This week, Britain Uncovered speaks with Gemma Lloyd-Jones, creator of a new Instagram initiative titled 'The Road to Body Happiness'. In this Q&A, we analyse the importance of the recent 'Instagram vs. reality' trend, and Gemma also explains why diet culture should really be all about balance.
Britain Uncovered: Hi Gemma! Last month, you launched a ‘Road to Body Happiness’ project that charts your personal progress as you seek to become more body confident. What first sparked the idea to launch this project?
Gemma: Hi! So recently I’ve not loved myself at all. Since COVID-19 started, I’ve gained weight, probably like a lot of people. Even though I was still working, I ate a lot of chocolate brownies to get me through this time! I also bought a house with my fiancé during the lockdown period and we spent alternate nights decorating the whole house after work and then having lots of takeouts. At the time, I put it down as “supporting local businesses”, but all those chippies catch up to you (as does a cheeky gin or two)!
So when I found that I wasn’t fitting into my clothes, I started criticising myself in a major way. I also have inflamed ribs, which means wired bras hurt my ribs like I’m being punched by a big yeti. Therefore, I was living in sport bras and was super conscious that I had saggy boobs.
Then one day, I went out for a walk and had the idea to create a diet and exercise Instagram account – but then I thought to myself, surely it’s more beneficial for me to learn to love myself rather than try to lose weight and continue to be unhappy.
Britain Uncovered: There’s a growing consensus that a body shouldn’t necessarily be judged purely by its appearance, and that we should instead celebrate all of the positive things it does for us. Is this a theory you subscribe to?
Gemma: 100%! At the end of the day, the main function of your body is to keep you alive. Our bodies are hosts for your organs and keeping yourself healthy is essential, whilst mental health is so important to keeping your brain in tip top condition. If my Road to Body Happiness project can make one person change their perspective of themselves and help them on their journey to self love, I’ll be happy! I’m still on the journey myself though – it’s a long road, but I’m getting there.
Britain Uncovered: A number of your posts reference ‘Instagram vs. Reality’. Could you explain the concept behind this and describe how certain social media images can be damaging if taken at face value?
Gemma: I love doing these types of posts! We all put filters on as it makes us feel better about ourselves; but in reality, you dress up, take a photo for social media and then end up with food down your dress or dancing like a silly billy and that’s totally fine!
We’d be boring if we were all perfect. Filters are fabulous but they are also dangerous, especially for the younger generation. They are seeing people with no lines, no grey hair, no spotty skin and so on, and they think they are ugly or they don’t meet the ideal.
Back in the day, it was all about selfies taken in a mirror with a compact camera, most of which were blurry – whereas nowadays, you can even change the shape of your face on filters. So while it’s important to have images on social media that show people looking beautiful, in reality, things like lines, belly rolls and bingo wings are normal and every person is unique. Barbie is not real.
Britain Uncovered: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced with regards to body confidence over the years, and what are some of your methods of overcoming these?
Gemma: The main issue that I have had to face is people mocking me for being ginger. It’s literally a hair colour – if anything, it’s trendy now! At the time it bothered me, but it doesn’t now at all.
I was quite good at ignoring hateful comments, but we are human and have all had our feelings hurt. When I was 12, someone wrote a blog about me on Bebo (showing my age!) about how fat I was, and that really hit hard. Another comment I had was that I looked super young for my age when I was a teenager; and then suddenly getting lines on my face and feeling older than my age was a hard hitting one. But I’ve learned to accept that these are laughter lines and a sign of happiness!
Britain Uncovered: You referenced in one of your posts that you’re not trying to become a ‘fitness queen’, yet there’s a certain desire to keep active and enjoy some physical exercise – how do you find a balance between the two, and do you think diet culture is a positive concept on the whole?
Gemma: Being healthy is important, as is learning to love yourself. I’m trying to promote that you can eat the cake, but just don’t eat the entire cake! (Even though I ate a whole packet of cookies the other day, it’s all a learning curve). Keep yourself moving to keep your organs happy too.
In some aspects, diet culture can be positive, but only if it’s more towards a balance of healthy living with treats included too. I think the negative connotations come from restricting certain foods and then end up bingeing on these so much that you end up unhappy once again. Balance is the key.
Britain Uncovered: Sometimes your comments on Instagram can be a little self-deprecating, along with an indication that you’re not taking yourself too seriously. Do you think maintaining a sense of humour is a useful way of staying positive?
Gemma: I think I’m just being myself in the sense and I just blurt out a caption for my post as I’m quite a humorous person (I’ve been told!) A lot of the posts I’ve seen on Instagram are quite serious and if you can make someone laugh whilst getting a message across… I think that’s a winner.
Britain Uncovered: Finally, working in a nursery, are you able to impart some of your positive energy to the children?
Gemma: The main way I encourage children in the nursery is to allow them dress up or play with that they want. If you’re a boy and want to be princess belle, crack on! In their eyes, it’s role play. I think body confidence at that age isn’t just their literal physical self, it’s also their mental welfare and allowing to explore their imagination without gender ties.