INTERVIEW: Canadian Bikini Athlete Janine Kruse – Living with Crohn’s for over 20 years

Instagram: @j9_fit & @competingwithcrohns

Facebook: Competing with Crohns 

Website: competingwithcrohns.com to be launching soon!

Janine is a certified Holistic Nutritionist, Canadian Nationally qualified Bikini competitor, Crohn’s advocate and an amazing inspiration that refuses to let her disease hold her back.

Diagnosed in 1997, Janine is no stranger to her disease. Her experience, knowledge and lifestyle shows as she is managed medication and surgery free. Janine has started a new page, Competing with Crohn’s and is a huge inspiration to me and so many others showing what is possible despite living with Crohn’s Disease.

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From hospital gowns, to gala gowns

Introduction

My name is Janine Kruse.  I’m originally from Edmonton, Alberta and attended University on Vancouver Island where I obtained a degree in Psychology. I currently reside in Fort McMurray, Alberta and have called this city home for the past 8 years.  My career has been rooted in Public Relations but I also have a passion for fitness and nutrition, which led me to complete the education necessary to become a Certified Holistic Nutritionist.  I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 1997.

What lead to a diagnosis?

Well, it’s been a few years haha, but what I remember is that it kind of just came out of nowhere.  I was in my final year of high school.  I had a typical high school diet.  Ate whatever I wanted, didn’t pay much attention to the quantity or quality of food I was putting into my system.

I remember one day where I was just lying on the bathroom floor in complete agony. I had zero idea what was going on, but I just recall sharp abdomen pains, way too many trips to the bathroom and a lot of blood in my stool. I went to the hospital where they told me I probably ate something bad and sent me home with some T3 for the pain. Of course, the symptoms didn’t subside and within days I was back at the hospital.  This time they ran some tests and came back with no answers, said I most likely had a stomach bug, gave me some antibiotics and sent me home.  It was the third time I ended up back in the emergency room when there was a fresh-out-of-grad school intern.  He said he wanted to run a few tests and do a colonoscopy.  Following the tests he came back and asked me if I had ever heard of something called Crohn’s Disease.  That was it.  In the span of a month my life completely changed.

Did you find it hard to talk publicly about your disease after being diagnosed?

I did, and I still do. This whole being out in a public forum about my journey with Crohns Disease is pretty new for me. In fact it’s something I’ve been on the fence about for some time.  I haven’t talked publicly about my disease until March of this year.  There’s a couple of reasons “going public” has been a difficult decision for me.

First of all, there’s a pretty big stigma around IBD and it’s almost taboo to talk about a lot of the things that unfortunately are a big part of Crohn’s or Colitis. I mean the hesitancy about making that first post on Instagram was pretty big. I’m grateful to my followers as it actually got an overwhelming amount of support and positivity. In fact, I remember sending it out into the social media world with some pretty legitimate anxiety. The urge to post-delete was pretty real.

Secondly, I’m a firm believer in the law of attraction. I believe strongly that your thoughts create your reality and what you focus your attention on or what you give power to has power over you.  I was, and still am somewhat fearful that by talking more about Crohn’s Disease that somehow it will trigger a return of my symptoms.  I’m still not certain if this fear is actually rational, but I’ve decided that the desire to bring an awareness to IBD and do whatever I can to help reduce that stigma around Crohn’s/Colitis far outweighs the potential negative repercussions.  I really feel like this is a new chapter in my life, and I’m almost 100% certain that if I approach all of this from a place of gratitude and positivity then everything will be just fine.

You’ve been dealing with Crohn’s for over 20 years, a lot longer than most, what advice would you give to anyone living with IBD?

Yeah, 20 years is a long time. I can’t believe it’s actually been 20 years. Like I said, I haven’t been around in the public forum of IBD for very long, but in the short time that I have I’ve received a lot of messages from the recently diagnosed (and even some that have been diagnosed for some time) and the number one question I get is how do you manage to stay surgery and medication free?

My answer, (and it’s probably a really disappointing one for those looking for a concrete step by step guide on how to get better – which unfortunately there isn’t); but I truly feel that the reason I’m surgery and medication free is because I believe with every ounce of my being that my body does and will not require surgery, that I have the power to heal myself and that I am in control of this disease. The mind is a powerful tool.  It’s the most powerful tool we have.   When we can control our thoughts we can control our life. But in addition to that (and I guess for those looking for a more tangible answer); I would list the following as what I’ve found to be the most important key factors in managing Crohn’s Disease:

  • A positive mindset – a victim (negative) mentality will keep you sick. SO KEY.
  • Nutrition – Food and supplements have the power to heal or cause further disease.
  • Exercise – It may seem counterintuitive to those experiencing symptoms but moving your body will eventually make it feel better. This includes meditation.
  • Removal of toxins and stress from your life – things and people.
  • Research and knowledge – research this disease, find what works for other people and design a wellness plan after figuring out what does or doesn’t work for you.

Being a holistic nutritionist, are there any supplements or herbal treatments that have helped you manage your disease as well as your health and fitness goals?

Oh gosh, if you could only see my supplement pantry.  There is a lot in there and it changes with time, and with what new things I read or learn about.  But some of the absolute essentials that come to mind are:

  • NutraVege Omega-3 Plant (Taken for Crohn’s and fitness reasons)
  • L-Glutamine (Crohn’s and fitness)
  • Multi Vitamin (high quality) (Crohn’s and fitness)
  • Probiotics (high quality) (Crohn’s and fitness but ESSENTIAL in my mind for IBD)
  • Marshmallow Root (Crohn’s)
  • Slippery Elm Bark Powder (Crohn’s)
  • Creatine (HCL formula) (fitness reasons)
  • Powdered Greens and Phytoberry (Progressive is my favourite brand) (Crohn’s and fitness)
  • MISO paste (my go to during a Crohn’s flare)
  • Lemon water (Crohn’s)

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Were you into fitness and nutrition prior to being diagnosed?

