Intro: [00:00:01] Are you ready to expand your soul's capacity for joy? Then this podcast is for you. I'm Dr. Jen Riday and welcome to Vibrant Happy Women.
Jen: [00:00:15] Hey there, everyone. I am here with Karuna Mae and we're going to be talking about health, but in a very soulful, earthy, authentic, and spiritual way that really resonates for me. You know, Karuna is all about the long-term game, the long road, and not the quick fix. And so she's going to teach us some things today, specifically how we can do the work on the inside that will give us the greatest health in our bodies and on the outside. So I won't give anything more away. But Karuna, welcome to Vibrant Happy Women. I'm so glad you're here.
Karuna: [00:00:48] Thank you so much for having me. I just feel honored to be here. I love your podcast. I love what you do. So it's an honor.
Jen: [00:00:55] Likewise. So, um, I guess tell us an overview of what we're going to cover today. The three main points you're going to be talking about, and then we'll go back and share how your story led you to these truths.
Karuna: [00:01:10] Yeah, sure. Um, my business is called Simple, Soulful Health. And the mission of my work is to allow space and time for women to connect more deeply to their bodies, to build a deeper relationship with their health and their body. So what I mean by soulful – and I think it's really important to make sure that we come at this information with a common language and a common understanding of what we're talking about – And so when I say the word soulful, I mean kind of how the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it, which is full of emotion. And so what that means to me is that any kind of health journey needs to be recognized as an emotional, deeply personal, and meaningful journey. So that would be my first point. I think that the diet world skips over that and the diet world lives on the superficial level.
Jen: [00:02:11] Yeah, it's just the skin, right? The skin and the outsides.
Karuna: [00:02:15] Yeah. And cultural expectations, you know, of what we're supposed to look like, how we're supposed to act, what we're supposed to do.
Jen: [00:02:25] Yeah, for sure.
Karuna: [00:02:25] And I also think that soulful is very much personal – it can be a personal word. It can mean different things to different people. You know, people coming from a religious background might experience the word soulful in a very different way than somebody who doesn't come from a religious background. And so I think it's really important in, you know, in my work and also for our purposes today, for people to take just a moment and feel into what that word could mean for them and what makes sense and feels right for them.
Jen: [00:02:57] Yeah. What does it mean for you, Karuna?
Karuna: [00:03:00] For me, I'm a deeply spiritual woman. I have been on a spiritual journey and quest for many years now, and the word soulful for me does mean full of emotion, but it also means honoring my spirit. So in my own personal journey, what I've done is I've intended and set the goal to honor my spirit in every single way. And that did translate to a whole different experience of health and a whole different experience of my body and, and what my body means to me. And so soulful for me means that when I choose how I move through my day, for the most part, I'm choosing with the intention of honoring my spirit.
Jen: [00:03:49] Mhm. That's beautiful. I want to dive deeper into that. So soulful is important. And then you have kind of two other things that make your approach to health unique.
Karuna: [00:04:00] Yeah. The second point that I would make is that, you know, when we're going through any kind of change or when we're, we're craving any kind of change for ourselves from a health perspective. I really encourage all of my clients to remember that the changes that you make on the outside, meaning eating more vegetables, drinking more water, moving your body more, all of those are very, very important. But from my perspective, the most important changes that occur in order to really connect with the external changes that you're making are the things that change on the inside. So your self-talk, the way that you view yourself, whether you treat yourself with the same amount of compassion that you would treat your daughter or your friend if they were going through this journey. Also, you know, the internal changes are really about learning more about yourself. You know, it's like you have you get to be willing to look at your own stories. You have to be willing to look at your own fears and shadows and be willing to see how they're playing a role. In your experience of health or your experience of your body. And those are some of the internal changes that I think the diet world is doing.
