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.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Who You Calling Beautiful?

Here’s a variation of a conversation I occasionally find myself in:

“Kimber, I just want to tell you that I find it hard to believe that you ever disliked your body. You’re so radiant and beautiful.”

Me: “Aw, thanks.”

“No, seriously, it’s hard to square how you say you hated your body with what you look like.”

[Momentary stunned silence.]

Me: “I suppose you’re right. That’s the whole point. It doesn’t matter how many people tell you you’re beautiful if you don’t believe it yourself.”

Here’s a half-truth: I wasn’t always as beautiful as I am now. Yup, there’s a bunch of you out there who have known me since I was a wee little mite, and you’ll say, “No-no, Kimber, you’ve been beautiful all along.” But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? Other people might see it, but if I couldn’t see it… well, it wasn’t there. Perception is everything. Think about it… have you always seen yourself as beautiful?

For comparison’s sake, here’s what I used to think beauty was:

1. Perfect fat-free body

2. Immaculate cleanliness and grooming

3. Fashion model hair

4. Wrinkle and stretch-mark free as if steam-cleaned and ironed smooth by the dry cleaners’ hulking metal machines

5. Hairless (except for number three above, and of course, eyebrows and eyelashes!)

6. When everyone unanimously agrees you’re beautiful

Do you see the problem here? No living person can live up to that standard of beauty. It’s an artificial, two-dimensional, airbrushed, photo-shopped, billboard model standard of beauty. It’s the standard of beauty that prompted Cindy Crawford to say, “I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford.” I had adopted an unattainable standard of beauty that excluded me by definition. Anyone who asserted otherwise (“You look great/pretty/lovely”) obviously had regrettably low standards and therefore could be disregarded completely as not knowing what the hell they were talking about.

An even more pernicious definition was working away behind the scenes of my unconscious. Though my parents always emphasized intelligence and education, my young brain attached itself to the equation: Beauty = Worthiness. Because I wasn’t beautiful (according to my own definition), I also wasn’t worthy. This further undermined my ability to receive the sincerest, most well-meaning of compliments; since I wasn’t worthy of receiving a compliment and (obviously) wasn’t beautiful, anyone who complimented my appearance was a liar, possibly blind, apparently believed I was a complete idiot, and undoubtedly held some sinister ulterior motive.

The problem wasn’t what I looked like. It was how I perceived my own worthiness.

How can you stop believing in your own unworthiness? Question it. I asked myself: Whoever said I was unworthy? Why should I give a crap about what a jerk like that would say anyway? Why should I believe that I’m unworthy? I couldn’t come up with a good answer.

My yoga practice finally perforated and melted the shield of unworthiness. It’s hard to feel unworthy in Warrior Two or a juicy, well-aligned Tadasana. My body learned to balance in crow pose, and even how to kick into handstand. Nothing unworthy there. And savasana… I soaked up the resting pose at the end of class like it was my birthright. I deserved it. I deserved to feel whole, worthy… even loved.

Worthy enough, I decided, to redefine beauty to include myself. Nowadays beauty has different list of criteria:

1. Inner radiance born of self-awareness and compassion

2. Warmth, friendliness

3. Self-confidence co-existing with humility and humor

4. Love for self that extends beyond self and longs to include all others in its embrace

5. Ease and sense of being at home in the physical body, joy in aliveness

6. Capable of seeing beauty in self and others and everywhere

7. And more….

None of these things are based on appearance, yet when we look at someone who embodies these qualities, is it possible to see them as anything but beautiful? Anyone can attain this standard of beauty… though perhaps not perfectly all the time. Just ask my family if you want proof I don’t always embody the above qualities. But there’s a certain beauty in our vulnerability and pissy-ness, too. Real beauty is flexible and gritty and sometimes downright tough.

