Imagine your favorite celebrity memoir. Now imagine your best friend. Now imagine if your best friend had written your favorite celebrity memoir. That's what you get when you read Fat Girl Power: How I Built Confidence Through Body Positivity, Fashion and Fitness by Jennifer King. Jennifer has been sharing inspiring stories on her blog, Stellar Fashion & Fitness, for years so if you're a fan of her work there, you're sure to love her book.
In sharing her stories of friends (good and bad), dating adventures, and realizing she was a little different than some of the other girls she grew up with, she makes you realize you're not alone. Jennifer embodies the sentiment that women are meant to be a sisterhood and we're all in this together. She's that ally who's cheering in your corner, which makes this a particularly good book for women to read together. (Best friends and/or mother/daughter book club, anyone?)
As you're reading the book, it feels like the awesome older sister you always wanted is telling you it's all going to be okay. Jennifer shares the kind of wisdom that makes you clutch your heart and think, I wish I'd known that when I was younger. Loving ourselves doesn't come easy, and Fat Girl Power is a mighty book to remind us all that we're all beautiful and we're all deserving of love, especially from ourselves.
No matter what size you are, you've probably been body shamed and that's wrong. Sometimes the damage runs deep, and Fat Girl Power feels like salve on a long open wound that's been dully aching for so long you just assume it'll never heal. Jennifer offers a message of hope. And no matter your size, there's fat girl power in all of us.
I talked to Jennifer about her writing process and her advice for ladies struggling to love themselves in a world where we're constantly getting messages that tell us to change.
Mandy Shunnarah: I feel like some people have no problem embracing body positivity when it comes to other people, but have a hard time showing themselves the same love. I definitely fall into this camp. What would you say to people who are struggling to appreciate themselves with the same magnitude they appreciate others?
Jennifer King: Oh, man! I definitely have this problem, too! One thing I think people should remember is we are the only ones who nit-pick our percieved flaws — no one else is looking at you and criticizing every little thing about your appearance. And I think it does take training, for lack of a better word. If you start thinking something negative about yourself, give yourself a talking to! Take a breath and ask yourself, "would you say or think this about a friend?" We should treat ourselves as well as we treat others!
MS: Tell us about your writing process. How did you decide what blog posts would make it into the book? Did you approach writing essays for Fat Girl Power in the same way you approach your blog?
JK: The first thing I did was search my blog for certain terms, like "body positivity" or "body image." I collected dozens of posts and read through them all, deciding which ones belonged in the book, which ones needed to be revised, and which ones didn't really fit. Then I divided them up into three sections (body positivity, fashion and fitness), and I tried to see what was missing. What stories haven't I told? What key points haven't I made? I wrote working titles for all of these essays and then went about writing them much like I would write blog posts, but where I sometimes write straight up "how to" posts, this time I tried to weave a personal story into all of my lessons. I wanted the essays to be personal lessons from my history in addition to hopefully helpful information for others.
MS: You've been writing Stellar Fashion and Fitness for years. Do you have any incredible stories (no names necessary) of people saying your work has helped them gain confidence by learning to see themselves differently?
JK: Thankfully, I do, and I am so humbled and grateful anytime someone has reached out to tell me that a blog post spoke to them or helped them in some way. I've heard from women from high school and college who I rarely talk to, but who contacted me on Facebook after reading a post. I've formed bonds with people who have trained for races, who cheer me on when I'm training or working on fitness goals. And there are a few women who have told me they wouldn't have had the courage to go to an event or wear a piece of clothing if I hadn't given them the confidence to do so. I don't say any of this to boast — I want to make the point that sometimes we may feel like we are writing into a void. Like maybe no one is really getting what we are trying to say. It's the few times that people have told me that what I've said mattered — that's what makes me want to keep writing. It's helpful and therapeutic for me — but I really just hope I'm making a difference for someone else.
MS: In Fat Girl Power you share stories of being made fun of in school and being treated poorly in the dating scene (and how you found your awesome husband!). For people still going through those rough years, what's one thing you know now that you wish you'd known then?
JK: That it gets better. That as you get older and you find your way, those moments when you felt bullied or belittled start to fade into the background. It feels big and impossible to get over sometimes when you're going through it, and it hurts. But for every jerk out there who says something mean, there is a friend out there who will get you, who will support you and who will build you up. Seek those people out, and move forward. Those hard times will pale in comparison to your future life!
MS: Who are your body positivity icons? You mention a few in the book, like Ashley Graham, but do you have a list of people you look to for inspiration?
JK: There are a few celebrities that I look up to for their body positivity and fashion choices, including Adele and Melissa McCarthy. I am a huge fan of a few bloggers and writers, including local Birmingham blogger Jeniese of The Jenesaisquoi, and also Nicolette Mason, Gabifresh and Garner Style.
You can get your copy of Fat Girl Power in paperback now, and you can pre-order the Kindle edition, which will automatically download on November 1st. If you're outside the Birmingham, AL area and would like a signed copy, you can email Jennifer at stellarfashionandfitness [at] gmail.com.
And if you're in the Birmingham, AL area, you should definitely plan to attend the Fat Girl Power book launch, which will be at The Wine Loft at 2200 1st Ave. N. on Wednesday, November 9th from 6pm to 9pm. There will be copies of the book for sale, which Jennifer will happily sign. The event is free, but please RSVP.