How I found healing through Food, Chocolate and Ayahuasca in Costa Rica!

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There’s a strong feeling pulling at me. An overwhelming intuition is telling me we have to drive into the jungle today and find the little town we saw on a map this morning: Bijagual.

I have traveled all over the world. I love one day get-aways, sometimes I get to travel for a few months at a time and once I explored the Middle East and Africa for about a year. This time around I have one week for work and one week to play !
It’s November and I am in Costa Rica to lead one of my retreats.

As a Digestive Therapist I help people understand that psychological, emotional and spiritual healing is connected to how the Autonomic Nervous System works and that this greatly affects craving, metabolism, digestion, reflux, IBS and many allergic reactions. I help them find balance in their body, mind and soul through ancient healing practices as well as cutting edge scientific discoveries.

Digestive Therapy LogoSemicirc copy

I am also on this trip to do some reconnecting of my own.
My friend Jonathan is with me and I haven’t seen him in quite a while.
His life has gone through some big changes recently and we have chosen this motorcycle adventure through Costa Rica as a way to spend some quality time together.

Jonathan and I

We go up into the rainforest on three or four different trails and never find the town that was just a little dot on a map.
Jonathan is being a good friend and he entertains my quest.
Later that night he tells me, over a few beers and a delicious dinner, it’s the adventure of exploring he’s here with me for. It’s the journey, not the destination.

The next day I suggest we try one last time. As we ride over the ridge outside the little town of Bijagual later that day, it all makes sense. I feel at home here.

This little corner of paradise close to Carara National Park has it all: mountains, rivers, trees, birds, laughing children, smiling adults, delightful smells of fruit in the air, red mud and air so delicious that breathing it deeply nearly makes me want to weep.


When we drop into the next valley, the green of the tree canopy goes as far as the eye can see. We turn down a small dirt road and go for a few kilometers.
I am about to yell at Jonathan that this is probably a goose-chase when we come to a driveway. He has come up with a motto for us: “Whatever the question, the answer is almost always YES”. Should we go in ? The answer is almost always YES !

Traveler Palms Macaw

We are welcomed by a small field of (fucia ?) and traveler palms. Oh, how fittting. This place is heaven. This is The Macaw Lodge.

After we make it to the main lodge we are introduced to the owner Pablo, a high energy, enthusiastic, creative and intellectual type. I like him right away. He shows us around, no concern about time. Generous.

The Macaw Lodge generates its own electricity, they have an amazing aquaponics system, mind-blowing botanical and vegetable gardens, their own wood mill, a variety of ponds, a yoga deck, a great kitchen with wood-fired stoves and restful rooms and cabins.
The Macaw Lodge is the perfect place to connect with nature and reconnect with self. This is Pura Vida !

Seating Macaw

Are you fulfilled ? Are you malnourished in your life ?
What are you craving ? Are you hungry for something more ?

I am also known as “The Inquisitive Chef” and in my travels I have asked these questions over and over. How do different people around the world answer these questions ? What gives our lives meaning ?

When I search: “words in German that connect emotion with food and eating”. “Kümmerspeck” is the first word I find.

I always know, wherever I go, I will find these kind of words because all cultures, religions, races and languages have them. Humans have always recognized that our emotions and how we deal with food are connected and we see that reflected in our languages.
Now, science is ready to catch back up to that universal knowledge ! They have identified the “Enteric Nervous System”.
The stomach and gut are now called: “The Second Brain” by some.

Western science has been aware for a long time that eating disorders are actually psychological problems. It is now becoming more widely recognized that even “normal” emotions like stress, anger, depression and anxiety greatly affect our hormones, neurotransmitters, blood pressure, inflammation and many more elements of our physical chemistry ! We all experience these emotions from time to time.

Moods influence what we crave to eat, when and how much.

How many people you know run from diet to diet and from eating method to health food fad ? A lot of diet and nutrition books are bought but they often create more anxiety, guilt, fear and obsession for people.
Instead of chasing symptoms, it’s time we heal the cause!

