I love to read books! Especially health and fitness books. But I also get that not every book is for every body. My goal in offering this list is to give you the broad overview of my top picks so I might help you pick the book that would best serve and support you right now!
My Top 10 Recommendations for Body Positive Health + Fitness Books:
1. The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love by Sonya Renee Taylor.
This book is the impassioned battle-cry for anyone who’s ever felt like the body they are in is “not enough/ right/ ok.” It’s not only beautifully written, it’s inspiring, empowering, raw and relatable all at the same time. This book is part political history, part self-help, part how to. If you want to transform the lens with which you view your body – and ALL bodies – this is the book for you!
2. Health at Every Size: the Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Dr. Lindo Bacon (formerly Linda Bacon).
This is one of the first books I read as I began my journey into a weight neutral approach to health and fitness. This book is full of the scientific backing for the medical necessity of uncoupling our beliefs around fatness and health. The primary contention of this book is this: weight is not the problem, dieting and systematic bias are. Dr. Bacon very clearly outlines why we need to abandon the weight-centric approach to health and offers a compelling argument to move towards a weight neutral, health-centric approach. This book will transform the way you view the body and health.
3. Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.
If you’re ready to ditch diets and transform your relationship with food and your body, this is the “how to” guidebook. This book is the “textbook” that I use as my go-to when I work one-to-one with clients as an Intuitive Eating Counselor. It provides the backing science, as well as the practical strategies to help you bring the framework of Intuitive Eating into practice.
This book is currently in its 4th edition and has sold over 500,000 copies. The framework has also 91 peer reviewed research articles to back its efficacy. It’s also highly practical and includes exercises and a step-wise approach so you can implement the practices on your own if you choose. I also highly recommend the Intuitive Eating Workbook by the same authors. It’s a wonderful “in the trenches” guide that also explains the rationale of each of the 10 principles if you’re not likely to sit and read the whole book!
4. Anti-Diet: Reclaim Your Time, Money, Happiness and Well-Being Through Intuitive Eating by Christy Harrison.
If you’re tired of dieting, but keep thinking you just need to find the “right one,” this is the book for you. Christy is a journalist turned Dietitian and she does an incredible job of helping the reader see why diets don’t work (even the modern day “it’s a lifestyle” wellness diet). She also walks you through the history and pervasiveness of Diet Culture and how this “life thief” is stealing your time, money, happiness and well-being.
I see this book as the “case” for Intuitive Eating. It doesn’t get into a lot of the “how to” practice, but it helps you get really clear on why we need to ditch Diet Culture and take a different (kinder) approach. She does a phenomenal job of explaining how we got “here” – a place where Diet Culture is so embedded into our culture we don’t really even notice it anymore…until we do. Disclaimer: once you see it, you can’t un-see it. I’ve warned you.
5. Beauty Sick: How the Cultural Obsession with Appearance Hurts Girls and Women by Dr. Renee Engeln.
If you want to take a step back and explore how our beauty/ anti-aging/ body aesthetic obsessed culture is hurting us…and what we can do about it, this is the book for you. This book goes beyond the health/ fitness realm and into the relationship we have with beauty and body. Not only does Dr. Engeln make a compelling case, she provides real-life practical strategies to help you break free from the cultural obsession and reclaim your time, money and energy!
6. Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight by Dr. Lindo Bacon and Dr. Lucy Aphramore.
This book examines the real crisis at the heart of the “obesity epidemic.” Which is fact not “obesity” but systemic stigma and bias faced by those living in a larger body. The authors debunk commonly held myths about weight such as BMI, how fatness = disease, and that dieting will improve health. None of which are true, and yet, still regularly and widely accepted within common “knowledge” and our medical systems. Every single case they make is backed by evidence-based, peer reviewed research. The primary contention of this book: every body deserves respect (can I get a hear hear?!).
