By Sophia Simon-Bashall
Body positivity – or ‘bo-po’ – has been gaining mainstream momentum in this past year. In some moments, this has seemed wonderful. It is heart-warming and inspiring to be able to scroll through Instagram and see people showing their bodies some appreciation. Conversations have been started in publications and between people that wouldn’t be expected. More people have started to see the problems with the ‘clean eating’ movement, and started saying ‘fuck you, I eat what I want’ to diet culture.
Unfortunately, the body positive movement that has sprung from Instagram has a huge problem – pun intended. The issue is that fat positivity and fat liberation is a movement that has existed for several decades, and it is now being swept aside. The work of fat activists has been overlooked and undermined, and the radical faces of the movement have been replaced by those already privileged in society. The bodies of white, thin or curvy cisgender women are more palatable to the wider world than those of fat people, queer people, and people of colour – but ‘body positivity’ that doesn’t include marginalised bodies isn’t doing the necessary work.
Reading is my favourite tool for learning and growing, as well as something I enjoy as entertainment. Reading anti-diet culture books, fat positive memoirs and feminist fiction has been instrumental to me in reprogramming my brain. I wanted to share some of my favourites, in the hopes that others will support the work of fat activists and learn from them too.
Every Body Yoga – Jessamyn Stanley
I love yoga and believe in its value, but I recognise the problems with the mainstream movement. It has turned into a competition, a fitness trend, and something which can feel very exclusive. I love Jessamyn because she isn’t afraid to explain how that doesn’t fit with the philosophy of yoga. She makes it feel like something that everyone and anyone can practice, should they want to – because anyone and everyone CAN. This book provides easy to follow basic yoga poses and routines which are focused on emotional healing. She details how a practice can be done from home – making it accessible to those without the funds for classes at a fancy studio – and shows that yoga isn’t about being ‘good at it’. She is honest about her own challenges with some poses, and provides encouragement and wisdom throughout. It’s wonderful. Jessamyn is wonderful.
Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls – Jes Baker
Jes Baker – aka The Militant Baker – is my favourite person on the internet. She’s honest and vulnerable about mental health. She posts gorgeous and fabulous outfit posts. She’s unapologetic about living her life, and gives the middle finger to anyone who has a problem with it. She is funny and smart and thoughtful, providing a platform for other marginalised folks through her own work. Her first book is basically a bible, one that I pick up again and again when I need a boost and reminder to not give in to the bullshit. It’s one for people new to fat liberation, and for those who are more familiar with the movement. Read it. It’ll tell you what you need to hear.
Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting and Got A Life – Kelsey Miller
You may have heard of Kelsey Miller. She writes for the popular site Refinery29, and started a column called The Anti-Diet Project. You should check that out, too.
Her memoir is astonishingly funny as it is painful and relatable. For me, personally, it was the first book I read that put intuitive eating into context and helped me to understand it. Reading about a real person – someone who had been in a similar headspace to me – and their journey was invaluable, as it showed it to be imperfect and complicated and ever-changing. It made the journey tangible, and feel more possible.
Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love & Fashion – Virgie Tovar
This is an anthology of essays and stories from a diverse group of people about their experiences in their bodies. There’s pieces on learning to love your fat body, finding fat community, fashion as power, sex and pleasure, giving up dieting, and so much more. It’s all well written, and it provides a window into experiences we don’t hear enough about – even though they’re hardly uncommon experiences.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. There’s great fat-positive fiction, there’s academic work in fat studies, there are memoirs and essay collections galore. Fat liberation isn’t a small movement, just an overlooked one. These books are good places to start. They will show you the way to other activists, other work, and more fat babe radness.