Hi, I’m Karlee!

 

My story starts on a farm near Des Moines, Iowa. I grew up with beef cattle, corn, and soybeans on the outskirts of town with the city just 10 minutes away. It was a real Hannah Montana situation: the best of both worlds! My days were spent taking walks in the pasture, fishing in our pond, coercing my annoying little brother to play dress-up with me, climbing over dusty barn rafters to find the latest batch of newborn kittens, eating popsicles from the swing set in the front yard, and pretending I was Pocahontas. I knew that I had a body, and I knew that it helped me do fun things.

 

I managed to escape childhood fairly unscathed by diet culture, but like most American adolescent girls who grow up learning “thinner is better,” bodies are meant to be criticized and judged, and food is a means of control in an unpredictable world, I developed a very disordered relationship with food in my teens. Despite being very active with sports, extracurriculars, and my 4-H club, I never felt it was enough. My two best friends and I would sit in a stairwell during lunch, claiming that we “hated school lunch” but really just hiding our measly one apple apiece from our classmates and ignoring our grumbling stomachs. Food was the enemy, and we couldn’t let it win.

When I graduated high school, I was so fixated on counting calories, burning calories, and reading food labels that when I heard about dietitians I knew that’s where I belonged. Finally, a place where I could make a definitive list of good and bad foods, be publically congratulated on my health, and most importantly… lose weight. After all, that’s all that dietitians do – help people lose weight, right? I would have all the answers, and I’d finally have the perfect body.

After not learning the key to weight loss and instead gaining ten pounds my freshman year, I discovered I could take a class to become a group fitness instructor. Aha! This… this was the answer to my weight issue. We were told as instructors to dress appropriately (no butts or boobs hanging out, ladies), but the underlying tone was also that we must look the part physically. While I had always enjoyed public speaking and leading fitness classes, it became hard for me to be the center of attention without being painfully aware of the way my thighs jiggled or stomach peeked out from over my shorts. Instead of putting on a different shirt, or god forbid buy new clothes, I would just avoid eating before I taught. It didn’t matter that my body was functioning properly, or that I had zero health issues, or that my weight actually fell within the average for women my age. Watching the steps climb on my Fitbit while I burned off more than I had eaten each morning felt good. Of course it was never good enough, I was never thin enough, so I chased the feeling by relapsing and restarting diets again and againThis endless cycle of restriction and over-exercising, followed closely by binge-eating and self-hatred lasted for five years.

 

When it finally came time for graduation from my dietetic internship, I had been trained to feel ashamed at the thought of being an “overweight” dietitian, but what I was truly disturbed by was the idea of becoming a dietitian while actively struggling with disordered eating. I wanted to heal myself, but couldn’t bring myself to own up to my struggles with food and exercise. It wasn’t until I shadowed an eating disorder (ED) dietitian in the last week of my internship that things clicked into place. I remember feeling shocked to hear her say she didn’t allow clients to use calorie or fitness trackers because they encourage ED thoughts. But isn’t my Fitbit helping me be healthier? How will I know what to eat if I can’t keep a running tally of calories? I remember laying on my bedroom floor that night, willing myself to make a move on the only things left I was afraid to restrict – my trackers.

Coincidentally, my monthly gym membership was expiring, and I dared to think What if I just don’t renew it? The day my membership expired, I deleted my calorie tracking app and hid my Fitbit in the closet. For the first time in five years, I felt naked and exposed and I hated it. What the f*ck am I supposed to do now? I convinced myself I was “temporarily taking a break” from exercise, but desperate for rules, I vowed to take daily walks and continue eating my safe foods. The self-imposed break lasted maybe four days. I drove to the gym, intending to buy a day pass. As I pulled into the lot, I noticed the yoga studio next door – the one I had always driven past (because yoga wasn’t a workout, duh) – and paused. I went in, signed up for my free first week… and never went back to the gym. I enrolled in their work-study program, where I cleaned the studio for a few hours each week in exchange for a free membership. I relished the work and the sweat, but I also learned to love the stillness and the quiet. I learned that I could actually listen to my body and its needs, and I gradually started to trust myself again.

After passing my Registered Dietitian exam that same summer, I took a girls trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming with a few of my close friends. One of our hikes ended at a hidden lake and several strangers jumping from a 40 foot cliff into the water. I remember being terrified, at a physical and metaphorical crossroads in my life where I could either choose to stay or to leap. I chose to leap. My friend captured my jump back into my own life, which I appropriately titled “Moving Forward Fearlessly.”

Fast forward one year later, and I was celebrating my first anniversary free from disordered eating and exercise while halfway done with my 200-hour yoga teacher training. Combining the benefits of yoga and meditation with my background in nutrition was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I strive to help others on their own path to intentional and mindful living. My life’s mission is to assist you in the journey to feeling comfortable and confident in the body you have right now, not waiting to be a certain size to start living your life with joy, and starting to feel at home within your body, mind, and spirit.

I currently live in Aurora, Colorado with my dog baby, Cora. When I’m not teaching yoga or working with clients, we love trying new foods and restaurants, taking yoga classes, reading new books (or re-reading the Harry Potter series), playing fetch, eating donuts, hiking, biking, kayaking, and camping with friends and family! I’m passionate about anything involving the outdoors, laughter, good food, and good people! If you’d like to check out my class schedule and upcoming events, please follow me on social media or 

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