Food, Grief, Loss, and Freedom
Plus, the holidays are right around the corner. Let's get into it! Welcome to Episode 3!
Wendy Sloneker: Host
Hi, welcome back. I'm so glad you are here with us tonight, back on the heart healing from loss podcast tonight, I have something really special for you and it's actually someone who's really special. Her name is Catherine Dickson, and I met her just a little while ago. She is a holistic health coach and she and I have a lot in common around food and grief and freedom.
So tonight is going to be pretty exciting, just our conversation about what she's up to and how she helps women with food freedom, and also where that all intersects around grief and loss and healing. hHealing is what we're all about. So I'd like to take this minute to just welcome Catherine Dickson to the podcast.
Hello Wendy. I'm so happy to be here.
Thank you so much. It's really like, I wish you could see the smiles on both of our faces. We are just kind of grinning and being excited to just be here and talk with each other.
So here, we're here and this timing is kind of auspicious too. I do want to check in… we're going to be talking… I'm going to prep you Catherine, because I have a question that I haven't told you about and it has to do, we'll save it for later, but I want to plant the seed and that is we're in kind of like the fourth quarter, which, and we're running up close to like the holidays, the winter holiday season, which are largely food related.
For some they're focused, and for others, they may be obsessed. So I do check in around that, but first of all, I'd love to hear just a little bit about you and your story and how you got into the practice that you have right now.
Absolutely, absolutely. Yes. This time of year is kind of like the super bowl for me because it's just, there's so much, there's so much happening for all of my clients. And so it's, it's important to really hold space for that. Um, but well, as far as my story is concerned, I kind of came to the holistic health coaching world by a pretty circuitous route. I am from Louisiana.
And I mentioned that because I grew up most of my life being super unhealthy and it was very much that whole concept of the laissez Labon tone relay, let the good times roll. It's all about food all the time. I mean everything. And so that was most of my life. And up until I was, um, about seven years ago, I just was living there and just decided, you know what? This is just not, this is not the life that I want to be living.
I want to be, I want more venture. I want to feel healthier. I want to live somewhere beautiful where you can spend time outside. And so I picked everything up and just moved to Seattle, kind of on a whim and just was hell-bent and determined to change my life. So at that time I was not free from food. I was, I have was still struggling with bingeing and, you know, coping with food all the time. I was, you know, desperately wanted to lose weight. Didn't know how to do it in a way that felt good. It was just always on the kind of the yo-yo dieting spectrum.
And so I ended up meeting this young perky girl who was a personal trainer, and I thought, you know what, I'm going to give this one more try, let's see how this goes. I've come all the way up here. And let's, let's do it and ended up working with her. And I lost about 130 pounds through diet and exercise, but
It was a big old journey. And I mean, it's so emotional and there was such a transformation both inside and outside in that was absolutely incredible. And I learned how to take care of myself and actually eat healthy food. And, um, you know, what a concept and, and, and really fell in love with, um, the, the strength training part and feeling empowered by that.
So that made me decide that I wanted to go become a personal trainer. So I went and I got my dream job working at that same gym and went through that whole process of transformation. And then really pretty quickly realized this is not enough. This is not it because even having done that, even having dieted and, and, and gone through that whole process, my relationship with food was still not great and not healthy. I had just gone in the complete other direction.
And so I realized I've got to change my relationship with food. It's not just about what you eat, and it's not just about the diet or the weight loss. If you don't change from the inside out the outside, it doesn't really matter because it'll, it'll, it'll shift and change, and you're just kind of miserable. So
I ended up feeling, “Yeah, I am miserable. I am still thinking about food all the time. I still want to eat the sheet cake.” I just didn't get to be mad about it. You know what I mean? And so it was just, it was just this whole, long transformation and years of life, just finally coming to this place of going, okay.
So if this is not working what's next, and that led me ultimately into health coaching, it led me to, uh, changing my own relationship with food, learning how to actually do that. And that was the, that's been the most empowering thing I've ever done.
And so it was, it is a law, it was a long process in a beautiful journey, but I feel like every piece had to happen in order for this to really, for me to be where I am today. So it ultimately was a beautiful journey.
