Best Body Image Books | Kara Lydon

Books can be helpful tools to keep in your toolbox on your body image healing journey. Highlighting my top 10 body image book recommendations – there’s something for everyone in this list!

image of woman stretching with text overlay, "the best body image books."

What is body image?

There are so many different ways we could describe body image but I think of it as the mental picture you have of your body, which includes thoughts, feelings, attitudes and beliefs toward the body.

Body image is influenced by so many factors including systemic oppression (the culture telling you thin is best and fat is bad), your biology, your history, your values, and so on.

It’s so complex in fact that it’s processed in 8 different parts of the brain! No wonder there’s not a lot of research on body image – even researchers struggle to understand it.

Body image is perceptual in nature, meaning your physical body may stay the same but your perception of your body can change dramatically over the course of a day or an hour, depending on the circumstances.

Graphic with quote: "Body image is perceptual in nature, meaning your physical body may stay the same but your perception of your body can change dramatically over the course of a day or an hour, depending on the circumstances."

For example, if you wake up and put on a pair of sweatpants and you sit down next to someone who is larger than you, you might feel your body is smaller and have a positive to neutral affect toward your body. Later on, maybe you change into a pair of tight jeans and sit down next to someone who is smaller than you, you might feel your body is bigger and have negative feelings about your body. Your body didn’t change over the course of the day but the perception of your body did!

Body image is dynamic, not static. It’s constantly changing depending on your mood, who you’re with, what you’re wearing, where you are in your cycle (if you menstruate), etc.

What are your body image goals?

How do you work on body image? 

I think it’s important to first get clear on your body image goals, wishes, or desires. 

Are you aiming toward body positivity? Do you want to work on body neutrality? Are you seeking body acceptance? Or body liberation?

Many people find body positivity unattainable and unrealistic and just another lofty ideal to try and strive for. Body neutrality, which involves not thinking much about your body or seeing it in a more neutral light, can be a more realistic goal. 

Remember that no matter what you’re working toward with regards to body image, it’s a life long practice and journey.

Body acceptance is not a destination you arrive at after so much work. Your relationship with your body is similar to any other relationship you may have – with a partner, family member or friend – you always have to work on it. Some days will feel easy and others will feel challenging. 

Graphic with quote: "Body acceptance is not a destination you arrive at after so much work. Your relationship with your body is similar to any other relationship you may have - with a partner, family member or friend - you always have to work on it. Some days will feel easy and others will feel challenging."

Everyone has bad body image days, or weeks, or months! Even folks who consider themselves to be body positive or fat activists – they too have challenging body image days. It’s part of being human.

The question then becomes how do you continue to take care of your body and show up for your body even on the hard days.

How can body image books help?

Body image books can offer you different perspectives on how to conceptualize body image, the factors that influence body image, and tools to practice to help improve how you feel toward your body.

These books can also help by offering you perspectives from authors of different backgrounds and marginalized identities. It’s important to learn about bodies from folks who don’t carry the same privileges as you. They can help you see things from a different lens and lived experience, which is extremely valuable.

Books can be great tools to keep in your toolbox on your body image healing journey. If you’re working 1:1 with a therapist or dietitian who specializes in body image, books can be a nice complement and reinforcement to the work you’re doing. If you’re exploring this on your own, books can be a nice entry point to explore body image because you can digest and process them at your own pace.

There is no “best” body image book and the list below is certainly by no means exhaustive. If you have other books on body image that you’ve enjoyed, please let me know in the comments below!

Favorite books on Body image

1. The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self Love by Sonya Renee Taylor

IMHO this book is a must-read for anyone working on body image. Taylor, a world-renowned activist, visionary, and poet, helps us to see the systemic forces of oppression at play (racism, transphobia, misogyny) and how they influence the shame we feel toward our bodies. She introduces the concept of radical self-love as the antidote to body shame and to create a more compassionate and equitable world toward all bodies. This book would be perfect for those wanting to learn more about body image from a social justice lens and to understand how to practice radical self love toward yourself and toward all bodies.

2. More than a Body: Your Body is an Instrument, Not an Ornament by Lindsay Kite, pHD and Lexie Kite, pHD

There’s a reason this book gets recommended over and over again for folks struggling with their body image. This book highlights what’s wrong with the current obsession with body positivity and offers a different perspective – that body positivity isn’t believing your body looks good, it’s knowing your body is good, no matter how it looks. Moving beyond body positivity, the Kite sisters offer a solution backed by their own research: building body resilience. Providing tangible tools to foster body resilience, this books is perfect for anyone who gets easily influenced by the media or the beauty, health, or weight loss industries, and wants to push back against objectification and connect closer to their own set of values.

3. Body Kindness: Transform your Health from the Inside Out and Never Say Diet Again by Rebecca Scritchfield

It’s been several years now since I read this book but I appreciated Scritchfield’s tangible approach to focusing on taking care of your body and treating it with kindness. With plenty of exercises and compelling visuals throughout the book to keep your energy spiraling up, this book offers a path to taking small, daily steps toward respecting your body and a more meaningful life.

This book is perfect for someone who has been treating their body unfairly and depriving themselves of joy because of unrealistic body standards and diet culture. If your primary goal is body respect and taking care of your body, this book is for you!

