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    5 Books To Guide You On Your Body Image Journey

    Give yourself some much-deserved shelf-love.

    I remember the exact moment my relationship to books changed forever. I was 15 years old. I could not yet legally drive alone, nor had I lost all of my baby teeth (that's another story), but I had mastered the art of whittling my body—and inadvertently, my life—down. I had imagined that the consequence of being thin was a life of teen movie proportions. Pool parties! Boys! Happiness set to a pop song beat! Unfortunately—plot twist—that was nowhere near the case. The more I dieted, the less I remembered what else I cared about. I began to exist more than really live.

    Thankfully, not too far down that road, I was diverted. As fiercely protective as I was about my diet, I would never really acknowledge it out loud. That is, until I was caringly confronted in a most official setting. Over winter break, I got the stomach flu, and my mom took me to the doctor. His expression of concern was enough to shake me up before things got worse. It was the most fortuitously timed case of the pukes I've ever had.

    While I was willing to acknowledge that I needed to change, I wasn't yet ready to speak about what I was going through. My parents were, as they often have been, one step ahead of me. While I wasn't willing to talk yet, I was willing to read. So they got me books.

    One of those was the New York Times Bestseller Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls by Mary Pipher. While reading one night in my green-and-yellow flower-printed bedroom, the same one where I'd snuggled up with teddy bears and played dress-up, I flipped ahead to the chapter on disordered eating. A couple passages included acute descriptions of the personality traits and course that Pipher saw as common for girls who go from dieting to more extreme restrictive eating. Oh my gosh, I thought. That describes me exactly. As simple as that sounds, it was an intense experience, and a new one for me at the time. Each sentence hit me on a cellular level. Someone was able to pierce through and put words to the most private spaces of my world, the ones I hadn't yet been able to fully understand or capture myself. I was not alone. I reconginze now that the feeling I had whlile reading Reviving Ophelia is one that marks a really good book. One you were meant to find.

    In the years since that night in my bedroom, I have sought out and devoured a number of books, essays, and articles on body image. Reading, and eventually, writing on the subject has helped me better understand not only my story, but others' experiences as well, and the larger context in which they all occur. I am grateful for every page.

    Eventually, I acknowledged how valuable and necessary getting face-to-face support is, whether that be through family and friends, a therapist, a nutritionist, or other professionals. If you are struggling with your body image or eating behaviors, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) has tons of helpful resources on their website, including a search tool for finding professionals in your area. But if you're looking for a book to provide connection, education, or inspiration along your journey, here are five wonderful ones.

    Life Doesn't Begin 5 Pounds from Now: A Step-by-Step Guide to Loving Your Body Today by Jessica Weiner

    Simon & Schuster / Via

    This is one of the first books on body image I came across after Pipher's work, and I still think of it as the perfect starter for someone interested in learning more about the subject. Weiner digs into the "Language of Fat," or how we use fixating on and talking about our bodies to cover up vulnerable feelings. If you're not familiar with Weiner's writing or her work shifting the culture on a corporate level—including Barbie’s recent body type expansion—I highly suggest you check her out.

    Get it from Amazon for $0.99+, Barnes & Noble for $9.99+, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here.

    Body Positive Power: How to Stop Dieting, Make Peace with Your Body and Live by Megan Jayne Crabbe

    Penguin Books Limited / Via

    Crabbe may be better known by her Instagram handle, @bodyposipanda, but this candy-haired queen deserves every credit for her work as an author. In this book, she explores the many facets of having a body in this world, from diet culture to #fitspo, with the help of a variety of sources, from history and research to pop culture and her own experience. I started this book with the feeling that I already knew plenty about body image, but I learned so much. What's more, Crabbe's insightful and empowering perspectives left me feeling more secure in the body-positive path I'm taking.

    Get it from Amazon for $18.04+, Barnes & Noble for $9.99+, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here.

    The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love by Sonya Renee Taylor

    Penguin Random House / Via

    I came across this book thanks to the BuzzFeed Books newsletter. While many books and articles on body image encourage us to learn how to accept ourselves or build self-confidence, Taylor challenges readers to seek the "port far beyond the isle of self-acceptance," which is radical self-love. This book helped me recognize that what often feels subversive—openly loving our bodies and selves as they are—is actually the most beautifully natural thing. It’s a love we came into this world with (and deserve to keep).

    Get it from Amazon for $9.99+, Barnes & Noble for $10.99+, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here.

    Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

    Harper Collins Publishers / Via

    I've already read this book twice this year. I've struggled with writing this description because no words feel quite good enough. This book is so honest. Gay unflinchingly (or flinchingly, but persistently) explores her relationship with her body, and the people and experiences that have molded it. She lays bare the trauma that shaped her life (and body) to come and leaves room for reflections on weight-loss reality TV and Ina Garten. The acuity with which Gay shares her truth (not to mention her masterful way with words) is a gift to all of us.

    Get it from Amazon for $11.55+, Barnes & Noble for $11.99+, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here.

    Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

    Macmillan Publishers / Via

    This book was recommended to me by my nutritionist (yes, face-to-face support has been critical for me on my journey), and I am grateful for it every day. The philosophy of intuitive eating is rather simple; at its core, it's about retuning into your body's cues about what to eat when and how much. While some people may naturally eat that way, for a chronic dieter, such an approach can feel practically alien. I can happily say, though, that while I still have my moments of struggle with food, I feel free from diet culture in a way that I couldn't have fully believed at fifteen.

    Get it from Amazon for $9.99+, Barnes & Noble for $9.99+, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here.