Hello! I hope you all are having a great start to autumn! We are so excited to announce our third interview at resilientHer with Lena Kortis! She is a student at the Palmer College of Chiropractic, a fitness influencer, and a former college athlete. You can follow her on Instagram at @_lenakortis!
She shares with us why she decided to pursue chiropractic, common misconceptions about the field, and her personal experiences with body image and food!
If you’re an athlete, aspiring chiropractor, or someone who wants to experience a vulnerable and beautiful conversation, this interview is for you! Lena was an absolute pleasure to talk to, and her experience is so valuable for all girls and non-binary folx.
I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did!
Yurika Tarui: How have you been doing recently? What has life been like for you during these unprecedented times?
Lena Kortis: You know, it’s been a struggle. I’m pretty sure a lot of people would say the same. Just with all the uncertainty, not knowing what’s happening next, not having a specific routine that you can actually stick to. I thrive on routine so it’s just been tough in that aspect, but I’m trying to manage and make the best out of it and just look forward to each day.
YT: I noticed that you did swimming and softball in college which is very impressive! How did being a college athlete impact your relationship with food and your body?
LK: When I was in undergrad, it was before the whole women and fitness trend got going, so I never really paid attention to what my body looked like. I just would notice if I felt sluggish some days or if I was energized the next day. I didn’t have anything to compare myself to, and I mean, I thought I looked great, I was pretty confident. I don’t know if doing sports had anything to do with that, but I did feel confident in myself.
I know that swimming and softball are very different. They require different amounts of energy from me. So with swimming, I was practicing two times a day, seven days a week, while with softball we would only practice one time a day, a few times a week, and then we’d have games every so often. With swimming, I required a lot more food intake to fuel myself. With softball, I would notice that I wasn’t as hungry all the time. I didn’t have any restrictions or anything like that until after I was done with sports.
When I was done with swimming and softball, I started to get more into fitness. So I would follow all these people on Instagram and all that, and then I would do my own research on food. That’s when I started developing more of a relationship with food and my body in that sort of aspect.
YT: That’s so interesting because I’ve definitely heard both: people who never had much of a relationship with food or body or had a pretty healthy relationship, and other people who had college really impact things.
I think it has a lot to do with your coaches. I know my swim coach especially would bring in a nutritionist and she would tell us what types of food we should be feeding ourselves based on the amount of activity we did which was awesome. I don’t think it brought enough perspective. Coaches need to be doing a lot more nutrition-based coaching as well, especially in college because we’re adults so we have different needs.
YT: How has your relationship with food and your body evolved over time? How would you describe it today?
LK: Over time, social media has caused a lot of issues with me personally. I would follow all these influencers and if I didn’t look like them I felt inferior which I would say is a more unhealthy relationship with my body. I didn’t pay attention to it in college until after I was done. I noticed that I gained a ton of weight so I started to work harder.
As an athlete, I enjoy challenging myself, so once I started to go to the gym and I started to see a lot of progress, I got addicted to progress, which developed unhealthy habits with my relationship with my food intake. I would count my calories and macros and follow them to a T. It became obsessive, so down the road, I kinda stopped tracking, but I was still restricting myself.
This is kinda vulnerable, but I would binge on the weekends because I had restricted myself all week long that I felt so hungry that I would eat so much on the weekends to the point that I felt sick. I’ve been getting out of that recently. I met someone here at school, and we would cook together all the time. He would be like, “Oh, do you want ice cream?” and I would say, “No.” He would be like, “Come on, just eat the ice cream,” and so I just would eat the ice cream. I realized that it was ok to just eat when you’re hungry and eat what you want, with no restrictions. It’s not like we’re just living, I’m eating to live, and I’m starting to get more into intuitive eating, which is a lot better for my mindset. It’s also making me become more confident in myself because I’m not trying to please my body aesthetically but to the point where I can continue to have energy and be healthy all around.
YT: I saw that you are in chiropractic school, which is fascinating because I had never even heard of it until now! What inspired you to become a chiropractor? What spoke to you about chiropractic medicine over Western medicine (physical therapy, orthopedics, etc)?
LK: That’s crazy that you didn’t know that!
There’s a lot of skeptical people around chiropractic. There’s a lot of negativity.
For me, I’ve been going to a chiropractor since I was very young, and I was always fascinated by the human body and how your nervous system interacts with your muscles, your bones, and literally every function. I decided to go to chiropractic school in 6th grade and this is what I set out to do.
I enjoyed the relationship I had with my own chiropractor. It’s more of an intimate relationship. As a chiropractor, you get to know your patient as a whole person. You don’t just listen to their symptoms and try to treat them, which is what most western medicine doctors do. As a chiropractor, we try to treat the body from within and try to let the body heal itself. It’s called your innate intelligence. When your body isn’t in proper alignment, you have some interference going on and it causes dysfunction throughout your body.
I’ve seen some miraculous stories of patients having one small adjustment, and their symptoms don’t necessarily go away, but they have more proper function. I appreciate the way that chiropractors treat their patients. My little brother also had chronic ear infections from the time he was 2 until he was about 3. The doctors wanted to put tubes in his ears, but my mom brought him to our chiropractor, and he got adjusted and hasn’t had an ear infection since. He’s 22 now, so it was pretty awesome. It’s crazy the stories that you hear about chiropractic.
YT: I feel like there is still a lot of stigma surrounding chiropractic medicine within the sports medicine world. What is one misconception that you want to dispel?
LK: The misconception I always hear is that we are a bunch of quacks. The American Medical Association had a slogan for us called the “Committee on Quackery” to discredit us as doctors, professionals, and as healthcare providers. It infuriates me.
A lot of people don’t believe in it and I want people to be more educated about it. People have misconceptions because they are not educated about what we do. I want people to understand that we work on the nervous system. We’re not just trying to crack your back; we adjust you so that you have proper nervous system function.
That definitely makes sense that people don’t believe in chiropractic. I feel like a lot of time, the media portrays chiropractic providers as being out there, but you guys do go through a lot of training and you learn a lot about the body. It’s important to truly take a holistic approach to treat people.
YT: In just two years you will graduate school and become a chiropractor, so an early congratulations! What do you hope to accomplish through your career as a chiropractor?
LK: I think that patient education is super important and it’s lacking in our field. I want to help as many people as possible because I love taking care of people. My main goal is to have a foundation and educate my patients. I want to make them feel better and I want to be as minimalistic as possible so that they are in the least amount of pain. I’ve shadowed docs and you wouldn’t believe the amount of patients that come in crying because they’re in so much pain and they feel like they can’t get any relief. And then you see the adjustment and you watch their face change immediately because they feel that final relief. It’s just amazing.
YT: Do you think you would want to specialize in a certain population?
LK: I’ve thought about it. Most chiropractors do all age ranges, but I’ve noticed that a lot of female chiropractors have specialized in pediatrics.
I have always envisioned having my practice and having a gym attached to it. My patients could do rehab in the gym and I could help them because a lot of misalignment comes from muscle imbalances. I could give them exercises to do in the gym, and I could observe their form, and movement patterns to identify and prevent injuries. I have envisioned myself working with athletes, but I honestly would want to help as many people as I possibly can, so all age ranges would be welcome to come!
YT: What is one piece of advice you want to give female and non-binary athletes?
LK: Continue to challenge yourself and compete with yourself. Don’t worry about your surroundings and the noise around you. Work as hard as you can and let your success be the noisemaker.