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'Good Place' actress Jameela Jamil on why she's 'waging war' on diet industry's 'dark side'

The Good Place” actress Jameela Jamil is taking to social media to combat the negative toll dieting products can take on the health of minors and others. Jamil says she hopes her I Weigh platform can provide a voice to a network of activists and reinvent how people perceive their bodies.

“It’s not actually body positivity,” Jamil recently told Yahoo Finance’s “The Ticker.” “Body positivity is a socio-political movement that exists for women who are larger who get discriminated against medically and in society because of their size. We are more of a body neutrality movement where we teach to not focus whatsoever on size… We are trying to encourage people to find their self esteem and worth outside of how little space they physically take up in the world.”

‘Really dangerous diet and detox products’

The actress is building I Weigh from an Instagram account — which currently has nearly 860,000 followers — to an activist-driven company with a full staff. Jamil says body image issues specifically affect women, because dieting products are particularly geared toward female consumers. And Instagram’s community of roughly 1 billion users has provided exposure to diet products with unintended consequences with the backing of celebrities like the Kardashians.

Cast member Jameela Jamil answers questions during the panel for "The Good Place" at the NBC Universal Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills, California, U.S. August 2, 2016. REUTERS/Phil McCarten

“I don’t think [Instagram was] looking for these adverse effects of social media,” Jamil explains. “I think they wanted this to be a community where people could just connect with each other. They didn’t foresee it becoming this marketplace for really dangerous diet and detox products being sold on social media.”

In a 2016 study of 1,765 adults between 19 and 32 years old conducted by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, participants who spent the most time on social media each day were 2.2 times more likely to report body image issues. Meanwhile, a 2017 survey of 1,000 men and women found that 88% of women say they compare themselves to images in the media.

‘A very big dent in the dark side of the diet industry’

Jamil says she is “waging war” against the diet industry. A recent petition she started on the dangerous side effects of diet and detox products gained 250,000 signatures in its first three days.

“I was able to take that to Instagram’s headquarters and say ‘I’m either going to do this with you or without you, so you can work with me and we can do this together,’” Jamil says. “And they chose to go with me because I’m so annoying and they do genuinely seem to care about the mental health of young people.”

Last week Facebook (FB) and the photo-sharing site it owns, Instagram, unveiled a new policy focused on products including detox teas, diet pills, and even appetite-suppressing lollipops. Under the new rules, posts that promote weight loss products or cosmetic procedures will be prohibited from being viewed by users under 18.

But Jamil says that is just the beginning of her mission.

“We’ve made a very big dent in the dark side of the diet and the detox industry,” she explains. “Really I only got into this business so I could use it to whistleblow on all of the terrible things that are happening to young people. If anything, they’ve been amplified because of how effective social media is at spreading good things, but also a lot of toxicity.”

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