The Good Place star Jameela Jamil is bringing women everywhere to their own good place in terms of their body image: She’s made a second career out of activism, specifically out of calling out diet culture.
“I’m not gonna preach loving yourself,” Jamil told Yahoo Lifestyle at theCurvyCon in September 2019. “I try to teach not thinking about it. I’m all about body neutrality. I almost teach body ambivalence.” There’s a reason for that: Jamil herself has been open about her own past struggles with eating disorders.
“I don’t judge myself. I have body dysmorphia so regardless of whatever you may see when you look at me, I can’t see that when I look in the mirror because I have a mental illness I guess,” she explained. “And so, I just have chosen to not engage with my appearance very much. I look in the mirror to do my eye makeup and then I take it off at night, and those are the two times I look in the mirror.”
What Is Diet Culture?
Diet culture comes in many forms: Sometimes it’s outright fat shaming, while other times it frames any body type other than extremely thin as “unhealthy,” which can manifest itself as “concern trolling”: Masquerading judgment in phrases like, “But she’s just not healthy,” or rattling off obesity statistics. It promotes not actual healthy habits, but mere thinness, and the methods used to get there are often extremely unhealthy—think the flat tummy teas that cause massive indigestion, “detoxes” that are literally just laxatives and other faux “wellness” initiatives that often simply lead to disordered eating.
Can Social Media Make Diet Culture Worse?
Oh, you bet. Diet culture can also show itself in the form of extreme photo editing, making Instagram rife with triggers. With filters, Facetuning and Photoshop, it’s easy for women to lose sight of what a healthy body looks like—and there’s a wide range of them, because any body type and size can be a healthy one.
Jamil has made it her mission to expose diet culture for what it is: Total crap (that often, well, brings on total crap) that hinders women from achieving meaningful goals and feeling good about ourselves.
“I’m hearing about 8-year-olds and 9-year-olds worried about their bodies and their thighs, and their thigh gaps. It’s just out of control,” Jamil told BBC Newsbeat. “At least before it used to just be celebrities, but now it’s people trolling each other on Instagram, or glamorizing being anorexic.”
She added, “They don’t know that these girls starve themselves, they don’t know how much these girls work out to look the way they do—because these girls just post pictures of themselves eating massive slices of pizza and just sort of lounging around hotel balconies. We have to unfollow people who make us feel bad about ourselves and who promote unrealistic lifestyles and body standards on the internet.”
To that end, Jamil launched the Instagram account I Weigh, in which women reveal what really makes them up: A full life, careers, friendships, lovers, hobbies, interests, quirks, instead of the number on a scale. She’s also become a crusader against the cyclical, toxic nature of celebrities and body image, slamming stars who shill weight loss aids while expressing empathy for those who feel the pressure to conform and insisting that her own images never be airbrushed.
Behold, Jamil’s best and most brilliant moments exposing diet culture for what it is: An extraordinarily lucrative and cruel way to profit off of women’s insecurities.
1. When She Called Out the Kardashians for Promoting Seriously Unhealthy Habits and Products
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Had enough of their bullshirt. There is a line. That line is being paid to sell products such as lollipops that “suppress appetite” to young, easily influenced girls. It is morally dubious to push this messaging and these products so people will buy them to get a face and body that you got with personal trainers, starvation, juice fasts, Facetune and surgery. Women are deserving of more priorities than this shallow nonsense. We are smart, strong, interesting, funny, survivors, mothers, friends and human bloody beings. Follow @i_weigh to see a museum of amazing women and men who see more than just what’s on the outside. Remember your value cannot be measured on a scale. Fork off Kardashians. Times up on women upholding the patriarchal toxicity dragging us down.
It wasn’t the only time she came for the famous family.
On Nov. 26, 2018, Jamil called out Iggy Azalea, Amber Rose and Cardi B for promoting detox and diet culture, 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 I f—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.” In a tweet, she posted screenshots of the celeb shillers, writing, “Give us the discount codes to your nutritionists, personal chefs, personal trainers, airbrushers and plastic surgeons you bloody liars.”
“Some thoughts I have about @flattummyco being flogged this morning to prey on the RIDICULOUS shame women are made to feel when they indulge on days like Thanksgiving,” she wrote on Turkey Day 2018. “I hate this company and it’s poisonous rhetoric that is only marketed at young girls and their branding is all pink. They are just the worst.” She detailed how most diet products are simply laxatives in pretty packaging. She also expressed sympathy for Khloe Kardashian, who’d been bullied for her weight and now likely feels extreme pressure to be thin as a result.
Jamil showed off an article explaining why her takedown of the Kardashian-advertised weight loss products on April 9, 2019:
2. That Time She Acknowledged Her Own Privilege
On Aug. 30, 2019, Jamil expressed joy at being considered a leader, but lamented that she might only be heard because she’s thin.
