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How to Overcome Anxiety and Emotional Eating so that You Can Stick to Your Keto Diet

Join Carole in this episode as she chats with Katie McKenna, a fellow graduate and friend from Bastyr University, about her unique approach to anxiety and healthy eating and to have a discussion on Anxiety keto and emotional eating .

Do you struggle with anxiety?

Do you ever use food to cope with overwhelming feelings, anxiety or other feelings?

How does anxiety affect our food choices? How does our food choices affect anxiety?

For over a decade, Katie has helped people redefine anxiety and learn neuro-hacking techniques that give you emotional agility (AKA “ninja stress management” skills) coupled with functional nutrition, so that you can overcome anxiety and emotional eating tendencies.

Katie is a psychotherapist with a Master’s degree in Nutrition. Her full time private practice offers a unique, integrative approach that fosters change on all levels: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

She integrates the latest research on the body mind connection, belief systems and the nervous system to guide people in clearing negative, subconscious beliefs and reactive trauma responses.

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Amazon Music

Submit your questions for the podcast here.


(Transcript provided by Descript)

Carole Freeman: Oh, we are live. Alright we’re live. Everyone.

Do you struggle with anxiety?

Do you ever use food to cope with overwhelming feelings?

Have you ever wondered. If what you eat could affect your feelings, your mood, anxiety, guess what?

This episode is for you.

Anxiety, keto, and emotional eating | KCL57

Stick around as I chat with my friend Katie McKenna, certified nutritionist, licensed mental health counselor and anxiety and nutrition expert.

You are going to learn how to redefine anxiety. You’re gonna learn some solid neurohacking strategies to minimize your feelings of anxiety and gain emotional agility.

Welcome everyone to episode 57 of Keto Chat live for joining us. I’d love you to share, just type in the comments where you’re joining us from.

I always love to see where our viewers coming from, so just type in where you’re from there. Welcome to the show. I am your host, Carole Freeman. I have a master’s in nutrition and clinical health psychology. I’m also a board certified. Keto Nutrition specialist and I specialize in helping women 40 plus follow a keto diet for sustainable weight loss.

We’ve gotta give you a little medical disclaimer here to keep the lawyers happy. This show is meant for educational entertainment purposes only. It is not meant to be medical advice nor intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any condition whatsoever. If you have any conditions, concerns, questions related to your specific medical condition needs, then please seek out the proper.Authorities your personal healthcare professional. And so join me in welcoming to the show. I didn’t tell her I was gonna do this, but I’m gonna bring up this banner. , my computer did an update last night, so it’s so slow. Okay, here we go. Help me welcome to this show. Round of Applause for Katie McKenna.

And I know Katie from Bastyr University, so she was predecessor in the same program that I was in several years ahead of me. And so she was a mentor to me through that program that I was in And Let’s see. So I have a bio that I’ve pulled from your website, but also tweaked a little bit for the show here.Yeah. Katie McKenna is a graduate at Bastyr University, and she’s here to talk about her unique approach to anxiety and healthy eating. And she’s a psychotherapist with a master’s degree in nutrition. Her full-time. Private practice offers a unique, integrative approach that fosters change on all levels, physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.

For over a decade, Katie has helped people redefine anxiety and learn neurohacking techniques that give you emotional agility, a k a. Ninja stress management skills. Who doesn’t want some ninja stress management skills coupled with functional nutrition so that you can overcome anxiety and emotional eating tendencies.She integrates the latest research on body mind connection, belief systems, and the neurosystem or nervous system to guide people in clearing negative subconscious beliefs and reactive trauma response. So welcome Katie to the show.

Katie McKenna: Hi Carole. I’m happy to be.

Carole Freeman: Welcome everyone who’s watching, and those of you watching the replay as well.

Welcome to the show. Go ahead and type in the comments where you’re joining us from. This is an interactive, the reason I do this live, cuz I wanna chat with you all here. So Katie, where are you joining us from? I am in Seattle. Excellent. Yeah, still snow up there.

Katie McKenna: We actually have five inches on the ground right now and more maybe to come.

We’ve we’re, we’ve, it’s white , five inches.

Carole Freeman: Oh my gosh. I haven’t got an update lately oh my gosh.

Katie McKenna: Yeah. think those in the city have much, much less if any, but I’m a little bit north, ,

Carole Freeman: I have a friend that lives in Everett, and I think it was last week she was telling me when it first hit that.

the power was out and the power lines were down. So she was actually trapped at home. . Yeah. Same here. . I lived in Seattle area for 27 years and when I first moved there in 93, you got, we got snow like every four years and it was just a dusting, maybe an inch or two, shut the city down, no school. And then by the time I left there two years ago, Snow every single year, several times a year, and many inches a lot of the time too.

Katie McKenna: So it’s changed quite a bit over the years. Yeah. Yeah. . ,

Carole Freeman: What’s your favorite thing to do on a snow day?

Katie McKenna: You know what’s funny now with the, there’s been so much change posed the pandemic where healthcare’s really turned to telehealth, at least for me. , I’ve remained in telehealth.

Like snow days don’t exist anymore. as far as like being off school or off work. In fact, if it. No power. That would’ve maybe been a day off work, but we actually have some hills around and we’ve got some really cute neighborhood kids that love to play. So I’ve definitely gone sledding with my neighbors.

Carole Freeman: Oh, how fun. Yeah. How fun. I do I’ll admit, I do miss the snow days down here since I moved to Phoenix, Arizona. But we just gotta go a couple. hours north up to Flagstaff and there’s snow up there, I can have it if I want to. That’s kinda the best. Yeah. Katie, just for people that don’t know you, if you share a little bit how, how did you get into nutrition?

