Changes that have helped me with my body image

Growing up I feel like almost everyone I know, at one point or another, has had issues with their body image. Even if, thankfully, it has not developed into anything that’s upsetting them or affecting their mental and physical health. It’s the societal norm to hear ‘my stomach is so big’, ‘I need to lose weight’, ‘I’m on a diet’ or ‘I feel ugly’. I can vouch that I have said all four of those sentences at some point in my life.

This year for Mental Health Awareness Week, the Mental Health Foundation (UK) shared some statistics relevant to ‘body image’. This included the fact that ‘one in eight adults in the UK have experienced suicidal thoughts or feelings because of concerns about their body image’. It’s quite upsetting to read, especially when you realise how young these obsessions, self-beliefs and worries can start. Among teenagers 31% felt ashamed in relation to their body image. (All stats can be found here.)

Mental Health Awareness Week has passed now, however as you will hear most advocates say – mental illness and mental health struggles happen all year round and can affect absolutely anyone regardless of lifestyle, age, race, gender, size and so on. Today, I thought I’d share with you some of the things that have helped me deal with body image issues and doubts as well as share a little bit of my story.

Growing up I’ve always been quite unhappy with the way I look. I distinctly remember drawing out a ‘self-portrait’ as a kid and exaggerating all the parts of me I really hated or thought made me ugly. Digging my felt tips into the paper with frustration and sadness because I felt like my appearance meant a lot more than it really did.

High school is when social media started to become a thing and I’d spend ages using the laptop webcam trying to get a perfect selfie, to then edit it madly – adding high saturation to my eyes to make them look unnaturally blue, blurring my skin. If the ‘popular girls’ complimented it, it only gave me more reason to keep obsessing over how I looked. I know it wasn’t just me alone in this though, thinking back every girl I knew had something they were insecure about. At one point one of the girls I thought was popular, confident and absolutely invisible asked me what editing app I used on my photos to then go and use it herself. It was almost like we were the generation to see the beginning of the addiction of basing our self-worth on Facebook likes and high school rating systems (Remember the ‘like my status for a rate? xo’, why on earth did any of us do that.)

In my later teenage years I found myself quite obsessed with checking calories, only eating so much a day, trying to cut out sugar, salt, bread, carbs – you name it. I’d follow ridiculous accounts on Tumblr that only pushed unhealthy images of girls who were underweight but labelled as ‘goals’. I’d tell myself off and mentally abuse myself whenever I ate something ‘unhealthy’ even if I desperately needed to eat.

Luckily, I realised I was very much treading in the deep end. One more step and I’d be underwater.

One of the worst things about dealing with body image, is that the problem is so accepted. It’s almost like if you don’t hate your body, you’re not human. If you go to a doctor and tell them you loathe your body to the point of pushing it through unhealthy diets and regimes, unless you’re drastically underweight, they won’t do much (in my experience anyways). I was lucky enough to tackle the very dark parts of hating my body mostly through sheer willpower, but a lot of people don’t always have that and will instead struggle alone and may even develop an eating disorder. It shouldn’t be like that.

Stop making food a villain

We need food to live. We literally need to consume food to keep us going and for the nutrients, protein and other good stuff that it provides. One of the biggest steps I needed to take throughout my life is learning to listen to my body. Even if I’ve already eaten today, if I start to feel hungry and fatigued, I need to eat. Never get into a routine of telling yourself you can only eat ‘X’ because you ate ‘X’ yesterday. Or that because you ate junk food today, you need to do 3 hours of exercise tomorrow. Stop making food a villain and embrace it.

I haven’t looked into it enough myself to completely vouch for it but intuitive eating is the best thing you can do for your body. Ditch all the diet books and listen to your body. Stop categorising food as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and make peace with food.

