Ever judged someone without meaning to, or maybe made a snap decision about someone before you’ve actually gotten to know them? Yeah, we thought so. That’s a thing called unconscious bias. It’s basically a big pot of all your experiences, opinions, media reports and things people might have told you about others. These all build up after a while, and mean we make judgements about other people based on things like race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, appearance or background. 

Our Annual Bullying Survey (which you can read here) also found out that this is a huge reason why people bully. So, we figured that if we can tackle it, we can help to end bullying for good. That’s why we put together this handy guide to hacking your unconscious bias. 

1) Be aware that you have it 

So, here’s the thing about unconscious bias. The whole point is that you don’t know you have it. Confusing, right? And how are you supposed to help deal with something that you and everyone else in the world doesn’t actually acknowledge? Yeah, we don’t like to set ourselves easy tasks. The first step is being aware of your unconscious bias and where it might lie for you. Take our quiz here to find out. 

2) Reprogramme your thoughts

So, you’ve found out about unconscious bias, but now what? Thought reprogramming might sound like something out of Ex Machina, but it actually is a great way to stop yourself from judging others. So, next time you find yourself making snap judgements about people you don’t even know for whatever reason, try to reprogram that thought. 

Check yourself by turning that negative thought into a positive thought about them. So, something like 

“That guy is such a baby for crying like that” could be “being vulnerable can’t be easy, and it’s actually pretty brave to do that”

“That girl looks ridiculous” could be “she is really pretty” 

When we are run by negative thoughts and impressions of people, that becomes all we put out into the universe. Make some changes to your thought patterns and see what positivity you can put out there. Whether you believe in karma or not, it’s never a bad idea to be nice about somebody.

3) Think about why you feel that way 

We know it’s hard to look critically at why we feel a certain way. But there probably is a reason why you feel a certain way about someone before you know them. Whether that’s your parents’ opinions, a news report that said something negative about a certain group of people, or even just that you haven’t encountered much diversity in your life. 

If this is the case, try and expose yourself to different groups of people from different backgrounds. The more we’re around different people and get to know them, the harder it is to make judgements based on simple facts like skin colour, gender or sexuality. 

4) Think about your environment… 

Maybe you have a couple of pals or a family member who have pretty strong opinions on certain groups of people. Well this could really affect the way you look at the world. Sure, we all like to be independent and individual, but there is no denying that how others see the world affect our perception of it too. 

5) …And make some changes to it if you feel like you have to

So, with that in mind, maybe think about doing something about it. We aren’t saying you should immediately break friends with anyone who has a negative opinion about anyone else, but there are things you can do. Try sitting down with them and ask them about why they feel that way, or show them this. Maybe it might be an opportunity for them to have a think about why they feel that way. 

6) Check other people if you feel like you can 

Kinda like what we said above, if someone in your life is saying a lot of negative stuff about other people for no good reason, call them out on it. Chances are, they don’t realise they have unconscious bias. Get them to do our quiz and see if they feel ready to make changes. Then, you can start your self-improvement journey together, which is pretty sweet. 

7) Spread the word

Yeah, unconscious bias is everywhere, and it’s a pretty big beast to try to defeat, especially when most people have no clue that they even have it. The thing is, we are not going to stop trying because we know it can have a direct impact on why people bully others. 

Get some of your pals involved, spread the word at your school and see if you can help tackle bullying by tackling unconscious bias. 

8) Everyone is different 

The world would be a pretty boring place if we were all the same, so inevitably you are going to meet people who are different to you. That doesn’t mean that they are in any way wrong, or deserve to be outcast. Especially if these people are in the minority, it’s important to remember that they should be included in society just as much as anyone else.

Think your unconscious bias might be making some decisions for you? Take our quiz to find out!

Ditch the Label Ambassador, model, activist and writer, Jessica Megan shares her thoughts on why gender roles in relationships are complete rubbish, and 5 ways we can stop doing it.

Since the times of hunter and gatherer, humans have categorised one another. Pregnant people needed to be protected to decrease prospects of extinction, whilst the physically able must go out and hunt. But now we have iPhones. We have gummy bears. We have fluorescent yellow coats and pugs. Times have changed, and so have our roles in relationships. The problem is, there is a BIG, vomity, existential crisis hangover from when these roles actually mattered.

We are still expected to implement and uphold these boring and very restrictive notions about what it means to be a “woman” or a “man.” Aside from the hugely problematic fact that this manner of thinking does not take into account our non-binary, intersex and trans siblings, I repeat, IT IS VERY BORING AND VERY RESTRICTIVE. There isn’t much fun to be found in constantly being expected to play roles. 

