As part of our #BREAKFREE campaign, we spoke to blogger Hannah Gale about how she's embracing her body, and overcoming insecurity
I think I’ve probably struggled with body image my entire life. I remember my first day at school in year six, and I decided I was going to go on a bike ride every single day to try and lose weight before I started at high school. I guess ever since then, it’s been a constant battle with the way I look and I think a lot of that stems from the female role models in my life having always suffered with that too. I suffered from bulimia for probably about a decade, and it was only a little bit later that I found out that my mum had suffered with it too, and I know my nan always had issues with her weight even before then. It’s very much been something that I guess I’ve inherited genetically from watching how they treat their bodies.
I guess now, I think the big thing for me is that I put my life and my body and my image online every single day, across my blog, on Instagram, Youtube and other forms of social media. And by doing that, I instantly put myself up for criticism. I certainly get a couple of comments a week from anonymous people – normally on an outfit post or something – saying things like ‘you look like a sausage’ or ‘I’m not being funny but you’re such a bad role model and your weight’s bad for your health’ or ‘you need to size up in that dress’. I don’t understand how that’s supposed to help me in the long run.
I’m size 12-14 and my BMI does classify as overweight. It has done since I was 16 because of my height – I’m only 5ft2. But people seem to have this illusion that because of my shape, I just sit at home and stuff my face with chocolate and pizzas everyday. It’s not like that at all. It makes me feel like I’m crazy and doing something wrong because I don’t look like a lot of other bloggers and people in the public eye. I think blogging is much more look-related than the industry would like to let on. The majority of the big names are size 6 -10 and look just like the rest of the celebrity world. Just like with TV or movies, it feels like it’s look-based rather than perhaps, content-based and I think a lot of is very aspirational, because people seem to like that, even if they don’t realise it.
In a way, it’s even more dangerous. You think, ‘that’s a blogger, she’s a normal girl, she’s not a celebrity and she looks like that, I should look like that too’. At least with celebrities, you know they have a personal trainer and they get photoshopped and they have all this time to spend at the gym and all this money to spend on a personal chef. But in actual fact, I think there’s a lot more that goes on behind the scenes in blogging – especially with photoshopping – and I’m sure people get free personal trainers. But unless you’re a health blogger, we rarely discuss our weight and what we realistically eat everyday and so readers kind of have to fill in the gaps and you end up assuming their lives are very normal. You end up thinking, hang on a second, if she’s eating a normal, balanced diet and looks like that, then why don’t I? What am I doing wrong? Maybe I should be going to the gym for an hour a day. Maybe I’m lazy.
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People need to be made to feel better for not going to the gym and not being a size eight, and not been toned and not having a flat stomach. I mean, that’s a totally normal thing that happens to women as you get older. I’m not size eight, and I’m not plus size. I’m normal and a bit lumpy.
It is different outside of the bloggersphere. When I’m with my friends from uni or home, there’s much less variation in sizes. I do have a few slim friends but there’s a lot more that are size 12/14. I guess we reflect more of the national average size. I definitely feel more self-conscious when I’m with blogging friends.
That’s why I try so hard to think about all the amazing things I have achieved so far in my life. I think about all the things I’ve done career wise. I think about the fact I’m living in a house with my boyfriend and two cats and I basically have a secure family. I think about all the lovely comments and emails I have received saying how I’ve helped people overcome things and made them feel better about their lives. My body shape doesn’t matter. My weight is such a tiny thing compared to everything I’ve achieved. Not having a flat stomach has never impacted my ability to have fun. But worrying about it has.’
Find out more about about our #BREAKFREE campaign here.