“Nobody is ever going to be perfect”
Chloe is a 19-year-old psychology student at Aston University in the UK. She is a fitness and body positivity advocate, documenting her weight loss journey on her Instagram page. She has struggled a great deal with her weight and self-perception, with stress eating during school exams causing weight gain and negatively impacting her mental health.
Lauren: How did you start to combat these struggles with your self-perception? Did you have help from anyone around you at the time?
Chloe: I didn't have help from anyone else really, it was my own actions. During the first lockdown I decided that I needed to exercise more and eat healthily and that has made me feel so much happier. Seeing my body change has also really helped. Of course, not everything is about the way you look, so I feel better and healthier in general since making these changes in my life.
They say that exercise releases happy hormones and that is definitely true for me, I feel so good after a workout and my self-perception has improved so much because of this.
Why did you start your Instagram page about your weight loss? And what have you gained from it?
I am part of a few different workout communities on Facebook which are made up of people that follow the same YouTube videos. I posted some progress pictures in these groups and received some amazing responses and hundreds of comments asking, “how did you do it?”.
I thought it would be fun to document what I have achieved and how I’m doing it because it will help me to motivate myself and others. I have also really enjoyed thinking of content ideas and have loved becoming part of this community of people with similar health and fitness accounts.
In my bio I have the quote “progress not perfection” as it is something that I firmly believe in. Nobody is ever going to be perfect. A lot of people on Instagram and other social media platforms believe in the same thing. It’s nice to be part of a community with this healthy mindset.
Do you have any advice that you would give to people who have issues with stress eating and self-perception?
It is quite difficult because I've had a lot of people asking me to give advice and asking me how I lost weight and it isn't just as simple as cutting out junk food and exercising. It is really about motivation.
I wanted to deal with losing weight in the most "mental health friendly way". I don't want to obsess over calories or the way I look.
My advice is to do something that you enjoy. Not everything is about looking good, it is about being happy and healthy. I incorporated dancing and more weight training in order to switch up my routine.
Stay positive where you can. You won’t always see progress straight away. I don't want to restrict myself too much and beat myself up about not exercising or if I have a sweet treat.
Do it for yourself and don't compare yourself to other people. You will never look the same as someone else.
Not everything in life is about being thin, it’s about being healthy and happy. Everyone’s body is individual and you need to aim to improve yourself and not to look like someone else.
Why do you think it’s personally important to share what you’ve gone through mentally?
A lot of people have gone through the same thing.People like to see somebody else’s progress. Not just the before and after picture.
Something I haven’t yet shared is why I am this way in the first place. At some point I will share about my mental health journey and this is a first step.
It’s really important for people to understand why they’ve got into an unhealthy state and the meanings behind it, so that they can better themselves.
Some people believe that sharing your mental health story can be "attention seeking" which I strongly disagree with. It is important to share our mental health stories because this is the first step in improvement. It is not possible to help yourself until you have accepted that there is a problem. “If you don’t accept that there’s a problem, you’ll never fix it”
Why did you go into psychology? Has learning about mental health and the mind helped you?
Some people think psychology is just about mental health, but it’s definitely not - that’s just a small part of it.
From that, I’ve managed to understand other peoples’ problems. One key thing you learn is that the diagnosis for one person will never be the same as a diagnosis for another. That’s why diagnosing people is so difficult. It’s not like physical health. Everybody’s mental health issues differ in some way. We’re all incredibly individual.
I’ve also been able to emphasise with people who have issues and understand them more.
For example, my boyfriend has OCD. It is difficult to understand his issues 100%. I’ll never really know what he goes through. In terms of giving him advice and getting him to seek help, that was down to me studying psychology. I would have never really thought about what he could do to help himself otherwise.
There needs to be better understanding. People who need to be better educated, more than anyone, are in the older generation. Younger generations are being brought up with more awareness of mental health issues. But I feel like older people don’t understand it as much. They can be quite prejudiced in a way. They think that ‘Oh they’re weird’ or ‘They’re making it up’ - they just don’t understand.
Everybody’s mental health is different. Whether they are major or minor differences. Everything somebody is experiencing is independent to them. Even if they have the same diagnosis they won’t be going through the same thing. It’s important to accept that and not to put people in a bubble.
Mental health can be affected by so many things, whether that be biological or social factors. It’s important that people accept the vast number of things that can impact our minds.
I also think that it is really important that people start to talk to each other more, especially parents with their children. It’s important to ask your children how they are. Especially if they notice something - maybe their child is putting on weight or losing a lot of weight. It’s important that people start to ask each other how they are doing and really start catching up. If someone has been through something and recovered, it’s important to still keep asking them if they’re alright.