Globetrotting health and wellness writer Kathryn Budig talks about body image, self-acceptance, her upcoming book, and getting even better with age.
Yoga Journal: You have a new yoga and lifestyle book coming out next year, called Aim True. Can you tell us about it?
Kathryn Budig: It involves yoga practice and meditation, and helping people with their body-image issues. It is about finding ways to take care of yourself in the most natural way, while still being able to live a modern life and enjoy yourself.
YJ:Food is a big part of the book. How did you become interested in cooking, and are you a vegan, vegetarian, or pescetarian?
KB: The book has 50-plus recipes. When I met with the publisher, I said, “I don’t want to create recipes that are all vegan.” I don’t think that is realistic. I live in Charleston, South Carolina, now, so I eat a lot of fish. My fiancé and I have almost completely cut out red meat. Pork is completely out. I don’t think that one style of eating is appropriate for all body types; we are all built differently and have different lifestyles. For me, it’s about listening to what my body needs and what I’m craving. I have been cooking for a really long time. When I got to college, I’m pretty sure I was the only one who knew anything about cooking, so I fed everybody. Then, in LA, I used to train celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis. I learned a lot from her in our years together.
YJ: In some of your blog posts and on social media, you seem to be saying that we should all enjoy a little decadence now and then. We second that emotion!
KB: Food nourishes and fuels us. But I see so many people going to extremes, cutting oil and fat out of their diets, for example, and depriving themselves because they want to look a certain way, and it breaks my heart. I would love it if people were more concerned with how they feel, instead of how they look. I have done extreme cleansing, and it was such a wake-up call. I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t enjoying my life. I couldn’t socialize, because I couldn’t eat anything at a restaurant or go have a drink. I’m not saying people should go in the complete opposite direction and pig out, but I don’t want people to fear having a piece of cake, or something with butter in it. I also believe that the energy we put into our food is what we consume and live with, so if you say, “I’m going to eat this, and it’s going to make me fat, bloated, and miserable,” then as soon as you eat it you’re unhappy. But if you look at that cookie and say, “Oh, beautiful, round thing full of chocolatey-chip goodness, I’m going to consume you and there’s going to be a dance party in my belly and it’s going to be unbelievable,” then you’re going to be fine.
YJ: Do you think these problems with negativity and trying to achieve a certain aesthetic are magnified in the yoga world?
KB: Yes, in the fitness world in general, and in the yoga world for sure. There is a “yoga body” aesthetic, which is long and sinewy. I am curvy. I get praised on a regular basis, with people telling me, “Wow, you’re so brave,” simply for showing my curvy body. Being brave is going to war; being curvy is not brave. We need to be careful with how we use our words. I learned this the hard way when I was leading a retreat in Mexico. I was by the pool with one of my students who has struggled with eating disorders. I was wearing one of those bikinis that is kind of drape-y on top and I cracked a joke about how much I love this style of bikini because it covers my belly. She shot me this look and said, “Don’t ever say something like that about your body. You have the most beautiful body.” It was a slap in the face and made me realize that anyone saying negative things about themselves empowers other people to do the same. When you speak positively about yourself, it doesn’t mean you are 100 percent OK with your body, but you are living with it and loving what you have today. Then you empower and give permission to other people to do the same.
YJ: You’ve recently posted pics of yourself on Instagram that show your cellulite. Was that designed to empower your followers and students?
KB: I took those photos on the beach and I really liked them, but because of the lighting, you could see cellulite. In our media, we airbrush it out and people think we are supposed to have these super-smooth bodies. My fiancé was like, “Who is the person who said that cellulite is not attractive?” It is so true—why is that not OK? It’s easy to go onto social media and look at a picture of a smiling, pretty person and think they have it all. I think that is when social media gets really, really dangerous. We want to have the lives of other people we don’t even know. But they could be going home and crying every single night. So if I can pack as much truth into my pictures as possible, I think that might help.
YJ: Can we talk for a minute about the naked ToeSox ads? Do you look at them now and wish there were something different about them?
KB: I don’t believe in changing anything, but it has been a challenge to watch my 25-year-old body turn into a 32-year-old body. It is not depressing; it is the evolution of a woman. This body, whether it is 10 pounds skinnier or 10 pounds heavier, can still do those postures because it is strong. I stay focused on what I feel, on the results. I have a lot of love in my life, and I didn’t have that when I was 25. If I get hung up on what my body looks like, I am losing track of my goal, of my aim.
YJ: Speaking of love, you’re getting married this month! Do you talk about relationships in your book?
KB: I think they are integral to everything I’m talking about, and I have learned a lot from my partner. But I don’t think that you need to be married to be happy. I think first and foremost, you need to be in love with yourself. I was single for over a year, and I used that time to get to know myself. I was really fine not being with someone. And of course, right when I actually really liked it that way, Bob was introduced into my life.
YJ: How has your yoga-teaching philosophy evolved with your own self-discovery?
KB: When every new teacher starts out, they are mimicking another teacher, so the first year or so of my teaching career was probably me being like little Maty (Ezraty). Then I realized I really like arm balances, so I started trying to teach them. I went through a period when I wanted to conquer all the challenging poses. Now that feels least important to me. I still love my asana practice, and I still teach the challenging poses because I think they are one of the closest ways to experience magic. But now when I teach, I put a huge emphasis on aiming true—finding your innate talents, dropping fear, and pursuing what makes your heart beat, regardless of what anybody else thinks.