I grew up in Portland Maine, in a large house
in a room set far away from the rest. My window overlooked the corner of Brighton Avenue and William Street. Our house was filled with antiques and every Christmas my mom would host a party, with a piano player and a whole bunch of people I was supposed to remember but never did. They’d pile their winter coats high in the master bedroom until it resembled a mountain of feathers and zippers. My house felt like this year round – a den of strangers – whether we had company or not. There were spirits I swore, lurking, and it was often times just me and them because no one else was home.
Scarborough Beach, Maine
My parents worked a lot because it took a lot to sustain the kind of lavishness we lived in – big house, lots of cars, winter vacations, the summer lake house, private school. My dad would remind me, however, that we were poor which often meant our fridge was bare and our clothes came from cheap departments stores or GoodWill. My parents were of average height and stature – it was the 80’s & 90’s after all – we assumed we were our genes and “what we were was what we owned.” I would later understand my general confusion for life as cognitive dissonance.
I had my first seizure at 6 years old which led to a diagnosis of benign rolandic epilepsy (BRE). It’s common in children ages 3-13 and in the majority of cases it goes away by puberty. Scientists and doctors don’t know the cause of BRE, medical journals suggest certain regions on chromosome 11 and 15 may be involved but a specific gene hasn’t been identified. My parents did their best not to over expose me to hospitals, CT scans and blood tests so I mostly waded through the discomfort and sussed through my embarrassment – assuming I’m forever scarred, broken and different. After all, I had the majority of my seizures in public. My dad was opposed to the medications they prescribed so I didn’t go that route either. When I grew out of it 2 years later I was left with residual chronic stomach aches and restless feet. These things would keep me up at night and make it difficult to sleep. There were no hard and fast answers, no real solutions. Foot rubs and asking my mom to sleep in my bed with me until I fell asleep were the antidotes I could communicate. So we did that. And it worked.
I was nervous a lot. Mostly about new experiences. New schools, new people, different places. A big one was summer camp. By age 9 I was bed ridden with chronic nausea and missed the last quarter of 4th grade. The doctors, this time, chalked it up to anorexia and suggested I eat 6 small meals a day.
I had no energy to think about what anorexia meant, I couldn’t eat so I couldn’t get well. One day my dad gave me an ultimatum with tears streaming down his face: “it’s food or the hospital and a feeding tube – what will it be Katie?”
I ate for the first time in weeks that day. Apparently I was more fearful of being hospitalized than I was food for once – either that or my fathers sentiment. I’ve only seen him cry twice in my lifetime, when my grandfather died and when I was moments from being hospitalized.
I led a 1/2 normal childhood.
By the time I hit puberty I felt pretty bemused by life. Always a bit awkward, nervous, never quite status quo. I spent a lot of time alone, day dreaming and using my imagination to conjure images of fairytale love, laughter and easy go lucky jackpot happiness. I liked the weird kids, the ones with character, the one’s with less, the one’s who’s parents wore jeans and drank wine with dinner, I was never very popular and most of the smart kids were assholes, boring and shallow.
Anxiety is like double sided tape – while I was unconsciously assimilating everything as a teenager I became exceptional at transmutation. I don’t think we give kids quite enough credit. When my braces came off I learned that I could use what assets I had to feel better in the world by refining my diet and exercising. No brainers, I thought. After all I was a byproduct of restriction, deprivation and carb counting. My parents were always trying a new diet; Nutrasystem, Adkins, Protein Power – fat had been demonized and the war between lean cuts of meat, eggs and cholesterol had taken over people’s rational thinking about food.
espresso & morning sun
The dinner table mirrored our dissonance – big house, educated people – zero connection. We knew better but didn’t do better. If we managed to all sit down together, the conversation bounced between my parents and politics, not what was actually going on. In 3 months I went from my pubescent 150 lb 5’9″ frame to 125 lbs and losing. Oddly enough what success I did have in losing weight and getting strong was praised and valued – so I was good at something – yay – while simultaneously honing the skill of escapism and control. I found God in spinach, balsamic vinegar and the treadmill. I had a sense of empowerment that rose within and propelled me forward until it was a stronger force to be beckoned with and I couldn’t manage the reins. In the meantime, my brother was processing his sexuality, becoming an exceptional bassoonist and coping with addiction.
