The triumph of modern advertising has coincided with a huge upswing in the number of people who are convinced that their bodies are ugly or fat. Standards of feminine beauty in particular have become more and more restrictive; surveys of the “ideal body type” over many decades have yielded thinner and thinner results.
The Barbie doll, the icon of feminine perfection that generations of girls have grown up with – if transformed into an actual adult female – would be unable to stand up, due to the impossible proportions of her body!
As the ideal image of beauty becomes more and more extreme, many women struggle with self-loathing and hatred of their bodies. The self-help books below are excellent resources for gaining perspective on this problem. They offer effective and useful methods for letting go of advertising-based delusional thinking about one’s body, and creating a body image which embraces and affirms the body you have.
Recommended Self-Help Books on Body Image
Feminist Naomi Wolf argues that women’s insecurities are heightened by the ubiquitous images of tall, nearly emaciated mannequins advertising the latest miracle cosmetic. These insecurities are then exploited by the diet, cosmetic and plastic surgery industries. This best-selling self-help book helps to redefine our view of the relationship between beauty and female identity. 2002, Perennial
This revised edition of The Body Image Workbook offers a unified method of dealing with body image issues. It provides new research that verifies the effectiveness of its cognitive-behavioral approach. This self-help workbook presents fresh discussions of cosmetic surgery, weight loss, and other body-fixing options, in addition to guidance for those who have physically disfiguring conditions. Also new in this edition is an emphasis on mindfulness and acceptance practices. 2008, New Harbinger
Bodylove: Learning to Like Our Looks and Ourselves
-- A Practical Guide for Women
This self-help book is for women who want to become less critical about their appearance, less preoccupied with weight and more in love with themselves – physically, sexually, and emotionally. Combining vivid case histories, practical techniques and simple exercises for moving from body-loathing to body-love, the book addresses family expectations, self-esteem, aging and social values. 2002, Gurze Books
Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel
The dream-like promise of advertising is designed to leave us hungry for more. This self-help book critiques the effect of advertising on self esteem and provides needed insight into the way the media affects us. “This self-help book should be required reading for every female high school freshman. Every woman who has dieted, picked herself apart for her appearance or stared longingly at a magazine layout needs to read this book.” (an Amazon reader-reviewer) 2000, Free Press
This breath-takingly frank memoir is not for the faint of heart. The author states, "This is a story about an unhappy fat girl who became a fat woman who was happy and unhappy." She tells of a heart-breaking childhood marked by obesity, parental abuse, sexual assault, self-loathing, and school-yard bullying. By her candor and audacity in self-description, Moore has raised the stakes for autobiography. 2006, Plume
Minding the Body: Women Writers on Body and Soul
Well-known writers contribute vivid portraits in which they explore their relationships to their bodies. They describe dealing with cancer and chemotherapy, pregnancy and infertility, anorexia, aging, multiple sclerosis, diets and plastic surgery. This self-help book is an inspiring testimony to the female spirit and offers examples of women who lead lives that demonstrate the connection between the love for one’s body as it is and the love one feels for the earth. 1995, Anchor
Transforming Body Image: Learning to Love the Body You Have
In this compassionate and encouraging self-help book, the author sets forth a program designed to improve “body esteem.” She provides tools to help the reader get to know one’s body image, determine the role models one formed during childhood and pinpoint the sub-personalities that take part in the ongoing struggle with one’s body. A practical guide to reclaiming positive feelings towards one’s body; filled with exercises, creative visualizations and encouragement. 1985, Ten Speed Press