“Fat.” The word may sound harsh and critical, bringing up hurtful memories or distinct images. But blogger Jes Baker has no problem saying it — in fact, she uses it more than 370 times in her book Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls, in an effort to crush the stigma that surrounds the charged word.
Published in October 2015 by Seal Press, Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls is an unapologetic, radical ode to loving your body and challenging societal perceptions about health. Baker combines articles, personal stories, expert interviews and statistics in a fierce guide that is not only entertaining to read, but essential to anyone who has a body.
In the handbook, Baker, who’s also founder of the popular blog The Militant Baker, explores topics such as sex, mental illness, “fatshion” and body shaming in 13 upfront chapters.
The body activist addresses these issues with a fearless writing style that points out absurdities in our culture, such as how we put our lives on hold until we reach an ideal weight (I’ll treat myself to a vacation after I lose those 10 pounds), accept only one kind of plus-size model (usually white women with hourglass figures) and judge selfies even though they challenge photoshopped ads.
Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls isn’t just one woman’s view on body positivity. Instead, Baker tackles complex subjects with short “guest essays” by leaders of the body positivity movement. The first-person essays — written by LGBTQIA individuals, black women, men and individuals with disabilities — contribute a more inclusive dialogue on the intersection of body positivity and racism, ableism and sexism. When these sections come together, the result is similar to when Marvel’s Avengers combine their unique strengths to tackle a common foe; except in Baker’s empowering book, these diverse experts unite to combat discrimination.
The author also excels in sharing personal narratives that resonate with readers. In the chapter “Start now GODDAMNIT: waiting doesn’t work,” Baker shares a story in which she finds old pictures of herself and notices how beautiful she looked when she was slimmer. She wonders if she should lose weight now to become her “Old Me,” but then stops herself, realizing her “Old Me” actually loathed her body. Crying, Baker reflects on how she wishes she could tell her “Old Me” how exquisite she is.
“I sobbed for the girl who was so beautiful on both the inside and the outside but couldn’t see it … I sobbed for the girl who repeatedly punished herself for not being good enough,” Baker writes. “And I sobbed for every other girl out there who believes the same lies that she did. I sobbed because these lies destroy lives.”
There are somber stories in this book that might trigger past emotions, and there are inspiring, redeeming narratives. But the most important aspect of Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls is it includes tips on how to promote body positivity, which range from sporting crop tops and diversifying Tumblr accounts to diagramming emotions and analyzing advertisements.
What differentiates Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls from other health books I’ve read is Baker’s writing style, which combines a commanding tone, effortless wit and casual voice — with a whole lot of swear words thrown in. She speaks to readers like an old friend, and this narrative style helps introduce sensitive topics. There is a sense of comfort, advocacy and emotional relevance in her words, and her prose will make you laugh on one page about dancing cats and cry the next about the value of confidence.
One of the most powerful moments in the book is when Baker confronts what we usually never tell ourselves: that we are worthy of self-love. The book frankly states, with no if’s or but’s, that you (yes, you) deserve to love yourself.
“Stop looking for differences. You are perfect. You are more than enough,” Baker writes. “You are the best thing that has ever happened to you. And you are f*cking beautiful. Now say it with me.”