Body positive books for adults and kids

The term ‘body positive’ may make you cringe a little. I wasn’t entirely sure of it at first. You might think it sounds like a well-intentioned sidestep maybe something a neighbour would say when enquiring into your weight gain. Or you might think it sounds like a cruel dig masked by kindness like your nasty ‘friend’ looking to score ‘Mean Girl’ points. I thought it sounded like a self-help term designed to make life coach sound powerful and their devotees feel small. But, while terms like fat activism and size acceptance are great at bringing awareness to issues, they are more specific. Body positive is the best term I’ve found for describing the whole idea of feeling…well…positive about bodies of all shapes, sizes, colours, ages, genders, abilities.

Be wary though of any beauty/fashion/diet industry product that claims to want to make you feel better but really leaves you feeling shit about yourself and please try to ignore the bandwagon jumpers whose dedication to body positivity is only as deep as their bank accounts.

The original ‘Body Positive’ movement was started by Connie Sobczak, who experienced an eating disorder and lost her sister to one, and Elizabeth Scott, a psychotherapist. The two women came together to found a charity that could provide training and help in schools, universities and businesses. They defined body positivity as an effort to “[u]ncover the messages that have influenced your relationships with your body, food, and exercise [and d]evelop a weight-neutral, health-centered approach to self-care [to b]ecome the authority of your own body by sorting out facts from distorted societal myths about health, weight, and identity.”

I can’t believe how much the perception of bodies has begun to change and how much more variety there is now in advertising, celebrities, fashion, sports, beauty products, television, cinema and business. I know that being able to see and read about such a wide range of body types would have helped me as I was growing up to accept how I looked and how I felt.

Most of the focus of the books and Instagram accounts that I’ve recommended below is on women and girls, which is both brilliant and a sign that we still need to make space for more body positive role models for men and boys and non-binary role models. There’s still a LOT of work to do. But I’m much more hopeful now that we can get there and that there really is something that ALL of us can do to contribute: we can make good choices, positive choices…about what we read, what we look at, what we listen to and what we show to our children. Here are a few of my recommendations, see what you think.

And please share any of yours!

I’m so glad to see that there are more and more books out there about feeling positive about bodies, about hunger, about eating disorders, about fat and about feeling proud of the wonderful mess of you who you are.

I know that a lot of the problems I had with my body growing up might have felt less lonely and shameful if I had some of these books to read.

These are just some of the books I’ve enjoyed and found helpful but I’m always on the lookout for more books like this so if you have any recommendations, leave a comment or send me a message!

Books I’ve loved that have helped with my body positivity:

Shrill, Lindy West

Hunger, Roxane Gay

She’s Come Undone, Wally Lamb

The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf

Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls, Jes Baker

Eat Up, Ruby Tandoh

Every Body Yoga, Jessamyn Stanley

Kelsey Miller’s Anti-Diet Project for Refinery 29

I’ve done some research and found a great list of books with positive messages about bodies for kids. If any of you have read these with your kids or have other suggestions, again let me know. I’m going to spend a happy half hour looking through the kids books in Waterstones when we’re back in England and see if I can find more.

Books on body positivity for kids:

Brontorina by James Howe and Randy Cecil

What I Like About Me by Allia Zobel Nolan

Freckleface Strawberry by Julianne Moore and LeUyen Pham

Shapesville by Andy Mills

The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

Wonder by RJ Palacio

And not  an immediately obvious book about body positivity, but certainly an incredible book (for adults and children) about how we all experience the world differently:

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

And just to keep you from scrolling through misery-making images…here are some great Instagram accounts for body positivity:

Ashley Graham and Iskra Lawrence are both plus sized models who

Jessamyn Stanley is an incredible yoga practitioner and is one of the leading yoga advocates for those of us who don’t have

Project Heal is a charity that raises money for eating disorder treatment and their Instagram account is filled with great quotes, photos and information about eating disorders and positive role models.

Harnaam Kaur is an amazing activist for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and facial hair.

Megan Jayne Crabbe is not only open and positive about all types of bodies, her Instagram is full of colour, which is always happy-making.

Kelvin Davis is one of the, still too rare, male advocates for body positivity. Besides the important message, he also has great style, I have never seen a photo of him NOT SMILING.

And, in honour of the Winter Olympics, Alana Nichols, an incredible Paralympic Gold Medalist and skier (amongst other sports!).

Top photo by @theashleygraham, second photo by @oyamabotha via @themilitantbaker,third photo by @bodyposipanda, fourth photo by @jessamynstanley, Brontorina by James Howe, last photo by @notoriouslydapper.

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