Lake Forest Health Guru: You Can Have Your Health And Eat Your Chocolate, Too

Frances Murchison of Lake Forest is one of those women who seems to be starring in her own one-woman show.

Her list of roles includes holistic health counselor, lifestyle coach, nutritionist, advertising exec (in a past life), serious yogi (she practices at Highwood’s Sanctuary Yoga), cook, cooking instructor, eating disorder survivor, mother of two, Episcopalian preacher’s wife, author and—this one we didn’t expect—spiritual seeker.

Make It Better’s Liz Logan visited with Murchison over coffee at a chocolate shop to talk about her new 100-page book, “Breathe. See. Nourish. Energize : A Pathway to Healing” (Seabury Books, 2009).  The book, with Christian overtones, explains why holistic health coaching does not involve giving up chocolate.

LL: I was surprised that there’s so much God in the book. The title doesn’t indicate that it’s Christian based, and, you refer to a lot of other traditions. Do you think that non-Christians will be able to appreciate it?

FM: It’s written from a Christian perspective. I was brought up in the Christian tradition. But I believe that there are so many paths. We’re all trying to arrive at a place of enlightenment. I believe some power greater than ourselves, call it what you will, intends for us to live abundant lives.

I’m always eager to have a conversation with someone who doesn’t come from this perspective. It’s my hope [that non-Christians will be able to appreciate the book]. I try to offer an embracing, welcoming and inclusive view of the Christian tradition and how it’s about healing and wholeness.

LL: When I think of holistic health or nutrition counseling, I figure it requires giving up chocolate—or whatever other vice a person has. Do you ever feel like the chocolate police?

FM: Food is not the problem; it’s the solution. It’s not about deprivation. Let’s talk about the quality of that chocolate. Let’s talk about what you’ve eaten the whole day that’s led you up to wanting that chocolate.

Chocolate raises endorphin levels, and women naturally have lower beta endorphin levels than men. I would help you add more things—activities and food—to raise your seratonin and endorphin levels.

LL: Well, phew. Back to the book. Setting small goals seems key. How do you go about it?

FM: I work with my clients to create goals that are so manageable that they can come back to me and say, “That was like falling off a log.” If they fall short of the goal, then the goal has to be re-crafted, so everyone comes back having accomplished something.

So many of us get stuck because we set unmanageable expectations. When we don’t achieve them, we throw in the towel and say we can’t do it.

LL: You write about having an eating disorder. How does that experience inform your work?

FM: I was anorexic from 7th grade till I graduated high school. I have a number of clients who are working through eating disorders. My vision is to help those girls and women accept themselves and to love themselves enough to care for themselves and eat. There’s such tremendous self-loathing.

LL: What do you hope people will get out of the book?

FM: I hope it might be supportive to readers trying to make the connection of body, mind and spirit. If you’re not in [the Christian] tradition, [I hope] there might be one or two gems to support you in your own spiritual journey. I tell people: “Take what feeds you, and leave the rest.”

I believe all of us are on some kind of spiritual journey. We need to honor it, whatever it is. Even if it’s intuition and inner spirit.

It’s important to me that we find what really gives us joy, and we try to do that. The world needs our energy.

To learn more about Frances Murchison’s holistic nutrition counseling and life coaching practice, Mindfully Fed, or her cooking classes, visit her website.

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