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Ebony S. Muhammad (EM): It’s very difficult to open up about our trials and talk about them without feeling ashamed. I really commend you and what you are doing as a life coach with your company The Journey To A Better YOU.
How did you get into being a life coach? Most people are familiar with you by way of American Idol. How did The Journey To A Better YOU come about?
Kimberley Locke (KL): The Journey To A Better YOU came about in many different ways. I think as we go through our lives and find our own personal journey, things fall into place, and we really don’t know that they’re falling into place. That is the beauty of God and the whole orchestration of life. When we think we’re headed in one direction there’s really something else planned for us.
Immediately after American Idol I lost weight. I started out as a Lane Bryant model, which is plus size. Immediately after doing that I started Celebrity Fit Club, Jenny Craig and I lost weight. That was great, fine, well and good. When I was with Lane Bryant I traveled across the country and did a lot of meet and greets at the store. People knew me as a singer, but they also knew me as a real woman with a real body and they can relate to me. I never forgot that experience even after I lost weight. I learned so much about myself, from Lane Bryant to now, and that’s how The Journey To A Better YOU came to be.
I wanted to help other women on their personal journey to self-discovery and help them really understand themselves. I believe a lot of us just don’t know ourselves at all, including myself more so at one point in my life than now. I was just going through my life thinking that things were happening to me, allowing things to happen to me, feeling like I didn’t have any control or power over it. That’s what The Journey To A Better YOU is. I know for a fact that people don’t wake up in the morning saying, “I want to be overweight” or “I want to be unhealthy”. They don’t say it on a conscious level, but somewhere on a subconscious level they don’t feel worthy, they don’t feel loved and most importantly they don’t feel supported. They don’t feel like they can do it or that they can change their lives. That’s what The Journey To A Better YOU is really about.
Sure there’s the external or physical regarding losing the weight and being healthy, but it really is about mind, body and spirit. It’s about healing all of the parts of yourself. I believe that people lose weight but they really don’t keep it off unless they heal themselves on the inside, emotionally.
EM: Thank you. That’s beautiful, because I think that a lot of defeat comes into play when people only consider the external. They work out really hard or do the crash diet, yet they don’t get to the root of what’s causing the appetite, that emotional appetite and being able to curb that.
KL: Yes, and I’m going to say that most of the diets and regimens out there don’t deal with what’s going on inside. They only deal with the food and the exercise. We all know that. I have so many clients of mine that say, “I know what to do, I just don’t do it”. Well let’s get to why you don’t do it. Let’s get to why you don’t love yourself enough to do it or think highly enough of yourself to do it and to take care of yourself. I think that a lot of people don’t want to get into that stuff, because it’s painful so they continue to, as I like to say, reinjure themselves by continuing in that same cycle and never breaking the cycle. You see that in the world today. That cycle exists all around us.
EM: Yes ma’am. I would like to mention a quote from your website where you say, “Weight loss is directly connected to your emotional relationship with yourself”. That is a very profound statement, because as you shared before we’re disconnecting the two; the physical from the spiritual as well as the emotional. With anything, whether it be weight loss or any kind of struggle we’re striving to overcome, what you’re saying is our ability to do that is directly connected to how we feel about ourselves and our relationship with ourselves.
How did you come to discover that? What was that moment like when that particular quote manifested itself to you? How did you come to discover that relationship?
KL: One of the pivotal moments in my life was that I was dating a guy and he was in therapy. I had never been to therapy, and we were starting to get serious. He picked me up one night, and literally our Friday night date was at the therapist’s office. He had some things he wanted to share with me, but he wasn’t sure that he could articulate them well enough on his own. He was emotionally intelligent enough to say, “I need some help with this”. We went to his therapist, and the best thing that came out of that relationship is that she’s still my therapist to this day, even though I’m not with that guy. She’s been my therapist now for probably nine years. This is where I really started to understand myself. I remember having an epiphany in her office saying, “I have got to tell other people what I know”. This is how I came to that statement that weight loss is directly related to our emotional relationship with ourselves. We have all kinds of emotional connections to things that we don’t even acknowledge. We go through life thinking that this is just the way it is. We only look at it on the surface, and it’s not until you get below the surface and find out why you do what you do then you never really get to know yourself. You only think you do.
The biggest epiphany for me was that I lived in fear for a great period of my life; complete, total, utter fear. People wouldn’t believe that about me, but because I’ve worked through it I can say it out loud. I would have never said it to anybody nine years ago. Yet, because of things that happened in my childhood and things that happened to me as I was growing up, the way I learned how to cope as a child, I lived in a lot of fear. Facing that fear is one of the most unpleasant things I probably had to do in my entire life, but if I wanted to grow and keep growing I had to face it.
