Home » Body Empowerment » Struggling with body image at seven years old
Body Empowerment

Struggling with body image at seven years old

Leon, Ambassador for the YMCA’s Be Real campaign

While many people still think body image struggles are a ‘women’s issue’, we know this is not the case and Leon, 41, from London, has joined us as a Be Real Ambassador to change the narrative.

As a gay man he’s constantly confronted with ‘perfect bodies’ on the scene, but wants to make a change and champion the importance of body diversity.

“I was really young when I first started to struggle with my body image – just seven years old. I took up karate and even though I was very active sports-wise, I had some puppy fat and used to feel physically sick when we got changed in the changing rooms or I had to take off the top part of my kit when doing certain routines.

My weight has fluctuated over the years from 10 stone when I was 18 to 20 stone when I was 24 years old.

“The biggest challenge was realising it was about me being happy with my image and not constantly comparing myself to others, whether I was too slim or whether I was not muscular enough. I realised you can’t fit everyone’s ideal.

“To help me feel more confident in my skin I looked at myself naked in the mirror to get used to my body, rather than taking other peoples images as the way I should look. I never used to feel comfortable getting changed in public changing rooms, but, eventually, you realise everyone has some sort of hang-ups about their bodies, even if we think they are ‘perfect’.

“If I could say one thing to my younger self, I would tell him that as long as you are healthy then your body will reflect it. You might not have a six pack but don’t be so obsessed with everyone’s idea of perfect or ideal body shapes.

“It will be hard to eradicate negative body image, but I believe that the more different and real people are seen in the media, the more acceptable it will be that we don’t just focus on society’s idea of ‘perfect’.

Next article