At age 3, I was discovered behind the sofa with a missing Thanksgiving pie.
Food and sugar, in particular, soothed me when I couldn’t soothe myself and others failed to do so. Life’s sweetness came not from hugs or relationships, faith, nature, accomplishments or dreams, but from penny candy from the 711.
Not surprisingly, I was chronically sick with allergies, asthma, bronchitis, and colds. And I missed countless days at school.
Diets were the norm as early as 12 when I connected being thin (no matter what the cost) with being attractive.
Somehow, health never figured into my weightloss attempts. They were accompanied only by an obsessional drive to be thin and therefore acceptable to myself, to boys my age, and to society in general.
The truth was I wasn’t fat, but I was convinced that I was.
My distorted relationship with food continued throughout college.
I met my soon-to-be husband upon graduation. A friend of my brother’s from medical school, Scott asked me to marry him on our first date. Two months later, I followed him to San Francisco.
As Scott began his internship and residency at the Presidio to repay the army for medical school, I continued the battle with my weight, which seemed to fluctuate with every life transition, challenge, or emotional trial.
I would gain weight and then become obsessed with losing it again by restricting my diet or exercising excessively.
The alternative food culture in San Francisco inspired my deeper exploration into nutrition and holistic health and introduce me to vegetarianism, which started as another weight-loss attempt but quickly transformed into veganism as a spiritual path.
Finally, I had found a way of eating that aligned with my values.
I could eat without causing harm to helpless animals and take care of myself at the same time . . . compassion for all.
Finally, food made sense.
I felt better almost overnight, even though I still had a lot to learn. (Absence of animal products does NOT mean presence of health.)
My professional life began at a small city magazine selling advertising to San Francisco restaurants which led to me working for a local, high-end lifestyle publication. My final career move in the city was to work for Time Inc., selling advertising space and marketing programs to 40 national publications, such as Sports Illustrated, Time, Bon Appetit, House Beautiful, and Fortune.
Through sheer determination and long hours spent at my desk, I quickly became one of the top performers in the country — but at a cost to my health.
Meanwhile, my self-care included an occasional massage. But after being molested by a massage therapist, even that one small act of self-care was gone.
We moved to Bavaria, where I resumed eating dairy simply because the choices were so limited then. While great fun, constant travel and work as a wine consultant complicated my health.
Before long, my health problems resurfaced with acne, extreme bloating, indigestion, asthma, and allergies.
We returned to the states, this time to Seattle. I found a naturopath who put me on an elimination diet. Off dairy, I immediately felt better. My symptoms lifted — including the depression which had emerged during my last year in Germany.
We left the army and moved to Rochester NY, where Scott completed a fellowship as a forensic psychiatrist. What was to be one year in Rochester became 14 because of the engaging community, the discovery of our spiritual home, The Rochester Zen Center, and our commitment to bringing our 1908 home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright back to life.
The head cook at the Zen Center, now a beloved spiritual mentor and friend, welcomed me into the Zen Center kitchen. It was there that I gained a deep understanding of the connection between food and mind. And it was in that kitchen where I learned and embraced the concept of nourishment on ALL levels.
We meditated before interacting with the ingredients. We worked in silence (except when absolutely necessary to speak). We lingered at the farmers’ market, lovingly selecting each item with discernment. We paid attention to each tear of the greens and slice of carrot. We made offerings to the greedy, insatiable aspect of our human nature. We shared the healing power of vegetables during cooking classes for the community.
In that kitchen, I understood my life’s work: nourishment.
I threw myself back into the work I began in San Francisco by opening the Upstate NY and Toronto markets for Time Inc. and consistently held one of the top 5 ranks in the country.
But I worked endlessly. And with each sale, I began to lose my SOUL — and my health, too. I neglected what I’d learned in my studies about nutrition and chose to eat foods that were quick and easy to grab on-the-go, rather than nourishing foods that were good for my health.
Meanwhile, my drive to be a top performer overcame me. I thought I had to earn my place in the world.
I worked myself into the ground, only seeing my value in direct relation to my sales quota.
Not surprisingly, I became even more depressed.
After simmering in the background for decades, this time depression began to affect my sales success.
I couldn’t get away with blatant self-neglect anymore. But the problem was, I didn’t consider myself worthy of self-care. I was also significantly overweight by this point and exhausted by the ongoing, emotional battle.
Therapy only got me so far, so I began taking antidepressants and luckily, within 2 weeks, the cloud had lifted. Staying in my career and remaining healthy mentally were mutually exclusive, so in January Scott and I set a departure date of May 1. And, after two years of trying to conceive, I became pregnant the second of my two weeks on antidepressants.
I quit my job on May 1st, as we’d planned, and delivered our son Sage on August 30, 2001. Now I took all the intensity I’d channeled into my career and began channeling it into becoming a selfless supermom.
It turned out, I hadn’t learned the lesson.
I lost myself in my new role.
My Dad died when Sage was 3 and I quickly resumed my old coping habits — eating sugar and non-nutritious food. Shortly thereafter, serious symptoms arose. I gained the weight I’d lost, my depression returned and with it bloating, acne, asthma, and allergies. I decided to calm my mind through meditation and, with predictable intensity, signed up for a 4day silent Zen meditation retreat with 10 hours spent daily staring at a blank wall.
My greatest fear was stillness and so I was literally going to stare it down.
After the first few hours of meditating, I began bleeding rectally and noted what looked like bologna but turned out to be the lining of my colon in the toilet bowl. Silly me concluded I’d earned hemorrhoids from my marathon meditation: a badge of honor or rite of passage.
The doctor told me it was likely cancer, but a colonoscopy revealed it to be ulcerative colitis. I went from doctor to doctor begging for help. But my health issues didn’t end there.
I went on to be afflicted with dental trouble, irritable bowels, lung infections and even pneumonia (which involved a fiveday hospital stay during a vacation in Florida).
Afterwards, I came down with shingles due to sheer exhaustion.
I had a huge healing crisis and sought help from every expert I knew until I remembered I needed to be my own healer.
The doctors talked about lifelong medication, frequent hospital stays, and a shortened life span. And so I turned to plants to heal me.
I discovered raw foods. I juiced the highest nutritionally dense foods in their simplest forms. Sugar no longer became my means of soothing myself. Essential oils, flower remedies, raw food, tea, meditation, and mindful eating became my arsenal.
The less I did to a food, the more it did for me. And ultimately, I cured myself within 6 months.
I didn’t have to take any medication. I didn’t have any lingering symptoms. In fact, I didn’t have any sign that I’d ever had anything wrong with me.
And so I trained at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and the Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC. I became certified as a Bach Flower practitioner and a raw food chef and instructor. And I began to teach people how to move beyond human doing and towards human being.
And here I am today.
It’s true, my path has not been a straight one.
But I’ve learned a ton, and I’ve come a long way.
And now I want to share with you what I’ve learned — as I have with so many others.
Want to cultivate habits worthy of your best self?
Feel free to contact bnourished or Katie McDonald from anywhere. Katie is available remotely by phone:
(401) 965-4486 or in person for those in the Southern New England area.
If you'd like to contact Katie by email you may use the contact form HERE