Your Relationship With Your Body With Kobini Ananth
Building a relationship with your body is crucial not just for your physical, but your mental health as well. Take inspiration from this episode’s guest as Tony Martignetti chats with musician, composer, and economist Kobini Ananth. Kobini tackles her struggles with eating disorders head-on and talks about her insecurities. Despite meeting with a therapist for several years, it wasn’t until fairly recently that she had a breakthrough moment, when she found the answer to her problem not from someone else but within herself. She realized that she needed to change her outside because she loved herself, not so that she could love herself more. Be inspired by her story and learn to love your body, too.
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Your Relationship With Your Body With Kobini Ananth
It is my honor to introduce you to my guest, Kobini Ananth. Kobini works as an economist at the British Government. She's a musician and was commissioned to co-compose and tour a 45-minute Indian Classical Composition. She's experimenting with harmonies. She also gets under the skin of women to help them feel comfortable in their own bodies. She is playing with the world of coaching while balancing her interests in music as well as her career. Kobini is living in London and has been rediscovering her ability to draw.
I'm rediscovering my inability to draw. I'm enjoying how bad I am at drawing and there are no expectations. It's just fun. I'm drawing stick people and enjoying it.
I want to welcome you to the show. I know this is going to be fun from the way we started. What we do here on the show is we talk about what's called flashpoints. These are points in people's stories that have ignited their gifts into the world. These could be one or many along your path. I'm going to give you the space to share what you're called to share. We'll stop along the way and see what's coming up. I'm looking forward to digging in. I'm going to pass it over to you to see what you want to share.
Thank you, Tony. The first thing that comes to mind is my relationship with my body, which is why I love coaching so much. That's definitely, healing my relationship with my body and parts of myself that wanted to overachieve at the cost of my body and emotional wellbeing. It’s at the core of why I do coaching. For me, it started when I was a chubby kid. I always was very aware of the fact that I was chubby. It's very normal in Asian cultures to make comments about the way people look and people are. It could be weight, skin color-related, how someone's education is, job, etc. The comment that was directed at me was generally always about my weight. I was very aware of it. It was heightened as you see in media and how women are supposed to look.
For me, it started with developing behaviors and eating disorders. Disordered thinking and way of eating. It was almost an addiction where for nearly twenty years, I was constantly spending a lot of my energy on beating myself up about the way I look and starving myself and bingeing. It was a constant cycle that had health implications for me. The key part of my healing happened a few years ago. I had a panic attack for the first time ever. During the panic attack, I felt like I wasn't going to be safe ever again. That was the emotion. I couldn't understand why I felt that way.
You have the answer. No one else does.
After years of therapy, we were intellectually making progress but we couldn't emotionally get there. I realized, “This is what I'm running away from. The problem isn't my body.” It wasn't just my body. I was putting so much pressure on myself to achieve something musically or be better than I was, and trying to overachieve. If there's being the best, then there's burnout mentality where you're pushing way too hard. I was pushing and pushing to fill this hole inside of me. I realized, "This is exactly what I'm trying to fix. This emotion." I almost saw it as this child version of me that was experiencing the emotion. It was painful and excruciating but I developed newfound compassion for myself that I had never developed before. That was it. It was life-changing.
The next day, everything I had been trying so hard to work towards healing just happened overnight even though I had been working for about six years before in therapy on and off, and trying to stop weighing myself and eat intuitively. The next day, I remember I went back to my therapist who I had stopped seeing and telling him, “I'm fat and so what?” He smiled and it finally hit me. I was like, “I'm not the problem.” It's a whole different story about health. I'm not taking away the fact that there's a thing with health and weight. To me, It wasn't even about my health. My health was deteriorating because of the way that I was trying to lose weight. Even though on the outside, I might have looked healthier. On the inside, my body had broken apart to the point where I was a lot healthier in a “more overweight body.” The world around me kept saying, “You are better.” That was my biggest breakthrough which has been the core and established a foundation for who I am now, and how I show up in every part of my life.
I'm feeling into this element of the emotional weight that gets lifted when you start to realize that you're carrying that for so long. I'm not a psychologist but it's the inner child who never got healed from that. Even though the outside was feeling like, "I look different. I portrayed a different image," but the inside was never healed. You finally realized as you turned in and said, "I need to take care of this before I can move forward." There's something about that through a lot of people who've come on the show. I don't want to compare it per se to other people in the show. It's an element of until you face your past, you can't move forward powerfully. It feels like that moment was it for you. That moment of realizing that, "I have to fix this. I have to face it if I want to move forward from here in a way that's going to be truly powerful."
It's perfect the way you summarized it because it was a weight lifted. The hardest thing about the whole thing is there's no linear part in how you get there or access that place. It's just trusting and surrendering. When you look at your past, you're able to process and emotionally feel what you've been blocking for a very long time. It's painful, don't get me wrong. It's an excruciating process and magical at the same time.
