Kimber Simpkins, writing about her long struggle with anorexia, explains why she has banished any sign of a scale from her home. “Perhaps I don’t trust myself not to become obsessed by it,” she writes, “like a recovering alcoholic not keeping booze around. Perfectly sensible, really. For years, if I saw a scale peeking out from under the sink in someone’s bathroom, a creepy feeling came over me, as if it were whispering, Kimber, look at me, I’m right here under the sink. You could pull me out and step on me for just a second. It won’t hurt a bit. Come on, just one little step? You know you want to.”
Reading this, I laughed out loud. Not for the absurdity of the talking bathroom scale but for the very truth of it. You see, my house, too, is free of a scale: best to keep it out of my home rather than risk succumbing to that particular siren song. Just a quick peek, you think to yourself, only to step on board and have the number — whether up or down, by a little or a lot — color the rest of your day.
In Full: How I Learned to Satisfy My Insatiable Hunger and Feed My Soul, Simpkins shares with us the intimate details of her complicated journey with her body, where tossing away the scale was just one small step on the way to acceptance.
Simpkins takes us back to her adolescence as she develops an all-too-common self-loathing. Success, she writes, became defined exclusively by her size. “I always wished for the same thing: to be thin. To die thin. To be so thin that even if the world couldn’t agree on nuclear weapons or whether God exists, they could all agree on one thing: Kimber is not fat.” Nothing else mattered.
Each mirror, window, or even the surface of a puddle, Simpkins writes, became an opportunity to catch a glance of her reflection and subsequently hurl insults at herself. There was the more traditional — You big, fat pig — and the more creative: You’re a giant walking sausage in princess flats. Next week they’re having tryouts for a Roman play. You’re a shoe-in for Mount Olympus.
How many of us have succumbed to this kind of negative self-talk, whittling away at our already struggling self-confidence?
At one point, Simpkins takes us back to a dinner with friends. The food finished, she waxes on about the next meal they all might eat. “How can you talk about food right now?” her friend Pete friend says to her. “I’m stuffed full!”
Simpkins is at first embarrassed to be caught in her apparent gluttony. “Later at home,” she writes, “when the initial feeling of shame passed, a sense of amazement crept over me. Pete was genuinely full — in fact he was surprised I wasn’t! He didn’t feel hungry all the time, especially not right after a meal. Did this mean that eternal hunger isn’t the human condition after all?”
Curious, she begins to explore more, finding people who fell into two camps — those who, like Pete, were surprised she could still be hungry after a meal, and others who were shocked that some are ever full. With this, she begins to wonder if there is a way she, too, can learn to feel full. The book is an exploration of this process.
Still, Simpkins spends years not addressing her body issues. “I was a newly minted lawyer,” she writes, “and had lived for years just from the neck up. Body? What body? You don’t need a body to be a lawyer, do you? As long as my body didn’t get in the way of long hours bent over casebooks and the computer keyboard, I guess I wouldn’t mind having it, but it damn well better not need anything.”
She realizes that the anorexic thought process of her youth has not resolved, only been pushed deeper.
To face her self-hatred and find peace within her body, Simpkins takes on a blend of yoga, Buddhism, and meditation — and significant life and career changes. (Hint: She isn’t a lawyer anymore.)
For many women — and increasingly for many men as well — developing a positive relationship with their body is no small task. Simpkins’s story will ring true for these readers.
Full: How I Learned to Satisfy My Insatiable Hunger and Feed My Soul
New Harbinger Publications, April 2015
Hardcover, 312 pages