Karuna: [00:05:26] I mean, the diet world is doing a big disservice to everybody in every way, in my opinion. But that's just one of the ways that I think it's really causing harm is that it doesn't allow women -speaking of women specifically, that's my major client base – it doesn't allow humans to reflect on the inside in a way that will help them change. Their view changed their experience instead of just changing what they're doing for 30 days or for 30 days. Right. And I really feel like that that's the thing that helps people create a new lifestyle. It's a lifestyle change. It's a lifetime devotion. And that brings me to my third point, which is, you know, I really, really encourage my clients to remember to back themselves up out of kind of the minutia of details of what the diet world gets you into of like, how much do you weigh on the scale and is, you know, are you losing inches? And to remember that your health journey is a lifelong devotion that when you make a promise to yourself to change from the inside, then it's a practice and it's a dedication that, that I would really want everyone to understand that if they view it as a lifelong practice, it becomes who they are. Not what they do.
Jen: [00:06:55] Mhm. That is beautiful. We'll come back to that word devotion. Oh! I got chills when you said that. I love this. So, Karuna, this is beautiful and important work. Looking at the insides, the emotions, the thoughts, the feelings, everything going on that's impacting all the actions we take. Instead of, like you say, the diet industry just trying to tackle actions only. Um, how did you come upon these truths for yourself? What has been your journey?
Karuna: [00:07:23] Yeah, I have absolutely literally lived this journey. You know, I grew up learning that my value was based on the shape and size of my body and, um, my experience with coping mechanisms, you know, as you go through life and, and certain experiences, you know, it got messed up. It got a little bit messy and muddy. And what I found is, you know, you fast forward from high school, you know, post-college, your body starts to change. And the identity, like my identity of how I was viewing myself started to change as my body started to change. And I found myself really feeling bad about myself. And it was really interesting because I felt like I was caught in this really difficult middle space where I knew that I didn't feel good in my body. I wasn't really taking care of myself in the best way that I could have been. But I also rejected the notion that my value was placed on the size of my body and that I needed to fit my body into this form that culture says is acceptable for a woman to have. And so I found myself caught in this place where I felt bad for wanting to change the shape of my body. I felt bad for wanting to make changes in my life, but I also felt bad in my body and I knew that I needed to change some things in the way that I was relating and taking care of my body. So my journey personally became part of my spiritual path. I've been on a deeply spiritual journey for many years now, and what it has shown me is that, you know, if I'm honoring my spirit, then I understand that this body is the home of my spirit. And so what does that mean to me? And how do I care for it with that lens, leaving culture behind?
Jen: [00:09:27] Yeah. Yeah. So how long have you, you know, what's the beginning and how long have you been on this journey, you know? Did it start in high school? Were you doing the diet culture thing? And then, I'd love to hear the details of how you progressed to the beautiful stance you have now.
Karuna: [00:09:47] Oh, Jen, I've done every single diet on the planet and I've done every single workout-like program. Um, so yes, I've been deep in diet culture and really participated in that world. And it never felt right because, well, first of all, I would dive into a diet and I would do all the things and I would get really hyper-focused on whether or not I was losing weight. I would focus so much on, you know, calories in versus calories out. And it was exhausting. And every time when I got to the end of it, I was faced with this decision of, well, like, “What do I do now? It's too restrictive to keep going. I'm tired. I can't keep going like this.” But I didn't know what to do. And I think that that's one of the things that my clients experienced so much too, is that you get to this place where maybe you found results in your body, but then you don't know what to do after that. And so, yes, I've done every single diet. And what I think the pinnacle of my change was I went to Peru for a month and, um, my experience there really tapped me into that idea of lifelong devotion and really asked me to make some decisions about my life that would impact my ability or my capacity to honor my spirit. And it was at that point that I started to shift my gaze away from my body being a commodity to my body being the vessel that allows me to experience every facet of life. And so in that sense, that shift inside of me, I knew that my life's work had to reflect that because what has happened for me since then is it's allowed me to create such a deep relationship with myself and my body that I feel this wholeness inside of me, that I want every woman to feel. And so that is absolutely my goal in my work.
