The Road to Amritsar

Cancelled flights happen all the time. Literally and figuratively. Plans change, often well outside our control. One day in India taught me the benefits of staying calm and going with the flow:

I sat on a metal bench in the tiny Dharmakot airport. I had just spent a week, part of it with a guide named Kuldeep, trekking the steep hills in and around Dharmakot and Dharmasala. The Dali Lama wasn’t in residence at his temple but there was still plenty to see and do. I chanted with the monks, bought scarves and beads at the street market, learned Reiki and ate dhal and curry to my heart’s content. Now I was heading back to New Dehli.

The loud speaker crackled with an announcement in a language I didn’t understand. The tiny airport which had seemed calm and not terribly crowded was suddenly whirring with commotion.

I turned to the young Indian woman sitting next to me and raised one eyebrow – a non-verbal open-ended question.

“The flight has been cancelled”, she told me in perfect English, “There are no other flights today. The next flight is tomorrow afternoon”. We sat quietly for a moment. More information was delivered over the loudspeaker.  The woman turned to me again.

“You seem so calm”.

“I am. You, too”.

We decided to stay calm together. I learned her name was Tanvi. She lived in Boston now and had come home for the summer to do service work. After a couple more announcements Tanvi suggested we stand in line to be issued new tickets. After a long wait we were also given the option of a 5-hour taxi ride to Amritsar for a flight at 2 am. We said yes.

A young man we’d met while we were standing in line joined us. He was a musician from Turkey. And as the luggage was loaded onto the top of the taxi an older gentleman set his suitcase next to our backpacks. He was a retired Indian Army General.

India sped by with it’s brilliant cacophony of sound and color. Turkish Man played guitar in the back seat as we sang American pop songs. Taxi Driver stopped for lunch at a roadside food stall and we joined him. Mr Army General pulled strings to get us a wonderful curry dinner when we finally arrived at the airport in Amritsar. After dinner I found a Sikh taxi driver to take Tanvi, Turkish Man and me to The Golden Temple, the center of the Sikh religion, to experience their summer solstice celebrations.

At the temple Tanvi, Mr Turkish Man and I stood in the warm night air, orange kerchiefs on our heads, courtesy of the temple volunteers. We smiled widely at one another. Enveloped by chanting, the lights of the Golden Temple dancing on the water surrounding it, we felt part of a magical world. I wondered if I’d ever been as happy. My cancelled flight had turned into a marvelous adventure along the road to Amritsar.


This article also appeared on page 27 in the November 2017 edition of Sibyl Magazine: For the Spirit and Soul of Women.

A Wild Hair

Food and eating issues show up when we fail to have massive self care and forget our soul’s longing.  Here’s a personal story to fuel your creativity.

The plan was hatched while I watched a movie on New Years Eve. I’d been lucky enough to count myself amongst the happiest people on the planet for many years, but over the previous year I’d been less happy. As I watched the movie, I decided my life needed a shake up. I decided a six month sabbatical to far away places with strange sounding names would be just the ticket. Those far away places needed to fulfil a few requirements. First, I wanted to experience places I hadn’t been before. I also wanted Venus, the planet of love, beauty and harmony to hover over said countries in my astrological travel chart. And perhaps most important I wanted great food – with a focus on lemons and olive oil. I really love lemons and olive oil.   I would need someone with my particular skills to cover my private practice. I also needed to find care for my loveable pooch Louie. I needed to sort out my current living situation and lastly I needed cash, plenty of cash.

Later that evening as I watched fireworks and brought in the New Year with friends I told them my plan. Some were excited. Some were sceptical. I wanted to leave by mid-to -late April. There was a lot to do. The next day dawned brightly and I started the New Year with a walk on the beach. Kylie, a former colleague, who had taken time off from work to have children was also walking on the beach that morning. She was thinking about starting back to work now that her kids were a little older. I shared my plan with her and asked if she was interested. She agreed to cover my leave. I punched the air with glee.

Next I poured over the world map and set my course: Bali, India, Switzerland, Italy, (it was sounding like a mixed up eat pray love at this point), back to Australia, for a few weeks ‘up north’ and then America, to visit the relatives and take a road trip on Highway 101 from Portland to LA before flying home to Sydney.

