Size, food, and sensuality

Predictors of network engagement in weight-inclusive Instagram communities



body positive, weight-inclusive, Instagram, social network engagement, social media


Like many marginalized groups in the US, weight-inclusive communities have flourished on social network sites (SNS) where members advocate for body positivity and combat conventional media representations of beauty and health. In the present study, we examined posted images and text, including image captions and community comments, within Instagram’s weight-inclusive communities using image-based content analysis and text-based latent semantic analysis (LSA). Predictive modeling was also used to determine which body positive posts received more engagement from their online network, increasing these users’ potential as community influencers and advocates. Posted images often showed fully clothed, higher-weight women and were lower in objectification than aspirational fitness images in previous social media studies. Post text reflected themes of self-acceptance, celebrating food and eating, and the daily lives of higher-weight people. Almost every image category predicted variance in the composition of posts’ text as measured by the LSA ordination. Whether an image contained food, exercise equipment, and people, especially higher-weight women, predicted its popularity among network members. The most popular images included higher-weight women in underwear or swimwear, raising questions about the interrelationship among body acceptance, objectification, and empowerment in weight-inclusive communities online.


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