From the myth of beauty to a look at eating, these books are all about loving yourself.
The way we feel about our bodies can be complicated, and influenced by many different things, from pop culture to magazines to cultural attitudes.
Our view of our bodies can be shaped by the images we see around us. Last year research by YouGov revealed that 40% of women aged 18-34 felt more self-conscious about their body and appearance after watching Love Island, with 30% of fans considering going on a diet after watching the reality show.
It can also be moulded by the experiences that are open to us - Stylist’s beauty editor Lucy Partington has written powerfully about the difficulties involved in going to the spa as a plus-sized woman - or the lack of visibility for people who look like us, whether that’s in body type, skin tone, or ability, in campaigns for beauty products and clothing.
Our view of our bodies can have an effect on our mental health: a new survey by the Mental Health Foundation has found that one in eight adults has had suicidal thoughts or feelings because of concerns about their body image.
While the representation of women and the way we are talked about is slowly changing, there is still some way to go. And while we wait, here are nine empowering, informative books that will you transform the way you see your body.
Happy Fat by Sofie Hagen
Comedian Sofie Hagen’s debut book is a joyous yet informative read about loving your body, and the ways in which the world tries to make it so that you don’t. Hagen shares the story of how she came to love her fat body, theorises on why we should take ownership of the word fat as a descriptive term, and explains the way society makes life more difficult for fat people. She also shares how she removed fat phobic influences from her daily life, and gives space to other people from the fat liberation movement to share their stories
Happy Fat is out now (4th Estate, £12.99).
Eat Up! by Ruby Tandoh
Part of our unhealthy attitudes towards our bodies can be linked to our attitudes towards food. Great British Bake Off finalist Ruby Randoh takes a look at those attitudes and more in Eat Up!, a wonderful book about food and the pleasure and fun it gives us. In Eat Up! Tandoh looks at the food crazes and bad science that can make eating guilt-laden and expensive, and talks about everything from mental health to sex. The book includes recipes for delicious, delectable food, some healthy, some not, and will teach you to love what you put into your body.
Eat Up! is out now (Serpent’s Tail, £8.99).
Eat, Drink, Run by Bryony Gordon
“I’m not built for running.” “I’ve not got a dancer’s frame.” We often place limitations on ourselves because of our bodies, but in Eat, Drink, Run, journalist Bryony Gordon shows that we don’t need to hold ourselves back and that our bodies are stronger than we think. Gordon took up running to help with her mental health, eventually running the London Marathon. A powerful, and funny (this is Gordon after all), memoir about looking after our minds and our bodies, and showing that both are capable of extraordinary things.
Eat, Drink, Run is out now (Headline, £8.99).
Hunger by Roxane Gay
Roxane Gay writes honestly and astutely about feminism, women’s bodies and food, and nowhere more so than in her intimate memoir Hunger. Using her own experiences from childhood through to now, she explores pleasure, consumption, desire and self-care. In Hunger, Gay explores what it means to be overweight in a world where the bigger you are, the more invisible you are. Deeply personal, and at times difficult reading, this is an inspiring read.
Hunger is out now (Corsair, £8.99).
Body Positive Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe
YouTuber Megan Jayne Crabbe - known as @bodyposipanda - talks about her body images issues in Body Positive Power. Beginning when she was five years old, Crabbe spent her childhood trying to be thing, and spiralled into anorexia at 14. After recovery she spent years in a cycle of dieting and bingeing, gaining and losing weight, before learning to love her body. A powerful and practical call to arms for changing the way we think about fat and thin.
Body Positive Power is out now (Vermilion, £10.99).
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
Naomi Wolf’s investigation into the beauty industry was first published in 1990, and is a classic. It looks at the pressure women feel about their looks in a society that is obsessed with youth and beauty. The Beauty Myth is angry, gripping and frank, exposing how the tyranny of the myth of beauty is used as a tool of oppression for women across the world. Knowledge is power, and Wolf arms us with the power to appreciate our bodies for what they are, and reject unrealistic beauty myth.
The Beauty Myth is out now (Vintage Classics, £11.99).
Shrill by Lindy West
Lindy West’s Shrill, which has been adapted for television, is about how women are told to be small - physically small, quiet, and small in our presence in the world - and how we shouldn’t accept this. West discusses the obstacles and stereotyping she had to overcome to make herself heard, and tackles subjects including racism, oppression, fat-shaming and rape culture. Full of black humour, Shrill is a book about how as women we shouldn’t be afraid to take up room.
Shrill is out now (Quercus, £9.99).
Leap In by Alexandra Heminsley
In Leap In, Alexandra Heminsley chronicles her journey to becoming a swimmer, beginning with conquering her fear of water. We join Heminsley as she goes through the ordeal of getting into a swimsuit through to cheering her on as she swims from Kefalonia to Ithaca. Leap In is a memoir about appreciating your body and stilling your mind.
Leap In is out now (Cornerstone, £8.99).
Fat is a Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach
Susie Orback wrote Fat is a Feminist Issue more than 40 years ago, but it’s still as relevant and useful a read today. Updated throughout, and with a new introduction, Fat is a Feminist Issue talks about how obsessed we can become with eating, not eating and avoiding fat, and shows that bodies and beauty cannot be disconnected from feminism. A classic that will help you face the demands of 21st century living.
Fat is a Feminist Issue is out now (Arrow, £9.99).
For far too long, the representation of women by both mainstream and social media has failed to reflect who we see in the mirror, and its impact on our mental health is worrying. Stylist’s Love Women initiative promises to change that. We’ve launched a Body Politics series, and partnered with Dove, whose latest project (in conjunction with photo library Getty Images) aims to increase the supply of diverse pictures of women – which we will be using going forward.
Our editor-in-chief Lisa Smosarski has also made five pledges to Stylist readers:
- We will ensure the women you see on our pages represent all women – inclusive of ethnicity, body shape, sexuality, age and disability. When we create content and ideas, we will ensure that all women are represented at the table. We commit to featuring one fashion or beauty photoshoot a month that uses real, diverse women.
- We will ensure that we never sell an impossible dream. We believe in aspiration, but not in selling a lie. We will work with influencers, celebrities and other partners to encourage them to reveal their truths, too.
- We will celebrate the so-called flaws of women to prove the normality in all of our bodies. We will run videos, photoshoots and honest accounts of our bodies and how they behave.
- We will hold regular huddles with our advertisers and brand partners to challenge the way they portray and reflect women in their branding and advertising. We will call out and challenge brands, media and people who refuse to represent women with respect and truth. We will call on the government to support our goals.
- Through insight and anecdote, we will teach everyone about the issues facing women, what needs to be done and how we can all work together to resolve this self-esteem crisis.
Images: Supplied by publishers