Dear Reader, you might not know this about me, but I am fat. Usually when I say this, my loved ones pipe up with, “You’re not fat! Don’t say that about yourself!” But I’m not trying to insult myself. I’m merely describing myself.
Being fat doesn’t make me a bad person. It doesn’t mean that I’m lazy or that I don’t take care of myself or even that I’m unhealthy. It simply means that I have a bigger body than some other people’s bodies. I spent years tearing myself down for my weight. I held myself to an impossible standard, a standard I didn’t expect anyone else to meet. I have friends of all shapes and sizes, and they are all beautiful. Why couldn’t I be as kind to myself as I was to others?
But you know what the great thing about your behavior is? You can change it. I decided to stop beating myself up, and I bought a bikini. You know what? No one died of horror. I even got compliments.
I wish someone had told me this in my teens: that my body was perfectly fine just the way it was. Or better yet, I wish there had been characters who looked like me in books, movies, and TV, characters who weren’t the butt of jokes or the subject of morality tales. Luckily, things are starting to change, with a greater diversity represented in media and entertainment than ever before. We still have a long way to go, but it’s a start.
So this post is for the fat girls. And the skinny girls the girls with some junk in their trunk, the top-heavy girls, the flat-chested girls, the tall girls, and the short girls. And the boys, too. You’re all beautiful, just the way you are, and don’t you forget it!
If you need some help jumpstarting your own body positivity movement, try these:
Dumplin’ by by Julie Murphy
Willowdean Dixon is a Dolly Parton enthusiast and self-described fat girl growing up in small-town Texas where the only things that matter are football and the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet pageant. Willowdean doesn’t give a flying flip about the pageant, despite the fact that her mother runs it, until one day, she decides to enter it to prove a point. I had high hopes for this book, perhaps higher than any book could live up to. I wanted Willowdean to be more confident, for her to really be a spokesperson for body positivity. But it’s also important for teens to hear their own thoughts and fears echoed in books, and Dumplin’ achieves that beautifully. Willowdean struggles with wanting others to accept her while not fully accepting herself yet. Boy, do I know that feeling!
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
I’ve plugged this book in my blog before, but it would be unconscionable to leave it off this list. Eleanor is the new kid in school; she’s large, red-headed, and she dresses weird. At first, Park wants nothing to do with her. Befriending Eleanor would be like putting a target on his own back. But gradually, he begins to like her, until a sweet little romance forms. Weight is only one of the BIG ISSUES that this book tackles, among them, interracial couples, poverty, domestic abuse, and probably a few more I’m forgetting. But for all that, it remains a love story. Teens will find it relatable; adults will find it nostalgic.
Heart on My Sleeve by Mary Lambert
Just put track one, “Secrets,” on repeat every day when you’re getting ready, and I promise you will feel better about life. You know Mary Lambert from the Grammy-nominated, double-platinum song she co-wrote and performed with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, “Same Love.” But what you might not know is that she is also a plus-sized, queer poet who is very active in the body positivity movement. Her debut album features brilliant original songs, plus a cover of “Jesse’s Girl” like you’ve never heard it before.
The always funny and envelope-pushing Rebel Wilson graced the cover of Entertainment Weekly last year to promote the sequel to Pitch Perfect, along with a quote from her character, Fat Amy: “I’m pretty sure I’m the hot one.” Pitch Perfect isn’t a movie about a fat girl. It’s a movie with a fat girl in it. One who is unapologetic about her body and expects the same treatment as everyone else. And she’s also hilarious. Which in my book, definitely makes her the hot one. (Also, there are some other characters. And singing.)
Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls by Jes Baker
Jes Baker, who writes The Militant Baker blog, has written a perfect guide to body positivity. The style is conversational. She writes like your best friend would talk to you, if your best friend had really smart things to say about the life-changing power of loving yourself. Baker provides cultural insight, personal anecdotes, and plenty of research and essays written by experts to back up her ideas. This is the book I wish had been around for me when I was struggling with body image issues in my teens. And twenties. And early thirties.
Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight by Linda Bacon
In a vast sea of diet books, it is really hard to find books like this one. But I’ve done that hard work for you. You’re welcome. This book uses science and common sense to explain why it’s ok to be the size you are. From the publisher’s description: “People don't have to be packaged in a small size to be valuable and attractive--or healthy for that matter. Saying that they do causes more harm than good, and judgments based on size tell us more about our own prejudice than someone else's health or value. It's time to show every body respect.” YES. Just so much yes.
Body of Truth: How Science, History, and Culture Drive our Obsession with Weight--and What We Can Do about It by Harriet Brown
“Fat” has become a four-letter word in our society. It’s the worst insult we can hurl at each other, worse than any aspersions we could cast on another’s character. Have you ever stopped to think about how messed up that is? Science journalist Harriet Brown did, and she wrote a book that unpacks all the factors that go into our collective weight obsession—including the multi-billion dollar weight loss industry, the media, and cultural history—and hopefully makes strides toward banishing them.