Renee Jones is a counselor, coach, author, and speaker. She helps clients overcome the triggers that drive them to unhealthy behaviors like emotional or stress eating and other unhelpful habits. Jones offers counseling and coaching to individuals who seek to unpack their unwanted baggage and become better.

Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?

I grew up in Texas as the daughter of a school principal and high school English teacher. We moved to 5 different towns before I got out of junior high as my father worked his way up in the school systems. I learned how to make friends, behave myself, and pack really well.

My grandparents had a ranch, and we spent many weekends and holidays there, so I feel very connected to the outdoors. I loved the space and quiet and broad clear sky. It taught me how to do good, hard, physical work and to value solitude.

Being the principal’s daughter shaped me as it carried lots of social challenges – there are expectations about behavior, and boys are reluctant to date the principal’s daughter for some reason. It did help me mature. I observed a lot, learned to listen well, and recognized the value of real relationships.

What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?

Wasting my heart on fear, the past, and doubt is senseless.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

Just cut (take your pick) fat/carbs/all meat/all vegetables, and you’ll lose weight.

Work out/take this pill/potion/special food/use this special exercise equipment, and you’ll lose weight.

Once you hit your 40s, you can’t lose weight, so just make peace with being heavy.

Calories in/calories out.

It’s the one-size-fits-all that seldom fits anyone. Everybody is different, and we have to find what works or doesn’t work for the individual both physically and emotionally. It’s easier to stay on a plan when your heart is healed from emotional baggage.

Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?

I had a very rough patch of work in the late 90s. Two jobs and bosses left me feeling beaten down, and I had to step back. I’d lost my faith in myself, and I felt like I had nothing to offer anyone. I spent over a decade doing the housewife thing, a few freelance projects, and volunteer work.

I was grateful to have time to help with my mother’s illness and then to look after my grandmother, who seemed to age rapidly after my mother passed away. It was good to be available, and I had time to learn a lot of stuff along the way – some fancy cooking, a few hobbies, and how to do a lot of repairs. It was helpful, but it wasn’t fulfilling, and I questioned my degrees and all the training I wasn’t using. I felt so useless.

I saw an intriguing training that could help me get back on track as a counselor, but it started in another state on the day we were returning from a vacation. I mentioned it to my husband, and he said we had a layover in the city on our return, so it wouldn’t be too challenging to change the ticket. I signed up.

The week before we were scheduled to leave, my grandmother passed away. She was my rock, and since my mother had already passed away, I felt so alone. The funeral was the day before we left, so the first several days of the vacation were a blur. I also found myself indulging in my favorite method of soothing – eating. When my mother passed away, I gained a lot of weight. It wasn’t unusual. I’d been on the Diet Yo-Yo since I was 10. I’d lost some of that, but it would have been very easy to eat my way through this grief, and I was doing a very good job of it on that vacation.

One night on the beach, I told my husband something had to change, but I wasn’t sure what.

At the training, I had a bit of an emotional breakthrough and regained some faith in myself. I also learned a couple of things that could help me with my weight-loss quest.

At the New Year, my resolution was once again to lose weight. It lasted about as long as any other, but I decided to start again. In February, I started again, and again in March. By April, I needed a bigger size, and I was mortified.

I knew all the diets. I just couldn’t stick to any of them because when I got upset, depressed, sad, mad, bored, or frustrated, I’d eat to soothe myself. Emotional Eating sabotaged me every time. In the end, I hired a coach who specialized in emotional eating so I could resolve the issues, learn how to soothe myself differently, and heal.

After 40 years on the Diet Yo-Yo, I reached my goal weight the week before my fiftieth birthday, and 8 years later, my weight remains stable.

I realized I had much to offer others who have also struggled with this issue. My degrees and training gave me a way to help work through the stuff that drives us to eat for comfort or stress relief and sabotages our best efforts. In the end, it’s not the diet or exercise routine that makes the difference. It’s the thousand little choices we make along the way, the way we choose to soothe ourselves. When we face our stuff, we no longer need to stuff our faces.

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

Having the courage to follow that quiet voice inside when it suggests I try something new/different/unexpected.

What is your morning routine?

I’m up at 5. I take the dog for a long walk while listening to podcasts, pieces of training, or books. I do a short workout, then feed everyone, do some prep for the evening meal, and do other household tasks as time allows. I’m usually cleaned up and dressed by 8:30 when I do my morning reading and prayers. I start work by 9 either with a client or other work tasks.

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

Walking the dog. We go early, so although there is a community in the park, people aren’t really into conversation at that hour. I listen to material that teaches, informs, challenges, or inspires me. I’ve learned so much, and I cherish that time and solitude.

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?

I work most productively in solitude and quiet. It’s not very social, but it improves productivity and efficiency. I’m easily distracted by noise, so to focus, I close the doors and turn off any sound I can.

I use the morning for anything creative and the afternoon for “tasks.” I take regular breaks, drink lots of tea, and try to keep my work area tidy for minimal distraction.

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

The Bible. My faith is important to me, and the more I read the more fascinated I am with wisdom literature.

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. It gave me a structure to think about habit changes and a framework to help implement them.

Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy by Gerald Corey. A textbook from my graduate work that helped me understand how to truly help someone heal his/her heart

Any book by John Eldredge – Waking the Dead, Beautiful Outlaw, Desire, Epic, etc. Helped me replace “religion” with faith and spiritual growth, meaning, and purpose.

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

“Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire.” — St. Catherine of Siena

“Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.” –Proverbs 4:23