I just finished reading Lindy West’s memoir Shrill (if you like hilarious, body-positive, inspiring writing, I can’t recommend it enough), and loved West’s advice for how to start liking your body:
“Honestly, this ‘Where do you get your confidence?’ chapter could be 16 words long. Because there was really only one step to my body acceptance: Look at pictures of fat women on the Internet until they don’t make you uncomfortable anymore. That was the entire process.
“(Optional step two: Wear crop top until you forget you’re wearing a crop top. Suddenly, a crop top is just a top. Repeat.)”
I haven’t ordered any crop tops — yet — but looking at pictures of women who we don’t traditionally see in the media was also super useful in my body image journey.
I love how she describes her body-positive transformation:
I discovered a photo blog called ‘Hey, Fat Chick’ (now, crushingly, defunct) run by an effervescent Australian angel names Frances Lockie, and pored over it nightly like a jeweler or a surgeon or a codebreaker. It was pure, unburdened joy, and so simple: Just fat women — some bigger than me, some smaller — wearing outfits and doing things and smiling. Having lives. That’s it. They were like medicine. One by one they loosened my knots.
First, I stopped reacting with knee-jerk embarrassment at the brazenness of their bodies, the way I’d been trained. I stopped feeling obscene, exposed, like someone had ripped the veil off my worst secrets.
Next, they became ordinary. Mundane. Neutral. Their thick thighs and sagging bellies were just bodies, like any other. Their lives were just lives, like any other. Like mine.
Then, one day, they were beautiful. I wanted to look and be like them — I wanted to spill out of a crop top; plant a flag in a mountain of lingerie; alienate small, bitter men who dared to presume that women exist for their consumption; lay bare the cowardice in recoiling at something as literally fundamental as a woman’s real body. I wasn’t unnatural after all; the cultural attitude that taught me so was the real abomination. My body, I realized, was an opportunity. It was political. It moved the world just by existing. What a gift.
No matter what your weight is*, if you're afraid of, or embarrassed by, non-thin bodies, you will struggle more with your eating. Why? Because if you’re afraid, on some level, to be anything but thin (or whatever is your ideal), you will have to control your eating so that you don’t somehow have this terrible, undesirable body.
On the other hand, if you appreciate and admire all bodies — yes, even “fat” ones — then you can be kind to yourself, exercise and eat to make yourself feel good, and trust that whatever your body ends up looking like, it will be okay.
So the practice is simple, just like West says: “Look at pictures of fat women on the Internet until they don’t make you uncomfortable anymore.”
This strategy sounds so simple, but please don’t underestimate its potency. If you are wondering where to start, here are some sites I’ve been enjoying lately:
Anything that Tess Holliday does.
The adipositivity project (warning: NSFW)
To find more resources, search on Google, Instagram, Pinterest, or your favorite social platform for terms like “body positive photos” or “plus-size bloggers.” And share what resonates with you in the comments, so we can all appreciate the wealth!
*It’s also worth acknowledging that as a person with what might be called a “medium-sized body,” I haven’t ever experienced the kind of weight-based stigma that someone like West has had to face. Thin privilege is an unfortunate reality, and there are many ways in which we need to question and push back against it — for the benefit of all people. But one of the ways we can push back, quite simply, is deciding that we get to determine for ourselves if we are beautiful. Virgie Tovar wrote a fantastic article on this recently, if you’d like to read.