AS our series leading up to International Women’s Day continues, we examine the controversial issue of body image. Here two women share their remarkable stories about battling societal and media pressures, tackling taboos and learning to feel comfortable in their own skin.

Kelly Knox, model and diversity campaigner

I WAS born without my left forearm. When I was seven I made the decision not to wear a prosthesis, although leading up to that point I never liked wearing it.

My mum tells a story about us being in the Post Office with me in the buggy, wearing my prosthetic arm. I decided to rip it off in front of horrified onlookers and throw it across the floor. I don't have any memory of that, although obviously I hated it being on my body.

I found it hard, impractical and uncomfortable. I have always felt that prosthetic arms aren't there to help you; they are just there to make you blend in with society and appear "normal".

I don't want to be normalised. Wearing it is disabling. Taking it off felt liberating.

Society is changing and becoming more accepting of disability and body difference, but there is a long way to go. I began modelling in 2008 after winning the BBC Three series Britain's Missing Top Model. When I first started there wasn't anybody like me working in the industry.

Before then I didn't know any disabled people because I didn't define myself as "disabled". I wasn't aware of the ignorance and stereotypes. It was only when I was submerged into that world that I thought: "Hold on a minute, there isn't anybody like me in fashion."

I researched the treatment of disability through the ages and cried my eyes out. Disabled people have always been the most invisible section of society. It became my goal to make disability visible in the most beautiful, positive and empowering way.

READ MORE: Herald writers on the Scottish women who inspire them most

Unfortunately, six months after the TV show finished, the modelling agency I had joined went into liquidation. Those were dark times filled with ups and downs. I was trying to break down these barriers and didn't get the same opportunities as an able-bodied model would.

I started finding my own way and meeting people on the same wavelength who believed in diversity. I signed to the agency Milk Model Management last September. It has taken nine years to get to a point where I am truly being recognised.

I want a big campaign from a big brand – fashion or beauty – to say: "We want Kelly to be the face of our brand and an ambassador showing people what it means to be disabled and beautiful in 2018."

If I went to a casting and someone asked me to hide my disability in any way I wouldn't want to work with them because they don't believe in diversity and want me to appear "normal", which is not celebrating my body.

I have a son who is two-and-a-half and he loves my arm. He knows it is different. He will cuddle it and that is beautiful.

Children are more open-minded and accepting. I was in my front garden and a little boy walked past and asked: "What happened to your arm? Did you lose it? Did it fall off?" I replied: "It just didn't grow in my mum's belly." He said: "Ah, OK."

The more disability is included in fashion, sport, on TV and everywhere else, then the more it is seen and the more it will be part of everyday life.

READ MORE: Glasgow Women’s Library – preserving women's history is our bread and butter

Beauty should not be defined by age, shape, size, colour, body difference, ability, gender choice, sexuality: those are the things that make you unique. The message I want to get across is that we all need to embrace and celebrate who we are – and not feel ashamed or guilty about our bodies.

Body confidence is feeling comfortable in your own skin and knowing that there is no such thing as a flaw or imperfection. It is about self-acceptance and embracing who you are without needing society's approval or permission to feel beautiful or worthy.

For as long as I can remember I have known it is my soul that holds the power, wisdom and beauty. My body is just a vehicle. Even though there is a piece missing in my body, my soul is all-powerful and limitless.

Juliette Burton, comedian

ONE of my earliest memories is feeling fat. Although feeling fat is not the same as being overweight. I remember putting a lot of emphasis on the way I looked, even at the age of five or six.

That was a problem because psychologically I was already teaching myself that any negative feelings I may have about other things going on in my life, I fed it – pun intended – into my feelings about the way I looked.

From the age of seven or eight, I started to have a problem with being overweight. By the time I was 10, I weighed 11-and-a-half stone, which is not healthy. I was bullied at school and that exacerbated the problem.

I was exhibiting obsessive compulsive disorder symptoms which weren't properly diagnosed. My family were encouraged to take me to see a psychiatrist but back then therapy wasn't the done thing. It was brushed off as a phase and that I would get through it.

READ MORE: International Women's Day – six equality battles that still need to be won

When I was 11, I lost a little bit of weight. At 14, I was diagnosed with anorexia. We are still finding our identity as teenagers and I invested so much of who I was into my illness.

I was voluntarily hospitalised when I was 16 and then sectioned under the Mental Health Act at 17 because I was a month away from dying from anorexia. I spent my 18th birthday in hospital.

Within six months of being discharged I became agoraphobic. When I was 19 I went from a size four to a size 20 in around six months – I doubled my body weight in three months – due to compulsive overeating disorder.

For me, anorexia and overeating are flip sides of the same coin: they are just different ways of using food to control my feelings. I was either abstaining and starving myself – and getting a high off that – or numbing the way I felt through shoving food down and eating my feelings.

But control is an illusion.

There is a lot of misunderstanding around compulsive overeating disorder and often a mistaken glamorisation of anorexia, and to an extent bulimia, within the media and society generally.

None of these are glamorous illnesses. They are devastating, debilitating and life-sacrificing illnesses which are extremely difficult to extricate yourself from.

Compulsive overeating was something I was powerless over. I had invested so much of my identity as a teenager in being anorexic. Then, as my weight zoomed up, I suddenly lost that identity and became incredibly suicidal.

In my early twenties, I found new therapies including addiction therapy – the type used by alcoholics or drug addicts – and started on what I now call an ongoing journey of recovery.

READ MORE: Herald writers on the Scottish women who inspire them most

It has not been a straight road: it has been very wobbly. One diversion has been bulimia in my mid-twenties. There is a lot of obsession around weight which is a red herring because you can have an eating disorder and be a "healthy" weight.

For many years, I had bulimia and looked completely normal. My weight had come down to what would have been deemed within a "healthy" range, but I still struggled with food. I didn't understand my powerlessness over certain foods or my desperate need to use food to manage my feelings and thoughts.

Bulimia is one of the most devastating diseases because it is very secretive. You can function extremely well beyond this one area of your life. But it has devastating effects on you physically and psychologically. It has damaged my teeth, digestive system and fertility levels.

Then, in my late twenties, I started doing comedy. I had been working as a journalist and did radio and voiceover work. That led to acting where I realised, if I wanted a strong women's role, I needed to create it myself.

I began writing and discovered that having been through such serious, dark and miserable stuff, one way to talk to people about it was to get them to laugh.

Comedy is my saving grace. It is a way to find light within the darkness. If I can make people laugh about my experiences – even being sectioned – then it might encourage them to talk about their own mental health and body image.

I still have body dysmorphic disorder which is a condition I find flares up when I get stressed or anxious. I perceive myself as much bigger and it actually feels as if my body is inflating.

READ MORE: Glasgow Women’s Library – preserving women's history is our bread and butter

How do I get on stage if I am struggling with my body image? Because it means I can mentally stick two fingers up at my disorders and all those lies they are whispering in my head, telling me how disgusting, worthless and awful I am.

During the times I can't love my body, I have taught myself to at least respect it. Body confidence is about not letting anything hold me back from using my body to enjoy life to the fullest, be it my conditions, mental health stigma or other people's opinions.

Kelly Knox and Juliette Burton are keynote speakers for Body Confidence Live 2018 at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on March 17. Visit Juliette Burton will perform at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August. Visit

Tomorrow, as part of our series marking International Women's Day, Marianne Taylor talks feminism and the future with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon