Start your morning off right — Have you ever started your morning off on the wrong foot which led to your whole day being off? Me too! Starting your morning off right sets you up for the rest of the day, not just your emotional state but also with your food choices. My favorite way to start my morning is with a smoothie. I have a recipe that tastes like a chocolate-covered strawberry that’s filled with fiber, fat, protein, and greens. It keeps me full for five hours and leaves me craving whole foods come lunch. It keeps my digestion moving, and my emotions calm. This is a non-negotiable for me every day! It truly makes me happy!
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christine Kenney.
As a founder of Christine Kenney Health, her mission is to help women break free from IBS, ditch the constant stomach pain constipation, diarrhea, and bloat, and fully start living their lives again. Christine Kenney has a Master of Science in Social Work with a certification in Health Coaching.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Since middle school, I always knew I wanted to spend my life helping others. After getting my master’s degree I started my career working alongside the Department of Child Services as a Psychotherapist for children and families. I loved going to work every day but the stress of my job began to wear on my physical and emotional wellbeing. My stomach felt like it was constantly in a knot. I couldn’t run two miles without spending hours on the bathroom floor due to the agonizing pain. My sugar cravings were consistent, hello a sleeve of Oreo cookies every night. My emotions were all over the place; happy one minute and angry the next; it all was dependent on how my stomach was feeling.
I saw numerous doctors, had countless tests and found one common answer.”Oh, you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Here are some medications that MAY help and stop stressing so much.” None of the medication helped and I couldn’t seem to gain control of my stress and worries. For years, I lived with this, and was miserable in my body and emotionally on edge until one experience changed everything for me.
I fainted on my honeymoon in Punta Cana.
My new husband and I had been on our honeymoon for about three days at this point. You know doing the typical honeymoon stuff laying on the beach soaking up some sun, sipping on strawberry margaritas, meeting other honeymooners, and eating all the delicious food at the buffet and restaurants. One day all of a sudden I didn’t feel well and I knew something was going to happen, this was not the first time for me! Next thing I knew, I was getting picked up off the hallway floor right outside the restroom by two hotel staff members. I came to pretty quickly and said, “No, no, I’m fine. I’m fine” and rushed to my hotel room. I didn’t know why I was in so much pain or what I had done to cause these symptoms but gosh did it change everything for me.
After that moment, I set out on a journey to find a solution. I was determined to love my body again. And I wouldn’t give up until I found healing for my IBS, which led me to go back to school, dig into the research, and heal my IBS. No more spending hours on the bathroom floor or being in constant pain. It’s this healing and overcoming that led me on a mission to helping others break free from IBS.
Can you share the most exciting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
I accomplished a goal I set for myself when I was fifteen. One year after starting my business I completed my first full marathon! Without running to the bathroom, having an upset stomach, or fainting! I set this goal for myself thirteen years earlier, but my IBS took over, so I had to put that goal on the back burner for years.
I can’t even explain to you all the emotions I felt while I was running the marathon. I cried multiple times during the race. Why? Because I couldn’t believe I had come so far with my health. To be honest, a year prior, I didn’t think this goal of mine was ever going to be achieved. Throughout the whole race, I was running with no pain at all, and no bathroom breaks! During the race, I was thinking of all of you and my clients. I thought, if I can run this race without sprinting to the restroom, then others that suffer from IBS can too!
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
To be honest, I don’t like to think of them as mistakes because every action I have taken has led me to where I am today. Don’t get me wrong I have had many lessons learned since starting my business and continue to learn. In the beginning, I always felt like I had to choose between my family or business. I think that was a false choice. There are times that my family needs my attention more, and there are times my business needs my attention more, but most importantly, there are times when I need my attention more. The biggest lesson I have learned is if I don’t have my mental and physical health, all the other areas of my life suffer. I am a better mother and health coach to my clients when I take care of my needs.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Yes — my husband. I mean, there aren’t many husbands that are going to cheer you on when you decide to start a business and a family at the same time. I don’t think either of us knew what we were getting ourselves into, but he has always pushed me to keep going. It continues to be a juggling act between chasing a toddler and chasing my business dreams. Honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing about the craziness we are going through and am thankful I have a partner to do it with me.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
Christine Kenney Health enables women to break free from IBS without being on a restrictive diet for the rest of their life. Many women who struggle with IBS feel like there is no end in sight that they will have to live with pain, constipation, or diarrhea forever. Many women have been told that there is nothing they can do to heal from IBS, including myself, but that isn’t the case.
Christine Kenney Health provides not just information but little habit changes that you can implement slowly. It provides flexibility and accountability. We are all about having a light structure that works to fit your life, not a structure that you have to fit into your life.
