This article was first seen on the Huffington Post. For this installment, we are joined by Kendall Westbrook.
Let’s start off with a general introduction. How would you describe yourself, what are you all about and how did you get involved in health and fitness?
I’m a 23 year old with a corporate job and a deep-seated love for everything involving people. I can talk circles around anyone, and I’m always a ball of energy. I got started in fitness with Zumba classes, but after an injury in college, I ended up facing a lot of body image issues and developed an eating disorder.
Clawing my way out of that eating disorder (and the relapses since) taught me the importance of true self-love and proper education on health & fitness – and in turn, I now try to preach just that.
Where does your motivation come from?
My motivation comes from the ability that I have to affect people. Whether it’s one person or one hundred – someone often needs to hear what you have to say. I want to be the best version of myself so that I am most able to help others become their best selves – whether that’s in fitness or in life.
As you decided to make a career out of your passion – what were your biggest stumbling blocks along the way?
I really had no idea that my Instagram would become anything of value when I began. I think the worst thing I ever did for myself and my brand was to hide pieces and parts of my life in the interest of success, attempt to impress, or pursuit of sponsorships. People will always see through the fake stuff in the end. The more that I shared my true self – the good and the bad – the greater an impact I was able to make.
What’s your perspective on the importance of self-care?
Self-care is everything. I talk about it so often because it’s something that I didn’t understand until the last year or so of my life. There is nothing shameful in making decisions to better your life. There is nothing shameful in staying in on a Friday night to color and relax because you have anxiety.
There is nothing shameful about seeing a therapist because you can’t (and shouldn’t have to) handle everything life throws at you on your own. Being unable to take care of yourself affects you in so many ways, and people don’t realize it until they come crashing down.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about women lifting weight?
Obviously, some people still think lifting weights makes women look “bulky” or gain weight. Women worry that they need to only use light weight or body weight exercises, without understanding how weight lifting can shape your body as you choose.
Many young women who want to lose weight believe that not eating is the way to do it, without realising the consequences of that kind of behavior.
Why do you think this is and what’s your perspective on educating society on healthy nutrition habits?
This is due to so many variables – and I honestly have no idea how so many girls got it in their heads originally that starving themselves would make them feel and look better. We’ve downplayed anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating so much as a society that I think many young girls simply don’t understand how damaging that can be, both mentally and physically. At the same time, we’ve demonized mental illness so much that I worry young girls that recognize they have these issues are unwilling or afraid to come forward and seek help.
While I think it’s great to empower women by teaching them proper dieting habits, I would advocate even more for teaching women how to eat what they love in moderation. “Clean eating” is overkill and restrictive, but macro tracking can be overwhelming and restrictive as well. Anything is dangerous if you take it too far. You have to give people tools that they can use in everyday life – not just when they have access to a food scale or nutrient-dense foods.
What are the most unexpected lessons you’ve learned on your health and fitness journey this far?
I think the most unexpected thing I’ve learned was that I can make a difference – and I don’t have to be lean to do it. By letting go of the concept of being a “perfect body” or a “perfect page” – I’ve allowed myself to connect with others on a very deep level. I want to be relatable and seem relatable because that’s truly who I am, not just because that’s who I portray. I’ve learned how to properly value myself, that patience pays off, and that you can meet the most incredible people through an Instagram page you never expected anyone to see.
What do you do to maintain balance in your life?
I can’t say that my life is always balanced by any means! I’ve dealt with a lot of personal things in the last few months – so right now my focus is just to do what is best for my overall health. You have to do what’s best for you in the moment.
Sometimes it can be going to the gym, sometimes it isn’t. I haven’t been to the gym in a few weeks, but I’ve been able to do a lot of work for “She Matters” and take care of myself more, so that’s what’s best at this time. I don’t know anyone who truly has balance; we’re all just searching for a way to do what’s right and what’s best.
How do you stay productive?
Honestly – if you’re passionate, you’ll be productive. The reason I don’t have a very active YouTube channel is because I’m not passionate about filming my everyday life. The reason “She Matters” has taken off is because I’m so passionate that I spend every free moment working on it. Find the things you truly love and enjoy – and you’ll be productive naturally.
If you could only choose one thing, what would you tell your younger self?
It’s okay to ask for help. Asking for help does not make you weak. Admitting you’re struggling or that you need some guidance is not a sign of weakness.
Can you give a breakdown of your current diet, training and supplementation regimen and the thinking behind it?
I don’t have a strict regimen! I’m focused on spending time cooking at home and getting in more nutrient-dense foods, minimizing caffeine intake, and getting in proper nutrients from multivitamins, probiotics, and supplements to help me deal with anxiety.
It’s essentially “Intuitive Eating” – which is simply eating based on your body’s hunger cues. I’m not training often right now, so when I go to the gym, I focus on hitting legs with compound lifts to try to maintain some strength.
I’ve gone through a strict prep where I was in the gym 6x a week, twice a day, tracking every macro, and that’s what worked for me then. I’ve skipped the gym for months. It’s just about what you need at that time.
What are your biggest life goals for the year?
My full focus for 2017 will be launching the She Matters Movement. This is a movement I started that will become a not-for-profit organization in 2017 dedicated to helping women understand their value and providing programs for high school girls to help them understand and prevent depression, anxiety, and issues with body image and eating disorders. Founding this movement truly felt like I was finding my calling – this is what I am meant to do for the rest of my life, so I’ll be focused on growing #SheMatters!
Where can people go to learn more about you online?