One of the reasons I went out to Greece last year to film Naked Beach was because, as a mum, I feel really passionate about changing the body image culture my girls are growing up in.
From social media feeds full of digitally manipulated images, to TV shows only presenting one ideal body type, to advertising campaigns only featuring one idea of beauty, to diet companies selling the idea that health only has one “look”… there are so many different ways our kids are being sold an idea of what their body SHOULD look like.
I never want my girls to feel like they aren’t enough – or feel like they need to change their body in order to become a valued, worthwhile, appreciated human on this planet. And that’s why I got naked on TV and continue to shout about the subject every single day via my podcast Body Cons, on Instagram, this blog and sometimes on the radio, telly and at various events too.
What is body image anyway?
Body image is not a fluffy subject, just for girls to worry about. The Mental Health Foundation recently dedicated the entire Mental Health Awareness Week to the issue, releasing research showing one in eight adults has had suicidal thoughts because of how they feel about their body. Countless studies have shown body image has a very real effect on mental health, self-esteem, quality of life, how kids engage and interact at school, physical health, nutrition etc etc etc. How we feel about our body matters JUST AS MUCH to our overall health as what we put into it and how we move it. And right now, research shows many of us don’t feel too great.
But how do we fix it? It takes more than just a few blog posts about body image, or a body positive TV show like Naked Beach. It takes more than a few events to empower women or radio debates about the subject. It takes more than a campaign to ban diet ads and weight loss products on or near schools. We need to keep talking about this stuff, keep challenging the messages being thrown at us, keep working to remove some of these messages altogether and now – the bit I’m coming to – introduce regular discussions of the topic in schools.
Bringing Naked Beach into schools
If you haven’t seen it, Naked Beach was a TV show aimed at transforming the nation’s body image. The first part of the series aired in April and May this year, on channel 4 at 8pm. It was watched by 1.6 million people – and I’m still getting messages every single day from people who continue to stream it on All4.
It’s very much NOT Love Island, or Naked Attraction, despite what some media publications have likened it to (simply because of the title I guess). It was a family show, aimed to open discussions around bodies and body image, to show a diverse range of bodies on telly, and to ultimately help us all be a bit kinder to ourselves.
I was one of the eight body confident hosts on the show and I’m so pleased to say I’m now one of the team of people who’ll be working to continue to bring that body love message out into the world, hopefully delivering the Naked Beach educational toolkit into a school near you.
The Naked Beach educational toolkit
The Naked Beach toolkit has been devised by Naked Beach expert, campaigner, writer and speaker Natasha Devon MBE, who’s worked for the past decade in schools, talking to students about mental health and body image.
Natasha worked with the producers of Naked Beach, Barefaced TV, to create a series of educational resources based on the show, using clips following two of the contributor’s stories. They’ve created two lesson plans that can be downloaded by teachers to deliver in PSHE lessons themselves, or delivered by a team of trained, verified speakers from the Speakers Collective – a supportive network of quality assured public speakers.
By the end of the lesson, teenagers will understand how a lack of body confidence can affect other areas of life, they’ll have explored ideas about the conceptions of “normal” bodies they may have internalised from social media and pornography, and they’ll have learned some techniques to improve their own body image and confidence. The lesson also debunks the myth that feeling positive about your body can lead to unhealthy behaviours or “encourage obesity”. The knock-on effect will be to reduce body-image based bullying and give teens tools to use social media in a way that enhances their own body image and self-esteem.
It’s a really special legacy of the show and one I know many teenagers will benefit from.