Body shaming has once again come into the spotlight with the recent criticism of pregnant media personality Sarah Harris, who faced public criticism after 'unflattering" photos of her were published at seven months' pregnant.
Mindset coach and weightloss expert Kylie Ryan says society needs to take the stand that body shaming is unacceptable for all women, especially those more vulnerable and sensitive in the pregnancy journey.
Kylie, who has helped her clients achieve body acceptance and lasting weight loss through techniques such as coaching, hypnotherapy and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), says having a media celebrity attacked for her appearance shows the need for all women to have self-compassion.
'As a mindset coach, I urge women to look at the false beliefs underlying their weight gain rather than give in to pressure and criticism from society," Kylie says. 'Paradoxically one of the key factors in maintaining a healthy body size is acceptance and love of your body. Shaming yourself or others for their body shape is a predictor of weight and body image problems."
Question: What is body shaming?
Kylie Ryan: Body shaming is the practice of insulting or judging a person due to the way their body looks. While it might seem that no one would indulge in this nasty behaviour, body shaming has become so ingrained in our culture and psyche that it is almost invisible.
Celebrity body shaming is rife in women's glossy magazines where they zoom in on the tiniest 'flaw" in the celebrities body, or discuss every weight fluctuation. It is on our TV screens on shows like Extreme Makeover, Embarrassing Bodies, and The Biggest Loser.
Body shaming is hideously obvious if you ever see it like this in real life or as a trolling comment on social media: 'Hey fattie, why don't you stop eating that ice-cream and go for a run". But it is more insidious and harmful as the silent discrimination that happens all around us and inside us. That bigger girl who was more qualified than the slimmer girl being passed over for the promotion because of the unspoken judgement that she would be more 'lazy". The silent judgements, looks and stares of passers by.
Silent body-shaming also happens as a reaction to contrived images of fitspiration and aspirational images, where we 'normal people" seem fat, unfit and ugly by comparison.
Body shaming is most dangerous when it is internalised and you become your own nasty bully, shaming yourself for the size of your thighs, pimples, curly, straight hair, glasses, braces, small breasts, large breasts, nothing is immune to the criticism of the body-shamer.
Question: Why do you think we've seen an increase in body shaming?
Kylie Ryan: The ingredients for body-shaming: Body consciousness and valuing physical beauty has been around for thousands of years. In a male dominated world, women have often had to compete for the attention of powerful men, in order to survive and ensure their children's safety. The most beautiful girls would win that competition. Think of the famed beauty of Helen of Troy, or Cleopatra. Women competing with each other has always been there, it's just now with the internet and social media, we're not just competing with the girls in our village. We're unconsciously competing with ALL the girls in the world, including the women who make a living from being beautiful when we see images of the 1% of women who are extremely beautiful all over our magazines and TV screens we compare ourselves with that. We are also competing with a completely fabricated idea of beauty that is impossible to create in reality. With Photoshop, lighting and camera angles, a type of frozen beauty has captured our minds. Which is why we see so many women trying to be as beautiful as possible recreating that look in real life with excessive amounts of make-up, fake, eyelashes, hair extensions, nails, and plastic surgery. The body-shamer also has a new playground, in the anonymity of the internet, they can leave horrible comments on other people's images without ever having to see the damage and hurt they cause or even showing their own faces.
Question: Can you talk us through the Sarah Harris body shaming case?
Kylie Ryan: Studio 10 presenter who was 7 months pregnant, had some unflattering pictures published which showed 'what she really looks like" off air. In a shirt, and pants without makeup, and with natural hair, she was leaving a Mexican restaurant when the picture was taken. She said her first reaction was one of shame, until she remembered she's 2 months away from giving birth and there's nothing wrong with how she looked. the published photos were the first element of public shaming, then the second element were the trolling comments left by the readers.
'Some of them were just revolting," she said on Studio 10 after the incident last month, 'having a go of how huge I am, how fat I am, how ugly I am, and when you're pregnant you do feel very vulnerable and self-conscious about your body and I did feel pretty awful about the comments and the pictures, but then I thought -you know what? Bugger it, I'm growing a baby. This is me'. 'This is how I get around once I leave work, I take off the pretty frocks, the heavy makeup, the hair, I take off my spanx which I'm still wearing. That's what I look like and that's OK."