Fast forward 5 years,
2 relationships and 1 eating disorder later, I had gotten my bachelors in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. I was more credentialed and officially more sick than ever. College really took it out of me. I lost complete sight of how, what and when to eat. I had lost all basis for hunger and any connection to my body. I was drinking alcohol to cope and eating foods laden with carbs and sugar because whatever gut-brain axis existed at the time I had severed. I was sad, angry, tired and I genuinely hated myself.
My mom, who had struggled with her own addiction to food and alcohol had found salvation in a 12 step program called Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous (FA) and was using a scale to measure 3 allotted meals a day. She wasn’t eating flour, sugar or quantities in excess of her planned weighed and measured meals. She wasn’t drinking caffeine or alcohol. She was making commitments to herself and relaying them to her sponsor – what we call “accountability” partners today.
We can learn so much about ourselves if we dive into our parents’ struggles, especially our mothers. Food had always been a foe and she was never on her body’s side – which discouraged me until I conceptualized her suffering. My grandmother had cancer when she was a baby and her ability to nurture my mom was extremely limited. To add fuel to that fire, my grandfather – bless his silly soul, was also a bully. If I am able to take this into context, I’m able to have more compassion for her than if I didn’t have this knowledge. I noticed she was isolating less and showing up more after her own bout with cancer. Her body was transforming and she was radiating a kind of peace I had never seen growing up. I desperately needed this woman as a child but I cut my losses and took what I could get. We made a connection on the basis of healing.
I entered treatment for the first time under her wing.
Within a few days I was eating 3 meals, putting every ounce of food I ate on a scale and committing my cookie cutter plan to my new sponsor. I had to admit that I was a “food addict and that my life had become unmanageable.” I had to repeat words and mantras that I probably would have never come up with on my own but I said them anyway. The balanced meals and the accountability was completely turning my life right side up so I had to trust, at least then, that I was on a positive path.
The dogma I could have done without but desperation has a way of bringing a person to their knees.
Maybe it was just me and my inborn rebellion but I began asking questions like:
What is sustainability if not malleable, flexible and able to change?
Is freedom from food addiction really about putting everything I eat on a scale?
Will I never enjoy a glass of wine again?
Chocolate cake again?
Am I an addict – God I hate that word – really?
I began to feel repulsed by the ‘power outside of myself’ – the unmanageability of it all, the powerlessness, the constant ‘weak talk,’ and the sacrifice – moving anywhere without a meeting within a 5 mile radius or god forbid another country was shunned upon. You should have seen the room of faces when I said I was leaving Boston and moving to Hawaii…at this point in my life I had lived in Italy and taken this power greater than myself with me so I figured no one knew what they were talking about.
Sure freedom is beyond what we eat. It’s the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved as well as the right to act, speak or think as we want without hindrance or restraint. Freedom is also a felt experience, it seems, and whatever that feeling was – I didn’t have it despite my face being free from the toilet bowl, my wallet free from the junk food runs to 711, and my mind free from impulse.
This self subjugation invoked more questioning and a cross roads. I felt both the benefits of the program and the imprisonment of it. Food, I said to myself, wasn’t the beast. It’s not the problem. Something inside of me was. This beast had no name. It was a robber and a thief of my dreams and ambition and all I could do was hand it my power because I had no other skills. Skills…I needed those – where do I get me some?
teaches us that people are people and problems are problems. The more we identify with the problem the more the problem persists, therefore when we learn to externalize the problem we are finally able to see “it” for what it is. Outside of ourselves. Even just writing that gives me a sense of freedom that I can feel in my bones. I wasn’t a food addict after all, my instincts were right. I was a sad, lonely kid who wanted parents she could connect with and feel important to and controlling what I ate gave me a feeling of importance when nothing else did.
I’ll never forget when I moved to Kauai in 2006 and had just finished reading Ekhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth. The last excerpt I had read was about our Ego-identity and how the more we attach to labels the more that label becomes an illusion of who we think we are which ultimately limits our potential. The more I called myself an addict the more I felt paralyzed. I stopped using that word a LONG time ago. For some the ‘A’ word gives them a feeling of relief but for me, I feel chains.
