What is a healthy body image?



When Nikki Edwards launched her brand new lifestyle column in the EAlife she was prepared to answer questions on diet, exercise and healthy living. Instead she was bombarded with opinions on her looks. While some readers praised her natural beauty, confidence and realistic approach to weight loss, others made snide remarks about her size, even labeling her “fat”. Here she speaks out against her critics and slams the false advertising, airbrushed fashion magazines and celebrity culture which has perpetuated the myth that size zero is best.

“The perfect body is dangled in front of us in all its leggy long-limbed glory from the pages of glossy magazines.

There is no sign of cellulite, moles, dimples or curves. No hint of a bit of wobble or a swelling of flesh.

The female form looks so thin, so flawless, so other-worldly.

And yet, tragically, so many women believe it’s a reality. They think they too could look this way if they just tried a little harder, resulting in a lifetime of diets, depression and despair followed by the realisation that they will never, ever measure up.

I’ve been there. I can’t pretend I haven’t. There have been times in my life when I’ve looked at myself in the mirror and pinpointed all the things that I thought were not quite right.

But there have also been times when I have looked at my body in wonder. A body that grew a baby and gave birth to my beautiful daughter Bliss. A body that has seen me win medals for a variety of sports which require stamina, endurance and dedication. A body that has aged, changed and developed over the years but one that I have learned to love, admire and take care of.

So while I was thrilled with most of the feedback which followed the launch of my new healthy living plan in EALife, I was surprised that a small number of readers thought I would be a better role model – a better advocate of my programme – if I were a size zero.

Just to put the record straight, I am not overweight. I am 5ft 3ins, wear size 10/12 clothes and have a healthy BMI although just a week ago I was diagnosed with an underactive thyroid which affects my hormones and therefore my weight does fluctuate.

To be honest, it’s hurtful – not to mention worrying – that some people want to criticise me for these very normal stats.

I accept I am a far cry from the tiny women you often see fronting diet plans but there is a good reason for this: my programme is not a diet. It’s never purported to be. It is about healthy living, eating well and feeling good from the inside out. It’s about finding the optimum weight for you and learning to push your body to try new things.

I have absolutely no intention of suggesting women starve themselves.

A recent survey found that 76% of women prioritised weight loss results over the potential of a negative impact on their health. Of those, 47% admitted using laxatives, 45% said they fasted and 14% said they purposefully ate food which made them ill.

Statistics like this are shocking. But this is one which is particularly disturbing: recent research has shown that a staggering 81% of 10-year-olds have been on a diet – and young girls’ number one wish is to be thinner.

As a mother myself I find this particularly horrifying.

And yet it is absolutely no wonder that more and more young people are suffering from eating disorders and low self esteem when they are receiving constant confusing messages about what they should eat and being besieged with images of emaciated models.

After all, it seems advertisers and magazine editors are still fearful of portraying women in all their flawed and blemished beauty and there are plenty of people out there who have been brainwashed to believe those airbrushed images are real.

Now I believe that women are all different and this should be embraced.

And my lifestyle plan is about promoting a healthy body image and mindset.

My image was not airbrushed, no filters were applied or cropping was done. That’s me. Normal, natural, healthy and happy.

And really, I just wish other women felt as comfortable in their own skin as I do in mine.”

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