Leave Your Mark on the World

Great Health Guide - - FRONT PAGE - Words Dr Kiera Buchanan De­sign Olha Blagodir

Iclearly re­mem­ber my first stretch marks. I was in my early teens when I no­ticed two thick pink stretch marks on my right hip that ex­tended beyond the waist line of my pants. I re­mem­ber go­ing to my mother to show them to her. I sup­pose I must have been feel­ing in­se­cure and in need of some re­as­sur­ance. I re­mem­ber how­ever be­ing pre­sented with a bot­tle of Bio Oil and in­structed to mas­sage it into my stretch marks every day.

Body in­se­cu­rity and body dis­sat­is­fac­tion.

Given my mother had likely ex­pe­ri­enced the same body in­se­cu­rity that she now wit­nessed in her el­dest daugh­ter, I pre­sume her in­ten­tion was to spare me from de­vel­op­ing the ‘flaws’ that later be­came the ob­ject of her own body dis­sat­is­fac­tion. Alone with my newly-dis­cov­ered flaws and this bot­tle of oil, im­printed with words such as ‘skin elas­tic­ity’ and ‘pre­ven­tion’, my ini­tial in­se­cu­rity was catas­tro­phized into full-blown ter­ror, as I was in­tro­duced to a woman’s need to con­trol and/ or con­ceal her body’s im­per­fec­tions.

Although this mem­ory is re­called eas­ily and vividly (sug­gest­ing it was a piv­otal time in my for­ma­tive years), to­day, my stretch­marks couldn’t be fur­ther from my aware­ness. In fact, I was only re­minded of this mem­ory through my par­tic­i­pa­tion in a re­cent in­ter­view on the topic by the Daily Tele­graph. Af­ter shar­ing my pro­fes­sional opinion on the ‘trend’ of cel­lulite, stretch­marks and other flaws be­ing posted on so­cial me­dia, I later re­flected on my per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence.

I cu­ri­ously ex­plored the fac­tors I share with those I sit across from in my of­fice on a daily ba­sis which pre­dis­pose me to the same in­se­cu­ri­ties that I help oth­ers with. I con­tem­plated the fac­tors which buf­fer th­ese pre­dis­pos­ing fac­tors and al­low me to be at peace with my body in a so­ci­ety which dis­cour­ages me from do­ing so. Fi­nally, I gave some thought to the re­sponse that the 14year old ver­sion of my­self needed to hear in such a vul­ner­a­ble time in my life.

If I could go back in time and re­spond to that in­se­cure young girl, I would en­ve­lope her in a warm em­brace and ten­derly tell her this: “Dear girl, those marks you’ve dis­cov­ered are called ‘stretch­marks’. They’re a very nor­mal part of grow­ing. In fact, most of your friends who are go­ing through pu­berty, will also have them. De­spite what you’re about to be taught

BE AT PEACE WITH YOUR BODY IN A SO­CI­ETY WHICH DIS­COUR­AGES YOU FROM DO­ING SO.

by the world, there’s no way of stop­ping them or get­ting rid of them, nor is there any rea­son to. Wor­ry­ing about such blem­ishes will not change them, it will only make them a much big­ger part of how you de­fine your­self, all the while, dis­tract­ing you from your true value”.

Now, as a psy­chol­o­gist work­ing in the field of eat­ing dis­or­ders and body-im­age con­cerns, I en­cour­age other women to do just that:

• to find a pur­pose beyond their weight on the scales or the re­flec­tion in the mir­ror.

Con­trary to what the weight-loss and diet in­dus­tries will have us be­lieve, we have lit­tle con­trol over our ap­pear­ance. We do how­ever, have con­trol over what we fo­cus on and how we choose to de­fine our­selves.

So, to you as the reader, I chal­lenge you to con­sider this:

What im­pact could you have on the world, if you in­vested the time, ef­fort and re­sources that you cur­rently waste on your ap­pear­ance? What a world we could have!

Dr. Kiera Buchanan is a Clin­i­cal Psy­chol­o­gist and a Health Psy­chol­o­gist as well as the Direc­tor of Cen­tre for In­te­gra­tive Health; a multi-dis­ci­plinary prac­tice aimed at pre­vent­ing and treat­ing eat­ing dis­or­ders, weight con­cerns and body-im­age is­sues. Kiera is also on the Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee of the Qld Eat­ing Dis­or­ders Ad­vi­sory Group and the Aus­tralian and New Zealand Academy for Eat­ing Dis­or­ders. Kiera may be con­tacted via web­site

THE MARK YOU LEAVE ON THE WORLD IS FAR MORE MEAN­ING­FUL THAN ANY MARK LIFE WILL LEAVE ON YOU.

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