A lot of people think body confidence is something you're born with. You either have it or you don't, and that if you're not tall, white, slim and able bodied you probably don't. But that's not the case. You can learn body acceptance. Or rather you can unlearn body hate. It's not easy, but it's changed my quality of life in ways that reach way beyond what I see when I look in the mirror.
I've been writing about body confidence for a while now, but there's so much to it and so many different factors which have contributed to me reaching the genuinely body confident place I'm in now that I'm sometimes overwhelmed by how much information I want to pass on to you all.
I'm going to continue to tackle all the nasty bits of diet culture, body image and female empowerment (hate that phrase but it's the only one that fits) in a way that's as accessible (and hopefully also funny) as possible for as long as this blog has life/I still have enough fingers to type/whatever you catch my drift. But today I wanted to share a rundown of easy resources you can turn to to start your own journey towards loving your body and never dieting again.
The Food Psych podcast, hosted by registered dietitian Christy Harrison, was and the biggest influence on me in beginning my journey to total body acceptance. I'm not a fan of the word 'journey' as it's so painfully overused, but that's really what this has been for me. I didn't just wake up one morning and decide I loved myself. It took a lot of time, a lot of thinking, and a lot of re-learning how to talk to myself, and Christy's podcast has helped guide me through all of that via interviews with other women who've done the same.
As well as listening to podcasts I decided to expand my body positive horizons a bit further by reading up on the subject.
Things no one will tell fat girls - Jes Baker. Jes, the author and writer behind the body positive blog The Militant Baker, describes this book as 'a handbook for unapologetic living', and that's exactly what it is. Jes is a witty, pithy writer, but what I love most about this book is the practical tips it contains that make loving yourself in your day to day life a whole lot easier. Jes has a way of helping you see the madness of the thin ideal for what it is, whatever your personal size, and unpicks a huge number of self-limiting, self-policing rules imposed on women by the diet and beauty industries, and even by women themselves.
Big Girl: How I gave up dieting and got a life - Kelsey Miller. In this hilarious memoir Kelsey tracks her history with overeating, the impact of media and family expectations on her body image and sense of self, and how she slowly freed herself from and endless cycle of all-consuming yo-yo dieting and weight obsession. She's a features writer for Refinery29, and charted her progress in a weekly column which was read by millions of women, and this book is the behind the scenes edit to that column.
Personally Kelsey's story resonated with me deeply. Every page contained an 'aha' moment, where she'd perfectly articulated a twisted knot of neurosis I'd never quite been able to untangle on my own. If you've ever had the slightly terrifying thought that in order to be happy you might just have to diet for your whole entire life, this one's for you.
Body of truth - Harriet Brown. This is the most sciencey of the bunch. Harriet Brown, whose daughter suffered and recovered from anorexia nervosa, wrote this book in an effort to get to the bottom of why the Western world is so thoroughly obsessed with weight. She writes entertainingly on complex issues like the tenuous link between weight and health, and the history of women's representation in media. It's a brilliantly informative read and gives some much needed perspective on how we reached the sorry state we're in now with regard to public perceptions of health, weight, and women's bodies.
There are a lot of amazing women on youtube discussing issues of body image, disordered eating and women in the media. I tend to find the motivational 'you just gotta love youself' stuff less helpful than more evidence based discussion around practically applicable tips, so my favourites are:
Life With Lydia - Lydia played a big part in finally forcing me to look at my own eating issues. After years of on/off faddy dieting, falling on and off 'the wagon' and blaming myself and all that totally not fun stuff, I stumbled across her channel completely by accident and realised I had to stop. A fully recovered binge eater, Lydia's videos focus on the psychological effects of dieting and practical steps you can take to improve your relationship with food. She is also possibly the loveliest, cheeriest person ever to have existed, so a good watch if you're just having a bad day too.
What Mia Did Next - Mia has been in recovery from anorexia for over 3 years and shares her views on dieting, health, fitness and the media in a thought-provoking and heartfelt way. She's extremely articulate and empathetic, and has some gems of wisdom we can all benefit from, whether we've suffered with eating disorders ourselves or not.
An Anti diet:
Intuitive Eating - Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch. Now, this is the big one. It's the hardest to take on board but also arguably the most important. Don't be fooled by the slightly dated, hippyish look of this book. It has freed thousands of women from the hamster wheel of eternal dieting and body shame and hopefully will free thousands more. In it, registered dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch set out a programme of exercises and essays which, when practised, can undo all the unhelpful, self-flagellating and self-defeating psychological damage dieting causes.
Ever feel outlandishly guilty for eating a sugary snack? This book will undo that. Ever felt you couldn't trust yourself around food? That you're too greedy, too wreckless, or an emotional eater? This book will show you that you're not, and give you back control. It's not an easy one to take on, but it's an absolute must read.
I really, truly hope some of you have a look at some of the resources I've listed here. Each one of them has been transformative for me. If you know someone else who might benefit from this starting point for a happy relationship with food please share this with them and spread the amazing work of the women listed here.