#normalizenormalbodies. That’s my mission.
Seeing the hashtag I created, #normalizenormalbodies, go viral on Instagram had me in absolute shock. I remember when I first came up with the phrase. I was living at my sister’s house and just getting my own two feet off of the ground after leaving an outpatient eating disorder recovery program.
During my recovery, I had long days of going to therapy and seeing my dietitian, psychiatrist, and many more doctors to make sure my health was monitored properly. For those who have or are currently struggling with disordered eating, you know that this mental illness doesn’t walk alone. It walks with an army of physical, emotional, mental, social, environmental, and financial problems that don’t just affect you, but everyone you are close to.
I had started my recovery when I realized I was living a life that was not safe or something I could maintain for the rest of my life. I tried to be thin, skinny, and smaller because I was trying to fit into the mold of a “fitness instagrammer”
You know the fitness influencers I’m talking about, right? The ones with abs, thigh gaps, perfect skin, big butt and no fat? Yep, that’s it. For six years I cycled through orthorexia, bulimia, body dysmorphia, binge eating disorder, depression, anxiety, and OCD before I realized that “normal bodies” don’t necessarily look like what I saw in the media.
I learned that the fitness bloggers I followed got butt implants, liposuction, took illegal steroids, worked out for at least four hours every day, photoshopped their bodies and skin, and went to extreme lengths to “look” the part.
For what exactly? To get likes? Followers? Money?
And that day in recovery, as I put on that bikini that was a little too tight, I had a light bulb moment.
Everything I believed in before entering eating disorder recovery was a scam.
And I was angry.
Angry that I tried forcing my body to be something it didn’t want to be.
I also felt so… dumb. Human existence is known to be around 6,000 years old. And I listened to someone behind their phone telling me and everyone else watching, that my body wasn’t good enough. That my body didn’t know what it was doing, and that it was up to ALL of us to try to overpower generations upon generations of individuality.
Screw diet culture.
Screw weight loss programs.
Screw our healthcare system for basing our health by the number on the scale.
My body was smarter than me all along.
My body was NORMAL all along.
So, I got my letterboard out and formed the words, normalize normal bodies on it and I posted it on social media.
First, this photo went viral on VSCO, and then Facebook, and finally, Instagram. It was actually quite a slow process and life moves so fast I wasn’t even paying attention to the hashtag I had just created.
And one day, I clicked the hashtag by chance, and I realized it wasn’t just a viral hashtag. This was a viral movement.
As I read through thousands of women’s stories that had used the hashtag as their own microphone to speak up about their mental health around their bodies, tears came running down my face.
Every day, hundreds of new posts on Instagram use the #normalizenormalbodies, and still to this day I try to read them all.
If you search the hashtag yourself, you’ll see women all over the world normalizing their body in a society that says we aren’t allowed to show up as we are.
Each post was a picket sign, and together, we are an army of women fighting to show ourselves, the older generation, and more importantly the younger generation of women what normal bodies look like and that “healthy” looks different on everyone.
And the best part of the community is that everyone is welcome. As a cis woman, I’ve faced unique challenges in accepting my body. Within the #normalizenormalbodies movement no size, weight, gender, sex, color, and shape is excluded.
This is your microphone if you want to vocalize something that someone or something said to make you think your body was normal. This is your picket sign. And you have a community of strong women standing there with you to do it.
It’s now been a year and a half since I created #normalizenormalbodies, and this hashtag has been used 50k times on Instagram, and has views 28 MILLION times on Tik Tok. Shape Magazine wrote a whole article dedicated to sharing my story and the women’s stories that are using it.
The story isn’t over. The hashtag and movement is still growing exponentially by the day.
I also want to mention that in the midst of the #normalizenormalbodies taking off, I had also began doing research on the body positivity movement created by Black women in larger bodies facing discrimination every day. And although I was facing my own discrimination, I learned that my story was very different from theirs, and that white, ,straight, cis women had been taking the mic they worked so hard to build through hundreds of years of systemic racism, fatphobia and phobias among marginalized communities.
Stephanie Yeboah (@StephanieYeboah) wrote an article about this discrmination and titled it The Body Positivity Movement. If you are white, thin, and in an able body and want to start posting more openly about your struggles, I highly recommend you read Stephanie’s article first!
Part of my goal with #normalizenormalbodies is to uplift the voices of POC activists while still connecting with new audiences.