I’ve almost always been on a diet. From a very young age, I believed that if I was thin and pretty, I was worthy of love and belonging. I’ve joined weight loss groups, abused diet pills, and even tried bulimia. Even at my all-time lowest weight, a weight that made me look scarily thin, I still felt like I needed to lose more.
All that changed when I got pregnant.
There’s nothing like having babies to shake up any old ideas you may have about yourself! The woman who stood before me in her postpartum body was unrecognizable. For the first time in years, the jutted out collarbone and sternum lines I was so used to seeing as a strange badge of honor were hidden. And despite the frequent shame I was used to feeling at the sight of my reflection, this time I felt shockingly liberated. The extra 45 pounds I gained growing and birthing my daughter have become more healing than I ever imagined, and it is in large part due to finding the “body positive” movement and inspiring women like Allison Kimmey.
Kimmey is a self-love hero for anyone longing to embrace their bodies just as they are. Recently, Today interviewed her about seven things she will never do in front of her kids, as a result of her body-loving journey. The guidelines have immeasurably impacted my self-image, my parenting, and my life. And I plan to refer back to them anytime my bodily self-doubt creeps in.
Her number one rule? Never weigh herself in front of her children. Seeing the numbers on the scale are a huge trigger for the old behaviors she was so used to — things like dieting and over-exercising. This one hit home for me, because I spent over a decade summing up my worth by the weight I saw on a scale. Our family does not have one now either, and I’m so grateful to give us other ways of measuring our value.
Kimmey will also never count calories, or call foods “good” or “bad” — and for an excellent reason. She says humans are born with an innate ability to know when to eat, what to eat, and when to stop eating, and she wants to honor that inner compass. More importantly, she wants to instill in her kids a healthy concept of eating without punishment.
“When we start counting calories or labeling food, we implant that possibility for our kids to have an eating disorder, because that’s where it begins — with controlling food and with them starting to associate ‘being good’ with some foods and ‘being bad’ with others,” she tells Today.
For a long time, I used food as a source of control, and it was always to my detriment. As a teen, I would binge eat at night on donuts and peanut butter, promising myself “I’ll be better” in the morning. But then the morning came, and with it, I’d have a massive guilt hangover. It has only been in the past nine years of living vegan that I even entertained the idea that food could be something to celebrate, rather than condemn. I will definitely work now to stop the vicious pull of “good vs. bad” when I sit down to enjoy my food. This has made all the difference for Kimmey and her family, so I’m inspired to see how it impacts mine.
The control didn’t stop at food, however, for me. Exercise became something to burden myself with, rather than enjoy. After years of working out, Kimmey also began to see the cruel toll the activity was having on her. Instead of exercising to feel strong, she was using it to punish herself for overeating. This struck a deep chord for me, because it is only in the past few years that I have found hiking — the first kind of movement I’ve done that feels restorative and joyful. After years of convincing myself that exercise equals productivity and productivity equals worth, I am ready to heed Kimmey’s advice.
The next thing she says instantly made me cry. She encourages us to always get in the photo with our kids. This is probably one of the hardest ones for me to remember, as I constantly find a reason to step to the side. But according to Kimmey, photos are a huge way to remember parents, especially after they are gone. That’s more than enough reason for me to jump into each picture, starting TODAY.
“The simplest way I can say it is that one day, all our children will have to remember us is photos, so it’s important to be in them.” says Kimmey. “I never want to miss out on an opportunity to capture a moment with my kids just because I was feeling insecure about my body.”
Kimmey has also vowed to never speak negatively about her body in front of her kids, and she’ll never praise them solely on their appearance either. Her reasoning for this is powerful. She feels that once a child begins to believe that their body can either be worthy of criticism or compliments, they start attaching a value system to this part of themselves.
That’s not to say she doesn’t tell her kiddos when they look beautiful or handsome to her. “I do say those things, but it can’t be the only thing that we talk about,” Kimmey tells Today.
What an incredible reminder to champion every single thing about our children!
Her final piece of advice is, hands down, the most meaningful one for me. Kimmey says she will never pass up on a life experience for fear of being judged. This principle sets a tone for just what kind of shining example we can be for our children. As I parent both my 11-year-old stepdaughter and 19-month-old daughter, I want them to see a woman in front of them who loves life and doesn’t hesitate to jump in and enjoy it. For Kimmey, this is about more than just loving our bodies enough to try new things — it is about shifting the very core of who we are. “When you can let go of the idea of what everyone else wants you to be, you’re free,” Kimmey says.
That freedom is something I want to feel every single day. No more wasted moments for this mama! Thanks to Kimmey, I am vowing to jump in and wholeheartedly accept myself.
As I continue learning how to treat my body with respect and care, I will remember everything Kimmey is teaching me. I will challenge any belief that limits how I view myself. And this year in particular, I have made a promise to fall madly in love with this body of mine. It has patiently waited 33 years to be loved and accepted, and I think it’s time. Thank you Allison Kimmey for paving the way for me and so many women out there!