Offering us powerful advice in becoming allies with our bodies, they remind us that, “we are human, we are not perfect, we are real, and that’s great.”
How do you define body love?
Kate Weiner: Body love is a practice not a project. It’s an opportunity to experiment with ways to really live inside yourself and to love everything your body can do. Our bodies aren’t separate from who we are; in that sense, loving our bodies is about learning to love ourselves. We have this (unfounded) fear that loving ourselves is selfish. But loving yourself is giving. Loving yourself is radical. Loving yourself is brave.
Lily Myers: Body love is self-love. Self-love is allowing ourselves to be imperfect, whole, beautiful, messy, weird, and ever-changing. Trying to control our bodies into fitting one narrow standard is like trying to fit ourselves into being just one thing, when in fact, we’re infinite.
Body love is also being embodied, living inside your body, like Kate said. It’s embracing and exploring the things your body allows you to do (ever had crazy amounts of fun just rocking out dancing by yourself? To me, that’s body love). Body love is tuning into your body, listening to what it tells you, being allies with your body rather than enemies. So often, body critique/body monitoring turns us against our own bodies, when our bodies are actually our homes.
What inspired you both to develop and practice holistic body love?
KW: I am a very whole-hearted person. Feeling so much feeling is sometimes a superpower and sometimes overwhelming. I realized that I was reacting crazily to stressful situations rather than responding compassionately in part because of the disconnect between my body and mind. Developing a holistic body love practice grew out of my desire to really embody experiences in my life. I didn’t want to be a passerby; I wanted to be an active participant!
LM: When I began to learn about mindfulness and meditation several years ago, that was really a turning point for me. It introduced me to the idea that ego is a construct; that this idea of the desired “perfect body,” and who it would turn me into, was just an idea I’d thought up, and wasn’t of substance.
It also introduced me to the idea that each moment is fleeting, ever-changing, and we are ever-changing along with that. It made me realize I am fluid, unable to stick to any set notion of who I should be or what my body should look like! Meditation also taught me to notice my thoughts, rather than fully identify with them. So now, if I have a food-guilty thought, I can notice it happening rather than getting swept up in it. I can say, “Oh, that’s interesting, I see that thought pattern arising. I know what it is; it’s food guilt, and I don’t need to indulge that thought anymore.” Then I can let it go.
This is a huge step from where I was several years ago, when any food guilt would send me over the edge, and I didn’t know how to get rid of it. Mindfulness helped me develop the tools to move past it.
In what ways do you practice body love in your own life?
KW: I no longer think of food in terms of “good” and “bad.” I think instead: What will nourish me in this moment? And I eat that. Some days, avocado smoothies and veggie pasta are nourishing; other days, a big bowl of Choco-Chimps (Best. Kids. Cereal. EVER!) is exactly what I need. When I release judgment about food, I’m able to truly relish in whatever is in front of me and feel gratitude for the gift of being well-fed. Because I love to eat! If I want to feel love for my body, I give thanks to everyone and everything—from the loamy soil to my local farmer—who has poured their energy into growing something green.
That’s because gratitude is a big part of body love for me too. Every day, my mom and I send each other a couple things that we’re thankful for. Especially living far from home, our gratitude exchange is a nice window into each other’s lives. But it is also grounding for me. It helps me celebrate what went right today rather than focus in on what went wrong. I find that the more I practice gratitude for these little moments in my life, the more I feel grateful for my body.
LM: I notice what makes my body and mind feel good, and I practice doing those things. Again, it’s a lot about noticing. I notice that if I do yoga before I spend hours working on my computer, my body and mind feel happier and more awake. I love to exercise, but what’s equally crucial is not overdoing the health or self-improvement line of thinking. To me, that’s equally toxic. It’s toxic to expect myself to go hard at the gym every single day, or to never eat dessert. That’s a brand of perfectionism I’m just not interested in, because I know it’s an illusion. But the voice telling me to always “do better” does arise, and when it does, I notice it and tell it to kindly shut up while I enjoy my pasta. Letting myself be imperfect—reveling in that imperfection—is my vital practice of body love.
What do you do/how should people respond when they slip up in their practice of body-love?
KW: Slipping up is a fundamental part of the process! Practicing body love is like learning. There are no mistakes—no “right” way, no “wrong” way—because you need to go through those “slip-ups” to grow love for yourself. The practice of body love is very forgiving.
So show yourself compassion. Sometimes, when I get too in my own head about my body, I take “me” out of the equation. I cook with friends or help someone I love tackle a big project or dive into a community organizing event.
And sometimes, when I am feeling negative about my body, I dig deeper into that discomfort and look for ways to celebrate and nurture and enjoy my body. Perspective helps: There is so much going on in our world that needs our energy, and I don’t want to devote my precious time to talking sh*t about my (actually amazing if I would admit it) body. I go to yoga and revel in feeling strong. I take a walk and listen to music with my headphones on. I check out this little beauty bar near me and try all the free skincare samples.
Each of us is going to “slip-up” at some point. We’re going to feel ugly in our bodies. We’re going to be angry at our thighs. We’re going to wish we looked more like that girl, over there. But I think that by reminding yourself that’s an essential part of the process and breathing through the reactivity—without judgment, without shame—you can create the space in your heart to be at home with whatever is happening inside you.
LM: The reason it’s so important for me to call self-love and body-love a “practice” is that it’s an ongoing evolution, an ongoing path. There’s no end goal. There’s no failing. So there’s really no such thing as “slipping up.” Yes, maybe you fell back into a harmful habit. Or maybe you’ve been hating on yourself in the mirror. Whatever it is, you have not failed. It’s just another step on the path. And the more we can forgive ourselves, embrace ourselves as imperfect beings, the sooner we can move on.
This is really one of the biggest and most important changes I’ve seen in myself in the past several years. Whereas a younger version of myself would perceive a “slip-up” and get caught up in it for days— feeling guilt, remorse, regret, panic that I wouldn’t ever be “good”—now, when I do something that doesn’t feel right, I can just notice it, be like word, okay, agree that I don’t want to repeat that action, and let it go. I realize now that time passes, everything changes, and no mistake sticks with me forever. And if I really can’t stop thinking about a mistake I’ve made, I can laugh at myself. Like, “Really, Lily? You think that of all the seven billion people on this planet you are the one person who is not allowed to make mistakes?” And that makes me realize, oh, yeah, I’m human, I’m not perfect, I’m real and that’s great.
What advice or words of wisdom would you give people who are just beginning their journeys of body- and self-love?
LM: Everyone’s path is different, so I can’t know the right journey for anyone else. But I think taking up a meditation or mindfulness practice is helpful for everyone, no matter where you are on your path. It’s ideal for accompanying a body-love or self-love practice, because mindfulness reminds you to meet yourself right where you are. It helps with compassion for self and others, which are hugely important pillars of self- and body-love. It also interrupts cycles of stress, anxiety, and tension. As one of my favorite yoga teachers says, “a tension-free mind is a healing mind.”
Another good tactic is to talk to yourself like you’re your own best friend, or your own little sister. If your best friend came to you feeling guilty for eating a plate of cookies, would you berate her and call her names? No! And yet, we often do these things to ourselves. It’s somehow harder to grant ourselves the permission to treat ourselves kindly— isn’t that crazy? But it’s a really healing practice. And meditation can help in this practice too— when you get in a spiral of beating up on yourself, notice what’s happening and break the cycle. Become your own ally, your own cheerleader and friend.
Craving more? Lily and Kate talk more about body love in this incredible podcast. Check it out!