I talked with my flatmate and decided to move my household items into storage while I was away. I found a trio of caretakers for my dog. Now all I needed was some cash. I’ve travelled a lot and I knew I could budget well but I also wanted to be able to live it up now and then, too. After much deliberation, I decided to sell an investment property. The timing was good. It sold the week I left.

I made friends, made love, hiked, biked, danced and drummed. I learned Reiki and Theta Healing and fine-tuned my intuitive powers. Those far away places gave me six of the best months of my life. Perhaps our craziest plans, those wild hairs we so easily dismiss, give us the best of ourselves. What wild hairs have you dismissed?

This post also appeared in  the September 2017 Edition of Sybil Magazine: For the Spirit and Soul of Women.

Forgiveness and Appreciation

The oceans stay in place. The rain falls. The sun comes up. Throughout my life I’ve been astonished at this daily dance of nature. I marvel at the resilience of the earth and all her inhabitants. I appreciate all the blessings that shower down on me in a single day, let alone a lifetime of days.

One of the blessings I appreciate most these days is the act of kindness I give to myself each morning: ‘I forgive myself’. I see this as a simple and powerful prayer. A friend gave me a longer version of this prayer several years ago: ‘I forgive myself for dreaming this dream.’   At the time he was studying A Course in Miracles. Forgiving myself for dreaming this life and death experience holds amazing power and releases me into greater freedom. For me, it is an opportunity for renewal; a chance to awaken and transcend. My saying it means I haven’t fully awakened yet – and I can forgive myself for that and get on with appreciating the moment at hand.

There are moments, days and even weeks I forget these prayers. Then it is easier for me to step out of appreciation.   I complain more and have difficulty connecting with the joy in my heart. I start telling my old stories of abuse, neglect, loss and lack. I can get stuck there. It may take time for me to move away from those going-nowhere mantras and move back into forgiveness and appreciation. It is a balancing act. I am learning to forgive myself moment by moment.

Whenever I feel my deepest desires aren’t being fulfilled,

I forgive myself and appreciate the emotional courage I carry with me.

Whenever I am feeling unloved,

I forgive myself and appreciate my connection to spirit.

Whenever I am feeling lack,

I forgive myself and appreciate my loving heart.

Whenever I am feeling overwhelmed,

I forgive myself and appreciate my breath.

Whenever it seems (yet another) death will surely break my heart wide open,

I forgive myself and appreciate the release grief brings during moments of loss.

Whenever frustration and self-hate is about to over-whelm me,

I forgive myself and appreciate the compassionate smile of a friend that greets me, wordlessly, with love, in the mirror.

Whenever I am in despair,

I forgive myself and appreciate the joy I get from playing with my little dog Louie or watching him bounding like a gazelle through tall grass, or snuggling up to a warm body (human or fur-buddy), or watching children playing in the street, or seeing my athletic nephews abandoning themselves to the goal at hand or hearing Elgar’s Nimrod or Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World or a hundred other things.

The oceans stay in place. The rain falls. The sun comes up. Often the simplest things provide the most solace (forgiveness) and joy (appreciation). What can you forgive in this moment? What can you appreciate?

This post also appeared on page 38 in the August 2017 issue of Sibyl Magazine: For the Spirit and Soul of Women

Diets are Like Bad Boyfriends

Our relationship to food and eating is complex.    If you’ve been on even one diet in your life, that relationship becomes even more convoluted because diets have a way of disconnecting you from your natural appetite – what I call your happetite.  Compare a diet to dating that boy you just knew wouldn’t be good for you, but you did it anyway.

The word diet is derived from the Latin word diaeta and the Greek word diaita, meaning mode of living, or, diaitan meaning to direct one’s own life. Contrast that to our current cultural interpretation, which is nearly always prescribed by someone not the least bit familiar with who you are or what is best for your body.

Consider these points as you muddle your way through the conflicting thoughts, feelings and responses that swirl around food and body image:  a) disconnecting from your natural appetite will occur if you’ve been on even one restrictive diet, b) the disconnection will be sustained if you feel guilty coming off that diet – especially if you do some catch up eating afterwards, and c) you may never have been truly connected to your natural appetite if there was physical or emotional abuse or neglect in your past. This can further hamper your ability to recognize your appetite, much less understand what foods will best support your happetite.

