Body esteem in clients

Body dissatisfaction is common in men and women, with research showing body image becomes more negative in situations that are more body-focused. As the treatment room could potentially highlight any existing body image issues, as therapists, can we be doing more to help clients be less judgemental to their own bodies? Read an article, first published in FHT’s membership journal, International Therapist (www.fht.org.uk/it) by Dr Fiona Holland, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, University of Derby…

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Body image event provides finale to London Fashion Week

As a finale to London Fashion Week, Beat, the national eating disorders charity, is hosting a high profile body image debate and Q&A session in partnership with ASOS, the online fashion retailer.

The event, to be held at ASOS’ head office in Camden today, will feature a panel including Head of Technical Services at ASOS Sophie Glover, Beat’s Chief Executive Susan Ringwood, model Georgina Wilkin who herself has suffered an eating disorder, stylist Carole Spenser and Beat Young Ambassador Ellie Douglas.

Georgina Wilkin, who began modelling at the age of 15, has gained a wealth of knowledge and experience working with the world’s top designers, stylists and editorials.  Georgina said: “With my own personal experience of an eating disorder, I’m hoping to offer a real insight into some of the health and self-confidence issues that I’ve seen affect members of the modelling industry. I was promised a contract on the condition I lost inches, told not to wear skirts and to change whatever I could. I would never blame fashion for my problems but I cannot say that nothing needs to change. I’m passionate about modelling and by working together it can be used to promote a positive body image.”

A key part of ASOS’ corporate corporate responsibility framework ‘Fashion with Integrity’ is to promote more responsible and healthy body images.  Sophie Glover, Head of Technical Services at the online retailer, said: “As ASOS grows internationally we’re becoming aware that the body shapes and sizes of our customers are more diverse. We continually review and adapt our ranges to make sure we’re meeting the needs of our customers. I’m looking forward to talking about the feedback, research and technology that lies behind size and fit and how ASOS looks to ensure we make the fashion the customer, not the other way round.”

Susan Ringwood, Beat Chief Executive said the national charity was delighted to be hosting the event with ASOS to discuss such an important issue.

“Eating disorders are complex illnesses, with no single cause, but body image and self esteem are definitely part of the mix for most people affected. Body image is a key part of our sense of identity and not a trivial matter or one of personal vanity. We’re really keen to raise this debate among people who know how the creative industries work, know the constraints and realities as well as see the possibilities for change. We want the fashion industry to show bodies that are beautiful, aspirational, diverse and real all at once.”

Following our recent report on body image, it’s great to see that Full Figured Fashion Week has now launched in New York.

A recent study showed that negative body image can cause a lack of self-confidence, depression, physical, emotional and societal problems, so it’s important that more realistic body shapes are celebrated.

Gwen DeVoe, Creator and Executive Producer of FFFWeek says, “It is time for designers, retailers, boutique owners and businesses with an interest in the plus size market to combine their resources and talents and partner with a plus fashion event that will rival other Fashion Weeks and Full Figured Fashion Week™ IS that event.” 

Plus Model Magazine also reports on the latest plus size fashion, curvy trends, beauty, interviews and inspiration.

Click here to read the latest issue

Image: iStockphoto

Dr Fiona Holland explains what made her realise that re-evaluating judgements about our bodies to promote self-esteem was an important area to look into…

I became interested in body-based messages while studying sport psychology and when I later worked for a company that offered nutrition counselling, exercise programming and self-esteem training for people who were clinically overweight or obese. I realised that people – especially women – struggle with messages about food and health, regardless of their shape or size.

I later learned about the work of Jonathan Robison and Karen Carrier, who proposed that health and wellness should be redefined and messages around weight, exercise and food re-evaluated as people were feeling increasingly less at peace with their bodies. They suggested that people should move away from diet and exercise regimes and towards learning what their bodies needed in terms of food and movement. In my massage training that followed, I realised that touch could help people reconnect with their bodies and I led a study with women who, via receiving massage, began to feel more positive about their bodies.

In my private practice I came across many clients who used body-shaming statements and I supported them in moving beyond these, using massage and more neutral language. As a lecturer and researcher, I discovered that body esteem and dissatisfaction is essentially rooted in our self-esteem and self-beliefs, with many people constantly striving for the unreachable body ideals we are fed by the media. I aim to help both therapists and clients to free themselves from this energy-sapping process and to befriend their body by appreciating what it can do rather than solely what it looks like.

PS. Dr Fiona Holland will be hosting the lecture: Building body esteem: re-evaluating judgements about the bodies we live in and work with (8 July, 3.30pm-4.45pm). www.fht.org.uk/50

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