Rebecca Pacheco, STILL LIFE

Rebecca Pacheco, STILL LIFE

Yoga instructor and writer Rebecca Pacheco joins Zibby to talk about her upcoming book, Still Life, which shows readers ways they can incorporate mindfulness and meditation into their busy lives. The two also discuss Rebecca’s recent essay published on the Moms Don’t Have Time to Write Medium page and how we can all begin to break free from the rigid societal expectations for weight and beauty. Read Rebecca’s essay here.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Rebecca. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Lose Weight” to discuss mindfulness and your book, Still Life, and your amazing essay that you just published on Moms Don’t Have Time to Write, and just so many other great things. Welcome.

Rebecca Pacheco: Thank you, Zibby. I’m delighted to be here. Thank you for the opportunity to share that essay. I’m so excited to talk to you.

Zibby: Yay. Why don’t you just explain your background a little bit to everybody and your books that you’ve written and how you have become this expert that you are?

Rebecca: I’ve had a windy path, but I would say that writing has always been the mainstay. I grew up, I’m sure you can relate, as the kid who rebelled by, literally under the covers with a flashlight reading a book past my bedtime. I majored in English literature. Of course, I always wanted to write a book. How to do that was an entirely different story, especially when you have to pay the rent and when you’re spit out into the real world and have to figure out your career path. Along the way, I also fell deeply in love with yoga. I like to say I started doing yoga so long ago that we didn’t even have yoga pants. We just had pants, and you could wear them to yoga. Yoga was not really a conscious decision as a career path, but it evolved into this giant element of my professional life. At some point, I merged the two. I started a popular blog in the heyday of blogs. That became the fodder for my first book, which is called Do Your Om Thing: Bending Yoga Tradition to Fit Your Modern Life. That was published in 2015.

The follow-up here is a book called Still Life: The Myths and Magic of Mindful Living. It comes out on August 3rd, which is very exciting. In essence, it’s a book about meditation, but it’s also what to do when you can’t meditate. It’s also about what to do when life gets in the way because it seems to have a knack for doing that. Perhaps you’ve noticed, especially with what we’ve all been through very recently. Then for your listeners, a couple things that might be appealing in particular is the fact that while it’s mainly a how-to, it has a memoiristic voice to it. I hope readers enjoy that. Then the other piece is that I am a mom. As far as meditation books go, as far as the field of mindfulness in general goes and so many fields which are male dominated, there’s not a lot of motherhood unless it is a book explicitly about motherhood. So much of life itself originates with motherhood. I like the fact that it’s not a meditation book for moms. It just happens to be written by a mom. I’m not a monk on a mountain top writing this book about mindfulness. I’m a mother and a writer and a yoga teacher and all those things. I’m just excited to talk to you about it and love your show so much.

Zibby: Thank you. The best part of the book is that you have a whole chapter that you can’t have the excuse be that you don’t have time to meditate. You have a whole chapter that that is one of the myths and excuses people use not to do what they have to do. You debunk it immediately. You’re like, you have some time. Let’s use the time that you have. Let’s work with that. Do you have two minutes? Do you have thirty seconds? It’s so true because it’s such a catch-all excuse. I don’t have time for this. I don’t have time for that. We have time for everything. It’s just how we use it and how we allocate it. Your argument is that you’re much better off if you spend even a little bit of that time meditating. I just really responded to that.

Rebecca: I don’t know if you noticed, Zibby, but it’s also the shortest chapter in the book on purpose.

Zibby: It’s true. It was super short. I know. I was like, this is great.

Rebecca: I was in the throes of writing it and rewriting it. I thought, this needs to be a short chapter. The whole essence of it is that we are short on time, and so it needs to do what it intends. It needs to teach also in its structure. It’s short on purpose. I go over several things, but there’s a favorite one-minute meditation that I share. That’s something that I feel like is just such a helpful tool to have in your back pocket. I’ve done that in the doctor’s waiting room when I’m feeling anxious. I’ve done it in a parked car before I go into a big meeting. I’ve done it when my child won’t sleep. a one-minute way to ground yourself. It ends up being not that you are dedicating more time, you’re just differentiating or deciding to use your time a little differently. I like to go for reasonable commitments and not — for the longest time in my own practice, I heard, and it was kind of a popular principle at the time, that anything under twenty minutes a day was useless. That was an obstacle to me personally for a very long time. I kept setting a goal to meditate every day. I kept failing. I kept trying. I kept failing. Then one day, I finally took all the parameters off, every single guidepost. It didn’t have to look a certain way. It didn’t have to be of a certain duration. I didn’t have to do it in a precious little spot in my house with comfy pillows and candles. Just whatever it was, some time every day. That changed everything for me personally. That’s the lens through which I see it and try to share it. I am glad that that chapter worked for you.

