Despite being inundated with body-shaming advertisements, women today are more accepting of their bodies than they were previously, according to research introduced at the American Psychological Association's 124th Annual Convention.
A meta-analysis of more than 250 studies from 1981 to 2012 found that the dissatisfaction women had with their bodies gradually decreased over time.
"The last two decades have witnessed increasing attention and awareness on a body acceptance movement aimed primarily at girls and women," said researcher Bryan Karazsia, according to the American Psychological Association's press release.
While many celebrities have promoted body positive messages to reinforce the beauty of body diversity in all its forms, as noted by Teen Vogue, some of the most empowering and influential role models have been everyday women who proudly shared their selfies and stories on social media.
Here are seven women who in the past year shut down body shamers online and went viral.
1. Brittany Michelle Hines
On her way to a local gym in Maryland, a group of men ridiculed Brittany Michelle Hines' weight. Instead of giving up and going home, Hines busted her ass at the gym. She also proudly shared her selfies online in defiance of the body shaming.
"I aim to go (to the gym) 4 days a week," she told A Plus in July. "On my off days at home, I still do some sort of physical activity like playing in the yard with my son or yoga."
2. Jenna Vecchio
When a supervisor at an Ottawa gym reportedly told Jenna Vecchio that her tank top was "inappropriate" and "offensive" in May, she concluded that the problem was not her shirt but rather the size of her chest.
Vecchio shared photos of her outfit and voiced her outrage in a powerful Facebook post pointing out this dress code discrimination. Her message earned lots of online praise.
3. Sherene Marie Zarrabi
Working part-time at a local fashion store meant that Oklahoma State University senior Sherene Marie Zarrabi could try on some of the clothes and post photos online. That all changed in February when the store's CEO allegedly criticized Zarrabi by writing that she only wants "size small, the stereotypical 'model' to model our clothes."
In response, Zarrabi posted an empowering message on Facebook that went viral.
"I am fully comfortable with who I am and the way I look," she wrote on Facebook. "THIS is the reason young girls have body image issues. This is disgusting."
4. Sara Petty
A tweet suggesting that 200-something pound girls shouldn't be wearing bikinis motivated 20-year-old Sara Petty to post selfies of her wearing bikinis and other "forbidden clothing" with the caption: "Girls, wear whatever the hell you want."
"Regardless of if you're chubby with cellulite or toned with a six pack, your body is yours," Petty told A Plus. "It will always be yours, so it is so crucial to love it in all of its forms."
5. Harriet Kinton
After being criticized by store workers in the U.K. for her shorts, Harriet Kinton decided to clap back — with a smile.
"Just so you know, your words didn't hurt me," Kinton said in a post on Facebook. "The looks you gave me did not either. I do feel slightly saddened that you think it's ok to speak about another female, or in fact anyone, in that way."
6. Brynne Huffman
In June, Brynne Huffman was standing in line at a UPS store when a woman told her that she "should rethink the shorts."
Huffman wrote a powerful post online calling for everyone to end fat shaming.
"Plus sized doesn't necessarily mean unhealthy," she wrote. "Plus sized doesn't necessarily mean lazy. Plus sized doesn't mean ugly or undesirable or untalented or uncoordinated or LESS. THAN. HUMAN. You might have an issue with my body. I don't. And I've worked very hard past judgmental family and friends, past divorce, past depression to NOT have an issue with my body."
7. Valerie Sagun
Yoga advocate Valerie Sagun is promoting body acceptance one social media pic at a time. Known has Big Gal Yoga, Sagun regularly posts photos of her yoga practice online to encourage everyone to love their bodies no matter what.
"All of us have body issues whether you are big or small, but it's good to just take the time to look at yourself and just love it as it is now," Sagun wrote on Instagram. "Whether you are on a weight loss journey or just learning to love yourself slowly. I don't think I've ever hated my fat, but it's nice to have a good relationship with it now. I hope that everyone can take the time to look at themselves and see such a beautiful human being."
Think (Body) Positive is an A Plus original series featuring body positive advocates and thought leaders. Their goal? Encouraging you to love the skin you're in.
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