EM: I really want to commend you for even mentioning that you’re in therapy, because from the Turning Wounds Into Wisdom event Hurt2Healing recently hosted, just about all three of the featured speakers said that they were in therapy at one point or another. I don’t know if you’ve ever read the book, Black Pain: It Only Looks Like We’re Not Hurting, by Terrie Williams where she goes into detail about how there is such a stigma within our community about therapy and counseling.
In your words and with your experience, and I don’t know if that was ever a barrier for you, but how would you encourage others who may be thinking about seeking therapy but are just a little timid and unsure about it?
KL: I would say this, people have reservations about therapy. I am not exaggerating, but there have been times when I’ve gone into my therapist’s office and asked her not to talk but just to listen to me, because I just need to say what I need to say. I just need to be heard. She does that. Being there to provide me with whatever I need for support. I think for those of us, especially in the Black community when we grow up with the lack of support whether it be an infrastructure of family support, friend support or business support; when you grow up without that support you don’t know how to let it into your life. Therefore it’s hard to believe that somebody who is not connected to you could care enough to sit down and actually hear you without judgment, with love and compassion.
That’s another thing with The Journey To A Better YOU – with love, compassion and non-judgment – those are my three approaches. That’s what therapy should be. The moment you go to therapy and you feel like you’re being judged, you need to find a new therapist. That’s first and foremost. I recommend to anybody if you’re thinking about going into therapy, go interview three therapists. That is your privilege, that is your right. Interview and go with who you feel comfortable with. Trust your instinct, trust your gut. I would say in my opinion Ebony, everybody should be in therapy. Everybody should have a therapist. I’m actually driving to my therapist right now, I kid you not. It’s such a beautiful outlet to have that repore with one person that you can connect with, that you can share with, to be vulnerable with. Those are all major issues with our community; sharing, being comfortable and being vulnerable. I think vulnerable, regardless of your race or ethnicity, is just a human issue. It’s very difficult especially when we live in such a judgmental world where everybody is being judged on every term. I would say to anybody who is thinking about going to therapy is that you lose nothing by giving it a shot. Is it easy? No. There have been times where I’ve left my therapist and said to her, “I don’t think I’m coming back”. Yet, after I leave and I come home and I process and I digest it all, I realize that whatever she did to ruffle my feathers, it made me start thinking down and different path. It was good for me.
EM: Yes ma’am. Thank you for sharing that. You actually went right into my next question in regards to the compassion, the non-judgment and the love and that being a very important approach to anything when striving to overcome difficulty especially when facing yourself let alone someone else. I think it can be difficult when you have that inner-critic that is so much louder than that compassionate side.
How do you assist people to be compassionate to themselves, to be non-judgmental to themselves and how to love themselves?
KL: What’s so interesting is that we’re so quick to love others before we love ourselves. That is one of my main focal points. When I work with my clients I typically work with them in their homes or I have clients that I work with via Skype. One of the things is always pointing out the truth versus the lie, because we go through our daily lives telling ourselves lies every day. Whether it’s “You’re not good enough”, “You didn’t try hard enough”, “You’re not pretty enough”, “You’re not skinny enough”, or whatever it is. Whatever that lie is I try to help my clients to become conscious at what they’re saying to themselves on a daily basis. Once they realize it they say, “Oh my God, I didn’t even realize that that’s what I’m saying to myself”, or “I didn’t even realize that I did that”. It’s very eye-opening and now they become aware of it and they’ll say to me, “I caught myself like three or four times saying that to myself and can’t believe that I talk to myself that way”. We just become so conditioned to the wrong things, unfortunately, but the biggest piece of it is that you didn’t get that way overnight. Somewhere many, many years ago probably during your childhood somebody planted that seed and it took root and it grew without you really knowing it. That’s why I’m a big advocate of we have to be careful of what we say to ourselves just as much as we have to be careful of what we say to each other. Before you know it you have a lot of unconscious negative thoughts floating around in your head that you don’t even know how they got there.
EM: You just reminded me of a quote that I read, I think it was on Twitter, where it said, “Our thoughts can be the biggest liars”.
KL: Yes! It is so true. I don’t have any children, but I have nieces and nephews and I try to be very conscious of what I plant in their mind, what I say to them. Sometimes you never know what you’re going to say that they’re going to latch onto and start to believe. They can latch onto a positive thought just like that can a negative thought. I think that a lot of people, when they hear stuff over and over again, start to embody it and they start to live it out. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy; again good or bad.
EM: They’re like negative affirmations.