4. Reclaiming Body Trust: Break Free from a Culture of Body Perfection, Disordered Eating, and Other Traumas by Hilary Kinavey, MS, LPC and Dana Sturtevant, MS, RD

Written by the founders of the Center for Body Trust, this book offers a holistic framework toward body acceptance and body liberation. Rooted in social justice and intersectionality, their path to healing is divided into three parts and involves rejecting diet culture and breaking free from the status quo around bodies.

Peppered throughout the book are personal stories of healing and liberation from folks who have worked with Kinavey and Sturtevant on this framework. This book is a powerful resource for those looking to come home to their bodies and reestablish the trust that was taken from them by unfair systems.

5. The Body Liberation Project: How Understanding Racism and Diet Culture Helps Cultivate Joy and Build Collective Freedom by Chrissy King

Part memoir, part inspiration, part activities and prompts, this book by Chrissy King is rooted in the notion that none of us are free until all of us are free. Moving beyond body positivity to body liberation, King helps you achieve a sense of self-worth that is separate from what your body looks like and realize that you are so much more than your body. As a black woman, King highlights how racism and Eurocentric body ideals hurt those in marginalized bodies the most.

Providing an actionable method to find freedom in your body, King helps you discover ways of eating and moving that work for your unique body. This book is perfect for anyone impacted by diet culture’s reigns who wants to move past toxic body positivity toward a more inclusive body liberation movement. 

6. A Body Image Workbook for Every Body: A Guide for Deconstructing Diet Culture and Learning how to Respect, Nourish, and Care for Your Whole Self by Rachel Sellers and Mimi Cole

Finally a body image workbook that is inclusive! Body image workbooks in the past have been written with the stereotypical eating disorder patient in mind – thin, white, cisgender females. In contrast, this book is inclusive of diverse identities as we know that eating disorders and poor body image doesn’t discriminate and people of all ages, sizes, races, sexual identities, genders, and ability levels struggle.

Written by two eating disorder therapists, this workbook caters to teens and young adults who are struggling with body image and/or eating disorders or disordered eating. This workbook focuses on the socio-cultural reasons why so many of us struggle with body image and provides tools and resources to work toward cultivating a more positive relationship with our bodies. If you are (or know) a teenager or young adult who is struggling with their body image and relationship with food, this workbook can be a valuable resource in helping to move away from distressing thoughts and closer toward your values.

7. Fattily Ever After: A Black Fat Girl’s Guide to Living Life Unapologetically by Stephanie Yeboah 

In her debut book, freelance writer, award-winning blogger, and body image advocate, Stephanie Yeboah, speaks to her own experiences navigating life as a plus-sized black woman. As anti-fat bias is rooted in racism, it’s essential that we learn about body image and body liberation from black body image activists and authors. This book provides tips and advice for how to live openly, confidently, and unapologetically in a culture that marginalizes certain body types.

This book is perfect for anyone who identifies with Yeboah’s identities as a plus-sized black woman and for anyone who would like to learn about self-love, cultivating confidence, and living out loud from someone with marginalized identities. 

8. I Am More Than My Body: The Body Neutral Journey by Bethany C. Meyers

I can’t appreciate this book by Meyers enough. As I mentioned above, body positivity has become another unrealistic ideal we feel pressured to attain, not to mention the movement has been co-opted by thin, white women, for whom the movement was not created by or intended for.

This book focuses on a much more accessible goal, body neutrality. Steering away from the messages to love your body no matter what, Meyers offers a middle road – caring for and respecting your body no matter how it looks or how you feel about it. If you struggle with poor body image and negative self-talk and loving your body or body positivity feels unattainable or too far off in the distance, this book will help give you a different perspective around approaching your body with respect, compassion, and acceptance.

9. The Wisdom of Your Body: Finding Healing, Wholeness, and Connection Through Embodied Living by Hilary McBride, pHD

I am currently reading this book as I write this post! As a clinician who is passionate about somatic work, I really appreciate the work around embodiment of author, psychologist, and researcher, Hilary McBride. In this book, McBride addresses the systems of oppression that have led to our disembodiment and invites us to experience the wisdom of our bodies so that we can let go of shame and start to feel more at home in our bodies again.

This book is perfect for you if you’ve felt disconnected from your body and if the inherited shame about your body has prevented you from living a full authentic life. 

10. Every Body: A First Conversation About Bodies by Megan Madison, Jessica Ralli, and Tequitia Andrews

I bought this book for my toddler and it’s one of his (and my!) favorite books – we read it almost every night before bedtime. I love love love the age-appropriate messaging in this book around body liberation, Health At Every Size, body appreciation and gratitude, and self-awareness.

Written by authors in the field of early education and activism, this book is suitable for young children and offers parents an opportunity to start the conversation around equality for all bodies in a safe and supported way. This book has clear, concise language and beautiful imagery that is sure to capture the attention of a little one. 

Graphic listing 10 Favorite Books on Body Image.

For more support and resources

Check out the following blog posts for more support and/or book a nutrition assessment with one of our intuitive eating dietitians. We’d love to help you on your journey to healing your relationship with food.

5 Tips to Cope With a Bad Body Image Day

3 Ways to Navigate When Clothes Don’t Fit You (without another diet!)

What is the hunger fullness scale?

The Beginners Guide to Intuitive Eating

6 Ways to Find More Enjoyment in Eating

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