Photo by @rebeccaspencer_photography

Women are often expected to nurture, empathise and fix. Not just this, but now women are earning their own dollar, and they’re using it to prove their financial independence. Problem is, we already get paid 79p to every £1 a man earns, on top of the emotional expenditure we are expected to provide. So now we are poorer and more emotionally drained thanks to the role we are trying to upkeep in our relationships. On top of this we are also expected to remain hairless, thin and somehow not have a spotty bum. 

Men have a whole other struggle. They are expected to be strong, brave, and determined at all times in relationships, perhaps never discussing how they really feel. “I feel like a waste of space in comparison to my girlfriend, who has tonnes of drive and determination.” Says O. “Rather than celebrating her achievements and ambitions like a good boyfriend should, I internalise her success and punch inwards. She notices and then feels like she has to dilute her success to make me feel better.”

The key in every relationship is communication. If you can’t be honest with your partner about your concerns and fears, this leads to an erosion of trust and can have a huge impact on the way which you approach future relationships. Of course, there will be bumps, trips and great big sheer drops along the way, but we are trying to be a little better behaved, right? 

Here are 5 key ways to stop gendering your relationship


1. Be honest. 

Honesty is not a well that that can dry up if you take too much from it. Emotional bonds are vital because it means honesty can travel between them. If you allow those bonds to decay, its harder for the words to get there. Bathe in it like a gorgeous bubble bath. Say what you’re feeling, say if you’re feeling jealous or sad. 

Be constructive with it. Be honest there and then and not later on when it’s built up like a big wall and now it’s too much. Say things like, “I feel safe with you and I want to say something that’s bothering me…” “talking about this makes me feel vulnerable, but it’s important to be honest…” Take their hand and look at them while you speak. Engage, be honest, and build something amazing.

2. Don’t use words that are gender stereotyped. 

Words like “crazy” for women and “pussies” for men are harmful and perpetuate dead stereotypes. Women are not “crazy” or “hysterical” when they are emotionally honest and men are not “pussies” for choosing not to comply with rigid emotional rules. When your partner is feeling sad, listen to them. Ask them if they need space and if they’d like to talk. Remind them that they are in a judgement free zone. Respect their needs. 

3. Don’t follow scripts

This one is not for our asexual friends, but we still see you! 
When you begin having sex, it can be easy to copy what you’ve seen online, in porn and in films. But with a partner you trust, you can fall outside these scripts and explore each other in a healthy, consensual way. There is a wealth of beautiful and fun ways to explore the body. Sex is a gorgeous, bouncy, sweaty thing that we get to do in relationships, so make the most of it! 

Your sex life has a huge effect on the person you are outside of the bedroom. Great sex can relieve loads of mental ailments and even if it doesn’t go as expected, it can still be turned into a hilarious naked escapade where you both end up with jam on your bums (this happened to me once). But bad sex (sex without proper consent, sex in the wrong headspace, sex when you’re not ready) can diminish your ability to know when you don’t want to have sex. If we cannot tell our closest when we are not comfortable, this will make it harder to create boundaries outside of the bedroom. 

4. I’m a woman, does this mean I shouldn’t clean or make dinner for my boyfriend?

It’s not a case of should or shouldn’t! These words suggest there is a set of rules to play by based on whats between your legs. Just do what you feel like doing. And don’t date people that don’t do their fair share or don’t bother making the effort. You are worth making the effort for. It is not your responsibility to raise your partner and clean up after them. 

5. Who wears the trousers?

As we unanimously agreed earlier, pigeonholing people into masculine and feminine roles is boring and tacky. And yet, same sex couples often find themselves the target of inane questions such as this. “When I’ve dated girly girls I find myself feeling more masculine, inclined to hold the door, pick up the check more, etc,” notes H. “I think gender roles are similar to sexuality,” said M. “It’s fluid and can change based on the person you are dating at the time.” Ask instead, “who wears the pleather catsuit in this relationship?” If neither then you must all go and purchase pleather catsuits immediately. Because everyone looks great in a pleather catsuit. 

There is a bit in comedian Daniel Sloss’s show ‘Jigsaw’ which went viral recently and caused over 7000 breakups, including divorces. It’s something I say to everyone. It’s something we should all consider. 

“If you only love yourself at 20%, that means someone can come along and love you at 30%. You’re like wow, that’s so much. It’s literally less than half. Whereas if you love yourself at 100%, a person that falls in love with you has to go above and beyond the call of duty to make you feel special.”

Above all, you must love yourself and know your worth. This is the best thing for a communicative healthy relationship with others. Put yourself at the forefront every time. 

