Why it's important to love your body

Published on: 18 March 2020 Author: Jessica Sanders

When Jessica Sanders heard on the news that the amount of unnecessary cosmetic surgery in girls under 18 was on the rise, she felt compelled to act. Read her blog about why she wrote Love Your Body.

It was a day like any other day. My housemate and I were sitting at our kitchen table passionately discussing a news article that had come out that day - according to a recent study, the amount of unnecessary cosmetic surgery in girls under 18 was on the rise.

Earlier that week, I’d had a conversation with a colleague where I’d remarked on how crazy it was that I didn’t know a woman who hadn’t experienced a negative body image growing up. They had said something along the lines of, “Jess, that’s just what it is to be a girl.” Their comment lit a fire in me; it didn’t have to be this way, and I was determined to do something about it.

That day at the kitchen table I was ready to take action. So, when my friend said, “you should write a book”, I thought why the hell not. I’d never written a book; I’d never even considered it as a possibility, but I was going to give it everything I had.

I’d grown up observing the ways in which a negative body image shaped the trajectory of a girl’s life. At school, dieting and exercise would dominate our conversations as well as consume our thoughts whenever we have a moment of silence. I watched as an eating disorder derailed my friend's life, totally consuming her and her family. I knew that body-image issues shaped the course of a girl’s life — I just needed some research to back me up. This is what I found:

When girls don’t feel good about the way they look…
  • 8 in 10 will avoid seeing friends or family or trying out for a team or club.
  • 7 in 10 will stop themselves from eating.
  • 7 in 10 will not be assertive in their opinion or stick to their decision.
  • They also perform worse in maths and reading and comprehension.

This research formed the basis of Love Your Body. I knew why I was writing it and what I wanted to achieve. First, I went looking for similar books. I went to my local independent bookstore and trawled through the shelves. I’d had no luck on the internet, all I could find was a body-image workbook for teens that had a thin white girl on the cover. What I was looking for was a book that actually reflected reality. I wanted to see myself represented. I wanted to see us all represented. I asked the shop assistant if she could help me find a book that showed a diverse range of bodies, with cellulite, stretch marks and different abilities. After 10 minutes of searching with no success, she turned to me and said, “If you make this book, I’ll put it in this store.”

After I walked out of the shop, stunned by the lack of resources available for girls, I remembered something my mum would often say to me: “if not you, who?”

I decided I would crowdfund my book and publish it myself. My parents had both worked in the publishing industry and I knew how hard it was to get a book published. I studied similar crowdfunding campaigns, joined an entrepreneurial community at my university and began to write. Writing Love Your Body didn’t come naturally at first. I felt stuck; I didn’t know how to even begin until my mum gave me some more great advice. She said, “imagine a young girl is right in front of you. What would you say to her?”

I wrote from the heart and documented everything I wish I’d known.

The Kickstarter was a success due to the amazing body positivity communities online who got behind the book from the very beginning. Towards the end of the process, I met my now publishers, Five Mile. The incredible women I met there opened up to me and shared their own stories of negative body image and eating disorders. They told me how important this book was to them and I knew Love Your Body would be in safe hands. Together we have gotten Love Your Body into 26 territories and counting. I never dreamed I’d be able to see my book in different languages, or on the shelves of international bookstores and libraries. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to reach the hearts and minds of young people who you’d never normally be able to speak to. I’m truly grateful.

Love Your Body by Jessica Sanders, illustrated by Carol Rossetti, publishing 3 March in hardback from Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, £10.99. 

Feeling inspired? Watch Jess explain why it's important to love your body.

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