This is also why I do not associate addiction with the disease model – diseases are manageable and treatable in many cases when the right care is administered.
When I dropped the FA code I took the risk of throwing the plan, the scale, the measurements and the limitations to the wind. With that I also threw the security and stability of knowing what I would be eating and who would be holding me accountable. I was happy, in the least, to live on a beautiful island surrounded by a new community, warm people, tropical winds and the ocean at my feet. Life continued, happenings happened, love came and went, loss was a frequent visitor… and then the beast. The beast came back. Along with the drawing board, the slate and the persistence to get to the root of the root (of the root).
In the span of 11 years I quelled my urge to pursue graduate school and apprenticed with an Ayurvedic Practitioner, became a certified Yoga Instructor, got engaged, broke the engagement, met my children’s father, had two kids and lived in a yurt for 6 years planting trees and tending 8 acres of farm land. I took breaks from the islands to beat pillows with whiffle bats at the Hoffman Institute, learned about esoteric archetypes at Ai Pono, had my hand at plant medicines like Peyote and Ayahuasca, attended weekly astrology meet ups with my girlfriends and generally lived like any faithful island dwelling hippie would. I was in my element with my tribe. My journey, you could say, had been extensive but not in vain.
I found a knack and a new outlet for making and preparing beautiful food from the plants I was growing and the animals we were raising – I pampered elite vacationers and was hired as a retreat chef. Working with food felt therapeutic and I felt drawn to express myself through it – kind of how an artist would use oils on canvas or a musician would write their own songs.
That deepest part of me which some might call intuition, God, Gaia, knowing, Inner being, source – always reminded me that no matter the frequency of the food one eats – or how beautiful/delicious/local/nutritious – those foods will only match the frequency of the person we bring to the table. Eat all the kale you want, but if you’re an asshole, the kale just makes you a kale eating asshole.
To clarify – we can eat moringa, chayote and chia seeds until the cows jump over the moon and the pigs start to dance – but if we haven’t gotten in bed with the person we are and who we want to become, then we will continually search for answers outside of ourselves.
Food is a powerful healer but it’s truly our relationship to ourselves that matters.
I believe we should go to great lengths to choose food with an optimum vibration whilst tending to our deeper wounds. This is where Therapeutic Eating comes in – to meet you at your wounds and guide you through the repair work from the bottom up, inside out. My hope is for you to meet yourself, the person you bring forward, and then commit to everlasting love. It’s a marriage after all – stop cheating on yourself! I don’t know why else I’m here on earth or what other purpose or responsibility I have to others than to share with you how I’ve healed and what I do to live in a body that thrives. And to reiterate time and again that what you and I both do will inherently look different – which is a good thing. (E’hem, which also means getting your food and nutrition advice from influencers is probably a bad idea?)
Wouldn’t it be nice to know that the foods you consume really benefit you? We humans are as unique as the trillions of bacteria that inhabit our bodies, inside and out. We have more bacterial cells than humans ones – and yet we keep trying to force ourselves into dietary boxes called KETO and PLANT BASED and VEGAN even calling ourselves ADDICTS and then to make it WORSE we wave flags in each others’ faces judging for the problems others contribute to the whole of the universe when in truth a person’s anger is a DIRECT reflection of their own wounds and lack of control. The problem is not as much what people are eating but what people aren’t seeing or willing to look at. It’s only then that what we consume changes. I just want to reiterate that. Being “Keto” or being “Vegan” is a distraction from healing the thing that brought you to the diet in the first place. While I consume a plant based “diet” I refuse to label myself – what’s the point? So people can put me in a category? I much prefer to be seen as someone who values their relationship to their body. I brave to say that the more we are willing to see ourselves and partner with love and peer through a radical lens of self appreciation while having the courage to unveil the pasts we loath and the futures we fear – the more healing we will do to better our planet, nurture our livestock, end factory farming and repair agricultural distress. This is by far what stands behind the ethics of consumerism.
