“Don’t Let Food Be Full of Drama” With Christine Kenney

Letting Food Be Full of Drama — Food holds so many emotions for so many of us. Most of my clients come to me struggling with food because they have so much drama associated with it. For example, when we end up eating “unhealthy” foods we find ourselves putting shame and guilt on ourselves because […]

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Letting Food Be Full of Drama — Food holds so many emotions for so many of us. Most of my clients come to me struggling with food because they have so much drama associated with it. For example, when we end up eating “unhealthy” foods we find ourselves putting shame and guilt on ourselves because of the choice we made. Getting rid of the food drama is an essential part of getting on the path of a healthy lifestyle. So, when my clients come to me, I make sure we fully address their emotions toward food then put into place a lightly structured plan that takes the drama and do not eat list out of their thought process. So food becomes drama free and we can enjoy the foods we love!

As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christine Kenney. Christine holds a Masters of Science in Social Work from the University of Louisville. For about five years, she worked as a social worker and psychotherapist in many different settings. Today, she uses her health and life coaching certifications as well as her masters degree to help women kick their sugar habits so they can get rid of food drama and love the skin your in.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?

Ihave always been in the field of service but I first got my start in the wellness field when my husband got a job transfer that took us to Nashville, Tennessee. After weeks of searching for a psychotherapist position and really not feeling excited about it, I had a realization that I needed to get my own health on track before I could help others.

Ever since I started as a social worker, my health began to spiral out of control. I had extreme IBS, my stomach was upset 90% of the time, I found myself eating a sleeve of Oreo cookies every night to deal with my stress and overwhelm. My close relationships were suffering due to my own unhappiness with my body and stress.

So when I found myself looking for a job, I realized that I couldn’t continue on the path I was living…I wanted to feel good in my body and in my mind so I had to make a change. Keep in mind I was an avid runner for many years; I ran mini marathons but due to my IBS being so bad I had to stop running completely. I’d been on countless medications, seen countless doctors and tried many diets but nothing seemed to work. I still felt like crap 90% of the time, my stomach was always upset, and my moods were all over the place and found myself binging on chocolate every night…. that’s when I decided to take it into my own hands and figure out what I needed to do! This allowed me to step into my best self so I could feel good on the inside and on the outside both mentally and physically.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Gosh that’s a hard one. The most interesting story is the story of myself! When I first started my health recovery it was so apparent to me that it wasn’t that I just needed to start eating certain foods to feel better, but I needed to change my emotional relationship to food and stress, as well as change the food I ate to feel better.

I have found the same thing to be true with my clients. Our culture guides us in having such a drama filled relationship with food. What a lot of people don’t understand about successfully staying on a path to healthy eating is that we must address the emotional aspect that is attached to our health, and not just by changing what is on our plate.

This is where I believe being a psychotherapist really supports my wellness career because I truly believe we must look at the whole person including their emotions and what their plate is made of.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

One night I had a few friends over for a dinner party. I decided I would try out a desert that I had recently been loving. Keep in mind I didn’t tell anyone I’d made a “healthy” version of the chocolate chip cookies until after they tried them. Honestly I didn’t think they were going to notice. Everyone was loving them and really didn’t say anything about them tasting that different. Well then one of my girl friends goes to eat one and her face is just stunned. I didn’t think about the fact that she hated chickpeas and well the cookies were made from chickpeas… So it’s now a running joke whenever I have people over they are convinced something is going to be made of chickpeas.

Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?

I feel my unique contribution to the world of wellness is my mixture of both being a psychotherapist and certified health coach. I don’t just look at the food we are putting into our bodies, but I also look at the many emotions we have tied to our food and becoming healthy. My goal is to help remove the emotions and guide my clients in feeling empowered by their food and the life they are living.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are so many people that come to mind. Two of them are my parents for always supporting me in finding what makes me happy. My mom has always been my biggest cheerleader. Even if it was the smallest of accomplishments, she is the one jumping up and down with a high pitch voice expressing how proud she is of me. My mom has definitely taught me to show my emotions when it comes to being proud of someone. Also, my Dad has been a huge support in following my dreams. My dad is a business man so when I first started my business he was the one bringing me down to earth a little bit, which I totally needed, when it came to expectations. Still to this day, he is the one I call before making any business decisions.

Also I would say my husband, Riley. We have been together since we were fifteen years old and he has always been my rock on this roller coaster ride of life. I had a great job as a psychotherapist and was good at it. The day he came home to me crying on the couch saying I couldn’t do it anymore you would have thought he’d try to convince me I could but he simply said ok let’s figure out what’s next then! Two weeks later I was enrolled in health coaching school. I can definitely say I have thrown a lot at him and he continually is my biggest supporter.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

I love this question so much because this is exactly what I do on a daily basis. This is the reason clients come to me. We all know what to do but we can’t seem to make them last and that’s where I come in.

