and media.

Less talked about, but no less important is that fruit and vegetables are often selected or rejected, primarily by supermarkets, largely on appearance.
Supermarkets and other retail outlets have a ‘quality’ rating that emphasises aesthetic factors such as shape, size, colour and skin imperfections e.g. blemishes and bruises.

The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) set the “technical specifications” for the produce in British stores. Opponents argue that the organisations standards are “based on aesthetics and bares no correlation to taste and nutritional value.”

The practise of rejecting fruit and vegetables that are considered to be ugly or misshapen has resulted in:

i) the significant waste of otherwise tasty nutritious food. In the UK it is estimated that 20-40 percent of products is rejected (Soil Association) and is not harvested.

ii) price increases as the price of ‘acceptable’ food is raised; compensation for ‘unacceptable’ produce that cannot be sold.
Supermarkets are aware of this, e.g. back in 2012, following a spell of bad weather, Sainsbury’s decided to sell products that had an “unusual appearance.”

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Thursday, September 04, 2014

What's Underneath Project - Model Melanie Gaydos


“A lot of people judge me; they think I’m pretty fucking weird. When I go on a photo shoot, the other industry models don’t know what to make of me. They’re usually like, ‘What the fuck is this?’

It’s difficult for me in the fashion world; people think I’m a gimmick and that I’m just being exploited for my differences.

My interaction with people is stressful. We’re all mirrors to each other, and I think a lot of people tend to project their bullshit on me. I have to remember that when someone does judge me in a certain way, it’s just a reflection of their own issues. It just sucks that I have to be the one that receives it….

I was born with the genetic disorder, ectodermal dysplasia, and it effects the dermal layer of skin — your pores, your hair, your teeth, and your nails. It’s an umbrella term for a lot of different disorders. When I was younger, I had 30-40 surgeries. I didn’t have a good family environment. There was a lot of alcoholism and abuse that I went through. My ectodermal dysplasia was certainly a stimulant to the stressful environment I was in. But I never thought that it was the main cause — it was just the icing on the cake to make everything worse.

Growing up, I never thought I’d be alive past the age of 18. I never thought I would kill myself, I just kind of thought that it would happen by accident. As I got older, I did think I would kill myself. But, even though I didn’t know there was any point to living, I knew there was no fucking point to killing myself. I’d rather experience life as it is right now…. 

I love modeling; it’s a time for me to be completely open. It’s a therapeutic process for me.  I’ve always thought of myself beyond all of the beauty standards. I never thought I was beautiful, but I also never thought I was ugly. For me, beauty was always more of a feeling and a state of being. I feel like I’m the only person that can deal with what I’ve been through and I wouldn’t want to wish what I’ve had experienced on anyone else.

I have thought how I would be if I was born without a cleft palate and with a full head of hair, and I think I would be really boring. Even though I’ve been through a lot, they’re my experiences, and I like where everything has brought me today.”

What's Underneath Project   


Monday, September 01, 2014

Happiness and body image study

An international study (conducted by the Children's Society) analysing the ‘happiness’ of 16000 children between the ages of 10 and 13, across 11 countries, have recently published their findings.

The countries involved in the study (Algeria , Brazil, Chile, England, Israel, Romania, Spain, South Africa, South Korea , Uganda and USA) varied greatly e.g. social and economical factors.

With the UK being one of the most developed and affluent countries in the study, one might assume that, when compared with the other countries, the UK would rank highly.

Surprisingly this was not the case. When it comes to the happiness index (scale of 1..10) focussing on prepubescent children, England was only able to attain 9th place, out of a possible 11.

Why are England’s children unhappy? Looking at the research findings a little more closely the following became clear.
English children were less concerned about social and economical issues than children from other countries, particularly the poorer ones. However, this fact was not enough to significantly elevate their overall level of happiness.

Notably, body image was one of the main issues that adversely affected the UK’s happiness score and it was cited by 1 in 7 UK children. Girls were twice as concerned about their bodies as boys; 18% versus 9 % respectively.  Unfortunately, body image problem worsens as children get older; 17% 12-13 year olds compared with 9% of 10-11 year olds. 

“When I feel fat I tend to either hide myself or not go out”, said a 13-year-old girl who took part in the study. “I try and put on a lot of make-up on to hide behind a mask.”
The study stated: “This is the aspect of life where children in the UK fare particularly poorly in comparison with a sample of other countries.

“It is also notable that the gender gap in satisfaction with this aspect of life is only evident in some countries, indicating that we should not accept that it is inevitable that girls will have significantly lower satisfaction with their appearance than boys”.

“I think the above statement is highly significant”, said Julie Court (My Body Beautiful’s founder). “It points to the fact that something in the UK’s society, culture, media etc. is creating and/or exacerbating body image issues in a way that affects females more than males".