• Dr Sally Norton


This coming week (13th – 19th May) is Mental Health Awareness week. Every week it seems to be something new vying for our attention. But this is an increasingly important issue with 1 in 6 of us reportedly suffering from a mental health issue in the past few days. What’s more, it’s something that seems to be affecting our kids and young adults – and how they appear to others is often a major driver of their anxiety.

Which is why the Mental Health Foundation has chosen to focus on body image this year.

Why is body image becoming such a big problem?

It’s a combination of several things.

First off is the media-driven focus on the body beautiful fuelled by our celebrity obsession. We strive to achieve the perfection we see every day in the magazines – forgetting or ignoring the fact that these images are often air-brushed, or obtained with the help of personal trainers, chefs and other support that isn’t accessible to mere mortals!

Then, the social sharing of images, rife amongst teens but also adults, shows everyone in their best light – no-one posts photos of their cellulite or acne break-out, do they?!

And this is occurring at a time when two-thirds of us are now overweight or obese. A time when apparently over 13 million of us in the UK are on one sort of diet or another and feeling demoralised and unhappy with our inability to shift the pounds.

Happily there has been a backlash against the stick-thin models and the focus on body over all other attributes, with a call for us all to be ‘happy at any size’ and to ‘love the body you are in’, regardless. In fact, many stores have changed their clothing sizes to reflect the ‘new normal’ – so that size 16 is now relabelled as a 14 or even 12. And larger models are being employed to make us feel less inadequate.

But, though valuable in reducing our stress about our expanding waistlines, does this simply make us complacent? Because, whilst we should, without doubt, love our bodies regardless, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to improve ourselves. Being overweight does increase our risk of physical health problems like heart disease, diabetes and stroke – and mental issues too, with Alzheimer’s now added to the list. Simply adjusting to a new normal where the majority of us are overweight will do us no favours in the long-term.

So, how do we tackle this conflict of interests?!

The key is to take the focus away from how our body looks and concentrate, instead, on how it feels. Does it feel strong and healthy? Is your skin glowing? Are your muscles toned? Is your posture good? Can you stride out without feeling breathless? Do you feel constantly stressed and exhausted, or energised and motivated?

Fuelling your body with good nutrients, tackling stress, ensuring it gets great rest but also ensuring you push it aerobically on a regular basis and keep your muscles toned will help you appreciate your body much more, and improve its look at the same time. You can’t fill it with nutrient-poor junk food and sugar-laden drinks whilst barely moving from the sofa and expect it to treat you well in return!

Forget body image for now and put all of your time and attention into body function. Treat your body like the amazing machine it is and nurture it. Shower it with love and respect and it will love and respect you back!

And if you need more hep in getting back in touch with your body and getting your weight under control again then do join my in my next Weight Loss for Life 12 week, online, group programme. Just click HERE for more information.