Kelly Lyons: “Having a good relationship with food”

Having a good relationship with food. By doing so, you are able to create a natural balance of nutrient dense unprocessed foods, as well as processed foods you enjoy when it feels ‘worth it’ to you. If you have a negative relationship with food, you most likely have ‘black-or-white thinking’ when it comes to your […]

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Having a good relationship with food. By doing so, you are able to create a natural balance of nutrient dense unprocessed foods, as well as processed foods you enjoy when it feels ‘worth it’ to you. If you have a negative relationship with food, you most likely have ‘black-or-white thinking’ when it comes to your food. This means you attempt to diet, eat clean or eat perfectly, and feel intense guilt when you don’t. This usually leads to overeating, binge eating, or last supper mentality (where you eat like it’s your last supper before you do your diet again tomorrow).

So many of us have tried dieting. All too often though, many of us lose 10–20 pounds, but we end up gaining it back. Not only is yo-yo dieting unhealthy, it is also demoralizing and makes us feel like giving up. What exactly do we have to do to achieve a healthy body weight and to stick with it forever?

In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Do To Achieve A Healthy Body Weight And Keep It Permanently” we are interviewing health and wellness professionals who can share lessons from their research and experience about how to do this.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kelly Lyons.

Kelly Lyons is a health coach and the owner of Kelly L Wellness. Kelly helps women (and those who identify as women) find their food freedom by healing their relationship with food and exercise. She works to help women break free from binge eating, emotional eating and the chains of diet culture. Her education, knowledge and personal experience has given her insight to help many women finally feel normal around food through 1:1 and group coaching programs.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me! My backstory really resonates with my passion for wellness and what I do for a living as a health coach.

I grew up an athlete and was in great shape my whole life, and in my senior year of high school, I was having a hard time with the thought of the next chapter in my life. I began to turn to food to cope. Not realizing I was binge eating (and not knowing what it even was at the time), I then attempted my first go at weight loss.

That first try at weight loss completely changed how I saw food; and I got stuck in a terrible cycle that took me over 16 years to escape. I was eating perfectly every single day, and if I had one thing ‘off plan’ or what I ‘shouldn’t’ be eating, I would feel terrible about myself and binge eat. I would then vow the next day to be perfect to make up for the binge eating, and the cycle would repeat itself two days later (and sometimes less).

I was able to break free by learning what dieting does to your body, stop the all-or-nothing mentality, and tune out all of the noise known as diet culture. Mix that with my mentality around food, body image and exercise, and I now have a positive relationship with food, can eat like a ‘normal’ person, and love my body.

Now, I am so fortunate to help women do the same.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

While I have always been passionate about nutrition, exercise and wellness, I did not begin cultivating my coaching programs until 2020. To be completely honest, coronavirus completely changed my life and inspired me to begin this passion project turned business by helping others.

My son Matthew was born on March 20th, 2020. Our first child, born five weeks early, a week after the world shut down, and my husband TJ and I were able to shut out the world and focus on bonding as a family. During that time, my priorities shifted. Being home together, being healthy, and the awareness that time truly is our biggest currency made me realize that my current career as a teacher is not where I wanted to end up.

My passion for wellness translated into my everyday life; always helping friends and family members change their mindset around food, providing workouts for anyone that asked, and teaching loved ones about emotional eating made me realize something major: that one of my biggest struggles in life was actually one of my greatest accomplishments, and it was my duty to help others find that same freedom.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

Without a doubt my husband! He has been my biggest cheerleader, biggest supporter, and a shoulder to lean on when the entrepreneurial waters get rough. While we try our best to separate business and family time, we always carve out time each day to talk about my business, goals for both myself and clients, and the roadmap to get there.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I think it’s just my story of all the insane diets I’ve done, and thinking that it was completely normal. I was so hardcore into intermittent fasting, that I would pride myself on how many hours I’ve been starving. I would walk around with mental clarity and this alertness that I never felt before, and it wasn’t until I did the research that this ‘clarity’ was from stress hormones being on overdrive in my body.

Now, every morning when I eat breakfast I am grateful for my body learning its hunger cues again, fueling myself with the proper nutrients, and realizing that I am leaner and healthier eating more than when I would do intermittent fasting (cough, starve myself).

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

While I have a few, one of my definite favorites is this: ‘I think many of us think this way: if it’s free, simple or easy to understand, it can’t be as good as something that’s expensive, complicated and difficult to figure out on your own.’ — Dan John

This truly resonates with me because we spend so much time listening to and following rules, that half the time, we don’t even want to be doing. We try so hard to micromanage our bodies, when in fact, our bodies tell us everything we need to know. We just forgot how to listen.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I am super excited that I am currently in the works of creating an online, self-paced course for women to heal their relationship with food. Ultimately, I want to be able to help as many women as possible, and this is a great way to do so. The focus of this course will be on changing your mindset, finding food freedom, following simple nutrition, and enjoying movement again.

