Meet Cleaneats Kenzie, y’all. She is such an inspiration to me. Some of you may know that my journey into healthy living was one of fait. I was unhealthy – eating fast-food, avoiding grains and veggies – until I began to educate myself, and then I slowly but surely made changes to reflect that education. I am a firm believer in God’s plan. That’s how I came across Cleaneats Kenzie on Instagram. God wanted us to be buds.
Many of my subscribers and followers on Instagram are young boys and girls in high school/college who are struggling with eating disorders, which span from anorexia to bulimia to binge eating. From here forth, we’ll refer to them as EDs. EDs are nasty little buggers that creep into your mind and hang out in this little, dark corner in the back. They’re always there, always calling you names. They’re like those mean girls in high school who say, “You can’t sit with us!” I’ve never had an ED, but there was a year in high school where I tried to change my eating habits in very unhealthy ways. I’d skip lunch, skip dinner, then right around midnight, I’d tell myself, “You did great today, J! You deserve a reward. Go eat an entire pizza!” And I would. Maybe this was some variation of an ED, but I wasn’t deep enough in where it affected my social life, my family life, my faith. And by the time I went to college, I just decided to make good decisions, but to enjoy life too.
Anyway, I became passionate about baking when I had a man to bake for. Ryan, love of my life – he lived in this broken down, hanging-on-by-a-thread fraternity house right on campus. The kitchen was like something out of a horror film. So I baked at Adelphi – our cute, little sorority “apartments” – and transported the cake, the cookies, whatever to the fraternity house in tupperware. Then, out of college, Ry and I (my now hub) both became passionate about eating right, staying in shape, so I began to substitute this for that, and here we are today. Skinny blueberry muffins, and such.
So Skinny Girl Standard came into fruition sometime after that, and as I was pushing out some content via Instagram, I came across Cleaneats Kenzie. This is her:Gorgeous, right? And she’s like, totally ripped. Cleaneats Kenzie is seriously the perfect name for her brand, because she’s livin’ it.What separated Cleaneats Kenzie from all of the other healthy-living Instagrammers was her candidness. She was an open book, unafraid of life, unashamed of her battle with anorexia athletica. I adored her willingness to share her story. For instance, she posted this before and after photo to give her followers hope:I loved Cleaneats Kenzie’s posts. She welcomed us Instagrammers into her life with a giant hug and a pat on the back. I pictured her to be that girl at that party who comes up to you, because your friend is in the bathroom and you don’t know anyone else there, and says, “Hey, what’s your name? I’m glad you’re here. Come hang out with us.” She just had that way about her, and she lived in an application on my iPhone and I had no way of getting to know the person behind Cleaneats Kenzie. Until I did.
Over time, we’d comment here and there on each other’s posts. I became more familiar with Cleaneats Kenzie’s story, because it really was so special. And the more she opened up on Instagram, the more I felt a pull toward her. Like God saying, “Hey, J! I’m like, throwing you signs left and right and you’re just sitting there, biting your nails, so . . . wanna like, wake up?” So I did. I reached out and asked Cleaneats Kenzie to share her story with us, knowing that it was a lot to ask a person. But I did it mostly for those boys and girls who are struggling with EDs, even though I selfishly wanted the opportunity to interview Kenzie just to pick her brilliantly fit brain. And guess what? Cleaneats Kenzie, as I knew her then, was totally onboard.
We started off with some silly, get-to-know you questions before diving into the heavy stuff.
A. What’s your favorite TV show?
Okay, well I am a Netflix junkie, so binge-watching TV shows has become a hobby! I would have to go with Pretty Little Liars, though. SO MUCH DRAMA!
B. If you could hang with one celebrity, dead or alive, who would it be?
If I could hang out with one celebrity, it would probably be Zooey Deschanel. Funny, sassy, sarcastic, we would get along way too well!
C. Salty or sweet?
Sweet or salty? Hmmm. If I had to choose just ONE: sweet, duh! Give me all chocolate everything. But there is NOTHING better than sweet AND salty. Drool.
D. Would you consider yourself a “dreamer” or a “doer”?
I would say both. I think that in order to be a doer, you must first be a dreamer! Dreams and ambitions are what drive us to DO!
E. What’s your favorite meal from your favorite restaurant?
I love going out to eat!! So that’s a super tough choice. But definitely Won Ton Soup from a local Chinese restaurant where I live. The bowl is the size of a cauldron and it is so savory and comforting and PERFECT!
F. What’s your favorite quality about yourself?
Compassion. I think that being a compassionate and caring person is a quality everyone should strive for. Love others, help others, listen to others, and respect others. Simple, yet so powerful!
G. In a world where corny lyrics are embraced, what’s your go-to jam?
Ohhhh boy, if you look on my playlist, my most played station is Spice Girls radio (the truth comes out!!). The 90’s knew what was up.
H. What do Sundays (or your day off) look like for you?
Off days are a beautiful thing that I have just recently come to appreciate. A typical off day for me ALWAYS includes cleaning the house, some kind of craft or art project (shout out to Pinterest!), and baking of course!!!! Oh, and a nap.
I. Are you a “fan girl” of any type of book series or film series?
I don’t ever have tonnnssss of time on my hands to read, although I wish I did!! But I did read all of the 50 Shades books in about 6 days haha!! Guilty!!!
J. Where’s your favorite place in the world?
My favorite place in the world is…..DISNEYLAND!!! I am like a little kid when I walk through those gates. It is especially magical around Halloween time! Ugh, now I just want a churro and some Mickey ears!!
Then I was like, okay . . . if I’m getting way too up in your business, shut me down. Just tell me to go live under a rock. Seriously. I am about to get very personal, and if it’s too much, cuss me out. I’ll deserve it. But I want to ask these questions for my readers. I want to take the risk. So answer whatever you want to answer, and don’t answer whatever you don’t want to answer. But please, please, please, please . . . don’t hate me. And she was like, bring. it. on.
