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"You aren’t any less deserving of intimacy because your body has changed" - Bella Davis
1. How do you encourage women to embrace their changing bodies and feel confident in their skin?
By showing images of my body changing and simply existing as it is I hope women will see that they don’t need to feel ashamed of their bodies and that bodies are everchanging, growing and evolving as they are supposed to. I encourage women to view their stretch marks, fat, rolls skin folds and dimples as normal features of a human body instead of flaws and imperfections.
2. What advice would you give to women who feel ashamed of their weight gain, and are hesitant to be intimate with their partners?
Firstly, I would say I know how hard it is to enjoy moments of intimacy when you are fixated on how your body looks or the way it’s changed but I wanted you to know
You aren’t any less deserving of intimacy because your body has changed.
Your weight gain doesn't make you unlovable or unworthy of enjoying joyful moments of intimacy because every single body is worthy of sexual experiences regardless of weight or size. Everybody deserves to be held, touched and pleasured and you don’t have to have a particular body to enjoy intimacy. You just have to look like you.
Secondly, it is vital you know that sexual experiences are about how it feels not about how your body looks aesthetically in the moment so when you are feeling ashamed or insecure of your body during intimate moments try and focus on how it feels instead and allow yourself to be enjoyed being touched.
Lastly, remember that it's okay if you've gained weight. Your weight gain doesn't mean that your body doesn't deserve to be appreciated. The changes in your body don’t make you unattractive or unlovable. You deserve to enjoy intimacy. All bodies do.
3. What are some practical tips you would recommend for someone who wants to start practising body positivity/body neutrality in their daily life?
"I would start with speaking to yourself kindly. We underestimate kindness and how much talking to ourselves kindly makes a huge difference in our lives. I also say you don’t have to love your body every second of every day, but you do need to be kind to it and acknowledge the fact that it works so hard for you every day to keep you alive."
Another tip would be to simply spend time with your naked body. Stare at it in the mirror, walk around the house nude, lounge around on your bed nude just spend time with your naked body and from there you will see that your nakedness is nothing to fear and you may even see the beauty within every fold, dimple, roll and crease that lines your body. Spending time with your nude self does help to make us feel more comfortable in our bodies instead of fearing them.
4. How do you handle comments about your body (from friends, family or people online), and what advice would you give to others who experience the same?
At the start of my eating disorder recovery these comments use to affect me a lot but now many years out of recovery whenever someone makes a comment about my body I remind myself that I am so much more than my body and to not allow the opinion of someone with deep-rooted insecurities make me feel small. My advice is to not change yourself to please another. Don’t starve yourself of joyous food and lifelong memories because of what someone said. Don’t conform to unrealistic societal beauty standards to please them.
These people have never done anything for you, but your body has. It has allowed you to feel joy and release sadness. It has housed your favourite foods and allowed you to grow and evolve. It has made your heart flutter and has taken you on countless adventures. So don’t let small-minded people make you question your worth.
"Your body is not a before image. It is not in need of a transformation. It is not flawed or imperfect."
It is perfect because it is yours. Don’t let anyone control your happiness, and remember, your life’s already short enough. Don’t waste it worrying about what people think of you.
5. Can you share a personal experience where you struggled with body image issues and how you overcame them?
When I first started noticing I’d gained weight, I began apologising for my body and supplied everyone around me with a reason for my weight gain as I thought I owed them one.
I started to think I’d failed as a friend, partner, daughter, and woman for gaining weight. But then I reminded myself that my worth as a person is not determined by how thin I am, and I don’t need to be thin to be accepted, loved and appreciated. I reminded myself that my body is supposed to grow and will continually change. That my weight has nothing to do with who I am as a person and that weight gain does not make me unattractive, unworthy or undeserving of love, happiness, joy or success. It just means I’ve gained weight. It’s as simple as that.
6. How do you encourage others to focus on their own unique qualities and strengths, rather than comparing themselves to others, especially online?
I like to remind others that someone else’s beauty does not take away from their own beauty. We are all beautiful in our own unique way and why try and look like someone else when you can look like you. You are the only person on the planet with your body and that is something to celebrate not to feel shame over.
7. How important is it to follow a diverse range of positive accounts and profiles online and to not compare yourself to others?
