Interview with an Australian body image expert

Fortunately, I was able to interview Julie Parker, who is the General Manager of The Butterfly Foundation located in Australia. She has worked for 12 years supporting people affected with eating disorders and negative body image, and she has spoken both nationally and internationally on these topics. Julie is a blogger and a tweeter, so be sure to follow her (twitter: JulesyParker and her blog is called Beautiful You). 

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JK: Tell me about The Butterfly Foundation. A background- its founders, who the foundation aims to support, your role, etc. 

JP: The Butterfly Foundation is Australia’s largest charitable foundation supporting people with eating disorders and negative body image.  It was founded in 2002 by our current Executive Chair Claire Vickery, who has had two daughters survive anorexia.  Butterfly supports women, men, girls and boys.  My role at Butterfly is as the General Manager.

JK: Do you believe that the media directly contributes to the number of people affected with eating disorders in the world? 

JP: For some people who develop an eating disorder, the media can play a role in the development of their illness – but not for all.  Eating disorders are very complex mental illnesses that can have their onset for a variety of reasons, including a family history of mental illness, perfectionistic tendencies and trauma.  It is a myth that the media is responsible for all eating disorders, however, as mentioned, they do play a role for some.

JK: What do you think the media could do to prevent this issue? 

JP: In my opinion, the best thing the media can do to promote self esteem and body confidence in people (two underlying issues with eating disorders if low and /or negative), is to show a greater diversity of body shapes, sizes and culturally diverse people.  This needs to be combined with stopping the perpetuation of the ‘thin’ ideal.  We are fed a steady media diet that is obsessed with thinness, youth and beauty.  For many people this ideal can become very hard to resist and if they don’t feel thin enough or beautiful enough by media and societal standards – this somehow equates to them thinking they are not good enough.  This is of course not true and so the media should be doing all it can to ensure they do not perpetuate these ideals any longer.

JK: What do you aim to achieve by blogging and tweeting about body image? 

JP: Blogging and tweeting about body image and related issues has become a real passion for me in the past 6 months.  It is my way of spreading some positivity and sharing information that hopefully others will find useful.

JK: Tell me about your blog.

JP: ‘Beautiful You’ is a labour of love for me and something that acts as a place for me to write and share my thoughts on body image, self esteem, media literacy, eating disorders and general life inspirations.  ‘Beautiful You’ is designed to help people believe in their own inherent beauty no matter what their size, shape, age, race or colour.  My readership is steadily growing which is very exciting and I love the thought of people reading ‘Beautiful You’ and leaving the site feeling positive, confident and loving towards themselves.  I’m also not afraid on ‘Beautiful You’ to comment on things that I feel are negative and detract from helping people to be their best.  I think it’s very important to ‘uncover’ such things, so that people are greater informed and recognise that there are things ‘out there’ that would like to tell us we are not good enough the way we are.

JK: Brief background about yourself? 

JP: I am a social worker by profession and have worked with girls and young women in body image and eating disorder related issues for 12 years.  I regularly comment in the media on body image and eating disorder issues and have spoken nationally and internationally in these areas as well.  I live in Melbourne, Australia, with my husband Glenn, stepdaughter Sinead and cat Cookie.  I have a passion for jazz music and icecream – preferably consumed both at the same time.

JK: What age group do you think the media directly affects the most? 

JP: I believe from an age perspective, the media has the most impact on young people, prior to them having had a chance to be educated and more media literate about some of the things they are actually seeing.  This is why it is so important we teach children and young people about the influence and practices of the media from as early an age as is appropriate.

JK: Do you think that body image as a whole is progressively transitioning into a more positive image as conveyed by the media? Or worse? 

JP: I believe that we are certainly more media literate and aware than we once were, however there is still much to do.  There are still many widespread practices in media circles that are unnaceptable to my mind and definately detract from people’s self esteem and body image.  While we do occasionally see some positive diversity of people in the media, it is still something that is done ad hoc and not on a regular enough basis.  Small steps are good, but some big strides are now due.

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~ by jklein0414 on October 10, 2009.

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