Model and body positive advocate Melinda Parrish shared her diet and weight loss struggles in a Facebook Live video on Friday, but when she tried to promote her post to reach a wider audience, she was told her request to “boost” it had been rejected.
“My goal was just to open up and reveal some of what I’ve gone through personally and create a dialogue,” Parrish, 32, tells PEOPLE. “I think way too many of us experience this stuff in isolation, so the goal in taking the conversation to Facebook Live and speaking about it in this way was to use my experience to spark a conversation.”
In the video, Parrish — a former Navy officer — discusses her own history with dieting and how it once consumed her life.
“I’m here to tell you that you do not have to lose weight in order to be worthy of the life of your dreams,” she says in the video.
“Having been a woman that didn’t always feel like she had a voice, didn’t always feel like she had control of her body, inspiring and empowering women is something that’s really important to me,” Parrish says. “I view this work doing body positive advocacy as my way to serve my country in my life after my Navy service.”
Since she was trying to share a positive message, Parrish was confused when Facebook said she could not boost her post.
“I thought maybe there was something in the comments I didn’t see or some unfortunate typo,” she says. “I was really trying to figure out what was considered offensive. I was on chat on with them and then finally got this email where they really clearly said, ‘We find your message to be offensive.'”
Facebook explained in an email that weight loss is a “sensitive in nature topic” and that they are careful not to promote posts about “changes to the body that may upset or be sensitive to some users.”
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“My very first reaction was, I felt ashamed,” says Parrish. “Especially curvy women, we’re a little bit conditioned to feel ashamed. It’s still scary for me to open up and share my history. It makes me feel really vulnerable. So to see that message come in right after I had gotten done opening up to people, that’s where it hit me.”
Ironically, the feedback she had been receiving from her followers during the live video stream had been overwhelmingly positive.
“The overarching reaction I felt like I was getting was one of, ‘Me too’ and ‘Thank you for saying this. I thought I was the only one,'” says Parrish. “I felt like women were connecting with it and it was resonating.”
Eventually, Facebook did boost her post, but she never got a real explanation about why they did not promote it in the first place.
“It’s not like they came to me and said, ‘This was a mistake.’ I just checked my page at the end of the weekend and I saw that boost activity was ongoing,” she says. “It really put a bad taste in my mouth and made me wonder about how Facebook is evaluating content.”