Jessica Sanders remembers being an active child and spending most of her time outside building forts and climbing trees. It wasn’t until she started primary school that she started thinking her body wasn’t good enough.
“I quickly learned that I took up too much space for a girl,” the 25-year-old from Melbourne, Australia, told HuffPost via email. “I was bigger and taller than all the other children (boys included). By the time I entered high school, I was experimenting with dieting and restriction, and for the entirety of my teenage years I truly believed that when I finally looked like the girls in the magazines, that’s when my life would actually begin.”
This experience, and many others, inspired Sanders to write Learning to Love Your Body, a guide for girls about body positivity.
Sanders teamed up with illustrator Carol Rossetti and designer Steph Spartels for the project, which features images of many different kinds of women, including women of different races, a woman with a limb difference and another with armpit hair. One passage reads, “Bodies come in all different forms and abilities. All these bodies are different and all these bodies are good bodies.” Sanders is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for production costs.
The author, who has experience in gender studies and is pursuing her master’s degree in social work, said the idea for the book came to her in September 2017 while she and a friend were discussing an article about the growing trend of women undergoing labiaplasty procedures for nonmedical reasons.
“The feelings of frustration, anger and sadness felt consuming for me in that moment. I had to do something!” she said. “I was so tired of hearing this same story of women modifying their bodies, restricting themselves, in order to fulfill an unattainable beauty standard.”
Sanders realized the recent body-positive movement offered resources for women, but not many were aimed specifically at girls, despite a report from Common Sense Media that found more than half of girls between the ages of 6 and 8 “indicate their ideal body weight is thinner than their current weight” (one-third of boys in the same age range indicated the same).
“This statistic illustrates the importance of providing girls with these valuable lessons of self-love and self-care at a young age and before they are active on social media,” Sanders said.
Last year, Sanders founded Re-Shape Social Enterprises as a vessel for more of her women’s empowerment efforts. She said that her guide about body positivity is just the beginning.
“Learning to Love Your Body is my first project,” Sanders said, “but it definitely won’t be my last.”