How one woman found yoga, eased her inner hunger, and started loving herself. Follow Kimber as she shares her journey to loving her body, the joys and sorrows of yoga teaching, and venturing into the wilderness of writing and publishing.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Don't Argue With "Gorgeous"

Does this ever happen to you?  Someone comes up to you and says, “Look at you, you look great!” or “I love that top on you,” or “What a beautiful smile you have.”  And you’re pleased for a moment, maybe you even say thank you.  And then… you start disagreeing with them.  “I didn’t get any sleep last night, can’t you see the bags under my eyes?”  Or, “This old thing? I just didn’t have any clean clothes.” Or, “The better to eat you with, my dear.” 

Okay, maybe you wouldn’t say the last one, but how often do you catch yourself arguing with a compliment?  Many of us shake off compliments with the same vigor with which we’d slap a spider off our arm. 

The truth is, most of the time we don’t believe the compliment.  We don’t believe that we’re worthy of praise.  Some of us (I’m looking at you, Midwesterners) even believe that accepting a compliment is a moral failing that will jinx us for life, dooming us to that special ring of hell filled with narcissists, show-offs, and people who never call their mother.  

Face it.  Many of us have a huge disconnect between how others perceive us and how we perceive ourselves.  If we have wrinkles, we assume people think we’re old and no fun and not beautiful anymore, even if the person in front of us is telling us the opposite.  If we’re fat, we think that’s all anyone sees and responds to, and that we’re not entitled to feel sexy and brilliant, even if our friends, lovers, and colleagues see us as the best thing since the burrito.  

It doesn’t matter how many times someone pounds on the door, yelling “STELL-LA!  I love you!!!” if we’re hiding inside the house with our headphones on listening over and over again to the same old song, the one whose refrain is: “I’m not good enough, no one could love me.”  We’ll never hear them. 

It’s weird.  You have to believe that a compliment is true, at least unconsciously, before you can accept it.  Otherwise, it rolls like water off a raincoated duck. 

  Accepting a compliment gracefully and believing it isn’t easy if we’ve always done the opposite. But it is possible. Creating this new habit requires three things:

1.      Notice what your underlying belief is, specifically why it is you don’t believe good things about yourself.

2.      Replace that belief with a healthier and more loving one.

3.      Give yourself affectionate compliments to practice receiving them well from others. 

Of course if you want to learn how to do this and more while hanging out with a bunch of awesome women for an amazing weekend, join me for the June Love Your Body Retreat in Sonoma from Fri-Sun, June 21-23.  $549 includes everything but your transportation.  Let me know if you’re interested!
Love Your Body Part 73

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Big Bad B-Word

“Bless you.”

For some of us, these two words cause our eyes to roll up into our heads.  For years I inwardly groaned whenever someone used “blessing” in a sentence.  The occasional outer groan might have emerged as well. 

Blessings were the exclusive purview of priests and parsons, whom I effectively avoided by spooning with my pillows on Sunday morning.

I did have some empathy with the southern use of “Well, bless his soul,” which carries the silent sentiment, “Damn fool.”  When my 10 year old son preferred to duck away and stare at his shoes instead of receiving a blessing from an aged Nepali holy woman in Kathmandu, I recognized in him my own old discomfort. 

But over the years, “blessing” has not only crept into my vocabulary, but set up a lively shop, weaving its colorful threads into my emails, songs, yoga teaching, art; almost nothing is untouched by its deft hand. How did this happen?  

 My whole view of blessings changed when I stopped thinking of them as abstract holy utterances and realized that more than anything else, they are free, unhampered, unrestricted aspirations.  Aspirations for what we want for ourselves and each other and the world.  What do you want for your best friend?  What do you want for your family?  Your community? 

Blessings are little articulations of our intention for life.

We want the people we care about to be happy and safe, loved and healthy.  A blessing is a way of saying, “I know things suck sometimes, but I care about you and I want you to have an awesome life. I want your work to be successful and satisfying.  And I hope you have plenty of time to dance like a damn fool and laugh until you can’t breathe.” Or something like that.     
In Buddhist metta (or maitri) practice, you meditate and offer blessings to people you naturally, effortlessly love, so that you connect to the warmth of your own heart.  You imagine them and repeat to yourself:

May you be happy, may you be well, may you be full of peace. 
After a while of that, then if possible, you turn it toward yourself:
May I be happy, may I be well, may I be full of peace.

