An Interview on Food, Intuition, and Purpose

I had the most wonderful chat a couple of months ago with the beautiful Caroline Dooner from the Fuck it Diet Podcast.  Listen below as we discuss the body, grounding, and the Divine Feminine.  I've also included the Transcript below if you prefer that instead!

Caroline: Hi Jessie.  Thanks so much for being on this podcast.

Jessie: Yeah. Thanks so much for having me.

Caroline: I want to ask you how you describe what you do.

Jessie: I work with women who have a strong desire to lead in the world, but they're usually caught up in some kind of limiting blocks, behaviors, beliefs, or health issues where they feel as though they are not able to step into their power and claim their role as a leader.  And so I help them to really cultivate presence and start to embody the mission that they came here to fulfill.

Caroline: Amazing. How did you get into this work, because I know that you have worked in nutrition in the past and now seem to be working in a more spiritual, soul-based way.  I'm curious about your path.

Jessie: In undergrad I studied anthropology and shamanism, so I was very interested in spirituality from the get-go and various cultural perspectives around spirituality and healing. And then from there I studied under an acupuncturist and then went to massage school and then knew that I wanted to pursue the nutrition route but I knew that clinical nutrition alone would not be enough, so I did both a clinical/naturopathic nutrition program alongside a psychology of eating program to give me that soul-based nutrition perspective.

Caroline: Amazing.

Jessie: Yeah, so it all goes into the work that I do now. 

Caroline: So I was just going to ask, do you work through that lens a lot or is that just a nice thing to have to round out your understanding of a mind-body connection.  

Jessie: I would say that everything I've done is represented in my work somehow, whether it's yoga teaching or whatever it is, all of the disciplines that I've studied in the past are represented in my work of helping women get back into the body and get present again.  This is the crux of my work and the crux of my personal path as well.

Caroline: That's amazing. So most of the women listening to this who follow me and this podcast are people who have had really horrible relationships with food and weight and what I teach is that shame and stress around weight and eating perfectly are just going to stay in their way.  But the more energy work that I do and learn, the more it becomes so clear how much being present in the body and specifically grounding, especially for people with food or weight stress or fixation is so important. 

Jessie: Yes and our nutrition really does impact our connection with intuition as well.  So I would say that I've gone back and forth.  When I was younger I was so rigid and I was like, "I must eat in this perfect way and have perfect health," and I was really struggling with a lot of health issues too. So I did a lot of healing and therapeutic diets and then I kind of went the opposite direction of just trying to eat intuitively, and for me and for most of my clients that seek me out as well, they have struggled with health issues and they need that middle way, where it's not one or the other, it's a little bit of both. And yeah, I think if you are committed to spirituality in your life, then nutrition is such a powerful doorway as far as embracing food and your body lovingly and right action without regards to outcome as it concerns weight. 

Caroline: Can you explain that a little more? That sounds fascinating. Right action...

Jessie: Yeah so for me it is getting clients connected to their big why. So if they are leaders they want to be clear-headed, and they want to be strong, and they want to be empowered, and they want to have the energy.  And if they also are struggling with health issues than they need a little bit, perhaps, of boundaries around nutrition - healthy boundaries. So embracing right relationship with eating and nutrition and empowering yourself to choose whatever you're actually eating, or choose whatever choice your making.  Committing to right action without, "Oh if I eat this will it make me fat?" or "I've been eating healthfully why aren't I losing weight?" And it's like, well, you're losing sight of the big goal.  The big goal is to be really present for the unfolding and to be in empty, loving, compassionate presence, and if you're hating against your body or you're contracting against life because you have to be on a certain diet, you are running away from the big goal rather than towards it.

Caroline: That is so beautiful and so true.

Jessie: Yeah, I don't know if that answers your question.

