1.25 million affected by eating disorders in the UK

Beat, the UK’s biggest eating disorder charity, claim that at least 1.25 million people in total are affected by such conditions in the UK.

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The shock factor of this statistic is derived from the apparent misconception that the extent of an individuals eating disorder is based solely on their appearance.

Beat, who operate 365 days a year, say that even those who appear to be of a ‘normal’ physique still suffer from eating disorders.

Magazine and media exposure can result in health obsessions, predominantly within younger audiences.

The charity strive to promote a positive body image, and encourage the disposal of any material that affects the way you feel about your body.

Beat’s spokesperson, Daniele Fisichella, told us at #HelpUsEmbrace: “We welcome both the news about the new French law and the decision made by ASOS, as we believe they represent a step in the right direction to promote healthy body image.”

“We know the ideals presented within the fashion industry can exacerbate and prolong eating disorders, and we encourage the promotion of healthy body image and ideals in this area.”

“We also know that poor body image and low self-esteem can be key factors in the development of eating disorders which can have detrimental effects not only on the sufferers but also on their families, friends and partners.”

“On the whole, the fashion industry represents a narrow view of the ‘ideal’ body that may exacerbate eating disorders among those who are suffering. Furthermore, models should be viewed individually as people, and their physical and mental health and wellbeing should be of utmost concern to those who are responsible for them.”

“Equally it is important to remember, that eating disorders are mental illnesses and you cannot necessarily ‘see’ them – it would be dangerous to assume someone did or didn’t have an eating disorder based solely on whether they appear to be ‘underweight’, ‘overweight’, or ‘normal’.”

“At least 1.25 million people in total are affected by eating disorders in the UK.”

“It is a serious ongoing issue, but we believe the promotion of positive body image can only bring good things.”

Following a Freedom of Information request to the NHS, #HelpUsEmbrace received statistics on the number of people who suffer from eating disorders in England that have Finished Admission Episodes.

Freedom of Information results

Beat commented on the data received: “We hope that the data does not signify an increase in those suffering, but an increase in those retaining help.”

“Many people who suffer from eating disorders, do so in silence and we want them to feel as though they can reach out and talk to someone.”

If you are suffering from an eating disorder and are in search of support or advice, please visit the NHS website or eating disorder charity Beat.

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British Youth Council release report calling for a ‘body confident future’

The Youth Select Committee, a British Youth Council initiative, have identified the increase of body confidence issues in the UK, and are tackling this with a call for action within their recent ‘Body Confident Future’ report.

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Body image was chosen as the topic for the inquiry by just under a million young people in the 2016 Make Your Mark Ballot, in which it was voted as one of the top ten issues affecting their lives.

The Committee, supported by the House of Commons, recognise that sometimes poor body image is viewed as a ‘phase’ and this is an attitude that ignores the potentially serious and long-lasting consequences for education, health and many other things.

The summary of the inquiry reads: “This report is only the first step; far more needs to be done by society to tackle the issue.”

“Professor Peter Fonagy of University College London told us that body dissatisfaction is ‘one of the key issues at the moment facing children and young people in this country’.”

“It is essential that the Government recognises this before the ramifications of poor body image taint the potential of an entire generation.”

#HelpUsEmbrace spoke to Nutritionist/University Lecturer, Margaret Charnley, to give perspective on the key conclusions of the report and what steps need to be taken to improve the promotion of body image in the UK.

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Margaret Charnley says we need a change encouraged by govt, but implemented by society. (Credit LMJU University)

Margaret says: “The analysis shown in the report seems to have covered all bases. It explores the current issues regarding body image in areas like advertising, social media, the NHS, existing evidence bases, school curriculums and fashion industry cultures.”

“The fact that there is a clear demand for commissioned research by the Government Equalities Office,

shows it is well understood that this is a severe issue in the UK and there are gaps that need filling in the evidence base of poor body image before trying to solve it.”

“This is not an issue that can be transformed overnight, it is a change that needs to be encouraged by the Government and implemented by society.”

“Things like posters encouraging positive body image in NHS waiting rooms may seem insignificant but have a massive affect. For some reason body image is not seen as a problem but instead a ‘phase’, and making people aware of the potential repercussions involved may encourage society to take it more seriously.”

#HelpUsEmbrace took out an online survey to see which of the main conclusions drawn in the report were deemed most significant in the fight to diminish poor body image issues within the UK.

