There is nothing I love more than to plonk myself on the sofa in my comfiest pyjamas and no-make up watching reality TV. Big Brother, Dating in the Dark, The Hills… I will literally watch anything and everything that's out there. It gives me a little thrill - a guilty secret (that doesn't make me feel guilty and is no longer a secret - but you get the picture).
My all-time favourite show is America's Next Top Model (or ANTM as devotees will know). This technically goes against all that I stand for in terms of not changing who we are to fit with current trends. Being a modelling show, where the primary mode of judgement is on appearance, it doesn't seem to fit that I'd be talking about its merits here.
But this is what I plan to do. And here's why.
There are many things I've taken from this type of programme that I think helps me to feel good about myself and think about how I see myself and others:
1. Being thin does not make you happy.
We see this time and again on this show, and I've experienced it for myself. Thinness and beauty does not equate to feeling happy, confident and secure. There are more tears than tiaras at ANTM headquarters as the girls experience being judged, comparing themselves to others and learning who they are, and who they want to be. They suffer the same niggles as we all do in bikinis (or naked!) and the sheer bafflement I first felt at why beautiful girls who appear to have everything would feel insecure now makes sense to me: we all have issues. And I find this reassuring.
Lesson one, then, is that being thin will never make us any less human. We'll still feel how we feel and we'll still be us.
Tyra's catchphrase seems to be telling the girls to 'smize': in other words, to smile with your eyes - from within. In teaching the girls this trick for the camera, I've picked up something I can use myself in real life. By focusing on the things that make me feel happy, it shows in how I look, think and behave. I come across differently and exude an inner confidence that others can really see.
For me, it was thinking about my boyfriend's cat purring in my lap. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, and loved. It makes me feel happy.
Lesson two then, is that how we feel shows in our faces.
And this is the essence of SMIZING. Deep, Tyra, deep.
3. Technology makes or brakes the images we see.
It's said time and again, but it's only when I see the behind-the-scenes work that goes into producing the 'perfect' picture or video that it is brought home to me. Airbrushing changes how people look. They don't look how they do in pictures, so why should we be held to this standard?
Now, don't get me wrong.
I love magazines. Truly. I adore the imagery, real or unreal.
And I will be the first person to say that the media wasn't a deciding factor in my developing an eating disorder.
It's just important to remember that this is what they are: images. Pieces of art. They are not an accurate snapshot of a person at that given point in time. They are manipulated to portray a message, and it's not always a message we should take upon ourselves.
Lesson three, then, is to be media savvy.
Whilst I can appreciate how ANTM might not be the best viewing for those with disordered eating, for me, it's fun. It's escapism. And I hope that I've shown that we can take what we will from the media. If we choose to see it as threatening, we will find nothing but the bad in it. If we can put on our positive specs, we might see it a little differently.
Looooooooove Heather xxx