3 Things We Dive Into In This Episode:
Types of untraditional therapy modalities like EMDR, music therapy, somatic therapies, embodiment, and polarity
Embodiment as a practice and a way of being - where you experience positive AND negative emotions to the fullest extent to feel fully alive
The phases of eating disorder recovery and "recovery grad school," a phase where you truly experience wholeness, fullness, and aliveness
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing - EMDR (one of Alex's therapeutic modalities)
Tattoos on the Heart:The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle
The Way of Integrity by Martha Beck
Eating in the Light of the Moon by Dr Anita Johnston
Brené Brown (researcher & speaker)
Alex Leff is a licensed creative arts Therapist who has specialized in working with people with eating disorders, trauma and addiction for the last 10 years. She is currently in private practice and is building programs and retreats to support women in combining traditional therapy with several other forms of healing that Alex has been focusing her work and training on the past several years. Alex believes in the body’s intuitive wisdom as a driving force in all treatment and healing, and works with clients to help them strengthen their relationship to their own body, energetic alignment and pleasure to find freedom and liberation in their recovery and their lives.
You can learn more about Alex and her work on her website and instagram.
Thanks for listening! 💖 Stay tuned to my website for more episode updates and other exciting programs and resources.
Caitie: When I started really experiencing the deep pleasures of life and what it feels like to actually be present in your body and to actually lean into a moment and actually feel things. And I'm not just talking about feeling good things. I'm actually talking about feeling really shit things, too. Some of that started to feel so beautiful for me, too. Breakups started to feel really beautiful for me. Grief and loss started to feel really beautiful for me. And I was like, I wish that I had this sooner, but when I look back at it, I couldn't have had it sooner. I wasn't safe enough in the early stages of my recovery, and that was when I really needed that structure, that structured meal plan, that structured self care plan. I needed people kind of telling me what to do so that I could then move to that graduate level recovery where you are living that fully embodied life.
Caitie: Welcome to Whole, Full, and Alive, a podcast helping you break free from food, anxiety, body dysmorphia, self doubt, and hustling for your worth. I'm Caitie Corradino. I'm a registered dietitian nutritionist, a body image coach, and the founder of Full Soul Nutrition. I use a unique combination of nutrition counseling, body image support, somatic, breath work, and holistic coaching. I've guided hundreds of clients to freedom with food, their bodies, and every aspect of their lives. I've also been on this healing journey myself.
On this podcast, I share actionable tools, no bullshit stories and interviews that remind you why you have everything you need within you to feel whole, full, and alive. Are you ready to eat with more confidence, embrace your body, create aligned relationships, and fall in love with your life? Let's get into it.
Caitie: Hey! Welcome back to you another episode of Whole Full and Alive. I am so grateful that you're here, that you're tuning in and I'm so excited to share a really special conversation with you today. Before we dive into the episode let's just take a moment as always to take a deep breath wherever you are in the world, wherever you're tuning in from. I want to give you an invitation to take a nice deep inhale, feel it fill your body all the way through the base of your spine, hold it for a moment and then a nice long exhale. Release and let it go. And just notice if there's a place in your body where you're holding tension that you can maybe relax a little bit more. Can you deactivate your jaw? Can you roll your shoulders down your back? Can you wiggle some space into your toes and your fingers? Just take a moment to drop in a little bit more, let go a little bit more.
All right with that let's get into today's episode. So I have a guest on today's episode, her name is Alex Leff. She is a licensed creative arts therapist who specializes in working with individuals recovering from eating disorders, trauma, and addiction. She currently has a private practice and she's building programs and retreats to support women and combining traditional therapy with several other forms of healing, which she's going to talk about on this episode. Alex believes in the bodies intuitive wisdom as a driving force in all treatment and healing and she works with clients to help them strengthen their relationship to their bodies, to their sense of energetic alignment, and to their sense of pleasure to find freedom and liberation in their recovery and in every aspect of their lives. I love reading that file because I think that is exactly what Alex and I get into on today's episode. We talk about what it means to find freedom and liberation in eating disorder recovery and also in every aspect of your life. What Alex and I dive into today is like what does it mean to fully recover to fully break free from food anxiety and from body image distress, what is it feel like when you're not only symptom free right, you're not only free from dieting behaviors you're not only free from anxiety and fixation on your body, but you're also tuned into a sense of embodiment and pleasure and sensuality. Like what does that feel like and how do you get there. That's what we dive into today.