Eventually you can turn the aspiration/blessing toward “neutral” people and then even toward difficult people.  Of course if you experience yourself as a difficult person, you might find the second step kind of challenging. 
But what do you wish for difficult people?  That their lives be worse?  Really?  If difficult people are unhappy, does that make your life easier or harder?  If our difficult people were happy and content wouldn’t they most likely be… less difficult?  If we wish difficult people well, we’re wishing ourselves well and the people they might otherwise harm.  It’s win-win. 

If you are your own difficult person, then wishing yourself well is wishing other people well too.  It’s an aspiration to love ourselves enough to create less harm in the world, use fewer Styrofoam cups, and squash fewer toes. 

If your body is your difficult person, why wish it ill?  Maybe you’ve had a difficult relationship with your body your whole life, or even just an indifferent one.  By wishing your body well, you wish for more peace toward your body, you aspire to take care of yourself, and be positive and encouraging towards yourself.  If you actually were more at peace with your body do you think you’d be happier/kinder/more fun/less stressed?  Yup.  You’d be making the world a better place. 

 May my body be well, may it be happy, may it be full of peace.

Offer it to your body, to every part of your body. Rinse.  Repeat. See what happens. 
Give blessings away for free.  Let your aspirations try out their fluffy wings and launch themselves headlong from the nest.  It’s worth a little eye rolling from your friends.  Who knows when the b-word will emerge from their lips?  Anything’s possible. 

Love Your Body Blog Part 72

Friday, August 3, 2012

Beautiful, Sexy, and Fat: A Love Your Body Role Model

Have you met Hilda? She’s the playful, funny, active, strong, and gorgeous pin-up girl illustrated by Duane Bryers from 1957 into the 80s.  She’s also fat.  And she’s sexy.  These last two adjectives don’t often fit together in our modern culture, but they were not always the antonyms they are treated as now.  In another era Hilda was considered healthy, desirable, and zaftig, but if she showed up in the typical doctor’s office nowadays, she’d likely be sent out the door with a handful of dieting brochures and strict admonitions about cutting down on the sugar and fats and showing up for gym bootcamp.

Yet she was a successful calendar girl not in spite of her size, but because of it. 

I first met Hilda many years ago at a friend’s house, where framed illustrations of her frolicking and cavorting at the beach lined the wall above the tub in the bathroom.  It was love at first sight.  Hilda does everything… swims, sails, paints, plays outside wearing nothing but flowers, ropes cows, climbs fences, loves nature, plays guitar, and enjoys a good book in her rocker garbed in her favorite red-long johns.  Sure, she was originally painted as a calendar girl for the enjoyment of straight men and the depictions are totally sexist. 

She’s still my hero. 

If you look on the expressions on Hilda’s face, you see a carefree self-confident woman unafraid of a little adventure, who’s willing to embarrass herself, because life is worth the fun and the thrill of it.  She’s outdoorsy and active, but knows the charms of a warm fire and a soft bed.  She doesn’t think twice about wearing a bikini; her belly and her big thighs are part of her charm, and she knows it.  In fact, she must live someplace rather warm… you get the sense that her preferred dress would be nothing at all, that the flowers are added out of respect for the modesty of the viewer, but not her own.  She enjoys her body, and doesn’t see it as a barrier to climbing trees, balancing on a fence, or swinging on a tire swing. 

When it comes to body image issues, I think a good question to ask ourselves is “What would Hilda do?” 

Would Hilda be afraid to show up at the pool in her flowered swimsuit?  No way.
Would Hilda show up in yoga class, do her best, and rest with a sigh into savasana?  You bet she would.
Would Hilda stand in front of the mirror and give herself a hard time about her butt, and put herself on a strict diet?  Never. 

Hilda’s success as a calendar model over thirty years tells me something about men too:
Men find big women sexy.
Men appreciate women who are active, confident, and not afraid to make a fool of themselves. 
Men are attracted to women who are unselfconscious and enjoy their own sexuality. 

This may not be true for all men, but many more than you’d think, if not most.  By the way, for all those same-sex loving women out there, I have it on good authority the exact same thing is true for lesbians. 

If Hilda can be sexy and confident, why can’t you and I? 

