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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Full: Book Review


Wow, I don't even know where to start because I have so much to say about this book!  I loved it.  I didn't expect to at all.

When I was asked to review a book about Kimper Simpkins, a former lawyer with an eating disorder turned yogi who found self-love, I agreed, but thought I would be receiving some cheesy memoir full of vague platitudes from a woman who opened up her chakras and discovered her inner beauty [insert gagging here].

This book is not that at all.

It is a memoir, of sorts, but Simpkins is as down-to-earth and authentic as it gets.  In addition, she has a very engaging writing style that actually had me captivated for the entire 291 pages!  It made all my usually miserable bus and subway commutes not only pleasurable, but fly by.  Several times I was so engrossed in the book, I almost missed my stop!

The book takes you through her journey from childhood, the confluence of factors that contributed to her development of anorexia nervosa at age 15, through to her present day life.  While she fulfilled the criteria of clinical anorexia for just one year, and managed to claw her way out of it on her own, she continues to struggle with body image and her relationship with food well into adulthood - and way beyond the point where she first transitions from practicing law to practicing yoga full-time.

Even for people who have never had an eating disorder, most will relate to the guilt, self-loathing and body shame she experiences and will take comfort in having your feelings articulated so adroitly.  The unfortunate reality is this is all too common in our culture, particularly among girls and women.  Actually, even if you cannot relate to any of this, but know or love someone who can, you will benefit from reading this book.

The reality is, many...possibly most of us, have an unhealthy relationship with food.  Partly this is because we live in a toxic food culture that encourages unhealthy behaviours, and partly because many people use it to self-medicate, just as some people use drugs, alcohol or gambling.  The problem is, you can't abstain from eating because you need food to live.

I will share some passages from Full that I found particularly compelling.

Her thoughts on how we give moral value to foods:

How many times have I heard friends say, "I've been bad today"? Not that they stole the neighbor's roses and then ran over the mail carrier with the minivan.  Not, "Oh honey, you wouldn't believe how bad I've been today! I lay in bed all morning making crank phone calls and then, then, I showed up to work in my pagamas, walked right into my boss's office, and gave her a photocopy of my butt! So bad!" 

Nope. When my friends say they've been bad, they mean they ate three, count 'em, three brownies and half a bag or chips. Or even one brownie, and they thought about eating a bag of chips.  And maybe they skipped their workout and their skinny jeans don't fit them anymore and they've given up hope of ever wearing a bikini again.  Bad.

On women comparing and competing with one another:

Everything about me, or any woman, is not reducible to out beauty or, worse yet, the numbers on the scale.  Life is not a beauty contest.  As women grow older, when we give up on asking ourselves who's thinner or prettier, do we instead ask who looks younger? How can we become friends of the heart when we're competing with one another? What are we competing for? A lifetime supply of insecurity and dissatisfaction? No one wins the prettiest or the most beautiful forever. The "most" anything is only temporary. It's like waves competing to be the tallest in the ocean; for a second you pause at the top of the crest, and a moment later you're part of the vast watery depths again.

On interacting with your body in a new way:

"Well, what if your body really were your best friend? Do you give up on your friends when they get injured or disabled?"..."Do we ditch our friends when they start to show gray hairs? Do we say, 'You suck, you can't do a cartwheel. How dare you feel pain or get wrinkles?"  If our friendships grow deeper over time and through difficulties, why shouldn't our relationship with our bodies work the same way?  What if you could cultivate an unconditional friendship with your body that endured through all your body's changes, gaining weight, losing weight, having a baby, breastfeeding, getting older, menopause, illness, disability, everything? That instead of feeling alienated from your body, these changes brought you closer to your body?"

I have to tell you, I have already shared this book with one of my clients who struggles with binge eating and low self-esteem.  But again, I think just about anyone will get something out of reading this book.  Not only is it powerful, but merely reading about Simpkins life is extremely entertaining.  She may have spent a good portion of it struggling with self-loathing, but she's done some very interesting things.  She is also obviously an incredibly smart, insightful and empathetic individual.  Geez, if I lived near her (in California), I'd want to be her friend!

The one thing I found a bit odd, is that she doesn't directly discuss her sexual orientation in the book, which feels like an important omission.  She goes from seemingly being straight in college, to identifying as a lesbian and falling in love with a woman (her now wife), in law school.  Sexual orientation is fluid, of course, but the unfortunate reality is, many people still feel shame and stigma when discovering they are anything other than heterosexual.  She glosses over this and never mentions how she feels nor how those in her life react when she comes out as being gay.  Hopefully that means it was a relatively smooth process and she received nothing but support.  Even so, it had to be somewhat difficult. And although the focus of the book is on body image, its hard to separate that entirely from sexuality.

In any case, I am giving this book a rave review.  Buy it. Read it. You won't be sorry!