Why I Do What I Do
by Jack Kanefield

I’ve been reading a lot of weight loss / diet / health blogs lately, and I’m trying to figure out where mine falls.

I’m in the position of advice-giving expert. I have my Master’s in Clinical Social Work, and my certificate in Holistic Nutrition. I work with people (mostly women) to create a positive relationship with food. I really love what I do.

But sometimes it’s boring to read a blog that’s just telling you “do this” and “do that”. Sometimes you want to know more about the actual person behind the blog. And I’ve arrived in this position precisely because of my own journey with food. So I’ve decided to share a little more about me.

I grew up eating pretty horribly. The earliest meals I remember were Cocoa Krispies and pb&j sandwiches. In high school, a typical day consisted of a granola bar at breakfast, a brownie for lunch, chips and salsa after school, and some random concoction for dinner – leftovers, takeout, white pasta with sauce from a can. If a vegetable happened to make its way into my mouth it was probably on a slice of pizza, or had been microwaved within an inch of its life. Oh, and I was a vegetarian…who, I recently discovered, was allergic to both soy and milk. So any protein I was ingesting was wreaking havoc on my digestive system.

I was obsessed with sugar. I ate it every day, multiple times per day. I also had numerous health problems. For instance, the summer I was fourteen, I went to Switzerland. You can probably imagine my favorite activity there: pounding chocolate. I came back with severe acne that remained with me for years.  All the dermatologists told me “diet has nothing to do with it” and wrote me prescription upon prescription. At one point I was applying 4 different lotions topically and taking a low dose of antibiotic. Now I know antibiotic is one of the worst things you can do to your gut. I was also on birth control, another gut wrecker. My sugar cravings got worse and worse. I had excema, brutal PMS, really unstable moods, and other issues that are a little too personal to go into. And of all the medical practitioners I visited, no one ever questioned my diet.

By my mid-twenties, I was a practicing psychotherapist living in San Francisco. I didn’t know how to cook, and I ate things like apples for breakfast and protein bars for lunch. No wonder I binged on sugar two or three times per week – I was starving. I really had no desire to change my eating habits either. As far as I was concerned, eating healthy meant half a grapefruit and salads with fat free dressing  and cottage cheese. And NO SUGAR. When I ate that way I was hungry, and I didn’t enjoy myself!

Eventually a friend connected me with her holistic nutrition counselor. I started to see her when I was 26, and I began to get a bit of a handle on how to eat. I learned what a meal should look like, and I learned how to cook really basic things that also tasted good (hint: it’s all about the seasoning). Before long I was assisting cooking classes. As I improved my food choices, many of my symptoms began to lessen. And within two years I had decided to embark on my own course of study of nutrition.

Now I work with people on their relationship to food because I think food is a wonderful, simple metaphor for how you live the rest of your life. If you’re willing to learn to cook, that means you’re ready to start taking care of yourself – at least a little bit. If you’re ready to explore your food addictions, it means you’re ready to look at some difficult dynamics and face some potentially unpleasant emotions. By supporting people both nutritionally and emotionally, I feel I can support the whole person.

And so often, we’ve bought into myths about food! Healthy diets do NOT consist of grapefruit and salad…well, not ONLY grapefruit and salad. There’s room for butter and meat and cream and maple syrup and all kinds of whole, satiating foods. Very often, I see people who are eating too little, then go off the rails, as I used to do. They think it’s an issue of willpower. That always makes me sad. In reality, they just don’t know how to eat supportively day to day in order to feel satisfied.

So that’s a little about my own journey. I believe in what I do because I saw it work for me, and I’ve seen it work for many others. Food is endlessly fascinating precisely because it’s so powerful. We’re only made up of what we eat – nothing else.

  1. Thank you for providing insight into what you gave you passion for what you do! I guess we all have had trouble with our diet at one point or another… It feels so good when finally we have a good relationship with our food choices!

    Comment by Anais — January 18, 2010 @ 11:29 am

  2. Wow, you’re totally doing a similar thing to what I want to do. I’m currently in an MSW program and I love nutrition. I’ve always looked into getting a nutrition certification when I finish my Master’s, but I need to finish that first :)

    Comment by Kara — January 18, 2010 @ 3:12 pm

  3. I wonder how much of my previous ED tendencies were really ED, or just me trying to starve myself and bingeing from being hungry. I had no idea how to eat until recently, it was either too little, too much, too light, too heavy, what-have-you. I’m sure my teenage/young adult years would have been much better and happier had I understood how nutritionally screwed up I was. Oh well, life goes on.

    Comment by julie — January 18, 2010 @ 4:35 pm

  4. Thank you so much for sharing what brought you here! It took me many years to finally get the concept of food as fuel. While I still don’t *always* make the healthiest choices, I’m far more likely to think about what my body needs for that day and choose accordingly. And on those days when fortune smiles and my nutritional needs are met, yet I’m still under normal calorie intake…hello, brownie! :)

    Comment by Cammy@TheTippyToeDiet — January 18, 2010 @ 5:13 pm

  5. Cammy, Julie, Kara, Anais – thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. It’s always great to hear about other peoples’ “food journeys”. Keep the faith! ;)

    Comment by Stephanie Small — January 19, 2010 @ 8:19 am

  6. stephanie, what a great combination of disciplines, and thank you for sharing your journey. it must have been so frustrating to seek help for so long and not get answers. kudos to you for finding the answers yourself and then passing them on.
    by the way, i got my copy of eat fat lose fat’ in the mail today :)

    Comment by liz — January 20, 2010 @ 8:10 pm

  7. Saw your blog bookmarked on Delicious. I love your site and marketing strategy.

    Comment by Clint Eastwood — February 2, 2010 @ 11:44 am

  8. Are you really Clint Eastwood? I’m so honored that you came to my site. I never imagined that Clint Eastwood would be involved in an acne treatment business, but Jessica Simpson is, so hey, who am I to judge.

    Comment by Stephanie Small — February 9, 2010 @ 8:07 am