How did you decide on the the degree at Bastyr? So Katie and I have the same degree. It’s a double master’s in nutrition and psychology. And what was your path that led you. To pursue that?

Katie McKenna Background

Katie McKenna: Sure. The story can always be long or short. But the medium length version is when I was actually about 19.

I was having a lot of stomach issues and I had an endoscopic and all this stuff and the doctors told me that I needed to avoid tomato sauce and go on. An acids and I started the internet was still new. I started researching and finding out there was like other ways to approach healing and that’s where I started to the other half of it is I come from a family of nurses and so I was going to nursing school and having some real.

Disharmony with that process. And I started doing some research and I discovered Basti and they had an undergrad program in nutrition. And so that’s actually where I started. I went to Basti in 2001 to do my undergrad in nutrition. And that just opened my mind in so many ways to hear about what food can really do for our bodies and how food can be medicine.

And then from there, I went to work for a Native American community out here in, in Washington on the diabetes. Grant and my time with the ults, which was just so memorable. I spent a number of years out there. People, my job was to teach diabetes related information, but people would come in with so much.

Other hardships going on traumas abuse things that they wanted to talk about. And I was supposed to be talking about diabetes and so I realized I just really didn’t have the professional tools I had, like the human empathy for sitting with people, but I wanted the tools. So that’s where I decided to go back to Bastyr because I had such a good experience in undergrad and by then Bastyr had that dual program of master’s in nutrition and a master’s in psychology. So that’s why I went to Bastyr and the the beginning of my story.

Carole Freeman: Oh, I love it. And that, so recently they changed the name of the. Program. Yeah. And I’m like, because now it’s a Master’s of Arts in Psychology and a master of Science and nutrition. Is that, do you know how they changed it or,

Katie McKenna: I actually haven’t kept track. They have changed it. And when you and I were there, that program was still relatively new. So it doesn’t surprise me that it’s gone through some changes. And you know what it, what actually, like the next piece that’s interesting is having that combination of nutrition and psychology it really landed me when I graduated I was looking for work and I found work at an eating disorder clinic, and that was such a great place to get to really practice both. and then through the years of working so much in the field of eating disorders, as I started to learn like what is even the root causes there, a lot of root causes have to do with trauma, depression, and anxiety. And so that’s how my career has, like the river has changed over time of what I specialize in and anxiety is just such a prominent thing.

All of us can relate to that. It’s it’s a big focus of my work now.

What Is Anxiety

Carole Freeman: Yeah. I was gonna ask then about, what is anxiety? Why does it seem to be so prevalent now? Is it partly that it is more common or is it just that we have a name for it? I was actually thinking before we went live here about how when I was growing up, when I was a child the. . Anxiety wasn’t thrown around, but my mom would always say, label, oh, you’re anxious. . And she used it to mean I was excited and eager for something to happen. And I know there’s an overlap of we often think of anxiety as something that’s very uncomfortable and something we don’t wanna experience.

Whereas the eager and excited for something could be something that we wanna experience. Will you share a little bit more about, what is anxiety? What’s happening in the. Sure. And I have too many questions there, so I’ll, we’ll start there.

Katie McKenna: That’s quite alright. Yeah it’s true.

I was a child of the, I, I was in the, grew up in the seventies and the eighties and you we might say somebody was nerve had nerves or I have nerves. Anxious is a really originally a clinical word that is now so commonplace. I think that both is true. This idea of it, do we have it more or not?

Or do we just have better language for it? Is there more acceptance around mental health? So people talk about this stuff more. These are all really good questions. I do think that in general people. I like to think of like our, hi. Historically, maybe even our ancient ancestors might have had stronger family connections, maybe stronger connections to the land and nature.

Some of these things that like help us ground and like discharge stress. And in general I really do think. Many people are really isolated. And that’s even true. Just because you’re single doesn’t mean married people are less isolated because sometimes you can be really lonely, even in a family.

So that isolation, I think, really does breed some of the anxieties that we have. And when you flip through the dsm the diagnostic criteria for anxiety, I think a lot of people would qualify and. Where I’m really arriving at after now being in the field for 10 plus years is them trying to like kinda turn things upside down.

I think the way we pathologize human emotions and say, act like it’s a problem to be fixed or diagnosed or labeled, or there’s nothing inherently wrong with taking medication, but that’s also not always the only answer. So part of my message is really getting back to understanding that we are human beings, are feeling people, and if we’re not, supported or trained or educated in how to be with our emotions, then they can become so overwhelming and we start to avoid them and distract ourselves.

We move into addiction or numbness. Things that like also relate to disordered. Food choices, but all that, then that disconnection just breeds even more anxiety in the body. Cause we start to get really scared of like our shadow selves.

Children, Feelings, and Parents

Carole Freeman: . Oh, it’s so true. I know for me growing up that.

Parents didn’t learn how to have feelings or accept them or experience them. And so as a parent, you want to help your children feel okay and good. And , the message was if you were sad or crying, be quieter. I’ll give you something to cry about. Or if you were too excited, it was calm down, sit down, be quiet.

So hundred percent all either side of the emotion spectrum was like we were, Nope, nope. Quiet. Sit down and be quiet and don’t have any feelings or emotions. Yeah,

Katie McKenna: yeah. I’ll use my brother as an example. Cause I come from family in the Midwest that I think still have a lot of that attitude.

And he’s got two sweet little girls, but he’s always saying just be normal. And what he’s doing is don’t have emotions. Don’t be sad, don’t be mad. Not entirely, but don’t do it in big ways. Be solid. And that’s a lot of the way I was raised too. And you’re right about the the excited feelings.

I think about extreme sports people like what something else might call anxiety in the body. That’s the feelings they love and go for when they’re like about to do their parachutes and squirrel suits and all of that. Just depends on how we’re wired.

