The XX Factor

Lauren Conrad’s “Body Positive” Message Is a Good Start but Misses the Mark

Lauren Conrad
Lauren Conrad at an event for a “low-calorie spiced rum” in Los Angeles last year.

Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Malibu Island Spiced

Lauren Conrad has come a long way from her beach-bum days on Laguna Beach. She’s a fashion designer with a huge following and a great deal of influence—three fashion lines, several books—which is why many were thrilled to see her take a stand for body positivity today, banning words such as thin, slim, and skinny from her lifestyle and fashion blog, especially in reference to health and fitness:

It’s that time of the year again… swimsuit season. I make an effort to eat healthy and exercise all year round. But when summer hits and the layers of clothing come off, fitness becomes even more of a priority for me. So with that in mind, our June theme here on is going to be Shape Up. You can expect all the great fitness content you’ve come to know and love here on the site, including my Bikini Boot Camp series. But, you’ll also notice one key difference…

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 [sic] this for the most part anyway, but now we’re making it official! The word skinny will now be reserved for skinny jeans. My editorial team and I had a long talk about it, and 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.

Eliminating words about weight and size in reference to fitness is a well-intentioned move, and Conrad should be commended for questioning the widespread notion that someone’s pant size says anything about her physical fitness. But is her message body-positive or simply fitness-positive? And anyway, hasn’t “fit” become the new “skinny” already?

Let’s start with the obvious: The entire post assumes every woman is worrying about getting a “bikini-ready” body—pacing her room, surrounded by magazines and pictures of women with taut tummies, perky butts, and statuesque arms, fretting over how to look her best for all those sangria-soaked trips to the beach. It’s that time of year again … swimsuit season. Implication being that we need to gear up and get fit—something Conrad is prepared to help us do, as her June theme will be “Shape Up.”

This isn’t just Conrad’s assumption, as anyone who remembers Protein World’s beach-body poster controversy knows. (That ad just made its way to America, by the way.) Fitness has become its own religion. For some, kale is revered like holy water. Men on dating apps say they want “healthy” women as a socially acceptable way of saying “no fatties.” Words like fit, healthy, and toned are, in a way, even more vexing than skinny. What does an amply “fit” body look like? And before you say the whole point is that it’s not about how you look, remember this fitness theme is being presented specifically because of bikini season, when “the layers of clothing come off.” You don’t have to be skinny, but you’re going to be awfully naked, so wouldn’t it be great to be fit? the post seems to imply, hands gripping tighter and tighter on a bottle of kale juice. It’s the same old message, repackaged: “Your body isn’t presentable as-is. Let’s fix it.”

Although Conrad writes that “healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes,” it seems she only feels obligated to clothe some of them: At least two of her clothing lines do not offer plus sizes. So, either not all “healthy” bodies deserve to be clothed, or girls above a certain size simply don’t exist. But don’t worry, if you do enough bikini yoga and drink enough fructose-free smoothies, you, too, could get the “fit,” “toned,” “healthy” body you always dreamed of. And it has “nothing” to do with being “thin.”