The importance of not discussing people’s bodies

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A lot of attention has been paid to diversity of the body over the past few years. Even though we have made tremendous progress, there are still areas where we can improve. Think of the last time someone told you something uninvited about your appearance or existence. Consider your current feelings.

There is a long way to go to unlearn what constitutes a healthy body, whether it’s that you’re too thin, that you shouldn’t wear a particular outfit because it isn’t “flattering,” or that you should lose weight.

The Well+Good Podcast presents Katie Sturino and Jessica Vander Leahy, founders of Megababe and authors of Body Talk, talking candidly about their bodies.

“I find it interesting how much progress we’re making in my little section of the Internet but no progress when stepping outside of it into the rest of the world,” says Sturino. She recalls doctors telling her to lose weight as early as 8 years old, adding that little -yet extremely important -details such as gowns not closing around her body have impeded the feeling of truly comfortable care.

Despite being taught to be grateful for the things her body can do, Vander Leahy found it necessary to cultivate appreciation for her presence in the world, despite all the things it can do.

Growing up in Australia, she describes it as “a battle to find myself put in any representation and to kind of grasp onto anything I saw in the media.” No one looked like her, but she explains how she grasped onto little bits of inspiration to see herself in the world.

our bodies aren't up for discussion

Graphic: W+G CreativeDespite being on the smaller end of the plus-size spectrum, she has experienced having fewer clothing items to model than her thinner counterparts. It’s hard for a brand to cater to all tastes, but there needs to be some representation there,” says Vander Leahy. She has, however, seen designers become more accepting of all bodies as a result of social media.

Connecting with people on social media offers perks like finding people with similar interests and finding spaces that reflect your personality, but there are also downsides. Vander Leahy says that the socials have just been key to showing people they don’t have to resemble the people around them physically in order to be inspired to embrace themselves. However, the socials have a potentially harmful side as well,” he says.

Sturino suggests that you shouldn’t follow someone solely because they are body “inspiration” or “thinspiration”. “I find that that is such a toxic way of looking at your body. Putting a body in front of you that really doesn’t have anything to do with your shape, your anything. You have no idea what the person on the other end of the photo is doing to get that body, so I feel like that can be really bad.”

Jessica Vander Leahy “I’m just unapologetic about my existence in the world.”

Sturino suggests cultivating more self-awareness to move the conversation forward and create a more inclusive environment. Moreover, we need to be better brand advocates through social media discussions and hold brands accountable. As a further recommendation, Sturino suggests that we “become more aware of how other people with different bodies exist in the world…because that perspective can help us act better.”

If you want to feel better about your appearance, Vander Leahy recommends experimenting, playing, and dressing up as a good starting point. According to her, her approach to living in the world is to be unapologetic about what she is doing. There’s a pressure on my existence to reinvent myself, and I know that comes with getting older.”

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