Jen: [00:12:03] Yeah. So I have my own version of what this wholeness means for me. So, um, I'm curious if it's the same, you know? I've heard different versions of this and I've been discussing this with a friend, but, um, did that wholeness mean that you came to a place where you didn't necessarily need to lose weight anymore? Um, was it honoring that? You just want to feel a certain way in your body. Um, is it saying you can eat whatever you want, but you choose, you know? What does that look like for you?
Karuna: [00:12:35] Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's a really good question. Um, it's a yes and no answer for me. So, um. Yes, it means that I have released myself from the requirement of losing weight or looking a certain way. It's also looked like a devotion to figuring out what makes my body feel the best.
Jen: [00:13:07] Yes.
Karuna: [00:13:08] So it's definitely a feeling state. Um, also. It's not a blanket permission to eat whatever I want whenever I want because, you know, we all have shadows and maybe trauma in our life that informs some of those perceptions of what freedom, freedom looks like or could feel like. And so there's a certain amount of self-accountability that comes along with self-love. And I think that that's one of the beautiful parts of finding what I call the middle way. I mean, you know, if there's one thing that I've learned from Buddhism is that whatever the question is, the answer is the middle way.
Jen: [00:13:57] Yes, that's so true. I love that.
Karuna: [00:14:00] Yeah. Yeah. So it's not eating whatever you want, whenever you want and giving yourself this blanket permission, because for me, in my experience and for a lot of my clients, that equals feeling really bad in your body. You get inflamed. You know, you eat your comfort foods all the time. You're choosing to not lean in or step into discomfort. And part of the greater understanding of self love is that you're willing to be uncomfortable. That's how we grow.
Jen: [00:14:27] Mhm. That's absolutely true. Growth requires discomfort. That's absolutely true. Yeah. Beautiful. So you kind of told us about the soulful and looking at our insides first, noticing how things make us feel. Tell us more about this element of it being lifelong. It doesn't need to be the 21 days or the quick fix or the, you know, the ten-day detox or whatever. How do we shift our perspective to the long term?
Karuna: [00:14:56] Yeah, yeah. It's such a good question. I talk so much about short-term mindset versus long-term mindset. And I think in the diet world they set us up for a short-term mindset because of, you know, it serves them. First of all, it's a $1 billion industry that relies on us doing one diet after the other. So it behooves them for us to think short term. When you enter into a long-term mindset, you release yourself from that and it becomes more available to find the middle way. So it's not about doing everything perfectly, and this is one of the internal changes that we work on so intensely is releasing the disease of perfection. And, you know, I think that that is part of the diet culture, too, is that you dive into a diet and you do everything right. And if you don't, then you fail. And then that failure eats you alive and you internalize that and then you feel like a failure. And so the, you know, the cycle just continues. And so viewing your health journey from a long-term mindset allows you to really explore and, and experiment with what your middle way looks like without this mental requirement of I have to do it right or I'm or forget it.
Jen: [00:16:16] Mhm. Mhm. So true. You know I was thinking when you said, the word journey, it goes really well with this long term, this epic experience. I'm a Lord of the Rings fan. Yes. I'm that nerdy. But if you think about Bilbo Baggins starting out to, you know, there are mountains and valleys and mines and caves and I mean, there's ups and downs and think throwing out that idea of the diet culture and doing it perfectly makes so much more sense when you (instead) look at health as a journey. It's going to be up and down. You're going to have moments where you eat more or eat less or where you're more inflamed and then you're like, “Ouch, that doesn't feel good. I'm going to eat a little differently because I want to feel amazing.” Yes. Becoming the whole way.
Karuna: [00:17:02] Yeah, becoming. Absolutely. And I love that you bring that up because one of the concepts that I talk about is what I call the riverbed. And so I talk to my clients about considering their health journey, like the riverbed. So the water is at the top of the mountain in the river, and she knows that her destination is one of two oceans. She knows that at one point she's going to find herself in the Pacific or the Atlantic. Right? But the journey that she takes to get there completely changes depending on the landscape. So sometimes she's rushing over a waterfall and, you know, class four rapids, sometimes she's meandering through the s-curves. Sometimes she's kind of cycling around in this stagnant-feeling place for a little while. But when you're creating a life or a long-term mindset, you're crafting that riverbed for yourself, knowing that there's going to be shifts and changes, but also at the same time knowing that you're going to end up at the ocean.
