021. Redesigning Wellness by Knowing Yourself with Jen Arnold

The Do a Day Podcast

Jen ArnoldJen Arnold is host of the Redesigning Wellness podcast where she interviews experts on the topic of organizational health. Jen’s on a mission to change the common approach to employee health and wellness. To support this mission, she facilitates employee training that addresses leadership, resilience and mindfulness.

For the 16 years prior to starting her own business, Jen led organizational health and wellness efforts and advised employers how to start them. Most recently, she worked at Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC for over 8 years leading a team of health promotion professionals.

Jen Arnold is a TEDx speaker who uses stories, activities and humor to not only make a point but to keep audiences engaged and listening. She lives in Raleigh, NC with her husband, two children and dog.

Key Points from the Episode with Jen Arnold

  • Jen Arnold’s story in childhood following her parents’ divorce when she was six, and she grew up with a mother who battled binge eating habits. Sometimes that meant eating a lot of healthy things, having a lot of unhealthy things around, or sometimes having no food around because it was all eaten or because the means weren’t there for there to be enough food. This has lead to a sense of food scarcity, so even today she looks to savor and save her food because of the wiring that tells her that it could all be gone in the next moment.
  • She described her mother’s situation as “eating her pain,” which is a phrase that really struck home for me as someone who has battled with emotional eating in my past.
  • Jen grew up extremely aware of her body and what she ate, and found herself embarrassed by her weight and body composition since she had a more muscular build than other girls, so she naturally weighed more and was bigger, even though she wasn’t overweight for her structure. She shared a particular story from her childhood, growing up own the deep, hot South where she would wear jeans every day to hide her calves, which were bigger and more muscular than other girls’ because she didn’t want people to notice them.
  • Sometimes, we are the meanest to the people we are closest to, and we may not put the work and introspection in to have empathy and compassion for those closest to us. That includes not just our immediate family, but even ourselves. Instead of judging the person, recognize the ‘stuff’ behind the actions or behavior. That helps you realize that there is a reason for the behavior, it’s not often in the person’s conscious control or awareness, and it comes from hurt rather than intentional dysfunction.
  • Jen went through high school as a the achiever, good student, type A. And at 18, she was very directed, but under that outside facade, she didn’t really know what she really wanted in her life.
  • After a car accident at 19, Jen Arnold decided she needed a shift, so she changed colleges and her educational focus to nutrition and took a lot of psychology courses to add the understanding of people’s mindset. That’s how she started down the wellness path, landing a role in a corporate wellness position at a hospital to help employees deal with their weight.
  • While she tried to help as much as she could in her early roles, she found herself with ineffective tools from the standard toolkit around calorie restriction, increased movement and short-term goals around things like corporate weight loss challenges.
  • She started her show, Redesigning Wellness, and started to find out more about mindfulness and its connection to effectively eating better through a guest she interviewed. While that was empowering to discover, it also showed her plainly that she was doing it wrong so far, which was a hard thing to deal with, bringing guilt and a sense of perhaps failing people.
  • She dove further into mindful eating education herself, and started to use that theme in her discussions with corporate clients and individuals she was trying to help.
  • The focus needs to shift from being about the weight and being about the person. It’s less about the surface level things, and more about the underlying reasons and values.
  • We focus on weight so often, and weight isn’t the question. We judge people who lost weight as doing something positive and looking good, but miss why they lost weight and whether they should. Jen shared the story from when she was in a pattern of getting sick over and over and a nurse at the doctor’s office was all excited and celebrating that she had lost weight without realizing it was because she was unwell.
  • We talked about exercise as a penance for what you eat. It’s a punishment, or a must-do. It’s to undo the choices you made around what you ate or will eat. That just reinforces the emotional connection to food, and strengthens the wrong kinds of thoughts around food. Jen talked about joyful movement instead. Let it feel good to move your body in and of itself, without connecting it to undoing some other ‘bad’ in your life.
  • Mindfulness, in essence, is the power of the pause. Stopping and checking in with yourself to break the cycle of mindless actions.


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