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Man who suffered body obsession on nudist colony cycling tour

Robert John says nudist colonies helped him get over Body Dysmorphic Disorder

03 August, 2017 — By Tom Foot

Robert John on his tour of Europe’s naturist resorts 

FOR most of his life Robert John would agonise about perceived flaws in his body and was later diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) – an obsessive preoccupation with appearance.

Now, aged 33, he has found a new lease of life after visiting several nudist colonies around Europe and earlier this year was crowned champion of a naturist naked triathlon in Germany.

He is currently on a 4,300-mile bike ride across Europe, staying 70 naturist clubs and resorts in 15 countries, while raising funds for two charities.

Mr John, from Bloomsbury, said: “Over the years I had been very body conscious and dissatisfied with my appearance. I was very overweight but even after I changed that with exercise, I saw myself as retaining the weight. I kept on wanting to lose more – I wanted to feel like I saw people in the media, I wanted to have the perfect body.”

He added: “I heard about naturism while on holiday in France. Me and my partner decided to give it a go. It improved my self-perception, it was very empowering. You forget you don’t have any clothes on.”

Mr John, who is training to be a psychologist, has been reading the latest scientific research about naturism and has come up with his own theories about Britons’ famous prudishness.

He said: “I used to think it was a British thing, but it’s not – it’s a British Empire thing. If you speak to people from India, Australia, any of places of the British Empire, there is the same initial reaction. If you speak to French, Spanish and especially Dutch people, it’s completely the opposite.

“When I was in Nice, there are naked statues everywhere. In the Louvre, there’s naked
art – and they invite you to bring your family. The Brussels mascot is a boy peeing in a fountain. There’s genitalia on display. All that was ripped down and hidden by British culture. There has been so much censor- ship. It is only now we are starting to see a resurgence in this country.”

Speaking of his German triathlon success, Mr John said: “There were teachers and business people turning up of different sexes and ages. The bike part was outside of compound, you had to put on your shorts to do that, but the swim and the run around the lake you could take your clothes off.”

Mr John has joined the group British Naturism and travels to events for other like-minded people across the country, including the theme park Alton Towers, which opens up one weekend a year just for nudists.

He said: “It all seems funny because we automatically sexualise something that isn’t. Think about people getting changed in a changing room, or in a doctor’s surgery. Those are examples of non- sexual nudity. It comes from a culture that is over- sexualising something that isn’t.”

Mr John said he was carrying hardly any clothes on his cycling challenge as he was staying in nudist resorts around Europe.

Andrew Welch, from British Naturism, said: “The stigma surrounding nudity is fading as people are realising that we’re all the same underneath, but decades of social conditioning still mean that many normal, healthy people are suffering from poor body image and leading unnecessarily miserable lives.”

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