If you're not familiar with body dysmorphic disorder, it's when someone finds a slight fault or imperfection in their appearance and they become obsessive over it, resulting in severe emotional distress and difficulties in daily functioning. People who have BDD think about their real or perceived flaws for hours each day. They can't control their negative thoughts and don't believe people who tell them that they look fine. And let me tell you, it's very real and more common than you might think.
As someone who firmly believes in normalising the conversation around these types of topics, and personally still struggles with BD, I found this podcast to be really insightful and relatable. The girls opened up about their journeys with BD, how common it is, especially among young women, the warning signs and how it can come in a range of forms.
So impressed and intrigued by the episode, I decided to catch up with Brittany to learn a bit more about her journey, to sing my praises for tackling such a tricky topic and to get her tips for shifting the way we see ourselves — hint: it includes cleansing your social feeds.
POPSUGAR Australia: Recently on Life Uncut, you guys decided to tackle the topic of Body Dysmorphia, what made you want to unpack a topic that's usually sidestepped?
Brittany: We think that people can often shy away from topics that they deem too hard to tackle, too confronting, or that people feel come with some level of shame or embarrassment attached to it. Laura and I are aware that we have a very large female-dominated audience and that many of these women are quite young and impressionable. In fact, we have just this week hit two million downloads on the podcast in nine months' worth of episodes! That is huge! And knowing that many of these women look up to us, well, we take that role very seriously.
The reason we started the podcast was so that we could provide a platform where anyone, especially our female listeners and followers, could have a safe space to ask questions anonymously, to feel less alone, less embarrassed, less scared of life. To know that others go through exactly what they are going through and to just have a place they can go to just have a solid belly laugh and feel like they are chatting to their girlfriends or a big sister. We want to empower people to chase their dreams, know their worth, educate themselves and just put the wheels into motion to create a life they are happy and proud of!
PS: Laura and yourself both shared your different experiences with BDD, can you tell us a bit more about your journey to body positivity and where BD started for you?
Brittany: We recently spoke about BD as we feel it is far more common than people may think. There are varying degrees of it, some are very serious and some are on a much smaller scale, but both can be very damaging and hard to live with. We have both experienced it in different ways. For me, it started as a teenager. I saw something in the mirror that wasn't really there. I was a small, fit size 8. But what I saw looking back at me wasn't that. I saw something much bigger, saw myself as unattractive and thought no one could possibly like me how I am. Obviously, that is crazy thinking! But at the time I truly believed it. I believe it started when I was training a lot, I used to compete at national levels and there was always a lot of pressure to always look, act and feel 100 percent. But looking back, I think most of that pressure just came from me. I fought these feelings for a long time and definitely took it into adulthood. I still don't always look in the mirror and see what others see, I have my days like everyone does, but I am aware of it now so it is so easier for me these days. I can rationalise these thoughts now so it doesn't have the same effect for me that it once did. It was most prevalent when I was a teenager and early 20s which is why I want to speak about it now, so others can learn from it.
For Laura, her insecurity was her skin. She looked at it like it was the worst, most hideous thing in existence. She couldn't look people in the eye or have long connected conversations because all she would think about was that they were staring at how bad her skin was. Which of course they weren't. She still battles that a little now after developing melasma after having a baby. So she wants people to know about that part of pregnancy. Even now she will say, "Look how bad my skin is," which baffles me because I mean, you've seen her, she is stunning! It's in her head. Like it was in my head. No one else notices these things and we are all too hard on ourselves. But just because you know that doesn't necessarily make it easier.
My journey to body positivity took a long time. I have always really been into health and fitness and wouldn't go a day without training, I used to punish my body if I ate something bad. I think what really helped me was travelling the world. I know that sounds crazy, but it is true. I went on this huge nearly three-year round the world trip with my sister, Sheri. During that time our training went down to almost nothing. It only really included what we would do on our adventures, like hiking and riding etc. We ate all the food in every country! And in turn, my body changed. I put on weight, my six-pack disappeared, I got bigger boobs and curves and I didn't mind it because of the experiences I was having. I realised it doesn't change who I am. Also travelling to a lot of the poorer countries that we did really put life into perspective for me. I realised what matters most, what is important and how lucky I am. Perspective really helped me.
