MKR star reveals 30kg weight loss, mental health battle
KAYLENE McNee never imagined the toughest battle she'd face would be after she left the Army.
The 29-year-old Bundaberg native, who now lives at Peregian Springs on the Sunshine Coast, reached the rank of Corporal but injuries from a vehicle accident in 2008 forced her early retirement from military service.
"I went through rehab and was on medications but I went back to work straight away and I wasn't fully recovered. It got to be too much," she said.
"Then I went into the mines in Darwin and drove big dump trucks, but my back flared up and I had to give it up.
"After that I was kind of lost. I didn't know who I was and where I wanted to be. My neck and back injuries had really flared up and I got really depressed. I put on nearly 30kg and I suffered really bad anxiety.
"In 2017 I said to myself 'I need to do something' so for that next 12 months I had rehab, doctors appointments, a lot of CT scans, cortisone injections, I changed my medications and enrolled in a functional movement course and an anxiety workshop; I tried everything."
Discovering a love of baking was the turning point in Kaylene's recovery and health transformation.
"It wasn't until the question was asked in the anxiety program 'What's something that everyone loves?'. When it came to me I said 'There's nothing that brings me joy' and they said 'There's got to be something'. I said 'I like sweets' and they said 'Why don't you make your own sweets?' so that night I went home and made brownies, cupcakes, rum balls, I couldn't stop. I really did find love in it," she said.
"I went back the next day and I took all this food I'd made. It was the first time I'd felt like I'd accomplished something in a long time.
"Honestly if it wasn't for the people there pushing me I wouldn't have found something I loved."
With a new lease on life, Kaylene took up her older sister Kerry's offer to apply for the 2020 season of My Kitchen Rules.
"I was sitting in the loungeroom at 10pm and I get a phone call from my sister going 'Let's apply for MKR. I did not expect to get in," she said.
The sisters were surprised to discover they were one of five new 'fan' teams competing against returning 'favourites' in the show's new rivals format.
Dealing with the pressures and demands of a reality cooking show was a test both physically and emotionally for Kaylene, who manages her back injury through a combination of medication and fortnightly physio appointments.
She said viewers will see her grappling with her anxiety.
"When we got in, I said to Kerry 'What have I done?' It was definitely a challenge for me," she said.
"I did struggle living with certain people and certain conversations we had around the table.
"You'll definitely see my anxiety, especially in one cook. There were some times where I completely lost myself and the main thing I was telling myself on the show was anxiety is not a bad thing to have, it's only a bad thing if you let it take over your life. It shows I've come a long way."
She hopes to inspire viewers going through some of the same health battles.
"There are so many people going through anxiety, depression, PTSD. They don't get out of their house - I know because I was one of them at one stage," she said.
"This was a journey about more than just being on MKR for me. I wanted to make those people I went through rehab with proud and show them anything is possible. You might have anxiety and depression, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel."
MKR: The Rivals premieres tomorrow at 7pm on Seven.