Your potential lies outside the boundaries of what other people thinks is appropriate, only you get to decide this. Being unclear about what you want to achieve is a personal decision, if you allow someone else to decide your goals, you are setting yourself up to fail.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kate Morris-Bates.
Kate Morris-Bates is the founder and CEO of InsideOut Wellness; a business which centres on evidence-based alternative medicine practices to support clients with their health and wellbeing needs, ranging from stress, pain, and women’s health to natural interventions for skin health. At the heart of Kate’s practice is the belief that healthcare needs to become about prevention as well as cure, with experts predicting that health, beauty, and wellness will be brought together as wellness will increasingly receive the evidence-based credibility of the medical industry. Kate is a former corporate executive who turned to alternative medicine to aid with her fertility journey, and subsequently retrained as a Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncturist and Holistic Wellness & Mindfulness Coach; a best-selling Author & Writer featured in a wide range of books and publications, Kate is a passionate advocate for empowering women to understand the unique balance and power of their bodies to manage their approach to personal health and wellbeing.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I wasn’t always a therapist, for over 20 years I was a corporate hard hitter, a high-flying woman in a grey suited man’s world, a Top 100 Exec leader earning six-figures in a huge national company, leading 600+ people and being responsible for hundreds of millions of pounds. It was one of the biggest jobs of its kind in the UK. I was living the high life and loved it, until my world imploded in my mid-thirties…when you lose one baby, your perspective changes. When you lose six, your life changes. When it happens inside 2 years, your world changes.
For two years, I was either pregnant or recovering from a miscarried pregnancy and understandably this took its toll on my body and mind — I knew something had to give. I’d reached the point where enough was enough. So I gave up my job, went traveling and invested in serious self-care. I managed my stress, my aches and pains and my shocking periods through acupuncture and coaching. I can remember the first session with my Acupuncturist and her saying ‘you are very tense — the needles felt like red hot pokers — I was so red and blotchy afterwards. I was so tense that she said she would need to address my stress first before we focused on fertility. I also spent time in nature. It worked. I experienced my own transformation… and in 2015, my husband and I welcomed our amazing daughter into the world.
Somewhere between my high-heeled exit from corporate life in my mid-thirties, and the flat pumped entrance to being a mum in my forties, I lost my identity. When I returned to the working world, I found myself a square peg in a round hole, totally uninspired by the job and I continued to have a crash of identity and confidence. Everything got harder getting back on the career ladder and instead of fighting, I settled — I’d taken a job at a university and was earning less that half I was previously, the job was rubbish, the environment was awful, and I was not being respected by the executive team, they wanted my expertise and leadership experience, but were not willing to listen to it — I was so frustrated — I dreaded going to work.
I realized that I needed to take control back and I enrolled on a Chinese medicine course and handed in my notice.
I’m now one very few Post-Graduate Degree holders of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in the UK, awarded by one of the most prestigious alternative medicine colleges in the world. A Member of the British Acupuncture Council and Qualified with a CBT based coaching post-grad qualification, which I trained and studied for during the first year of my Chinese Medicine post-graduate degree.
As well as my TCM expertise, I have hundreds of hours of Western medical training to my name and further qualifications in specialist physical and aesthetic therapies. There are very few people in the UK who can say they have the same combination of professional exec experience with a string of professionally accredited therapy qualifications.
I am now on a mission to empower other women to be body proud and body aware, and not let our hormones, health issues, aches and pains, the lines and wrinkles that come with the ageing process define us.
I want women to honour and respect their bodies; they serve us well. I knows first-hand how it can feel when your body lets you down. As a former track and field International Athlete, I know the frustration of realising your body can’t do what it used to do — or doesn’t look like it used to do and I also know the grueling heartache and the emotional and physical toll that comes with miscarriages and fertility issues. I also what it is like to lose your identity somewhere along the way.
