While I consider myself a champion for body love, the truth is, that wasn’t always the case. Growing up, I’d tease my sister over her weight — a glaring reflection of my level of confidence with my own physical appearance at the time, rather than hers. And, unfortunately, I can remember a moment of body shaming in high school — when I inadvertently mocked a friend’s jean size during a shopping trip. To say that I felt awful would be an understatement. But, if I’m being completely honest, my “fat prejudice” still revealed itself in small ways over the years.
So when I first stumbled across blogger Jes Baker’s debut book, Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook for Unapologetic Living, I was intrigued. And when a coworker and friend of mine, a self-proclaimed “unapologetic fat babe,” highly recommended the book after devouring it within a matter of days — I knew I had to read it. I’m so glad I did!
As the title implies, the book is written for “fat girls,” but everyone of all genders and sizes should read it and learn from it. Seriously. For instance, before reading the book, my default response to friends and family members who identified as fat was to say:
“You’re not fat; you’re beautiful,” as if the two were mutually exclusive.
I know better now. And, as in all things, when you know better, you do better.
Admittedly, I’d never heard about Jes Baker prior to learning about her book. I’d never read her blog, TheMilitantBaker.com, nor had I followed her on Instagram (which, if you don’t, you definitely should).
It’s probably because my knowledge of plus-size bloggers/models only extended to the Ashley Grahams and Gabi Freshs of the world — you know, the curvy plus-sized models who have slowly become more accepted in mainstream media.
While Ashley Graham is one of my personal girl crushes, and her Sports Illustrated cover (the first of its kind for a plus-size model) was incredibly noteworthy, we still have a looong way to go before all body sizes are embraced and celebrated worldwide.
Jes Baker’s book begins with a love note:
“For all the fat girls who have no idea that they are absolutely perfect.”
Quite frankly, this statement could apply to ALL girls because we ALL have insecurities and hangups about our bodies. Yes, I’m sure sometimes even Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian have things they’d like to change about their appearances despite their seemingly #flawless images.
And let’s face it: as women, most of us have been subjected to these kinds of messages since we came out the womb. According to statistics from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) cited in the book, “81 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat.” TEN YEAR OLDS!
Adolescent girls who should be more concerned about discovering their passions and exploring their interests are “more afraid of becoming fat than they are of cancer, war or losing both of their parents.” Let that sink in for a moment.
And it doesn’t stop at puberty. During my junior year of college, my cheerleading coach told me that my body size was “okay,” but I could stand to lose a “few pounds.”
In an act of defiance, I quit the team. But I fell into a dangerous pattern the following year — overextending myself among classes, internships, and a host of extracurriculars, overdoing workouts, and often forgetting to eat.
Naturally, I lost weight and received a ton of compliments — and let’s be real, I loved the attention. At roughly 135 pounds, I was the skinniest I’d ever been, but when I look back on those pictures, I remember also feeling unhappy and unhealthy.
And I know I’m not the only one who has striven for these unrealistic ideals of beauty. Unrealistic because, according to ANAD, “only 5 percent of women naturally possess the body type often portrayed by Americans in the media.” But we don’t have to struggle to attain this impossible body. As Jes Baker declares in her book, “Your weight is not a reflection of your worth.”
At 165 pounds, I am surrounded by supportive friends and family, successful in a career that I love, and married to a man who adores me — I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. This further proves Jes’s theory that “happiness is not a size; happiness is a state of being.”
Of course, we all have our days when nothing fits and we hate everything. During those times, I refer to two things I learned from Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls — my “hard-day plan” (the list of things that cheer me up before I sink into a dark hole and throw myself a one-woman pity party) and The Post-it Challenge (wherein you write an affirmation and that thing you love about your body). Mine: “You are enough” and “I love my curves.” Because self-care and mental health are crucial.
And an interesting thing happened after finishing the book: I stopped judging other women based on their sizes.
I realized we’re all — no matter what size we are — on a self-love journey, a journey toward loving our bodies rather than picking them apart. And if you’ve already reached your body-love destination, I commend you.
As for the rest of us, I believe Jes Baker said it best: “You are worthy. You are lovable. You are perfect.”