7. The Joy of Movement: how exercise helps us find happiness, hope, connection and courage by Dr. Kelly McGonigal.
I love everything about this book! The amazing backing research, the grounding in joy, the ease with which it reads. If you feel “stuck” specifically when it comes to exercise, and can’t seem to find your movement mojo, this book will give you an entirely new perspective. With compelling science, relatable and varied case studies and really practical advice, this book is movement magic! Get ready to bring the joy to your practices of movement!
8. Come as You Are: the Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life by Dr. Emily Nagoski.
This book does for sexual health what some of the other titles listed do for general health and fitness. Dr. Nagoski does an extraordinary job of not only explaining anatomy and the “functional” side of sexual health, but truly goes into detail explaining everything you need to know about desire, “drive,” and what “normal” is. Spoiler alert: there’s no such thing as a sex drive and you are normal! Shocker, it’s the cultural beliefs we have about our bodies and sexuality that are the culprit here – not our actual sexual health.
The author makes all this super awesome science relatable to real life using case studies of women and fantastic metaphors that really make the concepts “land.” If you’ve ever thought there was something wrong with your sexual health – from your anatomy to your desire to your “performance” and everything in between – this book is a game-changer.
9. Burnout: the Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Dr. Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski, PhD.
Yes I did include two books by the same author (not once but twice, because both authors are that good!). In this book Emily builds upon one of the most impactful chapters from her book Come as You Are (listed above). It was the chapter that readers asked about most. Nope, it wasn’t the chapter on orgasm, it was the chapter on Stress and the Stress Response Cycle. Not only is stress messing with our sex lives…it’s damaging our health and well-being.
What’s so different about this stress book is the theory of stress and stress response and how the author explains it. I’d never heard stress discussed in this way and have found the really practical strategies she recommends to to be transformative. Common knowledge around stress is to reduce/ eliminate the stressors and better “manage” our stress. Turns out the problem isn’t stressor itself, it’s that we don’t resolve our stress physiologically. There’s really nothing to manage, but rather, we need to ensure our body gets the signal that all is good in the hood so we don’t hold this chronic “stress state” in our bodies. That it’s this chronic stress response that never completes (physiologically speaking) that is wreaking havoc on our health. I know, mind blown!
10. The Elephant in the Gym: Your Body Positive Guide to Writing Your Own Health and Fitness Story by Gillian Goerzen.
Ok, I know it’s a shameless plug, but I’m really proud of this book. And I still (2 years later) hear how it’s transformed how people view their health and fitness! In the book I shine a light on what is getting in our way to creating a positive, lasting relationship with health: a broken paradigm. I show you how to break free from this broken paradigm, then explore a new lens with which to view your health. This book is part autobiography, part case studies, part geeky science and (big) part how-to guide. It is the foundation of the practices I use with all my clients (both one-to-one and in the StudioCrew). If you’re ready to transform the way you view your body, your relationship with “health and fitness” and the pursuit of a healthy body this is the book for you!
Are there more?
There are likely more I would recommend, but that’s my Top 10 list (for now). Stay tuned to my blog and Facebook Page for more recommendations and tips!
Do you not enjoy sitting and reading?
No problem. Have you tried audiobooks? With the exception of Intuitive Eating, I didn’t sit and read a single one of these titles. I’m an audiobook gal all the way. It’s a great way to learn and also get things done (laundry, cooking, running errands, shopping, walking, you name it, I’m mostly listening to an audiobook!).
Inspired, but Also Overwhelmed?
Take a breath, I’ve got you! If looking at this list and just want some help to bring these ideas into practice, I’d love to chat about One-to-One Coaching. That’s the beauty of me being a book-worm and knowledge nerd. I am always weaving what I learn into my coaching practices so I can better help you!
Disclaimer: the links I’ve shared above for each of the books are affiliate links. If you are inspired to pick up this book via Amazon or Audible and use the links above I will receive a small commission. It doesn’t cost you anything – it just means I get a monetary thank you from Amazon for pulling together this blog and offering you this link! You can think of it as your way of saying thanks to me for enjoying this free blog!