Cultivating a deep love affair within ourselves isn't always easy, but fitness guru turned body advocate Chrissy King has literally written a manual to get us started. Her new book, The Body Liberation Project, is all about accepting the body you're in, the good and the not-so-liked. "It also means setting healthy boundaries, taking good care of ourselves, going to therapy and making hard decisions that are ultimately best for us," King declares to EBONY adding that it's about, "falling deeply in love with ourselves and waking up and choosing yourself day after day."

King shares with EBONY how her book examines why Black women have been traumatized by Eurocentric beauty standards and how we reclaim a radical helping of unconditional self-love.

EBONY: What inspired you to write about the cycle of racism and dieting?

Chrissy King: I was inspired to write this book because when I healed my own relationship with body image, it allowed me to free up so much mental space and use that energy to create my own specific magic in the world. During the process of healing my relationship with dieting and body image, I realized how much of an impact race, as well as other factors such as gender and sexuality, have an impact on our relationship with our bodies. Even the inception of fatphobia, as explained by Dr. Sabrina Strings in Fearing the Black Body, is rooted in racism, dating back to slavery. Fatphobia, Eurocentric standards of beauty and anti-fat bias are rooted in white supremacy. I think it’s important to the historical aspects of our desire for thinness as that helps us understand the need for dismantling systems of oppression as we work towards both individual and collective liberation. 

How have images of white beauty created a negative effect on Black bodies? 

Eurocentric standards of beauty which define beauty by characteristics such as thinness, long straight hair, small and petite noses and high cheekbones, among other things, often have a negative impact on Black bodies because we compare ourselves to a standard we can never reach if the standards are inherently racist. Even if we don’t compare ourselves to Eurocentric standards of beauty, we may not be seeing bodies that look like our own being portrayed as beautiful on mainstream platforms. Additionally, for Black women who grew up with big butts and naturally big lips, we were often teased and made fun of for those features. But when these features became popularized by non-Black women, dominant culture suddenly deemed them as “good” and “in style.” 

How did you break your own cycle of body hatred and radical diet and exercise?

After spending years over-exercising, counting all my calories and constantly obsessing about my body, I realized that even though I had achieved my "dream" body, I was more miserable than I had ever been. I had a negative relationship with food and exercise and I still felt unworthy, besides the fact that obsessing about food and exercise was really mentally and physically exhausting. That’s when I realized that if I didn’t work to heal my relationship with my body image, I would always be unhappy, regardless of how thin I got. This is what started me on the path of healing my relationship with my body. 

The Body Liberation Project
The Body Liberation Project
Chrissy King (Penguin Random House, 2023)

Price: $16

What's the difference between body positivity, neutrality and liberation?

Body positivity is a movement focused on empowering individuals to love and appreciate their bodies regardless of size, shape or weight. It preaches that all bodies are worthy of respect, dignity and love. The movement was originally created by fat Black women to celebrate themselves and accept their bodies as beautiful in a world where they didn’t see that reflected. It was also heavily rooted in social justice. However, as the movement has become more mainstream and commercialized, it has been co-opted and whitewashed with the face of the body positivity movement becoming thinner, straight, cisgender, non-disabled white women embracing their rolls and cellulite. Despite that, I think the movement can still be a good introduction to the concept of thinking about our bodies differently, but the conversation needs to go beyond just a hyper-focus on self-love.

Body neutrality, a term coined and popularized in 2015, seeks to help us come to a place where we can be neutral with ourselves. It’s essentially about coming to a place of acceptance with the current state of our bodies. We don’t necessarily love our bodies, but we choose not to speak about our bodies with disdain and hate. We choose not to put ourselves down, even when we don’t feel good about our bodies. We can begin to show our bodies respect and appreciation for all that they allow us to do, even if we don’t necessarily like everything about them. It can also mean choosing not to even think about your body, one way or the other. You just exist and allow your body to be and respect it, without giving it too much thought. 

Body liberation is about understanding that our bodies are the least interesting thing about us. It’s about understanding that the goal of liberation is not to look at our bodies and love everything that we see. It’s about understanding that at our essence we are so much more than our bodies. They are simply the vessels that allow us to have this human experience. The goal of body liberation is that we can reclaim all of the time, energy and emotion we have put into yearning for “perfect” bodies and find actual freedom. But it’s also about recognizing the hard realities that prohibit people from being able to do that, to not only find our own personal body liberation but to also create a world where every body is free to exist, free from harm, discrimination and harassment. The goal is freedom for everyone, especially those with multiple intersecting identities. 

How can people best use this book as action steps to embrace their own bodies?

The book really serves as a guide to help us begin to understand why so many of us are struggling with our relationship with our bodies and begin the process of breaking up with diet culture and dismantling our minds about our bodies. At the end of each chapter, there is a section called “Principle to Practice” which is a series of reflection questions designed to help people really internalize the information and compassionately interrogate how the information applies to their lives. Taking the time to read the book and answer the reflection questions will really allow the reader to put the material into practice in their lives in accessible ways. 

How can we cultivate deep love within ourselves?

I always say that falling in love with ourselves is the greatest love story of all time. We all deserve to be the protagonist of our own love story. We are the only person we are with at all times 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We are the person we spend all of our time with from the moment we arrive on this planet until we take our final breath. One of the ways we can start to cultivate deep love within ourselves is by beginning to treat ourselves with the same kindness, tenderness and care that we treat the people we love most in our lives. Think about the love languages: quality time, gifts, words of affirmation, acts of service and physical touch—decide which ones resonate the most and find ways to do those things for yourself. 

What is the most important lesson you want people to take away from this book?

The most important lesson I want people to take away from this book is that they are inherently worthy because they exist. We can spend our energy focusing on shrinking and obsessing about our bodies, or we can use our energy to create our magic in the world. It’s really difficult to do both. We aren’t broken. We don’t need “fixing.” The journey to liberation is truly that—a journey, but it’s one of the most worthwhile things we could ever do for ourselves.