#self-love

Sports Illustrated Releases Its Most Body-Positive Swimsuit Issue Ever

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History-making, ground-breaking, trailblazing, body-positive, shocking.

These are a few of the words and phrases being used to describe this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. The brand revealed not one but three cover girls, including Ashley Graham—a curvy Size 16 model—along with UFC fighter Ronda Rousey and high-fashion model Hailey Clauson.

For the first time in 52 years, and annual swimsuit issue features three women with three very different body types.

The controversial, unprecedented move has generated a lot of buzz and stirred up body image conversations in a big way. Some say this year’s SI Swimsuit issue will inspire more women to love and accept their uniquely different bodies, while others say Ashley’s body type has no business being in the popular men’s magazine.

There are so many varying opinions about what’s hot, sexy, healthy and acceptable when it comes to body image. Working as a curve model myself alongside models like Ashley, I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of judgment and confusion about what exactly a “plus-size” model is. I think the biggest debate is, “Are plus-size models and women size 12 and larger healthy?”

Here’s what I know for sure:

1. Healthy looks and feels different on different people.

Plus-size models range in size from a 6 to 18. When I was a size 14, I booked a lot of modeling jobs, but I didn’t feel good about myself, because my body naturally is a size 8/10. So for me, being a size 14 is not healthy. However, I have friends who are size 14, who exercise, eat healthy, maintain a healthy BMI and have bodies that are naturally meant to be that size.

To look at Ashley Graham and assume she is out of shape, never works out and eats pizza and fries everyday because she is a size 16 isn’t a fair assessment. Only Ashley knows what’s best for her, just as only you know what’s healthy for you. One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to body types. You have to own and honor your own specific body type, and make healthy decisions that are best for you.

2. I am not everyone’s ideal standard of beauty, and I am ok with that.

I’ve learned (through a lot of tears, weight fluctuations, losing clients and not feeling good enough), that I can choose to be MY OWN standard of beauty.

3. I am so much more than what I look like.

Being physically beautiful isn’t the most important thing to aspire to. Seeing a woman in a bikini, regardless of her size, is never going to empower me.

Cultivating characteristics like kindness, compassion, a sense of humor and intelligence is always drop-dead gorgeous sexy to me.

Women who encourage, support and lift-up others are empowering to me.
This notion that a size 16 woman on the cover of a mainstream magazine in her swimsuit is supposed to make all of us who are not a size 2 feel good about ourselves is extremely misleading. The message being sent is that a woman’s value is based on what she looks like in a swimsuit. It’s completely missing the point of what self love and a healthy body image is all about because size 16 is not a healthy size for many women, and we are certainly more valuable than our bathing suit size and appearance.

4. What people say about me has more to do with them than me.

Whether you think Ashely looks incredibly stunning and healthy or overweight and unappealing says more about how you feel about your own body than Ashley. One thing’s for sure, she is an extremely confident woman to put herself out there and own and embrace her unique shape and image. That’s so sexy to me!

5. Learn to love, honor and validate yourself. You’re worth it.

It doesn’t matter who SI or anyone else puts on the cover of their magazines. Nobody can validate you or determine your worth except you. I think it’s great some brands are choosing to promote body diversity, but ultimately, it is up to each of us love ourselves rather than wishing or waiting for someone else to do it for us. I’m finding that when I am confident in my own skin, just as I am, others are naturally drawn to me as well.

6. Listen to your inner voice, not society.

Society tells me I am too old and too big to work as a model. I smile every time I cash a modeling check. Advertisers show me ways I don’t measure up to some pie-in-the-sky, unrealistic standard of beauty everyday. I choose not to subscribe to those messages. I pray, meditate and tune in to my own inner wisdom for strength and guidance.

7. The next time you start to criticize your body, stop and think of everything it does for you, and say thank you.

Sure, I have been guilty of comparing myself and my body to other (much thinner) models on set, especially when shooting swimsuits and lingerie. I used to criticize my thick thighs and wonder why I could never attain those beautiful washboard abs. Then I realized what a waste of time that was. I have so many positive messages to spread, people in need to serve and more important things to create. And my body, my strong, beautiful body is the vehicle through which all great things are possible. I choose to love and honor it each and every day.

Check out my interview on this hot topic on CBS News.

Read my story on mindbodygreen.com.

Writing A Love Letter To Your Younger Self

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I was born in a historic blizzard in Cincinnati, Ohio, and this past Saturday I spent my birthday snowed in during another record-setting blizzard in New York City.

One of my favorite mantras is, “Everything is perfect,” so as I winked back at God, curled up with some hot tea in my favorite robe, and began to reflect back on my special day (January 23), I couldn’t help but think of the little girl in the picture above.

I’m very proud of this little girl. She has been through a lot, but she never stops smiling.
When I feel the need to be self critical, I think of this little girl, and remember to love and nurture her instead. She deserves the world, and I’m going to give it to her.

My birthday wish is that you can do the same for yourself. I think we’d live in a much different world.

I invite you to take a few minutes to do a simple exercise with me in the name of self-love and your younger self. Find a photo of yourself as a child. If you can’t find one, close your eyes and imagine him or her in your mind. Your smile, laughter, innocence, joy, curiosity and hope.

That beautiful child still lives within you, and needs your care, kindness, gentleness and unconditional love. He or she needs to feel nurtured and supported. Your younger self needs to be forgiven in a non-judgmental way. This child needs to know everything is going to be ok.

Are you ready to give this awesome kid your attention?

When you feel ready, write this gorgeous soul a nurturing love letter. Tell her what you wish she had known back then. Give him the encouragement and guidance you wish someone had given you. Tell her some comforting words to get her through a challenging time.

As an adult, I used to catch myself dishing out some serious negative self talk and criticism (it has become less and less frequent now through consciously choosing to work through it), but if someone said even ONE hurtful thing to the little girl in the photo above, I would immediately go into protective mama bear mode, and fiercely roar at them.

This love note is just for you and your younger self, so no need to edit, just let your feelings flow. Really connect to this child. I find the exercise to be extremely healing, and it helps me connect back to myself, realizing I am that little girl, and I need to be kind and loving at all times.

This practice is therapeutic because it connects you to your heart–your true self. In the past when I was confronted with a crisis or indecision, I would seek out the advice of others, often times ignoring my own inner wisdom and guidance. My mind/ego was too in the way.

Connecting with my inner child and heart space allows me to listen to my own advice, which always points me in the right direction. I make decisions for the highest good for all.

The more you do this exercise and consciously consider the welfare of your younger self, the easier it will be to honor and embrace the person you are right now.

Here’s an example of a love note I wrote to my younger self:

Dear Kate,

I know you are in a lot of pain, and feel so alone. You don’t know what you’ve done to deserve this broken heart. I’m here to tell you that the pain you are in will become your purpose in life. Your broken heart will help others heal their broken hearts. Hang in there. Be kind to yourself. You are so strong and brave. I am so incredibly proud of you. You never give up. You always manage to land on your feet because of your fierce character, and yes, that broken heart of yours will make you a deeper, richer, wiser, more compassionate woman.

When you get rejected, say, “Thank you,” you are being guided to something so much bigger and better and perfect for you. I have your back. You are safe. You will experience so much love and joy if you just quiet your mind and allow it to happen.

You are so incredibly loved and blessed. You are going to live the life of your dreams.

Just trust. 

Just trust.

I hope you take some time to honor yourself and your inner child. He or she needs you, and is waiting to connect with you, heal and grow.

Sending so much love and hugs!

Kate

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