Oprah's got her Book Club and Mr. Bad Food has his Book Nook.
Consider this a place where you can get insights into hot-off-the-presses releases like this month's gem: Love Your Body, Love Your Life by body image expert Sarah Maria.
While New Year's is often a time for hope, the bustling end-of-the-year holiday season can be a time when we are especially hard on ourselves.
We feel fat or maybe we're depressed about our inability to stick with a diet. We get to a point where we don't even like to look into a mirror.
Sarah Maria wants to end your negative body obsession and start living happily and confidently. The busy author recently took the time to answer a few of my questions about her book published by AdamsMedia.
Why do we tend to be so hard on ourselves?
We tend to be hard on ourselves because we are taught from a very early age that this is the appropriate way to think, to feel, and to behave. The thoughts we think about ourselves and our bodies are a reflection of the society that we live in. These beliefs, attitudes, philosophies and outlooks get passed down from parent to children, teachers to students, from peers, the media, etc.
We live in a culture where being critical and judgmental about ourselves, our bodies, and other people is normal.
It is a standard functioning of the cultural psyche, if you will. Who you are is not separate from the environment in which you have been raised and in which you live. So it is this cultural delusion, this cultural epidemic of being hard on ourselves, that leads to people being very hard on themselves.
Does negative body obsession affect more women than men?
In terms of overall numbers, I think it is safe to say that more women struggle with feeling bad about their bodies and their looks.
This makes sense. Many women are raised to believe that being attractive is what will make them lovable, successful, etc. Yet many men also struggle with negative body obsession.
For many men, the struggle is compounded because on the one hand, they are suffering from negative feelings and beliefs about their body, and on the other hand, they feel like they shouldn't be struggling because they are men.
Women are more likely to empathize with one another because it is such a common experience for women. Men are much less likely to talk about any struggle they are having with their physical appearance.
So although it does affect a proportionately higher number of women, it is a very real issue for many men as well.
What is the single most important thing we can do to improve the way we view ourselves?
The single most important thing you can do is to tell yourself that you are already perfect, beautiful, whole, and complete. Who you are, or rather what you are, is already beautiful and already perfect.
I know this sounds impossible if you dislike your body and are struggling with your weight. Yet this is an important and in fact essential component to healing and creating a body and a life that you love.
Who you truly are in reality is not the struggle that you are currently going through. Who you ultimately are is not limited to your body and your mind. Who you are is the source of all beauty. What you are is already perfect.
As you learn to shift your identity from your body-mind and the current struggles your might be experiencing, and place it instead on the reality of your perfection, the reality of your beauty, you will begin to transform the way you view yourselves, and ultimately the way you view the whole world.
Whenever you find yourself caught in a negative dialogue with your body, remind yourself that what you are is already perfect.
Set an intention to discover this beauty and perfection. Set an intention that you will learn to see and experience the beauty that is inside of you in this very moment.
What motivated you to become a body image expert and led you to write Love Your Body, Love Your Life?
I decided to write this book because I experienced firsthand the intense pain, suffering, and agony that can accompany negative body obsession, eating disorders, and low self-esteem. I lived through the hell of anorexia, bulimia, compulsive eating, obsessing about my body, and the fear and insecurity that accompanies this struggle.
I also know that freedom from this hell is completely possible. It became my passion and my purpose to help other people find the freedom that is possible.
I know I am not alone in this struggle; so many people suffer unnecessarily because they dislike their looks.
I decided to write Love Your Body, Love Your Life, become a body-image expert, speak, coach individuals, teach classes, etc. to help people break free from their suffering so they can love their bodies and their lives.
I also wrote this book and developed my business to help people think critically about concepts such as beauty, as well as the beliefs, thoughts, and ideas that so many people take for granted.
Beauty is a socially-constructed phenomenon. Different body types, different looks, different sizes are considered beautiful at different times in history. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, curvy and voluptuous was considered stunning. In this culture in this century, thin and muscularly toned is considered sexy.
When people recognize that there is no inherent truth in these concepts of beauty, that it is in fact a cultural preference that changes overtime, it helps to dissolve this illusion that how they look is somehow tied to their value and self-worth as an individual.
For many people struggling with a negative body image, they believe that how they look is somehow indicative of, or related to, their self-worth as individuals. Nothing could be further from the truth.
When people realize that it is a cultural phenomenon, they can begin to free themselves from the whims and preferences of other people and the world around them, and instead discover and experience their own inherent and unique beauty.
Is being overweight, the biggest negative a woman often feels about herself?
For most women, being overweight is the biggest issue. Often within this, there is discontent with specific body parts, such as the stomach or thighs. Yet it is very much individual.
Some women have a problem with their wrinkles; others have a problem because their chest is too small or too big. Other women dislike their curves, while still other women would do anything to have more curves.
What is important is to see the underlying fixation on the body and the pervasive sense of inadequacy that most women feel about their bodies.
Whether it is being overweight or too tall or too short or whatever, the important part is the delusional belief that your body is not quite good enough, that something is inherently wrong with your body.
What were the things you did not like about yourself before you learned how to escape negative body obsession?
For me, it revolved around being thin; the focus was on being as thin as possible.
Shortly after I finished puberty I began rigid dieting and exercise. I wanted any and all curves to disappear. I wanted my breasts to be smaller. I thought my butt was too big. I thought my thighs were too large. I was mortified by any perceived cellulite on the back of my legs.
As I grew older, I also began to dislike my stomach. For me, anything that deviated from my "skeletal-ideal" was a problem. Any curve was disdained.
Is it possible to love yourself when you are terribly overweight and tired all the time?
Yes, absolutely. I know it sounds crazy, but it is absolutely possible, and I would even say absolutely essential to love yourself no matter what your current body weight.
This does not mean that you have to feel comfortable in your body or that you should never want to lose weight to improve your health. Quite the contrary.
As you learn to love and accept your body and yourself, you will unleash the power to create true and lasting transformation. The struggle with body weight is not just about food or the body.
There are underlying issues of self-esteem, self-worth, and lovability that need to be addressed.
As people learn to love themselves, they will be able to address these underlying issues that they have usually spent their entire life trying to avoid. As they begin to relate to themselves with love and compassion, they will discover that they can make whatever healthy changes they want to make.
Self-love and acceptance of the present moment does not mean complacency; they are in fact the essential tools for total and lasting transformation.
Regarding whether or not you can love yourself without loving your body, it depends. At the minimum, there has to be a certain level of peace and acceptance with your body.
If you are caught in a negative dialogue with your body, hating it and condemning it, it is more than likely that you are not loving yourself.
If, however, you are unconcerned about your body and your appearance, and it is not adversely affecting your well-being, then certainly it is possible to love yourself without focusing on your body.
Your relationship with your body is just one way to begin to discover how you relate to yourself, what you believe about yourself, and how you feel about yourself.
Love Your Body, Love Your Life outlines Sarah Maria's 5-step process for helping you feel great in and about your body and yourself. Her work embraces the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, so that true and lasting healing can occur.