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I think people think that because I’m one of the only people in my industry going this hard, and being this relentless/annoying, that I want to be the only one. That I want the attention and the glory… I don’t. I want to encourage others to join me so we can do this together. I’m not trying to take up space. It’s happening because it’s rare to see a woman get this riled up about how we attack the mental health of our society. I don’t want it to be rare. I literally can’t do this all by myself. I need the @i_weigh community. I need you. Your voices are the ones that help me create real change. I get held to impossible standards sometimes. I get expected to fix everything overnight. I wish I could. I get why people pile so much pressure onto me, and why they scrutinize my every move, it’s because I care, and I’m listening. They don’t come for people who do nothing at all to help them, and who continue to be problematic, and promote anti-fatness, because they know… those people aren’t listening. But I am listening. So I take in all the voices: all the pain and all the frustrations. And the thing I have to do, is stop taking it personally and use that frustration, as fuel for my fight. It’s going to take a while. If it was easy to dismantle rampant anti-fatness in society; we wouldn’t be at an all time high of eating disorders, and the diet industry wouldn’t be thriving in 2019. There is so much to unpack, unlearn and undo. I’ll never stop. But it’s a long road. And I wish more activists were let into the spaces I am to talk about these things. It hurts my heart that only the privileged are listened to. I was once the fat activist who nobody listened to. And now that I’m slim, it’s as if I’m saying brand new words. I said these exact same things, (that we have all been saying) a decade ago. So what do I do? Not take advantage of that privilege and use it for good? Or do I use it to grow a platform that will bring wonderful new writers and activists to more people, And to get big conversations into the mainstream? That’s what I want to do. I’ve tried every other way as an activist; and so far this is the only way that has worked: the Trojan Horse method. ❤️
3. When She Hulked Out on Weight
Jamil celebrated her Stylist magazine cover, which featured her smashing scales, in August 2019, capping off an activist summer beautifully.
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No picture has ever summed me up better. I am a proud, independent, pissed off woman, who is all out of fucks to give. ❤️ my guest edit of @stylistmagazine is out now. It’s an ode to women and It’s an ode to my @i_weigh community which includes fat, thin, male, female, NB, trans, gay, straight, bi, disabled, invisibly disabled, and many different races and religions, and ages.
4. Her Workout Inspo Is Genuine
Her Aug. 19, 2019 workout motivation was solid:
6. That Time She Made Us All Wish She Was Our Mom
She showed her fury at parents who body-shame their own children in a July 13, 2019 meme:
7. She Said What We’ve All Been Thinking About the Fashion Industry
On June 20, 2019, called out the fashion industry for promoting unrealistic standards:
9. When She Warned Us That Celebrities Lie—and Reminded Us Why That Matters
On May 27, 2019, Jamil encouraged her followers to never take diet advice from celebrities.
10. She’s Hilarious, But She’s Great While Serious, Too
She shared some seriously wise words on Aug. 24, 2019:
She referenced her own struggles with body image growing up in a May 21, 2017 post:
She did the same a week prior:
11. Her Incredible Explanation of Fat-Phobia
Jamil published a powerful thread of fat-phobia on April 18, 2019.
12. Her New Name for Cellulite Is The Best
Jamil flaunted her “babe bumps” on April 14, 2019. Amen, sister!
She showed hers off in a glamorous way:
13. She Reminds Us That Bodies Are for Function, Not Fashion
She encouraged her followers to be grateful for their functioning bodies on April 6, 2019, and to ignore corporations that attack insecurities to sell products:
14. She Called Out Airbrushing (And Made Fun of Herself)
She called out a promotional image of herself for airbrushing out her stretch marks in a March 6, 2019 post. The same day, she posted a hilarious and endearing meme about herself:
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15. She Exposed What Diet Culture Really Is About
Jamil got serious on Feb. 23, 2019:
16. Her Call to Action on Detox Teas
On Feb. 10, 2019, she urged her followers to help her take down “detox scams” proliferating through social media. She did the same with an on-the-toilet photo encouraging followers to sign a petition banning the sale of diet products on Instagram:
17. When She Reminded Influencers That With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
Jamil was unapologetic and fierce as hell in a video from a BlogHer conference that she posted on Jan. 29, 2019, decrying shame as a sales tactic and encouraging influencers to use their power responsibly. She also made the most incredible observation about male-owned industries that we think we’ve ever heard:
She got more serious about the same subject on Jan. 22, 2019:
18. She Praised Companies for Doing the Right Thing
On Jan. 19, 2019, Jamil praised Avon for removing an ad saying dimples are only cute on one’s face after she’d previously called them out for their implied misogyny:
19. She Made Red Carpets Matter
Ahead of her first Golden Globes on Jan. 6, 2019, Jamil posted a red carpet video that addressed all the attention women take away from more important things than our appearances and helped imagine what we could achieve if only we spent out energy elsewhere.
20. Bring On the Christmas Cookies
The day after Christmas brings a lot of post-indulgence regrets for many of us. Jamil, on Dec. 26, 2018, urged us not to fall prey to the diet cycle:
On Dec. 21, 2018, Jamil called out Woman’s World magazine for promoting a diet claiming to help women lose 18 pounds in three days, writing, “You don’t have to be thin to be “party ready” FFS. Stay away from this junk. UNLESS YOU CUT OFF A LIMB OR GIVE BIRTH YOU ARE NOT GOING TO LOSE ANYWHERE NEAR 18LBS IN 3 F—KING DAYS. Have some decency and responsibility.”
21. Seriously Guys, Detoxes Are Actually Toxic
On Dec. 19, 2018, Jamil decried detox products for the harm they can cause.
20. When She Reminded Us We’re Hot and In Charge No Matter What
Jamil encouraged her followers to examine the connection between size, weight and sexual desirability on Dec. 13, 2018:
22. When She Reminded Us What Real Friendship Means
Boom, there it is: On Dec. 8, 2018, she sassed, “Friends don’t sell friends laxatives.”
23. When She Encouraged Us to Stop Cutting Off Our Own Oxygen to Look Skinny
“Not today Satan, not today,” she captioned a screencap of a tweet from a waist trainer company. “Casual body shaming when trying to sell their s—ty products that sell a s—ty idea to women about what’s important. THIS s—t is not going to help our gender rise… spending time thinking about being doll like, not eating Enough, not being comfortable, not being able to have a hearty laugh… when we should only be thinking about our life goals. Stay away from corsets. They are bulls—t, and google the possible health implications of wearing them.”
24. When She Revealed Where Diet Culture Promoters Go