Meet Sophie, founder of University of Bristol's body positivity society
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Second year Bristol English student Sophie Ward is the founder of the university's first body positivity society, and has the aim of tackling self-esteem issues, eating disorders and body dysphoria. Discussing why she decided to start the Body Positivity Support Group, Sophie says it was “in order to show anyone struggling with their body image and food that they are not alone, and that they can escape the cycle and start loving themselves.” This want comes from something deeply personal, and Sophie is open to sharing her story. “Having had a rough time with body image from a very early age, I really know how all-consuming it can be," she says. "However, it wasn’t until I started uni and began restrictive dieting that I realised just how destructive body ideals and diet culture can be. "For me, uni was the ‘perfect’ environment for all of my concealed body image issues to really culminate. One, I was drinking more alcohol than I ever had, which inevitably led to a drop in mood but gain of weight; two, I was living alone for the first time and completely responsible for what I was eating – although quite clueless; three, to top it all off, uni is an incredibly image-conscious place. "All of these factors led me to a really dark place, centred on a destructive binge/starve cycle and a crippling, ever-growing loathing of my body.” For a lot of us, this is a statement that we can understand. Photoshopped and unrealistic images of what we 'should' be are plastered everywhere we look. This is why the recent body positivity movement on social media can be something of a saving grace for those that were are constantly being forced to see our own physical flaws. Sophie says her own discovery of this movement was a “real saving grace... It helped to open my eyes to how warped and corrupt diet culture is, and the toxicity of body ideals.” She adds: “If it wasn’t for my discovery of the Body Positivity movement, I would most probably still be stuck in a dark hole of disordered eating and self-loathing – which I am now slowly but surely emerging from.” The Body Positivity movement still has its flaws. Whilst trying to turn away from the false image of the human body, it can also be blind to all the other body types that can be found. This isn’t something that Sophie wants from her own society: “…I speak from a position of privilege [a white, cis woman who is not ‘overweight’]. I think it is important [to]use this privilege to draw attention to wider issues of those whose voices would perhaps not be heard as loudly as mine.
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