A. What kind of eating disorder did you struggle with and at what age?
When my eating disorder began, I was a senior in high school. It started off by making healthier food choices, and working our more regularly. That quickly escalated into Anorexia Athletica. Which means that not only did I have an extremely restrictive and low caloric intake, but I was exercising and burning off way more than I was consuming. This lasted for about two years before I gained back a great deal of weight. It has been four years, and although I have made leaps and bounds in recovery, there are still mental aspects that I fight and push to overcome all the time!! One step at a time.
B. What were your habits when struggling with your ED?
Like I briefly mentioned above, a great deal of my “habits” were exercise related. I would absolutely PANIC if I was not able to workout (which basically meant endless cardio, blahhh). But there were also so many food related habits. These included eating veryyyy specific foods, basically avoiding anything high in fat and carbs, looking up restaurants before eating at one to find the lowest calorie options, tracking my intake obsessively, etc.
C. Is this something you can say you have 100% overcome, or do you have off-days where some of those old thoughts leak in?
Eating disorders, although physically damaging, are 99% mental. Which makes them SOOOO hard to overcome completely. And like I said, there are still days where my body image is horrific, or certain foods give me anxiety. BUT, I have learned to accept those days and use them as a way to challenge myself and learn. Will there be a day where my eating disorder has vanished for good? I pray to God yes. But until then it is my goal to love myself through this journey and help others along the way.
D. What made you want to make a change for yourself?
When my eating disorder was in full force, I honestly was blind to it. Everyone else was so extremely concerned and I had NO idea what the heck they were so freaked out about! (Again, its all mental). But after going to a doctors appointment, they weighed me (which I surprisingly never did myself), and I was APPALLED at the number on that scale. 85 pounds. 85 pounds?!??!! How did I let it get that low. There was a part of me that was admittedly screaming with joy inside. But the doctor then started talking about the risks I was facing if things didn’t change. Early onset Osteoporosis from not having a period for two years, loss of bone mass, anemia, infertility, and the list goes on. Being small made me feel…right, safe, normal, almost superior (how messed up is that?). But hearing all of those things really made me realize that I had SO many more goals for my life that would not happen or exist if I was not mentally and physically healthy. So that is when I began to make changes!
E. When you were struggling with your ED, how many calories were you in-taking? And how many calories do you intake now?
Yikes, well when I was deep into my ED, my intake was typically around 1000. WAY too low for the amount I was burning. Today I eat a healthy amount of calories and macros for ME. I typically choose not to share my macros or intake for the sole fact that I would hate for someone else to think that those numbers would be appropriate for them. Ones intake is based on soooo many factors!
F. How many days a week and how many hours a day do you work out?
I now workout 5-6 times a week. One rest day ALWAYS, and two if I am reallyyyy feeling worn down!
G. Do you prefer lifting or cardio?
If I never stepped foot on a treadmill or stairstepper again in my life, I would be happy!! I used to be such a cardio bunny and now I cannot stand it!!! LIFTING ALL THE WAY!!
H. So you changed your life, began lifting and ingesting more food. At what point into your new routine did you finally shed the fear of food and begin consuming more calories in order to gain muscle weight?
It really took me hiring Ripped To Shredz as my coach for me to open up to SOOOO many more food options and stop fearing them! He set up a macro program for me which has allowed so much flexibility. I now believe that anything and everything should be enjoyed in moderation!
I. What’s your favorite fit-food meal to eat?
So basic, but my favorite fit-food meal is roasted sweet potatoes and asparagus, with my turkey meatloaf or marinated grilled chicken! NOMZZZZ!!! But if we are talking sweet, then Fluff Cakes all the way!! AKA my weird protein pancake omelet hybrid.
J. What is one piece of advice you would like to give other girls struggling with eating disorders?
My one piece of advice would be to not be ashamed of your eating disorder. None of us choose to go through something like that, but if it is happening to you, do NOT feel embarrassed or like you have failed. ED’s are insanely powerful, but guess what? YOU are stronger. YOU have the power and the choice to give it all you’ve got and fight like hell to overcome it. My ED shook up my world, changed my mindset in a negative way, destroyed my body and my metabolism, put me at risk for countless health issues, and made me a sad, obsessive young woman who should have been out enjoying every aspect of life instead of making her world revolve around food and burning calories. But no way was I going to let it win. It is awful what I went through, and what so many men and women go through. But do not be ashamed. Embrace that fact that you are making choices to better yourself, your health, and your life. Will it be easy? No. But will it be worth it? 100% YES. My ED has taught me more about myself and life than I could have ever imagined. So although it tried dragging me down, I now respect that it was a significant part of my life and I would not be the person I am today without it.
K. Last but not least, who do you look up to? Who inspires you?
There are so many people who inspire me every single day, from friends, family, people on Instagram, etc. But one of my biggest inspirations and motivators is the love of my life, Caleb. He accepts me for who I am, struggles included! He is there for me on the days I am feeling my strongest, and on the days I want to cry and give up. But on those days I feel like I have failed, or I just cant take anymore, I look up to him and all the trials he has faced and overcome like a superhero, and I realize that I CAN do this. I have a reason for fighting. I have a future that includes so many beautiful, nomazing things, all including him. So if ever there is a time I am feeling down on myself for whatever reason, I look ahead to the blessings and memories that are waiting to be created, and I keep on fighting.
I loved being able to interview Cleaneats Kenzie, especially because she was someone I had admired for so long. And to find out that she was just as sweet, just as funny, just as lovable as she had been all those months on Instagram was just the cherry on top.
Follow Cleaneats Kenzie on Instagram.