Entering the new year feels slightly different this year, but what remains is the inevitable constant of “new year, new you” content – with the joy of Christmas indulgence a mere memory, and instead the same outlets encouraging us to lose weight and get in shape.
We know this cycle isn’t healthy, and that guilt around food can be really damaging. Thankfully these days there is a wealth of content supporting wellbeing around food and body image. From Instagram influencers showing it’s ok to live in whatever body you do – conveying the importance of treating your body with kindness and not living in an endless cycle of dieting, magazines like Cosmopolitan and Happiful exploring these themes with a beautifully diverse range of real-life models, to books exploring body image issues and intuitive eating.
We all need to understand body image issues
Even if clients aren’t presenting due to body image issues, we all have a personal relationship with our body, which is influenced by the culture we live in. Once you start asking the right questions you may uncover a wealth of emotional experience the client hadn’t previously thought to share. We need to ensure our knowledge is up-to-date in this area – tackling any biases or misconceptions we hold to best support our clients and not risk further harm.
We’ll be sharing various articles and content to help with your knowledge ahead of our online CPD event Body Image: Skin, Identity, and the Gaze in Psychotherapy on Saturday 6th February.
Here are four brilliant books on body image to get you started
The following books cover both lived experience, whilst also highlighting how much more to one’s identity there is beyond just the shape of our bodies. All of these make for fantastic and enlightening reads that we highly recommend, so let’s get started…
Megan Jayne Crabbe (aka Bodyposipanda) shares her own story of body image issues and eating disorder, alongside research supporting the message that it’s not our bodies that are the problem, but the way we’ve been taught to see them.
“Hating our bodies is something that we learn, and it sure as hell is something that we can unlearn.”- Megan Jayne Crabbe
Comedian, Activist and writer Sofie Hagen’s book is a brilliant insight into living in a world not only not built for bigger bodies but also one in which fatphobia is rife. This is one of those books you need to read to unpick your own assumptions and feelings around weight. Sofie shares her own experiences alongside research – debunking myths and providing insight into what it can feel like to be disrespected, shamed and not accommodated on a daily basis.
Through lockdown Sofie also produced online comedy talks on various subjects, available for a minimum price of just £5. How to be Happy Fat picks up on themes from the book and explores fatness and self-love, and But What About Health? unpacks common misconceptions around weight.
“Loving your body can feel impossible and just another thing to fail at. You fail at dieting, and then you fail at loving your body. And even if you love your body you might not love it all the time… [body neutrality] is something that we can all aim for and achieve … It’s like my ears. I feel very neutral about my ears. I don’t have bad or good things to say; they’re just ears. And if I could feel like that about my whole body, that would be amazing.” – Sofie Hagen interviewed by The Guardian
Sonya Renee Taylor explores body image through a lens of difference in this powerful book. She offers radical self-love as the healing solution to systems of oppression that teach individuals body shame. The book moves beyond personal change and toward the idea of collective power, seeking a more just and compassionate world for all.
“Living in a female body, a Black body, an aging body, a fat body, a body with mental illness is to awaken daily to a planet that expects a certain set of apologies to already live on our tongues. There is a level of “not enough” or “too much” sewn into these strands of difference.” – Sonya Renee Taylor
False Bodies, True Selves: Moving Beyond Appearance-Focused Identity Struggles and Returning to the True Self by Nicole Schnackenberg
Psychologist Dr Nicole Schnackenberg explores the link between appearance and identity in this book which features both theoretical insights into appearance-focused struggles and also more personal experiences. While various underlying meanings behind such struggle are conveyed, particular focus is given to a systemic approach.
Nicole is one of our speakers at our online Body Image conference and will be presenting on “Shame, Identity and the Embodied True Self”, exploring how shame can be projected onto the body. Here she is introducing her talk:
Nicole is also the author of:
- Bodies Arising: Fall in Love with your Body and Remember your Divine Essence
- Reflections on Body Dysmorphic Disorder: Stories of Courage, Determination and Hope
- The Parents’ Guide to Body Dysmorphic Disorder: How to Support Your Child, Teen or Young Adult
For more books on body image, view The Therapy Bookshop’s Body Image Books list.
Body Image, Skin, Identity, and the Gaze in Psychotherapy
Saturday 6th February – streamed online
We live in the same body all our lives, yet over time our bodies change, through the growing up and aging process, through the impact of ill-health or mishap, sometimes deliberately and by design. Our relationship with our bodies, our skin, our appearance, can be complex and challenging. In this one-day conference our three expert speakers will consider the many ways we experience the skin we live in, how shame of our bodies influences our sense of self and identity, how men experience their bodies and the meaning of ‘the gaze’.
- Linda Cundy on Attachment, Bodies and Skin
- Dr Nicole Schnackenberg on Shame, Identity and the Embodied True Self
- Jeff Lane on Men & Body Image
Book links in this post are affiliate links meaning we get a very small cut of sales. At no extra cost to you, this supports us at BTP in being able to continue helping therapists and clients.