Sunday, January 20, 2019

Changing the Narrative: Part One

Part of changing the way we think of and treat women's physical and mental health care is to change how we see women - and for women, how we see ourselves. My decision to share my own journey is in part because I have been asked by friends and clients to tell some of my stories that have helped them normalize their own internal narrative, but also to encourage those who have lost hope - like I nearly did over a decade ago in 2007, when I was 35 years old. I'll also share my professional and personal thoughts as to what we can do about changing the narrative of body image, what mental and physical health really is (and what it looks like), and improving holistic health care for women.
Chapter One~
My brain lies to me periodically. It started when I was 10 years old (probably well before that), when I started to control my food intake alternately through starvation and binging and purging. I, and a fantastic Therapist I worked with long ago, feel as though part of my traumatic history of being molested by a male babysitter at the age of four contributed to the perfect storm that led to my irrational thinking about my body. It was also about the chaotic environment I grew up in. My home life was so abusive that controlling my food intake was the only thing I thought I had control over. Somewhere along the way, I'd learned the dark secrets of restricting or purging food is not only a quick physical way to feel as though you could get thinner but a way to experience the mental high you get when you are hungry or after throwing up is a way to establish long term patterns and habits. While it would be another 15 years before I learned about neurotransmitters, self-harm, and addictive behaviors as a scientist, I knew it made me feel better in the moment.
Leaving the military community and moving off base for the last time when we moved from England to Arizona was tough, too, and I never really fit in with my classmates til I was in High School - and even then, my body image was poor and I was teased mercilessly by the kids who had grown up together - and in my mind, it was because I was "fat" (looking back now, I realize 145# - what I weigh now - was not fat by any means - and that even when I was my heaviest outside pregnancy, at 160#, I was still never "fat"). By 12, I'd pretty much decided to become a vegetarian - but I think, in part, it was just another way to control my food intake. By 18, I added in the extreme exercise routines, laxatives, and diuretics and set the stage for an incredibly unhealthy decade in my 20s - which led to a major crash in my 30s that changed the course of my life.
On the outside, I thought I looked great and had quite a bit of social encouragement to stay the way I was. Dizzy spells and hunger became usual states of being to me and I hid behind a full schedule of work and school - and modeling and travel. Of course, the modeling was both a tool of excuse as well as ego. I had plenty of men who wanted to date me, and women friends who - like me - were products of our photoshopped and curated media culture, so we ignored the ugly truths about our habits and lived as we'd just keep living through what science never really researched well (us). If there's no science to show that your female insides might not match up with your external "hotness", and your cells are still young enough to recoup immediate damage (or at least put you on auto-pilot for a decade), then there's nothing wrong... right? So, it became socially acceptable to eat as little as possible, puke the rest in some pretense that no one knew what was going on, and work out like hell was at our heels.
I had my oldest daughter at 23 and it shifted me away from modeling and the entertainment industry and into Education. However, it didn't make me much healthier. I am just under 5'5" and weighed as little as 112# just before I got pregnant, but I was responsible for being a good Mom and protecting my babies, so I allowed myself to gain natural weight through pregnancy and breastfeeding - but I dropped the baby weight quickly and was back down to 120# in no time - in part, because I was young, and in part because I was turning back to old habits. There were other factors going on as well - an abusive first marriage and three years of a struggle to divorce him, trying to stay out of my parents' hot mess of a prolonged dysfunction and divorce, and trying to raise my daughter (and try to watch out for my kid sister) along with work and school. Again, these problems would both work with and against me and added to the growing reasons why I was determined to never be satisfied with how I looked because it was in direct proportion to how successful I felt.
To be continued...

PHOTOS: First is a photo of me around the time I hit the "wall" of health issues in my 30s. I was just starting the process of flipping things - getting back to the gym, seeing a Therapist of my own, and trying to love myself as I was. Second photos are side by side of me at 22 and me at 42 (on left, photo credit to Maria Nasif). Third, is a photo of me at 44, training at the gym I worked at in California, learning more advanced weight lifting techniques and teaching other women how.
Side note: It's still hard to post the photos like the ones of the beginning of my journey, but I feel like it's important to be real about how I worked through this process and what I've looked like at each stage. Through this process, I also want to show you how photos can be deceiving as well - even non-photoshopped ones! So much I've learned in 12 years that I can share.
 ~ Jonni Khat

Friday, January 11, 2019

Why the HECK Are You Doing THAT?!?

Today, I had another "Why the HECK are you doing THAT (teaching high school English) again - you are such a good (mental health) Therapist!" comment from an old friend.