PS: Social media has a big role to play in the way we see ourselves, both negative and positive, and as a public figure, you've probably experienced it all. How do you feel about the role we allow it to play when it comes to how we look?
Brittany: Social media can be the greatest, funniest, inspiring and most influential platform! But it can be a very dark place too, unfortunately. It depends on how you use it. There was a stage early on where I was constantly comparing myself to everyone else, wanting to be better, to travel more, to have their life. We have all been guilty of that. The FOMO is real. But social media isn't real. Well, not always. The point is you just never know. I was seeing all these people online and thought they were so perfect, then I would see them in real life and not even recognise them! Because of the likes of photoshop and filters etc. I am guilty of often posting nice pictures and flattering photos and doing all the fun activities, but I also post silly videos that people can relate to and I will post photos that are make up free with no filters so that people can see that it's not all rainbows. Another reason we started the podcast was so that we could have really open and unfiltered conversations about things we feel are important and will impact someone's life. I want to be an inspiration to someone, I was to be the reason someone smiles today, the reason someone can pull themselves out of a bad situation or relationship, the reason someone wants to take a chance on something in life and most importantly the reason someone can feel good about themselves and know that they are perfect and enough just the way they are. If I can help just one person in that way it is worth it for me.
Someone recently commented on my photo and told me I had "really chunked out." I didn't know them. It was completely out of line and out of context. They were just being nasty. Once upon a time that would have upset me. Now I can say to myself that the problem is this person and not me. They don't know me so their opinion doesn't matter. That is the downside of social media though. It gives people a platform to say whatever they like. It is important you know how to handle it and create a space and feed that makes you feel good. If it's not doing those things for you, change your situation.
PS: We found the way you guys tackled the conversation really insightful. You expanded the conversation to include varying types of BD, not just focusing on weight . . .
Brittany: There are so many types of BD so it is important people know about them and recognise them so that if it is something they are suffering they can ask for help and know that they aren't alone. That's literally the point of every episode that we do. We do it because we feel it is relevant to our listeners and feel it is something they can hopefully benefit from, something we wish we had have known!
PS: You both mentioned how learning to live with BDD is an ongoing process, what do you personally do to help reverse those negative thoughts?
Brittany: I think most people will struggle with something in this realm for their entire life. It is such a shame, but because of the world we live in we are perpetually wanting more, trying to be better, prettier, skinnier, fitter, smarter, more successful, younger. It's a vicious cycle but because of celebrity culture, social media perfection and media, in general, making us feel like we have to be perfect to be successful, this problem is very prevalent. The industry is definitely changing which is amazing to see, but we still have a way to go! I think it is really important to make sure you are only following people online that make you feel good or add something to your life! If they make you feel shitty about yourself, unfollow them. It is that easy. You are in charge of what you are shown on your feeds every day, so make sure it is adding some kind of value.
PS: You also mentioned how you've switched up your social media feed so you're empowered by the content you consume, can you share some of your favourite Instagram accounts to follow for a more positive feed?
Brittany: I love to follow lots of different feeds for different reasons. I love Karina Airby because she is Aussie, so real and raw and unfiltered, it's next level. But she's also super funny and super successful, so I think that's a pretty great combo. Chrissy Teigen because she is beautiful and also super successful but she shows life how it really is, not just all the glitz and glam. She's also super funny and shuts down trolls like no one I've ever seen. It's epic. Love a bit of Rebel Wilson, she just owns life and has worked hard to get where she is. She is intelligent, funny, real and shows all parts of life. She got her break in acting later in life and I just reckon she is goals. Would love her on the podcast one day. And then there is Celeste Barber — she doesn't even need an explanation. Just a bloody legend.