Happy Fat is a nonfiction book by Sofie Hagen. I was kindly sent a copy to review via Netgalley. All views are my own.
Sofie Hagen has always been fat. But after years of struggling with her body image and subjecting herself to countless diets, Sofie began to question the incessant body shaming and internalised fatphobia that she had always taken for granted. She started to worry less about fad diets and impossible beauty ideals and began to challenge the origins of these deep-seated aspirations.
Happy Fat is a response to this exploration: part-memoir, part-social commentary, Sofie describes how she conquered a negative relationship with her body and provides practical tips for readers to do the same – drawing wisdom from fat liberation champions along the way.
Covering topics from shame and sex to airplane seats, love and getting stuck in public toilets, Happy Fat shows us how taking up space in a culture that is desperate to reduce you can be radical and emboldening.
Happy Fat is a celebration of the fat body: an agenda-setting call to arms to re-evaluate our current beauty standards and how we define our self-worth.
Trigger warnings: fatphobia, emotional abuse, diet culture
I was already a fan of Sofie Hagen before reading this book. She is a Danish comedian who created the podcasts Made of Human and Secret Dinosaur Cult. She does anxiety-safe gigs, and tries to only work with venues that have gender neutral bathrooms. She talks a lot about fat activism and feminism.
Happy Fat is half memoir, half self-help book. Sofie gives a lot of personal anecdotes about her childhood, and in particular her relationship with her grandparents. Food was a way for her emotionally abusive grandfather to show his love for her, making her eat even if she wasn’t hungry. She talks about her tweet about wanting a fat Disney princess, and how it went viral, making her the target of thousands of trolls. And she talks about more practical aspects of being fat, such as travelling and being forced into seats that hurt or break because they are too small.
Because she is a comedian, you’d expect the book to be funny. And it is – I actually laughed out loud in a couple of places, which I never normally do with books. But it is so much funnier if you read it in Sofie’s accent. There’s something about that deadpan Danish voice that makes me chuckle – I really hope it will be available as an audiobook.
I’ll admit, this isn’t a groundbreaking book. There was very little in it that I didn’t already know, and if you’re looking for a more theoretical discussion of why fatphobia exists in society, this isn’t the book for you. But we have so few positive books about fatness that I really cherish Happy Fat. Sofie’s voice is so important, and I for one am grateful that the world gets to hear it.