No matter your shape or size, it’s easy for body hate to creep in. We’re all constantly subjected to images and representations of beauty that are impossible to achieve. It’s enough to make body acceptance seem just as out of reach. Thankfully, in Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook for Unapologetic Living, author Jes Baker, the activist behind the blog The Militant Baker and self-described “fat” woman, shares her own path to embracing her body just as is. Not only does she prove that it is possible, she provides useful advice for those of us trying to follow suit.
Baker, who has been involved in numerous acceptance projects like #EmpowerALLBodies, is familiar with the struggles of the journey, and her guidance is all the more practical for it. She inspires without being preachy or cliché and offers a liberal dose of humor and real talk. Guest essayists also weigh in, giving readers a wider range of perspectives. Baker’s book is quotable, applicable, and worth sharing.
Here are nine ways you can work on feeling more confident about your body starting right now, based on Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls by Jes Baker.
Reassess The Word “Fat”
Because we most often hear the word “fat” used negatively, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that it is actually a neutral term. Baker quotes writer Marianne Kirby as rightly pointing out that it just means “having a lot of adipose tissue.” The connotation of the word — like beauty ideals — is socially constructed and has evolved over time, so it’s in our power to change it.
Revamp Your Media Feed
Pop culture is full of images of thin women made still thinner with the help of Photoshop, along with a host of other adjustments made in the name of “perfection.” These images might not be escapable, but you can control your feeds to ensure that you’re seeing diverse portrayals of women and beauty. For Baker, discovering body positive Tumblrs was a game-changer; seeing so many confident women helped her realize that being fat and being happy are most definitely not mutually exclusive.
Re-Frame Your Conversations About Body Image
As Baker points out, women have a tendency to bond over complaints about our bodies. (Um, guilty.) In order to let go of body hate, these conversations need to stop. They’re detrimental not just to ourselves but also to those around us. Body commentary is often completely unnecessary and harmful. We have to be mindful of the implications of what we say and what kind of ideas our words may be reinforcing. No more telling our friends how slimming their dress is or how “good” we were for skipping dessert.
Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
Because we all have ideas about how we’re supposed to look and what we can and can’t do, it’s easy for us to limit ourselves when our mind's image doesn’t line up with our reality. Throughout Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls, Baker challenges readers to do the things that will make them happy, society be damned! She weaves in everything from going biking to sitting in a restaurant booth to wearing a bikini. If there’s something body hate has been holding you back from, go on and do it!*
*As long as it’s legal.
Make Bold Fashion Choices
Consider your reasons for wearing what you do. If you find that you’re using clothing to hid your insecurities, resolve to change how you dress. Whether you want to rip off the Band-Aid or ease your way into it, Baker encourages us to play by our own rules and wear the clothes we actually want to wear. I can vouch for the fact that it can be scary to wear an outfit that puts your so-called flaws on display, but it also feels good when you find the courage to do it.
Take All The Selfies You Want
Baker makes a great case for the often mocked photos. Selfies offer us a chance to put more images of real women out there and all that we entail: cellulite, wrinkles, rolls, diversity, etc. On top of that, she argues that it combats the idea that we shouldn’t be proud of our own appearance and that we should take up as little space as possible. Get out there and start snapping pics.
Build A Positive Support System
The journey to body acceptance isn’t an easy one, so it’s understandable if you need support along the way — in fact, it’d be shocking if you didn’t. Baker recommends putting together what she calls a “five-legged support system,” with the legs being a combination of people and actions. Examples of her system include her mom, her boyfriend, and creating art. Whatever you choose, keep in mind that they should be positive presences in your life. If you have a friend who injects body hate into your life, then it’s in your best interest to cut him or her loose.
Have A “Hard-Day Plan” In Place
Baker is also a big fan of having a “hard-day plan” ready. That way, when you’re struggling to be body positive (or just positive in general), you can turn to your plan to get back on track. Your strategy should include tried and true activities that make you feel better, whether that be a chat on the phone with a loved one or a visit to your favorite Tumblr.
Keep Positive Mantras In Your Mind
If you think affirmations are a little too new-age for you, Baker gets it. She admits to having been skeptical, but she’s learned that they can create new pathways in our brains that help us change our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Hating your body isn’t something you have to settle for, so these affirmations are absolutely worth trying.