Let Hilda be an inspiration to you, whatever size you are, remembering that your ability to love yourself is not decided by billboards, fashion shows, or your dress size.  Look for other Love Your Body role models all around you in the world.  They are out there.  I’m always on the look out for new ones, so let me know what you find. 
And finally, consider becoming your own Love Your Body role model, the person your friends look to as the embodiment of self-confidence and enjoyment in life.  It’s a role well-worth playing. 

Love Your Body Blog Part 71

Friday, June 29, 2012

Put a Stop to Food Judgments

A friend who’s working on loving her body told me that whenever someone comments on her food choices or how much she should or shouldn’t be eating she becomes defensive. She wondered if this was a normal, justified reaction or an extreme one she should work on.
Here’s the short answer: nobody should judge what’s on someone else’s plate. 
There’s something about our culture’s obsession with perfection and weight loss that’s turned many of us to street corner experts who feel entitled to comment to anyone nearby: “You’ll always be fat if you keep munching that cheeseburger/cake/doughnut/etc.”  Funny how the same reasoning doesn’t apply to a “normal-sized” person eating the same thing. 
But we can’t judge someone based on two flimsy facts: what they’re eating and what they look like.   
For all you know, they might be a weight-lifter, a dancer, or they might simply have a genetic make-up that results in their body looking exactly the way it looks, no matter what they eat or how much they exercise. 
We experience comments like this whatever size we are: our friend who says, “Oh you got the blue cheese dressing, I can’t eat that, too fattening.”  Friends like this can really suck the enjoyment out of a meal.  What you choose to eat is not up for public discussion or debate. 
Eat what your body loves to eat, do exercise your body loves to do, and don’t feel guilty about it.  
No one has the right to judge you or make you feel bad about your body.  You don’t have to take on anyone else’s neuroses about weight and eating. 
Ragen Chastain, who writes one of my favorite blogs, “Dances With Fat,” talks about the perils of Eating While Fat (EWF) and suggests the correct response to an unwelcome comment from a stranger about food is: “You are way out of line and you don’t know what you’re talking about.  How dare you?  Move on.”  Indeed, this response sounds defensive.  But hey, if you say something to this impolite stranger now, you might save some other person from having to endure the same rudeness later.  Think of it as performing a public service. 
That said, there’s a deeper concern. What about when you’re defensive when you’ve asked someone for their opinion? 
Years ago, when first trying to figure out why I was hungry all the time, I asked a nutritionist friend of mine to look at my food choices.  Boy, was I defensive.  Seriously, I had asked her to evaluate (read: judge) my eating habits, and when she did exactly what I asked her to do, was I mad!  Pissed!  Furious!  How dare you tell me to eat differently!  Even though I’m paying you to do just that….
Yep.  Something was screwed up.  The real problem wasn’t that I felt judged by someone else. It was that I was judging myself, giving myself a hard time for everything that I put into my mouth that wasn’t perfectly fresh, non-fat, sugar-free, organic, sustainably harvested, non-violently grown by fair-trade angels or locally unionized leprechauns.  Which basically meant nothing I ate met the strict standards I set for myself.  I was judging myself constantly and anyone else’s judgments (even the professional dietician I was paying) just amplified the self-criticism beyond any tolerable threshold. 
I would always feel painfully defensive about my food unless I stopped judging what was on my plate. 
My inner judge would never be satisfied, no matter how perfectly I ate, leprechauns and angels aside.  How do you stop judging yourself for what you eat?  The Buddhist practice of lovingkindness is a good start (I’ll cover that in an upcoming blog), but one sure-fire way to circumvent the inner judge is to eat for enjoyment. 
Close your eyes, feel into your body, and ask your body what it would really enjoy eating.   
Don’t be satisfied with the old cookies in the cabinet or the stale pretzels on top of the fridge.  What does your body really want?  When I ask my body the question, “What would you enjoy eating right now?” my body almost always comes back with images of ripe fruit, steamy greens, crisp salads with lemony dressing, and roasted beets.  Fresh eggs, juicy tomatoes, and goat cheese also make the top of the list.  My body almost never asks for anything in a box or a can.  Go figure. 
Find out what your body would genuinely enjoy, then make it or buy it, and sit down and enjoy every bite.   
When your body stops enjoying it, stop, and enjoy digesting it.  If you have a hard time figuring out what your body would like to eat, stand in the produce section of the grocery store, or better yet, in the farmers’ market, and ask it again.  Keep asking it until it answers you.  You might be surprised by how clearly it indicates its desires once you start tuning in. Listening to your body sounds simple, but it’s easy for your body’s needs to get lost in the hubbub of daily life.   
Listening to your body requires a commitment to yourself to pause and ask, over and over again, what it needs, and to listen to and feel for the answer.   
And then to be willing to meet those needs everyday.  Eating without thinking is easier, but much less satisfying and enjoyable. 
Then the answer to anyone who comments on your food—stranger, friend, dietician, inner judge, leprechaun—is “This is what my body needs right now.  I’d trust my body over your advice any day.”  
If they seem interested, you might ask them how much time they spend listening to their own body’s needs.  You might spark a change in their relationship with their body, too. 