Carole Freeman: Yeah. Yeah. So talk more about what is anxiety, what’s going on in the body?

What are those feelings that can feel overwhelming for some people?

Katie McKenna: Some of this is a good question because we have some research and understanding about. Feelings. But to be honest it’s pretty limited. We know things like oxytocin, a feel good chemical, and cortisol is a stress chemical.

We have endorphins released to help us have like energy. Whether or not something feels good or bad. But there’s a lot we don’t know about emotions. And emotions really do feel differently to different people’s bodies. There’s people who study a lot of biofeedback and are looking at emotions as possibly even being something akin to like radio waves, like a pulse of information that moves through us that is, wifi is invisible, but yet it’s real and we can measure it.

And that maybe emotions are something along that line. Specifically with anxiety a lot of times what people mean. , their heart’s pounding thoughts are racing. When anxiety starts to move into panic, you can even get like numbness in your face or numbness in your arms, which then ha, makes the panic accelerate.

Cause that sounds like symptoms of a heart attack. I would say I think maybe you can add to this anxiety for a lot of people is not, is a very unpleasant feeling in the body and they’re just want to distract or numb or avoid it because it

Carole Freeman: feels bad. Yeah, for sure. I’m wondering, I can see we’ve got some people watching live, but can you just let us know that you can hear us by giving us a comment?

wanna make sure that we’re coming through loud and clear. If you could say, just gimme a yes or a thumbs up in the comment section, so I know that you can actually hear us. I can see people popping in and leaving, so I just wanna make sure that on the other side that we’re coming through.

That would help us out a lot if you would give us a thumbs up if you could hear us. All right.

Let’s see. I’ve got all these questions I wanted to ask you too. So let’s talk about now. Okay, so we talked about how as children, most of us have been trained numb out or avoid feelings. We haven’t learned how to accept or feel them. What are some of the beginning steps that you have that you work with your clients in managing anxiety or overcoming it, or what are the, what, how do talk about.

How To Get Rid of Anxiety

That is it trying to get rid of anxiety? Is it minimizing it? Is it accepting it? What’s your goal when you’re helping people manage it?

Katie McKenna: You know it’s really interesting how it’s more than semantics. Like our words around anxiety can be really revealing as far as whether or not you say overcome or heal.

My perspective and where I’m like this working theory that I’m a arriving at, is that. Anxiety is worsened, the more we try to avoid it. And so there’s a lot of, I think, reverse psychology that’s required to essentially lean in, lean in’s a pretty popular topic in other forms of therapy, like in marriage therapy and things like that about how to lean together, how to move towards what’s uncomfortable. And so I think that’s the essence of what we really need to learn to do. My. Thoughts around anxiety is that there’s sometimes other things, other feelings underneath it, and it could be of feelings, beliefs, sometimes things that are just like partially subconscious or that we don’t really wanna go there.

And when we are in the habit of, I would say like numbing, avoiding, disconnecting, distracting, we can then get even more lost in our heads. We can get lost in addiction, even if it’s minor a. Like our phones are shopping or food or alcohol, bigger ones. So the work really is starting to understand that we are emotional beings.

And we’re not really given an owner’s manual for that. So like seeking out support so that you can start to understand your whole emotional palette. We’re pretty quick to Be okay with feeling happy, but we’re in general, we’re not okay with the more uncomfortable ones.

So to be able to tolerate what feels like discomfort, and that’s a mix of emotional literacy, like having words and distinctions for things, just more than like sad and mad. I even like to think, like grief versus sorrow versus longing to it. It sounds poetic, but to really draw out the. Subtleties in these words, and to start to parrot with also the sensations we’re feeling because that helps us connect in our bodies. So am I feeling jittery? Am I feeling empty? Am I feeling Butterflies is a common one or my, a pit in my stomach. We’ve got a lot of words for body sensations, like the weight of the world on my shoulders, or I feel like I got punched in the gut.

So interest we’ve got a lot of con common phrases that actually you take a minute to think about it and it really does help to start to identify. So this process of going towards naming things, being able to. What’s going on? So we’ve got emotional literacy. That’s the naming things. The witnessing, which is a bit of my favorite way to think about it is the weatherman. The weatherman can observe what’s going on and report about it, but they don’t have to be out there in the rain getting something wet. And so sometimes with our emotions, if we get too sucked into it, it’s like we’re in the rainstorm. We wanna have that healthy amount of distance where we’ll be like, okay, I am sad, I am upset.

but that’s not all of who I am. Because that’s part of it is emo emotions can be so overwhelming, we get lost in it. And then from there you can also start to learn how to shift your moods and that some has things to do with food, diet, exercise, posture the stories we tell, our belief systems, our worldview. So that’s the top level version of. taking people through the process and we a lot of times narrow it down to three things. Emotional literacy observer awareness and emotional agility as a way to make peace with what’s going on in the body.

Carole Freeman: I was just having a imagining how fun it might be for somebody to actually step into the weather reporter role.

Just the way of Hey folks, right now we’ve got a lot of storming going on inside my belly right now. Yeah. And the rain is coming down and the lightning and all that. So back to you in the studio, Katie . That’s perfect. Great.

Katie McKenna: Cause emotions are moving forces. Now emotions certainly can get stuck.

And then that’s a whole other level of like, intervention and how to work with yourself. But when a, when emotion shows up, it is like the weather. Am I feeling sunny? Am I feeling stormy? Is it rainy? Misty? Foggy? And the ability to like be with it without needing to change it. That alone is enough to usually gen.

It also will start to move on just like the weather does. This snow’s not gonna be here forever.


