However, the past few years have seen a growing movement pushing back on the diet industry and the fashion world’s predominant representation of thin women. Now, plus-size models are popping up in commercials, tv shows, and marketing campaigns—some right in our backyards.
Leah Stanley is a body-positive social media influencer with nearly 200 thousand followers on Instagram that lives in Schenectady.
“I want to show other women that I can be this size, confident, comfortable, have a whole life and be happy,” Stanley said. “I know they look at my photos, and I help them.”
According to a study by Florida State University, Leah’s online modeling does help people. Typically, social media increases body comparisons and perpetuates negative self-image.
“What happens is there’s this constant checking of, ‘am I okay, am I okay?’ in comparison to you. And the idea is that there’s this expectation of a certain body,” Julie Morison, Ph.D. at HPA/LiveWell, said.
On the other hand, when women were shown plus size models during the FSU study, they made fewer body comparisons and felt more overall satisfaction with their bodies.
“You have to counter this distorted image that you know the healthy body is underweight or the ideal body is underweight, but rather bodies are varied,” Morison said.
Morison also drove home that there is nothing wrong with improving your health, but losing weight to gain happiness is a “falsehood,” and it can be dangerous for your mental health.
“That’s really of concern because what happens is confidence goes down. People think that they’re not good enough and depression rates go up, and anxiety is significant, and then people try to change their bodies,” said Morison.
But women like Leah pose the question, what if women chose to love their bodies instead?
“I know 13-year-old Leah was in the dumps a lot, she was. She needed someone like me. And that’s why I do this. I didn’t have a single plus size body to look up to,” Stanley said.
She added that her positive self-acceptance doesn’t always come easy, but it’s something she works hard on every single day.
“Confidence and body positivity? You don’t achieve it overnight,” Stanley. You have to work toward it, and it’s an ongoing journey.”