Yeah, for sure. Well, and what I'm hearing is like you lifting weights on the outside, like the actual dumbbells and stuff, but then you also lifted some inside-weights around, what that relationship was. Does that sound cogent?
Absolutely. All the yes. Yes. Oh my gosh. The outside stuff is the easy part. Right? That's the easy stuff you gotta deal with. You have to, you have to do that all from the inside out a hundred percent in order for it to really feel good to you.
Right. And true. So tell me, I would love to hear a little bit about like, like what that freedom kind of feels like. I have that from a grief standpoint of moving beyond pain and like having more capacity for joy and for like curiosity and, Oh, I am actually interested in something else or someone else or anything else. Right. So I'm wondering if that kind of freedom feels like how that may compare or differ at all.
What, what does food freedom feel like as compared with what I've shared about like freedom from pain after grief and loss?
Oh, I think there's quite a few similarities with that. I mean, in freedom is the best word for it because it's just this, you, you, you come, you go through life each day with the ability to choose, the ability to feel.
It's just, it's more, it's an expansive feeling, right? Because you, you get to decide, do I want to have this or this, but there's not this constant ridicule and thought that, you know, those negative thoughts and belief systems that are just that cloud that hangs over you like grief or loss, right. That just, you feel like you're just being followed around by this dark cloud. It's the same thing with food, because you're constantly thinking about, you know, how do you look? How are people perceiving you? What should you be eating? What shouldn't you be eating? It's this constant just fog.
And so being able to just let food be food again, and food still gets to be delicious. You get to still have the things that you enjoy, but there's just less drama. There's just less, there's just less negativity. And you're just able to operate from a place of just your inner compass. You're in tune with that and you know what you want when you want.
And you know, when, when enough is enough and what enough looks like, and that may change from day to day.
That sounds fantastic. I, I have, uh, I got to tell you, I'm, I'm with a lot of the folks who are, you know, grievers and folks who are experiencing loss, because food is a comfort for me. And it looks different with different relationships, right?
So, for some relationships, when I am seeking comfort, it is sourdough bread. And for others, like if it's like world events that I just feel bad about, then okay, it's chocolate time. So it, you know, like these are just sort of cues. And I know I'm not alone because food is one of those things that when people are feeling loss and wanting comfort, it’s that “let's avoid pain and seek pleasure” thing.
We go to food. We are sort of trained for that in terms of, you know, as we're growing up, if we're feeling bad or have our feelings hurt, then adults in many of our lives have suggested and taught us to not feel bad. Number one, don't feel how you're feeling. And why don't you replace that feeling with something that's going to make you feel different, like, um, some bacon or maybe a cookie or something like that. So we learn to replace those feelings with different feelings. Is this kind of who comes into your door in your practice?
Absolutely. Wendy. Absolutely. I mean, my gosh, it is just, but you're so spot on that, you know, this starts at childhood, this starts as a baby. This is, oh, well, you know, they're crying. So they must be hungry. Obviously let's feed them something. Right. And it's it you're in, in with the parents when they, you know, food is happiness. Food is love. Food is comfort. Food is safety.
And when you have a parent who is not as in touch with their own emotions, right, how are they able to properly teach a child to experience that as well? Right. It's much easier to just give somebody, give a child a cookie and make them be quiet.
And so, yes, I completely agree. And most people don't think about that. They forget about that period of life because as kiddos, what else do you have to cope with? Right. It's as adults, we have all these options and different things that we can do where kids just don't have that freedom. That the one thing that they can do is let me go to the pantry and grab a piece of candy, because that feels good. So I think that it's really teaching adults how to shift those patterns that they have had their entire life, right.
They were learned from the previous generation, right. This is like the best that we have. And when, you know, kids are non-verbal, you know, like, okay, well, you do have to eat, looks like I'm going to, you know, I can't handle the screaming or the crying or the, you know, I don't know what else to do. So here it is. So that, you know, it's really interesting. And it's also heartbreaking.
