For four years of my life, I fit the standards for “conventional beauty”. It was a body sculpted through eating disorders, that wasn’t happy, and one I didn’t fully recognize until it was gone.
Before that, I was one of the fat girls in high school. I’d convinced myself that I couldn’t get a date because I was fat (honestly, it was probably because my options were dickhead or dumbass). In my mind, everything that was wrong with my life was because I was fat. That was what media taught me. That was what men shouted out their windows when I ran to the bathroom at the Drive-In (yeah, that happened).
So, I struggled through the weight-loss. There was a short period in time where I weighed around 100 pounds. When I stood up too fast, my vision went black and my head spun. I’m pretty sure that’s when my teeth started to get messed up, too. I wasn’t eating, happy if I went to bed hungry. Needless to say, it was a very unhealthy time in my life.
A couple years into that “perfect body”, I got married. Marriage isn’t easy, but we love each other and with healthy love comes happiness. I didn’t worry so much about my body, because I knew he loved me. Fast forward a couple of years and I’m nearly back to my high school weight. I’m distraught.
We have a gym membership, going anywhere from four to five days a week. We tried dieting, too. For me, nothing would make that weight come off. I wasn’t getting what I wanted. Not now that I’m nearly nine years older. It was making me absolutely miserable to watch the scale keep climbing.
You know what I say to that?
I don’t need to beat myself up, emotionally or physically for some sort of perceived standard. I deserve to be healthy. I’m not going to stop going to the gym, but I’m going to focus on getting stronger so I can flash these biceps at the next person who thinks they can call me fat while I’m jogging.
This is why body positive and FAT representation is so so SO important in fiction. Fiction of all ages, too. If I’d had access to books that presented fat characters who could kick ass and fall in love, then I might have been able to build a healthy self-image. I would have had the confidence to be myself at any size, rather than believing that life began at a certain size.
While we need more and more books that display healthy body images, there are already some out there!
Nimona is a shapeshifter who wants to be an epic villain. She’s curvy and powerful.
It’s a quick and fun read with great rep.
*I have not yet read either of these. Both books have mentions or arcs that include weight-loss, but focus on fat-girl confidence that most fat protagonists don’t show.
If the Dress Fits is a contemporary romance about a size-24 accountant named Martha Aguas who asks her friend to play the role of the fake boyfriend for her cousin’s wedding.
Body image, fashion, and travel collide in this novel about a young woman who is told she is too fat to fly.
Mammoth by Jill Baguchinsky
Paleontology-geek and fashion blogger, Natalie Page interns at a dig site in Texas, but the oppressive heat forces her to set aside the shield of fashion and focus on her true ambitions in a male dominated field.
(Fall 2018, Turner Publishing)
Okay, so the list became kind of long. Sorry, not sorry.
While not all of these books are available yet, it just goes to show that there is a slow trickle of body-positive books entering the market. I will acknowledge that many of them focus on overcoming the issue of body image. We need more books where being fat isn’t central to the narrative. It would help to normalize healthy body images if readers could see that coming to terms with the division between their body and beauty standards isn’t the only narrative they can have.
Still, these are great examples of books (in a number of categories and genres) that I desperately needed when I was younger. I seriously want Fat Girl on a Plane and Mammoth because I told myself I couldn’t love fashion as a fat girl. I’m teaching myself that yes, I can love fashion at this size!
In the comments below, tell me your favorite body positive novel. I’d love to add more to my TBR.
(disclaimer: while I am not technically plus-size, my weight and body-shape means I identify with plus-size women more than anyone else.
Also, I used an image of food in my featured image because all too often people are shamed for enjoying food. We’re made to feel bad about eating, as if it’s the root of all our problems. The night before writing this, I struggled with guilt after enjoying pizza and a beer. Food should be enjoyed, not shamed.)