Carole Freeman: And I remember a mindfulness concept. in school where they talked about that. If you’re experiencing depression, it’s often because you’re focused on the past and regret of things that have happened or you’ve done, and then if you tend towards anxiety or more future focused and worried about possible things that could happen.

What do you, how do does that fit within your paradigm or.

Katie McKenna: Yeah. I’ve heard that said quite a bit and I think that makes sense. That and in general, depression is with a lot of focus on the past and anxiety can be a lot of focus on the future. Either way, the part of the solution and the intervention there is what does it mean to find presence?

To be here now in this exact moment. And that’s where things like breath work, meditation can help us find that, that present moment. Our current culture doesn’t really teach us a lot about that either. So there’s a lot to learn.

Carole Freeman: Yeah. And they’re the, I’ve never really been somebody who experienced anxiety as a primary.

Emotion until that fateful car accident in 2014. Yeah. Yeah. And I, so I, for people who don’t know, I was rear-ended by a distracted driver. It was a pretty traumatic accident. I ended up bedridden for the next three months and I developed a lot of P T S D like anxiety around driving and being in a car.And even to this day, which we’re. Oh my gosh, what’s the math? How long has it been? Almost? Eight years. Eight years Since al, almost nine. Since that accident. I still have so much anxiety in the car and, certain situations like brake lights or what my brain coded as, you are gonna die if you see brake lights.

Yeah. And I remember the therapist that I had wonderful lady like helped so much and there, but there was part of it like, okay, part of it’s true what she was telling me, but part of it was like, no, that’s not true. Okay. She would tell me that the feelings that you’re experiencing are because you’re worried about what might happen and which could be partly true. And she says, that’s not actually happening right now, though. You are what you’re experiencing. The worry of something in the future, and I was like, Partly true, right? So my brain just coded for this experience. Yeah. And it’s terrified that I’m gonna die. And so it’s, and the feelings I was having were happening in the moment, right?

Like when I still have that. So I was like, okay, I believe part of what you’re saying, and I think that maybe it’s more. because she was trying to get me to talk myself out of it, right? Like in my brain, like logically go that’s not happening. However, it’s but the experience and the feelings I’m having are very real in, in the moment. How do you. I don’t know what the question there what do you think about that idea that what’s you’re only worried about the future, so it’s not real. Like it’s, it felt dismissive of me of no, but I’m actually having these feelings right now, even though I’m not dying and we’re not in a car accident right now. It’s still brings up real feelings and physical feelings and emotion.

Katie McKenna: I appreciate that you’re using a personal example because that sometimes makes it easier to talk about this kind of stuff. Otherwise, it just sounds like theory and intellectual to me it sounds like what you’re really having was a trauma response.

I don’t think I would’ve even labeled it anxiety. And trauma’s a hard thing to understand because it can be sometimes big and obvious you were in a car accident, but sometimes like negative childhood experiences, if that was your normal, you don. Not to label that trauma until much later, but in, in your case, it seems that our brain, when something dangerous happens, it is unable to like memory’s not very succinct or accurate, and things can get. I think of them that they don’t get filed away as in that happened in the past. And so for your brain, when it sees brake lights, it’s it really can be almost like it puts you back into that same thing is happening again. The accident’s happening now. That’s my understanding of essentially of like a.

Flashback and that kind of thing is your brain gets flooded with, this is happening now. So it is very real. And this is also why like traditional talk therapy really falls short because you can talk about it so you’re blue in the face and a little talking’s probably good, but really there’s all this other kind of concepts and interventions about how to work with your nervous system, your subconscious mind the part of our brain that. The magdala that like registers fear and all of that. So I would say it’s gotta be a lot more body based of working with the, those sensations that were happening to you and sometimes still happen to you. You can’t talk yourself out of it.

Carole Freeman: Okay. Yeah. And I, yeah, cuz that’s what I do now is you’re okay, you’re all right.

Techniques To Overcome Anxiety

Like just some soothing self-talk, but it’s still really prevalent. Almost nine. later. So let’s talk about that. What are some of the techniques that you use with your clients in, helping them? Again, manage sooth. Yeah. I

Katie McKenna: mean, you’re right that that part about, okay, I am fine, I am safe helping yourself know that you’re safe.

That, that’s an important tool to be able to do. And, it’s, it works somewhat, but what you’re saying, you’re like why is it still happening for me? That’s frustrating. It might even be painful. It’s yucky. To say the least my favorite intervention, honestly is things look related to EMDR.

There’s beginning research out there that things like EMDR can help our nervous system reprogrammed to the present moment. So the way I think of trauma and this does tie into anxiety because it’s all connected, is. . Ideally, at the end of the day, the brain when we’re sleeping is able to say, these are the things that happened, and it’s over. When we have continuous kind of flashbacks or emotions that don’t really go away, it’s almost like the brain saying I think this is still happening. I think this is still happening. And what we wanna be able to do is help the brain realize even if it was terrible, it is over. But again, we can’t say that to the brain.

There’s this process of being in a meditative state, being in the sensations while staying really present. And one of the things I talk about in. Oh, what’s that other I’m blanking on the other form of therapy that’s really body-based but like orienting to the room that, that kind of things that help your brain go, okay. Nope, this is, December 2nd, 2022. I’m safe in my body, but it’s not just the words, it’s about finding and resourcing safety inside and helping it to spread out. And it’s gotta be felt is, I guess what I’m saying, if you just say, I’m fine, I’m safe, but you don’t feel that way, it’s gonna fall short.

Koosh Balls for Soothing Anxiety

Carole Freeman: One of the tools that my therapist gave me she had one of those Koosh balls. Do you like? It was like a spiky, little, like soft ball, and I think she worked a lot with children, but it was really effective actually, so I would keep it. And I knew for my own training that if I even though it was so uncomfortable to be in a car to drive myself, and it was especially uncomfortable when somebody else was driving.

