The War on the “Ideal” Body: How Jameela Jamil is Fighting Against Body Standards

Alexa W., Journalist

The War on the “Ideal” Body: How Jameela Jamil is Fighting Against Body Standards

 

Jameela Jamil, known by many as Tahani al Jamil on NBC’s “The Good Place,” continuously proves that she is much more than just an actor with fame and money.  Jamil utilizes her influence to preach body neutrality, a movement that doesn’t focus on appearance, but rather mental health and accepting every piece of yourself.  As a means of doing so, Jamil began to bring light to the harmful diet cultures and body shaming that exists in the world, as well as creating her own movement known as “I weigh.”  In fact, her determination even led to Instagram creating a new rule that prohibits the promotion of diet products.  In order to truly understand the significance of this new Instagram rule and the impact of Jamil’s preaching, we must look at the entire journey as a whole.

So, what is body neutrality exactly?

I have seen it everywhere, but I have never fully understood what it means which is why I took the time to sit down and look into the real meaning of body neutrality.  Often times, body neutrality is confused for body positivity, however, these two concepts are entirely different.  Body positivity is about loving our bodies at any size, regardless of whether or not it fits societal ideals. [1]  However, body neutrality is about accepting your body in a way that is more attainable and with fewer pressures.  Body neutrality can differ from person to person, however each time it emphasizes loving your body for the functions it provides you.  For example, body positivity would emphasize loving your thighs and legs regardless of whether or not you have a thigh gap, while body neutrality emphasizes loving your thighs and legs because they allow you to walk, run, dance, etc.  Essentially body neutrality is less about what your body looks likes and more about what it is capable of.

How has Jameela Jamil utilized her influence to spread this important message?

The answer to that is social media.  What I found is that social media is a powerful force and the perfect space to raise awareness of movements like these.  From Instagram to Twitter, Jamil has utilized social media to not only bring awareness to the body neutrality movement but to also criticize diet culture and its harmful effects on women and men.  In one of her Instagram posts, she criticizes celebrities for promoting detox teas and diet products, writing, “I am so sick of the lies. I was so riddled with eating disorders when I was young. I listened to irresponsible celebrities and bought all these bad products and followed their TERRIBLE and toxic diet tips for how they maintained the tiny weight they were… and If—ked up my metabolism and digestive system for life. I damaged my fertility, I was consumed and mentally ill. I was obsessed and didn’t eat a meal for over three years as a growing teen. I am not going to stop until we teach people to be better allies to women and stop selling this not at all medically sound s—t and rhetoric to us. UNFOLLOW THE PEOPLE WHO TELL YOU THINGS THAT MAKE YOU FEEL BAD.” [2]  With these posts, Jamil has successfully given light to the dangers in promoting diet culture in which she utilizes her influence as a celebrity as well as social media sites to do so.

“I am not going to stop until we teach people to be better allies to women and stop selling this not at all medically sound s—t and rhetoric to us.”

 

However, her most influential endeavor in spreading body neutrality is her own movement called “I weigh.”  Jamil created an Instagram page dedicated to this movement in which she constantly posts to spread the message of body neutrality, as well as speak out on other issues.

 

“For us to feel valuable and see how amazing we are, and look beyond the flesh on our bones.”

 

With this platform, she has conducted countless interviews with famous celebrities, including Sam Smith.  However, what the most important detail about this page is that it provides a safe space for people to share their journey’s with body and self-love/acceptance and has emerged as a platform not just for Jamil to bring awareness to body neutrality but to give people everywhere a voice.  Each post shares a unique story or message that is meant to empower people and if you have an Instagram account, I highly recommend that you see for yourself how amazing this page is.

Changing social media

I Weigh, with the help of Jameela Jamil and many other celebrities and Instagram users have finally achieved a major win in the social media world, particularly through the social media app “Instagram.”  One of the most damaging aspects of Instagram is its allowance of many public figures to promote diet products such as appetite suppressant candies, detoxes or “flat tummy teas,” and unhealthy eating.  Such promotions can not only send the wrong message to many young people out there, but it can promote eating disorders which anyone can have.  Finally, after many posts criticizing these promotions, Instagram decided to implement a new rule.  Instagram said that under its new rule, “posts that promote the use of certain weight-loss products or cosmetic procedures, will be hidden to users known to be under 18.”[3] This is definitely a step in the right direction as helps to lessen body negativity among many young people.  This is just one step in the process of eliminating diet culture, as these promotions are still accessible to people 18 and older.  Jamil continues to speak out against these promotions while also spreading body neutrality and sharing the stories of millions across the globe.

[1] Noor, Poppy, “What is body neutrality, the new trend loved by celebs?” The Guardian, November 1, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2019/oct/31/body-neutrality-taylor-swift-jameela-jamil-latest-trend.

[2] Heller, Susana, “An actress started an Instagram account to prove there are more important things than your weight — and people can’t get enough,” Insider, March 19, 2018, https://www.insider.com/jameela-jamil-good-place-body-positive-instagram-i-weigh-2018-3.

 

[3] “Instagram tightens rules on diet and cosmetic surgery posts,” The Guardian, September 18, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/sep/18/instagram-tightens-rules-on-diet-and-cosmetic-surgery-posts.