Health

Watching Love Island this year? How to avoid comparing your body to what’s on screen

Love Island is back for its summer season (Alamy/PA)
Love Island is back for its summer season (Alamy/PA) Love Island is back for its summer season (Alamy/PA)

ITV2 has and revealed the first 10 contestants who will be heading to Majorca to take part in the summer season of Love Island.

Commercial estate agent Catherine Agbaje, semi-professional footballer Tyrique Hyde and model Ella Thomas are among the islanders who will enter the Spanish villa when the new series starts on Monday, June 5.

We’re set for another summer of romantic recouplings, dramatic dumpings and bombshell arrivals, but it’s important to remember that this brand of ‘reality’ TV doesn’t always reflect the real world.

Especially when it comes to body diversity. Love Island contestants lounge around in swimwear all day, meaning there’s more of a focus on their physiques than on other shows.

While for some viewers, the clothing (or lack thereof) doesn’t make a difference, it’s understandable if you do find that you compare yourself unfavourably to the scantily-clad islanders.

“It depends really on the way that we do that comparison, whether it’s positive or negative,” says Lowri Dowthwaite, lecturer in psychological interventions at the University of Central Lancashire.

“We do know that there’s a big link between that kind of negative comparison and people feeling bad about themselves or feeling that they’re not good enough.”

There may also be a gender divide when it comes to comparison and body image. Dowthwaite says: “Women have a tendency to be to compare themselves a lot more. Rumination around that as well tends to be higher in women… and that can be quite damaging.”

Indeed, a 2019 YouGov survey found that 75% of Love Island viewers agreed with the statement ‘it is important for me to look physically attractive’, the majority of which (43%) were aged 18 to 29.

“When people are younger, I think naturally we are much more self-conscious and much more preoccupied with the way that we look,” says Dowthwaite.

“As people get older, past 30 or 40, the preoccupation gets a bit less. I definitely think it is a bit of a thing that affects the younger people.”

In turn, this ‘compare and dispair’ mindset can affect our behaviour or self-esteem.

“People get drawn into that negative self-evaluation, where they maybe focus in on one particular part of their body that they’re not happy with. In extreme cases, it might have an impact on dieting,” Dowthwaite continues.

Although she points out: “We can’t definitely say that the media and what we see causes eating disorders, because it’s too complex to say that. I think it’s about how we consume [TV] helpfully.”

So how can viewers enjoy Love Island in a balanced, body positive way?

Remember it’s not always realistic

First of all, remind yourself of all the technical trickery that goes into making glossy TV shows.

“It’s filmed in a way with lighting whereby it’s going to accentuate people’s features, there’s a lot of editing that goes into it as well,” says Dowthwaite.

Same goes for the glamorous promo materials: “It’s photographed in such a way that, you know, it’s not real life – real people have flaws, we all have flaws.”

Plus, these contestants have had weeks or months or get ready for their ‘big TV reveal’.

“They might have gone through rigorous regimes to get themselves looking as good as they can possibly look,” she says.

It’s not healthy to try to have the same figure as someone who is, for example, naturally very thin: “If you’re not genetically meant to be that slim, then you’re not going to be.”

Monitor what you’re consuming

With reality shows that are designed to keep you hooked, it’s easy to forget how they might be affecting your mood.

“You need to become conscious of it,” says Dowthwaite, who recommends keeping a diary of what you’re viewing in terms of TV or social media and monitoring how it makes you feel.

“If you find that you’ve consumed lots of things like Love Island and things that are appearance-based and you’re feeling quite low and moody… there’s probably a correlation between that.”

Seek out body positivity

To counteract the effects of unattainable reality TV ideals, it can help to follow body positive Instagram or TikTok accounts.

“We need to see more of that, I think, in the media, to help people to not be so self-critical,” says Dowthwaite.

“And to kind of appreciate that we’re all different shapes and sizes – and that’s good.”

Focus on other activities

Ultimately, it’s not healthy to derive your self-esteem from your looks, which is why you need to remind yourself that there’s more to life than having a Love Island-level body.

“What are you good at? What talents do you have? What interests do you have? What are your strengths? Those kinds of things are a lot more important,” says Dowthwaite.

If you’re feeling down about yourself, switch off the telly and take part in some mood-boosting activities.

“Exercising and using your body to do things that you enjoy, like going for walks in nature, or doing yoga or horseback riding or whatever it is you’d like to do, that’s a way to have a healthier relationship with your body,” Dowthwaite recommends.

“Moving your body in the great outdoors is just an excellent way to kind of feel that all that stuff doesn’t really matter that much.”

Love Island returns to ITV2 and ITVX on Monday June 5. Voting for the first coupling up opens at 8am on Thursday on the Love Island app.