So I'm curious. Hey, are there things that you know of or share about that are choices around like, okay, if in that moment, it's, you know, feeling this feeling or eating this thing or choosing something else, how do you help? Like, what is your approach around navigating that?
Oh yeah. Well, it's very, it's very specific to the person because I don't think that just handing out a pile of coping mechanisms is very valuable to antibody, right? Because obviously food is the well-worn path for if you cope with food, if food is your, your happiness, your sadness, and your everything in between, that is a, that, that is, it works for you. It works well. And it feels good for the most part, right?
Until it doesn't, it's reliable, it's easy to access. It doesn't take a lot of effort. Right? So the thing about it is, is that you have to really figure out and dig deep into understanding what feelings and what needs are you actually trying to meet. You have to tune into that before you can get anywhere, because just telling someone to go take a bubble bath. Well, if that's not fulfilling the need that they're trying to meet in the moment with the Cheetos, it's not going to work.
Right. And so you have to, you have to really look at, so one of the things that I start with is I have them start playing with the idea of actually identifying feelings. Let's build some awareness around our day, what's happening in our life. What are we? And I often have to give them a list because most people really struggle to identify name beyond just the most normal feelings.
What's really, what's really here. So we really have to look at it and go, like, what are you actually feeling? What do you know, does any of this resonate with you? And then we also look at what did you love to do as a kid? What were some of those activities that you enjoyed? What are things you've done over the years that you find that you're naturally gravitating towards before you became an adult and you were, you know, just, um, you have all these responsibilities and you forget, you lose touch with so many of those fun things.
And it's helping, it's helping adults get back into touch, maybe with some of those things that they really enjoyed, those creative activities, those, you know, if they really wanted to be outside and, and helping them reconnect, oftentimes with the things they liked as a child or something that's relatively similar that often will help them be able to, that's often one of the more strong coping mechanisms than some of the cookie cutter ones that we come up with. So it's, and it's a lot of trial and error. And so oftentimes I recommend that somebody have a few options and let's go down the list and let's try a couple, let's see what's working today. And if none of them are working and it's back to food, that's okay too. We're still learning something.
Right, right. Gosh, do you find that, um, that, I mean, having a few options is a brilliant idea because every day is different, right? Every single day is different. The body is different. The mind is different. Things are happening in our world at rapid, you know, rates of speed and frequency. And so, you know, and I'm thinking now about sort of like, okay, I have this day and I've tried these three things and it's still not working. So like, I imagine there's a lot of encouragement on your part as well. Like, this is the process.
Oh yeah. I mean, will you have to exercise so much? Self-compassion when you're going through this process. And a lot of times, you know, I'm often telling women, and I remember doing this myself, sitting there with the giant bag of popcorn, eating
And yet, and going, this is my choice, you know? I mean, it's just this moment of like, you have to do that. You have to,
Yeah. You have to let your in and you have to be compassionate because this is something you've been doing your entire life. You're not going to be able to undo it with a few, with a few new coping mechanisms immediately. It's a process. And it's, it's about learning how to literally self-sooth in a different way. And, and that pattern is, it's a slow one to shift, but once you do, it feels so good. It's so good.
It's kind of like the insides just open up, right. Similar to that grief, freedom, right? Like, wow. You know, in a way where your pants still fit.
Oh, I love it. Yes.
Sure. Going in now I'm curious about like, who's coming in and when people come into your practice to talk about food, freedom, do you often find grief kind of in there, things that have been disappointing or that they wish had happened or things that did happen that they wish didn't happen? Are there some, um, things that go through there as well?
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. That was for sure. One of the things that I got so excited about when we met was just, as you were talking about all the different levels of grief and loss and what that really means, and really reminding people that grief is so not just this one dimensional, I, you know, even, I, I remember being surprised in that first conversation we had of just like, Oh yeah, you're right. This isn't just about losing a loved one. This is about so much more than that. And so, yes, I think that grief is so closely tied to all of this because there are these so many unmet expectations in life. There's this, um, I follow a life coach. She calls them "expectation hangovers" where it's basically, you fit something was going to go the way you thought. And then it didn't because that's life, right?