Zibby: I also think mindfulness and meditation, all of this, is so important when we’re talking about food and eating and our bodies and the attention that we pay to all of that. If you don’t stop and pay attention to the choices you’re making and the foods you’re eating and all of that, it’s so easy to just inhale everything in sight. I feel like these techniques can be applied to eating and weight loss and all of these things and just feeling better in your body in addition to the yoga. I just wanted to loop in your new essay for Moms Don’t Have Time to Write. Thank you so much for writing this. For listeners, you can go to Moms Don’t Have Time to Write on Medium. If you can’t find it there, just go to and look for Moms Don’t Have Time to Write. You will find Rebecca’s essay. I’m sure it’ll be up by the time this podcast comes out. I just wanted to read a little bit if you don’t mind. Is that okay?

Rebecca: Yes, I’d be honored. Thanks. I’ll get embarrassed.

Zibby: No, don’t be embarrassed. It’s amazing. “Last week, I smashed my bathroom scale. It was an accident, but it was also kind of spectacular, like performance art or therapy or both. The timing seemed appropriate as we are posed at the disembarkation point of a global pandemic, and you may have noticed that the diet industry, sometimes known as the wellness industrial complex and, let’s be frank, the patriarchy, is chomping at the opportunity to weigh in on our size and self-worth which have long-possessed an inverse relationship according to conventional beauty standards. Smaller equates greater worthiness; bigger, less. This has always been the myth and business model to sell future selves that don’t necessarily align with health or happiness, but rather buying products and apps and supplements and meals plans and cleanses and devices and so that we will take up less space. Genuine health and well-being are mostly moot as contentment proves disadvantageous to commercial interest. To sell something, we must believe it fills a lack. Manufacture a lack, and you give people more reasons to buy stuff.” I’ll just read one more paragraph. “I know this first as a woman on planet Earth who learned devastating early how fraught the relationship can be between size and lovability. Coming of age in the nineteen-nineties when heroin chic was a runway look and food was rarely evaluated as nutritive beyond emblazoned fat-free, low-fat, and non-fat labels did not help matters. My family being in the restaurant business made things more complex. Food was our livelihood, and yet it was painfully clear that I should not eat it too indulgently, voraciously, or guiltlessly. Guilt-free, that was another label. Second, I’ve been a person in the field of wellness for most of my career. I’ve been the cheerful face and occasional headless body modeling in ad campaigns for international athletic brands, in yoga videos and DVDs, for glossy magazines, and in recent years, via my own social media feed. I have never paused to consider the irony of that word in this context. Lately, your feed may be telling you to fast. Mine is.” I really want to keep reading this essay. Is that terrible? Can I read some more?

Rebecca: You may. You got the job as the audio voice.

Zibby: It’s just so good. I just want to keep reading it. I bet everybody’s loving this. “If you are reading this, you survived a time in history characterized by illness, loss, death, and isolation. Leaving our homes was dangerous, so for more than a year, we sheltered in place, often moving less and sometimes eating more if we were lucky enough to have full fridges and freezers and cupboards and hidden stashes even from our spouses of the good chocolate. At the time of writing, one in five American households with school-age children is food insecure. The longer I inhabit planet Earth, the easier it is to see through the fever dream of the wellness machine, how it can be little more than capitalism in yoga pants. New look, same old power structure and biases.” You’re talking about your daughter. Let’s see if there’s another paragraph I should read. It’s all amazing. This is all so good, but I don’t want to bore anybody. They should read it.

Rebecca: I wonder if they all relate to having stashes of the good chocolate hidden from their spouses.

Zibby: Oh, my god, totally. I have a whole cabinet. “The whole point of this moment is that we did not die. Some bodies will shed the weight they gained in quarantine. Some won’t. This is not a judgement on bodies, just the evergreen data on dieting. It’s time both individually and collectively to stop conflating health and thinness. They are not the same. The former is life-affirming. The latter is often wielded to control women. I’m not saying you should or should not lose weight. That is not my business or anyone else’s. I’m saying that the measuring device was always broken. I’m saying that our mother bodies never needed to bounce back, only to heal. I am saying that these mother bodies which built other bodies and fed and bathed and soothed them, which supplied the young bodies with snacks through remote school and were their primary playmate, teacher, cook, nurse, art therapist, music teacher, pillow fort architect to name a few, do not need to subscribe to the latest diet of cavemen or not eat like as many as fifty-seven percent of adolescent women in the US who engage in crash dieting, fasting, and more.” Then I’ll just skip to the last paragraph. “What I’m saying is that I need to admit to being the unwitting evangelist of a radical, new, post-pandemic crash diet. Perhaps I should say smash. Technically, it was an accident, but it tasted delicious.” Amazing. That’s just the gist of the piece. Now tell me more about you and then your body and your quarantine experience and the crux of this essay.

