For women who struggle with their body image (dare I say every woman at some point in her life?), venturing on Instagram can incite negativity, jealousy, and even shame. Seeing other women showcasing their “perfect” bodies (or at least the kind of bodies society tells us to idealize) can remind us of the parts of ourselves we don’t embrace or wish we could change. And because most of social media is a highlight reel, most women—influencers and your BFF alike—are probably putting their best foot forward, likely not posting pictures at unflattering angles or sharing vulnerable moments.
But we can control what we consume, to some extent. And we know that what we see influences what we like, our perceptions of our own body image, and our acceptance of our bodies. What we see and take in on a regular basis matters for what we accept as the norm, or as “beautiful,” and what we look for in ourselves. For these reasons, it helps to be intentional about following accounts that celebrate our bodies just as they are—maybe especially when they do not conform to society’s “ideal” body image.
Here are seven accounts I recommend following if you want your Instagram scroll to contribute to your body positivity and acceptance.
Jenna Kutcher was the first body positive account I started following. I was actually following her for her pretty wedding photos and Instagram tips, but she quickly and naturally morphed into a body positive influencer. But it’s not just Kutcher’s publicly sharing her curves and makeup-less look that has helped me, it’s the authenticity and wisdom she shares in her captions, too. She shares the struggle of learning to embrace her body, while also offering a healthy dose of encouragement and inspiration that I’m always saving or screenshotting. Documenting her own real and raw journey of body positivity—from how she feels after getting hateful messages, to not wanting to post so-called “unflattering” photos, to showing her daughter how to love herself—reminds me that “body positive” influencers are on a journey, living in a world that constantly tells them to look differently, just like we are.
Alex LaRosa puts the positive in body positive. As a self-titled “plus model and self-love advocate,” she will bring the joy to your feed that you didn’t even know you needed. LaRosa’s smiles and laughter (especially in the sweet videos with her fiancé, Paul) exude the inner joy and confidence that we all aspire to have. Her account reminds me of Anne Lamott’s phrase “joy is the best makeup” and reaffirms that confidence is a truly attractive quality. While her confidence and joy speak for themselves in the photos, LaRosa, of course, adds her own body positive encouragement in the captions alongside her chic fashion. She also has a whole series of videos with her fiancé about having a “mixed weight relationship” which I found so interesting and important, as many women believe men only want to be with women of a certain body type (which is absolutely false!).
I discovered Elle Peterson after having my first child, and it was the first time I’d seen stretch marks intentionally shared and celebrated on Instagram—or anywhere else for that matter. Peterson’s beautiful account helped me normalize my postpartum body when I struggled with shame about the stretch marks I earned from my pregnancy. Her pictures and words have helped me not just reluctantly accept but slowly begin to embrace and actually see as beautiful a body that the world has told me should be hidden. Her account also reveals how easily anyone (influencers and your co-worker alike) can alter how their body appears with high-waisted bottoms, a different angle, or a swipe on an app. This reminds me that what I see in the mirror is probably a lot more common than I’m led to believe from what I see on social media—again helping me embrace my body as normal and beautiful.
My sisters put me onto Kate Baer’s account, and I am so glad they did. Her bold, witty, and at times snarky poems (and now #1 New York Times bestselling book!) on body acceptance, pregnancy/postpartum body changes, and our society’s general attitude toward a woman’s physical appearance make me feel seen and understood. Time and again, she weighs in on the ongoing struggle of trying to love your body as a woman in a culture that has so many opinions about how it should look: “It doesn’t matter how much therapy, exercise, or humor you pour into yourself—body issues do not just disappear.” But she absolutely speaks to and actively combats this through her writing on how that struggle—that critical voice in your head telling you you’re not enough—doesn’t have to be “everything.” Regardless of what shape or size you are, Baer’s poems encourage women to embrace the freedom of letting go of the mental energy and emotional weight we put into our appearance. If you’re looking for a loving reminder to stop wasting time worrying about how you look and enjoy living in the body you’re in, give Baer a follow.
A self-proclaimed “curvy girl,” Cece Olisa is also a Nike ambassador, TEDx Talk presenter of “How to Build Self Confidence,” and co-founder of theCURVYcon—an event that brings together plus-size influencers and brands to collaborate, shop, and promote body positivity. She focuses on style in some of her posts, while others offer at-home workouts and fitness tips. I especially appreciate the fitness side of Olisa’s account, breaking down the stereotype that “fitspo” accounts and influencers who are #TeamNike have to look a certain way. Additionally, Olisa’s message is never one of working out to lose weight or change your appearance; rather, she shows that women with any figure can work out to feel good.
I actually discovered Shira Rosenbluth thanks to a Verily article she was featured in years ago. I’ve followed her ever since, and I’ve not only enjoyed her fashion and colorful feed, but also—as a fellow therapist—her insights on eating disorder recovery, body positivity, and the toxicity of diet culture. Because Rosenbluth struggled with an eating disorder and works as an eating disorder therapist herself, she really gets how hard it is to live in a culture that is obsessed with looking a certain way. She is boldly honest about these topics and walks the walk herself—while sharing her own struggles in doing so. If you’re looking for a healthy dose of fashion, body positivity, and mental health insights on body image and eating, Shira’s your girl.
This young women-oriented swimsuit and lingerie company is obviously not a personal account. But I believe it is worth following to begin to flood our stream of social media, and therefore our minds, with real, not re-touched, bodies that are truly of all shapes, colors, sizes, and so-called “imperfections”—which is what Aerie does. It is refreshing to see companies like this one post pictures and ads of women with uneven skin tone, less-than-flat stomachs, and—gasp!—rolls of skin. If we don’t allow ourselves (or force ourselves) to see this reality regularly, we will never see these variations in skin tone, appearance, weight, and size as what they are—normal, common, and beautiful. Seeing a company take this stand, rather than just individuals and influencers, is powerful when some of their competitors only use hyper-retouched models with a very specific and culturally-idealized body appearance. Following Aerie on Instagram not only can help us widen our idea of what normal and beautiful bodies really look like, but it also shows the fashion industry as a whole that this is what we as women want to see. You’ve heard of voting with your dollars, but you can also vote with your follows!
It isn’t a cure-all, but it can be helpful to try an Insta detox—unfollowing accounts that consistently make you feel worse about your body and intentionally following those that build you up. It’s hard to become body positive about what we see in the mirror if what we see on our scroll is not, but with a few small changes we can start to learn body positivity from beautiful examples.