Yeah. I knew that if I avoided driving, it would just close my world down and it would make it worse. And so I forced myself as soon as I was able to drive again to get out there and drive as uncomfortable as it was. And then the Koosh ball was like a, Texture sensation thing that would bring me instead of being in the emotion or worry, right? Like touch, touching that little different textured thing would bring me into that, like into the present moment and almost a distraction a little bit. But also it was like a mindfulness centering thing. So that was a tool in the very beginning that really helped me. overcome the extreme version of what I experienced in the beginning.

Katie McKenna: Yeah. There’s even things like shaking the hands rubbing either kind of like playing like you’re running your feet or rubbing your feet on the floor can be really grounding, presenting things. There’s some interesting stuff with tapping as well, and even some there’s a lot of beginning research coming around, like they’re calling it poly-vagal.

Calming exercises that again, have to do with the eyes. So there’s some connection also with how our eyes are working when we’re dreaming on, and also when we are impacted by something traumatic that is like a shortcut to the nervous system. And honestly, there’s a lot of theories out there, but we don’t really know. There’s not a conclusive answer on why that’s worked, but it’s similar to EMDR or something called brain spotting. There’s some different things out there to explore.

Fidget Spinners for Anxiety

Carole Freeman: And perhaps those I don’t know what they’re called, but they’re pop it things like it’s a little plastic. Tray that you popped the little buttons in and out.

Do you know what I’m talking about? I don’t. Yeah. Oh, okay. They’re like me later. Cause fidget spinners were popular for a while where it was just like something to get you in this present moment. It’s of a texture thing or like a active thing. And then they also have all different shapes of it’s like a soft plastic again, different shapes and it’s like a little It’s of like a button, but you can pop it in and out. I don’t know what they’re called. Somebody who was watching this later, let us know what those are called. I think it’s the same concept. They didn’t have them nine years ago, but they have them now. And I see them as like a anxiety type of tool that just kind helps somebody come back into the present moment of doing something.

Textural and physical activity a little bit, a thumb physical activity.

Katie McKenna: Then, I think also some of these ideas about what an intervention is called for, it depends because when somebody’s moving more towards the extreme, where things are pretty heightened and nearing panic or in panic, the interventions there are gonna be different than if it’s just that medium level.

But that medium level, which I think a lot of people can relate. The idea of being able to close your eyes and actually just okay, what’s happening in my body? What am I noticing? And honestly, even inviting yourself to go towards what’s uncomfortable. The, people often talk about, like relaxing on vacation or something, and they’re like, oh I unwound and unwound again. So like we have some concepts around like layers of being able to go deeper. And so there’s some really interesting things that happen when we give ourselves this gift of our own attention by saying, all right, I’m really feeling this pit in my belly, or I’m really feeling. Heart racing and let’s say you’re anxiety on a scale of one to 10.

If you’re at a five, this is a good practice to be like, all right, I’m gonna just go sit with this sensation in my heart. And without any agenda, I’m just gonna be really curious about what is happening now. And oddly when we start to pay attention, it starts to shift. Like sometimes, sometimes it might feel a little worse, it might feel a little better. You might get some interesting, kind connect the dots ideas of oh, what’s really bothering me? X, Y, Z. And awareness and this kind of stems from a lot of Buddhist psychology also, that awareness itself does a lot of healing. And that’s why this whole idea of move towards lean in is part of the medicine.

Food Scarcity as a Child as an Anxiety Trigger

Carole Freeman: I’m reminded too of another example related to food that came up on a a group call with some of my clients the other day. We were talking about the like a lot, a similarities that we had in food scarcity growing up. Yeah. And how, weight loss and dieting can bring that up again.

And so for example maybe you lived in a household where there just wasn’t a lot of food readily available all the time. Or some deeper trauma. I experienced something where a babysitter was neglecting us in not making food for us because she was making out with her boyfriend, and we were too young to. Make anything for ourselves. And so these awarenesses of, food deprivation and being on a diet and not, calorie restriction and things like that, or things that I brought into my practice. So I don’t actually like to give my clients a calorie restriction, cuz I know for me personally, that was.

A trigger was that, okay I only get 1200 calories today, but I’ve eaten 1,150, I only have 50 calories left. Suddenly I was just o I was food obsessed. I was hungry. Absolutely. I was like, absolutely. I can’t get enough. And so it’s a big influence of why for my clients, I don’t give them a calorie limit. We focus on other things and then focus on. Feeling full and satisfied and getting your nutrient needs met rather than re restriction. And which is a feeling of anxiety, right? That comes up when you’re, I agree, running outta food and you’re not gonna have enough food. The other commonality that we talked about, in our group.

Was that how when there’s free food, and this also has to do, we’re recording this in December and the holidays are upon us and there’s gonna be a lot of events, right? Where there’s a buffet of food and there’s free food. And that also we talked about was a trigger for if it’s free, you wanna get as much as possible of it. And yeah, managing that. So what what tips do you have? For people around when those type of things come up.

Katie McKenna: Yeah, those are all really good points and things I, I talk about quite a bit with people. The food scarcity thing from diet mentality that comes around it. And that’s maybe if you start dieting as a teenager and adult, that could happen.

But part of what you’re saying with childhood, if you’ve got a mom that’s dieting and is then restricting the child’s food, that can create a lot of scarcity. It also creates, Sneaking it can lead to binging behaviors, that kind of thing. So the food scarcity and the, that anxiety of am I gonna get enough?

