Meet Ecstatic Living Activist Ken Immer, co-founder of enlightenMEN Charleston helping gay men live more healthily and happily. interview by Mahwish McIntosh
1. How do you define “being healthy”?
Being healthy is more of a state of mind than a physical example, in the moment. Intention is extremely important here. Someone who is very unhealthy can immediately change by shifting their intentions. The state of their body will instantly begin to change the moment that their intentions shift and choices become conscious. Every choice you make is not ultimately bad or good, but will simply have consequences. If you truly weigh the decision mindfully, then either answer can be the right one depending on your intention. That being said, being healthy is staying true to an intention of respecting your body.
2. What challenges have you faced with changing your lifestyle?
The biggest challenge I faced many years ago was finding a reason to make a change. I knew somewhere deep inside that I was making choices that were going to shorten my lifespan and perhaps take away my ability to make my own choices by developing a life-changing health condition. The problem was that I really liked my then current choices of foods, amount of exercise/activity, use of substances, etc. I didn’t see how making a different choice could be as pleasurable, and that it would take a lot of work for a perceived trade-off of a healthier life for a less-pleasurable one. This is a huge challenge, and it was one yoga practice that unlocked that mystery for me. What it taught me was that a very slow and steady change is what actually works to produce lasting results in lifestyle change. I took my time, I realized that I had the rest of my life to shift and make changes, and I only made the changes that I was comfortable with at any one time.
3. Who or what inspires you to take care of your mind and body?
That has changed over the years. At first it was curiosity, and a desire to do differently than my father who died at a young age because of an unhealthy lifestyle. Now the inspiration comes from within: the knowledge that I am in control of my life and my experience, and how making mindful choices really does result in happiness and pleasure.
4. What’s your perspective on self image? Did you ever struggle with your own self image?
I still struggle with self image to this day. I have a body dismorphic disorder that keeps me from
truly seeing the way I look as acceptable. I have to choose the belief that I like the way my body
looks. There is a voice inside that says differently, but I have come to understand that voice is a lie,
and it comes from outside of me, from our society and culture, advertisements and movies: images
that we see all the time. My reality is not defined by an unattainable ideal.
5. What are some of your favorite foods that you feel good about eating and why?
I love eating leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach! They are the basis for almost any healthy
diet. I didn’t always love them. My taste buds have changed over time to desire more nutrient-dense foods. Now I can enjoy a kale salad almost as much as a piece of chocolate cake, but for
6. Explain your favorite exercise routine and how you found it.
Yoga saved my life. I found it because, at the time, I heard that it could help with weight loss and
stress relief at the same time. I knew I needed both but would only make time in my schedule for
one or the other, so it seemed like a dream come true. My first class was the first day of the rest of
my life,. Everything seemed to shift in that moment. I quickly started taking multiple classes per
week, and with each class I felt more and more like me, and found myself less and less interested
in the things that were unhealthy in my life (not just food, but relationships, work aspirations and
other choices I made every day.)