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A group of women from across the kingdom came together for an inspirational photo-opportunity to promote body positivity and showcase that all women are beautiful no matter the size.
Photographer Ayaa Al Jarhi approached Tru Active fitness attire founders and sisters Dana and Hala Zubari to showcase their inclusive collection and to empower women in picture form as part of their ‘Tru Women’ campaign.
“Be satisfied with who you are and how you look because you are unique and no one will ever be you – that’s what makes you different,” said Dana, a triathlete and three-time Ironman finisher who promotes living a healthier lifestyle.
“I’m tired of seeing models that don’t reflect what an average woman looks like and I’m sick of people discussing a woman’s weight rather than her accomplishments in life.
“Hala and I have a platform to change what is a social norm. That’s basically what inspired our photo shoot. Love yourself at any size and at any age, whatever race you are, you are beautiful and you should feel confident no matter what is considered the beauty standard at the moment!”
The thigh gap was one of those standards women worked on achieving over the years and some still do because it was considered by the beauty industry as a sign of attractiveness and fitness.
“I remember learning about calories so I’d always over exercise in hopes to get that thigh gap that all the young teenagers had that I didn’t,” explained Dana, a 38-year-old mum from Saar, who co-founded Cycling Bees with Sarah Al Sammak and Lettuce Run with triathlete star and Ironman finisher Mariam Turki.
“It’s only later that I accepted my body shape and began to care about more important things in life than appearance. My advice is to look at yourself in the mirror and be kind.”
Hala, Tru Active’s co-founder and sportswear designer, was also delighted with the campaign that featured seven stylish females.
“We wanted to spread the message of loving yourself and that you in your own body are powerful,” said Hala, 29, from Saar. “The shoot felt empowering! All these women who live very different lives to one another were brought together by a pair of leggings.
“I can’t say that I’ve struggled with body image as I would be in short shorts with thunder thighs and really couldn’t care less. However, I feel we are constantly being told to look and be a certain way, and if you don’t fit in this image then you are deemed unfit or unhealthy.
“Having a goal to get in shape is a personal choice and no one should feel pressured to have a ‘summer body’!”
People tend to feel most anxious in the lead up to the sunny season because of the idea of achieving social media’s ‘summer body’ – which to some means being super fit, tan and virtually flawless.
And, despite how far people have come in understanding body positivity, many still dread the season for that ‘let’s get summer ready’ vibe instead of accepting their physiques and focusing on simply living a healthy lifestyle.
Yoga instructor Fatema Majdi, who was a part of the campaign, advises to chase ‘self-love’ instead of the ‘summer body’.
“First of all, it brought me so much joy to be a part of a shoot that was iconic and necessary in our society,” said Fatema, a 26-year-old part-time gym manager, who lives in Sanad. “All bodies deserve to be captured in active wear and we are all incredibly talented, empowered, strong and fit females.
“I have struggled with body image, especially when working in the fitness field – a field that doesn’t neutralise or market my body type. It definitely added unwanted pressure but pushing through has inspired many and that is my support.
“I fell in love with yoga when I was living in India and that made me love my body and myself even more.
“What body positivity means to me is to love my body with its perfect imperfections and want to do what’s good for it. Simply love your body unconditionally. And, remember, healthy looks different on each body and that is completely normal.”
According to psychologist Mariam Alammadi, who is the founder of the Child and Family Foundation Centre and general secretary of the Middle East Psychological Association, body confidence and self-esteem issues affect both the male and female population in Bahrain.
“Those that most frequently seek treatment at my clinic are aged 11 to 20,” she said. “Both genders can’t escape the ‘perfect body’ that is portrayed constantly on social media; making them feel inferior and negatively affecting their self-esteem.
“They can often obsess about losing weight, changing different body parts and link food to feeling of guilt and shame.
“It eventually impairs their lives as they compare their bodies to others, get scared to try new activities because they are worried how their body would look and spend time pointing out their imperfections. In the long term, this may lead to depression and eating disorders.
“The prominence of surgery and how accessible it is to people also affects our teenagers and young adults. They believe surgery is the best way to get a beautiful body.
“I have patients as young as 11 telling me what surgical procedures they would like to do when they are older.
“I truly believe we need to shift the focus from ‘social media bodies’ to ‘strong healthy bodies’, which is much more attainable, by encouraging them to eat better and work out.”
For details, follow @capturesbyayaa, @truactivebh, @bohemianfatema and @allthingsmariam on Instagram.