Jen: [00:18:07] Yes. Oh, I love this. Yeah. We're on the same page. So you use the word devotion. Um, now for me, just to kind of let everyone know what that word does for me. First of all, of course, there's the idea of religious devotion to a higher power. I think we're all familiar with that version. But to turn that inward and have devotion toward ourselves as a being of light or a being with potential or even inner child work. I think about this little soul who only we can truly love and we can love every version of it: Overweight, underweight, young, middle-aged, old. So what does devotion mean for you in terms of health? How does that play out in your mind?
Karuna: [00:19:00] Yeah, in a very similar way. You know, again, I view myself as a soul and spirit. And so my devotion is to honoring that through how I care for my body. And you're right, devotion is very much like soulful. It can mean different things to different people. Um, for me, it becomes part of the long-term mindset because a devotion is part of how you identify or how you relate in the world. And so it's not a discipline, it's not a right. So I consider a diet being a discipline, like you have to discipline yourself, but a devotion is much more than that. It's much bigger than that. It's something that you really absolutely believe in 100%. And like you said, so beautifully, taking the devotion that historically has been really spoken about in terms of giving that devotion outside of ourselves or, you know, devoting ourselves to something outside of ourselves, shifting that and shining that light in back into ourselves, is exactly it becoming a devotee of your own spirit or soul.
Jen: [00:20:16] Wow. Ooh, I love this so much. Wow, That's beautiful. You also talked about not viewing our bodies as a commodity, but as a vessel. Speak more to that, please. That's so beautiful.
Karuna: [00:20:30] Yeah, I mean, I have had the experience and many of my clients have had the experience of feeling like their body was something that was part of the consumeristic vision of culture. And, you know, quite honestly, in a lot of relationships, the body can feel like something that is used for something. Yeah. And that can come with a whole lot of experiences and trauma and, and challenge. And I internalized that when I was young. I accepted that and that shift inside of me of just understanding that, “Wow, I've been doing this to myself!” was shocking for me. It was a shocking moment of realization of, “Okay, there's there's one thing that culture can do, and I understand that it's a whole nother thing of what? Of what you can do to yourself.” And so that realization that I was treating my own body as a commodity was a turning point for me. Um. And in that spiritual experience of mine, spiritual growth, understanding and really starting to appreciate my body as the thing that allows me to experience everything in life, I get to play with my son, I get to go snowboarding. I get to, you know, have sex. I get to eat food. I get to cry and be in pain and feel heartache. And I get to do all of these things. What it means to be a human in this world because I have this incredible body. And so shifting that gaze to start thanking my body for allowing me to experience all of these things has been a big, big turn for me.
Jen: [00:22:26] Absolutely. Oh, such beautiful inner work. So we have the words devotion and vessel. The word reverence comes to mind. And you know, it is a journey even independent of health, it is a journey to learn, to really, really looooove yourself, to have your own back, to be your own best friend. So independent of health, how do you recommend people make that journey?
Karuna: [00:22:53] Yeah. I had a client once say to me, “When you tell me about self love, it's like you're telling me about algebra. Like I don't get it. Like, I don't even know what that means.” And, and that's so true. And I experienced that myself. And I think for me and one of the things that I really help my clients walk with in their journey is the first step, which is being willing to prioritize yourself, being willing to step out of what I call an over giver state, which is a place where a lot of us women are taught to be. We're taught to be over givers. And so I call myself a recovering over-giver. And, you know, I encourage my clients to be willing to step out of that role enough so that they become part of their own priority list. And, you know, quite honestly, in a family, you know, if you have kids and you have loved ones and all of that, you can't always be the number one priority. And that's not even necessarily the goal. But you need to be on that top five. And that might sound like an easy step one, but it's really not. How do you prioritize moving your body when you have kids to take to soccer and you know, where do you fit in your exercise time or where do you fit in your food prep? And when you get down to the nuts and bolts of what it means to prioritize yourself along with your family members, it can be a really difficult internal change to make because we're programmed to think that that's selfish.
