10 body-positive books to read before making a weight-loss New Year’s resolution
Great reads for learning to love yourself at any size
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The Body Positivity movement and the Fat Acceptance movement aim to inspire plus-sized individuals to stop measuring their worth based on a number on a scale. The movements teach people to accept and love themselves for who they are, embrace their own beauty inside and out, and take back the word “fat” from its derogatory connotations.
Of course, there’s a lot more nuance than that, and there are many ways to approach your own journey toward improving your self esteem. These 10 books do a fantastic job at introducing the topics. I can vouch from personal experience, as I’ve read (almost) all of them, that these are great reads. And even if you aren’t “plus-size,” it’ll help open your eyes to the prejudices fat people go through on a day-to-day basis.
1. Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight
It’s impossible to talk about fat acceptance and body positivity without mentioning HAES (Health At Every Size). HAES is the concept that taking good care of yourself doesn’t mean you have to be super lean. Health isn’t necessarily measured by weight—as long as you’re getting proper nutrients (eating your fruits and veggies), getting enough sleep, and exercising, you can still be considered healthy. Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Dr. Lindo Bacon, a nutritionist and researcher, truly changed the way I think about dieting, eating, and my body.
Bacon’s core theme surrounds the idea of a set point weight—the theory that every person has a weight range of about 20 pounds that they can fluctuate between in their life; if you go outside of that range, your metabolism will slow down or speed up to get you back into that range. That’s right, your body could literally fight you to stay fat. The theory suggests its roots come from our ancestors back in the stone age, and it’s to prevent us from starvation. Once I decided to stop “dieting” and just eating healthy without worry and exercising how I wanted, I haven’t gained or lost a single pound in over 6 months. It’s incredible.
If you’re considering going on a diet or have a complicated relationship with food—in that you feel guilty when you eat ice cream more than once a week—I highly recommend this book. Suggestion: It has a lot of medical terms and scientific information, so if your eyes glaze over at the sight of those, you might prefer to listen to the audiobook instead, as it's easier to digest (no pun intended).
2. Lessons From the Fat-o-sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body
Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby move walls with this legendary book, Lessons From the Fat-o-sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body. Harding and Kirby were once leading bloggers in the Fat Acceptance movement, and their book focuses a lot on the media and how fatness is portrayed. This book has a very fun, relatable voice, so if you want an intricate yet entertaining view on fatphobia (within society and within your own mind), Lessons From the Fat-o-sphere is for you.
3. Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: Handbook for Unapologetic Living
With over 500 positive reviews on Amazon, blogger Jes Baker’s Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: Handbook for Unapologetic Living is a manifesto that anyone with body insecurities should check out. This book is so uplifting and provides a surprisingly positive outlook about a world that wants you to hate your fat.
Baker explains how you are so much more than your body, and despite living in a diet-obsessed culture, you know how to treat your body best. Known for her blog The Militant Baker, Baker has been writing about self-love in this “body-loathing society” for years. Through her own personal experiences and helpful advice, Baker encourages the reader to take the time to learn to love their own body.
4. Happy Fat: Taking Up Space in a World That Wants to Shrink You
Part memoir, part social commentary, Happy Fat expresses comedian Sofie Hagen’s hilariously accurate opinions in such a way that you can’t help but agree. From learning how to get unstuck in a tight bathroom stall to drawing faces on your belly whenever you get sad about your weight, there’s a lot to unpack here; but underneath it all, Hagen offers a call to action that will leave you wanting to join the Fat Acceptance movement. I highly recommend this book to everyone, fat or not.
5. #VERYFAT #VERYBRAVE: The Fat Girl's Guide to Being #Brave and Not a Dejected, Melancholy, Down-in-the-Dumps Weeping Fat Girl in a Bikini
In comedian Nicole Byer’s typical outrageous style, #VERYFAT #VERYBRAVE is an ode to the bikini body. More specifically, Byer in a bikini. Half of this book is full of pictures of the author in various swimwear doing activities you normally don’t see fat women (or any women) do while scantily clad—and encouraging you to do the same. That includes things like “get on a trampoline,” “jump on a trampoline,” and “get off a trampoline”—in short, this book is hilarious. If you want a fun, lighthearted book of a fat Black woman confidently posing in strange scenarios in various bikinis, that alone is the reason to click “add to cart.”
But it's not all fun and games, as Byer makes some really good points; for example, while people may judge you for how you look, you don’t have to judge you. It’s all about how you view yourself and rejecting how the world sees you, because your confidence is key.
6. Fat and Queer: An Anthology of Queer and Trans Bodies and Lives
This anthology of essays, short stories, and poems is an essential read for anyone who is, well, Fat and Queer. These pieces describe different authors’ experiences living life as a fat queer person, as edited by Tiff Joshua TJ Ferentini, Miguel M. Morales, and Bruce Owens Grimm.
Whether you’re cis, trans, nonbinary, white, Black, POC, or however you identify, everyone has different experiences. Some good, some bad, some great, some horrible, but all deserving to be shared, for people of all ages and identities. So even if you’re not fat and queer, I highly recommend you give this book a go. You’ll no doubt learn a thing or two about both the fat acceptance community and the LGBTQ+ community.
7. The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love
The Body Is Not an Apology by poet and activist Sonya Renee Taylor encourages the reader to embrace radical self-love. Starting with how to love, Taylor introduces the idea that you must learn to love yourself, no matter your size, race, gender, sexual orientation, and so on. Then she goes on to talk about the guilt we feel around food and the shame we get from being fat—where did it come from? Why does it still exist in the 21st century? She talks about how you can combat this guilt and shame, by not apologizing for your body, and just living your life and loving yourself.
Taylor ends with an updated call to action and resources for confronting racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia. She discusses how radical self-love does not only help make peace with oneself, but also can help make the world a more peaceful and loving place, dismantling the systems of injustice in place today. Along with the accompanying workbook to this text, Taylor teaches you how to truly and radically love yourself.
8. What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat
With 4.7 stars on Amazon, What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat is another great one to add to your list. Not just because of the material in it but because the author, Aubrey Gordon, is a rock star. The creator of the website Your Fat Friend, Gordon has a loud and proud online presence where she promotes not only fat acceptance but fat activism. Her essays, some of which are in the book, give clear, relatable insights into what life as a fat person is like, how the media depicts fatness, and what we can do to stop this phobia of fat people.
She starts the book with a visceral account of what it’s like to be fat on an airplane. Think of how uncomfortable airplanes are to begin with. Now imagine that, but the seat belt doesn’t fit. So you have to ask the flight attendant for a seat belt extender. But what if that doesn’t fit? On a packed flight, you’re touching the person next to you and watching as they text fatphobic things to their loved ones about how this “whale” is sitting on top of them and you’re trapped in this flying hellscape for hours. And that’s just the first chapter!
9. Fat!So?: Because You Don't Have to Apologize for Your Size
Published back in 1998, Fat!So? by Marilyn Wann is one of the first (comedic) takes on the Fat Acceptance movement. This book began as a zine in 1994 and was nominated for the Utne Reader zine award. With a blend of essays, quizzes, facts, statistics, and reporting, Wann teaches us that you can be happy and healthy at any size. The book gets it right, and while its now-dated references may appeal more to Gen Xers, it’s worth a read for anyone who wants insight into where the movement began.
10. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body
2017’s Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by “Bad Feminist” Roxanne Gay was an instant classic. In this book, the renowned social commentator describes what it means to take care of yourself and your body, and how to eat for you and feel satisfied, never guilty. She discusses how to live in a body that society tells you over and over again isn’t good enough. Through Gay’s own experiences and ponderings, you'll learn how to love your own body.
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