For more from Jessica, check out her Instagram @jess_megan_

Family and Friends walking on the beach at sunset.

Summer and the sun are fast approaching. The idea of relaxing in the heat on the beach and topping up your tan might spark excitement for you, but for some it can be really overwhelming. Pretty much everyone struggles with their body image at some point; so we’ve noted down all the silly things we say to ourselves and why we need to try to stop doing it.

“I don’t look good in that”

Outfits are a huge part of the summer and we’re sure everyone you know is planning their holiday look as we speak. Clothing can also be a real source of dread for many too. We think if you feel good in it then you look good in it. Your clothes should be all about comfort and, while some prefer following the latest fashion trends, if you choose what you want to wear because you feel great in it then that will reflect in your body language too. Use that to try and find your own individual style and we’re sure you’ll look awesome this summer.

“I’m not ready for the beach”

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: all bodies are beach bodies. There is no one standard or best body type because every body is different and everybody is different. No one should have to miss out on the fun of being around mates in the heat of summer. You are ready for the beach and don’t let anyone tell you anything different.

“I don’t like my…”

This is negative thinking and will only worsen your opinion of it. Try to self-affirm and tell yourself you love those differences instead because they make you who you are. It may take some time but just by changing to a positive mindset and readjusting your view to remember that nothing on your body can be wrong or bad – just different to everyone else will help you go a really long way towards self-love and confidence.

“I’ll never look like them”

In a way, you’re not wrong to think this because it’s true. We won’t ever look like anyone else but ourselves so it would be great if we could appreciate who we are. You are an individual, original and unique. Surely that’s much more exciting than being an exact copy of somebody else? The best version of you is you right now and you deserve to be on the beach.

“My skin isn’t good enough for the beach”

It’s easy for us to ask you to stop telling yourself this but, realistically, that’s a lot easier said than done. Try setting yourself small goals to spend more time outside. Even if you start with a brief walk in a quiet area and build to a trip to the beach – the point is that you’re working to be comfortable in your own skin. Unfortunately, breakouts aren’t something anyone can control but the good news is they don’t last forever and, like Kali Kushner says, “acne doesn’t define you!”

For more body positivity motivation and inspiration, you can follow us on Instagram @Ditchthelabel.

Summer is (nearly) here and soon you’ll be down the beach with all your mates, throwing a ball around, having a barbecue and enjoying a great time in the sun. However, the midsummer months can also be a daunting time for our those of us lacking body confidence so we’ve put together a list of all the things you need to do to be ready for the beach.

1) Try Not to Compare Yourself

It’s hard not to liken what you have with what other people have. What we have to do is try not to compare. Unfollow the accounts that make you feel insecure or uncomfortable, don’t buy the magazine full of the ripped, airbrushed blokes; there are things you can do to cut it out of your life.

Each person is an individual so we will never look like anyone else but ourselves and we should start embracing that. Try telling yourself positive things everyday to affirm what’s great about you and what makes you an individual. Life would be boring if we all looked exactly the same.

2) Ditch the Products

Supplements, waxes, tanners and vitamins that promise you’ll soon look like a Calvin Klein model may feel necessary, but these products are just reminders that you’re chasing a different version of yourself. You’re doing just great as you are.

Things like protein powders and diet pills won’t provide a quick fix for the summer and, as dietary supplements, what is put into them isn’t regulated. So we don’t really know what we’re putting into our bodies when we use them. Plus, there really is nothing worse than a shelf full of failed quick fixes haunting you every time you get ready in the morning. The best thing you can do for your confidence would be get rid of everything that promised you the beach bod of your dreams and focus on what you love about yourself.

3) Talk About It

Problems are so much easier when you talk them over. Guys take the piss out of each other a lot and often the banter can make a good group of mates in to a great group of mates. However, if you’re feeling insecure about something, like your appearance, then try telling a mate what you’re not feeling great about. Your mates should make sure it’s something they take seriously and not joke about, meaning that even well-meaning joking around won’t end setting you back several steps in confidence. It’ll get the problem off your chest and you should feel a lot better for it.

4) Practice Positivity

Your body is yours. Maybe you might not think it’s perfect but – here’s a little secret – nobody does. We all have insecurities and hangups about our appearance. So if we’re all thinking the same thing then that means we’re all in this together, right? Try to remember that because it’s so much easier to be confident in something if you have other people confident in it too. So back up your friends and tell them they’re looking great. Most importantly, tell yourself that too. It’s ok to be a work in progress.