KL: Right! Who wants a negative affirmation? (laughs)
EM: Not me! (laughs)
KL: Nobody! (laughs)
EM: Right, and I definitely agree that those things can be very subconscious and we don’t realize we have these thoughts. When we come into contact with certain people it’s how their energy can affect us and cause us to feel a certain way and we wonder, “Why do I all of a sudden feel so down when just an hour ago I was excited?” I know whenever I encounter that I’ll ask myself, “What did I eat? What did I watch? What did I listen to? Who did I come across?” I do this whole inventory of what happened that day.
KL: That’s great! I do that with my clients. When they tell me something happened or they “fell off of the wagon” I ask them to retrace their steps for at least the past 72 hours; what did they eat, who did they make contact with, where were they? People, places and things. We get so comfortable in a lot of areas in our lives and another area that we get comfortable with are the people in our lives. Really take that inventory of the people in your life, because some of the people in your life are for a reason, some people are there for a season and other people are there for a lifetime. You have to know when their season or reason has expired. That’s very important because we’re all on a path, we’re all at different points on the path and some are moving a little faster than others and some are moving slower. That’s the beauty of life and how we’re all connected at different points in our lives. When you’re like, “Oh I used to be so in touch with this person, now we really don’t talk that much”. Well that’s because of the way life works where maybe that person was only meant to be in your life at that particular point. However, a lot of people want to hang on to people, places and things when they’ve outgrown them.
EM: That’s a very powerful point when you can understand that you’ve outgrown a person, place or thing. I think you become very uncomfortable.
KL: Yes because it forces you out of your comfort zone.
EM: Yes ma’am.
The next thing I would like to talk to you about are emotional triggers. I think that is so important especially when dealing with overcoming a struggle. You speak about people “falling off of the wagon”, but what was it that caused that?
How are you able to help people to identify those triggers and help them to defuse them in a healthy way when it comes to weight loss or anything in life?
KL: With love, compassion and non-judgment. People fear judgment more than anything. I’ve had my clients lie to me! They’re like, “…because I didn’t want to tell you that I did this.” I’m like, “It’s okay”. Nobody’s perfect. We’re not perfect. People fear judgment more than anything, so they would rather not address it at all. My job is to build a relationship with my client. The only thing I require of my clients is honesty. They have to be honest otherwise I can’t help them. If I’m blaming and shaming and judging them, they’re not going to open up to me. They’re not going to share with me, and they’re not going to be able to work through.
My job is to help them understand that it’s a journey and not a sprint, and that along the way you will get distracted. I guarantee you will get off path, but once you have the necessary tools to get back on track and not “throw the baby out with the bath water” because you got off track once, that’s what makes you successful. No matter what you’re doing, whether it’s weight loss or starting a new business or starting a new relationship. One mistake doesn’t negate all the other work that you’ve done and it’s a learning moment in the process. You learn from that and you move on from that, and the beautiful thing is knowing that you can move on from it. Some people get stuck.
My job is to be a cheerleader. (laughs) I always joke with my clients telling them I’ve got my pom poms out. (laughs)
EM: I know that’s right! (laughs)
KL: I want them to succeed. Believe it or not more people than not have ever had a true cheerleader in their life.
EM: Right, yes ma’am. Beautifully said!
With those emotional triggers, what was it like for you as it relates to you overcoming certain difficulties in your life? How were you able to identify some of your emotional triggers?
KL: Paying close attention. Emotional triggers are everywhere. It could be a smell, it could be a tree, it could be a flower, it could be a person’s voice or it could be a food. It could be anything. It could be a song on the radio. When you don’t know your triggers, they catch you off guard. When you know them then you can mitigate the impact of how they’re going to affect you.
I always recommend that everybody should write and journal. Log your feelings during the day, especially when you’re on a weight loss journey it’s very important to write how you feel, not just what you eat. How you feel and what you’re feeling like and what you were feeling before you ate that bucket of ice cream and how you felt after eating that bucket of ice cream. Most of the time it’s not about the ice cream. That loser guy that you dated, it’s not about him. It’s about something going on inside. For me, I did a lot of writing and I got really honest, painfully honest with myself. It’s that type of honesty that changes your life for the better, because everybody has a story. Some people’s stories are better than others and some people’s are worse than others. At the end of the day nobody really knows your story better than you. I know that nobody knows my story better than me.
When I have these moments of self-sabotage, I have to sit down and process it and ask, “Why did I do this and why did I think that it would be different, because I’ve already been down this road before”. That applies to anything; food, relationships, anything. It’s that brutal honesty and identifying and then connecting it back to moments. I did a lot of connecting to my childhood and that was very helpful for me. I understand how I’ve developed these coping mechanisms as a child that no longer work for me as an adult. That takes a lot of honesty.