For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field?

As it relates to my education and professional background, I have my Bachelor’s Degree in Health and Physical Education, and a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science and Kinesiology. I am a certified health coach through Precision Nutrition, and have been a fitness instructor for 10 years.

What I feel is just as important as my professional experience is my personal life experiences. I have spent over 16 years trying to lose weight, only to throw my hands in the air in frustration, binge eat, and try to start over the following day. It has caused chronic dieting, inflammation, yo-yo weight gain of over forty pounds, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression and many other physical and psychological illnesses.

It is so reassuring to my clients knowing that my story is one and the same, I have been in their shoes, their struggles were my struggles, and there is a way out.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about achieving a healthy body weight. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. How do you define a “Healthy Body Weight”?

A healthy body weight is different for everyone, and weight should not be the sole factor in determining your health. A healthy body weight should depend on the total fat mass in your body, as well as your level of risk for certain diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

The number on the scale is arbitrary, yet it’s what so many focus on. This number should be sustainable without restrictive diets, calorie counting, or excessive exercise to maintain. Unfortunately, many people that we consider to have ‘the perfect body’ (such as models, fitness trainers, influencers), that is their full-time job and not sustainable.

Many people determine a healthy body weight according to their BMI, but that couldn’t be further from the truth, as it doesn’t take into account muscle mass.

How can an individual learn what is a healthy body weight for them? How can we discern what is “too overweight” or what is “too underweight”?

I think a great place to start is to think of a time in your life you felt your best both physically and mentally and go from there. What were your habits for daily activity? What were your eating habits? What was your self confidence and body image like?

We put so much emphasis on what our body should look like, and yet don’t address our mind and our habits around staying in the moment, listening to our bodies, and resting when needed.

A healthy body is when all factors of wellness are addressed without needing to restrict in any capacity to maintain.

This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to expressly articulate this. Can you please share a few reasons why being over your healthy body weight, or under your healthy body weight, can be harmful to your health?

Being overweight can be harmful to your health both physically and mentally. You can potentially be at a higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and other obesity related illnesses. A poor body image and lowered self confidence can greatly affect your health as it can trigger depression, anxiety, isolation and emotional eating or binge eating.

If you are underweight, you are at a higher risk of osteoporosis, you may have irregular periods or a loss of fertility, low energy and fatigue and poor immune function.

In contrast, can you help articulate a few examples of how a person who achieves and maintains a healthy body weight will feel better and perform better in many areas of life?

There is nothing worse than the feeling of not putting yourself out there, trying new things, meeting new people, stepping outside of your comfort zone due to how you feel, look and see yourself.

Someone who has a healthy body weight will radiate confidence, self-love, and a positive body image. Those three traits will make someone more comfortable in their skin, treat themselves better, want to provide adequate fuel for their bodies, want to exercise as a means of feeling well, and treat themselves with kindness.

Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Do To Achieve a Healthy Body Weight And Keep It Permanently?”. If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

Absolutely. While I can talk about what to eat, how much water to drink and how much exercise to do, your mindset, behaviors, and habits play just as much of a role as what’s on your plate.

  1. Having a good relationship with food. By doing so, you are able to create a natural balance of nutrient dense unprocessed foods, as well as processed foods you enjoy when it feels ‘worth it’ to you. If you have a negative relationship with food, you most likely have ‘black-or-white thinking’ when it comes to your food. This means you attempt to diet, eat clean or eat perfectly, and feel intense guilt when you don’t. This usually leads to overeating, binge eating, or last supper mentality (where you eat like it’s your last supper before you do your diet again tomorrow).
  2. Stop dieting altogether. You may think you need a diet to learn how to eat, lose weight and get the body you want, but the exact opposite is true. Dieting perpetuates the all-or-nothing thinking that causes overeating and guilt around food. Not dieting also sounds scary when everything around us is all about having the perfect body, losing weight, and the new sexy rules to be followed around what you eat. I like to remind my clients daily that the diet industry is a 72 billion dollars industry for a reason; the system is designed for its consumers to continue failing.
  3. Make exercise a ‘want-to,’ not a ‘have-to.’ When you feel as though you have to exercise, you most likely won’t enjoy it. When your goal from exercise is weight loss, you won’t enjoy it because you may feel forced to do something from external pressures. The key to exercise? Exercise for all of the things you appreciate your body for: your strength, your ability to move, your working lungs, your heart that’s beating, to be a better parent, anything. Make a list of what you appreciate for your body, and exercise for those reasons. That’s how you learn to enjoy exercise, and weight loss becomes a natural side effect; no longer the main purpose.
  4. Find the root cause of why you turn to food when you aren’t physically hungry. Is it because you are bored, overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, happy, tired, all or none of the above? When we aren’t hungry, there is a reason we turn to food. By figuring out exactly what that is, it is much easier to create awareness around those feelings and have a game plan for when those emotions arise.
  5. Recognizing this is a journey, and the bumps in the road are just a part of the process. When we put so much emphasis on weight loss and an arbitrary number we are chasing, a small blip on the radar can send us into a spiral of giving up. Mistakes are not mistakes when you take a step back, recognize what happened, and have the ability to move on. So many times we dwell on skipping a workout, overeating, snacking too much and we just exacerbate the situation by not being able to forgive ourselves.

