We sat down recently with Katie Den Ouden, a food and lifestyle expert. She teaches women how to feed and love their bodies and their lives, create the life they were meant to live, and spread joy to others.
How do you describe your work?
I help women love their lives by unleashing the core of who they really are. When women who are in-tune with themselves, they create a ripple effect of joy. I love to give this visual: Think of a time when you felt fully in the moment, excited about life, and not a care in the world about your body or food. You weren’t weighed down but happy and confident. Now surround yourself with thousands of other women cheering you on. Feels pretty amazing, right?
A lot of women try exercise or dieting to get to this feeling—and think something is wrong with them when they can’t stick to it. I found that when I started to uncover who I really am, treated my body well, and lived the way I ultimately wanted to (instead of waiting to lose weight, get a promotion, or find a man), then I finally started to feel alive.
As a nutrition and lifestyle coach, I send out a weekly newsletter of free tips, tools, and inspirations. I also host the Skinny Dip Society Immersion program, where women come together to study, celebrate, and connect. They discover who they really are and learn how to treat their bodies well.
And yes, food does matter—it can change your mood, body, energy, and outlook on life. We can study healthy foods until we’re blue in the face, read self-help books, and chat about it over social media. But until we create real connections, pursue our desires, and live in alignment with our values, food won’t do anything! So I encourage women to stop focusing only on food.
What was your journey to get to this point in your career and life? Did you always want to do this or did you follow a more meandering path?
I knew I wanted to help people, but my path has been a roller coaster. I was once pre-med; I’ve been a wedding planner, a university grant manager, and a retail salesperson. At a young age, my dad instilled in me drive to go after my true desires and not let fear hold me back, and I believe that has been my catalyst for acting in spite of fear and going for my true desires. He’d ask, “How do you know you like something until you try it?” So I try things on, see if they fit me, and hold no shame in saying, “Nope, this isn’t it.”
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.
My journey out of thisdark place is what inspired me to create a customizable plan all women can use to find freedom and uncover what their bodies and souls need. This plan includes the exact tools, adventures, and mindset shifts to help women get unstuck at any point in their lives.
What’s your work environment like? Do you use your surroundings to stay inspired? If so, what have you done specifically to create the ideal workspace?
My work environment fuels my soul. I bring natural elements into my studio, including a wall of succulents and a community table made of restored barn wood. Everything, down to the teakettle and mugs, makes my creative side sing. I display art that I have personal connections with: a painting by my sister-in-law, a lantern from my stepmom, and candleholders made of tree stumps that were at my wedding. It’s taken a while to collect this inspiration, but it’s imperative in helping me stay authentic and live on purpose.
What is the most unexpected thing that happened to you in business?
I love the freedom of owning my own business and the continued possibility for growth, but I never imagined it would fuel my purpose in life as much as it has. It’s a huge blessing that continues to open more doors and provide abundance in every way possible.
Walk us through your typical daily ritual.
I thrive on variety, spontaneity, and newness, but I realized a couple years back that without daily rituals and routines, I totally fall to shambles. When I have consistency in my life, everything shifts for me. I become so much more aware of my choices (especially food). I’m more present in my relationships, I’m more productive, I engage more in my passions, and I enjoy my life more overall.
Each day is varied, but I generally wake up between 7 and 8 a.m. and give myself an hour without technology. I’ll go for a 45-minute walk to meditate and pray before I start my day. Throughout the day, I set a fifty-minute timer to get my work done. Once the fifty minutes are up, I take a 10-minute break to walk around, jump on my mini trampoline, or just daydream. I’ll stop working around 3:30 to do something for myself, like yoga or Pilates. My husband and I eat dinner together in the evening. We’ll catch up or I’ll work until bed (but I always make time to read before I go to sleep!).
My eating schedule isn’t routine. Whenever I feel hungry, I eat. I eat what my body is craving and what makes me feel amazing.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work for fun or relaxation?
I try to travel somewhere new every month—2014 is a success so far! I also like to try new restaurants, share wine with girlfriends, and spend time outside.
Tell us about your proudest moment.
This past spring I offered the most authentic, sisterhood-supporting program I have ever done. It signified me fully owning who I am. It’s scary as hell to put yourself out in the world and face rejection! But I learned that the world wants you to succeed. I owned who I am, honored it, and welcome others to do the same.
What’s something you’d like to learn?
Hip-hop. I so want to be in a hip-hop dance troupe!
What are you looking forward to right now?
Summer barbeques, beach parties, and family vacations. As for business, I am giddy for the next Skinny Dip Society Immersion in fall 2014! It seriously keeps me up at night with happiness.
What advice would you give to your twenty-five-year-old self?
Don’t compare. Just do you. Honor your desires, take your time, and remember no one can make you feel a certain way. You get to choose how you experience everything in your life, so take responsibility and create the life you desire.