I also know that if you want to make a change, you need to change the approach and lean in to take personal responsibility for your own health and wellbeing. There are no shortcuts to being as well as you can be, it takes time, patience, courage, and the right support around you.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
Perhaps the most interesting story is how I made the decision to become an Acupuncturist… the catalyst came from UK DJ Chris Evans whilst I was listening to his BBC Radio 2 breakfast show.
Like many women in their late thirties returning to work after a baby, I found it incredibly difficult to get back onto the career ladder — the phone which rang every day to offer me jobs before my baby arrived, was deafeningly silent after the baby arrived. I finally came face to face with the glass ceiling. I would like to say that I was that woman who took a battering ram to the ceiling; I had done it before. But not this time…I was too exhausted physically and emotionally. And not in the right mindset. Struggling to even get an interview, I reduced my expectations and standards rung by rung and eventually got a job I had done a decade ago, earning less than half my previous salary in an educational organization. I lasted less than 6 months. It was a terrible decision made again without really thinking through my choices. I had decided to make myself small mistakenly thinking I did not have a choice. I regretted my actions the day I first walked through the door. I was DONE with that world. I wanted out.
But more than this, I was admitting to myself I wanted to open my mind to new ways of thinking. And being.
It was time to make the biggest choice of my professional life; to please myself. And the catalyst for this change came in the form of the DJ Chris Evans when he was doing his BBC Radio2 Breakfast Show; I was listening to him on my commute to work talking to a GP about Acupuncture and how marvelous it is, and I was transported back to my time on my Acupuncturist’s couch hoping and praying for a baby. That was the moment I decided aged 42 with a toddler at home and all the responsibilities of adult life to retrain as a mature student. A week later I was enrolled on a Chinese Medicine Acupuncture degree course. A full time Masters’ level student turning my back on my previous career and forging an entirely new identity for myself.
No salary, no pension, no bonus, no company car, no paid holidays, no sick pay. And no guarantees. But, I was not making a random bet on a horse, I was taking a chance on myself and I have never looked back!
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?
The importance of boundaries was the biggest lesson I have learnt since starting my business.
It was a huge turning point for me in my learning about the boundary choices (or lack of) I made with friends and business acquaintances. After receiving a few metaphorical slaps to my face by people I’d invested my time, friendship and loyalty in (not to mention the cost investment of unpaid advice, training and intellectual capital), I realized I had to step up to the plate and acknowledge it was me who had made the poor choices, which, in part, had enabled this to happen, because, I had made the choice to over-give and over-share with zero boundaries in place. It was me to who made the choice to give so much without setting out what I expected in return.
Over-helping and over-giving is very rarely rewarded with an equal response when the other person does not have equal skin in the game. Particularly when you have not given the other person a choice in the matter. And people without equal skin in the game rarely appreciate what they have been given on a silver platter, because they did not choose to ask for or receive it.
Choosing your boundaries make everything in business and in friendships so much easier, including our ability to say no with grace and humility.
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?
I am most grateful to my husband. I chose to turn my back on an established career at a time when we had a toddler (and a new bouncy puppy) and some serious health concerns over close family members, who passed away in my second year. As I became a full-time student and started a brand-new business, he became the sole earner, a single parent on the weekends I was in college, the family chef and main domestic caregiver as the demands of my business and studying escalated. I am a perfectionist and have a strong work ethic, I cannot leave work half-done — it was not unusual for me to be working at 3am at times — he maintained a steady and reliable presence in the home for our daughter and for that I am hugely grateful.
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?
I started InsideOut Wellness with a clear vision — to empower people of all ages to access credible alternative medicine support; to aid their overall wellbeing, and their future self by providing these in a beautiful wellness space or a safe space online. Whilst I have niched into the area of primarily supporting women, the underlying principles remain true to this vision.
