the body and the helpful books, part 2

This is the second in a series of book reviews of body positive books! You can read the first one here.

I just finished the book Big Fit Girl by Louise Green. Overall, I thought it was a helpful book that reinforced some important ideas about achieving athletic goals as a fat person. Louise uses the phrase “woman of size” a lot, which I’m pretty apathetic toward, but it might make the book more approachable for people who are just coming to fat acceptance.

The book is a very straight forward and practical guide about how to get started in fitness as a heavier person. It challenges the idea that fat people need to exercise in private and that they must set weight loss goals in order to participate in athletic pursuits. She puts together a strong argument for more representation of larger people in sports and fitness media, and encourages media gatekeepers to think of the good they can do by being inclusive.

I found some of this book a bit simplistic, which is why I think it’s more of an entry-level book than my level. Still, it uses a lot of motivational techniques, like teaching about SMART goal setting and finding internal, rather than external, sources of motivation. Louise also reminds us that reaching fitness goals is empowering and that every bit of progress is worth focusing on. Ditch the scale and notice your actual gains, she says. I love that message.

There’s one argument that I disagree with in this book. Louise mentions that as women start working out “they will lose weight” even if they are not trying, which is just… not true. People might lose weight if they start working out, but they also probably won’t. It just depends on your body and your metabolism and your genetics and a ton of other factors out of your control. However, she does make the helpful point, backed by science, that regardless of if you lose weight or not, exercise is healthy for you and by discouraging people from working out, we’re depriving many people of an opportunity to be healthier.

I appreciated the latter argument in this book, because re-framing how we view health is so important in ridding us of the idea that health is an obligation to be treated as a worthy human or to participate in activities we enjoy.

I would say this book is excellent for people looking to move away from messages of weight loss culture into a more affirming message about how we can approach exercise. It’s motivating for anyone who needs help knowing how to set goals and it’s got a ton of practical information. Plus, it encourages people to tap into their inner strength and take steps that might scare them. Overall, I would recommend this book for sure.

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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.