5) Realise the Media Isn’t Reality

The chances are we wouldn’t struggle so much with body image if social media didn’t exist. Those guys you see on Instagram with perfect abs, perfect hair and perfect skin don’t really exist. Even if the photos were unedited, they will still struggle with skin breakouts and bad hair days just like the rest of us. We’re all human and we can’t expect to look like superheroes. In the words of Jameela Jamil – all bodies are beach bodies. You look great as you are and you are beach ready right now.


For more self-love motivation, you can follow our Instagram @Ditchthelabel.

We understand that body confidence can be hard to find and you can talk to us at anytime. If you would like to speak to someone about it then you can join the Ditch the Label community here.

The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the sea is for swimming and we are here for it. The only thing is, summer can be a bit of a rollercoaster ride for those of us who are dealing with acne. The sun can make it better, the sun can make it worse (same for basically every supposed ‘remedy’ out there right?!) That’s why we have put together this list of 9 hilarious summer struggles that everyone with acne knows to be true. 

1) The sun can be your friend

When summer first gets going, you are loving it. The initial effects of the sun can help to reduce the appearance of acne as you tan, so basically you are living your best life. 

 

2) And then it turns on you 

The friendly sun that started off by making you feel like a million dollars can quickly turn into a giant ball of fire you really resent. You know that soon, the heat will make you sweat and weather your skin, and then summer can pretty much just go die in a hole. 

 

3) Sun cream is a legit nightmare 

Greasy, slippery, impossible to rub in and completely necessary. Not using it is not an option, but when you leave it at home by accident and the only thing on offer is a super thick and greasy off-brand factor 50, it is not exactly your best friend in the world. 

 

4) Flare ups are sure to happen before that huge event 

Whether it’s a family wedding, your big holiday this year or just that BBQ round your mates that you’ve been waiting for forever, it always seems to be that the acne that you have done so well at taming so far this summer comes back with a fiery vengeance. 

 

5) Dream holidays can become a nightmare pretty quickly 

When you’ve spent months dreaming of sun and sand, is there really anything worse than getting on holiday and your skin deciding it didn’t want to be there? Being on the beach can mean abrasive sand friggin’ EVERYWHERE which, with a flare up, means the pain of a thousand needles in your body. Add to that the inevitable sun burn you get, and your dream holiday can quickly turn into two weeks sat inside the hotel room playing scrabble with your mum. 

 

6) ‘I WILL NOT ITCH. I WILL NOT ITCH.’ 

Dry skin is an occupational hazard for anyone anywhere in the summer, but combine that with acne and probably a bit of sea water, chlorine and rising temperatures and you are bound to run into trouble. 

7) You have to buy a whole new bathroom cabinet

Each new season rolls around and suddenly you have to spend a small fortune on all the new lotions and potions you need to make it through the other side. Lighter moisturisers, heavy night creams, retinols and washes – it’s some serious dollar to be spending every few months. 

 

8) Summer ads can be a bit of a bummer  

Smooth skin and perfect tans legit everywhere, in every ad, on social media and every single online shop. Even if we don’t like to admit it, it can make you feel pretty bad.  The important thing to remember is that no one looks like those bodies or has skin like that, half the time not even the people in the adverts.

9) But it doesn’t matter, because you are beautiful no matter what

No matter if you have acne, scars, spots, freckles or anything else, you are still beautiful. Even though all these things might be true if you are struggling with acne this summer, that does not mean that you should stop yourself from doing what you love, seeing mates, or making new memories with the people you love. You are not your acne, never let that shit stop you. 

 

If you are struggling with confidence, you can reach out to the Ditch the Label Community here, and we will listen to you.

Summer is here. But whilst for lots of people that means ice cream for dinner and working on your tan in your back garden, it can also be a pretty big source of stress if you struggle with skin confidence. Skin positivity is a relatively small movement on social media that sees a few people sporting acne and scars without shame, and so we wanted to share a bit of the skin confidence love with a list of things to think about before summer gets underway.

1) You are not alone 

So, the most important thing to remember is that you are not on your own in struggling with your skin confidence. About 8 in 10 of us will have acne some time before we turn 30, millions of men and women around the world wear their stretch marks with pride, and scars are something we all end up with after that first time we fall over in the playground. Just because it isn’t always visible on social media or in magazines does not mean that you cannot start your journey towards loving it and embracing it!

2) Start small 

Summer can be a big scary thing when you are dealing with skin issues. Being in the sun all day, oily sun cream, not being able to wear make-up (if that’s your thing) without it dribbling off your face, the prospect of burning already sensitive skin and of course everyone being very snap happy with their phones can all make it a pretty stressful time. 