The peril of continuing the diet-binge cycle is that it inevitably leads to constant ruminations about food and weight.  The more you have dieted (or think you should be dieting), the more of your day will be taken up with thoughts about food, eating, weight and shape. In contrast, the less you think you need to lose weight and diet, the less you ruminate.

Back in the 1980’s I worked with individuals to implement diets prescribed by a doctor.  The use of liquid supplement diets and 1200-calorie diets for weight loss were popular. Although weight loss results were dramatic, rapid weight gain and sometimes binge eating would occur once patients started eating again.  I was at a loss back then about how to help, but my clients showed me the way.  Over time, their experiences revealed an Eating Continuum to me.  The Eating Continuum identified what all those thoughts about food, eating and weight really meant.

Diets do work for the short-term, which is why they are so enticing (like those bad boys were before you knew better), but they do not help you figure out how to manage your weight long-term. Understanding and reconnecting with your happetite takes time and attention.  It may also mean healing those core childhood wounds.  However, finding your happetite can transform your relationship with food and eating.  It can free up your day to think about all the other things that currently get pushed out of the way by diet-driven thoughts.

What percent of the day do you currently spend thinking about food, eating, weight, and shape? Today, what one thing could you do to get closer to finding your own natural appetite, your happetite?

Go to Understanding Your Eating for more information.

This post also appears as an article on page 43 of the July 2017 issue of Sibyl Magazine: For the Spirit and Soul of Women




Showing My Fangs

The recent stormy weather here with heavy rain and damaging winds is not unlike my relationship with my mother. I’m clumsy and angry inside this storm. Some days I feel I am rejecting my mother and being a bad daughter. Some days I feel shame for baring my fangs at the woman who professes love for me. However, for the first time in my life I am saying no to a role I should never have taken on.  I am saying no to my mother’s co-dependency. I am saying yes to my own feelings, however uncomfortable they are. Some people fight addiction. I am fighting co-dependant enmeshment from my mother.

As I cope with this co-dependancy it reminds me of my professional work with people who experience disordered eating. It seems that many eat either to defend themselves from this kind of energy or they restrict so energy can’t be allowed in.  Keeping emotions and other energies moving through the body opens the base chakra and is an antidote to food issues and addiction. It is extremely important to our energy, power and freedom. This is the basis for my own healing, also.

As a child experiencing sexual abuse, I couldn’t change my outer circumstances or manage my emotions, so I repressed them. I sat in the pain of the abuse (including the projected pain of my parents) and couldn’t figure out a way to balance all that energy or reconcile it in my energy system – until now.

My desire is to find peace and express kindness towards my mother, but I will also no longer deny my anger or the truth of my childhood.   What happened when my fangs were taken off as child? What happened when I couldn’t run big feelings through my system at the time they were present? What shut me off from my anger?

There are no simple answers to these questions. However, in order to develop emotional maturity I am releasing big emotions now as I feel them – through kundalini yoga, EFT, ‘safe’ hitting (my yoga cushion is getting a workout) and writing letters that are never sent.  My aim is to accept and release the rage in order to fully open to the truth of who I am.  I do the same for other big emotions. I am finally letting the buried emotions from childhood flow.  I am also expressing my thoughts and feelings in a way I have never been willing to before:  directly to my mother and without expectation. I am learning to set strong emotional and self-care boundaries with her.

My fangs are out. I can acknowledge my mother and then take care of myself. I believe it is the best chance we have for not just loving one another, but for actually liking one another. It is like walking against a straight line wind some days, yet I have hope a new sort of relationship may grow, just as there is new growth after a storm.

The post also appeared in the June 2017 Edition of Sibyl Magazine: For the Spirit and Soul of Women


The Mother ‘Lode’: Panning for Gold

The relationship we have with our mother or primary carer colours our relationship with food and our appetites. In order to have positive experiences around food and appetite we must be able to set emotional and self-care boundaries with our mothers (and with others) that support our needsHere is a personal story that is one example of  how I am doing that with my own mother:

My Mom is crying, her forearms braced on a market cart. She asks through her tears if I always hurt other people’s feelings. While I was choosing a lovely wedge of Parmesan cheese she was crumpled over the watermelons, waiting for my return.