If your definition of beauty doesn’t include you, redefine it for yourself. Then take the next step… can you see yourself as beautiful and worthy even when you’re not feeling/being beautiful, even by your own definition? Maybe beauty isn’t something we have to define or pin down. It’s like seeing yourself as God, or the Earth, or Mother Nature sees you… whole, perfect, beautiful, even when you’re not. Maybe beautiful is what we’ve been all along.

Yeah, I’m beautiful. And so are you.

Love Your Body Blog: Part 56

Friday, July 22, 2011

To-Do List: Hate, No Wait, Love My Body

I am a list-maker. I love lists.

My weekly to-do list gets crammed into the margins of my calendar, taking over the entire double page spread and spilling into future weeks. My grocery list is typed up on the computer and then each item I need gets checked off before I head to the store. The Four Agreements, the eight limbs of yoga, the ten things you should never say to your mother-in-law… make something into a list and I will read it, memorize it, and do it (or not do it, as the case may be).

When I was anorexic I would make lists of food I could eat and foods I couldn’t eat.

Apples, lettuce, and boiled eggs made it on to the okay list. Pretty much everything else was on the “I will not eat this” list. I made lists of all the exercises I would force my body to do for the day or the week: 300 leg lifts, 100 crunches, 50 push-ups, forty minutes on the mini-tramp, 100 laps in the pool, play tennis. I might as well have been making lists of ways to torture myself:

1. Hair shirt

2. Hung by toenails

3. Iron Maiden

4. Rack

5. Forced to listen without interruption to Boy George sing “Karma Chameleon” until ears bleed

I enjoyed my prescribed exercise to the same degree I would enjoy any of the above tortures, that is… very little. But my inner sadist (or is it masochist?) marched me through every exhausting regime I invented for myself, telling me I was getting exactly the treatment I deserved. The result was quite predictable: I hated myself and I hated my life.

Those hard-nosed lists made by a skinny 15 year old---I’m happy to say---remain in the dustbin of my personal history along with the crumpled ticket stubs from the roller rink and my middle-school year book. Nowadays my lists are more likely to look like this:

How I’ll Love My Body Today:

1. Eat what helps it feel energized and satisfied.

2. Listen to my belly when it says it’s full.

3. Enjoy my yoga practice as I stretch, strengthen, and relax

4. Rest when my body says to rest

5. Play, laugh, sing

6. Breathe deep

7. Appreciate my aliveness

The main difference between this to-do list and my old ones is simple. It's love.

It’s a list of things I want to do for myself, not against myself. It’s a celebration of my body as it is right now, not a strategy for turning my body into something it’s not now and never could be.

What do your lists look like… more like the “Here are the ways I plan to torture myself today” or this last one? Try making a list titled “How I’ll love my body today.” Probably there are things you’re planning to do anyway that could go on it: a dance class, a walk through the forest, a massage, a warm bath. Are there things you’d like to do that are more likely to happen if you connect them to the importance of being a good friend to your body? How different would it feel to check off items on your to-do list if each one were an outpouring of love towards yourself?

There’s only one way to find out.

Love Your Body Blog: Part 55

Friday, July 15, 2011

Extreme Makeover Kimber: Body Edition

Do you think of yourself as an endless improvement project? Once I lose 10 lbs (or 20 or whatever magical number you dream of), once I disappear this jiggle from my belly, once I tone my thighs, lift my eyelids, and suck the jelly out of my butt, then I’ll be happy. Then my life will really start.

Did you know that losing weight and getting more exercise appear on most people’s New Year’s resolution lists, year after year after year, no matter how much they weigh or what kind of shape they’re in?

And what would happen if they finally lost the weight, got the exercise they thought they needed, and fit into those jeans they’ve hidden in the back of the closet? Chances are they wouldn’t even notice. They’d already be onto the next project… losing more weight, doing more reps at the gym, and continuing to believe that “If I can just reach this next goal, then my life will be really great.” Always chasing the dream that dangles out of reach. Always frustrated that we never get to sink our teeth into that damn carrot.

Why do we get caught up in this endless cycle of dissatisfaction?

