the body and helpful books

I love to read. I mostly read fiction because I love the safe haven it provides away from the world. I can get totally engrossed in a beautiful narrative or an absurd tale.

But there’s another genre that’s my guilty secret: self-help. I’ve read so many self-help books, it’s hard to remember all of them. What I can say for sure is that many of them were not helpful to my-self. In fact, some were downright harmful. I’ve sneakily read many-a-book about how to diet or “eat clean” (one of my least favorite phrases in the world, but that’s another post) or exercise in some “new” way or fast or wish away pain by focusing attention on my body’s size in one way or another. I say I’ve “sneakily” read these, because I have literally hidden the fact that I am reading them from everyone. Deep down I’ve always known they are not healthy for me, but I haven’t been able to step away.

This year, I’m trying to change that behavior. Instead of reading diet self-help books, I’m reading fat acceptance, body positive, and social justice self-help books. So far, it is going great! This post is the beginning of a series of reviews of those books. Let’s dive in!

I just finished reading Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls by the amazing Jes Baker (aka The Militant Baker). Let me tell you, the message of this book just knocked my socks off. Jes is real and ready to rumble, and her book made me feel like a badass for just being. It was a huge self-esteem boost.

This book is not for the faint-of-heart. If all caps writing gets to you, brace yourself. Honestly, sometimes I didn’t exactly love the relentlessly italicized, capitalized, and bolded writing, but you cannot deny that Jes has a powerful style. Her message does deserve to be shouted. Her enthusiasm is infectious. I can’t imagine reading this and not feeling empowered and seen.

I also really appreciated that she included guest essays to provide a range of voices. That is some inclusive stuff and I’m here for it. Of course, the guest essay that spoke to me the most was by genderqueer activist and all-around feminist badass Sam Dylan Finch of Let’s Queer Things Up. He writes about being androgynous but being perceived as female because of his body shape. I know I haven’t written about my gender yet, but–spoiler alert–this problem is something that I really relate to. I was so relieved to read about another person working on this problem and being public about it. I think about this feeling all the time–how can I be perceived for who I am and the way I am? I really appreciated this essay being included.

Another feature of this book that made me happy was the fact that it’s full of practical information backed up by science. It’s way easier for me to be persuaded by facts combined with anecdotes, so I loved that. I was so into the section called “100% of Humans Have Brains” talking about mental health. It reminded me to be brave and that my best is always enough.

There’s so much in this book about being a fat person, but it’s really for everyone. Jes is such a motivating force for understanding your self-worth regardless of your body shape, and that is the most important thing.

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