Jes Baker, of The Militant Baker, has written a brilliant and necessary book in Things No-One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook for Unapologetic Living. If you’re new to body positivity, Health At Every Size (HAES), and fat acceptance, then this book is a brilliant and witty introduction to those concepts. It came to me at a time when I was floundering in my own self confidence and self-love, and needed a boost, and I’m glad I picked it up again to finish it this year.
Jes advocates for radical body positivity – not just the kind we’re exposed to by people selling things to us (generally white, slim, air-brushed, and heterosexual) – but the kind that sees all bodies as equally valid and worthy of love and respect. This includes everything from small and petite to large and tall, and everything in-between. Regardless of our ideas of health and what we consider ‘normal’, everyone deserves body respect. The major takeaway from this is book is that self-love and living in bodies outside of the unattainable air-brushed ideal is an act of radical resistance, and we should celebrate bodies in all their diversity. Far from just being aimed at women feeling self conscious and lacking confidence in their body, this is for everyone, regardless of gender, size, ability, sexuality and so on.
‘Beauty is something that is everywhere. The sunset is beautiful. Human connection is beautiful. Kindness is beautiful. Bodies are beautiful –all of them. Beauty is ubiquitous, inherent, and found in all of us: on the outside and the inside.’
What sets this book apart is that Jes addresses the reader with kindness and shares her own journey with self-love and radical body positivity. There is a real sense of love coming through when reading this book – that you end up loving yourself, and feeling loved. Love is such an important ingredient to combat the shame you tend to feel living in a world that views fat bodies (and bodies that are ‘othered’) as less than, as unworthy of love and respect. If you’ve spent your life being told that you need to shrink, and develop issues around food and movement, love is the only way to heal. If you don’t love, or at least respect and care for, the body you have, you are less likely to treat it well – to feed it the nutrition it needs, to move it in ways that feel good to you. The most radical aspect of this book is that it advocates fiercely for the right of every body to live as it is, in an often unkind, shaming world.
‘Happiness is about finding what you love about yourself and sharing it. Happiness is about taking what you hate about yourself and learning to love it. Happiness is an internal sanctuary where you are enough just as you are, right now.’
The book is packed with tips on how to live a life of self-love and radical body positivity, from the basics to more involved tasks, affirmations, ways of tackling depression and anxiety (Jes has worked within mental health advocacy), health and movement via HAES, and how to be a body positive activist (if this is something you want to be). It connects body positivity to other social movements, and shows us that everything is connected. I loved Jes’s way of writing, and her sense of love towards the reader, and I think in particular this is a book to read when you truly need the encouragement, the sense of having someone on your side, who will guide you through the difficult moments.
‘Self-love isn’t something to be earned. Most importantly, loving your fat body as it is is not delusional and does not amount to self-deception.’
Scattered throughout the books are also essays by other activists and writers – writing on intersectional aspects of body positivity, such as race, class, sexuality, and disability. I appreciated this aspect of the book, because it gave the book an extra added weight and range, which some books about body positivity have lacked in the past. It has a more inclusive aspect to it because of this. It included voices that are often marginalised and left out of the conversation in the newer incarnation of body positivity which has been co-opted of late and in-radicalised. I think in order for a movement to be radical and truly inclusive, all voices have to be a part of it, and I feel like this book goes some way towards that.
‘Defining worthiness by health and fitness level is not just about size discrimination. It’s also about classism. Racism. Ableism.’
If you want an excellent introduction to radical body positivity, and need a skilled pep-talk from someone who understands what you’re going through, I wholeheartedly recommend Things No-One Will Tell Fat Girls.