A year ago, a friend and fellow real beauty activist, Alexis Wolfer, was invited to be a part of an ongoing project called bodyheart, a program dedicated to improving the self esteem of women and their relationship to their bodies. As part of the project, Alexis was asked to draw a heart on her favorite part of her body, take a professional photo, and then explain why she loved it.
This very simple concept sparked an incredible and thought-provoking conversation between the two of us about women and their liberation from the social obligations of how society thinks we should look. The simple act of a heart painted on the skin also sparked moments of self reflection, compassion, honesty, and a touching revelation and reminder about self love.
I was so intrigued by this, I just had to meet Amber Krzys, creator and founder of bodyheart.
On the car ride over, before I met Amber and took my picture, I contemplated about which body part I should choose. What part of my body did I truly love? Was there even one? The truth was, had I decided to take this picture years ago, I would have chosen something like my finger because I loathed every other part of my body. But after years of working on my self esteem and improving my relationship with my body, I was so surprised to find that, at present, I had a hard time choosing just one part. This revelation was so moving, I cried in the car before I even stepped in the door.
When I actually walked in and met Amber, you can imagine my gratitude to her for starting this program and the impact she is making on the world one photo at a time. I hadn’t even taken the picture yet, and I had already felt more connected to myself than I had in a long time and it felt incredibly liberating. Not to mention, watching the other women take photos, I felt a deep sense of connection and community with Amber and the other women there.
When Amber asked me which body part I wanted to paint on, I decided to choose the part of me that was so uniquely me: my small, miniscule breasts. Yup, that’s what I chose. The truth is, the fact they’re so small has allowed me to be as athletic as I am with no frills and no fuss. But most importantly, they’re mine and that’s it. Simple as that. What would you choose if you had the chance? Let us know in the comments below!
Kit: What is bodyheart and what are some of the services you provide?
Amber: bodyheart is an educational/outreach program devoted to celebrating real beauty. Our educational programs range from a home study courses (Sizzle Kit) to group programs (bodyheart bootcamp) to one-on-one coaching. All are designed to get you loving the skin you're in and help you break through your body image barriers so that you can live a full life. How you feel about your body affects everything—from your relationship with your significant other to your job. bodyheart's courses treat you as a whole person and work on every aspect of your life from the inside out.
Our outreach campaign (bodyheart campaign) is a simple and profound photographic demonstration of real beauty. The campaign is made of a series of black and white, completely un-retouched images where we place hand drawn hearts on each participant's face and body. We ask them to focus on what they love about their bodies. Maybe it's their smile or their eyes. This in and of itself can be a hugely powerful experience, because most people don't think about what they love. They focus on what they hate or dislike. This begins a new conversation with themselves. A new way of seeing. My goal is that women stop hating their bodies. That they be free to see, experience, express and enjoy the beauty that they already are.
K: What was your motivation to start bodyheart?
My motivation was and still is to help people. I know the pain and suffering that comes from feeling like your body isn't good enough. I know the day-to-day obsession with losing weight. The heavy burden that negative body image creates. And, I found a way out. A way to break-free from the body-punishment prison and live with confidence and joy. I genuinely believe that when we stop hating our bodies, the world will be a better place.
K: Tell me more about the woman behind bodyheart. Were you always self confident about your body?
Oh my gosh, no! I still have an occasional day or two—or three!—where I wake up and think 'why am I in this body?' But the thing is, growth is a process, not an event. I used to wake up every single day and think, how can I change my body today? How can I lose weight? Not how can I be healthy, happy, and abundant. I thought I couldn't have those things unless I was thin. I bought into the belief that being skinny was my key to freedom. When in reality, being healthy, happy, and abundant is my divine right now. But my diseased mind didn't understand that.
Now, for the most part it does. I still have my moments where the old thought-patterns rear their ugly head, but I'm okay with that. I have better skills for working through that now. The way I see it: those negative thoughts used to control my life 100% of the time. Now maybe they get 10%. That's fine by me. It's about progress, not perfection.
K: I would love to know some experiences you had that paved the way for the creation of bodyheart.
