Proud2Bme | Lena Dunham and the Body Positive Workout Selfie

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Lena Dunham and the Body Positive Workout Selfie

By Pooja Patel--It’s not uncommon among celebrity’s social media to see actresses flaunting workout pictures on Instagram or speaking endlessly about their ‘healthy’ lifestyles (kale juice and pilates.)

Amongst these shame-inducing pictures, Lena Dunham’s workout selfies are a breath of fresh air. Recently, Lena Dunham posted the picture above with the caption, ‘Promised myself I would not let exercise be the first thing to go by the wayside when I got busy with Girls Season 5 and here is why: It has helped with my anxiety, OCD, and depression: I know it’s mad annoying when people tell you to exercise, and it took me about 16 medicated years to listen. I’m glad I did. It ain’t about the ass, it’s about the brain…’

To see a celebrity speak openly about her struggle with mental illness is powerful and has the ability to lessen the stigma around these issues.

In another post, Dunham describes a situation in which she forgot to bring her workout clothes when going to the gym. She subsequently had to ‘snag a size large bra and size small pants,’ which she described as ‘wrong in a myriad [of] ways.’

Yet, she continues, ‘But do we soldier on? Yes, yes we do because we want to be a strong & happy lady.’ Lena Dunham isn’t afraid to show her stomach, even in too-small spandex pants, which is something I’ve never seen in celebrity social media.

We are often bombarded with instagram posts like the following, which along with the caption show an ab or leg shot.

In an age obsessed with bodies, it is hard not to fall into the trap of wanting to be a Kim K. or a Cara D. Yet, Dunham asserts with her posts that exercising should not be about the vain aesthetics often emphasized by the media, but moreover about being a ‘strong & happy lady.’ Sadly, this is something that is not often celebrated. In these short, but powerful Instagram posts, Dunham tells us that health is not about the body, but rather about the mind.

Moreover, Dunham changes the exercise conversation by connecting it to issues of mental health. She promotes exercise as a means of aiding her anxiety, OCD, and depression, but makes sure to emphasize that it may not be the path for all of those who struggle. I often get quite anxious, especially around exam periods and I have definitely been told to exercise to reduce my anxiety, which often bothers me since I know that it does not work for me.

Dunham addresses that mental health is a personal issue and must be dealt with accordingly. She advocates for body positivity and mental health issues, without slighting anyone, which is tough. Hats off to a wonderful Lena Dunham! 

About this blogger: Pooja Patel is a Junior studying neuroscience and philosophy at Barnard College, Columbia University. She does research at a CU neurobiology laboratory, which emphasizes anticipation behaviors, circadian rhythms, and biology. She has interned off and on at the National Eating Disorders Association for about two years. Pooja enjoys reading, dancing, watching mindless tv, and keeping up with fashion trends.

For more on social media and selfie culture:

Fitness Media: Behind the FIlters

The Selfie Project

How Does Social Media Affect Your Body Image?

Facebook discussion

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