Sarah was wise enough to stand up to the criticism and not internalise it like many others in her situation could have.
'I'm kind of fed up with the body shaming that happens when you're pregnant and then the pressure that comes afterwards to lose the baby weight. 'On behalf of all the pregnant women out there who might be feeling a little bit chubby and a little bit flabby, on behalf of all of them, I want to say to the haters -get stuffed'."
Question: What are the five ways women can stand up to appearance criticism?
Kylie Ryan: We can all stand up to appearance criticism by eliminating it from our own heads. We become immune to others nastiness if we choose not to take it on ourselves. So we must cultivate compassion, and love for our bodies and faces, regardless of what we look like or are having a bad hair day.
1 - Realise that YOU are more than your body.
The wonderful things that make you, you, are not limited to your body. your mind, your way of thinking, your humour, your creativity, your ideas, your love is not limited to your body. You are an incredible soul, that is living in a body.
2 - Spend time loving your body.
When you're having a shower and soaping up or exfoliating, take the time to BE with your body, and notice how it feels, to have soft skin, look into your eyes in the mirror, and instead of looking for blackheads, stare into your own eyes and look at your soul.
3 - Focus on your beauty.
We can't all look like supermodels, but we do all have beauty that we can appreciate. Instead of focussing on that pimple or cellulite, focus on your own beauty. Notice it! Appreciate it. Maybe you have lovely eyelashes, beautiful lips, or silky hair, focus on your beauty, and you'll find the rest of it will fade away.
4 - Compliment yourself.
I know this might sounds weird, but people with healthy esteem compliment themselves. They get dressed and silently say to themselves, 'yeah, I look good"
5 - Say No to body-criticism.
Whenever you see, hear or read body criticism, in yourself or others, deliberately practice mental control and say 'No! this is nasty and untrue." Then shift your thinking to the opposite thought like Sarah did.
Question: What inspired you to become a mind coach?
Kylie Ryan: My own journey of transformation with NLP Coaching and Hypnosis inspired me to want to help others. I had some coaching when I was just 23, and at the time, I was 30kgs overweight, in debt, looking for love, partying too much, and not going after my dreams. In a year after the coaching I found the love of my life, lost the weight, started a career as a professional singer, stopped partying, and began training in NLP. When I experienced how powerful the change in your life can be when you change your mind, I was hooked and I had to share it with others.
Question: What is hypnotherapy and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) in regards to weight loss?
Kylie Ryan: What most people don't realise is that your physical weight is not really about your love of chocolate chip cookies, and is instead created by your negative thinking and emotional baggage. Hypnotherapy and NLP Coaching is like the missing puzzle piece that bridges the gap between what you know you SHOULD do, (eat well and exercise) and what you actually WANT to do (eat chocolate and sleep in) It helps to release the emotional weight of stress, anger, sadness, fear, shame and the negative thoughts like 'I can't do it" or 'I'll always be fat", or 'I'm fat and disgusting" that actually causes the physical weight.
Question: What's a typical day like, for you?
Kylie Ryan: Well I'm a mum with two kids running a business so my day is very full of laughter and cuddles as well as work. I wake up at around 7am when my daughter gets up, we have breakfast together and sing some silly songs while getting dressed for the day and having breakfast. Then my husband drops her off to pre-school and I take my baby son up to the gym crèche so he can play and I can get a workout and an hour of 'me time", then he will fall asleep afterwards and I will work on my laptop for a couple of hours in a cafe, I write articles like this and connect with the ladies doing my courses, or my coaching team via email and private Facebook groups where I answer their questions and help them. Then when my baby wakes up we will go for a walk, play in the park for a bit then go home and tidy up all the toys that are usually all over the house. When he falls asleep for his afternoon nap I might film a coaching video for my blog, or do a coaching call with a client, then we're off to pick up my daughter, and we cook and eat dinner together, bath the kids, read them stories and put them to bed, then I will often do another hour of work on my computer, and get ready for bed too, and have an hour or two talking with my husband, watching a favourite TV show or reading before going to bed myself. Around 10pm. I'm pretty tired as night as my baby still wakes up often to feed. I'm very lucky that I have made a business where I get to help so many women doing what I love and had the flexibility and freedom to be around for my children while they are little. I love what I do, and so it doesn't really feel like work, and I'm so happy to do it.
Interview by Brooke Hunter