ISPC International Society of Psychotherapy and Counselling

Towards Therapeutic Sustainability

Body Image and Body Acceptance

ISPC Mental Health Body Image


Body image problems affect lots of different people. It’s not about vanity or being shallow.

Body image issues aren’t something “silly” experienced only by teenage girls, nor are they something we can just “get over”. I could share lots of statistics about how many people don’t like their bodies but I think we all know… it’s a lot.

Body image is about how we see ourselves and perceive our bodies, but this is influenced by wider issues such as societal views, diet culture and inequality and discrimination. I struggled my whole life with body image problems, mine mostly centering on weight but I’m aware that other people have body image issues that have nothing to do with weight or size. My work with individuals and in workshops however does sway toward weight because it is such a big factor for so many people. Weight stigma is so prevalent in our society so it can affect thin people too, though people at higher weights face discrimination and many challenges in daily life. Hating our bodies, being unkind to ourselves and trying to change the way we look isn’t the solution… as much as it may really seem like it is!

Part of my own continued body image journey is being able to share my lived experience, and my professional experience, with people. I am passionate about helping others understand body image on a deeper level, to enable them to challenge their perceptions, assumptions and internalised fatphobia. I personally found that learning about wider societal expectations and inequalities, as well as past experiences and trauma, can help build an understanding as to why we struggle with body image. Knowing all of this can help us be more compassionate to ourselves.

I sometimes find that “body positivity” can be too fluffy. As much as it can be helpful for some people, I just found it to be yet another pressure; the pressure to “love” myself, which just seemed like too big a jump. It just seemed unrealistic for me to jiggle around in a bikini, like the people I saw on Instagram, when I couldn’t even wear a swimming costume without a big baggy t-shirt over the top for many years. “Body positivity” has unfortunately been capitalised on by companies who have noticed its popularity, and by influencers and thin attractive people online who want to promote themselves. Unfortunately, this has taken the movement away from the very people who need it the moment the most; fat, black, queer, disabled people and others who have faced discrimination and oppression.

My body image approach involves taking a “big picture” view, understanding the societal and cultural issues surrounding how we see our bodies, including class, gender, disability, race, and more. Accepting our bodies can feel like a radical act in our society where capitalism needs us to be ashamed of our bodies in order to make money. So there can be such a lot to unpack when thinking about body image, which is why I offer workshops as well as one-to-one sessions. These can help you understand body image in more depth and help you move towards accepting your body. To find out more click here.

About Mel Ciavucco:

Mel has 5+ years of experience working for eating disorder charities and has a passion for understanding body image, eating distress and weight stigma. Her own lived experience of struggling with body image, food and weight stigma plays a big part in her work as a trainer, going hand-in-hand with professional experience to offer enriching and inspiring workshops.  Mel is a counsellor in training, due to qualify in 2023. She works on a Domestic Violence Perpetrator Program as a group facilitator, and also facilitates creative writing workshops for people affected by homelessness.

Twitter: @MelCiavucco

Facebook page: @MelCiavuccoWriter

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