First 30 Days Blog

21 nov

You Are Not Alone: Struggling with Negative Body Obsession

SarahMariaHave you ever looked in the mirror and been dismayed by the cellulite on your thighs or the wrinkles around your eyes? Have you thought about buying a new bathing suit but cringed at the idea of looking at yourself in the dressing room mirror? Have you ever longed to be taller, thinner, younger, or stronger?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone. In fact, you are among the 80 to 90 percent of women, and growing number of men, who dislike their physical appearance and are dissatisfied with their bodies. Body hatred has become an epidemic of unfathomable proportions in this culture.

How does this dissatisfaction manifest itself in your life? In more ways than you might imagine. Beauty and body size are often associated with success—in romance, business, or any other facet of life, and if you don’t think you meet society’s “beauty ideal,” you may feel inadequate, ashamed, and embarrassed. Consciously or unconsciously, you suffer unnecessarily because you don’t think you are beautiful enough, thin enough, or good enough to live the life of your dreams, the life you deserve. You accept less, much less, than you truly want, need, or deserve, because you feel inadequate about your body and yourself.

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.

What Is Negative Body Obsession?

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. Though NBO has yet to show up in the psychologist’s bible Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it is a very real, very prevalent, and, dare I say, nearly ubiquitous condition in modern society.

Do You Have NBO?

How do you know if you are suffering from Negative Body Obsession? No blood test will tell you; it’s a matter of evaluating your feelings and reactions at certain moments. For example, Negative Body Obsession is the:

• Sigh of resignation when you notice the wrinkles around your eyes
• Grimace when your best friend gets a boob job and you wonder if you should, too
• Feeling of defeat when you realize your high school jeans no longer fit
• Panic you feel when you realize you ate too much at Thanksgiving dinner
• Anxious thought that you must maintain your physique in order to get the relationship or the job you want

NBO is any and every thought, feeling, and action that makes your sense of self-worth dependent on your physical appearance. It is the thought that implies “If I am thin, I will be beautiful.” It is the outlook that says “If I didn’t have these wrinkles, I would be attractive.” It is the voice that says “If I lose weight, I will feel good about myself.” It is the feeling that if only you were taller, thinner, younger, or stronger, you would be more deserving, more attractive, and more lovable than you are right now.

Making Improvements to Your Body for the Right Reasons

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. When improvement comes from a place of acceptance and perfection, your potential for growth is unlimited. We’ll talk more about this later.

Isn’t NBO Normal?

Negative Body Obsession has become such a mainstay of modern culture that you may think it’s the only way to live. Many hardworking, bright people would agree with you—I have met some of them, in fact. As part of my own journey away from NBO, I had the pleasure of working with two different psychologists, both of whom I respect tremendously, at two separate times in my life. When discussing my concerns and angst about my body, they both told me that all women (and a growing number of men) in modern society struggle to some extent with dissatisfaction with their bodies. I was not surprised to hear that; I’d heard friends, family, and coworkers complain about their bodies, too.

What did bother me was that their statements implied that NBO was just the nature of life in modern society. It was just something I’d have to learn to live with. I could choose to continue my unhealthy obsessive angst or settle for a milder and more acceptable general form of dissatisfaction. Either way, love of my body and complete freedom from physical dissatisfaction was not mentioned as an option.

Although their insight and expertise helped me tremendously, there was always a small voice inside me that yearned for something more. Part of me knew that even if this discontent was “normal,” it was not natural. There is nothing natural about:

• A gnawing discontent with your physical appearance
• Wanting to be somehow different so that you can feel beautiful, desirable, and successful
• Feeling dissatisfied every time you look in the mirror
• Believing that life would be better if you just weighed a little less or looked a little younger

On the contrary, what is natural is:

• The unshakable knowledge in your inherent beauty, goodness, and strength
• Experiencing yourself as inherently perfect
• Experiencing the peace and bliss of your own being
• Knowing that you are absolutely lovable in this very moment

So yes, Negative Body Obsession is “normal” and very common. But it is anything but natural.

The above is an excerpt from the book Love Your Body, Love Your Life: 5 Steps to End Negative Body Obsession and Start Living Happily and Confidently by Sarah Maria. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

The book outlines her five-step process for helping you feel great in and about your body and yourself. Click here to purchase your copy and begin to love your body today. To learn more about Sarah Maria and her work, you can visit her website at and

Posted by Sarah Maria on November 21st, 2009 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

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