A good idea to help you deal with this prospect would be to start off your summer in a slightly smaller way. Try a no make-up trip to the shops. Put a bit of work in and research the best sensitive skin sun cream before the sun comes out, and then try to stay in the sun for short periods of time when the temperatures start to soar to give your skin a chance to get used to it. Before you know it, you’ll be facing down whole days on the beach without any hassle like Kendall Jenner rocking her spots on the red carpet!

3) Turn down the stress

Whilst there are many reasons why your skin might be misbehaving, stress can be a huge contributor to an acne flare up, but also to pumping up the anxiety around your skin in general. This can then make the idea of getting on your shorts and grabbing the sun cream seem like a distant and impossible future. Try to factor in some stress relieving activities every day so that you can keep your stress levels to a minimum such as a bit of meditation before bed, or some morning yoga. Check out our complete guide to stress here for more ideas. 

[full-width-figure image=”https://www.ditchthelabel.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/aziz-acharki-337865-unsplash.jpg”]

4) Bin the old ‘remedies’ 

One thing that is certain to give your confidence a knock when you’re packing for your holiday or getting ready to head out for an afternoon in the sun with your pals, is the ghost of old and unsuccessful skin ‘remedies’ peering at you from the bathroom shelf. If you have been testing lots of different things that haven’t worked, it’s a good idea to get rid of that reminder that you haven’t found a solution just yet and instead focus on how your skin is doing right in the moment. Worried about being wasteful? If it’s face washes and creams that are not medicated, give them to your sibling or a pal instead. 

5) Explain to others about your journey

A lot of people struggle with skin issues because everyone else around you suddenly becomes a fully qualified dermatologist capable of handing out advice about how you can cure your acne or get rid of scars. Whilst it is pretty well meaning, it usually means you might end up getting confused about what to do, and feel even more pressure to get it right. Try speaking to those in your life who might be prone to doing this and explain that this is your journey, and you can choose what you do, if anything, to clear your acne or try to heal scars. Let them know that getting advice all the time is not actually very helpful, but mention that you are grateful for their effort to help you out. 

6) Follow what makes you happy 

Skin problems don’t usually get a lot of exposure on the internet, in magazines, in films or on the tv. If you’re scrolling through Insta and all you are coming across is the smooth unblemished skin of a model who has never had a spot, scar or stretch mark ever, it can make you feel pretty down about yourself. If you try unfollowing all the accounts that make you feel a bit rubbish and replace them with some wonderful skin positive IG people (see number 5), you might find you start feeling a lot more positive. 

7) Check out these skin positive accounts 

There are loads of fabulous campaigners out there who are definitely going to help you feel great before throwing on your shades and heading out the door this summer. For example, Kali Kushner a.k.a @myfacestory serves up skin positive vibes, home remedies all whilst telling her journey from living with severe cystic acne to having clear skin today. Another fabulous person to take a look at is @mypaleskinblog, founded by Em Ford and one of the leading voices in skin positivity. What started as something to document her struggles with severe acne now works with people with burns, stretch marks, acne and pigmentation problems to feel empowered. Basically, they are awesome!

If you are struggling with self-esteem or anxiety, or any other issue that is bothering you, you can reach out to the Ditch the Label Community here.

Summer can be a pretty tough time if you are dealing acne, scars and other skin problems, and it can be pretty easy to let it take over your life. Well, at Ditch the Label, we don’t want anyone to miss out on the fun because they are feeling anxious. That’s why we caught up Kali Kushner, a.k.a. @myfacestory, about her skin journey and how to improve your skin confidence.

Why did you start @myfacestory?

I started @myfacestory at a time that I felt very alone with my skin. I remember constantly looking around in my college courses for others with the same condition, and being the only one with cystic acne. I started my Instagram account to both track my progress on Accutane and hopefully connect with others who struggled with their skin as well. 

You seem to really embrace your skin struggles – what was the turning point for you with feeling good about it? 

The turning point with skin acceptance for me came down to control and happiness. I realized that I couldn’t always control my breakouts, and in constantly failing at doing so it made me very unhappy. In letting go of control over my breakouts, I began accepting my skin. I may not ever have completely perfect skin, some scars, a pimple here and there, hyperpigmentation, but I am very happy with my journey and how far I’ve come! Realizing that being acne prone means that yes, I can work on improving my skin, but the goal should never be perfection. For me, it’s much easier to love and accept myself than constantly trying to change myself. 


Did you find you ever got much negative feedback on your Instagram? How have you overcome or dealt with it? 