I get them periodically - along with the "What's happening with your startup company (bridging mental and physical health in new ways)?" It always makes me chuckle, even though there's a tiny part of me that also feels a little lost sometimes, too. But, I think that's part of the process of doing things that no one else has done before. It's also the same process to do anything you really want to do because if it's important enough to you, you should feel both exhilaration and fear.

Short answer is, I love all my hats and all the things I am good at.

I love working with people - even teens (I know, I am a weirdo - especially since two of them come home with me every day). I also feel like I do the same thing whether I am teaching people to use a semi-colon, read Shakespeare, lift weights, feed their faces better, or face their mental health challenges with purpose and spirit.

Long answer is, my special talent is to help people find the things they need to get to where they want to be - whether they know exactly where that place is yet, or not.

I know this because I have Seniors (I know, right? EIGHTEEN-YEAR-OLDS) question me on days I am not as motivationally moved as others. I remind them I am human and no one has a perfect streak every day. Plus, my fall-back mode is simply my enjoyment (or nosiness) in knowing other people.

I also know this because everything in my life - from all the moves, to all the friends, to all the opportunities I have been given - are still leading me to what I want. Do I want a successful business of my very own? Absolutely. Do I want to help not just hundreds (well, thousands, by now) of people, but millions? Heck, yeah. Do I want to bring change to the education and health care systems? Yes, yes, yes. But, I have to remind myself that the end is not the means and that there is more than just ME directing my journey there.

I provide the what, who, which, and why... and the Universe provides the where and how.

I think? That's exactly why the heck I'm alive. :)

Now... why the HECK are /you/ doing THAT?!?!

<3, JonniKhat

Thursday, January 10, 2019

A FitPro PSA: Another Modest Proposal

Beloved Friends,

Please be gentle with your FitPro friends this Season of Fad Dieting and Extreme Exercise Promises. This is the time of the year we FitPros fall into a cycle of frustration, concern, guilt, desperation, desire, acceptance, abject fear, and sometimes... numbness.

Out of a primal need for acceptance of our years of education and experience by those we love (and a desire to see them actually achieve their physical and mental health goals), we either bite our tongues, delete lots of well crafted and peer-reviewed scientifically and experientially educated responses to our dearly loved friends and family, or end up binge snorting protein powder and electrolytes in between furious sets of weighted squats and burpees with periodic (and intentional) pauses to sob quietly against the Smith machine to bring our heart rates down.

If you don't know what a Smith machine is, don't worry. We do, but we're not going to explain it to you because we're afraid you won't believe us and will go ask your friend Becky who read every book by that Skinny B* Housewife, did a cruise with Dr. Oz, and eats only broccoli, kale, and Chardonnay without tannins... oh, and has been a practitioner of underwater basket-weaving pilates yoga shape-shifting for a whole month.

We will also survive when several months (or years) from now you give us a long, excited speech about how your NEW /real FitPro/ told you to do all the healthier things we tried to tell you about all that time ago, and how depressed you are that no one told you these things before.

But, don't worry - we know that change is hard and that you know us better than Becky. She's safe to listen and lie to - and she has great hair, a fantastic MLM wine subscription, and wears her single pair of Lululemon leggings to every damned mommy salad jar meet up. Plus, she's 29, is a stay at home mom to two amazingly adorable little babies, and replies to all your posts on Facebook with some upbeat gif and reminder that her wine sub is 50% off for new Wine Coaches.

We also know that it's more important for us to shut up and let you try things because any change is a better thing than no change. We love you so much that even though it kills us to scroll through yet another long 100+ response and like post about how you're going to eat only squash and compete in that Ragnar run in August, anything we say could piss you off, piss US off, or be just as unhelpful to either of us.

While our business is the art of helping people change mentally and physically - sometimes that business is more about just being there and listening, in silence, as people Fail Forward. Just like most of us have. We know we're not perfect either, and that change was hard for most (probably all - going out on a limb here) of us too, and that there have been coaches and teachers and trainers and ... maybe even you, we haven't listened to, either. Yet, we'll all get where we're supposed to be one way or another. And I have to admit - Becky's lip gloss is always on point.

My only request at the end of this little satirical letter to all my friends is to remember - whether you are at the beginning of your journey, somewhere in the middle, or have spent the time and money to pay it forward by becoming a FitPro yourself - we're all here because we want to get better, and I don't think there's a one of us who doesn't want to see us all succeed.

*Learning is hard, change is harder.
*Your FitPro friends spent a lot of time and money to learn what they do for a living.
*Your non-FitPro friends know they want change, but are lost in a sea of Beckys.

You are friends for a reason, and I'll bet you both care about each other. Let's make this a Season of Healthy Habits and LOVE!!!!

*Embrace change and learning will be fun.
*Your FitPro friends want support and referrals.
*Your non-FitPro friends want to feel like they can do the thing.

Love you all... even Becky.