1. Making Big Habit Change At Once — When so many of us decide we are going to make a change in our lives we always take on huge goals. An example would be starting a five day a week workout routine when you haven’t worked out in months. Here’s the thing ,those habits never last because it’s a huge change in our daily life. The key is to start small… if you want to start working out start with two days a week for 20minutes or if we want to start eating healthy start with your breakfast, don’t change everything all at once it’s too abrupt to habits we already have in place.

2. Letting Food Be Full of Drama — Food holds so many emotions for so many of us. Most of my clients come to me struggling with food because they have so much drama associated with it. For example, when we end up eating “unhealthy” foods we find ourselves putting shame and guilt on ourselves because of the choice we made. Getting rid of the food drama is an essential part of getting on the path of a healthy lifestyle. So, when my clients come to me, I make sure we fully address their emotions toward food then put into place a lightly structured plan that takes the drama and do not eat list out of their thought process. So food becomes drama free and we can enjoy the foods we love!

3. Not having Accountability/support — So many of us tell ourselves we are going to start implementing new habit just to find the motivation to fizzle out. For example, signing up for a 31 day workout challenge without having someone do it with you. What happens when you work all day, don’t get home until 6:30 and have to take care of the kids? Well you are only letting yourself down so no big deal you don’t do it… This is a recipe for disaster, excuses, and not sticking to your new routine, right? If we set our goal with a friend or a health coach, we are more likely to be able to stick to that goal because we have someone that we are sharing the journey with someone besides ourselves holding us accountable. This gives us some to cheer on our success and give us a little kick in the booty when we are falling off track.

Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)

1. Start your day with protein, fiber, and fat

This is such a big one if you are wanting to set your day up for success. Protein is proven to help you eat less throughout the day because it calms 6 of our 8 hunger hormones. It also guides you in feeling more balanced and calm. In addition, adding fat slows down the absorption of your meal and balances your blood sugar which in turn helps you avoid snacking. If you can stay satisfied for a four to five hour window between meals, your metabolism will kick into gear and burn at a higher speed. They key is getting enough of the right protein, fiber, and fat to maintain the window and reap the benefits.

My go to breakfast right now is a chocolate nut butter smoothie! Filled with almond milk, almond butter (fat), chocolate collagen (20grams protein), flax seed (fiber), and a hand full of greens (spinach). It’s like starting your day with a Reese’s cup but without the blood sugar roller coaster!

2. Say goodbye to counting and deprivation

Restricting calories or starving yourself sends your body into releasing the stress hormone known as cortisol. When we deprive our bodies of food for an extended period of time, grazing behaviors appear and we end up gaining weight. When we begin counting and starving we ultimately lower our metabolisms performance in just a few days. On the other hand, when we eat whole foods when our body is hungry, we are able to feed it nutrients and our metabolism works to its highest ability.

Let’s be honest, no one is perfect. We all want to go out on Friday nights every now and then to have a pizza with friends. And girl you should! That’s why by understanding a light structure that allows you to go out with friends but still feel confident in what you are feeding your body is key.

3. Move Your Body

So many of us say we don’t have time to go to the gym for an hour. When it comes to movement, my goal and suggestion is to get twenty minutes a day. Yup that is all! Getting some type of purposeful movement throughout your day not only burns calories but increases your feel-good endorphins, increases your metabolism, and helps you sleep.

So when my clients say they don’t have time I ask them to give me examples of when they find themselves sitting. Let it be easy instead of sitting at the lunch table at work or sitting in front of the TV before dinner, go for a twenty minute walk. You can’t tell me you don’t have twenty minutes!

4. Sleep to thrive

Don’t roll your eyes yet, let me explain. Benefits of sleep include regulation of hormones, curbing appetite and lowering inflammation. Sleep helps you manage stress and decreases depression. It’s a lot easier to have a positive outlook on life when you have gotten your sleep. You’ve heard of the statement “go take a nap you grump”, right?

Ways to incorporate more sleep into your day is powering down 30 minutes earlier, wear a sleep mask and aim to get seven to eight hours a night. Need a little inspiration? You burn calories while sleeping!

5. It Starts From Within

When was the last time you looked in the mirror and reinforced the things you LOVE about yourself? I know for some of us this sounds a little scary. And I’m not talking about the physical attributes, rather all the amazing personality traits you have that no one else does. The reason your friends love to spend time with you, or why your partner just adores you. True confidence comes from within. Self-acceptance and positive reinforcement is where body image grows from so by giving yourself just a little gratitude/love, your confidence will grow.

