Book of the Month

May Book Of The Month: Stronger: Changing Everything I Knew About Women’s Strength

Nieve ODonnell

Nieve ODonnell reviews Poorna Bell’s ‘Stronger: Changing Everything I Knew About Women’s Strength’ for May’s Book Of The Month, a brilliant, perspective-changing, and empowering book about female health and fitness. 

[Bell] offers new ways for women to look at their individual health

With summer around the corner and June being next month, many will be feeling the pressure of achieving a ‘summer body’. Women’s health and fitness has always been implicated in misogynistic standards rooted in the male gaze. Bell deconstructs this all-too-common perspective and offers new ways for women to look at their individual health.

After turning to competitive amateur powerlifting after the death of her husband, Bell challenges the notions many women are told to believe from birth, offering a discussion of how we can become empowered through fitness rather than made smaller. She writes that “If you are the girl, the woman who feels like she is never enough, that she will never be as strong, as good, as capable, I am here to tell you that you are enough. I am here to tell you that while it shouldn’t have been your burden, you can write a different story.”

Bell advocates for finding a form of fitness that works for you

Particularly, Bell advocates for finding a form of fitness that works for you be it running, swimming, lifting or yoga. The idea that women should only exercise or take part in diet culture once a year for the sake of summer is a damaging incentive, as Bell explains, that means many women miss out on the wonderful mental health benefits of exercise they really love.

Having competed in amateur powerlifting myself, I found the goal-oriented aspect of the sport to be liberating. I was no longer obsessed with numbers on a scale and wanted to train for a specific reason; I simply wanted to improve and to get stronger. The confidence boost of entering a weights area and knowing how to conduct exercises that once looked so complex was demonstrative that it’s possible to improve in any area. It did wonders for my self-esteem. At competitions, there was a wide variety of encouraging women from ages 16-80, all of whom had an amazing shared joy of competing. They loved the sport that made them feel brilliant rather than reduced.

‘Stronger’ confirms what I’ve had a sneaky suspicion of for a while; I knew that I enjoyed participating in a sport that was goal-oriented or involved an aspect of teamwork but didn’t understand why. Bell goes on to explain that empowerment is key as is removing your ‘fitness journey’ from the male gaze. One of the most redeeming aspects of the book is Bell’s ability to tell her own story as well as those of the inspiring women around her. Bell wholeheartedly investigates race, age and social background, making her book a vastly inclusive one which many women can relate to as they read.

Bell’s book is a brilliant and inspiring celebration of women and fitness

Part-memoir, part-manifesto, Bell’s book is a brilliant and inspiring celebration of women and fitness which will hopefully, after reading, inspire many women to ditch the fad diets and find sport they love and which makes them feel good.

4 stars

Nieve ODonnell

Featured image courtesy of Dorine Ruter via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes made to this image.

In-article images courtesy of @minimermaiduk via No changes made to these images.

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