With summer in full swing, you may find yourself thinking about your health and wellness goals more than usual. Maybe you’re losing the wait and thinking about going on a diet. Every year, there’s constant pressure to make sure you look “in your swimsuit.”
As a woman, I feel an additional obligation to stay slim. I began to wonder what other women were saying about weight loss and diet requirements.
I scoured the internet and my library to find the best body positivity books written by women who understand the burden of societal expectations. I read reviews from other well-known authors, critics and media organizations and researched what other bookworms were saying. From these reviews, I’ve compiled this curated list of the most popular and famous body love books.
Whether your goal is to exercise, try a new diet, eat more, or just read, these books are for us all.
Established writer, professor and avid Twitter userRoxane Gay published her seventh book and first memoir, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, in 2017. She quickly became a New York Times bestseller for her honesty about weight gain and struggles with food, health, and body image.
I currently have two more Roxane Gay books on my shelf: Bad Feminist and Not That Bad. Both are collections of essays by Gaye and other contributing writers. I’m a fan of creative nonfiction, and in all three books, Gay captures exactly what I love about the genre—authenticity.
In Hunger Gay, she explains that her memoir is not a weight loss success story and that she will not describe how she went from plus-size to thin. (Spoiler alert: He doesn’t lose weight.) Instead, Gay learns so much more, like self-love, compassion, companionship, and acceptance.
Another reason I enjoy this memoir is that Gay doesn’t write from a pedestal. Instead, he speaks to his audience directly and in a way that someone who has also struggled with body acceptance would understand.
“This is a book about my body, about my hunger, and ultimately it’s a book about disappearing and losing and wanting so much, wanting to be seen and understood. It’s a book about learning, albeit slowly, to allow me to was seen and understood.” — Roxanne Gay
You might like this book if…
Do you like raw, vulnerable work, or do you prefer writing non-fiction or memoir. This book is for those who are not looking for a perfect fairy tale ending, but are looking for a piece of work that is human and relatable.
After a very successful online career as a blogger, photographer and self-love advocate, Jes Baker has published her first book, Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook for Unapologetic Living. Her blog, The Militant Baker, has been featured in leading media outlets such as Time Magazine, People, Buzzfeed, and CNN.
Things No One Says to Fat Girls: A Guide to Living a Regret-Free Life details the life-changing movement of learning to love your body. Leading the fight, Baker encourages her readers to reject fat-shaming and challenge preconceived notions of the “perfect body.”
Baker writes that her book is for those with bodies who are sick and tired of apologizing for it. He believes you should be allowed to and you are expected to do all the things that make you happy, including being able to live your life.
A unique aspect of this book is that it contains challenges. Baker calls them “The Fat People: Do All the Things” challenges. The idea is based on one of her satirical blog posts calling out for things fat people are told not to do. Readers can choose to get involved by accepting these challenges.
“We’re more likely to be told by the world that we’re good people than anything else. Funny, creative, intelligent, commutative, generous, maybe even extraordinary. We’re not told that our bodies are perfect just the way they are.” It teaches us that our exterior is flawed, and not only that, but most of our value lies in our physical appearance.” — Jes Baker
You might like this book if…
Are you someone who wants something more from a book? Jes Baker’s guide is for those who want to make the lessons in this book and the self-love movement a lifestyle.
If you’ve followed any body positivity or body-positive women on Instagram in the past few years, chances are you’ve heard of this book by Caroline Dooner. As a former dieter, Dooner cured her unhealthy obsession with food and weight.
Dooner believes you don’t need to change your diet or try something new—you need to change the way you think about food. She says that diets are not sustainable, at least not in the long term, and she thinks that subjecting your body to constant dieting and overeating is not a healthy and enjoyable way to live.
A memoir with heart and humor, The F*ck it Diet: Eating Should Be Easy encourages readers to eat. This means understanding when your body is hungry and satisfying your body’s needs with food. Dooner says eating should be simple, and she breaks it down to its truest and most natural form.
“When you eat, you are actually bringing ‘earth’ into your body – tying you to the planet and keeping you alive. It brings weight to your physical existence. The act of eating and returning to your body asks you to embrace being human. It asks us to integrate into the most unpleasant, dirty, earthly, painful and base parts of our existence.” — Caroline Dooner
You might like this book if….
If you’re looking for a laugh while reading, Dooner does a great job of describing and poking fun at the issues we all face. Reminiscent of a laugh and a conversation with a friend, the book is for those who no longer feel guilty about eating and gaining weight.
Former beauty fanatic Anuschka Rees wrote Beyond Beautiful: A Practical Guide to Being Happy, Confident, and You in a Look-Obsessed World as a riveting self-care publication. Don’t just take my word for it – Caroline Dooner (author of The F*ck it Diet above) called this book “a self-confidence bible that every woman should read.”
Beyond Beautiful it reads like a college course manual and the first chapter is aptly titled Body Image 101. This book taught me a lot, for example I had never heard of the term “body image”. Rees explains that being body positive is a step in the right direction because we need to change the beauty standards in society, but we also need to be body neutral. It is a call to respect ourselves as human beings, not just body parts that we shrink and dissect.
Rees’ guide is unique in that over 600 real women were interviewed about their struggles with body image. Their quotes and real-life stories are scattered throughout the chapters. There are also thought-provoking questions, colorful artwork and advice on when and how to get professional help.
“A healthy body image is a bit like a great work-life balance: we know we definitely want it, but we’re not 100 percent clear on what that actually looks like or how to achieve it. And the fact that body image is a hot topic right now now it hasn’t made things any more straightforward; because combined with all the good advice, there’s a whole host of conflicting information and misconceptions that have muddied the waters even more.” — Anuschka Rees
You might like this book if…
Looking for a crash course in body positivity and self-love. I would recommend this guide to those who are just starting to learn in today’s movement but don’t know where to start.
Lindy West began her writing career as an opinion writer for The New York Times. With this professional background, you wouldn’t expect West to publish such a comic piece of writing as her memoir, Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman..
The title of this memoir may sound familiar to you—as it does to me—because the book was recently adapted into a Hulu series of the same name, starring Aidy Bryant of Saturday night life. Bryant’s performance on the series earned her a 2021 Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
West’s Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman she is a feminist and mostly funny, taking on the image of the female body. It describes the experience of many women who feel the need to shrink in order to hide and fit into society. West writes about his personal struggles with body weight and exactly how it feels.
“Please don’t forget, I am my body. When my body shrinks, it’s still me. When my body expands, it’s still me. I’m not a skinny woman waiting to be dug up. I’m one piece.” — Lindy West
You might like this book if…
Looking to expand your library of feminist commentary, especially body positivity. This memoir is also for those who like or are interested in Roxanne Gay’s Hunger. Both are from the same genre and tell a story with intimate details.
Why are these books important?
This is by no means an exhaustive list of body positive books. As this movement becomes more popular, I hope this list grows and the audience expands.
These books are important because they offer a voice to those who feel shamed or disadvantaged by the diet and over-exercise culture. They also provide a supportive community for those struggling with society’s beauty and weight standards.
Positive body image and self-love are ideals that everyone should bring into the new year. We hope these books encourage you and lead you to a deeper love for yourself.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions regarding health conditions or health goals.