I had a perfect trifecta of experiences that woke me up and led me to creating bodyheart. I guess I had to be smacked in the face a few times! Firstly, my boyfriend—now ex-boyfriend—told me how he wished my body was different. Ever since I can remember, I had disliked my body. I wished I was taller, thinner and had larger breasts. And I’d never told anyone this. My boyfriend and I were having a conversation one day and I asked him if he ever wished my body were different. He said: "Sometimes. Sometimes I wish you were taller. Sometimes I wish you were thinner. Sometimes I wish you had bigger boobs." Imagine my shock! He picked my top three! The man who I thought loved and accepted me as I was actually wished I was different too. This was devastating. The hurt, anger, fear and disappointment that surfaced was almost unbearable. It was a big part of my waking up process.
I got two lessons out of this. One: Maybe my body isn't the problem. Two: If you aren't ready for the answer, be careful what you ask.
Second, I've had cellulite since the age of 12, and I absolutely despised it. So when an 'expert' promised to fix my problem for a mere $5000, how could I resist? I received injections in my thighs and butt of some kind of fat burning serum that was supposed to reduce the amount of cellulite I had. Not only were these injections toxic—I had no idea what was in them—and they were expensive. It's important to know that I didn't just have $5000 lying around. I was an actress, barely making ends meet. So, paid for the treatment on my credit card and put myself into more debt! Not only that, but the procedure was painful. My poor body. I had to continue the treatment for a few months and during that time, my thighs looked like war survivors. I had so many bruises up and down my legs. I actually couldn't wear shorts or dresses the entire time. My wake up came at the completion of the treatments when absolutely NOTHING was different. It didn't get rid of, or even improve my cellulite. The lesson again: Maybe my body isn't the problem.
Thirdly, I discovered the Master Cleanse and lost 12 pounds in ten days and even more in the days following. I got down to 113 pounds. You think I'd be celebrating like a mad woman. My thin dreams finally came true! But I discovered I was still unhappy. It still wasn't enough. At this point, I was tired of feeling miserable so I started questioning 'when would it be enough?' The lesson again: Maybe my body isn't the problem.
All three of these experiences led me to my master's program in Spiritual Psychology. It was here, during my second year project, where I finally found the body peace, love and acceptance I so desperately craved. This was the start of bodyheart.
Kit: If you could give three pieces of advice to all women out there, what would that advice be?
“Allow yourself to experience more joy in your life. Often, as we become adults we get all serious and forget to have fun. We get caught up in worrying about paying the bills or making the dinner or losing weight and we forget to enjoy our lives. I challenge you to expand your cap on joy. There is no glass ceiling here. See if you can’t find something to laugh about today. Or, better yet, see if you can’t experience some kind of ecstasy. Yes, I said ecstasy. That vision of the sun coming over the horizon. Or a bite of sweet, moist chocolate cake. Or the giggle from your daughter’s mouth. Those can be moments of ecstasy. We just have to be present to experiencing them.”
“I want you to take out a piece of paper and list five ways your life would be better if you were thinner. What would you be doing? How would you be carrying yourself? Now take a look at your list. See if you can do any of those things right now!
Here are a couple of examples:
Well, guess what, you can actually do all those things RIGHT NOW. See, your life is happening in this moment. And the only thing that’s stopping you from experiencing the joy, freedom, and confidence you want are your own rules. I dare you to break one. I promise it won’t be as bad as you fear. Who knows, you may even have a really good time in the process!
Whether you know it or not, you are in a relationship with your body. She is listening and taking in all those mean, negative things you say about her. Question: What if you were in a relationship with a significant other and they said something nasty about you? You certainly wouldn’t be happy, but I bet you’d feel better if they took responsibility and apologized. Well, guess what, your body deserves some apologies. She is only trying to keep you healthy every single day. She is digesting that over-indulgence of cake for you. She is riding that bike for you. She is functioning on three hours of sleep for you. So, maybe let her know you appreciate that. Let her know you are sorry. I guarantee she will feel it.
Kit Rich is Los Angeles-based fitness trainer with endless exercise and nutritional know-how. Hollywood's hottest stars are addicted to Kit's unique, multi-disciplined approach that combines cardio, yoga, Pilates, and weight training. Kit's clients are immediately taken by her funny and honest approach to health and fitness. She treats her clients as she treats herself, "with a hard challenge, sensibility, sensitively, and a good laugh." Follow Kit on Twitter @kitrichfitness.