Surprisingly anger shoots through me, a familiar feeling this year. It is not just any anger. It is anger I carried throughout my childhood, and am only beginning to release. While my younger sisters had their wild tantrums, I was instead the dutiful daughter. We all knew our roles and upheld them. I was not the angry one.

At the market, I interpret my mother’s words to mean I was somehow responsible for her current distress. Perhaps because earlier, on our way to the market, I’d requested some quiet time in the car or, as we walked into the market, I recall being short with her.   In other years, these would have been plausible explanations. Instead today, I answer her flatly: “Actually, no. I do not always hurt the feelings of others.”

I experience a small victory as I stand calmly in front of my mother. Although there is a nugget of guilt unrolling at the back of my throat, I am compassionate with myself. Surprisingly, the ball of guilt does not grow. I am doing the best I can. I am learning a new role.

So, here’s the thing. I admire and am grateful for my mother. She is creative, energetic, generous. She has a sound mind and takes good care of herself and her home. She is actively involved with her family and in her community. But this year I find myself compelled to finally reconcile the truths of a sexually violated childhood.

My older brother was the perpetrator of this violence, to myself and my two younger sisters. We never spoke about this abuse until I was an adult. There was a code of silence in our family, and my loving parents were the guardians of that code. As a child, I was sensitive, but unable to express my feelings.   I knew there was love in our household, but also there was not a place to affirm that something so hideous could also be occurring at the same time. All children need an adult to validate such abuses as being wrong. That didn’t happen.

Lately, I have been panning for the gold in my life. I sense that I am closing in on something of great value in this relationship with my mother. I pay for my Parmesan and we settle into the car for the ride home. Mom is still crying. She opens a book and starts reading. I decide the most loving thing I can now do is take care of myself. It is not for me to stop, move or fix her feelings. Only she can do that. I do wish for her happiness. I notice the ball of guilt has disappeared. I start the car and we head for home.

This article also appears on page 31 in the May Issue of Sibyl Magazine: For the Spirit and Soul of Women

My book Find Your Happetite has an entire chapter devoted to identifying and managing emotions that trigger food and eating issues.







Using Nature As Our Muse

A few years ago I was lucky enough to travel with my documentary filmmaker friend, Maryella Hatfield, as she filmed a workshop on biomimicry. Biomimicry promotes the transfer of ideas inspired by nature to the design of our world, for a more sustainable, healthier planet. Maryella and I met up with Janine Benyus, a leader in this field of bio-inspired innovation, along with her training team, deep in the throbbing jungle heart of the Peruvian Amazon at the Tambopata Research Station. There we observed 24 designers from five continents using the Amazon rainforest to inspire solutions to their real design problems. The group included textile manufacturers from South Africa, architects from Syria and Boeing engineers from Seattle, amongst others. With no electricity, mobile phones, or wireless connections they used Nature as a muse and model.

One of the many unexpected delights of that journey to Peru was the food. We were fed mouth-wateringly delicious foods with natural packaging. Never did we have to throw away any containers, plastic or paper. Grown locally, organically, and cooked fresh daily, it was full of life and nourishment.

We travelled by bus and boat for two days coming and two days going. We stayed for a week at the remote research station. For lunch one day on the boat, beautiful green parcels the size of a sandwich were passed out. Inside were slices of potato-filled omelet sandwiched with cheese and tomato. The omelet sandwich was wrapped in bijao leaves, large green pliable leaves much like a banana leaf. The green square was then tied up with a bit of dried vine, a beautiful gift of food with no waste. On the bus we were presented with a snack: A freshly picked orange and two perfectly roasted Brazil nuts in a locally made, re-usable covered basket. This description does little to evoke the experience of eating this vibrant, soul-satisfying food. At the research station homemade meals made from locally grown food was set out three times a day, fruit and freshly baked sweets for morning and afternoon snacks and a cup of tea before bed. Simple food cooked beautifully. Back in Sydney, I began thinking about how to move towards more sustainable, conscious eating. I began buying organic food whenever possible and always looked for foods with minimal packaging. I started asking myself how the food was going to impact my body and the planet. There weren’t any rigid guidelines around these choices. They were naturally inspired based on my experience.