Sacred Cacao Banner

From November 8th- 14th, 2015 I am going back to my beloved Macaw Lodge and will lead another retreat in this special place in beautiful Costa Rica.

Our days will start with a yoga class to breathe in the day and to connect our mind and our body. We do this to reduce stress and to regulate the functions of the Autonomic Nervous System. Also, simply to feel good and strong.

After breakfast we will have different activities ranging from workshops on Digestive Therapy to cooking class by Macaw Lodge’s authentic Costa Rican chefs.

The staff at the lodge have been learning how to make chocolate and we will have a chocolate making class. We will start with cacao beans and end with chocolate bars !

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The next day we will take our experience to a new level and part take in a sacred cacao ceremony. Finally, you can choose to participate in the deepest and most profound healing experience with the holy grail of shamanic medicine of the Americas: ayahuasca!

There will also be plenty of time for relaxing, a trip to the beach, horseback riding or whatever you’d like to do with your personal time.Playa Blanca copy

Come join us in Costa Rica to live the Pura Vida life!
Come join us to learn about sustainable farming and cooking!
Come join us to heal mind, body and soul!

Walk Away Depression

Solvitur Ambulando

All the great prophets, saints, teachers, healers, mystics were walkers.
Many forms of shamanic work, spiritual practices and religions hold a pilgrimage as one of the highest forms of spiritual growth, insight and healing.

Walk and Talk Therapy

I love taking my clients on walks.  This helps the blood to flow, the breath to deepen and allows clients to not feel as confronted as they might in an office setting.  Of course it also burns calories and develops a good habit of simple physical activity.

  • Studies show that exercise alters neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine in the brain’s frontal cortex and the hippocampus, both involved in circuits of emotion; the changes are similar to those produced by antidepressants.
  • It appears to stimulate the vagus nerve, improving function of the brain’s emotion-sensing network as well as of the heart. The vagus nerve is increasingly recognized as an important pathway of depression.
  • By acting on neurohormones that govern the stress response, exercise seems to improve the ability of the body to tolerate stress and to meet changing demands. A dysregulated stress response, perhaps stemming from early psychological trauma, is implicated as a cause of depression.
  • Exercise has definite cognitive effects; it changes people’s perception of themselves, providing a sense of personal mastery and positive self-regard. It also reduces negative thinking.
  • Additionally, anxious or grief-stricken patients are also well served by walk and talk psychotherapy. “Because grief can be so totally consuming and feel so heavy, having the counterpoint of being outdoors and accomplishing something positive for one’s health can provide a sense of aliveness.”
  • Exercise keeps on working, making it especially promising for preventing depression recurrences. People who continue to exercise have continuing reductions in symptoms.Call me to set up a Walk and Talk session !

Portion Control

This is why I call my work Consciously Culinary:

In portion control there are 2 processes at play.
You have pleasure centers that emotionally react when they see food and there is the part of your brain that intellectually knows what’s best for you.

It is about finding the balance between those two, being conscious.
Consciously Culinary.


“Dr Hudry says her team’s study is the first to provide evidence that activity in different parts of the brain, involved with attention and adaptive behavior, quickly succeeded these reward-related reactions.

Using neuroimaging, the scientists documented the greater excitement that the women experienced in the “visual, salience and reward” regions of the brain when they first saw pictures of portions they subsequently judged to be ‘too big’, versus the portions that they judged to be ‘too small’ or ‘ideal’.

Brain activity was ultimately highest in the regions involved with attention and adaptive behaviour for the portions that the women decided were ideally sized, suggesting that they exercised dietary restraint when making their choices, balancing energetic needs against the desire to control intake.

“We found two mechanisms working in parallel,” Dr Hudry says. “One involved more in counting – how much food is present, how many calories and possibly how much reward. The second is this regulatory mechanism – judging what amount is appropriate for me to feel full until the next meal.”

Study leader Dr Julie Hudry suggests that those who overeat or ‘emotional eaters’ (whose consumption is triggered by anxiety, sadness or loneliness) may lack such control, but that education could help these groups.”