Because we’re stuck in the mindset that our body is broken and we have to fix it: my body is flawed, and I have to constantly repair it. Or hide its ugliness when all else fails. Sometimes we even feel like we have to punish ourselves for being flawed, our miles on the treadmill substituted for the self-flagellating whip. No amount of improvement will ever be enough.

Stop trying to improve yourself. Your body is fine. You are not anyone’s improvement project, not even your own.

If you’re always trying to improve yourself, you will never be satisfied with who you are. We expect ourselves to improve in good times and bad. We cannot constantly improve. Life does not always get better. Give yourself a break.

But Kimber, you might say, I want to eat better. I want to do more yoga. I want to finally nail a two minute handstand. I want more out of life…. Believe me, I know. Here’s what I want:

1. Be an awesome parent, yoga teacher, and partner.

2. Get my book(s) published

3. Get both my ankles behind my head and walk around on my hands. (It’s just as cool as it sounds.)

4. Continue to learn how to love my body through all its changes.

5. Learn how to pop some fly breakdance moves on the dance floor.

So, how do we resolve the paradox of not getting caught in the futile cycle of constant improvement but still longing to wow our friends with our fantastic moonwalk? Is it wrong to want more for ourselves?

Nope. It’s not. The problem is where you start from. If you start from the place of believing that you’re broken, a million band-aids (or dollars) won’t fix you. If you start from the place of knowing that you are good, your body is good, your life is good just the way you are, then anything you add to that is good too. Just a different good. I’m not broken. I don’t need to fix my body. Since my body is already good (or fabulous, fun, and frisky), exercising and eating well are simply the whipped cream with a cherry on top. Mmm.

How do we start seeing ourselves as good?

1. Look for the good. Look for what’s good and workable in your body, in your life, and in your relationships. What’s workable? What’s delightful? What about your body makes you smile?

2. Change your definition of “perfect” to mean “good enough.” When a friend asks you how she looks and you say perfect, do you mean, “You look as good as a perfectly straight infinitely long line”? No. You mean, “You look great/lovely/good enough to head off to whatever adventure comes next.” You are perfect. You are good enough as you are.

3. Enjoy the process. Is the point of our lives to improve ourselves endlessly and leave a beautiful corpse? Let your life be about savoring, and relishing being alive, whatever life offers you, be it joy or grief, pleasure or difficulty.

4. Start with love. Love your life. Love your body. Act with love in your relationships and everything you do. Let your love for life guide you.

In the Love Your Body workshop (next one coming up in Sept!), we discuss the difference between self-discipline and self-devotion. Self-discipline is when we say, “I’m going to the gym everyday, I’m going to do tons of yoga, I’m going to eat tons of greens and no sugar. I’m going to make myself do all these things [because I’m broken and the only way to fix myself is by being hard and demanding on myself, by denying myself things I enjoy and forcing myself to do things I hate.]

Self-devotion says, “I’m going to the gym and doing yoga as often as I can because my body enjoys it and it feels good when I exercise. I eat healthy, fresh, delicious food because that’s one of the ways I show my body I love it. I delight in treating my body this way [because I am whole and worthy and my body is amazing. It’s fun to treat my body with love-- like it’s my best friend.]

The to-do list of Miss Self-Discipline and Ms. Self-Devotion might look the same:

· Go for sunrise hike in the hills

· Yoga class

· Write blogpost

· Make vegetarian dinner for friends with lots of greens and mixed berries for dessert

But the impulse behind them is totally different. Miss Self-Discipline is hoping her to-do list will finally make her whole… but it never adds up to lasting happiness. Ms. Self-Devotion knows she’s already whole, and that taking care of herself in a loving way is just another way of enjoying life.

You are enough. Your body is good enough, your life is good enough. Just as you are. When you love yourself, improvement is beside the point.

Love Your Body Blog: Part 54

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

An Interview with Linda Bacon: Your Body Says, "Diet? What Diet?"