Love that. And so it's life doesn't go with the quite the way you wanted it to. And I'll just all of the pain and the hurt and the trauma that everyone goes through in life. It's, it's almost impossible to get of this thing unscathed. And so, you know, we all have these traumas in, and for women particularly, which is primarily who I serve, it's traumas related to their body and in relationship and with other women and in life. And there's just so much, we hold so much grief and more often than not, most of the women that come to me are holding it in their body specifically, they're holding it so magically. And that is the easiest way to quiet it and suppress it. And, and Sue that is just through stuffing. It literally stuffing it down again and again, in a grand cause that just feels the easiest. And it's the easiest way to know now.
Right. Right. Well, and like fast, right. Uh, in this day and age, like fast and speed is kind of demanded by, you know, external things. But also we take that on like, Oh, like I, I tend to put a fair amount of pressure on myself around like getting things done. And it's, you know, it's a lot more convenient to, uh, you know, go with the sourdough than it is to like slow down, feel my feelings, but it's something that I need to learn and process, otherwise that feelings just going to come back louder. Do you find that, was that part of your experience?
Oh my goodness. Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And I think the more, one of the biggest things, the best things you can, you can do all of us. And what I had to do is just learn to be quiet, learn, to sit, still learn to slow down. And that is such a challenge for everyone. But for women specifically, I think because we do our expectations of ourselves are sky high. We would never expect that of our, our daughters or our best friends. Right. But for ourselves, we can do anything all day, every day, never stop. Right. And so you're right. I think learning how to really listen to yourself and learn really here, what do I need in this moment and stopping long enough to prepare your food and do all of that. It is a, it is such a process to learn how to do it. But I will say that for me specifically, when I finally got it and that light switch turned on of like, Oh, this helps every other area of my life. If I will just stop and make my own dinner, it's amazing how that will translate to other areas. Because once you start loving yourself in one way, it really starts to seep into all of the other ways too, which is so beautiful and just really fascinating to see how that happened. It just, it will literally infect you in such a great way.
It's just the best infection ever.
Exactly. But I hear you and sometimes life is slow and you have to set your self up for success. And so that's one of the things that I do is this beyond just talking about it, you do have to get into the practical, right. And look at okay. If I am really busy, but I want to feed myself well and with foods that are good. Okay. What can I do? How can I help myself with that?
So it's about solutions. It's about solutions that work in ways that we cannot see coming in some ways that that's amazing. I think that's so well efficient. Like for the folks who are still like, no, I really need to do it fast. And with lots of pressure, there's an efficiency to it. Right. I want to say that, but there's also like, Oh, there's added like benefits going on there too, that we can't forecast other than feeling better.
Totally. Wendy, do you, do you notice sometimes that with your, with your clients as well, that moving fast is a coping mechanism in and of itself. Right. And yeah. And so that's what I find quite a bit is it's and that's something that I've experienced myself. Is this moving fast, keeps me from having to think too hard about what's going on or feel anything.
Right. You're so right. Thank you for saying that because it's actually one of the major myths it's when someone's going through grief, especially a death. It's recommended by many around and sometimes directed to just keep busy, just ignore it, go down the checklist, don't feel your feelings like, and it's, you know, it really diminishes what's actually happening or what has just happened.
You know, grief and losing a loved one deserves to be honored with grief. That's a big deal. That's something we're wired for. That's something that is normal and natural: when we experience a loss, it's grief.
And so I really think that we just aren't, we aren't trained in how to deal with that. So that's why the recommendation of, well, keep busy, keep busy. And so we end up carrying around because we're stuffing all these feelings in with food or under alcohol, or, you know, sometimes Netflix or something else that isn't addressing the actual problem. So it gets different, but it doesn't actually heal. Do you agree?
Oh, I couldn't agree more for sure. Yeah.
Wow. So in light of where we are in the holidays... they're fast approaching. The candy holiday is coming up and then it's going to be the bird holiday coming up, and then like a bunch of holidays in December that each have their own like marked cuisine.