Not at all.  I mean I played a bit of high school volleyball/basketball, but I was actually the opposite of fit.  I started smoking at the age of 16 and drinking at 17.  After my diagnosis, I was pretty angry at the world so I spent a lot of my initial years with Crohn’s Disease probably making myself even more ill than I needed to be.  It took me quite a while to snap out of it and get my shit together.

What got you into competing?

Well essentially, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.  It was now 2010 and I was smoking a pack of cigarettes a day/drinking a few glasses of wine throughout the week and partying on the weekend.   One night as I was sitting out on my deck having a typical cigarette, I just had this huge moment of clarity.  It was like someone opened my eyes and turned on the light. I absolutely knew at that moment that if I didn’t flick that cigarette and quit right then, that I would never ever have the life I wanted. I remember exactly how that moment felt and looking back on it, I don’t know what was going on, but someone or something greater than me was definitely at work there. I didn’t question it and I just grasped that moment and ran with it. I flicked the cigarette and quit right then and there.

After that, I remember I wanted to “be healthy” and feel healthy. Something that was pretty foreign to me. I knew that you’re not just healthy because you don’t smoke. I wanted to reinforce this choice I made and decided to start running.  At that time, I was living in a pretty remote/rural community with no gym so I started by running around the block.  I could barely run 15 seconds without feeling like I was about to die. I eventually got better with time, did a couple “Couch to 5km/10 km” app challenges and then when I moved to the city, I began getting into the gym to train for a marathon.  I was the only one who would use the treadmill but I remember seeing a couple of girls with some unreal physiques.  My question was “how the heck do I get to look like that?” I had never lifted a weight in my life so YouTube was my friend.  I watched videos to learn exercises and even used Google to learn what the difference was between a barbell and a dumbbell LOL.  It didn’t take me long to decide a coach was necessary and so that was it. I started competing in 2014 and since then have done 5 shows.

 You’re one of the highest level athletes I’ve ever seen with Crohn’s, I know I am certainly not the only one interested in any tips you have for current or aspiring competitors with IBD?

Fortunately my Crohn’s has been pretty positively impacted by the clean diet that is necessary for competing.  The exercise regime, although grueling at times, also has many positive impacts on my overall health.  But I guess if there’s someone out there sitting on the fence about competing, or is unsure if they can do it because they have IBD; well I would rely on the wise words of my coach and tell them to “Just f***ing go for it”. Listen to your body, but challenge your body too.  Your limits are far outside what your mind perceives them to be, think big, go big and just f***ing go for it!

In saying that, I know there are a lot of people out there that are in a world of pain, or are simply struggling to get through daily tasks with this disease.  Obviously, I’m not suggesting everyone is in a place to go out and start competing, but if we think about being healthy as a destination, there are small steps you can take every day to get there, regardless of personal circumstances.  And I would challenge people to choose one thing every day to push themselves outside of their comfort zones to take that step towards being in a better state of health. There’s always something you could be doing regardless of your situation. Whether that’s going for a walk, eating less sugar/refined foods, meditating, removing toxic energy from their life, lifting heavier, drinking more water, there’s always a small step you can take towards better health.

What can we expect to see in the Future from Janine?

I feel like I have some pretty big things in the works, but of course as with everything else time will tell.  I’m going to keep working on “Competing with Crohn’s” and continue putting myself out there.

I’m looking to launch http://www.competingwithcrohns.com soon which is exciting and I have some other pretty clear goals in mind as well.  I’m not exactly ready to publically divulge what those goals are, but within the next two years I expect to have experienced some pretty big and meaningful changes in my life!

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When can we expect to see you back on the stage again?

I have the best coach and team in the world so I can’t say no to another show.  It’s something pretty special when you get to train and work with the best in the industry. I am definitely competing in 2018 but with the new and recent changes that have come out in the bodybuilding world I haven’t quite decided exactly what show that’s going to be for me.  I’m pretty certain at this moment, I will not be competing at the Arnold Classic and will be competing at the 2018 Vancouver Pro Show.  There might be something in between there, but I’m currently really enjoying my “offseason” and working on some personal goals outside of the gym which keeps me pretty busy.  I still train and eat like I’m prepping (with a few additional calories), so when the time does come to get back on stage I’ll be closer to ready than I ever have been before. The thought of competing still excites me so I know I’m not done yet.

Any last thoughts?

2017 has been an interesting year for me.  I’ve been through a couple tough spots, but I’ve also had so many really great moments this year in life as well.  I’m excited about this next chapter and I can’t end this without saying I’m really grateful to the support that I’ve been shown so far.  It sounds weird, but the support my Instagram followers on @j9_fit and @competingwithcrohns have really shown me that being authentic and honest is appreciated. The support from the IG community has been a big factor in me being able to put myself out there and start feeling comfortable enough to open up.

A special thanks to my work fam that loves and supports me no matter what. They encourage me to grow and pursue new endeavours inside and outside of my career and for that I will always be grateful.  And of course I’d like to thank my FreakFitness family and Coach Darren Mehling. Words don’t even describe how proud I am to be a part of such a strong and motivating group of people.  Without them I really don’t think getting out of bed in the morning would be as exciting as it is! I’m really looking forward to seeing what 2018 has in store for all of us!

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