How summer increases the pressures of body image

23 Aug 2019 @ 7.30 am
| Health

With the mercury topping 30 degrees at times over the last month, many of us will have been dusting-off the summer clothes to cool off in the heat.

But maybe we should spare a thought for how challenging that can be for those with issues with body image. According to the charity Beat, approximately 1.25 million people in the UK are experiencing an eating disorder.

Many more people are likely to be concerned enough about their body image that it significantly affects their day to day life. They are not minor concerns either; research this year from the Mental Health Foundation suggests that as many as 1 in 8 adults have felt suicidal because of how they feel about their bodies, and 1 in 10 women and 1 in 25 men have deliberately hurt themselves because of similar issues. This highlights the significant impact that worrying about appearance can have on anyone’s life.

It can feel like we’re bombarded with body image pressures, from opening a magazine to looking at our social feeds, as well as from the people around us, so it’s not surprising that body image concerns are so widespread. A fifth of adults and half of young adults have reported that images on social media have made them worry about how they look.

Some may dismiss feelings of worry or distress about the way you look as inconsequential or superficial, but one of the key risk factors for developing an eating disorder is dieting, which can be an understandable response to being upset about how your body looks. We’ve all seen the stereotypical media image of what an eating disorder looks like, usually a young thin woman. However, eating disorders can, and do, affect people of any age, gender, sexuality, race or weight.

If you are struggling with worries about your body image, you can seek support from Beat, your GP, or access our low-cost counselling through York St John’s Counselling & Mental Health Clinic. We are currently researching eating disorders to help uncover better ways to treat them. If you are interested in finding out more or taking part, please get in touch.

Ruth Knight works within the Counselling & Mental Health Clinic at York St John University.