When you realize that for yourself, it's almost like you feel it’s an obligation to share that gift with others. That's what draws people like yourself into the field. You’re feeling, “I’m going to share this gift with other people.” Once you realize it for yourself or you've seen it and you've been able to heal at least to some extent, you're like, “I want to share this because it feels so good to know that I can change or feel that change.”
Especially because body image is nearly a universal issue. Nearly everyone I've spoken to has said about stuff that has come up for them. It might not even be weight-related. I feel the urge to share to show, "It's not about the outside.” You would want to change the outside because you love yourself and you wanted to cope with yourself. You don't want to change the outside to feel better or love yourself more. I want to differentiate between the physical health part as well because there's always that controversial thing of, "Shouldn't you sometimes want to lose body fat so that you have better health?" There's a different system. It's the intention that makes all the difference. It's not the losing weight that's the problem.
There's a difference between having self-esteem and confidence within yourself already and using that to change your appearance, versus changing your appearance to feel a certain way. It comes from the inside-out versus trying to do it the outside-in way. I speak to many women who are constantly trying to change themselves in a way that they don't feel is authentic to who they want to be. They're trying to restrict or following diets that don't feel right in their bodies. For some people, restricting carbs works. For other people, it depletes them of energy. You have people who it depletes them of energy and constantly trying to do this. Your body's trying to tell you, “This isn't what I want to do.” It's building a relationship with your body and listening to it versus forcing something down your body, which doesn't feel right.
Inner beauty is what you're really connecting with, not outer beauty.
Something that's been coming up for me as you going through this process of explaining this. The inner beauty is what you're connecting with, not the outer beauty. You try to get the outside to be beautiful without fixing that inside beauty. You got to fix the inside before you can focus on the outside. The outside is something that can help you personally as a gift. I think that's a nice way to put it. Something that's coming up for me also is you've got a beautiful voice. I feel comfortable with saying that because I've heard it. You've got a great way of bringing your voice into the room. I want to know, how did that change over time from the point when you first started singing at a young age to the point when you connected with who you are now? Have you found yourself showing up differently? Have you felt that it's always been there and stayed consistently in that same place of connecting to who you are?
This is the question that's still very live for me. I'm still exploring what that looks like for me. I started learning how to sing since I was eight. My parents put me in Indian classical singing lessons. I was part of a community of people who are also doing music at the same time. Various other Indian classical musical instruments or singing. I grew up in that environment. When I probably hit my early twenties, I realized that I have so much work to do. This was what my past self thought. I still see it in that way but from a very different framing. I remember at that point thinking, “I'm in my early twenties and I can't do some of the basic stuff that people my age should be doing. I haven't learned all of this stuff and I'm so bad. My voice can't do this and I can't improve it.” I realized it because I was exposed to other musicians of my age who were great.
I remember going through a few years thinking I shouldn't be doing music. I'm not good at all. Whilst there was a level of inspiration because I could see how much more there was to explore in a beautiful way, it was equally soul-destroying because I was battling between, “Should I be doing music or am I even good enough or cut out for this? Should I leave, quit and not do it anymore?” I remember having to make that conscious choice of, “I love it so much. It doesn't matter.” If I frame it as a lifelong journey of exploration versus a place to be by a certain age or a benchmark, then it takes the pressure off. It becomes a fun, lifelong exploration.
Because of that, a few years later, I decided to go part-time in my career and explore Contemporary Music in College in London, which was a songwriting production. I wasn't exposed to this stuff before because I was coming from a very Indian music background. That opened my world up to how much there is to explore. That also helped with my sense of who I am and how I want to create because I realized I don't need to box myself in a certain way to get more followers and market or brand myself because the most important thing here is for me to show up in a way that feels true to myself.
It's funny because I started that course two months after I had the panic attack and breakthrough with my eating disorder. I showed up where I didn't feel like I quite belonged in both places. I remember I had a part of me that didn't feel like I belonged in my career because I was part-time doing this Music course when I felt I should be doing a Master's in Economics being part-time. I remember thinking, “Maybe I don't belong here anymore at work because I was part-time.” I felt I couldn't be as fully involved as when you are in full-time. I remember also thinking when I went to the Music course. There are all these amazing full-time musicians that I'm meeting and students that are studying. I'm thinking, “I don't quite fit in here because A) I'm coming from an Indian music background. I've had a very different background from nearly everyone who studied here. B) I'm going back to my career like a day job tomorrow so I can't hang out with you guys and stay up late. Sorry, I’m going.”
I remember thinking, "Thank God for the breakthrough because I know I would have personally struggled with feeling like I didn't fit in both worlds.” I read this book about belonging to yourself by Brené Brown, . It's an amazing book. The combination of reading that book and having my own personal experience at that time allowed me to show up in both worlds in a way where I thought, “I'm staying true to who I want to be. I'm making the choices that feel right for me in both worlds.” That's how I learned to balance and bringing it back to your first question about the music, that’s how I learned to be, “This is how I want to explore creation. There's nowhere I need to get to. I just want to explore”
It's this feeling of freeing yourself. Be free to explore and not feeling boxed in. That element of I can show up and see what shows up in me and whatever shows up in the space that I'm in. It also shows up in the way that you are exploring the different paths you have. Your coaching, doing your music in your career, and you're okay with all of that exploring your interests, including your drawing.
