After being too thin in her teens and too heavy in her 30’s, Beth Knudson found the perfect balance – in more ways than one. She started practicing yoga, which allowed her to get in touch with what was going on in her body. What she found was that she simply was not happy in the body she had.
Fueled by this realization, Knudson started eating real, whole foods and continued her yoga practice until she lost 95 pounds. It took three years, but the transformation was long-lasting. Instead of focusing on calories to eat and pounds to lose, Knudson says she changed her relationship with food, turning it into a friend, not an enemy.
Now, she is a wellness coach who teaches yoga and cardio classes each week and has been trained as a therapist in Vedic Thai, a type of massage-assisted yoga. She took some time to share her journey to healthy living with us.
Q. What led you to yoga in the first place?
A. Yoga was something I remember always wanting to try. Something about it just appealed to me on a very deep level, even though I hardly knew anything about it before I started practicing.
Q. What kept you coming back?
A. The way I felt after class is what kept me coming back. After 75 minutes of breathing, flowing, folding, pushing and holding, I felt like a new person. I felt complete and balanced. I was hooked after my first class.
Q. Were there diet and exercise regimens you tried but found did not work? If so, why didn’t they work for you?
A.The diet and exercise regimens I’d tried before had been at one extreme or another. I was either eating too much or eating too little. Exercising too much or exercising too little. I had no body awareness and was trying to live by counting calories. That left me frustrated, exhausted and not very nourished in my body or soul.
Q. Do you feel that yoga empowered you to change your relationship with food? If so, how?
A.Yoga teaches us awareness of what’s going on inside of us and outside of us. Yoga got me in touch with the body I was living in and with the food I was using to fuel it. As I became aware of how I was feeling when I ate certain foods, I could identify the foods that made me feel crummy (sugar, caffeine, processed foods), and the foods that made me feel good (whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats). I also became aware of what “food” is and where it comes from.
Q. What was your diet like before you started eating real, whole foods?
A.Before my diet changed, I ate lots of sugar, ran on caffeine, and bought lots of my meals at the drive-through. I believed what packaging told me and was always looking for the shortcut to health.
Q. Was your change in diet gradual or drastic? How did you make it work in your everyday life?
A.My changes were gradual. I changed one thing at a time. I think the first big change was that I cut out sodas and caffeine. I integrated that change into my life by trading sodas and coffee for herbal tea. I’m a big believer in replacing rather than just removing!
Q. Did you come across any roadblocks in your weight loss process? If so, what were they and how did you overcome them?
A.My biggest roadblocks came later in the process, when I started to hit plateaus for weeks at a time. I overcame them by reminding myself that I’d already come this far and I was still eating well and moving. Usually I would also intensify my exercise routine for a couple of weeks to kick-start the weight loss again.
Q. If you met a woman who was in your position before you made your lifestyle change, what would you recommend for the first step?
A.The first step is to have a mindful and honest understanding of where you actually are and where you want to be. I had spent years convincing myself and others that I was OK with my weight and size. I argued with myself that my weight was just an arbitrary number and shouldn’t be used to judge me. Well, that part is true, but I was ignoring the fact that I felt depressed and sluggish, that I had no confidence, and that it made me cry when my clothes no longer fit me. Having the awareness to admit how unhappy I was was a big step in my process toward getting healthy.
Q. What are some of the most common issues you help women work out as a wellness coach?
A. A common theme between many of my clients is balance. So many women are working full time or more, taking care of their families or extended families, and possibly dealing with health issues of their own. When their list is full, the first thing to come off is taking care of themselves. This leads to feelings of [being overwhelmed] and hopelessness. These imbalances tend to create a gap between our values and how we’re actually living. I help women find their own ways to close that gap. I help them truly see themselves by asking strategic questions and reflecting back to them how they’re living their life.