Age: Early 40's
City: Sydney, Australia
Occupation: Educational Advisor
Please describe how YOU see your body in general when you look in the mirror.
I have never concerned myself with how I look because I find that appearance wise we can find beauty in anything, whether it's our eyes or smile. The older I get the more I value that I am still breathing and am relatively healthy - this is what I see in the mirror. Of course, my fitness level could do with some improvement when I see more curves than the slim and trim woman that I was in my twenties. However, I still embrace the vibrancy that is within and appreciate the curves that I have as it reflects on the journey of my body through motherhood with three terrific children.
What do you consider beauty to mean? What is beautiful to you?
Beauty to me is nature: sunrises, sunsets, mountains, waterfalls and oceans. Peacefulness and tranquility inspire beauty for me. Beauty also means fun such as make-up sessions with your girlfriends, dressing up and exploring something new. Beauty is also innocence through a child's eyes and interacting with them to see how they view the world.
What does a healthy body image mean to you and what are your body image goals?
A healthy body image for me is related to your individual height and size. Increasing my fitness and upper body strength would be my body goals. To achieve this I need to try to be a little disciplined, to get into a routine of fitness after the winter season. People who enjoy their passions and work hard at what they do inspire me.
Can you talk about a time in your life where you felt body confident? When you didn’t? What shaped your feelings?
I don't know where my body confidence stems from but I think it was because I was such a rebel and didn't want to conform to anyone's standards. My mother was big on cosmetic surgery and has had her nose and eyes done. During my teenage years, she would encourage me to not be afraid of "going under the knife" and wanted me to have more of a European nose so I would look "prettier". I flatly refused and told her that I was happy with how I looked and would never have any cosmetic surgery unless the Doctors deemed it necessary as a result of an accident or for health purposes. I know that has definitely shaped my feelings to being the person I am today because I made a stand for what I believed beauty was to me.
Another life changing event that caused my decline in health and body confidence was when I was sterilised with Essure coils that caused my body to swell and created a belly around my stomach area for many years. It wasn't so much the fact that I was conscious of my appearance but more that I felt swollen and felt that something was wrong with me because I could not even walk 10 minutes without being in constant pain. This was the worse point in my life as I felt bedridden, tired and in constant pain. After my hysterectomy to remove those toxic coils, I have never felt better, and I’m grateful that the coils were removed from my body. It made me realise how great my pain threshold was because for over a year, the coils had perforated my left fallopian tube and came close to my uterus.
The experience of a failed sterilisation and hysterectomy has provided me with so much insight in how society views this and how men need to also be accountable for discussions with their partners about family planning, and how as women we need to talk more openly about female reproductive health issues.
Have you had issues or challenges with clothing in regard to body image?
I dress for comfort and the social environment that I am around. I haven't had many challenges with finding clothing that fit but whether I think it looks good on me is another matter. I am short so have trouble finding clothing that I don't need to take up, and due to having shoulder and neck problems, I wish that there were more garments that catered for going braless without exposing your modesty!
Does your body image affect how you eat?
No, I always eat what I want and am fortunate that I don't have a sweet tooth. I think everything in moderation is good and try not to overeat because it just makes me feel tired and bloated. I do get "hangry" so it is important that I eat meals on time or else I will rip your head off.
When do you feel best?
I feel best when I am rested, had a great night's sleep and don't have to get up early to run around with children's routines or work. So weekends are divine. I also feel best after a relaxing day or massage or a nice walk along the beach and when I don't have to prepare meals.
How has your body image changed over time?
I feel less pressure about my body image as I don't think your body really defines who you are but that your mind does. I would like to set a good example for my children with regards to how they should feel about their body and not buy into all that "perfection" which the media portrays.
Who do you feel influences your body image most?
I feel that I influence my body image. Perhaps the Dalai Lama would be my greatest influence with how I should feel about my body and mind.
What pressure around body image do you feel?
I don't succumb to pressure when it comes to body image. I have never ever been on a diet except for when I had gestational diabetes and had to moderate my carb intake for the health of my baby, and inject insulin because she was growing too rapidly and my body was having a hard time adjusting.
What are your thoughts on the media/advertising/social media and how they affect body image?
I think the media is immoral with their conduct with regards to body image. They focus on the negatives and conform to a particular view of how people should be and have a huge influence on young people. If they could assist with mental health and body image in a positive light then the world will be a better place. The media is so mainstream with their advertising; there are few minority groups represented and "real" life people with differing shapes and sizes should be featured more in advertisements. Young people are very impressionable as they begin to question their self and where they fit into society, and don’t need the added pressures of the media's view of what is aesthetically pleasing. The media should be more responsible and play a better role in creating an inclusive society where the focus is away from body image. Governments and regulatory bodies need to create some mandates on how media should behave.
How do you feel about altering appearance through cosmetic surgery and applications like Photoshop?
I believe in freedom of choice and if someone wants to undergo cosmetic surgery then I don't have a problem with that. If it makes them happy then who am I to prevent them from doing this? I do think however that there should be a limit to how much surgery can be done within a year and that some form of psychological evaluation should also be completed as some people may be prone to body dysmorphic disorder and not realise it. There is nothing wrong with Photoshop and it takes skill to master this application. It could be regarded as an art form but passing something off as something else is fraud.
Do you have any advice/tips/suggestions for other women who would like to improve their body image?
"Live the life you love and love the life you live"
Improve on yourself always but never do it to impress or conform to another's view. Make the change because you want to and because you are worthy!