Women and Body Image: Instagram, The Thin Ideal, and Making a Change

women and body image instagram goodness gracious living

This weekend, I was really disappointed in the Instagram community regarding the support of women and body image.  Not specifically my community – the people I follow and with whom I interact – but those that are responsible for upholding the Instagram community guidelines and the trolls that exist only to put others down.  Here’s what happened…

A woman on Instagram with the handle @chooselifewarrior, a body-positive, recovered eating-disordered, fat activist posted this image:

choose life warrior

Instagram took it down.  Twice.  The reason they gave was that it didn’t meet the community guidelines, which are in place to keep people “safe.”  And this is the kicker:  She didn’t violate the guidelines.  It’s not nude, although it is partially nude, which is considered a violation (although partially nude isn’t specifically defined), but not any more revealing than these Instagram photos that remain on others’ accounts:

faustosaez insta

kim k insta

playboy insta

As for keeping people “safe,” how is a partially nude back and side breast shot harmful to others?  And did Instagram keep her safe?  No.  They didn’t remove posts or delete the accounts of those who criticized her body while the post was up, by telling her that she should have been aborted by her parents, deserved to be raped, etc.  The list goes on.  All she was doing was sharing her body so that others who look like her were given hope of self-acceptance, and hopefully acceptance of bodies other than those that represent the thin ideal. Furthermore, how come others get to celebrate their bodies on Instagram and she doesn’t?  In my opinion, this was blatant fatphobia by Instagram. Fatphobia is rampant in our culture, and it’s a shame because women deserve to live their lives and celebrate their bodies, whether they are fat, skinny, short, tall, dark, light, or meet the “thin ideal.”

Negative body image plagues women and girls. Far too much time, money, and energy is spent trying to change our bodies.  Imagine how life might be different if we spent less time figuring out what to wear to conceal our “imperfections.”  Think about how life might be more enjoyable if you ate the damn cake without guilt, shame, or having to put yourself down about it – “Ugh, I’m being so bad right now by eating this” – sound familiar?  Negative body image perpetuates because we have bought into the idea that we are not perfect the way we are.  And part of that, as women, is our fault.

How often have you made a disparaging comment about your own body out loud?  How often have you “people watched” and commented on other women’s bodies, clothing choices, hairstyles, etc?  I am sure we all have.  It’s part of our culture to put other women down.  But, now, it’s time to stop.

In order to create change, we need to create diversity.  Not every image in magazines, on television, and throughout social media should be of the thin ideal; that only represents 5% of the population.  What about the rest of us?  What about our daughters?  Should they only see what society defines as beauty?  This only teaches our girls to dislike their bodies when they don’t have the ability to see themselves in others.  We as women need to dispell the thin ideal of beauty and honor all bodies.  I don’t mean to say that all women should be posting partially nude photos (especially if you are not comfortable doing so), but we should be standing front and center in pictures and doing so often,  We need to be a part of the solution by flooding what we see with images of all women.  We need to honor these bodies, not only for what they look like, but for what they can do.

I see nothing wrong or offensive about @chooselifewarrior’s photo. I’m used to seeing women in larger bodies.  It’s not because I am a Registered Dietitian working with women who are struggling to find diet freedom and body acceptance.  It’s because I have cleansed my social media (the only cleanse I recommend).  I have done so by adding accounts that portray women of all sizes and colors, those with scars and those with cellulite, those that are recovering from eating disorders and celebrating the larger body in which they now live – the larger body that saved their life – in an effort to share their journey with others who are struggling.  I have also unsubscribed from magazines, unfriended “friends,” and spoke out against body discrimination when I have seen other women engage in it.  I encourage you to do the same. Believe me, it is beyond freeing to see real women, and it does wonders for your own self-esteem and your progress towards self-love to know that there so many women of beautiful sizes and shapes out there.  It also feels pretty good to be kind to others.

Here are a few of the incredible women I follow:


This lovely lady is @bodyposipanda

Follow @effyourbeautystandards to see beautiful people of all shapes and sizes.  This is @rainbowchatman

Follow @effyourbeautystandards to see beautiful people of all shapes and sizes. This is @rainbowchatman


This yogi is @mynameisjessamyn

While Instagram might have been a disappointment this weekend, I did see this posted on Facebook:


It’s a good reminder.  Embrace your body, Goddesses!



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