When you’re swimming in the sea of diet culture, it is really easy to take what you’re seeing for granted. Our brains say to themselves subconsciously, “Of course all the women I see everyday wear size 0! That makes perfect sense to me!”
Honestly, when we are swimming along like obedient little fishies doing our best to conform to the Western beauty ideal, it’s really easy not to give it a second thought. But the fact is that only 2% of the images we see on a regular basis are plus-size women (size 14+). I would love to know how many women we see on a regular basis are even size 8 or above.
When your brain sees the same images over and over again, it starts to assume that those images are normal, and other images become abnormal. This is why the number one tip I have for you to improve your body image is to start to expose yourself to a much wider set of images: not just tall, white, lean, hour-glass shape, size-0 models, but also medium-sized women, fat women, and super-fat women. Women of absolutely all shapes and sizes, all ages, all colors and ethnicities, all sexual identities. For that matter: expose yourself to images of people of all gender identities.
The more you take in images that represent yourself and people bigger than yourself, the easier it will be for you to accept your body. Promise.
What does this look like in reality? A few suggestions:
1) Reduce imagery of very small women from your media diet.
Think of all of the sources of images you have in your life. Do you read a lot of women’s magazines? Think about whether these are helping or hurting your efforts to accept your body. Do you follow thinspiration posts on Instagram or follow outlets on Facebook that promote dieting or weight loss? Unfollow them. Think carefully about all of the places you take in these images and cull, cull, cull.
2) Add imagery of larger women into your media diet.
Where do you hang out online? How could you get more images of larger women in your social media feeds? Think Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest, etc. Whichever platform(s) you use most frequently, find people to follow that routinely post images of larger bodies.
3) Set aside time each day to look at the new images.
Make sure you’re exposing yourself to the new images on a regular basis. The more you see, the more normalized larger bodies will become.
It’s about balance
I want to be clear: images of smaller women are absolutely fine. Plenty of people are naturally thin and their bodies are completely acceptable and lovable. The goal here is not to demonize small bodies; it is to make your image intake more balanced and representative of society as a whole.
For a while you may even want to swing towards unbalanced (only looking at images of women your size and larger). I found this very healing myself, but again, the idea is to develop an appreciation of all sizes and shapes of bodies, most of all yours.
Where to find imagery of larger women
I’m going to be posting a much more extensive list of suggested people and outlets to follow in the future, but for now, you might want to start with:
- Refinery 29 – R29 recently made a change to a more balanced set of images that better represent society as a whole. They are calling it the 67% project (because, as I mentioned above, 67% of women in the United States are size 14+). They also have an interesting hashtag, #seethe67 where people are posting images of larger women.
- Fatshionistas: there is a whole world of plus-size / fat fashion out there, including women who regularly post their outfits of the day.
- Some Instagram hashtags to browse include: #vbo (“vbo” is short for “visible belly outline) #boldcurvyfashionista #celebratemysize #effyourbeautystandards #fatshion #honormycurves #psootd #stylehasnosize
- Some Instagram models and fatshionistas to follow include: Nadia Aboulhosn, Tess Holliday, The 12ish Style (great for medium-sized women in particular), MsLindsayM (also medium-sized), and The Curvy Fashionista. (More to come!)
- Body positive photography projects:
- Body positive artists: check out my list of “bopo” artists for some alternatives beyond photography.