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‘Reality’ TV and real bodies: how to practice self-love during Love Island season

The question on our mind is: can ‘reality TV’ negatively impact our own reality? And what can we do to reduce these negative effects?

According to the Mental Health Foundation, 24% of 18-24 year olds relate reality TV to their struggles with body image. #bodypositivity #loveisland Click To Tweet

One of the UK’s most-watched and beloved shows in recent years is returning again this summer. That’s right, Love Island is back. Love it or hate it, the BAFTA-winning reality tv show has been a source of entertainment and discussion not only in the UK but across the world. If you’re feeling out of the loop and don’t know what it is, Love Island is a dating show where ‘sexy singles’ are sent off to a luxurious Spanish villa to ‘find love’. The show has garnered a cult-like following but has also resulted in what some are calling ‘The Love Island Effect’. This refers to the negative impact on self-esteem and body image that has increased as a result of watching the show. The ‘reality’ show is notoriously known for its lack of diversity in showing ‘real’ body types; a standard that contestants themselves struggle to maintain with many turning to intense diets and even cosmetic surgery to maintain the ‘perfect’ look. These carefully curated images we see on reality tv are a far stretch from true reality, yet the impacts continue to be felt in real life. Love Island has been criticised by the Mental Health Foundation after their research found that 24% of 18-24-year-olds relate reality tv to their struggles with body image.

Credit: Wes Nelson and Georgia Steel for Samsung, sponsors of Love Island

So what’s the solution? It’s pretty much impossible to avoid all ‘image-based media’ and many of us still welcome the escapism that a show like Love Island can provide. While we may not want to stop watching these shows altogether, mental health experts warn us to watch responsibly and not to fall into the trap of social comparison. Social comparison theory relates to our innate desire to form accurate self-evaluations through comparison with others. Unfortunately, the increased popularity of image-based media outlets such as Instagram and reality tv has made this desire incredibly difficult to avoid. So we spoke to Self Love Coach Gina Swire, to find out more about some ways we can practice self-love when moments of social comparison arise. Here’s what she had to say:

Credit: Gina Swire, Self Love Coach

“Watching a program like Love Island can trigger self-doubt, comparison and start a cycle of desperately trying to change our appearance out of subtle or not so subtle self-hatred.

A few suggestions to anchor in body positivity before the show starts:

1. Write a note and stick it on your bathroom mirror saying
“everybody is different”
“I am not my body”
“I choose to live in a reality where I deserve love and so does my body”

2. Turn hate into gratitude, scan your body and say thank you to all the areas for everything it does for you. e.g. “Tummy – thank you for digesting all my food and tummy muscles that allow me to laugh.” Go through each area and turn it all to gratitude.

3. If you catch yourself comparing yourself please know that comparison is the thief of joy and you can’t compare yourself and love yourself at the same time. If you find yourself comparing stop what you are doing, jump up and down or shake that energy away, then choose a better more effective thought for you. e.g. “She looks like that and I look like this and we both deserve love.”

4. Anything you try to do out of fear or hate will require willpower. Anything you do out of pure love for your body and self will be in flow. Let the goal be to nourish your body in all the ways she wishes to be nourished, rather than punishing her to be like someone else and watch your body positively respond to you!

Credit: Creative Nature | veo.world/creativenature

With summer on its way, shows like Love Island and the pressure to get that ‘bikini body’ can make this time of year feel pretty overwhelming. But rather than focusing on having the ‘perfect’ body, we’re passionate about promoting health over everything. Self-love comes in many forms whether it’s fixing the way you talk to yourself or treating your body better. This summer, challenge yourself to ditch your desire for flat abs and the perfect ‘peach’. Instead focus on staying hydrated, nourishing yourself with healthy food and, getting some movement into your day for optimal physical and mental wellbeing.

Gina Swire’s book, PS – I Love You comes out in July 2021. You can also catch her later this year as part of our new event series, Detox Talks; a monthly community meetup where we come together to share ideas and hear perspectives on a range of hot topics affecting society today. From polluting oceans to toxic beauty standards, we’re on a mission to detox the world, one talk at a time. For more information on upcoming events, click the link here!

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