A few weeks ago, a negative article shaming Nike for using plus sized mannequins circulated around. There was a lot of backlash on most of the HAES© friendly social media accounts I follow. People were rightfully upset that Nike was being shamed for this. This response wasn’t surprising to me to see within the HAES circle. But what was pleasantly surprising to me was that I saw lots of people from other circles; friends, family, acquaintances, etc. who were just as openly appalled by the post that shamed Nike. There was the article was fatphobic. And it promoted really damaging messages that society tends to promote, such as a fat woman working out because she enjoys it rather than to lose weight is “wrong”. The idea that there’s a way to look “fit” or “healthy” is restrictive, damaging, and outright wrong.
But I think some good came out of the article, regarding the magnitude of the backlash. I think it shows that while there’s obviously lots of work to do, that people are starting to be more accepting of body diversity, and there’s more rejection of body shaming.
The purpose of this blog post is to provide information on how you can play a role with this progress. Like I said earlier, there’s still lots of work to be done to make being inclusive of all bodies the norm, and every bit helps.
I recognize I’m writing this resource post as someone who has thin privilege, and its so, so important that if you’re a thin ally to not take over/define movements that aren’t about you. The Hungry Caterpillar ( a great blog) wrote a fantastic post on this that provides good/more information. She phrased it so well,
“Your job as an ally is to treat diverse people with kindness and respect and to encourage others to do the same.”
1. Support companies who promote body diversity/ HAES values
This relates to the Nike article. For a long time, many companies used models that looked a certain way, showcasing a very narrow beauty standard. Now, more companies are starting to use models than are more representative of the population (again still a lot of work to do with this). As a firm believer in HAES principles, this change and promotion of greater body diversity is amazing to me.
Chances are that the majority of people buying Nike don’t look exactly like a Nike model (because most people don’t), so good for Nike for recognizing this.
Little messages of support for companies that promote body diversity, such as a social media follow and messaging them telling them to keep up the good work can go a long way. The more support companies who showcase different types of bodies get, the more likely other companies will follow their example. Good examples of companies are Target, Aerie, and now Nike.
2. Recognize thin privilege/ Remember the meaning of body positivity
Alex wrote a really great blog about this earlier this year. Body positivity is a movement founded in developing/maintaining positive body image despite societal messages saying something is “wrong” with ALL bodies… but especially larger bodies, non-white bodies and disabled bodies. Now, there are a lot of thin/young/cis ect people speaking about body positivity. Don’t get me wrong, nobody is immune to diet culture. Everyone is exposed to messages about ways to make their body “better”.
Anyone feeling confident in their body image/improving their body image is great and something to be celebrated. However if you fall into categories society pushes as the “norm”, refer to your progress as body image work and not body positivity.
The body positivity movement is not for you. Claiming it as your own takes away from the purpose. The body positivity movement is for those in bodies that face a much higher volume of messages that there is something “wrong” with their bodies. It’s important to recognize people in smaller bodies aren’t exposed to messages passing judgement on their bodies in the same way someone in a larger body is.
Here are some really good accounts to follow that promote body positive activism:
- Virgie Tovar
- Sarah Rae Vargas
- Rachel O’h-Uiginn Estapa
- Annie Elainey
- Jessamyn Stanely
- Ashleigh Shackelford
3. Watch your words
This really is a key one. Hold yourself to a high standard with being responsible and considerate with your language. This is so important. Avoid language that might seem harmless, but has stigmatizing impacts. Phrases like “ I’m watching my weight.”, “ I ate so much, I’ve been bad today.” or “ I need to workout after this trip.” or anything along those lines. This might be an adjustment, diet culture is so heavily ingrained in all of our lives where there’s an expectation to apologize or make excuses for completely normal behaviors ( enjoying a dessert, skipping a gym day, ect.). But when you say things like that, think about the deeper implications. You’re saying the idea that you might be gaining weight from the behavior is “bad”, which can be really harmful. Do your research.Look up HAES principles and HAES activists/dietitians/therapists, and use this research to improve your language/word choice.