Caroline: It does, it definitely does. And it kind of brings up the other thing that I talk about which is that people who've been obsessed with diets and weight ignore their entire lives and the sole goal becomes "Well, when I become thin, then everything will be great," or "When I become thin, then I'll be successful; then I'll be able to live," and it just doesn't work that way.  Seeing that you're work is all about - I know you work with leaders - but even just for anybody, even for people who don't feel like leaders, the idea of a Divine Purpose and getting in touch with that and creativity too, is actually the term that I use more often because it kind of makes the stakes lower for those who don't feel as though they don't have any inkling of what their Divine Purpose might be, but how much getting in tune with that helps on the weight and food end so much, because it fills you with an actual purpose which is so much more fulfilling than worrying about food and weight.

Jessie: And you know, when you say Divine Purpose, I think that's beautiful. Purpose with a capital P, not as in the one specific job or path that you're supposed to walk. And it shows up in every area of your life from your relationships to the relationship you have with self and it's all about, "How can I embody that more fully?"  I just think that's so important.  I think we're all called to lead in one way or another - represent something, or stand for something. I work more with entrepreneurs but it's really with anyone.  Even some of my clients are really moved in their relationships.  They want to be really good moms, and that's leadership right there. But a lot of people believe, "oh I have to figure this out before I can help others." And, really, it's like, "No this is your path. You'll probably always be figuring this out to one degree or another, and it's in walking the journey with people while holding the container and being a conscious guide where the magic is.  We don't need to pretend that we're perfect in order to lead, right?

Caroline: Right! And that comes back again to body- and I'm talking about body all the time- because it really stands in the way.  People are like, "I can't stand up, I can't have fun, I can't relax until I am more perfect, until I look better, until I am smaller." And it will hijack your entire life. 

Jessie: Absolutely.

Caroline: I want you to, if you will, expand upon how what you eat affects your intuition? I'm curious about that. That sounds awesome.

Jessie: Yeah. You know, I think it's different for everyone as far as I don't think there's one specific diet.  I know some people are like, "You need to eat vegan to be connected to your intuition." And I really don't believe that, but I think it's different for everyone.  As far as the piece on grounding that you mentioned, we need to be grounded in the here and now in order to have access to intuition and to bring that intuition down into manifestation too.  So eating in a way that really grounds you.  For me caffeine really keeps me in this etheric state where I'm not actually able to get clear on anything that's going on in my mind, it's like a thousand things happening.  And I'm a vata type, so I'll skip meals and that's bad news for me.  I need to make sure I have regular meals, everything my body type resists.  And then mental clarity is really important. So the things that I notice with that are really blood sugar balance as well as general hormonal balance and optimizing digestion - that whole mind-body connection. So yeah having that clarity, and then having an approach around food where you aren't following rules and guidelines, you're listening and responding to your body.  So even if you're working off of a healing protocol as a starting point, even within that healing protocol, you're questioning, "how does this feel?" and "what am I craving?" And then constantly tinkering and responding to what you're body is saying instead of what outside sources are saying. And the more you do that, the more you tap into one of our most profound sources of intuition which is body wisdom.

Caroline: Yes, totally. I love hearing that actually.  And again, it lowers the stakes for those with a history of dieting. Anyone who has had stress over their history of dieting, has probably taken it to the extreme, and it's that perfectionistic, "I have to do this perfectly right." It's that control issue. And being able to switch it to, every little think is a learning journey, really, that you can approach with curiosity rather than, "This has to be right. If this isn't right, everything's going to fall apart."

Jessie: And for me, and for most of my clients who are so obsessed with finding the "right way to eat", I think it's so important to empower women to notice how foods make them feel.  Especially if they are so worried about dieting, the moment you drop out of eating for weight loss and how it makes your body look to eating for, for example if you've ever struggled with depression or anxiety, to start noticing how foods and approaches to eating really affect your state of mind.  I feel like it's such a powerful deterrent to keep chronic dieting or keep binging on sugar or whatever else it is, when you realize, "Wow, when I do this it really affects my quality of life. And I feel it in my body. I don't need anyone else to tell me, I actually feel it and that somatic memory can really start to create profound transformation in the way we approach our relationship with nourishment in general in our life.

