The Good Place actor and I Weigh founder posted about her experience with an eating disorder and has offered up some helpful advice and thoughtful questions for anyone struggling with their body image.
A ray of sunshine in an often-murky online space, Jamil is unafraid of throwing some of that light where it needs to go, sometimes even back on herself. On Sunday, she posted a image from a decade-old magazine photoshoot on Instagram and revealed the stark reality behind the striking photo.
“I used to think I looked “too fat” in this picture,” she began. “I had starved for three weeks and worked out compulsively before this shoot.
Eating disorders are a terrible and upsetting thing. This is why I bang on and on about diet culture, because it was my slippery slope to losing all sense of reality and all of my time, energy, sex drive, and joy.”
Even if you don’t follow Jamil on Twitter or Instagram, you’ll undoubtedly be familiar with her regular take-downs of diet culture and influencers who promote “quick fixes.”
In her Instagram post, she’s realistic in her acknowledgement that people may want to make changes, but urges them to be cautious and consult professionals first.
“If you want to change your body, to get bigger or smaller or more muscular, then you do you. But Christ, do it slowly, carefully, fully informed by healthcare practitioners and certified experts. No quick fixes. You aren’t broken, and lasting change happens incrementally and sensibly.”
She then offers up some helpful tips and guidance, undoubtedly sourced from her own body image struggles and from speaking to others on her I Weight podcast, and puts forward several beneficial and reflective questions.
“Journal your feelings and look out for signs of associating food with guilt, shame, anger or failure,” she writes. “Listen to the words you say to and about your body in the mirror.”
“Ask yourself if you’re following people online who make you feel nourished and excited, or shamed and afraid.
Ask yourself why you’re making these changes? Who is it for?
What do you think will change in how you feel?
Would you ever tell someone you love and respect that they need to meet the same body goals to be allowed to feel good and confident?
Do you have a safe and sustainable plan?
Is it ok if your body doesn’t end up obeying your fantasy because maybe that’s just not how you’re supposed to be built?
If it isn’t ok, then why? Why is what our clever body wants and needs not a priority?”
These are important questions and Jamil is asking them at just the right time. As we begin a new year in lockdown, health and fitness ads are everywhere, most gyms remain closed due to coronavirus restrictions and we’re still finishing off the Christmas cheese board. Can’t we just not think about it?
But what’s great about Jamil here is that she accepts a simple shrugging-off after a hellish year isn’t the answer for everyone. Some still want the “new year, new me” or at least to make some different lifestyle choices.
“Just be careful,” she implores, “and unfollow anyone who promises you fast change. They do not give two shits about your physical or mental health. They just want your money, your fear and your naïveté. When we fund the diet/detox industry and it’s devil influencers… we directly fund patriarchy.
Is that what we want?”
Now that’s a question that shouldn’t take too long to answer.
Signing off with a “big old ” to acknowledge the inappropriate Navajo Princess caption, Jamil then called on her peers in the industry to help shine more light on glossy photos like these, reposting the image to her Instagram Story with the caption: “I wish more models and actresses told the true story of how they really felt or what they really went through during fashion shots that we purely saw as ‘aspirational. It would be so healing for us all to hear.”
She then directed her 3.3 million fans to follow I Weigh for “a break from the shame.” And it really is a tonic, full of inspirational posts, calls to celebrate our bodies and aids for eating disorder recovery. If you’re going to follow any of her advice, we’d highly recommend that one.
For more information on body image, including how to get help, visit BEAT’s website at beateatingdisorders.org.