Have you heard that old bit about goldfish and water? Two young goldfish are swimming around and they pass an older goldfish who says to them, “Water’s great today!” After, one of the young goldfish says, “What the heck is water?” Diet culture is like the water around us; we swim through it everyday and it seems so normal and commonplace that we don’t even recognize it’s there.
Diet culture is a system of beliefs that equates thinness to health and a higher moral and social status, that promotes weight loss and shrinking one’s body, and perpetuates fatphobia and oppresses people in non-normative bodies, especially people of color, disabled people, queer people, and trans people. Seventy five percent of women exhibit disordered eating or thoughts about food or their bodies. Ninety one percent of women try to control their weight with dieting and 22% are “always” dieting. Are you tired of the shame we put on diverse bodies? Are you sick of the constant diet cycle and shame of “failing” over and over when actually 95% of diets fail you?
Making peace with our bodies, with eating, with taking up space figuratively and literally, is a radical act while living in a culture steeped in dieting, diet culture, and oppression, and while dieting is a multi-billion dollar industry. To reject dieting, to fight diet culture, and to treat people living in larger bodies with dignity and respect is to live better in our personal lives and to make change socially and culturally. These five books will illuminate the myths surrounding equating health with thinness, challenge your assumptions about fat and size, educate you on the unethical treatment of fat people, and teach you how to live differently—and better—when you reach for liberation from dieting and diet culture.
Anti-Diet: Reclaim Your Time, Money, Well-Being, and Happiness Through Intuitive Eating— Christy Harrison. As a registered anti-diet dietician and journalist, Harrison offers this incredibly well-researched manifesto on rejecting dieting once and for all.
She uncovers how the blame of dieting failures and weight stigma is not the fault of individuals, but rather the fault of the diet industry, creating victims for profits, and unethical science and attitudes.
The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love—Sonya Renee Taylor. Read this book. Just read it. Taylor offers one of the most valuable gifts: radical self-love.
Radical self-love is about healing the wounds of oppression, body terrorism, and systems that perpetuate racism, sexism, fatphobia, queerphobia, and ableism. Taylor invites us to dismantle those systems—with love and with a brand new chapter of tools and exercises published in this second edition.
Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach—Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. If and when you’re ready to leave dieting behind forever, learning about intuitive eating offers a detailed road map for how to do it.
Based on 10 principles, intuitive eating is about everything from rejecting diet mentality to respecting your body to relearning how to honor your hunger and respect your fullness. If this how-to guide is useful to you on your journey, consider their accompanying workbook or their recently published book of daily exercises.
The F*ck It Diet: Eating Should Be Easy—Caroline Dooner. This is not another diet book; it’s not even another diet book masquerading as a “lifestyle change.” There are no rules. F*ck it.
As both a comedian and a former chronic dieter, Dooner’s anti-diet diet book is both funny and scientifically accurate. Are you still hungry after lunch? F*ck it, eat when your body is hungry. The lesson you’ll learn by the end of the book goes way beyond the irreverence or rebellion you might assume it teaches, but goes way deeper and down to relearning intuition and trusting our bodies again.
What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat— Aubrey Gordon. Did you know housing and job discrimination because someone is fat is legal? And what if I told you that fat people received worse healthcare, not simply because half of all doctors describe their fat patients as “awkward” and “ugly” but also because fat people are regularly told to “lose weight” as treatment for things like ear infections or broken bones?
Gordon walks readers through the world of anti-fatness and the systems that keep it in place. This must end. As she says, “We can build a world that doesn’t assume fat people are failed thin people, or that thin people are categorically healthy and virtuous.”
Liberating yourself from dieting and diet culture is not easy, but it is important. These books will help you see differently, love yourself and others more, and ultimately live better. They will help you see the water around you—and you can’t clean up dirty water if you can’t see it.