Let yourself enjoy delicious food

Unfollow any influencer or person that makes you feel bad about your body

Social Media controls more of your confidence, self-esteem and body image beliefs than you realise. This advice means a lot to me because taking it on has probably helped me the most over the past few years. As a form of self-care, I ensure that my entire Twitter and Instagram feed is solely full of content that inspires me, makes me happy and motivates me. I don’t even follow most of the celebrities from TV or films that I like just to prevent me from getting into the mindset of ‘why can’t I look like that?’.

Everybody and their mum knows that a good chunk of Instagram is full of lies, facetune and fakery. Don’t even get me started on influencers who push ‘weight loss shakes’. You don’t need that on your feed! Follow mental health advocates, positive body image advocates and inclusive artists and creatives. Most people spend a large percentage of their day scrolling through social media, the best thing you can do is make sure what you see isn’t reinforcing those negative self-beliefs.

Make sure you enjoy your exercising

I hate the gym. I hate running. These are the two exercises that physically drain me. The only endorphin I get from the gym is when I leave and get to be by myself.

An exaggeration of my dislike, I know. But, taking up exercise that I actually love, enjoy and look forward to has done so much more for me than the years where I’ve forced myself to go to a gym only to feel miserable, anxious and bored. If exercise feels like a chore, what’s the point? Growing up, I always heard 30 minutes of exercise a day is the minimum that is recommended. Now if you want to do exercise you just need to find something that you’ll find fun for that 30 minutes, and eventually it won’t even feel like exercise and you might want to do it for an hour or even more!

It’s also important to remember that it’s ok if it takes you a while to find this or a couple of tries. My personal favourite is dance. I only started dance fitness last year and I feel genuinely sad whenever I can’t make a class. I also find swimming, yoga and long walks enjoyable. I don’t worry too much about exercise now because I acknowledge that going for an hour’s walk is doing something. Enjoyable exercise is different for everyone, there is no one ‘correct’ exercise routine.

Before Dance Fitness, I even tried Pound Fit! Good way to work up a sweat

Shop for comfort, not to fit in

I think I can speak for myself and numerous other girls when I say the crop top trend can be a pain in the arse sometimes. You go shopping, you just want a cute new top but for some reason my entire stomach has to be on show? Trying to stay on trend can be actually nerve-wracking because you feel so uncomfortable in what you’ve put on. But in your head you just want to look like one of the models on Instagram. In my mid-teenage years (17-19 years old) I spent ridiculous amounts of money on crop tops, mini skirts, short-shorts and such that I could just never wear because I felt absolutely stupid in or if I did wear them, I’d spend the entire time scared that I was flashing someone, or that people would laugh at me. Eventually I began to tell myself before going out or whilst getting changed in the morning: if I don’t feel comfortable in this, I don’t have to wear it. Nobody is forcing me.

I started telling myself female clothing sizes mean absolutely nothing and that I should invest in jeans that feel nice to wear whether they were a size 10 or a 14, and not bully myself if I can’t fit into a size 8. I made sure when I was buying clothes that I was happy, felt cute and comfortable. The number on the sizing and trend means nothing.

It might not be a stylish outfit but it made me comfy and happy!

What steps have you taken to make your body image journey happier and easier? Feel free to share in the comments. ūüíĆ

Thanks for reading,

Header Image taken by self

How to take a break from social media

Last night I spent just under a good hour worrying about my Instagram. I used to have better hobbies, I swear. Instagram has become one of my favourite platforms to mindlessly scroll through in the past year or two and it’s the platform that I’ve lead myself to believe I can be more ‘genuinely myself’ on. Last year I told myself to curate my Instagram feed so that I’m only seeing things that make me feel good and inspire me but what happens when you get to a point where you’re not even taking in the ‘positive vibes’ that you’re pushing in your own face and sit bothering yourself for minutes on end about how many of your ‘friends’ are liking your posts or interacting with that dumb poll you put on your story? What happens when you feel literally agitated that your photos aren’t as ‘pretty’ and ‘high quality’ as an ‘Instagram influencer’?

Ridiculous Instagram obsession happens, that’s what.

Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

I found myself considering deleting all my accounts – to take a break and then if I wanted to come back to Instagram I could start afresh. But even that idea filled me with pathetic stress – but what if I regret it? What about the really nice photos I’ve taken, what if any new account in the future doesn’t look that cool? What if people won’t care if I delete my account?

If I’m worrying that people won’t care if I delete an online account that I literally survived my whole life not having up until like 2014 and that if people don’t acknowledge me deleting it is suddenly an equatable value to people not liking me in reality, then I think I’m having a completely different problem. Social media is both a blessing and literal hell. It can be a great place for sharing your art, sharing your creations, your achievements, building a career or finding people with common grounds to begin long distance friendships and communities – but it can also grind your confidence down until you find yourself putting your own worth into the number of followers or likes you have.

What I’d like to do is give some tips on how to reduce your social media usage. Scroll time, if you will.

Put your phone in the bottom of your bag

Sounds daft but almost everyone now keeps their mobile phone in their coat or trouser pocket. If you stuff your phone deep down into your bag, it makes the mindless act of grabbing your phone and tapping away much more of a chore and you can start teaching yourself to think ‘do I really need to check my phone right now?’ Obviously take safety into account with this one, if you feel much safer carrying your phone on your person when walking down the busy street do so, but when it comes to chilling at a friend’s house or in the library pop it away – it will help you stay more present in the moment.

Check in on a friend instead

Easier said than done from someone as shy as me, but if you are feeling nosey about what your friends are doing and find yourself opening Facebook or Instagram to seek out what’s occuring – consider texting or calling them instead and asking how they are – maybe see if you can meet up for coffee. There’s two sides to this idea; either you’ll start a lovely conversation with your friend and you’ll also make them feel cared for by checking in and you will then be distracted from endlessly swishing through your Twitter feed for gossip. Maybe even buddy up with a friend who wants to spend less time on social media and encourage each other!

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Use the Forest – Stay Focused app

I have mentioned this phone app before but it really is such a good concept for reducing the time someone uses their phone! On the Forest app you pop in an amount of time you want to stop yourself from using your phone, start the timer and lock your phone. As your phone is locked and you don’t unlock it you grow trees and plants on the app to build a mini forest – if you unlock your phone, your tree dies. Using this and turning off your lock-screen notifications is a great way of reducing your scroll time. Perfect for when you need to be studying or you are sat down with a group of friends or loved ones.

Delete your social media apps

Stop panicking I’m not saying delete your accounts! Whenever you feel you’re spending too much time obsessing over an app or scrolling through a platform is just distracting you too often try uninstalling it for a bit. Maybe tell yourself you can have them installed on the weekend but on Sunday night 9pm you delete Instagram and you can’t reinstall it until Friday 5pm. Short breaks from a platform are better than nothing and eventually you might find yourself not even feeling the need to reinstall a particular app.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

I know from experience, when you have a bit of a social media dependency, this is all easier said than done but I hope some of these tips help you take a much needed break from social media and it’s fierce grip. Remember to check in on yourself 3-4 times over a day and ensure you are looking after yourself in a way that suits you and your beautiful self. Not the ‘bubble bath and cheeky prosecco’ self care that Instagram shows off. Although there are more and more people acknowledging how fake social media photos can be and claiming they are showing a ‘truthful’ side to their lives, it’s very rare you will see anybody’s properly low days. Never equate yourself to a face, body or lifestyle that you’ve only seen through a screen.

Thank you for reading, I hope you have a beautiful week!

Header source: lalo Hernandez on Unsplash

Some of my Pinterest boards

I first made a Pinterest back in 2013/2014 time whilst studying Art and Design in college to look for inspiration for my college sketchbooks and my final college art project. It was actually a really useful and secretly fun to be able to source many posts and images together in an almost ‘online scrapbook’ to refer to for inspiration and ideas. Pinterest isn’t one of the most reliable websites for keeping art attached to the correct artists since the internet is a horribly unfair place with people rudely reposting art and not sourcing where they found it however when finding art or posts that have kept the creator’s link or name connected it can be such a good website for stockpiling stuff from interesting blog posts, quotes and bringing different images together to create, like I said above, an online moodboard.