Today I'm delighted to share with you a short interview with nutritionist and researcher Linda Bacon, the author of Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight. Last year after reading her book for the first time, I realized that her work provided the scientific background for what I'd already discovered was true about my own body: that listening to my body's cues and treating it with respect and love are the basis for good health... not rigidly judging myself according to the numbers on a scale or catching a ride on the latest diet bandwagon. As you read on, she'll give you a glimpse into why the Health At Every Size approach makes so much sense.

1. So Linda, why don't diets work?

When people use the word “diet,” what they usually mean is that they are restricting their calories so that their body is getting less energy (calories) than it is expending. While you can get away with this temporarily, your body has regulatory systems to protect against this in the long run. If it is deprived of the energy that it needs, it can compensate through many different mechanisms. One obvious example is that it can increase your appetite so you want to eat more. But it can also compensate by slowing down processes that you have less conscious control over. Ever notice that some days you have less get up and go than others? That could just be because your body is slowing down your metabolism to counteract your diet.

2. Why do our bodies work so hard to defend their weight?

Eat too little and you eventually die. It’s that straightforward. So you can imagine that over the course of evolution, humans have developed mechanisms to make sure we don’t get into that danger zone. This is particularly true since we frequently experienced famines. People for whom these mechanisms weren’t well developed couldn’t survive as easily and over time, less of them passed on their genes. That’s one reason why more people these days have genes that provide them with strong protection against weight loss – and relatively few people can get away with it easily.

While we all have mechanisms to protect against too much weight gain, on the other hand, these mechanisms are easier to over-ride. So you can eat a lot of food, the “fullness” mechanism kicks in telling you you’ve had enough, but the food still tastes good to you, and you can over-ride that biological safeguard. And that makes sense from an evolutionary perspective too – until recently food was relatively more difficult to come by and required a lot of energy expenditure to get. So there was no reason for our bodies to develop strong protection against weight gain as we didn’t have easy opportunity to gain weight. For these and other reasons, biologically we’re set up so that it’s very difficult to lose weight, but relatively easy to gain weight.

3. What are the health effects of cyclical dieting?

Off the top of my head, I know that there is evidence from large observational studies that weight cycling is linked to shorter lifespan, and that it’s also associated with increased risk for myocardial infarction, stroke, and diabetes, increased blood pressure and inflammation, and even suppressed immune function. I’m sure I could come up with a much longer list if I examined the literature more thoroughly!

4. It's difficult for those of us who are cyclical dieters or are told to lose weight (either by society or by a doctor) to say "no" to dieting. What resources do you recommend to support our decision to end the dieting cycle?

I know that with so much reinforcement from others – including those who are considered to be well-educated authorities - that dieting is the right thing to do, it is hard to challenge it. I certainly have compassion for people who are stuck in the cycle. My best suggestion is to examine your own experience. You’ve tried. Think of how badly you’ve wanted to succeed, yet you're still in the same boat (or worse). Now, consider that it’s not you that’s the failure. You know you really wanted it badly. If it were accessible, with your motivation, I’m sure you would have succeeded. So perhaps you can question the idea? The diet failed, not you! There is tremendous freedom that comes from understanding that. My book, Health at Every Size, provides many other suggestions on how to break the cycle.

5. How can you learn to love your body after being a life-long cyclical dieter?

There are many ways to go about this. Here’s one example. Start by appreciating the functionality of your body. Consider your legs. If you are able-bodied, you can get from one place to another, allowing you to do so much. I’m in awe of how my legs allow me to participate in my world. It’s not too hard to appreciate them from this standpoint. So look at the different parts of your body, and then how it works holistically, and consider how amazing you are.

For more information, check out Linda's book, Health at Every Size ( She's also teaching a workshop called "Find Your Voice: How to Challenge Resistance and Talk Persuasively about Size Acceptance" on Monday August 12 from 9-4:30 pm. I'll be there! You can find information about this workshop and more at Linda's website (, and through following her on social media. (Links can be found on website.)

Love Your Body Blog Part 53