Inside Out by Anastasia Amour
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You deserve fearless body confidence. So says Anastasia Amour, a ‘no bullshit’ body image warrior whose new book is a must read if you’ve ever experienced negative self-talk (and that’s most of us, right?).
It wouldn’t be December without the thunder of a thousand new self-help books hitting the shelves with promises of a new you for the new year. Meanwhile, the diet industry rubs its hands with glee as we all waddle out of the pudding-lined quagmire and remember the clean eating vows we made this time last year. Suddenly our newsfeeds are awash with 6 week fitness challenges, new and improved diet guides and motivational active wear. The overall message is simple – you are flawed and you must change.
And so, Inside Out IS another self-help book of sorts and it DOES discuss weight loss, but it comes with one major twist: it posits that you don’t need to hate yourself in order to make changes. In fact – and here’s where it gets radical – there’s nothing actually WRONG with you right now. If you want to get a little more healthy or a little fitter or achieve any other life goals you might be working on, go right ahead! But, despite what a thousand advertisements for the ‘new you’ might tell you, those goals don’t need to be motivated by feelings of abjection and self-loathing for you to achieve them.
The body positive warrior
Amour wants every woman on the planet to stop hating her body. She calls us to join her army of body positive warriors! Easier said than done, of course, but her contribution to this worthwhile goal is a 14 day guide to changing the way you think about your appearance. The guide sits alongside her public talks, published articles and a growing online community of grateful devotees who are relieved at the ‘get real’ perspectives Amour advocates.
Inside Out weaves Amour’s personal experiences with the science of psychology to create a step-by-step program for mind/body wellness. 14 days is not enough time to miraculously overthrow a lifetime of putting yourself down, so this book is not about quick fixes. It is, however, easy to read, backed by research and packed with actionable tasks that can become tools in the longer term battle most women will face with their negative self-talk. The book covers topics like:
- the changing nature of the socially accepted ‘ideal’ female body (it wasn’t always thin!);
- the power of words (in advertising, in the mouths of our friends, in our own heads) and how to harness that power for good;
- how to shift your reliance on the scales or other people’s approval for self-worth;
- how to shift your attitudes to food and exercise, if they’re holding you back.
In short, Amour suggests that loving and accepting yourself, so-called flaws and all, is the only way to achieve happiness. Everything else is struggle! And if you genuinely do need to lose some kilos, you might just find they come off easier with fewer negative voices weighing you down.
Putting the substance into self-love
Anastasia Amour’s advocacy for body positivity is quite the tonic in these times of highly conflicted perspectives on what it means to have a healthy body. The media is panicking about the obesity ‘epidemic’ while simultaneously shaming thin celebrities for eating disorders. There is truth in the claims of medical risks that go with being overweight, but the genuine health advice is so twisted and magnified by the diet and fitness industries that many people feel too overwhelmed to take action.
Amour has suffered from an eating disorder herself, along with a lifetime of yo-yo dieting, bullying, abuse and chronically low self esteem. After conquering some of these demons through therapy, she went on to gain qualifications in psychology, mental health and eating disorders. She is now on a mission to help others avoid this all-too-common pattern of self-loathing and disordered eating by combining the principles of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with her intimate knowledge of the destructive rollercoaster that body image management can be.
Importantly, she rails against the endless fluffy aphorisms that can’t hope to go deep enough into our tortured psyches to effect change. She is hoping to add some weight (so to speak) to the simplistic perspectives on ‘being positive’ about yourself that abound, especially on social media. Anyone who has truly experienced the feelings of sadness, failure, fear and rejection that accompany low self esteem knows that a few happy cat memes about seizing the day are not going to make a difference long term.
Stepping in the right direction
Much like The Weight Escape, which I reviewed around this time last year (funny that…), Inside Out is the sort of book I wish more doctors, politicians and media commentators would read because of the way it exposes the complex links between mental and physical health. I find so much discussion of obesity, in particular, to be patronising and chastising – no more productive than a school yard bully telling someone they’re fat. But, as Facebook would say, ‘It’s complicated’ and although no self-help book is going to flick a magic switch for wellness, books like this one make for excellent starting points.
What’s more, if you like the sound of this book, I encourage you to ‘like’ Anastasia on social media somewhere for a regular dose of interesting news and research articles about body image and related topics.