Geneen Roth’s recent publication Women Food and God: An Unexpected path to Almost Everything (2010), and Sarah Maria’s 2009 publication of Love Your Body, Love Your Life
I recently have been working on the curriculum for a body image group that myself and two of my col- leagues have been running over the past several years, and decided to read some of the popular literature on the subject, and on the broader subject of our relationship to food. We were looking to shift the group from being more classically CBT, to a more acceptance-based model, and the two books I chose were Geneen Roth’s recent publication Women Food and God: An Unexpected path to Almost Everything (2010), and Sarah Maria’s 2009 publication of Love Your Body, Love Your Life. Both books echo a similar sentiment, although with very different voices and geared at a significantly different emotional pitch. The sentiment is that the fundamental work around our bodies and our relationship to food is to let go of the fight, let go of the criticism, find a place of humor and acceptance, and see what happens if we trust ourselves. However, the differences are many, and likely I would not recommend Maria’s book to the same people I would recommend Roth’s book to.
Sarah Maria’s Love Your Body, Love Your Life, is a classic “self-help” book, complete with recommendation on the cover from Deepak Chopra and a heavy dose of over-the-top self-encouragement, i.e., “In reality, you are eternal, omnipotent, and omnipresent. You are the brilliance of the entire universe mani- festing as a single human being.” Maria’s premise is that what she calls “Negative Body Obsession” (NBO) is the projection onto ones’ body of core feelings of inadequacy. Therefore, in five steps, and hence five chapters following the initial introductory chapters, she leads readers through a process of delving more deeply into the question of setting clear and aspirational intentions and “living from a place of trust rather than fear”. She bases this process in a cosmological belief in various new age ideas, such as the power of intention, and as noted above, a premise that individuals are connected to the universe in an intentional, perfect, and purposeful way, and that NBO is an illusion denying a greater fundamental truth about ones’ existence, which, if discovered, will fuel a new way of connecting with oneself and others.
Whether you are “on board” with Maria’s conceptualization of the universal laws of existence or not, she does offer exercises in each chapter which are excellent in terms of helping readers access and articulate what feels broken, what they really wish for, and what their lives could look like if they were to work from a place of acceptance. Additionally, her chapter on how to disengage from NBO thoughts is excel- lent, turning toward a mindfulness practice of just letting the thoughts occur and leave, rather than fight- ing them. For the purpose of our body image group, I decided to “skim off” the cosmological belief system that Maria proposes, and to use her very well-thought out experiential practices as group homework assignments. I think I would recommend the book to someone I knew would either: 1) Be able to take the baby of some of the exercises she proposes, and throw out the bathwater of the underpinning belief system if they wanted to, or 2) Already held similar metaphysical beliefs as Maria, and so would not be turned off by some of her claims.