When I first started my Instagram, I received a lot of negative feedback mostly from people who were ignorant on the subject of acne or those who have learned cultural stereotypes associated with blemished skin (drink water, wash your face, etc.) Over time, through the acne community we have been able to open the conversation up about skin, so there is much less shame, people are becoming educated on the subject, and there aren’t as many stereotypes. I do think that I have gotten less negative feedback over the years by opening up the conversation around acne. When I first started my account, I sometimes let negative comments effect my mood but now I don’t really give them a second thought. 

What do you think of the skin positivity movement?

I think the skin positivity movement is much needed. If you think about it, skin issues are rarely portrayed in the media. In movies, TV shows, magazines, and especially beauty media; you never see acne, scars, or hyperpigmentation anywhere. It’s practically been erased from history and is culturally taught to be something to be ashamed about when in fact its normal, it happens! People need to know not to be ashamed of their skin and that it is OK to have acne, it doesn’t make them any less of a human.

My account is to share my own journey, provide product recommendations I feel that have helped me, and provide some inspirational insight when needed. I am not a dermatologist or estheticianso I do not feel qualified to help others with their skin in that sense but am happy to help people change their mindset when it comes to how they view themselves or their skin! 

What advice could you give to a young person struggling with their skin? 

It gets better and it doesn’t last forever. This is what I used to tell myself and it is so true! Eventually, acne will (and physically has to) go away. It’s funny when you’re in the moment you think things are so definite, but now not even 5 years later I can barely remember what it was like having cystic acne so severe. I always ask myself; will this matter in 5, 10, 15 years?

Also, that acne doesn’t define you! You are still the same beautiful, wonderful person regardless of what your skin looks like. You are worthy of all things good and can accomplish anything, don’t let your skin hold you back! 


Do you have any tips for someone who might struggle with embracing their skin for the summer?

If you’re struggling with embracing your skin this summer know that you’re not alone! It has taken me a long time to get comfortable going out barefaced. First, I started with a quick trip outside, then to the grocery, and now I’m able to spend a full day at the pool or beach without giving my skin a second thought. It starts with baby steps and slowly getting comfortable seeing yourself without makeup on. Of course, makeup can be used as a creative tool to express yourself, but if you’re using it because you feel insecure you should be asking yourself “why?” and see what steps you can take to banish these insecurities.  

What has been the best thing about your skin positivity journey? 

The best thing about my skin journey has been meeting all the other people who deal with the same condition as well. It has helped me feel less alone and we’ve built this wonderful community that aims to support one another. Without this community I wouldn’t have the confidence or any of the wonderful opportunities to talk about skin positivity like I do today! I am so grateful for this community.

For more from Kali, make sure you follow her Instagram @myfacestory for all things skin care and skin confidence

If you are struggling with confidence this summer and feel like you want to talk to someone about it, you can reach out to the Ditch the Label Community here.

Four guys sat laughing together.

Guys, this week is Men’s Health Week! The focus of 2019 is on men’s health in numbers and the crucial stats all men need to know in order to live a full and healthy life. Obviously, it’s an incredibly important topic to talk about and we think it’s more prevalent now than ever; so we’ve created a list of reasons why.

1) The Numbers Don’t Lie

67% of men are overweight or obese and that’s a scary figure. That’s over two thirds of all men around the world. We’ve learnt that a size 37 waist or higher can increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. When something like this is put into statistics it will always surprise us but these are the facts that prove we still need to be thinking and learning about men’s health.

2) We Need to Talk

Guys are often seen as the strong characters who can be relied on for support but feeling like you have to be the wall for everyone to lean on is a daunting thought. Unfortunately, blokes seem to prefer to bottle up their worries rather than let one of their mates know how they’re really getting on. This can have a really bad effect on anyone’s mental health, be it male or female, so we need to start the conversation more often to get us all to open up. These chats may feel big but once you’ve started, it’s a lot easier to carry on. There’s nothing weak about being honest and someone’s emotional wellbeing is not something to be messed with; especially if it’s your own. Men’s Health Week reminds us that we still aren’t completely aware or thinking about men’s health enough.

3) And Not Talking Can Be Really Dangerous

It’s a devastatingly tragic statistic that 3 out of 4 suicides are male. This is something that desperately needs to be addressed so, if we learn anything from all of the numbers in this year’s Men’s Health Week, make sure we take note of this one.

4) The Pub Can Be a Fickle Friend

We think that the stereotypical masculine lifestyle isn’t necessarily the healthiest. There’s a large emphasis upon pub culture and heavily meat-based diets. For instance, the main thing guys do if they want to meet up is go down the pub for a few drinks. Anything over 14 units of alcohol a week can lead to a whole host of health problems. Don’t get us wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a couple pints with your mates but there is a line when it becomes more unhealthy than balanced in terms of diet.

