The Body Confidence Revolution’s ambassador Gabby shares her story


This is a picture of me aged 5. Twinkly eyed and milky toothed, and full of the innocence of childhood before the world’s ideas of body image had been forced upon me. All I had to think about was learning my times tables and my next game of hopscotch.

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This, is a picture of me on holiday in New York aged 15. Weak, mentally and physically exhausted, and gripped in the claws of the devil that is Anorexia. My reasons for becoming part of TBCR were fuelled by events that took place between these 10 years, and after.

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Like most other sufferers, I can’t pinpoint exactly what it was that made me spiral down the dark mental ally towards anorexia, but I can identify many influential factors. From a young age, I began to feel like an outsider, a weirdo, different. I didn’t seem to fit in with my peers, whether it be because I was more grown up than them, or they just didn’t understand my desire for knowledge. When I was 6, I moved to an all-girls private school, and thus began my journey through a world of image consciousness and judgement. In this atmosphere, I always found new ways to doubt and judge myself against others; the sporty-well-off girls around me seemed to be in a whole other league from myself, a slightly chubby big-boobed languages enthusiast with no idea what a hockey stick was and a disregard for all things fashion. In a private school fighting to climb the league tables, grades and performance in every aspect were empathised so much that I couldn’t cope. I found something that I could easily control – my weight – and stopped eating, in an effort to look like the “pretty” girls, and work myself to the bone (quite literally, a size 00) for good grades.


My recovery began at 17, after three years of anorexia, when I realised that grades and looks weren’t everything. I reached a healthy weight, and began to feel proud of myself and more comfortable in my own skin. However when I started university two years ago, I didn’t know what was waiting for me in an alcohol fuelled blur of being a “fresher”, trying to fit in with the party people I saw as “the norm”. I have been raped and sexually assaulted more than once when I have been different combinations of far too drunk to consent, drugged, and concussed. Every time, it came down to the fact that my body was sexualised and seen as public property due to my friendly nature and short skirts.


Both my sexual abuse and anorexia are things that I will talk about in depth at other times, but here is where the experiences they brought me culminate to provide a very valid reason for my involvement in TBCR.


My body is my body. Your body is your body.


My body is not a trophy case for my achievements and missed sporting opportunities at school.


My body is not a sexual object for you to play with, just because I’m an openly sexual person.


My body is my temple, jiggly bits, stretch marks and all.


Growing up, traversing the rough terrain of the teenage years, I didn’t have a group of role models such as The Body Confidence Revolution ambassadors to teach me to love and respect my body, and the bodies of other’s that I may have once called ugly in my childish naivete , egged on by peers and society. For me, being part of TBCR is about showing men and women, boys and girls, of all shapes and sizes, that they are lovable and they always have something to be proud of, and that their body is nobody’s but their own. This means more to me than words can say, and is something that I will always hold in my heart with the greatest of passions.


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I pledge to love myself, to love and inspire others, and to spread the word of good mental health and its importance in how we and others view our bodies. Together we can reclaim our bodies and our sexuality from society, in order to avoid the sinister parts of life that drag us down far too often.


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About Leyah Shanks

Positive body image activist and advocate for mental health.

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