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How Jameela Jamil is encouraging body positivity with her 'I Weigh' campaign

It's natural to feel insecure, but we need to consider our body-issues in relation to the wider context; the media we consume every day, the companies who feed on our craving to be better than we are, and the celebrities who endorse them.

Body confidence is an issue that every person is likely to experience at some point in their lives. Teenagers in particularly susceptible to feel insecure about themselves in some way. When reaching the age that puberty takes over, your confidence can take a total nose-dive. Suddenly, you’re worrying about things like weight and body proportions. These conflicts feel very internal, and it’s easy to convince yourself that it is purely your own mind fighting against yourself about how you look. But it's important to think about where our confidence issues are coming from.

In 2017, The National Citizen's Service reported that 40% of young people felt their physical appearance has been influenced by social media.

'Teens are bombarded with images telling them what a ‘perfect’ body should look like', says Dr Marc Bush of mental health charity YoungMinds. 'Girls, in particular, say that they compare their appearance to that of celebrities, while an increasing number of boys feel under pressure to bulk up in the gym.'

For the last few years, actress Jameela Jamil has been using her platform to highlight the toxic manipulation of young people online. She's targeted the Kardashians and Cardi B for promoting the non-FDA approved Flat Tummy Shakes and Anti-Appetite Lollipops. These products promote negative body images and can induce negative side-effects. The Appetite suppressing products are of particular concern amongst people who are already restricting what they eat.

Approximately 1.2 million people in the UK have an eating disorder.

Whilst it's important to remember that eating disorders are complex and single causes cannot be isolated, studies reveal that there is certainly a link between body image and social media.

The Kardashians have been unapologetic about their problematic endorsements, but Jameela's focus remains clear. Her petition to stop these promotions has gained over two hundred thousand signatures, and now she's shooting for half-a-million. The hope for this petition is eliminating a huge source of Flat Tummy Co's success; it's celebrity endorsements.

"You're selling us an ideal, a body shape, a problem with our wrinkles, a problem with ageing, a problem with gravity, a problem with any kind of body fat. You're selling us self-consciousness."
Jameela Jamil (source)

Beyond this, Jameela founded the 'I Weigh' campaign last year, which aims to empower people and encourage them to value themselves for more than what they look like. The campaign was sparked by a post made by Jameela that had her surrounded by attributes that she loves and is proud of. The post was a response to an account who had printed the weight of each Kardashian sister over a picture of them all. She's called the whole thing 'ironic' since the sisters have essentially fed into the rhetoric of valuing women for what they weigh, but her campaign rages on.

Following her lead, many have taken to Instagram over the last year to share their own 'I Weigh' posts. A lot of people have used this community to celebrate themselves in a healthy way. They highlight not only their traits and achievements but parts of themselves that have been highly stigmatised by the media. The idea is that you think of your 'weight' as the non-superficial parts of you that make you who you are.

Last month, she launched the beginning of her I Weigh interviews. The first in what is hopefully going to be a long series featured artist Sam Smith. They discussed Sam's issues with body confidence and the moment that he realised he wanted to 'fight against [his] issues'. He explained that seeking out content has helped him fight toxic mindsets about body image. Finding a place to hear people talking about these issues, as well as a space to share your own, is the starting point for viewing yourself in a more positive way.

Sam also highlighted the lack of men talking about their issues with body confidence. In the same NCS Youth report, 39% of teenage boys said they feel insecure about their appearance. Whilst this is not the majority, it is still a substantial number. Sam admits that he has also been affected by what he sees on social media. He highlighted the way the internet, quite unfairly, treats celebrities who do not fit with ideal body standards.

However, he also asserted the positive effect the internet has had on his journey. People are speaking up about the gender identities in a way they've never been able to before, and pages like I Weigh are connecting people who inspire each other. A large lesson learnt from the interview is the importance of creating a safe space for yourself online. Following body-positive people and pages that aren't going to bring you down or make you feel insecure are very important in maintaining a healthy sense of self.

It’s important to surround yourself with content and people who aren’t going to put you down. Instagram is an amazing tool for sharing your memories, keeping connected and staying up-to-date. But it can be so detrimental to be constantly bombarded with pictures that are designed to make you feel insecure. You can't control everything you see online, but there are definitely steps to feeling your feed with content that is going to empower you, not drag you down.

Featured image: Eugene Powers / Shutterstock.com