I like to think that maybe my dieting had been some noble pursuit I had ‘taken for the team.’ Everything from raw veganism, to fruitarianism, to eating like a cavewoman, cooking up bone broth, tallow and gelatin from local cows. All lengths I went to to recover and understand – to get down deep enough to penetrate my behavioral “stuckness”. Every diet comes with seal and a promise. Each time I tried a new diet – whether it restricted carbohydrates, meat or cooked foods I was reminded of that excerpt from A New Earth: that this ego identification does not proliferate my greatest potential – it limits it.
I left Kauai in the winter of 2017 –
back to Maine, no longer my roots but definitely my blood – with two young kids in tow asking myself all the questions. Maybe the only important one being – why am I here? Like – here here. Earth plane here. I remember saying that I felt I had something to give but my arms were crippled and my words inarticulate. I could write and act but barely extend myself.
Insert: Masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, Oahu Fall of 2017. I knew that life as a chef would ultimately be unfulfilling because I was more interested in the person eating than I was cooking for (no offense). Even being one with food as I’ve often felt and knowing innately how to make something from nothing – skills I acknowledge and appreciate – I wasn’t as committed a chef as much as I was a devoted healer. Food matters but I’m really not that fussy and way too simple to charge $100 an hour to kiss rich people’s French manicure.
I wanted to teach what I knew about healing through food, not entirely by food. I wanted to represent recovery void of limiting beliefs, dogma and labels. I wanted to bypass trendy superfoods and target workouts. All things that hold value but don’t really hold up to the person we’re trying to meet and change. I wanted to pay homage to the unique journey we’ve all been on and honor it as part of our life’s puzzle. I wanted to address the individual because no diet does that. There truly is no one size fits all approach to health and wellness.
Science now shows the trillions of disproportionate microbiota and their activity in the gut directly impact how we live our lives. 70% of our bodies immune system lies in our gut while 90% of the serotonin our brain produces is linked to our microbiome. But let’s spill more of our guts later. Back to therapy.
While the name implies counseling couples and families, Marriage and Family Therapy is a bit of a misnomer. Family systems looks at the individual as greater than the sum of their parts. The system, like a circle, makes an impact on the individual and cannot be discounted because the family is our first and most paramount influence. So rather than pull one person out of the bunch, therapy includes the family lot, whether or not they’re all in the same room together. Beautiful things happen when they are, but it’s not essential to reaping immense benefits from the work alone (and we’re NEVER alone…).
And that’s a lot of what we’re going to be doing together.
As a clinically trained Marriage and Family therapist with a heavy hand in functional food and holistic medicine:
1.We explore the multigenerational unraveling of your life – as it turns out, you’re You and all the people before you. You are greater than the sum of your parts. Without acknowledgment of this, we’re kind half-assing our recovery.
2. We explore your early attachment bonds as a child – your formative years, the part where 90% of your brain was developing and you were learning how to connect to people especially your care givers.
3. We investigate what patterns of behavior run through your family line and which ones you haven’t quite broken (even if they’re just beliefs, they’re still patterns)
4. We begin to analyze your narrative (aka the stories you tell about yourself and believe) and your sense of agency, otherwise known as boundaries.
FOOD & PSYCHOLOGY IS A THING.
Now imagine all these things I’ve listed above and consider yourself with all that you come with, entering a kitchen and asking yourself what to eat. Or better yet, ask this person what diet they believe suits them?
Which brings me to:
Why diets fail us.
Let’s explore a few key words mentioned above. Nausea, tears, foot rubs, status quo, the beast. All of these words have been key to understanding my personal narrative. From correlating my nausea to anxiety. From my fathers tears to feeling connection. From my mothers foot rubs to feeling her love. To succumbing to something I’m not and daring to be different rather than status quo. To embracing secrets as sexy mysteries as opposed to lies. Replacing words like hate with radical, unabashed self love and bravery. And finally, the beast. The beast which I’ve befriended rather than shunned. The beast who I’ve come to endear rather than suppress. The beast who I’ve honored as my drive, my desire, my arousal, my passion, my cycle – all inside. You have this beast. I want you to find your BEAST because ultimately it is this which brings peace, stability, and presence in our bodies and clarity to our actions. It is this which evoked Therapeutic Eating™ and the One who chooses righteously (note I didn’t say perfectly). We can and should make friends.
