Are you fed up of feeling upset when scrolling your Instagram feed because of constant exposure to perfect body shapes or perfect lifestyles? Well, it turns out that this is experienced by many of us. Fortunately, there are movements which can help us address issues brought about by social comparison.
One of these is the Body Positive Movement, which encourages people to adopt more positive attitudes towards their bodies, with the goal of enhancing overall health and well-being. Whether people are nurturing their bodies and maintaining their weight, or finding a place in life where they are comfortable through working out, or improving their lifestyles to find a better attitude, the body positive movement targets building self-esteem through improving one’s self-image. The body positive movement focuses on all body shapes and sizes.
I recently had the chance to interview Marciel Hopkins, a body-positive activist, Miss South Africa 2016 finalist and plus-size model for London-based MOT Models ‘Curves’ division.
The motivational speaker and Instagram star, with a following of 51,300, campaigns for positive body image, especially among young women, as this is a cause very close to her heart.
What was your motivation to become a body positive activist?
After losing 14 kg in four months to become a top 12 Miss South Africa finalist in 2015, I experienced how it truly felt to be in a daily battle with food and my body. I wish for nobody to go through the same mental and physical strain I put myself through and I decided to start spreading a positive message of self-love and body acceptance. I wanted to be a light in the dark for girls struggling with body issues and eating disorders, that is why I call myself a body positive activist. It’s so important for role models to step up and take a stance against the unrealistic expectations that society and the fashion industry has of men and women to look and act a certain way.
As a plus-size model and a campaigner for body positivity, what would your top tips be to young people struggling with body image and low self-esteem?
- Check your Instagram feed: If it’s not inspiring and makes you feel unworthy, simply unfollow.
- Strive towards being the healthiest and happiest version of yourself.
- No diet or goal weight will bring you the happiness; self-acceptance can.
- Surround yourself with positive people that will inspire and uplift you.
- Exercise is a celebration of what your body can do. Not a punishment for what you ate.
With an Instagram following of over 50,000, what impact has social media had on your life?
Wow! It had been a massive inspiration for me during difficult times in my life. I follow role models that inspire and motivate me to be the healthiest version of myself. I am truly grateful for women like Ashley Graham and Isrka Lawrence who speaks up for more curvy women in the fashion industry.
To my own followers of 50,000+: It’s an honour to share my body positive journey with you. I appreciate every message that I receive on a daily basis to thank me for the inspiration and upliftment you draw from my feed. You are wonderful and worthy; no matter your shape or size.
You are in the process of developing a course for school children to teach body acceptance, holistic health and mental wellness. Can you tell us more about this and what you hope to achieve in the future?
It will be branded: ‘Everything they don’t teach you in school.’ We are so focused on sport and academics in school, but we forget about the development of the individual. It’s so important to teach young girls and boys about self-love and holistic health.
I will focus on social media ethics, how Instagram can be used to manipulate us and I will share my journey to self-love and body acceptance after losing 14 kg to become a Miss South Africa finalist.
I hope to inform and positively influence young adults, at a crucial developmental stage, about the truth around self and body image. You are worthy no matter your shape or size.
A recent report focused on the increase of eating disorders among men and boys. Have you any thoughts on this subject?
I think we mainly focus on women and young girls when it comes to eating disorders, but we forget about the pressure society puts on men and boys to look a certain way. Women are expected to be small and petite, but men should be big, strong and muscular to be seen as ‘real men’. It’s a distorted picture that is being fed to us by the media. There is no wrong way to be a man or to have a certain body type.
Men might not be restricting themselves from eating, but they might be obsessed about training in the gym and growing bigger. We might not see anorexic men walking around, but the truth is, so many eating disorders can’t be seen with bare eyes and are simply looked over.
I think there is a big need for men to have platforms where they can voice their feelings and opinions about the pressure society puts on them to look and act a certain way. I think it’s so important for women to hear this as well, as it will help us to have more compassion for one another.
Marciel Hopkins, who is currently spending time on various modelling assignments in Germany and the UK, is also in the process of developing a course for school children to teach body acceptance, holistic health and mental wellness. The course will be launched in South Africa and will be the first programme of its kind led by a professional model. If the course is successful it will be rolled out internationally, starting in London.
Dennis Relojo is the founder of Psychreg and is also the Editor-in-Chief of Psychreg Journal of Psychology. Aside from PJP, he sits on the editorial boards of peer-reviewed journals, and is a Commissioning Editor for the International Society of Critical Health Psychology. A Graduate Member of the British Psychological Society, Dennis holds a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Hertfordshire. His research interest lies in the intersection of psychology and blogging. You can connect with him through Twitter @DennisRelojo and his website.
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