The emphasis of this series is how to maintain an ideal weight for the long term, and how to avoid yo-yo dieting. Specifically, how does a person who loses weight maintain that permanently and sustainably?

All of those above mentioned are great to help you get to where you want to be (and stay there)! The biggest hurdle to get over is recognizing dieting doesn’t work and to give it up altogether. It’s so difficult because dieting and the allure of weight loss is everywhere you turn.

Restricting foods and labeling foods as ‘good and bad’ do nothing but make you feel guilty and that you are a bad person if you eat them. Also, it puts certain foods on a pedestal. Think about it, if I told you for the next minute to think about anything except giraffes, you most likely would only be thinking about giraffes! When we tell ourselves we can’t have something or think about something, we do it more. We need to recognize that happens with food also.

What are a few of the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to lose weight? What errors cause people to just snap back to their old unhealthy selves? What can they do to avoid those mistakes?

This is such a great question, because this is where everyone struggles. The biggest mistakes I see are people trying to chase perfection by following food rules. Here are some of my favorites and most well known: avoiding carbohydrates at all costs, not eating past 7:00pm, avoiding certain foods and food groups, not eating fruit because of sugar, skipping meals, ignoring hunger cues, eating perfectly timed meals, and the list goes on.

The problem with having very strict food rules is when things go awry, people may struggle to cope. When something goes wrong in a person’s health journey or personal life, a lot of the time the end result looks something like this: ‘I try so hard, I do x,y and z, and I still can’t lose weight or look the way I want.’ What happens next is usually a blur of overeating and then vowing to ‘start over.’ Hence the diet cycle that we cannot get out of.

How do we take all this information and integrate it into our actual lives? The truth is that we all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

I think the main blockage we have is putting too much pressure on ourselves. We want to be perfect, eat clean, hit the gym every morning at 5:00am, and many times, these habits are just not sustainable. When we fail to do what we set out to do, we fail hard. The guilt and self-loathing sometimes sends us back 20 steps, when we should be working on putting one tiny step forward each day with small, achievable daily goals.

On the flip side, how can we prevent these ideas from just being trapped in a rarified, theoretical ideal that never gets put into practice? What specific habits can we develop to take these intellectual ideas and integrate them into our normal routine?

Creating healthy habits are so important, but can quickly backfire if not done correctly, just like the example above. The goal with habits is to make them as stress free and achievable as possible. We all have enough stress in our daily life, habits shouldn’t be one of them.

Any type of habit created should be extremely small and easily achievable in the beginning for two major reasons: one is making a habit you can stick with, and two, not feeling guilty or down with something outlandish when it’s not completed. For example, if you hate running but want to become a runner, it won’t be sustainable to start with a daily 5K everyday. First? Get comfortable taking walks outside. Then, a longer distance, followed by adding in very short spurts of running. So on and so forth.

The goal here is to make these habits something you can do with ease, and then build upon once that habit becomes second nature.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Thank you so much. Personally, I want all women to want to take up space. Women try so hard to shrink their bodies, and we need to empower ourselves to take up space in this world. With our bodies, our strength, our voice, our confidence.

That alone would stop diet culture in its tracks.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

One of my favorite podcasts is ‘How I Built This,’ hearing stories from different entrepreneurs and how they came to be. I would love to have breakfast with the creator of Spanx, Sara Blakely. Hearing her story on how she never went into fashion, was selling fax machines and took the plunge to reinvent her life always stuck in the back of my mind.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

They can check out my website at , and follow me on Instagram and Tiktok at @kellylwellness.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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