Switch on your television, flick through a magazine or browse the internet and you'll be assaulted by headlines tempting you to behold the spectacle of "the 63 stone man!", the "anorexic who weighs the same as your average five year old!", or "the model whose desperate bid for success ended in botched cosmetic surgery!". We gasp, we tut, we pout over the 'before and after' photos, details of weights, measurements and daily food intake, all the while smugly assured that we'd never allow ourselves to get into such a sorry state.
These stories claim to be 'educational' and yet the truth is that the vast majority of the population can't relate to them. And so we continue to wrestle with our own relatively trivial-seeming body dilemmas, feeling that they aren't worthy of attention, by comparison.
Yet body image concerns are dominating the lives of people who don't fit into the very narrow visual constraints dictated by our media. Everyone has a body - no one is a floating head - and from our earliest awareness we develop a relationship between body and mind which can dictate our behaviours, our decision making, our sense of self and even how we see the world around us.
Body Gossip gives a voice to the often neglected masses - the people in the middle. We invite everyone to share their story, regardless of race, age, gender, sexuality, shape or size. We've turned a spotlight on everyone, not just the extremes, and said 'over to you...'
Since 2006 we've been collecting real body thoughts, opinions and stories from the public and turning them into live theatre events, short films and we've recently published more than 300 of them in our first Body Gossip book. These are the tales you don't usually hear from the people you'd least expect.
Our aim has always been to make people think initially about their bodies more, so that ultimately they can think about them less. To encourage a frank internal conversation between body and mind which then has the power to inspire and reassure thousands of others.
Lady Gaga recently launched an 'online body revolution' - Real people posting a picture of themselves and a sentence about their real body struggles. Accompanying her own picture was the sentence "anorexic and bulimic since 15". The glamorous, wealthy, popular, talented Lady Gaga has been battling her demons behind closed doors, perhaps despite appearances. Not only has she reassured millions of people worldwide that they are not alone, she's dispelled the myth that to be famous is automatically to be happy. That's exactly why we work with celebrity supporters at Body Gossip - to allow actors, models, tv presenters, sportspeople and musicians to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of us in the beauty battle.
By sharing real stories and through our multiple award-winning self-esteem education programme, 'Gossip School', we hope that everyone can celebrate their own unique brand of beauty and that we can broaden our understanding of what is normal, acceptable and attractive.
This post forms part of the UK government's blog series on body confidence which will run throughout 2012.
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