Love Your Body Blog Part 70

Friday, June 1, 2012

You Are Not an Object

Yesterday I got to catch up with an old friend, sharing our lives over the last ten years and savoring each other’s presence.  I told her about the Love Your Body work that’s been my passion for several years now, and she mentioned that she’s never had any problems with body image.  Ever.  At all.  It’s completely mysterious to her. 
For those of us who have struggled with body-image issues our whole lives, people (especially women) who have always felt ease in their bodies are the proverbial “unicorns”… something magical you’ve heard of but never seen.  
Yup.  They exist.  My life is full of body-image conversations and every once in a while I meet a woman who says, “What you’re doing sounds cool, but it’s not relevant to me.  I’ve never disliked my body.  I don’t entirely understand why anyone would dislike their body.”
My theory about my unicorn friends, the big difference between them and me, is simple: they don’t objectify themselves. 
They don’t look at themselves from someone else’s point of view.  They don’t take on that critical, judgmental, outside point of view that’s impossible to measure up to.  They don’t compare themselves to airbrushed images on billboards and magazines.  They don’t judge their bodies based on their appearance, but appreciate their bodies’ health and well-being.  We can learn a lot from our unicorn friends. 
Unicorns have problems too.  They judge themselves about their performance at work, they have divorces, anxiety attacks, lose their keys, get lost in the big city, and take wrong turns down winding country roads. 
That’s life, right?  It turns out life is hard enough without treating ourselves like a vase at a yard sale, pointing out every flaw and crack every time we look in the mirror. 
We end up treating ourselves like a potential buyer evaluating a horse.  “Hmm… rounded shoulders, ribs can be felt but not seen, fat deposits along the withers…this pony’s been overfed.”  It’s exhausting to treat ourselves this way all the time.  It can ruin your whole day.  Maybe even your whole life.
You are not a pony. Your body is not for sale.  No one has the right to judge or evaluate it.  You are an amazing human being, so much more than the reflection in the mirror could ever show.
You don’t have to treat yourself like an object ever again.
But once we’re caught in the habit of objectifying ourselves, how do we stop? 
1.      Notice when you’re looking at yourself like an object. You gotta catch yourself doing it.  Look in the mirror and notice the first critical thought that comes to mind.
2.      Ask yourself: Says who?  Whose thought is that?  Whose point of view is that?  Who am I comparing myself to and why? 
3.      Remind yourself: this body is my friend, my home, my life’s companion.  It makes everything in my life possible.  Judgments are not welcome or necessary.  My body is not an object.  It’s a vibrant living being that deserves  love. 
4.      Feel your body from the inside.  Is it happy?  Is it enjoying life?  This is what truly matters.

Your body is not for the consumption of our consumer culture.  It’s for your enjoyment of life and the pursuit of your dreams. 
Once you’ve given up treating your body like an object, all that energy you used to spend giving yourself a hard time, you can now use to write your book, start that business you always wanted to try out, and finally finish the art project you’ve been dabbling with for years. 
You’ll still have problems.  But you’ll have a lot more energy to work with them. 