I am personally passionate about empowering women because of my own experiences. I have experienced healthcare prejudice, financial prejudice, and age prejudice because of my gender. From their thirties, the pay gap between men and women gets wider and wider, with men earning on average 15.5% more in hourly earnings than their female counterparts. There are so many aspects to this huge issue but the one which I focus on is what this might mean for women’s health.
For women living as single households or in households where money is not shared equally, having access to less money could equal less opportunity than men for women to invest in their self-care through the myriad of wellbeing pathways out there. Given women’s bodies and arguably emotions go through a lot more change than men’s throughout their life, this does not seem fair.
I want to play my part in empowering women to have access to wellbeing pathways which are accessible and affordable to help them understand their bodies and how it serves them. By helping women to understand how their body is serving them, in a way that has potentially never been explained to them before. Through the insight of alternative medicine philosophies to health and wellbeing.
I am a Practitioner of evidence-based medicine with a healthy dose of spirituality, who is passionate about bringing personal wellness to the top of a woman’s to-do list. Whoever you are, wherever you are. I am an academic practitioner and want to contribute towards and work with the evidence base to bring alternative medicine into the mainstream as a cost-effective and accessible means of personal care. We have seen the first tentative steps towards this after a a 4-year consultation, the UK Government health organization NICE now encourage doctors to prescribe natural medicines such as; acupuncture, coaching and exercise in support of the management of chronic pain.
At the centre of Eastern philosophies to wellbeing is the principle of “seeing” and “diagnosing” people on the basis of their individual signs and symptoms with everything (mind, body, spirit) being interconnected, so everything I do is tailored to individual health and wellness needs. This is how I would like to see every person treated whether it is through conventional or alternative medicine practices — the two can work together, not against each other, to create a system of medical support which works for the individual.
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.
- Exercise appropriate to your physical needs and capabilities, “walking is man’s best medicine” — Hippocrates 5th/4th centuries BC. Whatever your age and whatever your circumstances. Given the enormous impact that exercise has on our mental and physical health, it is important to find creative ways to keep the body moving. I recently treated a female client in her twenties who had suffered previously from an undiagnosed but very real back complaint; she had not been encouraged to move her body at all, however small the movement. As a result her flexibility and range of movement was very reduced, and her pain levels at a constant 9/10. Along with hands on treatment, I advised her to purchase a hula hoop and practice with it for a few minutes each day, and take gentle strolls building up the distance. Her pain is now 3/10.
- Eat “Real” Food, by this I mean food which sustains health through simple and wholesome ingredients. There is compelling evidence that a diet high in whole cereal grains, vegetables, pulses, fruits, nuts and seeds, with small amounts or moderate amounts of fish, dairy, poultry and meat, polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats, results in better health outcomes than a diet in refined carbohydrates, meat, full-fat dairy and other saturated fats. My own health has been dramatically improved by addressing my diet; as a perimenopausal woman my body is undergoing hormonal changes, which lead to me being unable to tolerate food and drink which previously caused no issue. By adopting a diet rich in protein, vegetables and pulses and minimal gluten, refined carbohydrates and refined sugar I have managed to control my weight gain, problematic digestion and gall bladder pain.
- Sleep Hygiene — personally I believe that one of the secrets of good health lies in a good and restful sleep, and is a cornerstone of wellness that is often overlooked. Poor sleep can lead to a myriad of negative health concerns, from feelings of helplessness, loneliness, low mood, concentration to weight gain and high blood pressure. Sleep hygiene is an area I address with all of my clients, looking at pre-bed routines, diet, pillows, positions and room temperature by way of example. Sleep hygiene in Chinese Medicine is part and parcel of the art of “Yang Sheng” or nourishment of life and taken very seriously — for good reason.