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Margaret commented on the data found: “The majority voted to implement the promotion of positive body image into the education of children through subjects such as curricular subjects like PSHE.”

“I would agree with this, especially after having my 5-year-old niece point at her tummy and call herself fat.”

“This is a serious issue that should be addressed within education, and children should be taught to love their bodies instead of picking them apart.”

Retoucher for online fashion retailer says he would never remove a model’s stretch marks, birth marks, moles or alter their figure

Chester based photograph retoucher, Will Marsden, explains what it is like to work for an established fashion retailer that maintains a strong and current ethos within their editorial principles.

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Retoucher for an e-commerce retailer, Will Marsden, says he would never alter someone’s shape to make them look slimmer.

Working for a young, growing fashion e-commerce business, Will says the brand recognise the benefits of unedited images and are willing to run with it.

The business prefer the removal of tattoos on their models shots in order to conform with their brand image, but this aside Will only removes anything that could be distracting from the advertised product.

Will, who has worked within the fashion industry for several years now, says: “I think fashion retailers wish to photoshop their models to portray the products they’re selling in the best possible light.”

“I mainly focus on removing blemishes, spots and uneven skin tone. Anything that could be quite distracting, however I don’t remove any type of birthmarks, moles or stretch marks.”

I would never edit someone’s shape to make them look slimmer.

“I remove out-of-place hairs, frizz and make sure hands and feet are smooth with no chipped nails. We tend to focus more on retouching the garments or products rather than the models, as we aim to keep them as natural as possible.”

“The models we work with are aware they’re going to be edited in post production, they understand it’s always going to be part of what they do.

“I am connected with a few of our regular models across social media and they often share a mixture of photographs; some professional (retouched) and some more natural, being their regular selves with no make up.”

“I think this is a good example to show they are conscious of what’s real and what’s not, with most models in the fashion industry – it’s something they get used to.”

(Before and after Will retouched an image. Tiny blemishes on face and arm removed, little else done.)
(Will heavily retouched this image as an example to show how different images can look once edited. This is not the extent he would retouch at work.)

There has been a significant amount of recognition and support over the past year regarding the lack of Photoshop presented within the images used by fashion retailer websites ASOS and Missguided.

Shoppers all over the UK have taken to various social media platforms to share their appreciation of how relatable these unedited images are, confirming that this is a step in the right direction in terms of business and in promotion of positive body image.

Will spoke about these recent changes: “I think it’s fantastic that retailers such as ASOS and Missguided have stopped editing out stretch marks, I think it’s setting new boundaries and taking a step in the right direction.”

“I freelanced for one day at Missguided not so long ago, working with their retouchers. They were really keen to keep the images as natural as possible and focus more on making the garments look the best they could.”

“I’ve recently arranged a meeting with my Director and Photographer to lay forth some inspired ideas, from retailers such as ASOS and Misguided.”

“I think other retailers will be doing the same soon. To become a successful business, you’ve got to understand your customer and this is what the customer wants – to be able to relate.”

The innovative principles ASOS and Missguided present within their editorial approach, introduce a compelling argument. Is this the future for high-end brands too?

“If you look at some high-end brands such as Burberry and Prada, their images will be retouched to a very high standard. This is because they have a certain expectation to live up to and currently, I can’t see that changing”, Will continues.

“It’s also to do with competing against other brands within the same sector, I don’t think they’d want to take such a risk as they want their products to stand out against the rest.”

“With the high price points they have, they need their imagery to be outstanding. Their target audience tend to be wealthier people with higher standards for the price they’re paying, in comparison to your average person shopping on the high street – who will more than likely see the less-retouched photos ASOS are using, as a positive.”

“All in all I think high-end brands will remain with their current editorial style, but high street brands will gradually begin to follow in the steps of retailers such as ASOS they just need a push to help them get there.” 

“I don’t blame the unrealistic edited images online for the basis of my anorexia, but they definitely prolonged my recovery.”

Charlotte Duncan courageously reveals her 6-year battle with anorexia, in a bid to support #HelpUsEmbrace and promote a body confident future.  

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Charlotte is an anorexia survivor, but still has insecurities like most girls her age.

A Blackburn young woman has bravely opened up about her 6-year-long battle against anorexia, which began when she was in the midst of her GCSE’s.

At her most critical point she weighed just five stone, and previously believed this was too much.

Lancashire bred, Charlotte says she missed out on so much during her teenage years due to the disease, including friendships.