Caroline: Totally. So I have to be careful when I'm explaining intuitive eating to the people who I work because I find that most people who I work with have already tried intuitive eating and made it into a diet, which obviously isn't what intuitive eating is supposed to be, but it's what dieters will do because it's the most logical way for them to approach it.  And also, there's so much fear mongering about weight and amounts that people are like, "Well obviously I need to be eating a very small amount, so the smaller amount that I eat, the better."  Which is not true, necessarily. So when I'm explaining how to do it, I really say, "please take off all the rules." Because any guilt or any should's here around what or how much you should be eating is still in your way.  So I don't want to stress people out with what I do, but what that allows in my experience is neutralizing food and eventually, the whole point is to be able to listen, "What do you want, what do you want?" And I find now that I can - it's a total intuitive sense - but it's like a very visceral memory - it's both a memory and also I can tell how a food is going to make me feel before I eat it. Which when you talk about that somatic memory, it's really powerful and it changes from day to day and moment to moment. And it's just taking that moment to ask, "Do I really want this? How is this going to make me feel? Is this what I want?" And knowing that it's not like if one day you don't want something, it's not like a death sentence for that food, it's just in that moment.  I think getting empowered to that place that they can feel what's right for them, and that it will change from day to day, is pretty life changing.

Jessie: Yeah it really is.

Caroline: How do you define intuitive eating to your clients?  Or do you use that term?

Jessie: I use the terms listen to your body, respond to your body a lot more than intuitive eating because I feel like it grounds people more in the present moment of their body experience which is what most of my clients have needed in the past. And also, i think that a lot of my clients think of intuitive eating and they think of something different than what you were speaking of which is like, "I can eat everything I want, no boundaries, no rules." And then they're like, "I feel like crap. See? I knew this wouldn't work." And that's not intuitive eating. I really think that if we get out of our own way, the body heals natural. But we have to be present and we have to be responding. But I'll just use myself as an example.  When I was younger I was an athlete. I was a soccer player, and I ran cross country, and then I did olympic development in soccer, so I was always doing athletics.  And I started binging a couple of times a week. And it felt just like this problem that I could not figure out. And then in college, this persisted and I was on this whole calorie counting kick. And then one time I realized that if I actually totaled up 7 days of the week and divided it by 7 (this is what I needed for my logical mind who was so wrapped up in calorie counting), I was reaching a normal calorie limit for maintenance for a girl my size and my age.  And my body knew exactly how many calories it needed. I actually didn't need to do any counting whatsoever, and actually my binges were necessary in order to maintain my body weight. And so it was so funny. I thought they were the absolute worst thing that could happen. I had so much guilt and shame over them. And it was like, my body was just doing it's very best to survive. 

Caroline: I love that!  And that's what I've found time and time again.  Binges are just truly a biological response to restriction. Your body knows exactly what it's doing and it's just the guilt and the impending diet (well I have to be good tomorrow since I've gone off the rails today) that makes you feel out of control, and it makes you feel so miserable, and it makes it like a yo-yo thing even from day to day. 

Jessie: Yes, and when we feel that guilt and shame, around anything, we'll check out of the body. We'll numb out, so even if what we've had all day is like a cracker and green tea and then we binge at dinner and we feel guilty about that binge, we're not actually present, we're not digesting, we're not assimilating, and we're not actually registering when we're full, so by checking out of the body when we're eating a lot, which we need to do if we haven't eaten much during the day, we just create that yo-yo dieting and that out of control experience.

Caroline: Yes. Totally. So helpful for people to hear over and over again, because people who are trying to do this or trying to listen to their bodies just need to be reminded that everything's fine and that their body has their back, because people have such a fear that they can't trust their bodies because of these binges where, ironically, the binges are actually the thing you can trust.  Your body is actually very purposefully doing it. So maybe what you just told me is the answer to my next question, but what was the biggest turning point in your relationship to food.

