Reality TV star turned lifestyle guru and designer Lauren Conrad announced on Monday that her popular lifestyle website would undergo "a major change" and ban words like "skinny," "slim," and "thin" when talking about fitness.
In her post, Conrad writes:
When we've talked about getting in shape in the past, words like "skinny," "slim," and "thin" have often come up. Starting this month, we'll be banning any body shaming terms from the site, and replacing them with words like "fit" "toned," and "healthy." We try do to this for the most part anyway, but now we're making it official!
Instead, the word "skinny" will be reserved for "skinny jeans," she said, and the focus will be on including words that promote health.
She added, "We want to make sure that the focus is on being fit as opposed to a number on the scale. Every body is created differently — and healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes."
Focusing on health, not size: Conrad's announcement about fitness coverage highlights an important point: Fit, healthy bodies are not necessarily skinny ones. This isn't the first time Conrad's unpacked the issue for her readers, writing last summer, "A bikini body is not a certain weight, size or shape. It simply means working hard to treat your body right, exercise, eat healthy, and then feeling confident in your bikini."
Logical as that sounds, it's not exactly the message fashion websites and magazines send. A quick glance at any number of women's magazine headlines makes it clear that weight loss is the main goal, with an emphasis on dropping sizes and achieving flat tummies.
But trying to body-shame individuals into losing weight has the opposite effect. Studies show that making others feel self-conscious of their size makes them feel ashamed, and may even make them more likely to gain weight because they're embarrassed to work out, according to a survey cited by the Wall Street Journal. What does work is taking the focus away from size and focusing on healthy behaviors, according to the Obesity Action Coalition.
While some fans on Facebook were critical, accusing Conrad of censorship or "skinny-shaming," many fans welcomed the announcement, which follows in the spirit of other fashion outlets that have banned Photoshop or incorporated more body diversity.
Conrad's decision to target the language we use isn't a perfect solution to solve the problem of body-shaming and insecurities. But it's a welcome first step by an influential star who recognizes the power of words. Here's hoping that more fashion sites take notice.