Alex shares her story of her own eating disorder recovery and as you might know if you've tuned into the show I'm also a recovered clinician, so Alex and I had a really similar souls in a lot of ways. What she does for clients as a therapist is quite aligned with what I do for clients as a dietitian and a body image coach. And so we get into kind of sharing about our own personal recovery stories a little bit and then yeah we dive into what does it mean to experience a full sense of embodiment of freedom, of liberation. And Alex shares a little bit more about some of the holistic tools that she incorporates into her talk therapy with clients, like EMDR and conscious emotional release and polarity. And this is a great episode to tune into if you are someone who's genuinely curious about incorporating more holistic modalities into your healing work. So if you're someone who's already in talk therapy and is maybe curious about incorporating embodiment practices or EMDR or some other alternative form of healing in addition to that talk therapy, this is a great episode for you. If you're curious about what it means to fully and completely recover from food anxiety and body image distress, this is also a great episode for you. I'm so excited for you to hear Alex's story and to hear her wisdom today. Without any further ado, let's just get into my interview with Alex Leff.
Caitie: Alex, thank you so much for joining me on this cozy Friday evening.
Alex: Thank you for having me. It's so good to see you.
Caitie: From Mexico City.
Alex: From Mexico City.
Caitie: We love it. We love it. We met in Mexico City, like, three months ago, and I feel like I got a really authentic Mexico City experience when we met. Like tacos cash only. It was great.
Alex: I know. Yeah. I took you to the real deal Mexico taco spot.
Caitie: I love Mexico City so much. I can't wait to go back. So please tell everyone who you are. And when I say who you are, of course I want to hear about what you do and your work and who you serve and how you help them. And who are you? What kind of energy do you bring into the world? Do you like things like astrology? Do you like human design? You can introduce yourself in any way you want to. I want to hear it all.
Alex: Love it. I love that intro. I love that prompt. Gosh, what a question. Who are you? Who am I? I think if I were to say, who am I today? In one phrase, I would say, today I'm a love warrior. Actually, I would introduce myself because it's something I feel very passionate and called in on a mission about today. But of course, that's not who I used to be. And even the question is such an opening question, like, who am I? Who are you today? Who are you? But who am I? The resume. I'm a licensed creative arts therapist based out of New York is my practice. I've been traveling for a couple of years, nomadic, based in Mexico. I've been in practice since 2014, so nine years I've been in practice, in private practice for four years.
I studied creative arts therapy. I'm a singer. I play piano. I play a little bit of guitar. And now, most recently, I'm really into embodiment and sexual polarity. So that's sort of a new space that I'm exploring and getting the certification to become a teacher of sexual polarity, feminine embodiment, and everything that goes into that which we can talk about.
I think Love Warrior is a way that I would like to be described. Clinical therapist is a way that people often describe me. Traveler, wanderer. Empath is another way that people describe me.
Caitie: That’s a beautiful answer. And I actually want to share something kind of serendipitous with you last night. Every once in a while, when I'm getting ready to go to sleep and I don't feel like reading the book that I'm currently reading, I kind of just pull a random one off my shelf and open to a random page of it, like it's a tarot card. The book that I pulled last night was Love Warrior by Glenn Doyle.
Alex: I haven't read that. That is very serendipitous.
Caitie: Yeah, it's so interesting that you haven't read it. And I've definitely outgrown this book. I read it probably like, ten years ago and probably when I was way too young to be reading a book like Love Warrior, but that was just always who I was. And I pulled it off the shelf last night and opened to a random page, and it was, like, so resonant for where I am in my life right now. And I'm curious, just what makes you think Love Warrior immediately when I say, who are you?
