A Body Love Fan and Mum - Molly Forbes
Thank you so much for being involved in The Girl Gang Molly! I would love it if you could introduce yourself please:
Thank you for having me! Well my Insta bio describes myself as “A body love fan and mum” which is pretty accurate. I’m a presenter, campaigner and writer with a strong interest in body image. Earlier this year I appeared as one of the hosts on the Channel 4 body positive show Naked Beach (which is about to air in Australia!), I co-host a hit podcast called Body Cons and I’m the founder of the #FreeFromDiets campaign which is aimed at ending diet promo around schools and kids’ clubs. I can regularly be found dancing in my pants on Instagram.
What does positive body image mean to you?
For me, having a positive body image essentially means feeling good in my skin and feeling appreciative, grateful, comfortable and happy in my body REGARDLESS of what it looks like. So often we equate having a positive body image with looking in the mirror and loving what you see, but you don’t need to necessarily feel like Beyonce in order to have a positive body image. It’s about transcending what your body looks like, so you know that ultimately it’s the least important thing about you. I’m not interested in body trends or fitting a narrow beauty ideal or swapping one body shape that’s “in vogue” for another. I’m interested in feeling free of all that, and in breaking down some of the negative messaging around body image that is holding people back from living full and happy lives, and causing whole groups of society to be discriminated against. I want my two daughters to grow up knowing they are SO MUCH MORE than their body, and so is everyone else.
What advice would you give to anyone struggling with their body image?
It’s such a huge topic to unpick but there are some key things you can do to start feeling better (all this is based on research by the way!). Diversify your social media feeds so you’re not just seeing the same types of bodies all the time, and you’re hiding some of the negative diet culture messaging that is so prevalent everywhere. Spend more time naked and getting used to actually looking at your body. Start finding forms of movement that make you feel good and help you appreciate what your body can do over how it looks - a kitchen disco, a yoga class, a walk in the park. Walk away from diet talk and mute people sharing triggering conversations on social media. Watch Naked Beach on All4 and listen to Body Cons (!). And start getting angry as you notice all the ways other people and companies profit from your body insecurities.
How do you feel social media impacts and affects our younger generation?
Social media has a huge impact on how we all feel, but particularly for younger people who’ve never known a world without it. I grew up as a teenager without Facebook and Instagram, but I can see how all-consuming it can be and what a huge effect it has just from some of my friends’ kids and some of the younger people who follow me online. That said, it can also be an incredibly positive and empowering place. Social media gives us access to see a wider range of people we don’t often see represented in the mainstream media, and this is having a knock-on effect on the mainstream media. It can also be a real place of social power for younger people who don’t yet have access to their own income - they can use their click currency instead and use their voice online and their power with who they’re following to elevate positive messages and make a change. We only need to look at the whole climate change protest movement and the amazing work Greta Thunberg has done, to see that.
What do you think we can do to change this?
I think schools are starting to wake up to the power of social media and the importance of education around using it positively, but I would love to see more investment from the government in this area. We need a cultural shift, not just a few PSHE lessons in school. I think parents also need more guidance in how to navigate this new world - lots of parents just think it’s a scary place and want to ban their kids from going online at all, but social media isn’t going anywhere.
What would you say to a mum who is worried their child is looking into dieting?
I think that ultimately it all starts with us. Research shows that if we role model positive body image behaviour at home this can have a huge impact on our kids. So even if you don’t feel great, just avoid talk of diets and don’t body shame yourself in front of your children. That said, kids aren’t immune to messages around dieting and even if they don’t come from home they can pick these ideas up elsewhere (that’s what the whole #FreeFromDiets campaign is about - ending some of these messages around schools and kids’ clubs for good!). So if your child is coming home saying they need to “go on a diet” I’d want to have a chat with them about why they’re feeling this way. I think it’s also great to expose kids to positive resources - books, TV shows, magazine articles etc - that can counteract some of the negative messaging. And, ALWAYS, avoiding using moral language around food - there is no such thing as “naughty” or “good” food.
What is the meaning and mission behind #FreeFromDiets?
Ultimately, we want to end diet promo around schools and kids’ clubs. There’s already lots of positive work being done in schools and in homes as the UK wakes up to the body image crisis we’re facing, but the fact diet clubs can hang banners on school railings and hand leaflets out outside of schools undermines all this positive work. We know body image has a direct impact on mental health, but it also has a huge impact on physical health too - research shows a huge number of kids aren’t participating in PE for example, because they’re worried about the shape of their body. Having ads right outside their school gates which promote a certain body type and tell us that in order to “be inspiring” or “be happy” or “live well” you need to diet and change the shape of your body, is a problem. It also contributes to the wider societal issue of discrimination of marginalised bodies, of toxic beauty values and people thinking their worth - and the worth of other people - lies in the shape of their body and their outward appearance.
For any of our readers who don’t know about your Body Happy Parents Event, can you tell us what they can expect?
Body Happy Parents is the first #FreeFromDiets campaign event and it’s going to be pretty special. We’ve got a star line-up of guest speakers and it’ll be an evening of empowering conversation, leaving people inspired and hopeful. We’ll be talking about bodies after babies, how we can create happy body environments at home, as well as why diet culture around kids is damaging and why diet promo around schools is not the one. We’ll also be asking people to contribute their own ideas on suggestion slips as they enter the event, giving us specific problems they’d like to see solutions to on the subject of diet promo around kids. We’ll take these into a roundtable discussion the following day with people in positions of power to make a difference. There’ll be a Q&A too and plenty of lively, interesting and entertaining chat. Our speakers are the social media star, content creator and author Tova Leigh(@tova_leigh), eating disorder specialist and body image therapist Laura Phelan (@phelanwelll), doctor and diversity advocate Dr Tosin Sotubo (@mindbodydoctor) and parenting, fashion and body image influencer Kerri Northcott (@life_with_ivycoco).
Finally, are their any instagram accounts you can recommend that would help our readers discover more about positive body image?
So many! The podcast I co-host (@bodyconspodcast) has a lovely Insta feed (I can’t claim any credit for this as my co-host Lottie Storey is in charge of it!) which is full of inspiring mantras and feel-good quotes, as well as clips from some of the incredible guests we interview every week. All of the ambassadors in the #FreeFromDiets movement have amazing Instagram feeds and are doing brilliant work in the field of body image - you can find out more about them and their Insta accounts on our website - https://www.freefromdiets.org/ambassadors I also love @thefatfunnyone and @stylemesunday for body positive chat from a mum angle. We’ve had some amazing guests on the podcast though, so if you check out the @bodyconspodcast feed there’s a whole world full of brilliant accounts linked to there. I’d need a whole book to mention all the accounts I love - there just isn’t enough room!