Amber Krzys says start living now.
Krzys is the founder of Bodyheart, a campaign created to empower people to celebrate their real beauty and fight back against media and social norms leading to poor body image. The program’s end goal is to leave members feeling their bodies are walking works of art and something meant to be celebrated and cherished.
Bodyheart consists of videos, programs, products and live coaching events. Each segment of the campaign comes together to start a conversation about what you love about your body rather than what you hate.
Krzys says she never had the intention of being an entrepreneur, but rather started the campaign after her own personal experiences.
“I started out acting and making it with my big dream to work on Broadway,” she says. “You’d think my life would be amazing, but it really wasn’t because of how I felt about myself and my body.”
Krzys says she blamed her body for everything wrong in her life. She says she felt if she were thinner, she’d book more jobs or find herself a boyfriend. If she were thinner, things would be different.
“I spent two years under-eating and over-eating, and under-exercising and over-exercising. I was obsessed with a number on the scale,” she says. “I thought maybe if I weighed 116 I would be happy. But even under that number, I wasn’t happy.”
It was during her Spiritual Psychology master’s degree program at the University of Santa Monica that Krzys had an epiphany. She was given an assignment to create a self-generated project meaningful to her and something never thought possible. With this, Krzys says she realized she was in an abusive relationship with herself and didn’t want to live that way anymore.
“I was tired of being on this hamster wheel and thinking certain programs would fix me,” she says. “So I decided to see if I could love the body I was given.”
Krzys geared her project toward this idea. Over the yearlong project, she says she started to see things differently and realize what it meant to be in a relationship with her body.
“It’s like I had new eyes,” she says. “My body did not physically change at all, but what I saw looking in the mirror was completely different. I saw beauty and not what was wrong.” It was at this moment Krzys says she realized other people need to know this.
She says many of the women in her master’s class could see a difference in her, noticing her confidence and the way she carried herself.
“They said they wanted what I had,” she says. It was August 2009 that she put together her first workshop that would eventually bloom into the large campaign Bodyheart is now.
“The first workshop was in my garage with about ten chairs and a dry erase board,” she says. “Bodyheart didn’t officially launch as a program until November 2009.”
Krzys says that her program is not about what you put in your mouth or how you exercise. Bodyheart is focused on a relationship with oneself and starts with your mind.
“College students especially have that inner critic that takes over and controls their mind,” she says. “That’s the piece (of the mind) that I’m interested in and want to explore and heal- that inner voice that says you need to be taller or thinner and so on.”
Krzys says what makes her program work so powerfully is that it’s happening inside of us, and anything inside is something we have complete power over. She says we all have a relationship with ourselves and our body that we control.
“Most people have a narrow idea of a relationship,” she says. “They mostly think of something with a significant other. But we have a relationship with everything including our body, food we eat, exercise, career and money- all of that stuff. No one ever teaches us how to have a healthy relationship with ourselves.”
That’s where the Bodyheart campaign steps in.
Krzys says the most rewarding aspect of her campaign is seeing someone free themselves from living in a self-imposed prison. She says people need to learn that there aren’t any bars or walls holding them back and that they can change their life. She says she believes too many people get caught up in the “when … thens,” such as “when my skin clears up, then I’ll talk to that guy” or “when I make more money, then I’ll take a vacation.”
Why not start living now?
Kryzs visited Penn State Nov. 10 as part of Mental Health and Wellness Week hosted by Active Minds. She says her best advice for college students is to slow down.
“We live in a culture that says we are only valuable when we produce, like earning good grades or becoming president of xyz club,” she says. “It’s easy to say ‘I’m behind and never going to catch up’ when you compare. But the first step is to entertain the idea that that’s actually false.”
She says part of learning to listen to your heart is being able to pay attention to what your body tells you. Most people, especially students, pay attention to things outside of themselves more.
Kryzs says students should play detective with their body and get curious about what our bodies like, asking questions like “how much sleep do I need? What kind of exercise does my body like? Does it really like the fact I’m running every day?” She says it’s important to understand when you need to do more or less.
“If a student were going out with another student for the first time, they are curious about the other person,” she says. “Get really curious about yourself just like you would someone else,
“It’s possible to look at yourself in the mirror and believe that you are beautiful,” she says. “It’s possible to walk through the world and not compare yourself. It’s more than possible, you just need a willingness to do things differently. You need a willingness to swim upstream instead of with everyone else.”
Photos provided by Amber Kryzs