We all know that self hatred thrives on guilt. We couldn't keep up that 800 calorie a day diet that would finally give us the perfect body? That's our fault. We couldn't fit into those 2-sizes-too-small motivation jeans we keep at the back of the wardrobe? We're the worthless ones. We spend our entire lives starving and sweating and wiping tears off our bathroom scales and we still don't measure up? We're the failures. At least, that's what we've been made to believe - that if we can't successfully battle our genetics and achieve the 'ideal' body (that only about 2% of the population naturally possesses), we're the ones to blame. And us internalising all that guilt and shame is the best possible solution for the people who profit from the pieces of our body image that they shattered in the first place. Because it means that we never look further than our mirrors, when we wonder why we feel this way.
And yeah, there is blame to placed. A lot of it. But it doesn't fall on you. Because this epidemic of body hatred is bigger than you. It's bigger than me. It is a cultural brainwashing upheld by some of the biggest industries, institutions and social belief systems in the world. Of course, if you told me that 2 years ago, on my 1000th crash diet, years of anorexia, binge eating and exercise addiction still poisoning me, I would have called you a conspiracy theorist and carried on doing jumping lunges until I felt like I was going to pass out. That was 2 months before I found body positivity, and the books that changed my life. I want them to change yours too, and to finally show you that none of this is your fault. Once you realise that, you'll have the power to reclaim your body. So let's get reading:
1. Fat! So? Marilyn Wann
This book is the perfect place to start your journey to becoming a bopo badass. Wann is a pioneer in the fat acceptance movement, and her straight talking sass is infectious. Fat! So? is full of hard hitting facts, personal stories, hilarious anecdotes, and even has fat cut out dolls (who doesn't love a fat cut out doll?). Plus the cover alone is something you need on your book shelf.
Killer bopo quote: "Life is too short for self hatred and celery sticks!"
2. The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf
Killer bopo quote: "The woman wins who calls herself beautiful and challenges the world to change to truly see her."
3. Losing It, Laura Fraser
This is the greatest expose of the diet industry that there will probably ever be. Fraser throws herself into the world of crash diets, diet pills, diet gurus, goes undercover to weight loss groups and dissects all the pseudo-science behind claims that starving ourselves is good for our health. She explores the origins of our obsession with thinness, and all the ways we're supposed to be able to achieve it. What she finds is actually pretty terrifying - how dieting actually seriously damages our health, how much money there is to be made from teaching us to hate our bodies, how dangerous weight loss solutions can truly be (there are even testimonies from people who've lost loved ones to unregulated diet pills and detox teas). Read this, and you'll never see Weight Watchers in the same way again.
Killer bopo quote: "Most of us don't recognize that the social forces that keep pulling us toward thinness are every bit as constraining as the corsets that kept our great-great-grandmothers from actively participating in the world. Nor do we realise that the inner corset we wear is one of the strongest and most insidious remnants of oppression against women that we still put up with."
4. Body of Truth, Harriet Brown
This book got me out of a serious bopo rut a while back, when I was feeling pretty frustrated at the world (or rather, diet culture), and how tiring it can be to believe in something that so many people don't get. But there are people who get it. Harriet Brown gets it, big time. So she wrote a book that is personally moving, scientifically astute, and seriously eye-opening. There's kind of a bit of everything in there, Brown covers several branches of the bopo tree - fat acceptance, Health at Every Size, diet culture, eating disorders, and a whole lot of truth.
Killer bopo quote: “How many evenings did I stand in
the middle of the grocery store aisle, paralyzed with fear and indecision? It's not just the time I regret; it's the loss of who I might have been if I wasn't so consumed. It's who I might have loved, how I might have lived, what I might have accomplished. I might have been a force to be reckoned with."
5. Things No-One Will Tell Fat Girls, Jes Baker
Jes is a big deal. Her blog, The Militant Baker, is a big deal. Her Instagram selfies are a big deal. And her book kicks body positive ass. Not only is Jes hilarious and authentic throughout, she's gone above and beyond to make this bopo bible intersectional, relatable, and actually applicable to everyday life. She also uses her expertise to write about mental health beyond body image which is super important since, as she says, 100% of humans have brains. Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls is a new classic, so add that bad boy to your Amazon basket asap.
Killer bopo quote: We do this terrible thing where we look in the mirror or at pictures and we expect to see a thin model. Unless you are a thin model, THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN. So stop that shit. The second you start looking for you is the second you will start to appreciate what you are. Stop looking for flaws. Stop looking for differences. There is not one definition of beauty.
Bonus book: I Do It with the
Lights On, Whitney Thore
I'm yet to read this beauty, but I am going to devour it over the summer. Whitney is an absolute powerhouse in being unapologetically yourself, showing us all how it's done with her No Body Shame campaign and TV show My Big Fat Fabulous Life. If it's anything like Whitney is, it'll be honest, intelligent, heartwarming, and pretty damn life changing.You should read it too, and then tell me what you think, bopo book club anyone?