Latest news | 08 Mar 2017

In conversation with Butterfly’s CEO on International Women’s Day

“Our bodies have been given to us so we can live our lives, not to define us!”

Our CEO, Christine Morgan, gives insight into what International Women’s Day means to her and shares advice on key issues faced by women in today’s society.

As CEO of Australia’s national organisation for eating disorders and body image issues, what does International Women’s Day mean to you?

International Women’s Day is an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the unique contribution of each and every woman.  As CEO of Butterfly I think of all the women who have fought the insidious challenges of an eating disorder – their day by day courage and strength.  I think of all the women who have supported them – mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers and friends.  I think of the role models they become, showing how the way forward, even when in the grip of one of these deadly illnesses, is to take one step at a time.

I also stop and recognise the incredible contribution of the women at Butterfly – on our Board, on our team and amongst our volunteers and supporters.  Together with our male colleagues they underpin the culture and the achievements of Butterfly – our vision and work towards achieving help and support for any Australian affected by an eating disorder.

Inspired by these women, I believe that International Women’s Day is a day when we celebrate the triumph of spirit and commitment to well-being.

Who is a woman of influence in your life and why?

There are so many fantastic women who have influenced my life.  However, the strongest and most influential has been my mother.  Those who know me will be familiar with a phrase I so often use – it is not just what we do that counts but also the way in which we do it.  That value is one that I have learned from my mother and, most importantly, she totally lives by it!  Through the challenges and successes of her life she has role modelled what it means to be strong but compassionate, intelligent but always with empathy for others, feisty but gentle, and above all, kind.  That is a quality that is sadly lacking in the hectic challenges of life in the 21st century, but it makes such a difference to all of our relationships.

Body image was again recognised as one of the top three areas of personal concern in young people aged 15-19 (Mission Australia, 2016). What advice would you give to young women about their own body image?

It is very important for all women to recognise that there is no such thing as the perfect or ideal body shape, weight and size. Our bodies go through many changes throughout our lives – puberty, pregnancy, and menopause are key periods of change. Such changes can be confronting and potentially triggering for some women.  At such times, it is important to pause and think of the incredible things your body enables you to do.  Changing shape in pregnancy, for instance, results in the wonderful gift of a new life.

Conversation is key in first acknowledging body image concerns, breaking stigma and then getting support. Speaking with a friend, parent or sibling can help you realise you are not alone. I would encourage parents to have conversations with their children about their bodies and the changes it may go through.

Social media has become a massive part of our lives. Scrolling through social media can lead to unnecessary comparisons to others’ lives, appearance and their achievements. However, we should remember that all media, including social media, is just a snapshot of a person’s life and does not always reflect reality.

Remember – our bodies have been given to us so we can live our lives, not to define us!

What role does the Butterfly Foundation play in inspiring and supporting women?

At Butterfly, we seek to inspire and motivate women to be themselves and love who they are, rather than to define themselves by their body’s size or shape. Self-acceptance, self-compassion and celebrating our unique ‘being’ are important beliefs we promote through the work of Butterfly.

Butterfly advocates for a world that celebrates health, well-being and diversity. As the national peak organisation for those affected by eating disorders we seek to bring the voice of the lived experience into every aspect of our work.  The voices of those who have been impacted by an eating disorder are so powerful in raising awareness and influencing the way we shape and deliver our services.

Through our National Helpline ED HOPE, education programs, treatment and support services we have supported approximately 100,000 people in the past year. We want to continue to grow in our reach and impact, empowering Australian women and men to love who they are – all of it.

If you, or someone you know, is currently experiencing eating disorder or body image concerns, you can speak to our National Helpline on 1800 33 4673.