I thought I’d share with you my Pinterest and some of my boards that I have muddled together over the past year and a bit. Some of the boards I make can range from an ‘aesthetic’ moodboard where I’ve collected imagery and pictures and quotes or boards with blog posts and tips and charts for things to look back on for help.

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Link to ‘Workspace Goals’

The first one here is Workspace Goals, which basically explains itself in the title. I dream of one day having a really cute little study room or even a desk/work space set up in the way I like it and this board is just there for me to pine over the cute, minimalist photos of other people’s desks and such.

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Link to ‘Journal Inspo’

‘Journal Inspo’ is for pinning other images of bullet journals and such for inspiration and ideas for spreads as well as pinning people’s blogposts where they discuss tips and tricks for starting a bullet journal!

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Link to ‘uni tips’

This board has been super useful for me this past academic year because even the simplest photos on here that give you tips on managing your workload or suggesting more suitable vocabulary and words to use in essays. I definitely recommend checking some of the stuff pinned on there, if you are studying like myself!

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Link to ‘2018: motivation, discipline and self love’

This last one has been very personal and centered to helping me deal with my mental health, productivity and such in 2018. My goals as a person is that I would like to increase my productivity and motivation, keep myself disciplined but obviously learn to love my self a bit more. This board covers a lot of those things with links to blog posts and lists of stuff that discusses ‘good habits to develop’ or how to ‘beat bad feelings’, but also with lovely and empowering quotes and poetry. It’s one of my favourite boards and I’m glad to have found some of the stuff pinned on there.

Please find my pinterest page here; if you would like to follow me and definitely do as I’d love to check out other people’s boards! I hope some of my boards might be inspiring to others or have links and such on there that are useful!

Thanks for reading,

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Social Media vs Girls

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A lot of the subjects I rant about normally start from something I come across online. Comments under articles, comments on social media, photos on social media etc., you get the picture. Stuff on Social Media spreads very fast, so anything massively controversial me and a lot of people will see, however sometimes there’ll be small photos or posts created by people I’m friends with on facebook/twitter or shared by them and it’s kind of a slap in the face of their internalized dislike of something. For example, it’s like having a high school friend on Facebook suddenly share a very borderline racist Britain First post and you feel extremely disappointed in their views.

Today an intriguing post joking about ‘typical things girls do nowerdays’ got shared onto my Facebook feed and although it’s not straight out attacking a certain female or person, I thought it was absolutely ridiculous and unneeded. I know a lot of people of all genders and all ages still find criticizing females for things that apparently, ‘all people identifying as female’ do. E.g your typical ‘nagging wife’ stereotypes or whatever. But personally it’s outdated to me and it’s very rare to get a genuine laugh out of me. I remember seeing a hang up decor piece¬†in a shop I used to work at, that said something along the lines of ‘Man Cave. Women not authorised unless bringing beer or sandwiches.’ and all I could do was wonder why someone would want to spend ¬£20 on something that both stereotypes men and women. But that’s another story and I could go on for ages about the kind of rubbish sexism you’d find day to day but that isn’t the point of this post.

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Firstly, I’ll clarify, yes this could be seen as an overreaction to something that is purely meant in humour. But if this is the best humour people can spout, I hope they don’t plan on a comedian career cause they’re, frankly, boring as hell. The post on Facebook was a text post saying; ‘I swear all girls do nowadays is contour, eat chicken nuggets, squat, wear hair extensions, be indirect on social media, snapchat dog filter, turn bi for a bit, party, fall for fuck boys, drink wine, charge their phones, think having attitude problems is sexy, ignore messages, take selfies and cry.’ Aw honey, what girl ignored your message once because she has better priorities than you¬†trying to get in her pants?