Love Your Body Blog Part 69

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friendship 101: It’s really that simple

Is your body your friend? If the answer is yes, wonderful. If no, then how do you become friends with your body? It turns out friendship is pretty simple. Most friendships develop from three things that build on each other:

1. Shared interests

2. Shared experiences

3. Shared affection

Say you go to a yoga class that you really enjoy. You go every week, and the faces start to become familiar, you even get to know a few names. Spending a lot of time next to each other in downward dog tends to be a great ice-breaker, who knows why? Eventually through your shared interest in yoga (and your experiences in full wheel pose), you get together for tea and find out that you both love to hike. You go on a couple of hikes together and find out that you like their friends and you love their sense of humor (not to mention their amazing homemade granola bars) and they start to grow on you.

You’re friends.

Becoming friends with your body can really be that simple, if you let it. What are your shared interests? Let’s see, you and your body probably enjoy feeling good, laughing, and relaxing, to name just a few.

You both likely love feeling strong, healthy, and alive, like a superhero without the cape.

So what are your shared experiences that help you feel this way?

1. Eating well (eating healthy food, neither over- nor under-eating)

2. Engaging daily in enjoyable movement

3. Getting enough sleep

4. Spending time with people you love

5. Serving your life’s purpose (being a parent, working hard, helping out, etc.)

Just like in a regular friendship, these shared interests and experiences naturally lead to shared affection if we let them.

You develop a sense of respect for your body’s abilities and support, affection for its quirks, and encouragement for its difficulties. So why don’t we all automatically feel like our body is our friend? I mean, we spend a lot of time with our bodies… every experience we’ve ever had is one we shared with our bodies. We should all be BFFs with our bodies “4 EVA”! Right?

But no. We indulge a little too excessively in that brutally effective friendship killer, judgment.

Judging ourselves constantly and comparing ourselves endlessly to other bodies interferes with the natural friendship we could experience with our bodies. Imagine if you had a friend who constantly berated you for not being as coordinated as their other friend, for not working as hard as this person they read about in a magazine, for not living up to some abstract standard they’ve decided upon. Would you feel friendly towards them? Would you want to spend more time with them or less? Wouldn’t your “interests” start to diverge?

Everything you need to be friends with your body is already in place.

All we really need is to remove the impediments. Let go of judgment toward your body and ask yourself these questions:

1. Can I make this experience enjoyable for my body?

2. How does my body make this experience possible?

3. Can I appreciate my body’s ability and support at this moment?

You are meant to be friends with your body. Let go of anything that stands in the way of that friendship. You and your body deserve it.

I know, I said I was taking a hiatus from the blog, and here’s a new post already. Surprise! Maybe there’ll be another one headed your way before the new year, who knows?

Love Your Body Blog Part 68

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Right Tool

Last week, the garden showed up first on my to-do list, so I braved our messy basement to look for the rake. The rake was AWOL.

My partner had lent it out. What to do? My first tool of choice, gone, and an hour get my gardening chores done. I love the rake. When you turn it upside down, it does a fairly good job of getting those pesky little weeds out of the garden path. Thanks to the early fall rains, tons of weeds had made their beds in the gravel.

Frustrated, I started pulling out tools; no, the pickaxe won’t work. Nix the shovels, the posthole digger, the flat hoe, the… what the heck is this? I extracted an unrecognizable piece of rusty metal stuck on the end of a long handle. This tool did not belong to me, or my partner. This tool had obviously been in the basement since long before we moved in.

Given the state of the backyard when we moved in, it probably hadn’t been used since before I was born.

Rusty and dented… this tool was perfect. I scraped the metal stirrup along the gravel and it magically disrupted all the baby weeds, roots first. This tool was faster and better than the rake. Way better. Thanks to the magic of Google, I discovered the name of my new favorite tool was---surprise!--- the stirrup hoe. I am in love with my stirrup hoe.

A certain irony was not lost on me: If I hadn’t experienced the frustration of not having my preferred tool at hand, I never would have discovered the beautiful stirrup hoe. If my other tool hadn't gone missing, I never would have found the one that made my life easier and better.

Lately in the Love Your Body workshop, I’ve been talking about all the practices we learn as tools in our toolbox that we can use to love our bodies in various situations and under different stresses. We can get dependant on a couple of these tools, our go-to devices that help us everyday, until one day they go AWOL.

When that happens, dig a little deeper to find the tools you’ve forgotten about, that you had no idea were laying down there with the odd screws and nails.

