03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Love Your Body, Love Your Life by Sarah Maria

I almost always take cover blurbs with a grain of salt, don't you? But this endorsement from Ira M. Sacker, M.D. caused me to come to a full stop as I began to read Sarah Maria's book Love Your Body, Love Your Life. "Powerful, honest, and elegantly written. An amazing concept that goes beyond the idea of self-love and taps into the notion that one's love equals one's peace."

Dr. Sacker is one of the world's foremost authorities on eating disorders. Add that to his appealing words about peace and I was seriously hooked. Isn't that the bottom line for just about everything? I think it is. What we can all agree upon--planet-wide--is that we all want to live in peace, and that no matter what seems to be standing in its way, it's an aim worth the effort, whatever that effort may be. Furthermore, what I know for sure is that peace has to start at home--within each one of us.

Sarah Maria puts her fingers right on the pounding pulse of a truth in Western society. "Body hatred has become an epidemic of unfathomable proportions in this culture." I believe that body hatred lies deep under a host of physical problems: infertility, cancer, diabetes, the lot. How can we possibly expect to be healthy if we reject our own primary residence?

With inerrant accuracy, Sarah Maria returns again and again to the simple, yet profound, truths that she's learned. "The truth is that your sense of inadequacy is an illusion, or more a delusion. Yes, it's true. Many Americans suffer from this grand delusion: If I am not thin/tall/toned/beautiful/ young enough, I can't live my life fully or realize my dreams. Rather than truly loving our bodies, minds, and souls, we want to nip and tuck, slice and dice, starve and purge our way to being adequate. We think we need to change something about ourselves in order to be deserving of love, attention, and affection."

Fearless, Ms. Maria calls it like it is. "This deluded sense of inadequacy has a name: Negative Body Obsession, or NBO. NBO is a condition marked by a near-constant critical rumination on one's appearance." Then she defines it more broadly, "NBO is any and every thought, feeling, and action that makes your sense of self-worth dependent on your physical appearance."

I remember telling friends in my twenties that my body was perfect ... from the knees down and from the breasts up. That left the entire core of me out of the equation. Hard to thrive without heart, tummy, womb and a whole host of other central operating systems, if you will. I've spent years working to recover a sense of the core within my own body. So has Sarah Maria. She knows whereof she writes, and that makes a huge difference to the quality of her book.

I thoroughly enjoyed the warning about change. "Let me address a potential point of confusion from the get-go. The problem with NBO is not that it makes you want to change, per se. There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to get stronger; to become healthier; and to feel more radiant, beautiful, and alive. In fact, your desire for improvement can serve as an impetus for tremendous growth and development. NBO creeps in, however, when your desires for improvement are motivated by a gnawing sense of inadequacy, a subtle belief that you are not quite wonderful the way you are. When your desires come from this place of inadequacy, your attempts to fulfill them are often thwarted or require tremendous effort. When you learn to fully befriend, accept, and love yourself, on the other hand, improvement can happen with patience, ease, and grace."

I cannot tell you the number of diets I went on in just the manner Ms. Maria describes. At core, the internal message was 'there's something very wrong with me.' It took me till I was 25 to realize that I was letting a small metal box and three numbers tell me how to feel about myself every day. I threw my scale out my 11th story window in Manhattan--into an alley. Then I gave away every diet book I owned. In short, I embarked upon a journey of self-exploration, and I too discovered what Sarah Maria has. "At your essence you are beauty." I was, but it took almost forever for me to figure it out.

She explains, "The root cause of NBO is not realizing that each and every one of us is intrinsically beautiful and inherently valuable exactly as we are, right now." I began my own journey by noting how I could see beauty in others. Eventually, I noticed beauty residing in my own loo mirror as well.

Sarah Maria writes a delicious How-To in the rest of the book.

"1. NBO ties your self-worth to a specific outcome. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to detach from the results.
2. NBO causes you to reject or deny your inherent beauty, goodness, and strength.
3. NBO affects the quality of your intention because it comes from a place of desperation rather than a place of love.
4. NBO highlights your fears instead of your trust and self-love.
5. NBO makes it difficult to accept the present (and love yourself as you are right now)."

She brings to bear all of the self and its tool for curing NBO: body, heart, mind and spirit. NBO is a syndrome that affects every single part of a per-son. It requires all the tools possible to reverse it, but reversing it is not only possible, it's necessary. "Clearly, you've got a war raging inside you. How do you end the war? Broker a peace agreement between the different parts of yourself--mind, body, and spirit."

Which returns us to the delectable wisdom of Dr. Sacker: loving yourself brings you peace. When you are at peace, you can give peace to others, and wow, do we need it.

If you suffer from NBO a little or a lot, race to get a copy of Sarah Maria's Love Your Body, Love Your Life. You will be so relieved you did.

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