Welcome to the Body issue. We all have one, and no two are alike. Yet we’re often invariably drawn to emulate the bodies of other people, or we define ourselves by how strangers perceive ours. Something else many of us have in common is that we’re probably not as kind to our unique collection of flesh, bones and cells as we should be.
The conversation about what it means to have a healthy body is constantly evolving. We talk about the obesity crisis – heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns – while also being warned against aspiring to have the body of Adonis and his chiselled six-pack. (Something that always eluded me, so I gave up on that unattainable mission some time ago.)
The past 18 months have also shone a spotlight on how interlinked our physical and mental wellbeing is. When our body is weak or threatened — whether that’s down to social pressure to look good or the dreaded coronavirus — our mental state can waver, yet we rarely give them equal value.
This is exemplified by the experience of blogger Max Hovey, who had an interesting journey during the first lockdown. The battle to end the pandemic has focused on vaccination, but we are all aware that one of the inevitable fall-outs will be a mental health crisis. For Max, the reverse happened. Entering the pandemic in a vulnerable place made him confront his unhappiness head-on and look at how destructive his relationship with his body was. Max shares what he went through on p.82. Similarly, former model Tom Tillmon opens up about his battle with anorexia and how years later it continues to impact his everyday life, p.72.
Elsewhere, we meet seven individuals who live with physical reminders of seismic moments in their lives in a photo reportage that tells the story behind their scars, p.64. From the guy who stepped in to stop a violent altercation between a man and a woman and ended up being attacked, to the man facing terminal cancer who now breathes through a filter fitted in a hole in his neck, each account conveys the powerful message that we can overcome trauma against the odds.
On the cover this issue is athlete Michael Gunning, whose career has been focused on breaking down the stereotypes around Black men in sport, and swimming, in particular. On a second cover is Alexis Stone, who endured a difficult childhood and overcame addiction to stop the internet as a physical illusionist who can transform herself into almost anyone. For Alexis, her body is a canvas to adapt and change as she evolves as an artist, telling Attitude about her audacious perspective and how she defines beauty: “The world is just catching up with me.”
If there’s an insight worth taking away from this year’s Body issue, it’s that when it comes to your body, there’s only one right way to look at it — and that’s through your own eyes and not those of others.
“We’re probably not as kind to our unique collection of flesh, bones and cells as we should be”