There are not enough books about exercise for all bodies. I realized this while reading an amazing romance novel about a woman who falls for her fitness coach. I was intrigued by the fact that I could read it through Audible and I really loved the cover art. However, I felt nervous once I hit the synopsis. This was a book about a fat woman (yes please) using a fitness app (oh dear) with trigger warnings about discussions of weight loss and disordered eating (oh yikes). I was so torn because romances with fat main characters are my catnip, but I didn’t know if I could handle it if she became thinner and subsequently got her love, never mind the diet culture bullshit that might rear its head. I took a chance.
I’m so glad I did.
While reading this book (I promise I will tell you more below) I realized that there is a lot out there about loving your body and renouncing diet culture, but much less about how to embrace things that diet culture has ruined. Most people have felt some pressure to eat differently and exercise more to shrink, and since that rarely works, we see these tasks as punishing and broken things. But what if our society talked about exercise as something that feels good no matter how your body looks? There is movement in this direction, but it’s still rare for young people to be raised with this relationship to fitness.
Below, I’ve gathered books about exercise for all bodies. My hope is that we continue to move towards a discussion about bodies that is much more about how to feel good in them than how to shrink and shape them to meet a societal standard.
The Fastest Way to Fall by Denise Williams
This is the book. I read this with caution but it was extremely healing. Britta is a writer for a lifestyle magazine and proposes a series comparing fitness apps. When she joins the one she’s covering, she doesn’t realize the owner is her trainer. Romance ensues. I loved the love story, but for our purposes here, I want to focus on the discussions of diet and exercise. Wes continually reminds Britta, as does his app, that weight loss is not a goal that the fitness app allows you to choose. Throughout the plot, there are conversations around safe and unsafe ways to train and eat. The antagonist fitness company cuts corners on coach training, and the damage this does to clients is a serious plot point. This kind of discussion around what exercise can be is what I found healing about the book. There is a smidge of weight loss for our protagonist, but the goal was to reach the weight limit for sky diving, which is just another break from the typical narrative. Definitely read the trigger warnings, which are clearly laid out in a lovely author’s note before the story, and decide if this book is right for you. I am so glad I read it.
The Unapologetic Fat Girl’s Guide to Exercise and Other Incendiary Acts by Hanne Blank
I love Hanne Blank. This book is an incredibly helpful guide for people who want to move but have every valid fat person fear: people are going to be jerks, it’s going to hurt, what do I wear, where do I go? The best thing about this guide is that it never pretends like you have to be naturally athletic or that you’ll quickly “learn to love!” to move. Exercise is only spoken of in this book as a means to feel good. Blank gives specific scripts to help the user communicate that they do not have a weight loss goal. As a reformed diet culture junkie, it’s so relieving to consider embarking on an exercise journey without having to wonder if it’ll “work.” This book is a huge breath of fresh air.
Fitness for Everyone: 50 Exercises for Every Type of Body by Louise Green
I started following Louise Green on Instagram before reading any of her books. She is a huge advocate for plus sized fitness and anti-diet culture. This book is amazing for many reasons, but the diversity of fitness models in the plentiful color photographs is a huge selling point. Green shares basics of form, individual exercises, and complied routines, all with plentiful modifications that truly celebrate exercise for all bodies. The models include fat people, disabled folks, a pregnant woman, and people of different ages. This is an excellent resource guide for people wanting to see themselves in an exercise book, especially if they never have before.
Fitness for Every Body: Strong, Confident, and Empowered at Any Size by Meg Boggs
Meg Boggs is another author I came to through Instagram. She’s strong af and a really great follow. This book is split into two parts: the first half is Boggs sharing her story, and the second half is actionable weight lifting information, including a 12 week program. This book really spits directly in the face of crappy societal pressure, which I adore. It also touches on physical and mental maternal health, which is such an important conversation to have.
Every Body Yoga: Let Go of Fear, Get On the Mat, Love Your Body by Jessamyn Stanley
A combination of personal stories and yoga flows with inspiring names like “I need to release fear” and “I want to love myself,” this book is for experienced yogis and newbies alike. Jessamyn Stanley is a powerhouse, shattering stereotypes about what a yoga body needs to be. Known also for her second book, Yoke, and her wellness company, The Underbelly, Stanley has the proof to back up her place as a champion for fat acceptance in exercise spaces. Every Body Yoga delivers with colorful photographs demonstrating poses and relatable first person accounts.
Zero Assistance Resistance Training: 100% wheelchair-based workout program by Dan Highcock
Highcock is a Paralympian and professional athlete who has designed this workout to be done completely independently by wheelchair users. The reviews were full of people who enthusiastically report that this book gave them confidence to exercise using correct form. The 12-week program outlined is supplemented with equipment and nutrition advice. Special considerations for hand strength and speed, as well as mind towards mobility and independence, make this a great resources for bodies that use wheelchairs.
Big & Bold: Yoga for the Plus-Size Woman by Laura Burns
Wait, another Instagram account recommendation? Well, yes. If you’re here to learn more about exercise for all bodies, you should definitely expose yourself to pictures of all bodies exercising! Laura Burns runs the account @radicalbodylove, and I adore her for so much beyond her excellent yoga content. However, if you’re looking for specific modifications to serve plus size people, this is the book for you. You’ll get full color photographs of poses and modifications, as well as suggestions for plus size yoga clothing and props. A special bonus: for professionals, there is a certification exam available for purchase to put this gift of knowledge into practice through teaching.
Fitness Freedom for Seniors: 20 Simple Yoga Positions to Regain Your Strength and Independence by Jackie Jacobs
As in most places in our society, senior bodies are often left out when discussing exercise. This is an unfair oversight. In this book, Jackie Jacobs lays out a bit of background information, then dives into explanations of 20 different poses, complete with illustrations. Connecting to issues focused on seniors but useful for everyone, the book explains the benefits of a yoga practice for bone health, mental clarity, and overall wellness. Informative and encouraging, Fitness Freedom for Seniors is a great, nonexhaustive guide to exercise in a senior body.
Hopefully you’ve found a book or two to pique your interest in exercise for all bodies. Looking for more books to fight society’s ideas about our bodies? Check out 5 More Books That Call Bullsh*t on Diet Culture.