It wasn’t until her third intervention, set up by family and friends, that she finally admitted something needed to be done. And so together they began to seek help.

Though Charlotte had a strong support system behind her, she believed it was the unrealistic images she was constantly surrounded by online that prolonged her recovery.

Thankfully, she now says that the end of her illness is in sight and has spoken out to bring awareness to the high societal pressures in which young people are succumb to.

With the amount of edited images circulating the internet increasing, so is the pressure to be ‘perfect’.

Charlotte, who was just 15 when she accepted help for her eating disorder, told us at #HelpUsEmbrace: “I am finally at a place now where I can look at old pictures of myself, and see how unhealthy and unwell I was.”

“Every morning I would start my day off by looking at images of models and celebrities on social media and in the news online. It became an obsession.”

“I would compare myself to them. I was blind to the fact that I was currently thinner than they were.”

“Looking at these images was just a constant reminder that I wasn’t thin enough, pretty enough or good enough.”

“Anorexia is a mental health disease and it would be extremely ignorant to solely base my whole illness on the images circulating the internet.”

“But in saying that, I would blame the images I became obsessed with, for one of the reasons my anorexia was kept alive for so long.”

“Coming out of the past six years, and being able to recognise that half of what we see on the internet is edited is frustrating. It gives vulnerable girls like me false hope for what our bodies should look like.”

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The 21-year-old went on to explain that whilst growing up, she was always surrounded by people who were conscious of their weight.

Charlotte recalls: “I used to be part of the swimming team, and I vividly remember sitting at the side of the pool (amongst team mates) and as a group comparing the size of our thighs.”

“We would vote who was the most likely to become famous based on our appearance, weight being the determining factor.”

“I wish I could go back, with my current state of mind, and have a word with myself.”

“But unfortunately, anorexia is not as simple as that.”

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Charlotte, aged 17

Charlotte is an anorexia survivor, but still has the insecurities of most girls her age.

She continues: “It would be a bit unrealistic to say that I am content with the way I look now, but I am closer than I ever have been.”

“I can now shop online again and concentrate solely on the clothing rather than the person wearing it.”

“If I can encourage anything as a result of what I’ve been through, it would be to tackle the lack of promotion regarding positive body image within young people.”

“We are still led to believe that ‘love handles’, ‘muffin tops’ and stretch marks are all abnormal and shy away from the ‘picture perfect’ body we should all aim to have, which just isn’t right”.

Charlotte is not the only person who has been affected by the consequences of retouched images, and will not be the last.

#HelpUsEmbrace campaign to encourage the dismissal of digitally enhanced images and support those who as a result of media pressure, have experienced issues with their body image.

If you are suffering from an eating disorder and are in search of support or advice, please visit the NHS website or eating disorder charity Beat.

Introduction to the #HelpUsEmbrace campaign

Most online retailers airbrush their model’s natural flaws such as stretch marks and acne scars, as an attempt to create a ‘perfect’ image to drive sales. But why does ‘perfecting’ the body of the person wearing the clothing, make the clothing more appealing? Reality is, it doesn’t.

In a recent survey we carried out, we found that all females who took part were more likely to buy an item of clothing when the image shown was clearly unedited. Not only was this due to the fact that an unedited image meant the item was more likely to match the one shown on the site, but also because they felt a sense of empowerment seeing other girls having the same ‘imperfections’ as their own.

As of October 1 2017, France implemented a decree stating that any commercial photographs of models whose body appearance has been modified by image processing software, must accompany the words “retouched photograph.” This decree has been emplaced as an attempt to diminish the current spike of anorexia-sufferers in France, and with it comes a failure to comply fine of €37,500.

With the UK currently estimated to have over 1.25 million affected by eating disorders, it is clear that something significant needs to be done. Whether this is to follow France in their pact to reassure people that what they are seeing is fake, or whether to stop using Photoshop altogether, #HELPUSEMBRACE aim to encourage both of these movements.

Leading online retailers, ASOS and Missguided, have been the subject of many articles over the summer due to the lack of edited images displayed on their website. The images show models with stretch marks, acne scars and plus size figures which present a positive body-confident feel for shoppers. The feedback the retailers have received on social media just goes to show just how much edited images can affect the everyday person. (Read article linked to this here.)

The #HELPUSEMBRACE campaign intend to get other online retailers on board with ASOS, to tackle issues regarding body image and empower our natural skin.

Please sign here to promote a healthier body image Britain.