Often causes us to like overcompensate and so we eat too much because it’s I’ve gotta get it now and. So much to be said about the power of understanding that just like our body’s wired about emotions, we are wired to know when we’re hungry and when we’re full. So it’s not as simple as that because if you got all of the right amount of calories from orange juice, you’re actually still gonna get hunger cues cuz you need protein and fiber and things like that to make yourself feel full. But the idea of. Helping people get empowered with understanding their body’s cues about what hunger and full feel like, and one of my favorite phrases to say with people is I feed my body when I’m hungry, which also implies if I’m not hungry, then I wait. Because that’s the other half of what a lot of us are working with.

Like you said, the holidays we’re just inundated with the temptation and cravings and also emotional or boredom cues to want to eat. But this alignment of I feed my body when I’m hungry helps dissipate the food scarcity. Cause it’s yes, if my body’s hungry, I’m going to feed it. I think is just a really important mantra to repeat when somebody’s in that process of changing their relationship to food. I feed my body when I’m hungry.

Stock the Right Foods for Success

Carole Freeman: Yeah. Lovely. Lovely. Yeah. And, For one of the common things that seems to work for a lot of my clients too is that having plenty of go-to foods on hand in different situations.

So one of our peer support coaches, Rita shares often about how when she travels she will take, different meat sticks and yeah. Different things like that she knows she enjoys and , she’s been doing this for, two and a half years now, and she says she still like over packs when she goes because sh that calms her mind that it’s okay.I have plenty, , if I’m hungry, I will always have something to be able to go to. And she comes on with most of what she took. But that gives her that reassurance that she’s not gonna have to, eat something that she knows, won’t make her feel very well, because she’s always got plenty.

Katie McKenna: And it’s accessible. Yeah. So that’s important. There, there’s a lot of other nuances there about how other people feel about, you bringing snacks especially or to the holidays. There’s a lot of expectations sometimes of eat grandma’s favorite lasagna and it gets complicated.

There’s a lot of emotions that come up related to food and, that’s. I think about half of the work that I do with clients. I know that I really talk about the anxiety and the trauma work, but so much of it is how we relate to food in our bodies and navigate the emotional realms and honestly, other people’s emotions about food. Because, there’s this idea that if you’re coming home for the holidays, you’re supposed to eat X, Y, and Z, or this is what you ate last year. Why are you not eating it this year?

Carole Freeman: Oh, and I know for me that. walking into my mom’s house because it was always like about food. Suddenly I’m hungry as soon as I go to mom’s.

I want, and I want X, Y, and Z because that’s what I always ate when I went there. Yeah. I found myself gonna the cupboard in the fridge. It’s okay, you don’t need that right now. You’re okay. Let’s talk about the other side of this as well, because I know that from my cohort of. , the program that we did, which was the nutrition and psychology that we all felt really passionate. One of the reasons we wanted both those degrees is because we felt like we need to be able to have psychological tools to help us make healthy choices. And also we felt very strongly that our food choices influence our feelings and emotions and how well our brain and the rest of our body work. And it was interesting.

I don’t need to get into too much of the the people that were running the program didn’t really get that because they’d been trained on either psychology or nutrition, and there wasn’t a lot of unity or maybe a ton of research in both. This, going both ways, right? So let’s talk about, so definitely what’s going on in our mind can influence our food choices.

Which we mm-hmm. we’ve just been talking about. So let’s talk about the other side of that. About what is our food? How does our food influence anxiety and other emotions and

Katie McKenna: Yeah. That is such a fun topic and it’s true. I feel like you and I when we went to school, we were in the frontier of starting to even be with the research and in education about the.

That exists, that food affects your mood. And so there’s even so much more that’s come out in the last 10 to 15 years. For me personally, I am not like a really like the biochemist supplement focus of things because I do often, so often work with disordered eating and eating disorders.

That getting down to that nitty gritty part can get. triggering for people. . Whether or not to say like somebody specifically needs more glutamine or more B vitamins, like that’s not really my specialty. I come at it more from What are the stories that we have around food? So for example if you have decided that, I don’t know, ice cream is bad for you either because dairy’s bad for you, or because it’s too high fat or too sugary, and then you eat it and you feel guilty, how’s that affecting your mood? If you feel. Too full. And you’ve decided fullness is bad and that now you’re in shame or disgusted mood-wise about food. Is one of the ways I look at it, there are some real specifics that I think are generally accepted about the power of omega-3 fats. Having the right amount of healthy fats in our diet is a big component of mood regulation.

And even I think to be able to like make all those feel good chemicals. We really do need the right amount of omega3. S the funny thing is, more and more with research, like when they start to say, have more omega3 s we’re starting to find out you can’t just straight supplement that it’s gotta be the right proportion with the sixes and the nine s and the same thing, for example, with B vitamins or zinc.

You gotta make sure you have copper. , it helps really to, for me, just push people back towards a Whole Foods diet. Lots of colors, lots of vegetables, lots of fiber, plenty of protein. Because then we know they’re getting, not just the vitamin C from the supplement, but if they’re having an orange, they’re getting all the bio flavonoids and the other parts that come with it so that we can digest it and absorb it. Personally I think supplements are really useful in certain ways, but when it comes to mood regulation I really think about it more about understanding our Stories around food that the stories we’ve told ourselves and the way that for individuals to get really specific about how do I feel when I eat this way?

That’s often one of the mindfulness questions that I give people when they are. Working to change the relationship with food is to ask, am I hungry? If I eat this, how will I feel? And how will I feel either later today or tomorrow based on how I’ve eaten this so they can start to understand for them how foods make them feel. And I’ll include too while we’re at it, just because, I don’t know about you, but I think we could both talk about this till the cows come home. When we’re dealing with things like food sensitivities, food allergies, gastrointestinal issues, there’s a lot to decipher too about oh, am I gonna have stomach pains or am I gonna have some kind of need to run to the bathroom if I eat this?

