Most helpful critical review
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Some valuable information and strategies to address negative body image
on August 15, 2010
NOTE: I received a free copy of this book to review for the web site Metapsychology Online Reviews; a more detailed version of my review appears on that site.
Author Sarah Maria, who reveals a personal background which includes a history of restrictive eating, bingeing, purging, and having a love/hate relationship with both food and her body, bases this book on the concept that the unhappiness which so many people experience about their bodies is actually a condition called Negative Body Obsession, or NBO. This is not a disorder that is listed in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the reference manual used by mental health clinicians to make diagnoses such as Anorexia, Bulimia, or Body Dysmorphic Disorder (excessive anxiety concerning a perceived flaw in one's appearance). It's true that many people with body image concerns as well as disordered thoughts about food and eating may not meet the criteria for a full eating disorder diagnosis and thus might be more appropriately labeled with a subclinical term such as NBO. However, Maria fails to offer her readers any distinction between NBO and eating disorders, a problematic oversight. Maria then goes into a review of the possible causes of NBO, a discussion that seems a bit esoteric for the purposes of a self-help book.
Maria definitely does include some more valuable information. In particular, she addresses the negative thought patterns associated with NBO and reviews strategies for detaching oneself from one's thoughts. She also incorporates many different exercises, including use of meditation and visualization techniques which can be quite beneficial. I have no doubt that some readers--particularly those who are motivated to utilize the exercises as instructed--are likely to find this book to be helpful. As a psychologist, however, I feel the need to make note of several reservations: 1) with the exception of her own personal experience, I can find nothing to indicate that Maria is the body image "expert" that she claims to be (her educational background is actually in law and international affairs); 2) when giving advice about diet/eating well, Maria advises her readers to "learn everything you can about healthy eating," including reading ALL of the latest books, listening to audio recordings, etc.; this is NOT a recommendation that I would make to a group who already has tendencies towards being obsessive; and 3) Maria's Resource List offered at the end of the book is clearly biased. For example, in the section on "Overcoming Negative Thought Patterns/Brain Health/Personal Growth," two authors are cited 20 times each (40 out of the 51 total resource listed), while more seminal works are not mentioned.
In conclusion, I would caution readers to note that while they may find this book to be beneficial, there are better quality offerings written by more qualified authors available.