We are all bigger than this bag of bones living under some fabricated guise. The human form is made of the same elements of our universe. This is what our great teachers teach – to draw our attention away from the illusion that we are only what we see. ASTROPHYSICS AND MEDICAL pathology don’t, at first sight, appear to have much in common. What do sunspots have to do with liver spots? How does the big bang connect with cystic fibrosis? Everything in us originated in cosmic explosions billions of years ago! BOOM
My mother and I have been in therapy since the Spring of 2019. Through our sessions I have come to cultivate compassion and render my resentment nil. All of which come from unraveling my own story. Once I took an objective look at my mothers’ own unmet needs and childhood wounds I could see how her own un-knowing extended into my life – and not by ill will or disdain for me but because her mother had cancer and was ordered by doctors not to hold her in her infancy.
So pause for a moment.
Can you IMAGINE? A baby being distanced by its mother due to an inner wound she carried and by no fault of her own because goodness knows, cancer runs deep. Then this child grows up looking for connection everywhere she turned and the only place she could find it was in a bag of crackers or a bottle of vodka.
So when my mother goes to mother me, of course her innate maternal skills provide me with all the things I need to sustain life but what was hardest for her to give was a direct result of what was hardest for her own mother to give. Do you see the pattern? So when I became a mother to my babies, regardless of the immensity of love I have for them, I too found myself struggling to hold my composure through the plethora of emotions spilling out from them. I had a tolerance and I didn’t like it – this is why parenting is one of the most profound teachers. My mother tells me to this day how amazing it is to see me hold, comfort and listen to my children – a phenomenon to someone who didn’t get what she needed as a child. I hold my kids consciously yes, but also with a conscious drive not to repeat history.
We all have these irritabilities, intolerances and barometers running rampant and unconsciously through our blood and in our family lines and until they become conscious we will continue to act unconsciously. Usually through anger and sadness. Therefore the next time you diet and fail – and wonder why you are so “undisciplined” or lack will power, remember this. The diet is the problem, not you.
If you have lived your life trying to fix your made-up brokenness through contrived programs and have berated your body to a pulp, 1. own your resilience and 2. grab a thread and needle.
Here you will:
1. embrace your wholeness and
2. acknowledge your beautiful story and the many new stories you’ll write.
3. You will begin to nourish yourself from a place of knowing and not obligation and ultimately feed yourself the food of the earth with the nurturance of a mother.
Your hunger, your beast, will not only be your friend but your best ally.
What does this journey entail? Keep going my friend, I’m holding your hand.
Expect to feel satisfied – and nourished – and surprised. As Esther Hicks teaches in the Law of Attraction, satisfaction and feeling good are our highest goals! The only way we can heal is to take conscious partnership with the universe we are linked to so inextricably. We don’t heal when we berate our every step. Three forward, 2 back. No diet starts with a sense of satisfaction. All diets start with dissatisfaction so I ask you to let your eyes and heart soften as you read this and start this journey with curiosity rather than distaste – this is STEP 1 in changing your script.
Eating well is vital to good health and living an optimum life – and it bears reminding that the more we seek diets to fix us the more we’ll come up defeated. Diets advise you what to eat but I suggest you greet yourself and align your intentions and actions based on your unique story, body and needs. So what’s step 2? What’s something you can do RIGHT NOW?
You can feel good. Yes. You can pause from this screen and say to yourself, “I choose to feel good.” And tune into the sensation. If you’re surpised by your answer or in disbelief, dig a little deeper. Ask yourself a few more questions to take it further. Apply Byron Katie’s “Work” and ask yourself if it’s true (the story, the rage, the blame, the hatred, or insecurity). And keep going. The third step is to allow your next movement, choice, action, to be one in alignment with that good feeling.
Let’s keep going.
I love you and that is made possible by my journey toward greater love for me. I believe your journey will bring you to a similar yet completely unique. We all deserve to be fed – nature serves to nourish. Allow your body to speak and quiet the thoughts that interfere with the messages. Easier said – I KNOW.