Holli Rubin – Body Image Specialist talks to us about the struggles we can have with our bodies and the pressures to be the ‘ideal…’.

stacks_image_112_1Holli has been working as a Counsellor /Psychotherapist for individuals, couples and families for over 20 years. Holli’s reputation as a prominent body-image specialist has led to her being invited to work with Susie Orbach on Anybody and Endangered Bodies. These initiatives raise awareness of body image and provide a platform for girls to begin to understand their relationship with their own bodies and to ultimately live comfortably in them. Holli contributes to several government projects, including the All-Party Parliamentary Group campaign on Body Image. Her insight and experience is helping drive change at a national level so that body image education becomes part of a bigger conversation. In addition, alongside Susie Orbach, she continues to engage Government in the idea that early intervention is essential in order for body image problems to cease endangering the lives of boys and girls.

A working mother of 3, Holli fully understands the complexities, expectations and anxieties that often accompany 21st Century London life. Her combination of compassion, understanding and experience enable her to make a positive difference in the lives of her clients.

Hi Holli, can you please tell us a bit more about you and your work with body image?

I am a body image psychotherapist, which means I help people around how they feel about their physical appearance. We all have parts of our bodies we like less than others but sometimes, and for various reasons, this can start to take up too much of your headspace or energy and prevents you from feeling good and living your fullest life. People don’t always come to see me with a specific body image problem in fact most often people don’t know what’s bothering them just that they don’t feel right and have a desire to feel better.

What brought you to specialise in body image?

Well, my story began long ago…I was always very aware of how much people cared about their appearance, and when something happened to change it, either an accident, an illness, adolescence and all the physical changes that we go through, pregnancy, ageing, etc., these physical changes brought on changes to personality and behaviour. This mind/body connection has intrigued me from early on.

My best friend’s mother died of breast cancer when we were 17 but she struggled with it for 10 years. In that time she went from being a glamorous confident beautiful woman to a shell of her former self. It was really hard to watch that slow and sad progression as the disease got the better of her both inside and out.

After working in fashion in New York I went back to psychology to do a masters degree and have combined my interests in fashion and body image by addressing the person from both the outside in and the inside out.

What kind of clients do you see (gender, age etc…)?

I see all kinds – individuals – pregnant women, women who have just had babies and want to regain their shape, those who are getting older and having a hard time with their changing looks, couples, parents who are having difficulty with their adolescents who are going through massive body changes to burn victims, cancer patients, people loosing their hair to those who have skin conditions. All of these clients have the common difficulty with how to manage their feelings about how they look. Their feelings often get the better of them and It affects their self esteem, gets in the way of their relationships and can lead to anxiety and depression because they do not feel comfortable in their own skin.

What problems do women most commonly come to you with and what do we need to do to stop this happening?

Women, if not suffering with any of the above issues, often feel dissatisfied with their appearance because they don’t feel they compare to all the people they see on television, on Facebook, in magazines or even next to them in barre class. They are struggling with their looks and perhaps their changing bodies and don’t know how to cope with the pressure they feel to keep up.

Social media has put extra pressure and has taken “keeping up” to a whole other extreme. There is this idea that they have to look a certain way, this idealised version of what it means to be beautiful, but that doesn’t exist. I work with them to begin to see this and accept this and try to shift some of the negative thinking towards acceptance of what their bodies look like, what they do for them and how to feel more comfortable living from them.

Do you find men face the same problems?

Men don’t face it to the same extent or degree but they absolutely do and in the past 5 years have seen it affecting men in more ways then ever.
There is a condition known as “bigorexia” which affects many men in the fitness industry (it is when they feel they aren’t big/buff enough and not feeling like their idealised 6 pack is good enough. It is a type of dysmorphia) and a serious concern.

How do you help your clients work through their problems?

I have a unique approach to each case because everyone is different, and while we may all go through similar struggles, the way we understand ourselves is unique and individual. I have always taken a holistic view and a 360 degree approach to my clients health and wellbeing. To achieve this I do a very detailed assessment including going through their day to day routine: what they are eating for breakfast/lunch/snacks/dinner, what they are doing for exercise, how they relax, how much they are partying, how they play and how they manage their stress and their relationships. Together we go through each of these areas to understand them and we then build from there and tweak things as we go along. I usually propose a package of sessions and a goal to work towards.

Everyone is different and no one thing works for everyone. I am able to recognise that rather quickly and can determine what we will do in a session to get the most from it. If a client is particularly anxious that day, we might spend more time on breathing and learning different techniques to put into practice. Or I might suggest instead of sitting and talking in my office, going out for a walk and doing our session outdoors. Flexibility is key when working with individuals to ensure they get the best possible treatment each session.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone struggling with their body image and self esteem, what would it be?

Try to see your body for all it does for you and not just what it looks like. Look at yourself in the mirror and notice yourself. You will slowly begin to appreciate it for how amazing it is!

To learn more about Holli, please visit hollirubin.com or contact her on 07771765347.

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