One of the reasons that January is a tough month for many of us is this constantly promoted idea of “renewal”—this belief that the new year automatically has to also bring a “new you.” For many of us, this “new me” is synonymous with weight loss. Traditionally, women’s magazines publish new diet and exercise plans right after the holidays, usually in their January issue, because god forbid we allow ourselves to just be ok with maybe having gained a few pounds from eating that turkey or drinking that eggnog.
I have been fat for most of my life and tried every diet out there, some more harmful than others, but all of them profoundly damaging to my mental health. For 2021, I have decided to leave the unhealthy cycle of dieting behind (and yes, “lifestyle changes” or “wellness eating plans” are also, in fact, a diet) and instead learn to focus on self-love, acceptance, and surrounding myself with information on health at every size and body acceptance.
If you, like me, feel that it is time to start the year free from diet or “lifestyle change” pressures and are curious to learn more about the anti-diet and Health at Every Size (HAES) approach, here are five amazing influencers from the body positivity movement to follow.
I have decided to learn to focus on self-love, acceptance, and surrounding myself with information on health at every size and body acceptance.
Registered dietician, intuitive eating counselor, journalist, and anti-diet activist Christy Harrison has been instrumental in my journey to embrace a Health at Every Size lifestyle and slowly changing my relationship with food for the better.
Her podcast Food Psych is probably one of the best starting points for anyone who is looking to free themselves from a constant cycle of dieting and self-shaming. Given that “health at every size” and “body positivity” are such broad, often misused terms, Harrison does a wonderful job at untangling the sometimes problematic overlaps between the body positivity movement and the so-called “wellness community,” the latter often a dangerous gateway to highly restrictive dieting disguised as “clean eating.” Food Psych features interviews with renown anti-diet coaches, HAES dieticians, and body positivity influencers, offering a wealth of information and often radical truths about diet culture that I feel we all need to hear.
Aubrey Gordon, also widely known under her blogger name “Your Fat Friend,” started her writing career and fat positivity activism almost by accident: After a frustrating conversation with a thin friend about thin privilege and what it is like to exist in a fat body, during which her friend was seemingly unable to understand her own privilege, Gordon wrote a letter trying to explain her experiences and struggles, which then was posted anonymously under the “Your Fat Friend” pseudonym. The post went viral fast, and Gordon kept writing—her blog now also features a number of diverse guest authors, and her book What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk about Fat was published last November, just in time for the holidays.
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Gordon also started a podcast with fellow journalist and podcaster Michael Hobbes called Maintenance Phase, which seeks to debunk weight loss myths and wellness industry marketing nonsense, from Moon Juice to weight loss drugs, all with a wonderful sense of humor and a comfortingly inclusive lens.
Brittani Lancaster has been very open in sharing her struggles and mental health hurdles as someone on a recovery journey from two eating disorders. Social media can be very triggering for young people suffering from body dysmorphia and struggling with eating disorders, but Lancaster’s account is such an oasis of calm support for those who have a troubled relationship with food and their own bodies.
@brittanilancasterOkay hear me out… adding mozzarella to chicken noodle soup is a GAME CHANGER♬ original sound – Brittani Lancaster
Her “What I eat in a day in recovery” YouTube and TikTok videos are helpful, positive versions of the sometimes triggering “What I eat in a day” videos so popular on YouTube. Many of those videos have come under fire due to the disordered eating patterns they can present to their followers, as well as the unrealistic standards set for what a “healthy diet” looks like, given the seemingly endless budget many well-to-do influencers have. In contrast, Lancaster’s social media accounts are a safe space that help to promote a positive, non-judgmental relationship with food and eating. Follow her on TikTok @brittanilancaster!
Fearless and beautiful Reann Langas is an absolute must-follow on TikTok (@raeannlangas is her handle). Watching the Los Angeles-based curve model, fashion blogger, and body positive influencer feels like being around that one friend who always hypes you up no matter what, who showers you with compliments on days when you just don’t feel yourself at all.
@raeannlangasEight ways to style a black mini skirt! outfit details and links are in my bio 🙂 ##InLove ##midsizefashion ##mystyle♬ Casual – Doja Cat
Both her TikTok account as well as her Instagram profile are all about body positivity and loving your body deeply. Langas also gives great style advice for different body types, and especially the often overlooked mid-sized body types can find plenty of fashion inspo.
Reyna Cohan “Body Kind Yoga”
I discovered Reyna Cohan thanks to one of her TikTok yoga tutorials floating across my “For you” page, and I couldn’t be more grateful to the algorithm gods for bringing us together. It is hard for a fat woman like me to follow along fitness tutorials presented by and aimed towards smaller-sized bodies—even instructors who show lower impact exercises such as yoga or stretching can sometimes forget that our size may make it impossible to do certain poses. Rarely are variations offered, even though traditional yoga almost always has multiple options per pose for various levels of fitness and flexibility.
@bodykind.withreyLovingly strap those puppies down. ##accessibleyoga ##plussizeyoga ##tipsandtricks ##lifehack ##tiktokyoga♬ She Share Story (for Vlog) – 山口夕依
Cohan’s videos are such an inspiring and calming addition to my mornings, and I love how she presents easy solutions for problems rarely addressed in the yoga community, such as larger breasts getting in the way when doing inverted poses, or our stomachs preventing us from doing a full downward dog without discomfort. So, make sure to follow @bodykind.withrey on TikTok and check out her YouTube channel for body positive, inclusive yoga tutorials!