Rebecca: It’s not unique. It’s the experience of having grown up with diet culture being all around. As I mention in the essay, I came of age in the eighties and nineties. I think it’s safe to say that diet culture was more powerful and visible and probably, we can say, nefarious than ever before. What happened with this essay, the moment that sparked the essay was that I accidentally smashed my bathroom scale. A glass of water fell down, and it just exploded into a zillion pieces. Just looking at it felt spectacular. As I said, my struggles with body image are familiar. They’re not unique. I related so deeply to a recent post of yours. Here you are, this formidable person holding an award that you’ve been looking forward to and excited about for so long. It’s so relatable. Then to the see the photo, the thing that registers the most is how you appear to yourself or to invisible critics that have been kind of whispering over our shoulder for our entire lives. This was my way of addressing those voices head on. That doesn’t mean that if you want to lose weight, that’s problematic. It’s doing what is actually healthful for your body. I think the way that mindfulness and meditation is maybe most useful is replacing the voices in our heads that are not our voices, that are the voices of something else telling us that we need to be smaller, different, thinner, that take away our gusto when we’re standing there holding the award. I also am intrigued and also incensed all the time by how it makes women smaller and the mindshare that it commands of women in particular. I have a hard time bringing to mind a man at the top of his field accepting an award focusing on his body image. I can guarantee that just about every woman listening right now can relate to that.

Zibby: In my defense, it was a terrible picture. I did look terrible. I will never share that picture, ever. It was awful. Maybe it was the angle. I have to say, just in my own defense here for two seconds, yes, I was super proud of the award. I knew that it was wrong that I was focusing on what I looked like. However, I had gained quite a bit of weight in a very short period of time. I had no clothes that fit. That feels terrible. For me, my motivation right now at least is, I just want to fit into my clothes because, honestly, I don’t have time to be dealing in my closet and trying to figure out the small subset of things that actually fits. It commands a lot of headspace. I do not have time. My headspace is booked. I don’t have time for this.

Rebecca: Yes, you do not have the headspace. It’s very expensive to buy new clothes.

Zibby: Yes, it’s expensive and time-consuming and all of it.

Rebecca: I didn’t mean to inflate that photo. I just meant that it was so relatable. It was so very, very relatable. Not that it was a bad photo.

Zibby: No, no, no, I know. You didn’t see the bad one. I’m just saying it was really bad. You would have freaked out if you had seen it too. That’s all. Just saying.

Rebecca: I saw nothing wrong with the photo.

Zibby: I posted the good photo. I didn’t post the bad photo.

Rebecca: I related very deeply to your caption about the inner turmoil. I guess that’s where I see my role, is that turmoil and befriending that voice. Whether you’re losing weight or gaining weight or you’re just picking up the kid at school, you’re making a meal, you’re eating a meal, it is incumbent upon us to be a little kinder in our own heads the same way that we are, I imagine, with our kids. I hear you talk about your kids and particularly, the messages that they get about body image. Some of the things that we say to ourselves we would never ever dream of uttering to another person, let alone our child. It’s just hearing, noticing that voice. Mindfulness is not about being different or better or blocking out thoughts. It’s about observing from a more centered place, observing, making space for. Then could you infuse a little kindness while you’re in this place of writing a book and wanting to feel good? Can you let that voice focus on health as opposed to thinness? That ongoing conflation that we do where one supposedly correlates with the other, they just absolutely don’t. You can be very, very thin and very unhealthy. You can be a larger body and be totally in perfect health.

I just think that untangling those messages is a really important task. It’s not easy, but it is really important. That does lay the foundation for real health. I don’t know about you, but when I’m kind to myself, I’m more likely to sit down and think about how you would speak to a child or how you would care for a child, make myself a good meal, have a cup of tea, get a little bit more sleep. Something doesn’t fit, and I maybe can have a sense of humor about it. I can see the long game of just being kind to myself today and letting things unfold. Whereas if we’re constantly obsessed with calorie counting and what others say and think and how things look and the Instagram algorithm and on and on, we’re wiling away precious time. Our kids are growing up. We’re receiving awards. We’re not receiving awards. We’re with our friends. We’re not focused on what’s actually happening. We’re not taking it in. I think everybody can relate to that. It’s just, how much of that mindshare, how much of that inner landscape do we want dominated by this question and this conversation?

