Nuevo Culture

In Katie Sturino’s First Book, Body Acceptance Is for Everyone

Anyone who has lost a fight to a pair of jeans in a dressing room will instantly recognize the feeling: standing alone with your legs tethered together, the denim yanked up to the midpoint of your thighs, unwilling to move an inch further. Usually, it’s a private disappointment. Katie Sturino went in a different direction. Instead, back in 2018, she opted to share her frustration with 575,000 Instagram followers, stamped with #MakeMySize every single time she found herself maxed out of a brand’s size range. Sturino wanted women to stop feeling alone in dressing rooms and to stop being so hard on their bodies.

Sturino’s career has been defined by normalizing the uncomfortable, whether it’s standing on a street in NYC with a leg propped up on a light post, reapplying her MegaBabe Thigh Rescue (a body-care brand she founded), or recreating celebrity style moments with her hashtag #SuperSizeTheLook, dismantling the ‘Who Wore It Best?’ attitude in the process. She’s that loud (digital) friend we all need to shout you’re beautiful at us, over and over again. Sturino is channeling that energy with the launch of her new book, Body Talk, which is part confessional, part roadmap, and part workbook jam-packed with bright, joyous graphics to make it clear: “THERE IS NOTHING AT ALL WRONG WITH YOU. THERE IS ONLY EVERYTHING RIGHT.”

Body Talk, available May 25, sets out to help women breakup with body shame and to forge a stronger relationship with the body they have through “homework” and moments of comical honesty—the kind you’d expect from the founder of a podcast called Boob Sweat. It’s not here to sell you on loving every single part of your body every day. Rather, it’s here to encourage you to be kinder to your body, while simultaneously calling out the harm and wasted time that comes from chasing unattainable beauty standards. It’s a bar of body acceptance, that dare I say, feels accessible?

Below is a candid conversation Katie and I had about body acceptance, her hopes for the book, and what it was like to see her most embarrassing moments in print.

Marielle Elizabeth: Why did you decide that now is the time for you to write this book?

Katie Sturino: There’s a lot of noise in the body-acceptance space, and while it can be very helpful and inspirational and the basis for my entire career, it can be hard to make real changes without doing a bit of offline work too. And that’s what I wanted to do. Sometimes you just need a little bit of a push over the edge, and that’s what I hope this book accomplishes for women of all sizes.

ME: The book is written with the cadence of a conversation, so I am curious who you envisioned writing this for?

KS: I am talking to women. My hope is that it’s for the 70-year-old who’s still going on diets. It’s for a 35-year-old who didn’t grow up with any body acceptance or body positivity, or anyone that looked like them in the media. It’s for a mom who has a 10-year-old daughter who is calling herself fat, and as a parent, she’s realizing, Maybe I should stop talking about how bad I look. I really think it is for any woman who wants to get through this whole entire lifetime of hating their body and get to the other side.

Reprinted from Body Talk. Copyright © 2021 by Katie Sturino. Illustrations copyright © 2021 by Monica Garwood. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.

ME: When you had the idea to write the book, did you always want to write it as a workbook? Was it always important to you to have lots of illustrations, to have spaces for people to reflect, and for it to be an interactive experience?

KS: Yes, because I think the last thing anyone needs is a book about me yapping about my story. What people need is to figure out their own shit, and that’s what I’m trying to do. So while you can be inspired by my story, what I really want people to do is use it for themselves. I want you to talk about yourself the whole time. Like I want you to be like, Oh, that’s me. That’s me. That’s me. Like, I want you to get into you.

ME: I think because I also follow your social media account, in my head, as I was reading this, the tone felt very loud, like a supportive friend trying so hard to make me feel better about my body. Is that accurate?

KS: Yes, and I probably am shouting and it’s bright and colorful. I think one of the things that I disconnected with in the body positivity movement early on was how earnest everything can get and how serious it can get. And there’s definitely a time and a place for that, and that’s fine, but it’s just not for me.

I want to evoke a feeling of joy, celebration, and fun. I just don’t want it to feel like Weight Watchers in a basement.

ME: One of my favorite parts of the book was this really poignant letter to your mom of understanding and giving forgiveness and space for her body issues. In writing this book, did you have a lot of time to reflect on intergenerational weight loss, culture, diet, and what dismantling and forgiving that looks like?

KS: That’s part of the reason I wanted to write the book, specifically around finding the part of your life where you still had no idea what a calorie was and you were just wearing the shirt because you liked the shirt. I don’t think that we can blame the moms, because I look at my mom (and other people’s moms) and it’s not their fault. They’re still dealing with their own body issues that they never solved. It’s because you grow up and you see and hear diet culture conversations. Women’s worlds have been constructed around our physical appearance, and that is intentional, to keep us out of power. It all goes back to the patriarchy. If we’re focused on aesthetic things that change every 10 years, then we’re not focusing on the fact that we’re being left out of so many conversations and positions of power.

ME: That’s another theme in your book, the narrative of reclaiming your time and encouraging the reader to actually quantify how much time in a day they spend worrying about their body.

KS: It’s a real shame how much time we waste talking and thinking about our bodies negatively. I get even sadder when I speak to women who are in their 60s, 70s, 80s, still talking about body image and still saying, ‘I’ve got to lose that 10 pounds or I don’t look good.’ It’s really a question of, What is the point? And, when I did free up that space and when I did accept myself, I was able to do so much more. Not only did I have that brain space back, but I had a more purposeful focus. I had more confidence and more courage because having bad body image ties into your whole life, and you restrict yourself because you’re like, ‘Well, I’m not going to go for that job. Like, I’m not good enough.’ It goes way deep into your confidence.

Reprinted from Body Talk. Copyright © 2021 by Katie Sturino. Illustrations copyright © 2021 by Monica Garwood. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.

ME: I wholeheartedly agree with the value of our time being spent more intentionally than on body resentment, but I also think there’s a limit to personal body acceptance within a society that is steeped in anti-fat bias. What would you say to a person that has finished your book and done the work, but still has to deal with the ongoing oppression that surrounds diet culture?

KS: You have more power. You are more equipped with knowledge and tools to recover from moments of uncertainty. You’re not done with bad thoughts or bad moments, but you recover from them faster. And that impacts other situations, for example when you’re in a doctor’s office and they’re like, ‘Yeah, it’s all about your weight.’ I think that you feel more empowered. Even if you’re not ready to take on that doctor, you might feel empowered now to go find a new doctor who gets you. For me, that’s the difference—in the past I would have continued to see that same doctor, but now I’m finding a different doctor.

ME: You talk so much about all of these deeply personal instances where you learned body shame or had those negative feelings affirmed. Was writing this book cathartic or was it a really emotionally exhausting process for you?

KS: Oh, it was really hard to put my most embarrassing, shameful moments into a book that people will casually read. But in doing that, you also release it and so it becomes a little less touchy and a little more funny. There was one part I was reading for the audio book [on Audible] in the beginning that says, “You remember her, she was on the grass, in a swimsuit, eating a popsicle, you remember this girl who didn’t think about her body with hate. And she’s still in there, you know.” And I lost it. It’s such a universal feeling to acknowledge that we live in such pain and shame around our body.

ME: At the end of someone reading this book, what would be the most impactful outcome to you?

KS: I want the class of five-year-old girls right now to not have to do this. I want all of these very recognizable rites of passage through diet culture and body shame that girls do together as bonding activities to stop. I want us to do better things with our energy than talk about the number on the scale going up and down. We were handed these issues and we have the power to change it. Let’s change it for the next generation of girls.

Body Talk: How to Embrace Your Body and Start Living Your Best Life by Katie Sturino