So what if girls do all these things? My question to young males who agree with this, even females who think there is something ‘stupid’ or ‘useless’ about all those things; what is the harm? Does it personally offend you? Do you have flashbacks and feel sick to your stomach when you see a girl wear hair extensions? Posts like these are sexist even if they aren’t straight out abusing/insulting the female population. Plus talk about reaching for drama? ‘Charge their phones’? Oh I’m sorry are we meant to let our phones die? I forgot because we aren’t male we don’t have the magical power to have phones with infinite battery? It doesn’t even make any sense. Also ‘turn bi for a bit’ is not only pathetically biphobic and homophobic but it’s implying that if a female identifies as bi it’s a ‘phase’, which is a gross stereotype that bisexual people are still trying to fight off today so they can be taken seriously by the people they care about. What makes me¬†even sadder;¬†girls in the comments were trying to defend themselves.¬†‘Well I don’t contour or wear hair extensions so lol’, ‘I never go out and party or date fuck boys, I’m not like other girls.’ Ladies –¬†there’s nothing wrong with doing and enjoying any of these things!! They do not make you a worse person if you do them or a better person if you don’t! Stop letting whiny teenage boys with an internet meme account dictate what you should enjoy.¬†Girls should be able to just live their lives in peace without some xbox basher who begs girls for nudes throwing shade at them through social media.

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Girl, you wanna contour? Go ahead; you rock that look.
Going out with your friends? Take tons of selfies beforehand because you look gorgeous.
Had a bad day and it feels like everything is going wrong? Let it all out. Cry and talk to someone. Don’t bottle it up and definitely don’t let someone make you feel like your feelings are invalid. You work so hard at everything you do and there is nothing weak about crying.
If taking humour in how stressy or bossy you think you can be helps you deal with it and shut people up. You do it. You’re a beautiful, bratty diva and if that random guy you’re kind of friends with think it’s ‘you trying to pretend your attitude is sexy’ and puts you down about it. Leave his clingy self messages on ‘Read’. You do you.

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Same goes for men. None of these things are ‘girls only’? Guys can wear contour, guys can go party, guys can take as many selfies as they want. Let’s stop this pathetic attempt at bringing girls down. Give them a break, they’re strong as hell and you still wanna make them feel bad about something as small as using a snapchat filter or liking fast food. Get a grip.

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Thanks for reading my little rant, I hope you enjoy whatever you do today and don’t let anyone try and stop your smile.

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“Stereotype threats” online: is it dangerous?

Whenever I visit Facebook it’s really not hard to find people starting debates on statuses, news articles, photos, memes, the lot! The negative atmosphere is easy to bring up on Facebook, no matter what the topic. I can assure you, you could go on any meme or ‘shared’ photo that comes up on your timeline and find an argument.

In the past (say a month ago, I won’t try to¬†sugar coat myself), I’ve fallen for the habit of arguing with random people on news articles and stories to defend my own beliefs on things. When celebrities come out as bisexual or a sexuality that isn’t just gay, I have argued with the latter of people on those articles who just love to shout how these celebrities are confused or ‘shoving their sexuality in people’s faces’. I’ve also seen people argue that straight people should have their own pride, that feminists are evil, ‘ugly females that want all men dead’ or even other disgusting topics where people defend rapists or racists or murderers. It definitely riles me up and as I love to voice my own opinion, sometimes I get stuck in the loop of debating with these random people who probably live on the other side of the planet.

Recently, I’ve tried to take a step back and realise, there is no point arguing with these people. Most people have these toxic racist/sexist/homophobic beliefs ingrained into them via their upbringing or media brainwashing and a single teenager on the internet is not going to help them open their eyes. This was one if the many reasons I’ve considered blogging, I can voice my beliefs to try to¬†help people see the dangerous effects of having xenophobic beliefs and share my own research on topics.

Plus, on the internet, people can get away with being rude and hurtful absolutely scot-free. If your social media profile is private enough, nobody can get to you further than replying to your comments, and they can easily choose to block you and continue with their anger. I think people enjoy taking out any internalized anger online as you’re hardly going to be punched in the face or face consequences for your actions.