Jessie: That's a hard one for me because I struggled for a number of years with severe binge eating to the point where I woke up and my only goal was to figure out as many ways to binge eat as possible. And it ruled my life. I was suicidal. I was depressed. It was an intense struggle. Bulimia and binge eating disorder. I don't know if there was any one turning point for me. There were many. And you know, I worked in an eating disorder center and my boss had asked me in my interview, "What are you going to do if someone is not where you're at?" And I was like, "You know what? This path took me so long to walk and I recognize that every aspect of the journey is so essential - every aspect - every little baby step you take forward, because it just doesn't happen in one big leap. And so no one else's path is going to look like yours." And she was like, "That's perfect because so many times it's like once someone finds healing they want people to heal on their timeline and it just doesn't happen, we all have our own healing journey." But I would say when I was in Argentina and I was traveling around down there, I had just finished climbing one of the seven summits down there and I was very masculine and rigid in how I approached everything. I was struggling with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and this healer had me start embracing the way of the feminine and made me realize that I was always going to be struggling with a hormonal issue if I didn't start embracing more flow and ease without counting calories and chronic dieting. And the more I learned about masculine and feminine dynamics, the more I realized that binges are the feminine. So if I'm suppressing the feminine, then the feminine is going to have her way with me no matter what. 

Caroline: Oh my God, I love this.

Jessie: Yeah so that was a huge turning point for me and just really truly allowing nutrition - allowing my struggles and my relationship with food to become the doorway to a deeper connection with whatever it is to you, whether it is spirit, life, love- just to allow it to crack you open.  It can make us so raw and vulnerable and humble us to the core.

Caroline: Completely, completely.  And I was diagnosed with PCOS as well, and I think about this a lot these days - the masculine and feminine - and really leaning into the feminine - because I did the same thing, and I think so many people with eating issues do.  It's this weird paradox of really not wanting to be feminine at all - associating fat and curves and weakness - but also wanting to be frail and feminine in that way.

Jessie: Yeah. The surface feminine. Skinny and pretty.

Caroline: Yeah. and you're just so right. It's so connected to our health, to our hormones, to the way we eat and the way we see ourselves. And there has been, in me even, such a leaning back and a softening.  When I did - are you familiar with Danielle LaPorte?

Jessie: Yes.

Caroline: Yes, so for anyone listening who's not, Danielle LaPorte talks about these core desired feelings that we all have. Core desired feelings that we want to feel, and everything we do and everything that we're going for is really to feel a certain way, so to be aware of that and to try to bring that into our day to day is really healing. And I got trust, ease, and magic. And that was almost exactly a year ago. And I have changed my life to try and feel and embody those things, and it has totally changed my life. 

Jessie: Yeah, I remember I did it when her program first came out and I think I was sussing out everything with the psychology of eating and I kept coming back to a core desired feeling of rooting, or grounding, and it was funny for me to reflect because even though binges did not have the same nature they had when I was younger, I still was "binging" and I realized it was definitely to get that sensation of rooting and grounding. And so to be able to consciously cultivate that in my life with better choices of food form soups, and stews, and cooked food to essential oils and meditation, where I didn't need to binge in a way that felt like an attack of violence to my body in the way that I was doing it. 

Caroline: Very interesting. Something I have just really come to recently is how connected grounding and eating is.  It's just so important for people to be aware that that's what the body is often trying to do. It's trying to ground. It's trying to bring you into your body. 

Jessie: Yeah. It really is. And a lot of times, as women, we're in the masculine where we're drawn up into our head all day and we actually don't have a lot of strategies for embodiment, and food is one that is very innate and learned since we were tiny babies, and a lot of times it is our primary strategy for embodiment.  And if we don't start to consciously cultivate those resources for embodiment, then we'll always turn to it, rather than having other resources to turn to as well.

Caroline: Yeah totally. My next question is what is your relationship to the word spiritual? I know you work so much in a spiritual realm. Do you use that word to describe yourself? I ask because I am currently trying to figure out whether that's the best way to describe what I do and how I exist or if there's a better word. I feel like there is a better word to be perfectly honest with you, but I don't know what the word is. 