So tell me about how, how would you encourage folks listening in -- in this audience, yours, mine, and new friends -- How would you like to encourage them to approach the holidays around food choices and freedom?
Hmm. That's such a good question. I think that, that, it's the biggest thing I will say is to not, not make it such a big deal.
So it's a huge deal to someone that's really struggling with food, but let yourself have the things. So what I always say to every, everybody is pick and choose your moments.
You don't have to eat everything all the time. It's this, isn't this permission slip to just go nuts and, and treat your body like garbage. It's more of listen to your body. And if you have that favorite, you know, dish those favorite dishes at Thanksgiving, and that just really let yourself eat those things, listen to yourself that day. Because a lot of times we overeat on Thanksgiving one, because it's what we're told to do. Right. But two, because we're stressed being in that triggering environment with our families and right.
I mean, we're sitting there and we don't want to deal with XYZ. And so the easiest way is just comfort, comfort, comfort, just throwing it back because it's just, it's sometimes can be hard to be around the people that we love now. Sometimes it's, we're around the people that we love and we all just, we food is, is love for the family and we all just eat until we're dying, you know, kind of a thing. But it's really what I always tell, tell my clients is just, just do a little check-in throughout the day and just see every, you know, I've even set alarms on my phone in years past, if just these, every couple of hours, she's kind of like a little, little reminder of, Hey, how am I doing?
Or every time I go to the bathroom and I need to look in the mirror, am I okay?
Everything going okay. And you know, am I, am I happy with what I'm having? Am I, you know, am I feeling like I'm overdoing? Do I need to pull back and really just play with your boundaries a little bit and just, but really it's about paying attention. And, and as far as Halloween is concerned, I always tell any of my only my people just eat the candy you love the most.
Eat what you love. If don't settle for the sad candy that your kids didn't want, because you're going to end up, you're going to eat all of the Twizzlers and then you're going to make it to through the, through the Kit-Kats. And then you're going to round your round, your way around to the milk does, which is what you wanted in the first place. Right? So just let yourself go straight there, beeline to the thing you love the most and enjoy it, savor it. And then you move, you get to move on, right. You to move on, right?
The conscious choice, like might actually satisfy, like having the conscious choice. Right? Absolutely. And then you don't also have to feel bad about the other, like 16 pieces of candy you ate that you didn't really want.
You didn't ever want them. Absolutely. You want get, eat, go with what you want, eat the best thing. First. Always, always, always don't settle for the sad stuff. No, no. You know, no sad candy. No. And, and, and, you know, if you, if you like the, the, the, you don't have to make all of your holiday dishes, the healthier version, if you don't want to just enjoy what you have. And then, but what we do is that what you're not allowed to do is you're not allowed to be ugly to yourself about it. So what we say, what I always say is, look, I know you're going to be it's okay. This is what, you know, this is your, your inner critic is trying to help. They're trying to protect you. But what we do is we learn how to talk to her appropriately. So that, that next day, post Thanksgiving, we're not raking ourselves over the coals for our life choices. We're just, it's Friday now. We're moving on. So that's really important too.
That is fantastic. That's fantastic! Thank you so much. It's like, I think that gentleness and that encouragement as self-talk is some of the biggest, like, cause we're always listening… we're always listening. That's a big deal. Oh, I'm so pleased to talk to you, Catherine. Thank you so much for being here with me and with us for this time. Do you want to come back? Yeah? Okay! Awesome!
Thanks. I so enjoyed it.
It's red. Okay. Awesome. Well, thank you again. Please, would you let people know how you would like to be contacted? If this is resonating with you and you really want to get in touch with Catherine? -And, I highly recommend it - Catherine, how would they do that?
Okay, perfect. Thank you. So my website is riseholistichealth.com and my Instagram is the holistic biscuit. So either of those are great. You can find me there and I would love to chat with anybody who needs a little help with food freedom.
Brilliant. Definitely get in touch with Catherine and ask her about her Biscuit Movement because it's lots of fun. Lots of fun. Thank you again, Catherine. I'm so looking forward to more shared experiences around food and grief and freedom.
Agreed. Agreed. Thank you, Wendy.