- Meditation — the art of regulating the mind and the emotions, my favourite definition of meditation is by Kabat-Zin (2011): Awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally, and in the service of self-understanding and wisdom. Meditation is exercise for the mind, and all it requires is commitment and focus by the individual in the service of self-care. It can take as little as 1 minute to do, depending on how you need to draw upon it as an aid to mental calm. Nothing negative can come from meditation, only positive outcomes, which is why this ancient Eastern practice increasingly is gaining widespread support across medical, psychological and general wellness spaces in the Western world. There is an abundance of meditation apps to draw upon to get started. In my own life, I use meditation as a way of drawing a line between the end of the day and my preparation for a restful sleep. I have become a certified mindfulness meditation practitioner in order to help my clients with their various health concerns, such is my conviction in it’s benefits.
- Nature. I am a self-confessed outdoorsy type; I am at my happiest in nature, whatever the weather and season. Nature fills the senses with it’s sights, smells, forms and sounds which have evolved in accordance with the laws of the natural world over which we have little control (Daoists call this the “ziran” or “self so” “spontaneous”) and as we are the products of nature it makes total sense that we benefit from being close to the natural world. A Japanese study of over 3,000 senior citizens found that they were likely to live longer simply by having parks or tree-lined streets that they could walk in nearer their homes. If more evidence were needed, a 2011 study of urban environments identified a 21% higher risk of anxiety among those who live in cities.
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 believe there is a genuine and realistic opportunity to start a movement of Community based alternative medicine clinics offering accessible and affordable treatments such as acupuncture, coaching and diet/lifestyle advice. Treatments for common complaints such as backpain, headaches, women’s health and stress can be offered in a community clinic environment without losing any of the health benefits of the treatment itself; individual consultations could be carried out online prior to the appointment to ensure patient confidentiality.
I would like to see the NHS making better use of alternative medicine practitioners like myself through formal referrals, and from a cost-benefit perspective a community clinic environment would make the perfect setting to treat patients on this basis without burdening already overstretched public health services such as GP surgeries and out-patient clinics.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
You Tube Video Response Link : https://youtu.be/3OJJ5sqGs6Q
- Stick to your values, because they will course direct your business and will ultimately make your choices clearer.
- Decide on your boundaries — Boundaries make everything in business and in friendships so much easier; including our ability to say no with grace and humility.
- Understand you cannot please everybody, so learn how to please yourself first.
- Your potential lies outside the boundaries of what other people thinks is appropriate, only you get to decide this. Being unclear about what you want to achieve is a personal decision, if you allow someone else to decide your goals, you are setting yourself up to fail.
- Find your tribe and place your trust in them. Business can be a lonely place so it is important to have a network around you.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
As this interview is happening, we are still in lockdown and despite there being a sense of light at the end of the tunnel, putting too much emphasis on the end of lockdown being amazing could result in anxiety and depression longer term. I believe there is a sense of “rainbows and unicorns” about the lifting of lockdown, and the reality after the initial sense of euphoria may be something much less colourful due to the mental, financial and emotional impact of the crisis.
I encounter the sense of “I will be happy when…” a lot in my work, and have experienced this myself in the past. The problem with associating happiness with a fixed goal in the future is that it implies we are not happy in the present. And associating happiness with lockdown lifting and a return to “normal” is one of those future goals implies that the current life you lead on your current salary falls short of the measure of what brings happiness. In short, what we do when attribute happiness to a future as yet unachieved goal is we are blinkered about the moments that bring joy and happiness in real time.
Do you think there is a risk of more people experiencing FOMO after lockdown restrictions lift if they feel they are not having ‘enough fun’?
Social media is one of the main culprits driving FOMO, and as more and more people have become habitual users of social media as a way to maintain human connection, it is reasonable to assume this habit will continue as lockdown lifts. Pictures of Holidays, meals out, social occasions and people generally reconnecting in social settings are bound to proliferate and for people who have been affected by lockdown e.g. job loss, business closures, loss of loved ones, or mental health issues preventing them from enjoying this type of “fun”, the risk of FOMO is ever present.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Instagram : @katemorrisbates_wellness
Thank you for these fantastic insights!