What is your current experience of your appetite, eating behaviors, food and weight? If you have dilemmas in these areas, how might Nature solve them? How might Nature help you innovate and design a new way of being? I am inspired whenever my clients truly let go of their food and weight rules and begin to connect with their natural appetites. Just as my experience in the jungle was joyful so is their experience in trying new foods and listening to their bodies.

This post is also published in the April 2017 Sibyl Magazine: For the Spirit and Soul of Women


Dismantling the Scaffold of Abuse

Childhood is a time when our neural pathways are developing. We are highly susceptible to and influenced by the world around us.  The Theta brainwave is the primary brainwave used until about age seven and is associated with flashes of creativity, intuition, daydreaming, and inspirational thinking. It is connected with shifts in consciousness and healing abilities. This brainwave can also entrench us in patterns of abuse that become structurally difficult to dismantle. Children living with abuse look at the world through the eyes of abuse. This perspective hinders development of healthier approaches to life.

As a young adult I was riddled with a lack of self-love and self-esteem. Secrets, shame, self-loathing and insufficient support were the scaffolding that kept my abuse patterns functioning.  These patterns of energy and emotion hindered the development of my wisdom, grace and power.  The secrets I carried told me ‘I cannot trust anyone’. Shame told me ‘I am not okay’. Self-loathing told me ‘I am inadequate ’.  And lack of support told me ‘I am not enough’. Underneath each of these was the belief ‘I am unlovable’.

This core belief shows up in almost every client with a history of chronic dieting or disordered eating.  Feeling unloveable becomes self-fulfilling.  At the mental level we internalize life as our fault.  Physically we can experience  anxiety, aches and pains, digestive problems and other health problems. We may not  know how to develop new, more helpful, neural pathways to replace these negative patterns. Even if there is plenty of evidence to the contrary, we stay stuck in our old story and can’t experience the freedom we deserve.

It wasn’t until memories of abuse surfaced in my late twenties that I was able to actively began dismantling my negative beliefs and emotional patterns. In order to open myself  up to acceptance and self-love, new neural pathways were  required. I developed these by challenging my habitual thoughts and releasing emotions as they surfaced.  The use of Theta Healing helped, too.

I had  the opportunity to experiment with more positive, if contradictory, information.  Practices involving mindfulness and gratitude also proved helpful and have much scientific merit. Journalling about my  experiences of mindfulness and gratitude allowed me to observe my progress. I could use  the old patterns in new ways: as red flags for self-development opportunities.

I encourage my clients in a similar way:  A desire to restrict or binge eat is the red flag to discover where secrets, shame, or self-loathing are hiding.  Learning to  be vulnerable with someone safe  can build trust.  Writing ‘I am enough’ on a mirror with lipstick or a white board marker and looking through loving eyes can alleviate self-loathing. Self-compassion can replace shame. At first this might be challenging.   Be gentle. Take your  time.  It will feel unnatural  at first but over time  change will come.  Eventually you will believe it when you say, “I am okay. I trust myself.  I am enough.”

This post can also be found on page 43 in the March Issue of Sibyl Magazine: for the Spirit and Soul of Women.



We Can’t Handle The Truth

Does this describe you: Your life is good in so many arenas – except your weight. You’ve worked really hard to manage your weight over the years. You’ve done everything you could possibly do. You have tried every diet, read every diet book and taken every diet pill. You’ve stuck to exercise programmes for days, weeks, even months (You’ve bought every piece of workout equipment!) and still you are filled with frustration and self-loathing about your weight.  Do you feel you can’t trust your body anymore? Do you feel overwhelmed when you think about the difference between what you weigh and what you would like to weigh? Do you feel shame about your weight, eating or secret behaviors?  The myth our culture perpetuates is that dieting is good for you. But the truth may be a little harder to handle.