5) Gym Culture Can Be Pretty Damaging…

Currently, society puts huge pressure on men and women to look a certain way. Social media is creating a world where most men seem to think they should all look like they’ve been carved from stone. In reality, all bodies are individual and no one should feel like they need to change theirs in order to be more attractive because it creates an environment where men feel they need to be in the gym or working out 24/7. 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity is a good amount to aim for. Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle but the demands and strains that overuse of the gym and diet supplements, like protein, can put on the body will often lead to more harm than good.

6) … And So Can Lad Culture

The world sometimes feels like it revolves around how many likes you get on your socials or how likeable you are to your preferred partner. Being in a group of lads can sometimes be a great way to create mates and bond. However, things like peer pressure and toxic masculinity can become rife in an environment like this and, when we remember that men prefer not to talk about their problems, mental health issues such as stress and anxiety may develop.

Whether it be your father, son, brother, granddad, uncle, best mate or just a guy you know from school; let’s start the conversation together. If you feel like you, or your mate, needs anyone to talk to then you can join our community.

Girl on beach in leather jacket in summertime

Hi, I’m Billie, I’m 22 and living in London. I also happen to have a stoma bag. 

At the age of 20 I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (UC); one half of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (the other being Crohn’s) UC is a gut disease that attacks the good cells in the lining of the large intestine. My UC was so angry that almost a year to the day of my diagnosis, I underwent abdominal surgery gave me a stoma bag. A stoma is an opening in the abdominal wall and a bag is placed over it to catch waste. Basically, in simpler terms, I poo into a bag.

Without warning, without a reason and without a cure; my life was thrown upside down. Before I was diagnosed, I went through months of suffering without any knowledge of why my body was in so much pain. After a while, suddenly I was completely bed bound. I was stuck between my bed and my bathroom; unable to eat or sleep properly and crippled by severe anaemia. I’d lost two stone in a matter of weeks and wasn’t able to walk on my own. 


Finally, after months of suffering, I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in January 2017 and put on a strong medication regime in an attempt at getting my angry body under control. After being on 20+ pills every day, going into hospital three times a week, medication side effects like losing most of hair, burning acne and crippling joint pain, the call for surgery was made in December 2017. 

From the moment I had surgery, I’ve been living my best life. I may be a little different, but I want to show our differences make us stronger. I’ve been using Instagram to raise awareness of the issue and now I’ve been lucky enough to be part of so many incredible campaigns, met thousands of fabulous people and found a confidence inside me I didn’t know I had. I’ve learnt so much through my journey; it has helped me to see how lucky I am and without my bag I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I have found a way to love myself through all that pain and come out the other side so much stronger. 


5 Tips for Starting Your Self Love Journey

1) Self-love isn’t linear 

You don’t wake up one day, love your body and continue to do so 100% of the time. Self-love isn’t a destination we reach; it is a journey of ups and downs where we learn so much about ourselves in times of joy and times of sadness or pain. I don’t love myself all the time but I am grateful for what I have now. After losing my hair and suffering with painful acne, I appreciate the full head of hair I have and the importance of looking after my skin. Throughout my UC-infested-colon days I lost a lot of weight and found it very difficult to look in the mirror.

My ribs, pelvis and spine were my defining features for a long time and I have come to understand what it means to be a healthy weight. Pre-illness I used to think skinny = worthy, but being skin and bones isn’t healthy and is no longer my goal. All I want is to be healthy and happy. At times I find it difficult to love my body; the bag of poo on my front and the routine that comes with it can be exhausting sometimes, but my bag gave me my life back in ways I never thought possible and I will always be grateful for that.

2) Do the things that make you happy 

Happiness means something different to everyone. To me, it’s a chilled evening in front of the TV after a home cooked meal. Happiness is a cuddle after a long day from the one I love the most or a cup of tea with a friend. Happiness to me is being healthy enough to hit the gym or go for a walk without needing to plan where the nearest bathrooms are. The rat-race of life can become all-consuming and sometimes we forget to do the things that make us happy; so, plan that time in! It’s so important. 

3) Everyone is different 

Self-love means different things to different people and the process we go about getting there is unique to each individual. After surgery I would compare my recovery process to others, but this did more damage than good because what helps others may not help me and vice versa. It helps to talk to others but we should take that advice and make it our own. 

4) It’s the little things

I’ve found that setting small goals along the way helped me the most in loving myself. I choose to focus on the little things in life, as I have come to realise they are the most important to me. It started throughout my recovery with walking unassisted for the first time, going back to the gym and being brave enough to go on holiday on my own. To me going for coffee with friends, sitting through a whole movie without needing to rush to the bathroom and being able to eat whatever I like, are just a few of the things that make me happy. They might seem small but they make me smile. 

