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’.