You might find that suddenly the lovingkindness practice you haven’t thought of in years arises as deeply relevant and compelling. That dialoguing with your demon instantly brings relief. That pausing and asking your body what it needs is just what you need. That not only do these revived tools suddenly work, but that they are perfect for your life and your body right now.

Your Love Your Body toolbox has dependability and depth, and can set the unexpectedly perfect tool in your hand just when it’s needed.

Stay tuned for my lineup of Love Your Body Workshops for 2012, one starting Feb 1 at Namaste Grandlake, one at Yogakula SF in April, and more to come. Drop me a line if you know someplace you'd like me to bring the workshop.

Plus, I have some exciting news… I am taking a hiatus from the blog for a couple of months to finish revising my first book, Full: How one woman found yoga, eased her inner hunger and started loving herself, so that I can self-publish it in the new year. No more waiting! Are you ready to have the book in your hands? So am I. I might drop in a blog here or there to update you on my progress, we’ll see.

Also, in February, I’ll be starting a Love Your Body six-month mentorship group, where we have weekly check-ins and get together once a month for love your body classes and activities. Only a small group of women will be able to join me for this special program and the price range will be about $600. So consider if you’d like to make this commitment to your relationship with your body. I’ll send out more information via this blog, email, and facebook, as more details are confirmed.

Blessings to you on all your Love Your Body journeys! Kimber

Love Your Body Blog Part 67

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fat Doesn’t Equal Failure

There’s a woman I know. You know her. In fact, she might be you. She might be my mom, or my sister, or even me. She’s smart. She’s accomplished. She’s compassionate and loving. She’s changing the world in her own way. And she thinks she’s a failure. Why? Because she’s fat. Or at least she thinks she’s fat. Whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter, because she believes it. She believes that she is fatter than she “should” be. No accomplishment in her life competes with her less-than-ideal body. She will always think of herself as having failed.

Or will she?

Here’s the question I want to ask her… who has the right to tell you you’re not beautiful just the way you are? Who?

Possible answers include:

1. Everyone

2. Madison Avenue

3. Hollywood

4. Simon Cowell

5. the clerk at Macy’s

6. your dad/mom/uncle/grandmother/sister/step-brother

7. your husband/boyfriend/partner

8. your boss/ex-boss/coworker

9. the girls in your sixth grade gym class

10. ______________________ [fill in the blank]

11. No one.

The only correct answer to this question is 11. No one has been given the official seal of the universe to infallibly dispense the label of beauty upon those few who meet some absurd, arbitrary ideal. Your beauty is not up for public approval, national referendum, or The Galaxy’s Next Top Model.

Your beauty is self-apparent to everyone who loves you.

In Brene Brown’s wonderful TED talk about love and connection (watch it here), she says the difference between people who feel a sense of worthiness and belonging and people who don’t is that… they feel a sense of worthiness and belonging. Yes I know, it’s a tautology. You see, the difference isn’t that they come from wealthy families or poor families, or that they had happy childhoods or unhappy ones.

The difference is their belief about themselves.

Brown’s research doesn’t cover this, but I suspect that the difference between people who believe that they are beautiful and people who don’t… is simply a belief in their own beauty. The difference is not between women who are 5’10”, weigh 120 lbs, and look like Kate Moss and women who are 5’5”, weigh 220 lbs, and look like Gertrude Stein. The difference is not that women who obsess about their weight and diet feel beautiful and women who don’t feel ugly. (Interestingly, the opposite may be more true!)

The difference is simple: whether or not you believe you are beautiful.

No one has the right to define beauty in a way that excludes you. Not even you. Beauty is not objective. Even normative ideas of beauty change enormously over history and between cultures.

Why do we allow ourselves to feel terrible about our bodies? Is it true that a woman can solve global poverty, cure cancer, invent cold fusion, plant a tree, or raise a happy child, and still look in the mirror and feel like a failure because her body doesn’t match some idea in her head about what it should look like?

You deserve better. You deserve to feel beautiful whatever your body looks like or feels like.

I think of Karen Carpenter, the singer who haunted my dreams as a child. Her voice was gorgeous and pure, she was an accomplished drummer, and a beautiful woman. Yet she always believed she was fat, and therefore ugly. All of her success musically meant nothing to her if she was fat, and she starved herself to death as a result. You can see clearly how ridiculous Karen Carpenter’s misplaced beliefs were. Can you see that in yourself?

