Whether you get your news from media outlets or from scrolling through social channels, one trend hitting the spotlight is that thin is apparently back in. You may have thought that we were beyond this, that the body diversity movement was winning. It appears not. The troubling fact is that body standards are now trending again.

It began on the runways with miniskirts and low-rise jeans threatening a comeback. Then the Kardashians started displaying more svelte silhouettes. The sisters, who are largely responsible for modern-day beauty standards, including the rise in the Brazilian butt lift, or the BBL, are now openly discussing their weight loss journeys. In one of the most recent episodes of The Kardashians, we follow Kim as she frantically loses 16 pounds in two weeks to fit in Marylin Monroe’s “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” dress for the Met Gala.

The conversation about body types is embedded in our culture. Millennials remember only too well growing up with fad diets and the headlines in gossip magazines calling out celebrities for gaining a few pounds. “The ’90s were all about skinny bodies, straight hair and doubtful tastes in fashion, including the not particularly curvy friendly low-rise jeans,” reminisces Laura Leonide, a plus size fashion consultant and model. “In my case, being a mixed kid in a prominent white town impacted my self-love. I didn’t want to be different; I couldn’t see my beauty, nor could I relate to any woman in the magazines, and this created a big lack of self-esteem growing up,” Leonide adds.

The rise of social media has only worsened this issue. “It is already clear and evident that media images, especially social media, have a negative impact on body image, and that can impact a person’s self-esteem, self-confidence, and mental health,” says Dr Saliha Afridi, the Managing Director and a Clinical Psychologist at The Lighthouse Arabia. It isn’t just young, more impressionable women dealing with this. Justyna Robinson, a personal stylist and fitness trainer based in Dubai, works with women of all ages and backgrounds, including those in the fashion industry, doctors, businesswomen and mothers. “Whoever I style or workout with, especially females, the subject of how our body looks never stops,” Robinson says.

Insecurities are so ingrained into us from a young age that it’s hard to break the cycle. “Women have long been subjected to judgment and critique that comes side by side with objectification. Typically, and historically women have more body image issues than men. However, that trend is slowly shifting with men also being affected by body image issues,” explains Dr Afridi. This is down to the fashion industry making money off our insecurities.

There are those who are fighting back. The body positivity movement has played a massive part in showcasing diversity within the media, encouraging individuality and reminding us that our body types aren’t all the same. “We need more role models who promote living a healthy lifestyle, eating well and working out to be strong. Exercise is the best medicine for everything. It’s so important for mental health,” says Robinson. Leonide agrees, adding, “To understand that there are as many beauty types as the number of people on this planet is crucial. We have to understand and embrace our own beauty. Only when you truly love yourself can you love others and accept them.”

How to embrace your body

Follow clinical psychologist Dr Saliha Afridi’s tips for protecting your mental health.

1. Understand that the marketers’ agenda is to play on your insecurities – whether it’s anti-ageing, slimming, or any other type of product they are selling, triggering an insecurity is activating and moves people to purchase a product. The more you see their agenda, the less likely you are to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to the filtered, airbrushed, altered versions we see in media images.

2. Think about the relationship you have with your body and what type of relationship you want with your body. Who/what shaped your idea of what is ‘beautiful?’ Who/what shaped your relationship with your body into one of critique, judgment and control? How can you start to heal this relationship with your body? How can you begin to unlearn historical narratives and shape your own narrative about your body, how it looks, and what is accepted and beautiful?

3. Thank your body for what it can do and cultivate a relationship based on healthy living and nourishment of your body. Whether it’s how you dress, sleep, eat, move, or work – your body carries you through your day. Thank it for what it can do, and nourish it so it can continue supporting you.