Alex: Yeah, it's a beautiful question, I think because on the past couple of years, I have been on a mission to become and embody the most loving version of myself to myself and for myself, but also to the world. So I've really been on this personal mission to figure out what is love, what would love do, what would love need, what would love bring? How can I be love? How can I bring love to my clients? How can I bring love to the world? And I don't know. It's just that question. We can get into where that came from. Why I went on this mission to figure out love, but it's really become this mission and this driving vision force that's kind of at the forefront of everything, I would say. In all the decisions I'm making and the ways that I'm moving in the world and how I'm I think approaching my practice and shifts in my practice, my career, my life. Yeah, so I think I want to be known as a love warrior, and I still have a lot of work to do. I think it's a lifelong mission to become a warrior of love, but when I die, I would love for people to say, like, yeah, she was a warrior for love.
Caitie: That's beautiful. So speaking of your career and your life, how did your life lead you to your career? How did your life lead you to where you are today? Working with clients?
Alex: Yeah, good question. So you want the whole story?
Caitie: I mean, go for it.
Alex: Or you want to share a girl living in a lonely world? The medium length version of my story, I'm totally an open book. I'm a recovered clinician. You're a clinician. I'm a clinic. And so I'm in recovery for an eating disorder and also substances. I think I've been in recovery, I think, since maybe 2011. I've been in recovery, fully recovered. Yeah. And recovery way before then. I think I saw my first therapist at like 15, maybe 15 for my eating disorder. So it was a long journey, decade long journey with my eating disorder and yeah, I mean, my story is I'm from Ohio.
I come from a lineage of therapists. My mom was a therapist. My mom was in twelve step recovery growing up. So I was really raised with God, being talked about a lot in the house, the Serenity Prayer being talked about in the house, like, things that I didn't have any context for until I got older and then my own journey. So from the earliest age, therapy, recovery, God, spirituality, those were all sort of household names. My parents had a really tumultuous ten year divorce starting when I was three, finally settling when I was 13. And it was hard. It was hard, it was toxic, it was ugly.
How I come to understand my story now is that I think I was on a mission to be seen and known from the earliest age. My parents were my mom was a single mom. She was a therapist, she was working, they were fighting, they're in court. And I think I, you know, I kind of fell through the cracks. And so I, I found ways to, to feel, you know, through food, through restriction, through substances or self harm or kind of a lot of different things as a young teenager to try to get what I needed.
And it was tough. I was a rebel in high school, and the thing that always kept me straight and narrow was actually theater and music, musical theater. So I'm very grateful for my relationship with music and theater and musical theater because it always kept me on a straightish and narrowish path. And I ended up studying musical theater in undergrad in a conservatory, which was amazing. And that's when my eating disorder really leveled up to the point it was keeping me from, you know, success of any kind.
So, yeah, so I really bottomed out on my eating disorder. In undergrad, I was studying musical theater. I was dancing like several hours a day and doing all the things that college kids do, drinking and partying and not sleeping and not eating, and bottomed out pretty quickly and went home for summer after sophomore year and ended up starting in treatment, basically, and going into treatment. And it was a couple of year process of getting treatment and making a recovery. And I remember being in treatment myself and having a group that we did that was music based. It was like a music therapy group. And it was so transformative for me, that music piece. And then something in treatment was I was contracted to start singing because I hadn't sang in a long time. And it was like just this process of rediscovering myself and coming back to life through really losing everything and losing myself and losing all these parts of myself. It was the creativity and the music that slowly started to make me remember who I always was. And looking back on my story, there's definitely that thread of creativity, music embodiment always being a lifeline directly to my soul.
And then I went through treatment. I went through the whole process and decided I was going to study music therapy. So I learned how to play piano, I learned how to play guitar, auditioned for NYU, got into their music therapy program, got my grad degree, learned how to be a therapist and stuff like that. And then once I felt ready enough, I started working with eating disorders. And that brings us pretty current.
Caitie: Wow, I didn't know that you were a singer. That's new to me. This is new information. I think that was a really good summary to kind of kick us off into the thing. I was wondering when you said that your mom was a clinician, I was like, did you always want to be a therapist? And it sounds like you didn't always want to be a therapist.