Too often we find ourselves doing the opposite. We focus on the physical parts of our bodies, which, the majority of the time are the ones we don’t like. News flash: the negative self talk is not motivating you to change. So the next time you are putting on your makeup or doing your hair in the mirror, tell yourself three things you love about yourself. Don’t let it be complicated just whatever comes to mind!

As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?

1. Kick sugar cravings — We all have steam that gets built up in the body so it’s so important to find a way to relieve it, otherwise we could find ourselves looking toward other ways to burn off steam like having extreme sugar cravings

2. Increasing endorphins — When we exercise our brain lets off varies feel good chemicals that gets us feeling happy, more relaxed, and less anxious. Basically it’s turning our happy switch on in our brain!

3. Boosts energy — Exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues which guides your cardiovascular system to work more efficiently. If you feel like your energy is drained try a long hike. I have a feeling it will give you a little energy boost.

For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?

I am not one to pick a workout for my clients. Since implementing a workout routine is so hard for many, I like to put it in my clients hands. I want my clients to love their workout routine and find something that fits their lifestyle. There is not one exercise or class that fits all. I really enjoy helping my clients figure out what this is in their life as it is such an important piece of the foundation I work with them on creating in their new healthy lifestyle, attitude, and approach.

When it comes to my weekly exercises there are three that are absolutely critical for me.

HITT: I love short workouts that I can get done fast and feel great afterwards. HIIT has been my go-to lately. It’s an easy way to burn calories and get your metabolism going in a short period of time.

Cardio: I have always been a runner so cardio has continued to be a way to release stress and to clear my head. Cardio is so good for you because it guides us in using our oxygen more efficiently. When we are able to use our oxygen more efficiently we feel more energized and don’t get tired as quickly.

Yoga/stretching: To be honest I do yoga more for the emotional escape than I do for the exercise. This is a great way to give your mind and body relaxation. For many of us it’s hard to be in the present moment and fully relax so this is a great way to do both.

In my experience, many people begin an exercise regimen but stop because they get too sore afterwards. What ideas would you recommend to someone who plays sports or does heavy exercise to shorten the recovery time, and to prevent short term or long term injury?

As a health coach, this is something I do not normally focus on because when I work with a client we are simply working on developing sustainable habits of exercise. As a health coach, I strive to instill a positive attitude, positive problem solving skills, and focusing on our whole mind and body rather than just parts of it.

Being sore and working through the mental aspect of pushing yourself is hard! When you struggle with this, it is easy to fall off our routine and this also trickles into our food and lifestyle choices. This is when I utilize my training and education to urge my clients to listen to their bodies. Maybe picking a calm yoga class to get that soreness out, taking tomorrow off, or getting extra protein into their diet the next couple days; all of which is showing the client to listen to what your body needs. At the end of the day movement is key and such an essential part to healthy living. But so is our healthy mind! If it isn’t working, then change it up! Variety is the spice of life and we need that in food and exercise choices.

There are so many different diets today. Can you share what kind of diet you follow? Which diet do you recommend to most of your clients?

I don’t necessarily follow a diet. I would say I follow a lightly structured plan which consists of filling my plate with fiber, fat, and protein at every meal. My goal at every meal is to keep myself off the blood sugar rollercoaster. It truly helps me make the best food choices to keep my body fueled and happy. It gets rid of all the drama that comes with food and gives me the confidence knowing I am fueling my body with the essential nutrients it needs.

And when it comes to my clients this is also the structure that I recommend; a lightly structured plan by making sure every meal and snack consists of fat, fiber, and protein. I have found a strict diet can work against my clients and no for my clients. It can cause them to feel too much guilt when they decide to eat something “off the diet plan” which then causes the emotional rollercoaster with food! I don’t want that for them. I want my clients to live a happy, healthy life; Choosing foods right for their bodies that still allows the freedom to go out to dinner, be with friends without worrying about food.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay

This was one of the first books I read when I was really looking for a change in my life. I had been so consumed with all my stressors and the negatives in my life. Her book guided me in changes my perspective about myself and the world around me. It showed me how to change my thinking when self guilt came over me and taught me about seeing the power in the present moment.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The movement would be focused on learning how to listen to your body. Instead of all this information out there that tells us the exact opposite. I believe if we all learn how to listen to our bodies we could end our fit not only with food but it would guide us in dealing with our emotions more effectively as well.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

Don’t sweat the small stuff!

Years ago I found myself stressing about everything, especially the what ifs. So when I began my journey of healing I wrote this quote everywhere. When I found myself stressed and overwhelmed with life, I read this quote. At first I swear I said it 20 times a day, but with time I began needing to remind myself less and less. Still to this day when I feel overwhelmed and stressed, I ask myself is this something small? Majority of the time it is so I read or write this quote down.

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 if we tag them 🙂

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

Instagram: @christinekenneyy

Facebook: Christine Kenney Health Coach

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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