Jessie: I totally feel you.  It's a struggle. Sometimes I do use it because I want to make sure that when people are working with me, they are open to it a little bit just because otherwise they'll hate working with me. And so I do use it to a degree, but at the same time I have a brother and he would say he is so not spiritual.  But he is this beautiful fly fisherman and he is the most loving person I know and when I see him fly fishing I think, "You can't tell me that's not spiritual."  So I think it's so different for people and for some people I just think it's nature and being at one with nature and allowing ourselves to be immersed in something so much bigger than us, and a grand design so much bigger than us.  And nature is always what I come back to. A lot of times if I'm immersed in new age communities, I'll come back to nature always to have a grounding sense of spirituality within myself. So, you know, that's really hard. I've actually been thinking about that a lot lately, but for me, I guess it's just a heart connection to love and oneness, and I suppose just a guiding force in our lives whether that might be core values, God, the Divine, Universal intelligence, whatever it might be. 

Caroline: I know. I really do struggle with this because it really is the only way for me to explain how I now approach this food and weight thing, however I feel like it's not earthy enough or something. Intuitive  I think is a nice bridge, because I do think it is a little bit earthier and is a good bridge to the body. I don't know. I struggle with it If I come up with a good word I will let you know.

Jessie: It is a struggle because even intuitive - i feel like that draws up within people - this feeling of "Oh, I'm not intuitive." And we all have different levels of intuition but in our society one or two are very popular - as far as "Oh I'm an intuitive and I just download information." And that's one form of intuition and there's several others that other people have that they don't even realize that it is intuition. 

Caroline: Yeah. Totally. And I do feel like people - maybe I'm just speaking from my own experience - I never felt very intuitive but I always wanted to and I was wrong. I was intuitive and I am intuitive, but I had a deep desire to be but I didn't think that I was. And that's speaking to what you were just talking about. But women especially, when they hear the word, they're like, "Oh I want that." 

Jessie: It requires so much self trust and especially if you've struggled with eating disorders or eating issues in the past, a lot of times, we've lost trust in ourselves. We've got to heal that piece with our bodies in order to be connected to intuition and have that trust and that voice.

Caroline: Yeah. That AND also the opposite which is leaning into intuition and if you can take that dive, if you're willing to, say like, "Hey, I am so messed up with food and I know where I want to go, and I don't know how to get there, but I'm going to start to trust my body, and I'm going to trust my body and try to lean into intuition, that can sometimes be the path. It's super connected I think. 

Jessie: Yes. I like that.

Caroline: But yes, the word spiritual can sometimes be alienating, just like you said. There are plenty of people who I would consider spiritual because of the way that they live but they would never use that word for the same reason that we're not sure if we want to use that word.

Jessie: I think, as with everything, we overcomplicate it. We ignore the power of simplicity and we overcomplicate it so much where it's like, "What's your spirituality?" LOVE.  It doesn't have to be anything more than that. 

Caroline: Yes, and I love how you said the heart piece. Because compassion, especially compassion for yourself, is like one of my main piece of advice with what I work on with clients. My next question for you is - this is what I call the lightning round but it's not really a lightning round because the answers kinda take a long time anyway. But these are my last couple questions. Alright? So my first one, which is a pretty big question is what would you never do again if you had a year to live? 

Jessie: Oh my gosh, this is going to be the slowest lightning round ever. I would say I never would go a day without connecting with nature because sometimes in my work, or if it's a cold and rainy day, I'll be working at my computer all day long. That's just so important to me, I would say I would never go a day without it. 

Caroline: That's amazing! Where do you live?

Jessie: I live in South Carolina right now, I'll be moving back west pretty soon.

Caroline: Amazing. That's a great answer. That makes me want to go on a walk, which I guess I'll do when we end this.  My next question is do you like grocery shopping?

