After reading an awesome interview on Verily featuring Katie Den Ouden, we knew that we had to reach out to her! Lori’s Hands had the privilege of interviewing Katie as she told us about her life, her work and her mother’s battle with multiple sclerosis. Katie’s interview below offers invaluable insight and we are so thankful to have had the opportunity to speak with her! For more information visit: http://katiedenouden.com/.
LH: Tell us about yourself and your work!
KDO: At 19, I was studying abroad and got a phone call that changed my life. My older brother and I had been the sole caretakers of my mother, who has multiple sclerosis. He called to tell me that our mom had gotten an infection and was in the ICU with a very small chance of living. I couldn’t do anything from abroad. Up until then, I thankfully never struggled with food or my body image, but in a matter of days I started using food to feel in control of my life. A downward spiral happened: depression, an eating disorder, losing then gaining thirty pounds in a year, hormonal imbalance, and isolation. I had felt tremendous amounts of guilt, shame, loneliness, and perfectionism. I felt hopeless with my body and in my life, like I was simply existing.
It was my journey of coming out of this stuck and simply “existing” place that unleashed my customizable road map, not a blanket approach, which women can use to find freedom AND uncover what their body, soul, and life needs – regardless of the health and stress of those around them. This roadmap includes the exact tools, adventures, mindset shifts to help women get unstuck at any point for the rest of their lives so they can be wild.free.alive. AND FULLY give back to the world and loved ones.
Bottom line – I help women come ALIVE and truly live and love their lives by unleashing the wild. free. alive. core of who they really are. It’s my passion, purpose, and one piece of huge joy in my life.Why? Because women who are fully alive, loving life, and in-tune with themselves create a ripple effect of contagious joy, living on purpose, and absolutely stunning beauty & abundance. Selfishly, I want to live in that world. But, I want you there with me, too.
LH: Have you ever worked with women who have chronic illnesses? How does or would that impact your recommendations or tools for success?
KDO: Aside from my mother who has had MS for my entire life, I’ve worked with numerous women who have autoimmune diseases, thyroid issues, endometriosis, IBS, infertility, cancer, and more. And while I no longer offer 1-on-1 nutrition coaching as it was too intense after caretaking for my mother for so long, it actually gave me an incredible foundation of insight and tools necessary to support and make true lifestyle changes (long haul baby) not just for a couple weeks or months.
Chronic illness, stress and emotional turmoil can wreck havoc on our bodies, emotions, relationships, purpose, and ultimately happiness. Without addressing ALL of these areas, we never really feel better. Once I started to boost the support, insight, tools, and understanding around the mindset…women started to have extreme self-care, sense of control, reduction in pain, and honestly sheer joy in their lives. I learned to we have to focus just as much, if not more, on our SOUL food as we do food food.
LH: You have shared with us that your mom has MS. What is it like supporting a parent with a chronic illness?
KDO: I’d love to say it’s a joy and easy, but it’s not. It’s hard as hell. There are days of optimism and laughter and days of straight up fear, unknown, guilt, sadness, loneliness, and helplessness. Over the years I’ve garnered more insight, been in the rodeo a little longer, and know more of what to expect…but I wrote an article that chronicled a specific incidence and need for self-care and shift in perspective here.
LH: What have you learned from your mom’s battle with MS?
KDO: I could probably share hundreds, but the main one’s that come to mind at this point in my journey are these:
Self-care: This is crucial. Just as much for the person with chronic illness as it is for the caretakers and those surrounding them. Often times it’s those who are so busy taking care of others, worrying about others needs/perceptions, and letting the stress build within who experience chronic illnesses. If we allow self-care to be a priority instead of attempting to prove our worth through what we take on, accomplish, or say yes to…we allow ourselves to be awake and in full-service (not ½ asleep) in our lives.
Live in the moment: we never know when life may end. Living in what ifs, shoulds, regrets, fears, etc., keep us from ever truly living life, loving fully, and giving back to the world. Experiencing my mother’s decline of living and the prospect of death from such a young age has given me an incredible appreciation for truly living, taking ownership of how I experience my life, and finding the joy in every day moments… I call it taking the ordinary to extraordinary.
Design vs. Default: we can’t always choose what will happen in our lives but we can always choose how we respond and perceive. This in and of itself gives us the freedom to design our lives and our direct experience.
LH: We meet lots of resilient people through Lori’s Hands who have turned their challenges into triumphs/successes. Do you feel that your current work and happiness are in part due to trials you faced earlier in your life? How have you turned your own “darkness” into “light”?
KDO: Without a doubt, yes. Most of the people I truly admire who are doing incredible work in the world have been through some deeply hard and trying times. It’s in these moments we get a choice – default into despair or choose to stand and change the world. For a time in my past I choose despair and when I could no longer sit in it, I choose to rise up, take a stand, and design a new path…leading to my purpose to show the way for others to come out of that place of feeling controlled, depressed, guilty, lonely, dark, and disillusioned and CHOOSE joy, freedom, bravery, happiness to truly come ALIVE.
It’s taking radical responsibilities for our own lives so that we can share contagious joy (and support) for everyone we encounter.
LH: Many of our readers are current college students or recent graduates. What advice do you have for young people who want to be healthy during chaotic, transitional periods in their lives?
KDO: Create basic non-negotiables. What are the absolute 3-5 things you must have in order to be grounded, nourished, and awake in your life? For me… I need 8 hours of sleep, the right foods for MY body, tons of water, intellectual/spiritual stimulation, and a morning and bedtime routine/ritual (includes meditation and gratitude practice). I do not budge on these or try to negotiate. With these basic pieces, I feel grounded, at peace, and fully able to be myself in the world – in chaotic times AND in support my mother and her needs. Don’t be afraid to be selfish in your self-care. There is no shame or guilt in putting your own oxygen mask on first SO THAT you can fully be of service to others. If you don’t…you’ll crash and burn and be of no service to anyone.
More on Katie’s journey:
I love to give this visual: Think back to a time (or now) where you felt fully in the moment, giddy with excitement and adventure, not a care in the world about your body, food, career, or in this case health of a loved one…but rather killer confidence and contagious joy. Connected. You weren’t held back. You weren’t stuck. You weren’t confused. You weren’t weighed down. You were happy. wild. brave. free. ALIVE.
Got that moment?
Now surround yourself in that moment with thousands of other women cheering you on (go ahead, picture it), seeking together the great life, and celebrating your awesomeness (no comparison, no competing). Feels pretty amazing, right?
A lot of women try treadmills, cleansing and discipline to get to this feeling and “place”… and feel something is wrong with themselves when they can’t stick to it or frustrated when they do get “there” and still aren’t happy and FREE. I found for myself that when I started to uncover who I really am, unleashed my desires, owned my worth and beauty, treated my body fabulously, and lived the way I thought I would live when I got “there” (instead of waiting on the weight, perfect health of a family member, career, man, permission, etc.)…THEN I started shedding excess weight (body + soul), being well-fed (food + soul), and feeling free and ALIVE.