Extremely important! When we fill our feeds with people that celebrate and embrace their bodies exactly as they are it encourages us to do the same and in turn makes us feel good in our bodies and teaches us how to accept our bodies.
"It is vital you follow people that make you feel good and people that look like you because you want to put down your phone feeling good about yourself not worse than you did when you originally picked it up."
Check out our #DisruptYourFeed campaign which inspires healthier social media habits and empowers people to follow those who make them feel good.
8. How do you approach the topic of body hair positivity, and what advice would you give to women who feel pressured to conform to societal beauty standards?
In primary school, I was picked on for having hairy legs and arms and then when I was in year 7, I was attending the school swimming carnival where I was mocked and belittled for hair that was poking out of my swimmer's bottoms. It was a terrible experience as you could imagine and ever since that day, I shaved away my body hair as society had conditioned me to do even when I didn’t personally want to. Until about 3 years ago I started to let my body hair simply be and see how I felt about it. I realised from this that I didn’t mind my body hair and I actually grew to like it. I no longer wanted a societal beauty standard to control the way I felt about my body and now I only remove my body hair when I really want to.
"For the women who feel pressured to conform to a societal beauty standard I want you to know that body hair is normal, natural, and human. It isn’t unhygienic, unnatural, or unattractive. Do what you want to do with YOUR body but don’t let anyone shame you into removing your body hair."
9. What advice would you give to parents or caregivers on how to instil body positivity in their children from a young age?
It’s important that parents or caregivers know that just like us, children also criticise and belittle their bodies. As they watch, listen, and copy the way we judge ourselves. Therefore, it is vital we learn to accept our bodies so we can show them it’s possible to feel at home in their bodies. Here are a few things we can show our loved ones to help them embrace their bodies. - The reality behind social media. Make them aware that what they see online is posed, edited and often not actually reality. - Remind them that rolls, fat, cellulite, hip-dips, stretch marks, fupa, soft tummy’s, body hair, razor bumps, skin rolls and scars are normal features of a human body. Not flaws or things that need changing or removing. - Express to them the importance of body diversity and show them a range of body shapes along with a variety of different ethnicities and abilities. - Show them the insides of editing apps. Demonstrate how people manipulate their bodies and faces to look a certain way so therefore they know not to compare themselves to someone’s edited image. We have the power to change the perceptions of young people and how they feel about their bodies. We must encourage children to create positive, healthy attitudes towards their bodies. Because they don’t deserve to struggle to embrace their bodies as we did.
10. Finally, what message would you like to convey to anyone struggling with body image issues or self-esteem, and how can they seek support or resources to help them on their journey towards body positivity?
It’s important to remember that you don’t need altering to fit into society’s narrow-minded idea of beauty and you don’t need shrinking to exist happily in this world. You need to understand that you are allowed to take up space. That your softness isn’t shameful and that the only opinion of your body that truly matters is your own. You don’t need to hide anymore. You’ve done enough of that for one lifetime. You need to find the joy in your body. Explore it. Admire it. Marvel at every wrinkle and scar. Remind yourself of all it allows you to do. Dance, love, be loved, touch, feel, create, and eat. Slowly but surely, you’ll begin to see that your body is tired of being belittled by you for simply existing. From there you’ll realise that your body actually wants to be your friend. It aches to welcome you home and by this point your only regret will be why didn’t I befriend it earlier.
"If you need support, be sure to follow pages that inspire you and bring you joy. Pages that make you feel good about yourself and empower you to accept your body. Reach out to organisations that can help you create a healthy relationship with your body and read books around body acceptance. They help, trust me."
11. What are some of your proudest achievements or milestones in your career thus far, and what goals do you have for the future?
Honestly answering these questions from The Female Lead is a big wow moment for me. I have loved the charity and page for so long and to be able to work alongside the organisation to inspire others to accept their bodies makes me feel so proud of myself. Another achievement would be having my writing published in an online magazine.
A big goal of mine is to publish a book. I have always wanted to write a book to help women learn to accept their bodies by sharing my story so I hope I can make that happen.
About the contributor:
Bella Davis is a self-love hype queen and body acceptance advocate helping you to learn to accept and embrace your body.
You can follow Bella on Instagram @Isabelladavis6