Letter From the Editor: We’re Making Progress With Body Image But How Much

As someone who struggled with body image for many years (and still does), I appreciate what large, well-known companies are trying to do. I appreciate their body love campaigns, and the thought behind it—we don’t all look like tall, thin models and that’s okay.

Unfortunately, time after time I notice that many of these companies are still missing the mark. Whether they’re over representing one body type, or under representing another, we’re still missing the voice that says, “Every single body type is one worth celebrating.” 

Look at every major campaign for body love: Do you ever see a skinny body among the larger women? What about a female power lifter? While trying to correct a social issue that runs rampant in our culture and around the world, we’ve left some people out.

Let’s start with the “skinny” girls. Body positive campaigns are focused on showing a “real” body, and for many women, that body is thin, with no hips, butt or boobs to speak of. By over-correcting, and focusing only on women of a certain size, we leave out all the women who struggle with being thin—whether models are on the cover of their favorite magazine or not.

Rachel, blogger and owner of Cha Ching Queen, explains one aspect of her struggles as a thin woman growing up:

I started to look scrawny next to some of my “bigger” friends. I would get teased about my lack of breasts. Many times I was jokingly questioned if I was a member of the “Itty Bitty Titty Committee.” I would get asked why I was so skinny. I even had a neighbor once ask if I was anorexic. I have never been called fat, so I honestly do not know what that is like, but I can tell you I know what it is like to be made fun of for your body frame.

On the other end of the spectrum, more and more women are building strength in the gym. In fact, 42 percent of participants in the 2016 Crossfit Games were female. As women put on muscle, specifically at that level, their bodies shift, becoming “bulky” and strong.

While trying to correct a social issue that runs rampant in our culture and around the world, we’ve left some people out.Jessica Thiefels, Founder and Editor-in-Chief

Despite the surge in popularity with women in fitness, I’ve never seen a body love campaign featuring an athletic woman with muscle. As women make fitness and weight lifting a regular part of their lives, there will be a need for their body types to be represented in the media too. Especially with so much talk about why women “shouldn’t lift weights,” or how being “bulky” is ugly.

Despite the missteps, there are a number of brands and people who are doing the body love mission right. Aeri is my absolute favorite. They started focusing on “real bodies” many years ago, and have stuck true to their word since. Follow them on Instagram and you’ll see what I mean.

Fabletics is another company that’s embracing body love in all the right ways. Their models range from average to athletic and everywhere in between.

Squads who side plank together stay together #FableticsSquad

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Finally, the people doing #bodylove the most justice is the army of personal trainers, bloggers, YouTube stars and outspoken writers who put their opinions and body in the spotlight in the name of diversity. Some of my favorites include Jen Sinkler, Healthy is the New Skinny and Kathryn Budig.

Lucy G Liang (@lucygliang!??) showed up to fab spot @fuelhousegym in Seattle a few weeks ago for the impromptu Bigness Project workout we hosted while we were there, and she said something that has stuck with me since. //// She was talking about training for hypertrophy (muscle SIZE), and what it’s like to tap into that mind-muscle connection that’s so critical to muscle-making success. What she said was, when you tune into each muscle that is doing the work, “You feel the specific body part that you’re targeting. It almost feels like you have your own little cheerleaders all across your body.”??‍♀️ //// Not only are her muscles cheering her on, but she now has the entire #BignessProject community behind her.????? //// Want to join her? You’ve got till Friday to get the program for $39: www.jensinkler.com/bigness (link live in profile) //// #ubig #ustrong #ubold

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We’ve Come A Long Way—But Let’s Keep Going

As a personal trainer and someone who struggles with body image, I’m grateful that major brands have started brining “real” bodies into their campaigns. However, it still doesn’t feel like enough. And that might sound bratty, but my dad always taught me, “If you’re going to do it, do it right.” So, if we’re going to celebrate diversity, let’s actually do that.

Jessica Thiefels

Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than ten years. She's the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Honest Body Fitness, where women are warriors who love their bodies. She's also a a full-time writer, ACE Certified Personal Trainer and NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition specialist. She’s written for Shape, Reader’s Digest, AARP, Snap Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness and more. Follow Jessica and Honest Body Fitness on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for health articles, workouts tips and more.

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