So there’s a lot of checking in about food that way and how that also affects our mood. I have a client that was just recently saying she has to be so careful about what she eats. Of her intestinal issues. She doesn’t if she’s in public and has to run to the bathroom, that gives her so much anxiety. And so her food choices have gotten smaller and smaller. Cause she’s really scared about having intestinal issues out in public and not being able to find a bathroom. So there’s just so many ways that the food affects our moods.

Protein for Mood Stability

Carole Freeman: I’ll add in. Couple of things that I see the work that I do with my clients too.

Protein and then I’m gonna talk about keto. I wanted to say both of them. So I remember , I forgot to bring a pen into my podcast studio, so I normally like, we’ll take notes. So I’m like, so I’m like, here’s my own trick of, so I remember both of them. Protein and. . In general, we’re finding that we’ve been told to avoid protein for quite a while, and for my ladies especially, because like typically protein rich foods are stereotypical man foods, and so then women try to eat, a salad when they’re trying to lose weight and it’s very low protein.

I usually do baby steps to get my ladies to eat adequate protein, right? So we start out at 80 grams a day, which is still not enough for most of them. And they’re like, oh my gosh, this is so much protein. I’m like, wait till we double that. And one gram per lean of body mass, lean body mass weight pound, let’s see, one gram of protein.

Pound of lean body mass is a starting place. Proteins are made of amino acids. And amino acids actually are necessary for us to make all of our neuro chemicals in our brain. So if we’re undereating protein, our body just. , our brain can’t make all of the neurochemicals to make our brain work correctly. So this is one, one very important piece is getting adequate protein. . And the nice thing about that is that it, we were talking earlier about how food restrictions makes us. Hungrier for some people. And so for protein we get to have this free for all. Eat as much protein as you want, you wanna get at least this much.

And so we have research that shows in mice or rats. I don’t know which one they did, those cute little rodents where it increases GABA on the brain. So GABA is a neurotransmitter that is the, basically the opposite of anxiety feeling. So it’s the cool, it’s a chill, it’s all good, man. It’s that kind of chemical in our brain and. The clients that I’m working with at Introduction of Keto and typically, within a couple of months they will just notice that wow, I’m just so much more stress tolerant. My mood is so much more even keel. Like things that typically would’ve just set me off the rails. It’s like it’s not that big of a deal anymore.

So this is a researched effect that ketosis has on the brain and the body. And additionally typically people around them will. Begin to comment, right? So maybe the husband or spouse or the children like. , you’re just so much more common mal now you’re easier to get along with. And so this is the effects of, ketosis on the body and the brain. And likely there are like a thousand different mechanisms that are all happening that help promote that. Sense of calm and peace and wellbeing. Additionally, my clients all report too that, especially the way that I teach how to do keto with all the psychological stuff we’ve been talking about, is that it removes their food obsession.

How Blood Sugar Affects Mood

Yeah. And because they’re getting adequate nutrients, they’re getting proper satiety from proteins and fats and the right amount of vegetables, and they’re also. Even key of blood sugar. So one of the things that makes us food obsessed is when our blood sugar’s going up and down. And so they get that all of, all those many different benefits of, and it gives ’em so much more peace. So not only the neurochemical piece that they get from the GABA, but they just. A lot of that anxiety over will I get enough? I’m constantly hungry, and all that just really calms down and helps ’em have just improved quality of life overall. So I throw in those ways that I know that specifically keto, since this is a keto chat show Yeah.

Katie McKenna: I am not as educated on keto, so I super love what you’re sharing. And I had a client, we were doing a bit of family therapy. She’s an adult woman, and we were bringing in her mother. So two people. One was about 30, one was about 60 and doing a family therapy. And through the course of time, the person in her sixties actually went keto. And experience. I’m gonna say a drastic change in her personality. It was beautiful. And the, then the therapy work really shifted because her it’s just things really changed. She was less triggered, less stressed, more emotionally tolerant it, and so I just saw that firsthand. Over the summer I was working with those two

Carole Freeman: yeah. Yeah. And I like to think that keto. Doing something to our brain, especially the way that I teach it, it’s more moving back into eating the way that we’ve eaten for most of human existence. So while it’s called keto now, and that’s the popular term, it actually is just much more in alignment with the foods that have been available for.

200,000 years. And I talk about it being we’re drawing a line in the sand and we’re some people say oh, it’s restrictive, and that’s gonna make people more food obsessed. It’s we’re removing all the foods, so the highly processed sugar and car foods that , pretty much that’s the one thing that all nutrition experts agree. Those just aren’t healthy for us. Like they’re not doing as any favors. We’re removing those. We’re removing also, Fruits and vegetables that have been highly selectively bred over the last 40, 50 years that are really high in sugar. Yeah. But low in nutrients. So nobody’s, claiming that they’re the Red Delicious, not the Red Delicious.

What’s like the gala Apple or the Honey Crisp? Nobody’s claiming that has, 40% more vitamin C than previous versions of apples. They’re just really delicious and very sugary. . So we’re just drawing a line in the sand and we’re eating foods that are, the way that they’ve grown for a long time.

They’re nutrient rich and we’re avoiding the ones that are gonna Trigger cravings and blood sugar rollercoaster type of things too. That’s my little, so I don’t think, I feel like I’m just teaching people. We’re just going back ancestral to ancestral eating. Yes, it’s called keto right now, but it’s really not the goal. The goal isn’t to be in ketosis forever and, check your ketones and all that kind of stuff. It’s about quality of life. Yeah. Peace and moving away from anxiety actually and multiple different ways. And,

Katie McKenna: and like you said, finding what works. So when somebody comes to you and is following that keto process is and is experiencing many things including.

the gabapentin and that, that kind of, that calming effect and no longer being in that food scarcity place. Like once that you find what works for you. It’s no longer oh, I’m following a fat or a diet, or what some, anybody else is telling me. It’s, this is what nourishes me. Bo, body minded

Carole Freeman: spirit.Ah, yes. Yeah. Yes. So what kind of work are you doing now? I know we’re talking about you’re doing some classes and retreats and workshops, like what what different formats are available? People want some more help with the therapy side of. Anxiety. I’m in a

Katie McKenna: kinda creative spot. We’re trying a few different things.