Jessie: I LOVE grocery shopping! I probably love it less than I did at one point. But I remember - especially if I'm in a place where I don't know a lot of people - this is the nutrition geek in me - I would just go after work and spend two hours just strolling so slowly, taking in the sensory experience of the produce. It would be like my decompression and I'd walk out with like one thing. 

Caroline: That's so amazing. I've gone through phases of loving it and hating it and for the most part I resist it because it's so hard living in the city without a car. But also, I've gone through phases where I used to love it so much and then the less I - Okay, so here's another thing that actually you may not feel as well- because I used to think that I was obsessed with food, that food was my passion, that it was my thing. I wanted to be a food writer. I really thought that it was going to be a big part of my life, and then when I healed my dieting, essentially, I started to realize that I couldn't care less about food. I mean I care about food if I'm hungry and I want good food. I love nourishing real food. But other than that, I don't care nearly as much as I thought I did. And it really was because of my disorder with it. And of course not everyone experiences it. Some people really are meant to deal with food and talk about food and I assume that you are one of those people.

Jessie: I actually don't talk about food a lot, but for me it is one of my most profound connections with nature. I just love the sensory experience of cooking and eating. I still love it.  That was a big healing for me was really to love it. 

Caroline: Yeah to be perfectly honest with you, I think me and cooking is going to be a journey. There's going to be a time soon, I think, when I cook more for myself. And I love it. And I lean into that, but right now, I'm still doing the smallest amount that I can do in the kitchen to eat something that I like, and is sort of healthy, and is something that I want to eat. I can just tell that there will be a time in the next year or a little more when I'm like, "Alright, it's cooking time, Caroline." 

Jessie: And I'll totally go through phases where my dinner will be really random and not requiring a lot of preparation at all and other times, especially autumn, when I love cooking.

Caroline: Yeah, I'm obsessed with the fall so that is something that I sort of do.

Jessie: Yeah, but for me it's something that I always try to cultivate because I'm all about cultivating more presence and cooking, for me, is a huge act of cultivating presence.  It's a huge ritual for me of really taking the time to nourish. Being like "Yes, I deserve this. Yes I am worthy of this, and I'm going to give this to myself in the most mindful, juicy way possible." 

Caroline: Ah man, I love that. I'm going to steal that from you and put it into my life. My next question for you is if you could keep your life and have five other lives where you get to do whatever you want and be whoever you want, what would they be?

Jessie: Oh my gosh, five? That's a lot! Let's see here. The other day we went to Telluride MountainFilm festival. I love mountains, I love the outdoors. And there was a girl who was doing the stage presentation before each of the short films and she had really gotten to know each of these amazing adventurers or athletes or whoever it was in putting together the compilation, and I was like, that would be amazing to be always in interaction, always being inspired by people's amazing adventures and courageous feats.  I think something like that where you're a connector and you're always being inspired by other people and getting to do it on your own.  I love travel also, so I think being a traveling yoga teacher around the world - doing retreats around the world - I think would be a blast.  Maybe in the future I will do that. Maybe in the future I'll do all of these things. 

Caroline: Exactly. That's the whole point of the question!

Jessie: Let's see here, what else. Oh ok, so if we're going in that vein, I think a lot about - my mom lives in Montana and I love the openness of Montana and the wildness of it, and I think I would love to create the most beautiful retreat center and get women back into nature and back into their bodies and be off the grid in my day to day life. That sounds very nice. Let's see. I've done rock climbing and ice climbing in the past and I would love that to be my life in a lot of ways.  I think that would be a fun lifestyle to imagine for myself as well.  One more life.  I know exactly what it would be. It would be just traveling around the world and studying and learning under incredible healers and shamans and people who are off the grid and no one really knows about them and you have to seek them out and study under them and really apprentice under them. 

Caroline: Very cool. So neat. Yours were very much probably that aren't even that far from what you already do. I like the question, It's actually from the book the Artist's Way. That book totally changed my life. The whole point is you don't have to live those lives but what elements can you add into your life right now.