Today I read a story about how our new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has appointed ‘vegan’ Kerry McCarthy as shadow Environmentalist secretary and a spokeswoman for our farming industry. First of all I am disappointed with most media’s descriptions of her immediately as ‘vegan’, I can see why it’s relevant to the story she is currently involved with but that shouldn’t label a person? It’s not even a needed label, are you expecting me to go around describing people by it? “Ah yes you’d love my vegetarian friend Jo, although I’m not sure about my meat¬†eating friend Sarah”. It’s just adding on an unnecessary connotation to a person that separates them for a reason that is only important to themselves and nobody else. It’s also another way of pushing those stupid, internet-based stereotypes that hook onto people. Vegans get the stereotype of “elitists who try to make sure everyone knows they are vegan and will absolutely destroy anyone who even mentions meat in front of them”. I’m not denying there are vegans like this, but you should also admit there are meat eaters on the same level. (Have you ever met a ‘meat-eater’¬†who will literally not shut up as soon as someone says they do not like meat? Yes we get it, steak is amazing.)

The problem with reinforcing ridiculous stereotypes like this is that it creates an online way of threatening that is almost school playground like, which is shoving the thing the person does not like in their face as if that’s going to make them change their beliefs. On an article talking about Kerry McCarthy’s idea to advertise meat consumption¬†in similar ways to smoking you could find a hoard of bizarre comments with almost borderline sexist slurs and threats that involve meat, cause “she’s a VEGAN we must make her cry by mentioning BACON”. Most vegans choose to stop eating meat, they do not suffer from PTSD at the mention of meat, by using meat in your threats you are simply making yourself look childish.

Disclaimer: these comments I found on a Lad Bible article, which really speaks for itself, but here are some of the things I found

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So those are some incredible examples of the responses to this whole topic. Again, this is from Lad Bible which has the audience of mainly young people ranging from possibly 11-20 odd. I removed the names and photos for privacy but I can confirm these comments are mixed from females and males, admittedly male commenters pop up a bit more but that could be from the audience Lad Bible gets.

The obvious problem with these kind of topics is that arguing over people’s ideology on things such as food, diet, health, equality etc. suddenly¬†can become even sour and toxic because for no reason aside shock value and threat, sexism (and other ‘isms’ but in this example mainly sexist slurs) come into it. The amount of people shouting ‘bitch’, ‘cow’ and ‘cunt’ in the comments was astounding. That one example there where she is called a ‘shit, ugly stripper’ is unnecessarily derogatory. But why do online ‘debates’ (more like battles) take this spiteful turn?

Like I mentioned before, the safety of being behind your computer or phone screen with privacy options put on your name makes it a lot easier to get away with this. Which is unfair and might take a while to change. But it is an extremely harmful system that works on the internet. Obviously this ‘vegan’ debate can be considered a minuscule problem. Other turns I have seen this pattern take is when it comes to arguing for actual sexism/racism/homophobic issues. Online warriors use these stereotypes they’ve built up during their time as being an online bully to try threatening people. The amount of times I’ve heard people drag out the rape jokes when ‘debating’ with a feminist is disgraceful.

This is definitely a pattern of ‘according to this stereotype I’m going to push this topic into your face because I don’t have any research to use in debate’ which becomes more and more dangerous when debates move on to more realistic topics. Bringing up history of rape, abuse, murder, violence etc. as a ‘joke’ or a ‘threat’ when talking to people is actually a lot more real than you’d imagine because some communities will turn these topics into ‘stereotype jokes’ or ‘dark humour’ which somehow gives them the ‘get out of jail’ pass and allows them to corner people who have not even communicated with them once.

Do you think this behaviour should be stopped? Would you say it is a growing online issue or an overreaction on my behalf?

I’d love to hear some feedback.

Thanks for reading,
Lenah x x