Jen: [00:24:51] Mhm. Mhm. It's, it's not a short journey. It's not a quick one. Yeah. Yeah.
Karuna: [00:24:58] And we're programmed to think that if we put ourselves somewhere on our own priority list that we're being selfish, that, you know, that we are supposed to give at our own sacrifice. And that's a message that, that I try to help people reframe. Is that, you know, when you are serving yourself and you're serving your soul and you're loving yourself so much and so fully that it fills every one of your cells and then it comes out and touches everyone and everything that you touch. I mean, when you think of it that way, when you think of loving your loved ones from a place of such fullness and such wholeness of your own self and your own self love just the capacity that you have, it's a whole different feeling than coming at loving your loved ones from a place of sacrifice.
Jen: [00:25:56] Oh, so true. So true. You know, I experienced this in layers, but I recently took a 19-day trip alone without my husband or kids. We actually didn't even connect all too many times because I just needed the space. I was helping a friend with her husband's terminal cancer diagnosis. I was visiting my two kids in California and then meeting with some friends. But what was interesting to me, you know, in that space where I could just be with myself, I remembered, “Oh, this is who I am without a spouse and kids.” I had no idea who I really am without all of those other pieces. And then when I went back to our home and our family, I approached everything so much differently. I didn't have this urge to, like, run away from it all, which sometimes we can get to that place. And I really was showing up with so much more wholeness. And it was, you know, not that long ago, but there's something deeply true about what you say. So for those listening who don't understand it, Karuna is amazing at this. So where can people go to learn more about your work and how to feel that wholeness and that devotion to self that can make us show up so much more whole for everyone else in our lives?
Karuna: [00:27:16] Yeah, absolutely. My website is the first place that I would send anyone who's interested, who is feeling like they can relate to what we've talked about today. On my website, I don't have a whole lot of writings in terms of self love, but a link to my book is there and I wrote a book during the pandemic about my story, about my journey. And it's called Weight Loss Liberation: A Power Guide to Diet Freedom. And at the time, I was really deep in study myself with the chakra system. So so the book is my story, and it also follows the chakras of the energetic body as a way to just give you a deeper insight into the different layers of yourself. So there's a link to that book on my website. And then also there is opportunity to schedule a consultation. If somebody is listening to this and thinking, “Oh, absolutely, this is me, I know exactly what you're talking about, I'm ready for this.” But they want more information, then there's a link to schedule a consultation with me, and it's just a conversation, kind of like what we're having now, where I hear about what's happening for you and, and see if I can be of service.
Jen: [00:28:31] Awesome. I love that. Well, let's leave our listeners with one practice, one simple habit they can add to their lives that they can feel into this with as they move forward. Yeah, that'd be hard to narrow down. I know.
Karuna: [00:28:48] Hard to narrow down, but the first thing that's coming to my mind is I would recommendtaking the time every day to get quiet, close your eyes and feel yourself, feel your body, feel your emotions, feel yourself. And I feel like that's one of the most accessible, quickest ways to start to experience kind of what you were sharing about what you experienced on your 19-day trip. Who am I?
Jen: [00:29:19] Beautiful. Well, Karuna, this is fantastic. I appreciate you sharing your wisdom and your journey with us. And thanks for being here.
Karuna: [00:29:27] Yeah, Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate what you do as well. It just occurred to me that I said go to my website, but I didn't say what that website was. It's simplesoulfulhealth.com.
Jen: [00:29:41] Thank you so much, Karuna. I appreciate it.
Outro: [00:29:44] If you enjoy this podcast, you'd love Vibrant Soul The Place to heal, transform, and expand your soul with like-minded friends. Join us at jenriday.com/vibrantsoul.