Here are 5 facts about your weight and dieting that your doctor, dietitian or weight loss counselor may not have told you:

Fact 1:  Weight is a biologically driven imperative, like height and shoe size.  Instead of weight acceptance, our culture has created the myth(to the tune of a 60 billion dollar a year diet industry in the US alone) that losing weight, dieting and restricting your food will help you feel better and stay healthy. A very small minority of dieters (clue: most of them are mathematicians or engineers) will keep weight off long term but for the 98% majority, dieting is ineffective and there is growing evidence that it is actually damaging.  In fact, weight cycling is the most common result of engaging in conventional dieting practices. (1)

Fact 2: Weight focus is not only ineffective at producing thinner, healthier bodies, but it may also have unintended consequences, contributing to food and body preoccupation, repeated cycles of weight loss and regain, distraction from other personal health goals, reduced self-esteem, eating disorders, other health problems and weight stigmatization and discrimination. (1) Read more about the weight science here

Fact 3:  The enticing thing about diets is that they DO help you to lose weight over the short time. And then you get HUNGRY. Responses to this post-diet hunger will typically fall into two categories: over-eating perpetuating the diet-binge cycle or even worse, completely ignoring hunger, which leads to the starvation syndrome.

Fact 4:  Dieting disconnects you from your APPETITE.   Your appetite keeps you connected to a healthy body, mind and spirit – without which your natural and healthy weight will be affected. Most people who diet are aware of a slower metabolism and compromised digestion as a result of dieting. This can trigger the cyclical dieter’s weight ‘creep’ – e.g. getting a little bit heavier each time you come off a diet. But there are negative mental, emotional and spiritual effects, too.

Fact 5: Everyone who diets does so because they are feeling bad or unhappy with themselves in some way. Apart from health concerns, many people diet because they do not believe they can be happy unless they lose weight.

Bottom Line? If you keep focusing on your weight and dieting you’ll keep getting the same results.

Fortunately, there is another way! Progress will come when you can shift the focus away from weight and dieting. Find Your Happetite will help you reconnect with your appetite, let go of your preoccupation with food, eating and weight and find that elusive happiness. Find out more and download your free chapter at

1. Bacon L, Aphramor L: Weight science: evaluating the evidence for a paradigm shift. 2011 Nut Journal 10:9.

Is Recovery from Anorexia Nervosa Possible?

This is a topic of current controversy in the field of eating disorder treatment.  We don’t have  a universally accepted definition of recovery.  There is no evidence-based set of criteria for what we expect during and post ‘recovery’.  Those limitations don’t stop me from knowing that full recovery and full health is possible.  I know this from speaking with former clients who are recovered.  It allows me to hold hope for full recovery for all my clients, even if they have a chronic condition.

This week one of my clients suggested I read  this wonderful article about how and why not to stop halfway .  The author, Emily Troscianko has recovered from Anorexia Nervosa and she urges anyone in recovery to work through any resistance to FULLY recovering.  (Even if professionals don’t yet have a set of criteria for what recovery IS!)

A former client, now recovered, returned for a session with me this week after a four year hiatus.  She’d had some recent digestive issues which were triggered by stressors from a  job she’d held for the past year.  As is typical of someone with good self-care she resigned the job to find one less stressful and more in alignment with her values.  What brought her back in to see me was the request from her gastroenterologist to modify her diet significantly by restricting certain foods.  It rang alarm bells for her and she came in for a chat.  Rather than restricting foods we discussed what she could add to help her digestion.  She decided on prune juice, and a natural bulking agent (Benefiber) and extra water.  Your solution to a similar problem may have been quite different – it all depends on the problem, your values and your response to your appetite.  (You can find more help about digestive issues on pages 121-127 in Find Your Happetite).  Importantly,  she could admit that things were already improving since she’d resigned her job and reduced her stress.  During the session we decided to weigh her.  She hadn’t weighed in four years.  Not because she was afraid to weigh but because it wasn’t an issue and because her family no longer had scales in the house.  Her weight had stayed exactly the same over the four years.  (Well, if you want to be a nit-picker it was down 200 grams but in my world that is weight maintenance!)

Here’s hoping you can find your happetite and fully recover!

Happy eating and lots of love,