EM: Very powerful and so true.
My last question is about your show “Cooking with Kimberley”. Like I said at the beginning, I was so excited watching it! How did the cooking show begin? In regard to the relationship with the emotional aspect, have you found that what you’re eating and what you’re instructing your viewers to eat has a direct affect on their emotional well-being?
KL: Once I did Jenny Craig, eating out of a box, I lost weight and I remember thinking, “I can’t eat out of a box for the rest of my life” (laughs) and I love food. Therefore, what I started doing was getting into the kitchen more, cooking more and I started to love it. It really made me happy, and I loved experimenting with different foods and I grew up in the South. What I found was that my pallet was very limited as far as what I was eating, the foods that I was familiar with. I began to explore the world of food and I started cooking. It all goes back to wanting to help other people to not be intimidated by going into the kitchen and cooking and to develop a healthy relationship with food. You’ve got to know your food. It’s one thing to order food off of a menu and make a healthy choice. It’s another thing to be in your kitchen preparing that food and saying, “You know what I’m going to use a little bit less of this because I know it’s good for me if I use less, and I’m going to add more vegetables”. That’s like hands-on experience of really taking responsibility and being accountable for what you’re putting in your body.
Through that process I started to read a lot about food and the affects food has on your body. I kept a log of what I ate and my weight and how food affected my weight. I learned that my body does not like a lot of carbohydrates. If I want to blow up and put on ten pounds overnight, all I have to do is sit down and eat some carbs, like pasta. It makes me feel bad. Therefore, I started reading about all of the negative affects sugar has on our body, and you know I felt so deprived wondering why are we not learning about this in school. Why don’t people know about this? Then, as I started going back and forth from Nashville to California I realized, geographically, I was at such a better advantage food-wise living in California. If I went home to Tennessee I’d have to go to two and three supermarkets just to get all of my fruits and vegetables. Just understanding the difference from neighborhood to neighborhood and how the grocery stores are stocked, that was eye-opening for me.
Growing up with a single parent I understand it was cheaper for my mom to feed me canned food and packaged food than to feed me whole foods. “Cooking with Kimberley” is like a bridge between my desire to educate people and help people lose weight. “Cooking with Kimberley” is right there in the middle, because I try to make it fun, I try to make it simple and I try to slowly introduce things to people, because that’s how I changed my life.
There are things I don’t even eat anymore, which is hilarious. I grew up as a junk food baby. I grew up eating chips and drinking soda. I thought I would never be able to stop drinking sodas. I could eat a whole bag of potato chips without even blinking an eye. I don’t eat chips anymore, I don’t even crave them. “Cooking with Kimberley” is a fun way for me to introduce some fun recipes, give people some alternatives. I’m not a follow the recipe type of person, so I encourage people to take my recipes and doctor it up if they need to. They can make it what they want it or need it to be so that they can enjoy it.
EM: I agree that your show is very fun and easy. I was watching it and saying to myself, “Oh wow I’ve got all of that in my pantry!” (laughs) It’s not anything that one would have to go on a scavenger hunt for, and I think people will really appreciate that.
KL: (laughs) Exactly. Sometimes we can be so intimated by trying new things and say, “Oh, I’ll just eat what I always eat”. Yet, it doesn’t work. I believe that we can make little changes every day, not try to overhaul our diet all at once, but make little changes every day and it makes a huge impact on our day-to-day lives.
EM: When we tend to crave something that it’s due to an emotional dilemma. What are your thoughts about that?
KL: Absolutely! You know what my connection to potato chips was? My dad used to pick me up every day from the babysitter’s and he would buy me a chocolate Yoohoo and a bag of potato chips. My relationship with my father is not as strong as I would like for it to be, but that’s one of the few positive moments that I had with him. It kind of took me to my happy place. I think that there’s a lot of those connections. If you can’t identify the trigger then you can’t change it.
EM: Beautiful! Thank you so much for your time and sharing your experiences! It was a pleasure and I learned so much from you and about you that I deeply appreciate. I love your spirit and all of the good work you are doing. By you sharing all that you’ve overcome makes it a lot easier for those who are still struggling and that is honorable and inspiring.
KL: Thank you so much! I really appreciate that. I’m glad that I came across your magazine, and I’ll continue to follow you. Much success to you!
EM: Thank you very much! Likewise Sis!
You are welcome to follow Kimberley Locke on Twitter @KimberleyLocke as well as visit her online at The Journey to A Better You , Cooking with Kimberley as well as the official website for Kimberley Locke.