Make peace with a stomach that isn’t flat’: Here’s how women are taking back their bodies on social media

, USA TODAYPublished 4:05 p.m. ET March 27, 2019 | Updated 11:19 a.m. ET March 28, 2019

 

A movement that keeps gaining traction on social media is sending a message to women who obsess over images of fit celebrities: love the skin you’re in.

The body positivity movement — which advocates for the acceptance of all body types — is being spread by authors, actors and influencers as the number of plastic surgeries performed in the United States rises each year.

Instagram sensations Megan Jayne Crabbe and Celeste Barber have shared raw images of their bodies in swimsuits and lingerie to show what most women really look like without plastic surgery, Photoshop or filters.

Crabbe, a full-figured woman from the United Kingdom, embraces her stomach rolls in one photo with a caption reading, “It is possible to make peace with a stomach that isn’t flat.”

In another post, she talks unapologetically about showing up at a red carpet event: “chubby, brown & braless.”

Barber, an Australian comedian, recreates model or celebrity poses and shares them side-by-side on Instagram with the original images.

In a Dec. 27 post, she imitated rapper Cardi B’s seductive pose in an orange mini skirt, except Barber wore a shirt that came to her thighs. She also recreated the mirror shot of actress and singer Jennifer Lopez in a black thong swimsuit on Sept. 30.

Experts are urging women with insecurities about their body image to follow these types of social media pages, saying Instagram sex symbols like the Kardashian-Jenner clan can trigger body dysmorphia — a mental disorder that causes people to constantly think about their flaws and avoid social situations.

And influencers of the movement represent all shapes— the women are thin, full figured or fall within the category of the national average size 14.

“I encourage everyone to diversify their social media feeds,” said Gina Susanna, a Chicago-based ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). “We have the ability to choose the influences we want in our lives. If you’re following someone who makes you feel bad about yourself, or makes you compare negatively, unfollow them. Look for people who challenge your perception of beauty.”

Research has linked frequent Instagram use to increased self-objectification and negative body image among women between the ages of 18 and 25, according to the NEDA. This was particularly apparent among women who regularly viewed “fitspiration” pages that promoted working out to achieve an ideal body.

The body positive movement is nothing new in the United States but social media has given it a different twist. The movement has been around for the last century in different forms. In the 1960s, campaigns were launched to fight “fat shaming.”

Between January and December of 2018, the use of the #bodypositivity hashtag on Instagram grew by 30 percent reaching its peak in August of that year, according to the social network.

There is also a growing number of influencers using Instagram to spread their message of self love, said Besidone Amoruwa, a spokeswoman for Instagram.

“I think by women being able to share their daily experiences, their struggles with weight and their challenges in a positive manner, other people have been able to self identify and take confidence in who they are,” Amoruwa said. “And that has created different pockets of communities.”

Sara Maria, author of “Love Your Body, Love Your Life,” said she believes society is moving toward greater acceptance of all body types. Curvy models and stars, she said, are celebrated now.

Maria said it’s also more common to see plus-sized models than it was 10 years ago. “Losing weight for your health, fine,” Maria said. “But not thinking you’re good enough, it’s purely a psychological issue.”

Jennifer Goodman, a psychology professor at York University in Toronto, said women should also take an occasional break from social media toavoid having a negative body image.

“We have these infinite images of other people to compare ourselves to,” Goodman said. “Check in with yourself and say, ‘how do I really feel after scrolling through Instagram?'”

 

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