Learn NOW that you cannot hate your body into loving your body. I believe it’s the most overlooked and the most powerful piece of the wellness journey. Hating your body only creates a permanent barrier to where you want to be. We will never change through criticism, deprivation or fear.
Asa part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Eliza Kingsford. Eliza Kingsford, MA, LPC is a Licensed Psychotherapist, specializing in food addiction, body image and disordered eating. Founder and CEO of Kingsford Coaching and Empowered Wellness Camps, and Author of Brain-Powered Weight loss, Eliza is passionate about helping people change their relationship to food, guiding them to heal from the inside out. She combines her years of experience providing therapeutic intervention with her passion for energy healing techniques to create a uniquely transformative experience.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Eliza! What is your “backstory”?
Starting in my teens, I struggled to find peace with my body shape and size. I remember vividly leafing through a magazine in those days and reading an article about how to reduce “back fat”. I gasped. Up until that fateful day it hadn’t occurred to me that I would ever have fat on my back, after all, I couldn’t see it in the mirror, so how would I ever know? I was so consumed with controlling my weight, and even though I was arguably very healthy on the outside, on the inside my weight and shape took up far too much of my headspace. I read all the books, tried all of the fads, but nothing seemed to make me feel better emotionally.
I know this is why I was so drawn, in my graduate studies, to eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors. I studied counseling psychology and began helping others (right alongside myself) learn how to have a better relationship to food and their bodies.
I was behavioral coach, then clinical director, and finally executive director of an obesity and weight management summer camp for teens for 10 years before going out on my own and starting Empowered Wellness. During that time, I sat on scientific advisory boards and was mentored by some of the greatest researchers in the country on obesity, weight management and food addiction. I wrote the book Brain Powered Weight Loss in 2017, highlighting the brain-weight equation and how our weight is impacted by the relationship we have with food, and not just the food itself. Currently, I run a coaching business with programs, courses, workshops and retreats for people looking to make lasting changes from the inside out.
Can you share your top three “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing?
- Learn NOW that you cannot hate your body into loving your body. I believe it’s the most overlooked and the most powerful piece of the wellness journey. Hating your body only creates a permanent barrier to where you want to be. We will never change through criticism, deprivation or fear.
- Gratitude has changed my life. Training myself to consciously search for things to feel grateful for each day (morning and at night), has made a profound impact on my ability to find a sense of inner peace and comfort.
- A daily mindfulness practice. Make an effort to intentionally be mindful about the life you’re living. Ask if the decisions you’re making (big or small) are taking you further towards or away from your peace.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
When I first started in the field of weight management in my mid 20’s, I met with a well-known leader of the Health at Every Size movement (HAES). I was doing a post-master’s internship at a University Eating Disorder clinic and also working for the weight management programs that I loved. I was drawn to the “inclusivity” of HAES and the idea that you didn’t have to conform to a thin ideal in order to be valued in society.
I met with this leader to discuss how to incorporate (HAES) concepts into the work I was doing. She told me this wasn’t possible. That, because I was working with a population who had a desire to lose weight (and I was helping them) that I could never consider the work I was doing from a HAES perspective. I was shocked, taken aback really. Wasn’t it possible to both work on loving your body exactly as it is, while also changing your behaviors that were unhealthy (this possibly leading to weight loss)? She said no. She said HAES would not entertain any discussion of weight loss, and that as long as I was willing to discuss weight with my clients, I wasn’t welcome in the HAES community.
I didn’t let this deter me. In fact, this meeting has helped shaped one of the underlying pillars of my work for the last 12 years. I believe that there CAN be a conversation about weight, shape and size as well as a conversation about self-compassion and acceptance happening at the same time. This concept is called a dialectical — when two seemingly opposing thoughts can be true at the same time. “You can be both a masterpiece and a work in progress at the same time”. I know that it is completely possible to work on loving yourself, finding self-compassion and acceptance of your full self in the current moment, while also systematically working on behaviors that support a better mental, physical and emotional health. This may include a discussion about weight, shape or size. And, to me, that’s ok. It’s not my job to tell someone they should be ok at a certain size, it’s my job to help people understand how to get to their own version of their happiest and healthiest weight.
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?
As an entrepreneur, effective marketing is everything. You can have the BEST product, the MOST passion and the MOST integrity in your industry, but if no one knows about you or aren’t willing to buy what you’re selling it just doesn’t matter. “If you build it, they will come”, is only partially true! You need the right marketing and go to market strategy if you want to succeed in business. I have learned that the hard way a couple of times!
When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
With obesity and overweight affecting nearly %70 of the population in the US, I’m passionate about helping people feel comfortable in their skin and live at their happiest and healthiest weight, whatever that weight might be. Obesity related complications and chronic disease impacts our healthcare system to the tune of over a trillion dollars a year. Clearly, we are a nation living in “dis”-ease, and the path we’ve taken to wellness so far is not working. Eat less, move more is not working for people yearning to live healthy and happy lives, and yet the needle keeps moving in the wrong direction for chronic disease and medical complications. There is a better way and I’m on a mission to teach people what that is. Hint: it’s not through deprivation, shame or guilt.
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?
When I was first starting out, I was a young but passionate clinician. The founder and president of the company I was working for took an interest in me and my enthusiasm. He took an interest in my success, insulated me from some of the company drama that impacted others and always believed in me and my abilities. He helped me blossom from a young, eager clinician to a business owner and CEO myself. We still keep in touch to this day, and I will be forever grateful for his guidance and mentoring.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
This country (and many others) are struggling to find a healthy relationship with food. Yes, it is possible to be in a larger sized body and be perfectly happy and healthy. However, what I see more often than not, is that health and happiness are not the case when we are using food as a coping mechanism and consistently overfeeding our bodies. I am on a mission to bring as many people as possible to a place of peace with food. I want people to feel ease, intention and confidence when feeding their bodies and let go of the battle, restriction and struggle that has become pervasive in our society. When peace happens, it can open up the avenues to peace for all areas of life as well.
What are your “3 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Finding your voice can be hard and won’t come without challenges and pushback. Find it anyway, speak your truth anyway. (I continue to tell myself this daily).
- There is room for everyone, don’t have a lack mentality. Just because someone else is doing well, doesn’t mean there’s less to go around for you.
- Don’t try to be like everyone else. Lean in to the things that make you uniquely you, these are the things that makes you different.
Do you have a “girl-crush” in this industry? If you could take one person to brunch, who would it be? (Let another “woman in wellness” know that you respect her as a teacher and guide! )
I really love what Melissa Hartwig (Urban) has done with the Whole30. Her no-nonsense approach, along with her emphasis on food freedom is inspiring. I started using the concept of food freedom years ago in my work and it’s great to see that concept catching on, especially in her book Food Freedom Forever. I would love to take her to brunch and discuss how she deals with the people who keep insisting that what she promotes is a diet mentality, even though she explains beautifully how it’s not.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Definitely mental health for me. Our country (and arguably the world) is going through a crisis of division and separation from self. With the emergence of technology has also come a rise in depression, anxiety and addictions. People are feeling less connected to themselves and others and are using “connective” devices to numb those emotions. I believe acceptance, love and inclusivity is the way through this crisis and that starts with ownership of our own mental well-being. We must first put the oxygen mask on ourselves, as they say, in order to help others. We need to continue to de-stigmatize mental health care and make it more readily available to all people who need it.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Thank you for these fantastic insights!