Today sees the start of Mental Health Awareness Week 2019.

The theme this year Body Image.

The term ‘Body Image’ refers to how we think and feel about our bodies. Negative thoughts and feelings towards our bodies can have a huge impact on our mental wellbeing.

Sadly, many people developing significant anxiety, depression, eating disorders and self esteem issues as a direct result of how they view themselves.

Body Image issues can affect anyone, from and background at any age. I think most of us have wished we could change at least one thing about our bodies at some point but if you get really stuck on thinking about what you don’t like, it can really start to put you at risk of some of the things mentioned above.

Some facts and figures from an online survey conducted by the Mental Health Foundation with YouthGov in March 2019 of 4505 UK adults aged 18+ and 1118 teenagers aged 13-19:

  • 1 in 5 (20%) of adults felt shame, 34% felt down or low and 19% felt disgusted because of their body image in the last year.
  • Among teenagers, 37% felt upset and 31% felt ashamed in relation to their body image.
  • Just over 1/3 of adults felt anxious or depressed because of their body image.
  • 1/8 experienced suicidal thoughts.
  • 21% said images used in advertising had caused them to worry about their body image.
  • 22% or adults and 40% of teenagers said images on social media caused then to worry about their body image.

There are many things that influence how we feel about our bodies.


  • All aspects of media from TV, to newspapers and magazines and, more recently social media have played a part in the rise in numbers of people suffering from poor body image.
  • Adverts for aesthetic procedures such as fillers and botox are much more common in recent years.
  • Many social media ‘influencers’ promote restrictive diets (for example Beyonce’s bread, carb, sugar, dairy, meat, fish and alcohol free Coachella diet), ‘slimming tea’s’ and quick fix diets that promise to have you looking like them in weeks, posting make up free, slouching, tummy pushed out ‘before’ pics alongside fully made up, everything sucked in, photoshopped after pics. Critics say they are ‘praying on the vulnerable.’ In reality, every single one of us has vulnerable moments and we are all at risk of being tempted by the happy smiling face of our favourite celebrity.
  • Adverts for Gyms rarely show red faced, sweaty, above average sized men or women, out of puff and working their butts off. No, they are usually full of fit, smiling, slim, muscly people who look like they could run forever and never break a sweat.
  • I could go on, the choice of Actors cast in film and TV, adverts for summer holidays with the size 10 mum and dad complete with a 6 pack, magazines running endless stories about ‘How I got my body back’ or ‘X back in size 8 jeans 4 weeks after having her baby.’


  • We live in a culture where thinness and beauty are highly valued for women, and being muscular and lean highly valued for men. We are, as a society, intolerant of body diversity and this is having a huge impact on all of us, including our children.
  • There is also an association between a slim figure and wealth and success and a larger figure with poor health, lack of willpower and laziness.
  • People of colour are less frequently seen in all forms of media and this lack of cultural diversity can lead to feelings of inadequacy and poor body image among cultural minorities.
  • Long term health conditions such as diabetes, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, eczema and chronic respiratory diseases among many others can have a massive impact on how we view ourselves.


  • Our relationships with our family and friends can affect our body image. If we have friends or family who are critical of our physical appearance or personality traits, we begin to see value ourselves less.
  • Working environments are similar. un-supportive or negative workplaces can be detrimental to our self esteem.

So, what small changes can you make to try to improve your Body Image.

  • Choose your friends wisely. We know that the company we keep for the majority of our week greatly influences our mood and mental wellbeing. If the people you are around most of the time, be it at home or at work are talking negatively about their bodies it will make it far more likely that you will start to look at your own body in a negative way. Constant chat about weight, diets, bingo wings, boobs that are too big or too small, having a ‘dad tummy’, going grey, getting wrinkles, receding hairlines insignificant as these comments may seem at the time they hang around inside your head and start to affect how you feel about your own body. Try to spend time with people who focus on the things they are happy about and who make you feel good about yourself.
  • Think carefully about who you follow on social media. This is also a good lesson to teach your kids. Let them see you choosing to look at, admire or talk about people who have achieved great things, have encouraged others to challenge themselves or gone out their way to do something nice for someone else. Unfollow the accounts that leave you feeling bad about yourself.
  • Consider all the things your body does for you that you should be grateful for and perhaps you will love your body more. Your body allows you to move, work, play, hug your kids, laugh with your friends and, if you fuel it right is the most amazing complex machine. Focus on the things you love about your body.
  • Try some confidence building. There are lots of ways to increase your confidence. Trying something new and challenging yourself. Consider a new hobby, a new sport, get up and sing at the karaoke like you have always wanted to, anything. Improving your self esteem can work wonders for you body image.
  • Get more active. Whatever your current level of fitness, challenging your physical ability can help improve your body image. Those who know me well, especially Grant who is often at the gym with me, know that I am not a fan of anything that gets me too out of breath. Running is certainly not my game, but when I pushed myself to do the cough to 5K challenge I found a new appreciation for my body and definitely felt I loved it more. Weight training does the same for me. I’m not going to lie, there are times when I hate my arms or feel uncomfortable in my clothes because I can feel my tummy sit over the waistband of my trousers but when I think about how strong my body is and what I can achieve with it, I can view it in a different way.
  • Eat well. I’ve said it before, there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods but there are definitely some foods we benefit from eating a lot of often (fruits, veg, pulses, nuts, wholegrains) and some less often (processed meats/foods, food high in added sugar). If you try and ensure you get a better balance of foods, eat regularly and drink plenty water it can have a beneficial effect on how you feel and therefore on your body image. I know I feel better about myself on a Thursday morning when I’m well into a week of eating food cooked from scratch, having usually had no alcohol since the weekend, having had lots of sleep, stretching daily and having been active at work than I do on a Sunday morning having had 2 days of eating out, drinking alcohol and not getting enough sleep.
  • Do something nice for someone else. Being kind definitely gives us the ‘feel good’ factor. How we feel about the way we treat others impacts on our body image so why not try spreading those positive vibes. Think about what you say to others and consider how your comments may make them feel about their own bodies.
  • Look out for body positive articles and posts that inspire you to love yourself more and keep them somewhere that s easy to access so you can look at them when you feel those negative thoughts sneaking in.

If how you feel about your body is causing you significant distress speak to a trusted friend or seek help from a health care professional.

For more help and advice check out

For more information about the effects of negative body image on men is particular go to:

Laura ??‍⚕️

    2 replies to "Mental Health Awareness Week. Small Changes can make a Big Difference"

    • Mary Coia

      Great article again. Thank you. I especially appreciate the bit about the things we should be admiring in people , qualities and character , not just the physical aspects

    • Catherine Taylor

      Great article once more. As you say, it is about getting the correct balance in your life that is so important. Nothing in excess, everything in moderation. Small changes make the difference.

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