Pre pandemic. I had just been starting to do some retreats and workshops and in some ways because I think the power and the wisdom that comes in groups is a really great thing to offer people. And we really enjoy those and by we so I’ve got my nutrition and mental health practice, but my husband is, A somatic executive coach, and he’s been working in the field he’s been coaching for maybe 15 or 18 years.So he’s been doing this quite a long time. We started sharing clients on occasion by just cross referrals and just finding that like they were so well supported, the kind of changes that they accelerated through was super fun and useful and real. And so we started specifically working together.

And Some things got put on hold during the pandemic and we’re just now bringing them back. What we’ve been doing lately is like once a month, free classes on Zoom. In some ways for me, just to get the practice of learning the technology and doing groups online and we’re, we don’t actually have anything.Set in Estonia, if we’re gonna do in-person work, what’s coming in January is probably gonna be every other Wednesdays at 10 30, where it’s gonna be roving topics. So we might start off with it in general, how to redefine anxiety, like that idea of leaning in towards your sensations.

But we’re gonna let each group kinda lead to the next topic, like bridge from one to the next. But literally that’s just in the works right now. The, every other Wednesday, starting in January. We do have to have a class happening this afternoon. Ok.

Carole Freeman: But that’s what’s your, what’s the website that people can find out more information?

I’ll make a banner and put it on the screen here. Oh, sure.

Katie McKenna: We call ourselves the anxiety experts, so it’s. The anxietyexperts.com. The point here is we do talk about anxiety quite a lot, but when we mean the anxiety experts is we’re really educating people to be the experts in their own bodies.

Carole Freeman: Okay. Anxiety, the anxiety experts do got it. And if you’re listening or watching to this in the future, then you can check it out and there may be some more offerings there on their website for classes and workshops and maybe some virtual or in-person retreats.

Katie McKenna: We’ll have a whole mix.

I think it’s. It’s fun for me professionally over time to just create diversity in the kind of work I do. And that’s a mix of sometimes one-on-one and sometimes groups. And it’s just, this is what I love to do. So we keep mixing it up and the offer keeps changing and , the world’s just changed so much now with our ability to also go larger with our audiences.Our Department of Health licenses require us, if we’re working as a therapist or a nutritionist to only work in the states that we’re licensed. But in the field of coaching, you have got ways to there. There’s not that limitation and so there’s just, there’s a lot of changes afoot.

Carole Freeman: Yeah, the world changed a lot in a lot of ways in the last couple of years.

Yep. Yeah. Alright. Katie, was there anything else you were hoping I would ask about or that you’d like to share as we wrap this up?


Katie McKenna: think if we just, if I talk about what’s really most important to me as this idea that our bodies are designed really intelligently our immune system, even if you just got a scrape on your finger, there’s the subconscious mind that runs in immune system knows how to.

your hand. You don’t have to think Heel, heel heal . And we also have that, I like to think of, we do have a mental health immune system and part of what really accesses that is awareness. When we become aware of I’m hurt or I’m sad, or I’m wistful, getting into that literacy piece.So understanding that. Wired to have emotions that they bring us information about our lives. To me, I think about it as g p s, just because something hurts doesn’t mean we, we shouldn’t go there, but it is really good mapping our sonar for following what’s right for us.

And in fact I’ve got a, a client who’s trying to decide whether or not to take a job. And so we’re really like working on articulating what do I want? Because you can do all the pros and cons. , but being able to feel yourself on the inside is that little nuanced parts about how our emotions really do help guide us.And so the more we can learn to be with the things that are uncomfortable, including anxiety, it just, it brings a lot more rich information that helps us guide our own lives. And it’s really powerful to tap into these sensations that are part of us, and they’re there for a reason.

Carole Freeman: Love it. I love that reframe of not only like the pros and the cons, cuz sometimes that doesn’t make it clear, but what do you want, what do you really want your life to look like?

Yeah. Wonderful. Thank you Katie for being here today. This special episode.  I’ll be live again next week, Thursday, whatever the date is. I don’t know. I should had that calendar up for you all. But if you liked what you heard today and you’d like to get some more personalized support with keto, if perhaps anxiety is overwhelming for you and you wanna get help with the nutrition side of things I’m here for that.If you’re, let’s see. So I’m gonna put my website up here. Sound like I’ve never done this before. , . So I do work very closely with my clients in getting keto. Like I’ve talked with Katie today about how it’s personalized for you. There’s no one size fits all approach, and it’s about what works. For you for long term and helping you bring that quality of life.

And so I work very closely with my clients. I only open up 10 client spots per month, and therefore I work with people by application to make sure it’s the best fit on both sides. So visit my website, keto Carole.com. Carole has an E on the end. It’s. The very fancy French spelling of Carole. If you’d like to see, you can read my story there too.I do talk about, I mentioned in this episode of the car accident that I was in. You can read my story on my website if you just wanna learn more. And so go to KetoCarole.com and thank you again to Katie for being here and We always close the show by saying if you enjoyed this, share it with somebody else.

And remember, if you help us grow the show, we’ll help you shrink , and thank you for being here. Katie. I’m gonna put your website up here one more time here. The anx, the anxiety experts.com. Thank you for being here, Katie. Thank you everyone.

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