I wouldn't put that in the category.
It's amazing when you can give yourself the ability to explore these things and not treat it as, “I have to do this by this.” It’s the pressure that people put themselves under to accomplish things because of external factors and pressure. This rings true to your whole story when I think back to what you were saying earlier around the expectations that people had about you and who you were supposed to be or how you should look. When you free yourself from all of those constraints, it's amazing.
It's like a weight being lifted off your shoulders. I do want to make the point that it's not easy. There are times and moments that sometimes I wish it would be easier. I wish I could slot easily into a place. I long for that sometimes. I realized you're disconnected somewhere from yourself when I have those thoughts. I take time out for myself, whether it's doing journaling. I love video journaling as well. I’m speaking to myself on a camera and seeing what comes out. It felt like I was speaking to mentors in connecting back to that part of myself where I'm centered and grounded. That's a daily choice and practice versus, “Here I am. I'm free. I don't care.”
There's so much wisdom and answers that we have inside of us that we don't need to look outside as much.
You went right into a tip there for people to do. I can see a video journal as being something that could also break into that could be shareable if it's something that comes up that you're like, “Now this is something that I want to bring out to the people who are my friends.” Maybe it's a song that you start to sing along the way in your video journal.
That's a great idea. I've never thought about that. As you say that, one of the things that come to mind is one way, I love to video journal. If I'm going through a particular conflict, struggle or I feel like I can't see the light of a situation or I'm in a dark place, I would think back to a time where I was younger. I’m going through maybe a similar situation or a situation that's different in context but has a similar theme. Usually, the theme is, “I feel stuck. I feel lost.” There are a lot of different situations I can draw from. I would video journal myself speaking to that younger version of me. What would I tell her? I'd imagine her in the middle of it and tell her as me 5, 10 or 2 years older and wiser who knows exactly what's going to happen. I'd give her my advice and tell her what I have to say from the hall. I'd replay that, close my eyes and listen as if a future version of me is telling me that same advice. It works wonders.
I may start to record myself and keep those for dark moments when I'm saying to myself like, “You can still do this.” I feel like there are many things we could dig into. I'd love to know from you, what are the most important lessons that you've picked up along your path that you want to make sure that people are going to learn? The 2 to 3 things that you feel, “This is what I want everyone to take away.”
The biggest thing for me is you have the answer. No one else does. The answer lies inside of you. Even when I bring you back to that video journaling exercise, I journal while I'm in my dark place looking back at a younger version of myself. Even though I'm in a dark place, I still have access to that wisdom by detaching myself and seeing a younger version of myself. I'm able to tap into that wisdom which I need to hear back. That shows, "However stuck I am, I still have access to that place." Each and every one of us does. The biggest thing for me is you have the answer and it could come out in different ways. It could be that our bodies are telling us.
Our bodies are always communicating to us if something is right or wrong. This feels like the right path or wrong path. Something might look like the right path on paper and look amazing like, “You should take this job because it pays so much.” It looks amazing but your body is saying no. Your mind would try and convince you but if you tune in, there's so much wisdom and answers that we have inside us that we don't need to look outside as much as we need to. Even when we choose to use mentors, therapists or coaches as resources, there are people who can hold us. We are choosing from our own wisdom who are the right people to hold us. Even if they are the right people, “Is what they're saying the right thing for me?” I still get to make that final choice.
It's great to have guides and those people along. Ultimately the decisions you make are still coming from within. Body intelligence is the word that came to mind. I know that it's not something that we're pointing here but there's so much intelligence in that body.
It's only something I've started exploring for myself. I was doing this unconsciously before, but when I'm making a decision I consciously ask my body. I do this with food. This has become normal where I subconsciously asked my body, “What do we want to eat today?” Sometimes it's salad and sometimes it's a burger. They're both perfect because my body has told me that it wants it today. I'm so grounded and centered enough to know when it's the right choice or when it's coming from the mind. With other decisions, I'm assigned to explore. It's been amazing how much wisdom the body holds.
I feel like I'm taking so much in from this conversation. I want to know, what is one book that had an impact on you?
It's to feel all your feelings and take them all in. I still haven't read this book but I'm going to put it on the top of my list. I feel like I should be getting royalties. She's been recommended a couple of times. She's going to be getting a lot of books sold out of from this show. This has been amazing. Your insights, story, everything you've shared has warmed my heart and my soul. Thank you so much for coming on and sharing everything you have with us.
Thank you for having me, Tony. This has been amazing. I'm grateful and thankful for being here.
I want to make sure we give the readers a chance to find out where they can find out more about you. Where can they find you in the world?
The best place is my website. It's . I am also on and Instagram, .
Thank you so much for coming on. I also want to thank the readers for coming on this journey with us. I'm hoping that you're leaving with so many amazing insights. Thank you.