By Andrew Walen, LCSW-C, LICSW, CEDS
Perhaps you saw the uproar this past week regarding the dinner plates Macy’s recently put in stores. On the dinnerware were smaller and smaller circles representing portion sizes labeled “mom jeans,” “favorite jeans,” and “skinny jeans.” As you might expect, the tone-deaf designers and retail buyers were taken to task by body positive activists and eating disorders professionals and they removed the item. Great job by all those who clapped back at the retailer’s poor and destructive choice. Now what else can we do to keep this kind of product from appearing again?
First and foremost, retailers pay attention to the dollars spent. If you find a retailer is not promoting body positive messages, only using manikins that reflect atypically small body frames, or don’t have diversity of sizes of clothing, keep your dollars out of their pockets. Nike received a lot of love for their new full-figured manikins for instance. Other retail stores have made similar moves.
But beyond the clothing stores, it would be useful to pay attention to the retailers selling items that also promote negative body image. Notice grocery stores that put heavy emphasis on their diet products and avoid them. Pay attention to home goods stores that sell artwork making fun of weight and say no thanks. Some of the best comedy acts in the world spend a good chunk of their sets making fat jokes. The rest of their material may be hilarious, but they lost my money. Find medical providers that focus on health, not weight (though admittedly that’s hard to find).
Side note – my dentist and chiropractor both have made horrifying comments about body size to me and I left them both. They even knew I was an eating disorder therapist!
The work of changing the cultural narrative about body image is hard. We live in a world that vilifies fat, celebrates weight loss, and laughs at those who believe that health and happiness can come in any size. Shouting and clapping back is necessary to make immediate change. But for long-term change, we need to also speak with our wallets.