Pocket books of hope and transformation aim to help others

Amy Woods.
Picture: Rachel Wright

Amy Woods. Picture: Rachel Wright - Credit: Archant

It can be hard to find hope in some of life’s darkest moments but a new project by a grassroots anti-stigma social movement is setting out to prove it is possible. Amy Woods told Sheena Grant more.

Amy Woods, centre, with Robyn Caston and Kate Fisher on a wild woman photoshoot.
Picture: Rachel Wr

Amy Woods, centre, with Robyn Caston and Kate Fisher on a wild woman photoshoot. Picture: Rachel Wright. - Credit: Archant

Can times of mental ill health and distress be a source of positive transformation?

Amy Woods thinks they can. She is involved in KindaProud, a new project aimed at inspiring hope by creating a series of four “pocket books of hope and kindness” for people experiencing different themes of mental distress, including suicide, trauma and abuse and eating and body image issues, under the umbrella of the anti-stigma social movement ‘#Emerging Proud’.

Norwich-based Amy is the ‘rep’ for the #EmergingProud through disordered eating, body image and low self-esteem pocket book of hope and transformation.

It’s a subject she knows a lot about.

Amy is now a certified eating psychology coach, specialising in eating issues and body image, as well as founder and director of social enterprise SoulShine, which organises coaching sessions, workshops, talks, ‘wild women’ photo shoots and online courses. But life was very different in her teenage years, when her relationship with food was totally dysfunctional

“The transformation I experienced through starting to heal my binge eating and my unhealthy body image inspired me to train as an eating psychology coach and support and empower others to feel free, alive and worthy,” she says.

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“By no means is my binge eating eradicated or is my life a self-rejecting-free party. It’s a life-long journey of recovery and some days are easier than others to be kind and compassionate to myself. But it’s safe to say that most of the time, I am no longer afraid to be myself.”

As a ‘KindaProud rep’, Amy is currently collecting the stories and experiences of others for her #EmergingProud pocketbook.

“The KindaProud book series is unique as we are all peers passionate about providing hope to our peers,” she says. “One of the main mantras of the #Emerging Proud campaign is that by working together we can change the world. The main campaign ethos and message is about re-framing mental distress as a possible transformation process. It aims to offer authentic examples of personal stories and resources to engender hope and initiate recovery, to decrease stigma, improve wellbeing and influence the saving of lives through providing a more compassionate and positive framework for emotional distress.”

Each pocket book has its own ‘KindaProud rep’, who, like Amy, has personal experience of the theme of that specific book. Each will contain personal recovery stories, poems and artwork of people who have emerged transformed to give hope to others who may still be suffering. The back of each book will also contain a resource guide, with helplines, forum and website links and self-help tips.

It’s not the only new venture Amy is involved with. Thanks to a £9,000 Awards for All National Lottery grant she is planning an ‘Empowered Health’ project, comprising a series of 24 workshops delivered in collaboration with local therapists, holistic and wellbeing practitioners and organisations.

“Empowered Health offers a space of education, support, empowerment and connection, giving people the chance to reclaim their health on a holistic and body positive basis, nourishing mind, body and soul. We hope to give people more options to find a healthy life balance through things such as accessible and affordable nutrition, yoga or massage treatments,” says Amy.

The free sessions will take place on Sundays from 11-4 bi-weekly at A Place to Be, Studio 12, Capitol House, 4-6 Heigham Street, Norwich, NR2 4TE. The first will be on October 14 and will include an introduction to empowered health and a ‘body positive masterclass’.

Two weeks later, on October 28, ‘GROOVE facilitator’ Eva Howkins will be leading a fun movement and dance session, inviting people to “embrace their uniqueness and dance to the rhythm of the music in their own way”.

Anyone interested in sharing their story for the #EmergingProud pocketbook project should email info@soul-shine.org.uk.

To find out more about SoulShine’s other initiatives, including She Wolves, a monthly meet-up for young women aged 18-24 to share stories, experiences and help each other deal with life’s challenges, go to facebook.com/soulshinehealingAmy/ or visit www.soul-shine.org.uk.

The Love Island effect

A survey carried out for BBC Radio 5 Live this summer suggests social media and ‘reality’ television programmes such as Love Island and The Only Way is Essex could be having a negative effect on young people’s body image because of the idealised body images portrayed on-screen.

The research quizzed 2,000 adults on their perception of their bodies and revealed that more than half of 18 to 34-year-olds felt negatively about the way they looked.

Reality TV and social media, they claimed, played a key role, with many of those questioned saying shows such as Love Island and The Only Way is Essex were to blame for their low self-esteem.

The ComRes survey also suggested that younger people were more likely to consider having cosmetic surgery.

Some 35% of people said shows such as Love Island and The Only Way is Essex were responsible. This figure rose to 55% in the 18 to 34-year-old age group.

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