We are all different people, and our lifestyles are entirely different. The approach we take is to help you where you are by implementing little habits at a time that become life long habits. It is essential to know that you are made up of many different aspects that need to be supported to feel your best. I want every woman struggling with IBS to know you can love your body again!
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
I am all about making and developing little habits at a time, so when I talk about my top 5 lifestyle tweaks, I don’t recommend starting all or three of these at once. Start by picking one and develop that habit for a few weeks, letting it just become something that you do. Then choose another lifestyle tweak that you would like to focus on.
1. Start your morning off right — Have you ever started your morning off on the wrong foot which led to your whole day being off? Me too! Starting your morning off right sets you up for the rest of the day, not just your emotional state but also with your food choices. My favorite way to start my morning is with a smoothie. I have a recipe that tastes like a chocolate-covered strawberry that’s filled with fiber, fat, protein, and greens. It keeps me full for five hours and leaves me craving whole foods come lunch. It keeps my digestion moving, and my emotions calm. This is a nonnegotiable for me every day! It truly makes me happy!
2. Understanding it’s about balance, not perfection — If I learned anything on his journey to healing, health is all about balance. To be honest with you, I don’t think complete life balance is necessarily attainable. But, when it comes to health, I believe happiness and health are obtained when we find balance. Balance isn’t when you adhere to a rigid meal, workout, or life plan. You are human. And none of us are perfect. You will have more balance in one area than another most times. We all do; again, we are human. Balance is found when you have the full intention to eat clean, get your movement in, enjoy a night out with friends, accept who you are, and love who you are working to become. Balance is building a lifestyle focused on health, not some unattainable diet plan.
3. It’s not only the food you eat. It’s also about your mindset — Have you ever had a big presentation or event, and right before your stomach started to feel a little queasy? This is the perfect example of your brain-affecting your gut. They are both connected, so we can’t just change our diet to fully heal. We have to work on our mindset, as well. When I first started to heal my IBS, I only focused on the foods I was eating, but I was still holding so much anxiety. So I was still experiencing constipation and bloating. I started practicing meditation first thing in the morning. Don’t roll your eyes just yet I thought mediation was a bunch of baloney at first too. But as the weeks went on, my digestion improved, and so did my moods. It was and continues to be a major game-changer in how my body and mind feel.
4. Don’t force it; find what you enjoy — Long term health isn’t something that can be forced. When we force ourselves to eat a certain way each day or get a specific type of movement in, it won’t become a habit. To have something become a habit, we have to enjoy it. Find the whole foods that you enjoy or top them with your favorite sauce. Just because your girlfriend lost ten pounds doing CrossFit doesn’t mean you have to do CrossFit. Find what you enjoy so it can become a habit!
5. Decide you are ready and anchor your Why! — The thing is we are ultimately in control of our lives. We take the next step. We make the next move, so we need to be clear at the outset of why we are doing what we are doing. What is motivating to you? What is it that you want to do differently? This Why is the connection between you and the foods you eat, between you and the life you want to live. We are consciously connecting our deeper purpose to our daily decisions. We are in control of our lives. Yup, you and only you. Determining your Why is the start of a pact or bond between yourself — it will increase the likelihood of success, give you inner strength, propel you forward through any bumps or hurdles. Get clear on your Why, and your life will flourish.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would continue to push the message I am driving today. Healing from IBS is so much more than the food you put into your body. Don’t get me wrong it is so vital, but our emotional state is just as important to focus on. The gut-brain connection is real, so when our minds are upset, our guts are upset and vise versa. It has been so beneficial for me to take thirty minutes of my day to focus on my mental health. Our mental health affects our entire body and our life around us. If I could encourage and show women that you are not alone, it’s essential to focus on both parts of us to break free.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
First, gravitate to the people that support and encourage you to reach your dreams. There will be hard times, so we all need those who will be our shoulder to cry on. Secondly, do what feels right for you. Everyone runs their business differently. That doesn’t mean you have to run your business the same. Find what works best for you and rock it. Thirdly, enjoy the journey. This is something I continue to work on. Most of us look toward the future and don’t pay enough attention to be thankful for the present. Fourthly, there will be “mistakes” but don’t look at them as mistakes, look at them as lessons. There is always something to be learned from a decision you made. Finally, entrepreneurship isn’t a walk in the park, but if you have heart and don’t give up, you will see your dreams come true it may be slower then you would like, but every step is a building block to your dreams..
Sustainability, veganism, mental health, and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Mental health — With my background as a social worker, mental health holds an important place in my heart. Mental health was the main focus when I was a psychotherapist, and also now it is equally important as a health coach. If everyone could incorporate just a few minutes of mindfulness in their day, I genuinely believe we would be a little happier. Our mental health affects our entire body and our life around us.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Instagram: @christinekenneyhealth Facebook: Break Free From IBS
Thank you for these fantastic insights!