At age 25, Jenna Kinard was so thin that she experienced convulsions and seizures every day.
But now, the anorexic beauty queen who was once so unhealthy that she was given a month to live, is healthier and happier than she's ever been— and she gives all the credit to celebrity chef Paula Deen.
When the former Miss Teen Texas World was admitted to the hospital to recover, she spent her sleepless nights watching Deen on The Food Network, taking inspiration from her.
Now a healthy 65 pounds up from her dangerously underweight former self— and a chef herself to boot, Kinard has publicly thanked the 69-year-old Southern cooking maven for helping her beat her eating disorder, telling the Forth Worth Star Telegram this week:
“I love Paula Deen. People laugh about that, but she is my everything. She truly changed my life.”
Kinard also explained that she had started to make some of Deen's southern dishes and was soon hooked on them. Soon enough, she met Deen on a food show, where she thanked the star for her inspiration. Since then, Kinard says she and Deen have been “pen pals.”
She still recalls her meeting Deen with great fondness:
“She gave me the biggest hug and told me to never stop doing what I’m doing. That is still soul food for me. That still fuels me every day.”
According to Kinard, her battle with anorexia began during her adolescence when she was appearing regularly in beauty pageants.
After the the 18-year-old was crowned Miss Teen Texas World in 2009, she suddenly felt the pressure to always look “perfect” and that started taking a toll on her mental and physical health, causing her to be punitively strict about her eating.
65 pounds ago, when she was at her most frail, she entered a recovery facility and started trying some of Deen's rich, heavy soul food recipes. When she was released from the facility, she got a job as a pastry chef at a Forth Worth, TX restaurant.
Now, Kinard is the executive chef at a local restaurant, and devotes much of the rest of her time running an Instagram account, where she seeks to inspire and offer help to others struggling with eating disorders.
On the site, she posts images documenting her career as a chef and photographs of herself meant to help people who are fighting the disease that nearly took her life.
In contrast, Paula Deen lost 35 pounds after being diagnosed with diabetes type 2, telling ABC earlier this year that she was focusing on moderation, and attempting to bring “unhealthy” foods back into her kitchen without compromising her health goals:
“The thing that I’m really trying to focus on y'all is moderation, moderation, moderation. Eat a cookie, just don’t eat six of them.”
She later appeared on “Dancing With The Stars”— showing off her own transformation.