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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pinterest & Body Shame

As I announced a few months ago, I started using Pinterest as a way to share my content but also to find craft, decorating, and cooking inspiration. Really, I enjoy using the site for inspiration and also as a great bookmarking tool so I don't lose track of all the awesome things I see on the Internet.

Its no secret that I'd like to be a more active person. For about a year, I was running 3-4x per week and I felt great. I was confident in my body, I loved to push it to see what it could do, and my stress levels were really low. Then, I started getting shin splints, winter hit (which in MN is no joke!) and I got busy with school and......... I stopped making running a priority. So, I'd like to be active again. I want to feel good, build my confidence, and see what my body can do. However, while browsing Pinterest's Health & Fitness category I saw a lot of fat shaming.

Here I'm using fat shaming to refer to speech (in this case written) and images that hold thin body types as the ideal and speak negatively about bodies that don't fit into this mold.
Like many women (and others) growing up in the U.S., I struggled with my own body image growing up. My body felt awkward: too large in some places and too small in others. I spent endless hours pouring through magazines with articles about which clothes would make me look smaller and which clothes to avoid and quick fitness solutions to get me bikini ready. I remember when skinny jeans first became popular while I was in high school. I professed a dislike for them, but the secret truth was that I thought my body was too large to wear them. Same thing with horizontal stripes. That's all because of fat shaming. Because of the idea that you have to look a certain way to wear certain things.

There's a lot of body shame around us, all the time. Its on TV and movies and in our magazines, obviously. However, fat shame also occurs when (well-meaning, usually) individuals conflate thin bodies with health. This type of fat shame happens just as often, but usually we aren't trained to expect it and it often comes from people in power (like, doctors). The idea that overweight = unhealthy and thin = healthy is widely circulated, regardless of the numerous studies that indicate otherwise. These three articles (1, 2, 3) link to a ton of studies that debunk the fat is unhealthy myth. Fat can be healthy. Thin can be unhealthy. The truth is that 99% of the time, you can't describe someone's health simply by looking at them. You cannot tell what a person eats, how active their lifestyle is, how happy they are or their stress level, how often they go to the doctor, or what risky behaviors they engage in. All of these things make up a person's health. And, you can't tell any of it based on someone's appearance.

I want to exercise more. I spend a lot of time sitting and its good for me to go outside. I want to eat well, with lots of vegetables because I love them. I want to take care of myself, which means treating myself well. I want to love my body and feel confident in it. I don't want to lose weight. 

When I'm on Pinterest and I see those images, I do feel bad about my body. It doesn't motivate me to exercise more or eat healthy. It makes me feel guilty. Self-acceptance and and self-love DO motivate me to change my lifestyle: because I deserve to take care of myself. So, I'm making it a goal to only share images and sites on my Pinterest Fitness board that are body and fat positive. That are free of images idolizing muscled bodies, that are free of shaming comments, and that encourage self-love. If you're interested in taking on the same challenge, leave link to your Pinterest Fitness board in the comments or follow my Fitness board, and we'll create a network of body-accepting health-oriented posts.

How do you show your body that you love and accept it? Do you encourage others to do the same?

This post was featured at Becoming Super Mommy!


  1. I can totally relate to this post. I try hard to love my body. It's far from perfect but I am overall a healthy person. When i first started using pinterest all the beauty and fitness post would really get to me. I started unfollowing certain boards of certain friends Ans pinning more images of beautiful "fat" women in an effort to make myself more comfortable and also to share with my followers that women are beautiful whatever their size. Honestly, I think a lot of it comes from women with "beautiful" thin bodies not ever having to consider an alternative to what they consider beautiful. I can't blame them but instead try to educate and open their minds to another version of beautiful-- one you don't see in Vogue or Cosmo.
    Its definitely a problem in society and I admire and respect your efforts to help your body be loved, and at the same time to help others realize what's going on.

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