Zibby: I don’t know about you, as we’ve both grown up — I also grew up in the eighties and nineties and was born in the seventies. I feel like for a long time, there was this unrealistic body image aspiration. I’ve let go of that, for sure. I’m not even trying for that. I’m just trying to feel okay for me in my body, in my closet. I’ve actually noticed that as we all age, and I don’t know if you’ve seen this too, but the women who are too thin look much older. Their faces don’t look as good. Especially in this age of Zoom, I’m like, it’s all about the face. There’s almost a downside as you get older when the cheekbones are too pronounced. It’s not as flattering. I think you have to have a full life enough to get — I don’t know. Maybe it’s just different ideals of beauty. Maybe I shouldn’t even say that. You tell me. What do you think?

Rebecca: I think even the way that we view aging for women versus men is so intense and unfair and fraught. Guys get the silver fox thing and the rugged thing and the salty thing. We just think, oh, I look tired. The measuring device was broken from the start. That was kind of my hope for the essay and the takeaway. I do believe that. That doesn’t mean that I have the answers. That does not mean that I don’t log onto Zoom and go, oh, my god, again, I look so tired. There’s no filter that’s going to help me here.

Zibby: You look amazing. You are gorgeous and beautiful and amazing. I can’t believe you would even think that.

Rebecca: I think that’s the point. Isn’t that the point? It doesn’t actually matter how we look. It’s just the voice that’s so pervasive. It really helps and is important to start to recognize it. Sometimes it helps me to have a little sense of humor with it. Okay, I see you, mean girl in my head, and to really have a relationship with our body in the same way that we know intuitively how to have with our friends, with our kids, how to really befriend and tend other people and other beings in a kind way. We somehow forget when it comes to ourselves.

Zibby: The more we’re mean to ourselves, that doesn’t inspire me to do good things. That inspires me to go down all the wrong rabbit holes of bad, self-destructive behavior when I’m mean to myself.

Rebecca: Right. It makes you cranky with your kids. Your writing’s not as sharp. Your mind is foggy and tired. There are all these drawbacks to that. We all know them well. It’s figuring out a little patience, a little kindness. It’s also understanding the process. I think we all envision there’s somewhere to get, once we get to this size or once we eat like this or once we do this whatever, this many steps per day. It’s just all of these different forms of calculus within our lives. The truth is that it’s all in process all the time. There’s never a place you arrive. It’s, how do you treat yourself along the way? and how we’re talking to ourselves inside our own heads. I do think that that is a value of meditation and of yoga. Those things have helped me greatly. I don’t know that I talked about it in public, but I grew up with very rigid ideas around food. Yoga was one way that I kind of retrained my relationship with my body over time. That doesn’t mean that I’m done. It just means that I have more kindness and a little bit more perspective, I guess is the big thing that I —

Zibby: — What do you mean by rigid? What did you mean by that?

Rebecca: I don’t think I’m unique in this. I’m very tall, so I was always bigger than other kids. That’s the first time that I remember feeling not right in my body. I’m 5’9″, which is not giant, but it was always taller than all the other girls and boys in my class. I remember being nine years old and wanting to lose weight. Shockingly, sadly, that’s not a unique statistic. I find that really heartbreaking. When I was pregnant with my daughter, which I go into in the essay, it finally became like a funhouse mirror image of body autonomy. Suddenly, you become pregnant and people feel entitled to give you all kinds of advice, to touch you. Strangers touch you. Knowing that I was having a girl, suddenly, something broke. I became so clear that I didn’t want to contribute so much mental energy to fitting a certain idea of myself. I also just didn’t want this baby on the way whom I never met — I’d never done this before, but I knew that it was going to be in the air. If I didn’t have a kind relationship with myself, then what was she going to pick up on? It didn’t happen overnight. I think I was ready. I was primed. Then once I got pregnant and I knew I was having a girl, something really switched. I started to see everywhere, the game that’s played. To your point about wanting to eat healthfully and feel good in your body and fit in your clothes, that doesn’t mean that’s bad. It means it’s part of your relationship with your body, but it’s got to be done with some kindness.

Zibby: I totally agree. Rebecca, thank you. This has been amazing. I really appreciate it. Thank you again for writing for Moms Don’t Have Time to Write. I’m so excited about your book, Still Life. I can’t wait for it to come out. I’m just so glad our paths have crossed. Here’s to being kind to ourselves and our journeys. Why not? We might as well be.

Rebecca: Your voice brought a lot of kindness and light during the pandemic to a lot of people. That’s a huge thing. I include myself.

Zibby: Aw, thank you.

Rebecca: You are doing that. It’s been an awesome gift. I don’t know how you get it all done. I’m excited to see your next journey and to read your book when it comes out.

Zibby: Thank you. Thank you so much. Stay in touch.

Rebecca: I will.

Zibby: Bye, Rebecca.

Rebecca: Bye.

Rebecca Pacheco, STILL LIFE

STILL LIFE by Rebecca Pacheco

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