Why is fat the be-all and end-all of beauty? So what if you’re fat, or if you think you’re fat? Let yourself be fat and beautiful. Let yourself be beautiful with these five extra pounds, with these fifty extra pounds, with whatever number of extra pounds you imagine you have. Let them be beautiful too. Screw anyone who doesn’t believe you’re beautiful. They aren’t the boss of your beauty or anyone else’s.

You’re smart. You know better.

Treat yourself better.

P.S. The last Love Your Body workshop of 2011 happens this Sun, Oct 23 in Livermore! Let me know if you want to join us!

Love Your Body Blog Part 66

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Body, the Beer-Swilling, TV-Watching Couch Surfer

Have you ever thought to yourself…?

“If I listen to my body, it will tell me to lie prone on the couch and eat chocolate-covered potato chips until I can’t move.”

“If I trust my body, I’ll never make myself go to the gym and I’ll devour pints of Ben and Jerry’s like they’re peanuts.”

“If I pay attention to my body’s needs, I’ll become a boneless sloth with nothing to live for.”

“If I love my body, the skies will rain blood, birds will explode for no reason, and the world will get sucked into a cosmic death spiral to the tune of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.”

Really? Is it true that your body has the personality of a lazy, ravenous, good-for-nothing wastrel who only wants to lie back and see if Wile. E. Coyote finally catches the Roadrunner?

I used to think that. I was pretty sure that if I listened to my body I would eat nothing but mint chocolate cookie ice cream and sleep all the time: I would get fat. Or fatter.

The first time you listen to your body feels like standing at the top of a ridge and trusting the air to catch you and cradle you safely to the earth below.

It’s an impossibly scary and exhilarating leap of faith in yourself: that your body’s wisdom exists and you can trust it wholly. Every fear will shape itself into a looming doubt to keep you from jumping and knowing the truth about yourself.

Here’s the truth:

1. Your body is an animal.

2. Your body knows what makes it feel good.

3. Your body loves to move.

4. Your body doesn’t want to overeat or undereat.

5. Your body doesn’t want to be injured by too much movement or too little movement.

Your body wants to feel good. Let it show you what it needs. Let your body catch you.

[Here’s another truth: your body needs fat. You can’t live without it. Don’t be at war with fat, on you, in you, or on anyone else. Fat is not the enemy.]

I used to think that I was the kind of person who couldn’t control herself around food. If I started a candy bar, I finished the whole thing. I figured that listening to my body meant I wouldn’t stop with just one candy bar; you’d find me in a heap of chocolate-smeared wrappers at the bottom of the box.

Imagine my surprise, when after listening to my body for a while, I learned that it doesn’t like candy bars. My body feels irritable and tired when I eat gobs of sugar. Nowadays my body says, “One bite of cake would be perfect. One small piece of that chocolate bar would be delicious. Half a truffle is just right.”

For years I rolled my eyes at people who said crap like that. Really? You can stop at half a truffle? Bullshit. Not me.

Yeah, me.

You, too.

Here’s a good place to start. Below is Linda Bacon’s “Live Well Pledge,” a list of aspirations that invite you to listen to and trust your body:

Today, I will try to feed myself when I am hungry.

Today, I will try to be attentive to how foods taste and make me feel.

Today, I will try to choose foods that I like and that make me feel good.

Today, I will try to honor my body’s signals of fullness.

Today, I will try to find an enjoyable way to move my body.

Today, I will try to look kindly at my body and to treat it with love and respect.

Seriously, does this look like a recipe for bedsores? No way. This is the recipe for being able to eat what you what, when you want, as much as you want, and no more than you want, for moving your body in ways that it loves, and for treating yourself like a goddess, not like a caged tiger.

For me, loving my body is the recipe for feeling the best I’ve ever felt in my life, for enjoying food more, for being in better shape than I’ve ever been… and not by forcing myself to do things I hate, but by letting my body do what it loves.

In the words of Mary Oliver:

You don’t have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

from “Wild Geese”

Your body is the fount of tremendous wisdom. Are you ready to listen?

Thanks to Tammi Baliszewski of Empower Radio, whose interview with me today inspired this blogpost, and follow up with Linda Bacon's Live Well Pledge by reading her book, Heath At Every Size.

Love Your Body Blog Part 65