5) Be selfish and learn to say no 

I always put other people before me and will continue to do so, however I have learnt that the people I love are just as important as I am. Being a little selfish once in a while isn’t a bad thing. Saying no to plans to stay in and watch TV or just read a book or do something that makes you happy is OK. Giving yourself some ‘me time’ is so important. 

For more from Billie, make sure you check out her Instagram @billieandersonx

If you are struggling with starting your self love journey or you need someone to talk to about anything, you can race out to the Ditch the Label Community here.

Man carries woman to the sea on the beach

The summer of love is here. Caroline Flack is currently ridiculously tanned and standing on the edge of a pool in a villa, that 12 young and beautiful soon-to-be reality TV stars will be entering later. In case you didn’t know, Love Island is the guilty pleasure TV show that defines the summer for millions of people across the country as 12 people enter a villa looking for love. But, it’s been pretty hard to miss the criticism it’s come under lately for lack of aftercare for the people thrust into the limelight in a matter of weeks, especially bad given the online trolling culture that surrounds the show. It can also be a bit of a difficult watch for some people, as the screen is dominated by tiny waists, burning hot tans and a different swimsuit every single day. This is all why we wanted to put together a little list of 7 things to remember for everyone before you get stuck into the show.

 

1) The contestants are people too

Given it is usually one of the biggest television events of the year, it’s unsurprising that everyone starts talking about it pretty early on and doesn’t shut up until the finale later in the summer. The thing is, a lot of the discussions around it are often negative, making fun of, selling stories or spreading rumours about the contestants. Not only do they have no way of standing up for themselves until they get voted off, meaning they actually can’t even be a part of the discussion about themselves, but it can be pretty hard on their mental health. Remember before entering into this type of talk that the people, even though they may be miles away and on TV, are people with emotions and families and feelings who will probably be hurt by what is being said. 

2) Think before you hate

Before you write a negative comment about one of the contestants on Twitter, think about why you want to do that. Is it to join in a healthy conversation, or is it just for the sake of being negative? It is always good to think about the reasons behind why you want to post something before doing it, especially when it comes to complete strangers who you only know through the TV. Remember that the only portion of their lives is the tiny bit of it that you see on screen, and there could be a lot more going on with them than meets the eye. 

3) Reality TV is not all it’s cracked up to be 

It can look good though right? Despite all the hate and memes, who wouldn’t want to go and live in a villa for weeks for free to come out to an instant career and maybe find love in the process? Reality TV, it turns out, is always pretty far from reality for the rest of us, and Love Island is no exception. It can be really stressful, they are never allowed to leave until they are kicked off, there is no contact with your usual support network and little help to sort your life out when you leave, which is now changed beyond recognition. So, before you jump on the internet and start to fill out your application, remember it isn’t as easy as it looks. 

4) You are beautiful 

Something Love Island is pretty guilty of is making everyone feel terrible about themselves and their body. Even this year, despite claiming ‘body diversity’, the biggest contestant is a small UK size 10, and there is next to no ethnic diversity in there either. If watching it is making you feel bad about the way you look, the only thing to do is to take a break from it. Explain to friends or work mates who are watching it too why you have taken a little hiatus from the island and they will be sure to understand, and maybe even join you. 

5) Every body is a beach body 

The tans, the legs, the chiselled abs. It is important to remember that so many other things are not represented in the villa. Body hair, stretched marks, spots, freckles, big, little, tall, short and every skin type and colour makes a beach body, not just that narrow sample. If you are feeling like your self-esteem has taken a knock from it, try telling yourself 3 positive things to yourself in the mirror every morning before you get ready. It might sound stupid, but it can make your confidence leap forward. 

6) ‘Pulling’ culture does not define you 

Sometimes, Love Island can make it seem like pulling people is the only thing that matters, literally because that is the entire purpose of the show. It is important to remember that you are so much more than the amount of people you can ‘pull’. Especially for guys, the pressure can really be there to perform, and rack up numbers every single weekend. You are much more than that, and you have a lot more to offer the dating world than that. 

7) Not all relationships are represented 

One of the most obvious things missing from Love Island is any representation of LGBT+ relationships. It is really important to remember that just because this TV show does not represent them does not mean they are not valid relationships to be a part of. Love is love. The island may be super heteronormative at the moment, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world has to be.

If you are dealing with any of these issues, from low self esteem to coming out, you can reach out to the Ditch the Label Community here and we will listen to you.