Some of my earliest memories as a child at school were of being teased for my size. I was taller than most of my 6-year-old school friends, and felt a lot bigger than them too. Up until I was about 12 or 13 I was teased for my weight, and struggled constantly with my body image throughout my childhood. Even when I eventually lost my ‘puppy fat’, I felt constantly self-conscious. I thought people wouldn’t want to be my friend because I was too big, and that no-one would ever find me attractive.
On a family holiday in 2006
Summer holidays were a nightmare, I’d cover up in baggy clothes, and NEVER wear a strappy top for fear of revealing my fat arms to the world, all despite now being a healthy weight. It wasn’t until I was about 18 years old, after a realisation that this is the only one I’m going to get, so I may as well love it, that I finally felt comfortable with my body.
As I’m writing this, I am very aware that I am sadly just one of thousands of young people who have felt this insecure about their body at some point in their lives. A recent survey, carried out by Edelman Intelligence for the 2017 Dove Global Girls Beauty and Confidence Report, found that only 39% of girls in the UK had high body esteem, and that 9/10 girls in the UK with low body esteem said they’d stopped themselves from eating, or had put their health at risk. 9/10 girls in the UK also said they’d avoided trying out for a club or team, or avoided seeing friends and family due to their low body esteem.
And it’s not just girls. A report by the Central YMCA in 2016 revealed that 34% of boys confessed to dieting, with the ‘perfect’ male physique being increasingly scrutinised by social media and the press.
With body esteem issues arising from parental influences, fear of judgement by peers, and even from the effects of using social media and dating apps such as Instagram and Tinder, the repercussions of low body confidence can last a lifetime.
As the Social Media Manager for Student Minds Nottingham, and with a personal motivation behind wanting to run the already existing ‘Love Your Body’ campaign by Student Minds, I was desperate to spread the body positivity around the University of Nottingham. This is why Student Minds Nottingham are running the ‘Love Your Body’ campaign this semester.
The ‘Love Your Body’ campaign aims to inspire body confidence in everyone and to generate as much love and admiration for our own, and others’ bodies. As part of the campaign, we are encouraging all students to think about what they love about their bodies, and to post this on social media with the hashtag #LoveYourBody.
We will also be running some ‘Supporting Supporters: Eating Disorders’ workshops on the 6th and 8th December. The workshops aim to increase the understanding of Eating Disorders for those who are supporting, or would like to learn how to better support those with an eating disorder, and to help you work with your friend, partner or relative towards recovery.
In addition to this, we’ve recruited almost 100 University of Nottingham students to bare all for our Love Your Body naked calendar, to encourage body positivity! Shooting for the calendar was a crazy experience – I never thought I’d ever participate in a naked calendar, let alone organise one! I was truly overwhelmed by the fearlessness and bravery of all the students who took part, and whipped off their clothes in front of us as soon as they walked through the door.
Every student that took part in the calendar also wrote down what they loved about their bodies, and many of the responses to this were truly inspiring -our favourites have been published in the back of the calendars! The whole process was so much fun, but surreal – especially when I was laying stark naked in front of a photographer, and with some girls who I love, but met only a couple of months ago.
Viewing the photos after the shoot, I didn’t recoil in disgust at the sight of my naked body – my first thought was “my arse looks great!”. It was then I realised how far I’d come, and if only one other student is inspired to love their body more after doing the calendar, or by just seeing the campaign, then it has all been worth it.
You can buy the Student Minds Nottingham Naked Calendars from the University of Nottingham SU website here.
To be kept up to date with all of the details of our future events, both as part of the Love Your Body campaign, and in the future, follow Student Minds Nottingham on Facebook here. We will be posting all of the shots from the calendar on our Facebook page after Christmas!
By Abigail Bennetts, Social Media Manager for Student Minds Nottingham
Edited by Emily Talbut
1, 2, 4, 5 – Writer’s Own