Alex: Half and half and half. I have this autobiography that we did in second grade, and it's so cute, this autobiography that we did. And when I look at it and it talks about me, it says in it, when I grow up, I either want to be a psychologist or a Broadway star.
Alex: I don't remember wanting to be a therapist, but yeah, I think I did. I think I did always did want to be a therapist. I didn't think it at the time until I went through my whole journey, it didn't even cross my mind to be a therapist. I worked in entertainment. PR was my first job out of college. I worked on Broadway in entertainment.
Caitie: Wow. Okay. And isn't it interesting to look back at things you wrote as a child and see how well you knew yourself back then? And it kind of gets like muddied along the way.
Alex: I always say to my clients and people the goal of therapy this is what I believe the goal of therapy is just to undo all the stuff that's on top of us, just to get back to who we were as kids. The whole goal is undo everything that's on top of us and just be who we always were. Kids know exactly who they are. They're unapologetic, they're confident, they know what they want to eat, they know what they want to do. They're not self conscious, they're not fawning, they're not fight or flight. They're just existing. And that's what we're all trying to do in our healing.
Caitie: Yeah, that's good. And that reminds me of full recovery. I feel like a lot of people don't talk about full eating disorder recovery enough. We talk a lot about being in recovery. We talk a lot about the steps to get to full recovery, but we don't always define it. I feel like one part of the definition is that sort of childlike knowing of yourself and that childlike sense of freedom. And I'm curious, how do you define full recovery and what have you seen is the most helpful for your clients when they're working towards full recovery? And it also sounds like for you, one of the pieces that was helpful for reaching full recovery was music and having that spiritual connection with music.
Alex: Yeah, it is such a good question. That's a layered question and a great question and important question. I think when I think of my own recovery, one, I think of it in layers, like almost like an onion. Like what I thought was full recovery, which then actually wasn't full recovery, and then a couple of layers deeper of full recovery, which still wasn't full recovery. And it's just been layers and layers and layers of knowing myself deeper, being the truest, most embodied, unapologetic, okay version of myself. I feel like.
I think it's a tough question because it's like full recovery clinically or full spiritually, emotionally, what does it even mean, recovery? I think in the clinical or therapeutic sense, I would say a full recovery is when you have neutrality. Neutrality around or acceptance. Let me replace neutrality with acceptance. Yeah, because maybe we don't have neutrality. I don't always have neutrality, but acceptance pretty much acceptance with what I look like, with what I eat, how I operate day to day around food and body. It doesn't get in the way of my day to day functioning. I can have a bad body image day or an imperfect food day, and it doesn't wig me out or spin me out. It's just another thing in my day. I think a full recovery where food and body takes a right sized place, it's just another thing in my life.
Wider than that, how I think of full recovery in the spiritual, holistic, emotional sense is I'm fully recovered when I'm living the life that I'm meant to be living when I'm feeling free and agent and allowed to be and do who and what I want to do in a trusting and embodied way, like, really living life. It's one thing to be recovered, but not living. It's another thing to be, like, living. And I think your podcast, right, is all about living fully, having a full life. And that's how I think. I always said I don't want to recover if I'm not going to be like, I don't know if you can swear in here, but, like, if I'm not gonna be, like, fucking happy, I don't want to recover. Like, I'm not recovering just so that I can exist. It's like I want to be fully free and fully expressed and explore and eat all the foods. It's one of the reasons why I love traveling. And travel was a big piece that kicked off my full recovery, that took it from eating enough the way with the meal plan and the stuff and weight restoring to actually finding pleasure and joy and excitement and creating an intimate relationship with food really kicked off in a different way when I was traveling in Ghana.
Caitie: I relate to so much of what you're saying in terms of the different layers of recovery. What you thought was full of recovery and then what you realized full recovery is. There were so many moments in my life, especially in late college, early grad school, where I thought I was fully recovered, and I totally wasn't. My perspective just kept changing, and my lens kept getting wider, and life kept becoming more and more available to me. The deeper I was willing to go and the more I was able to become unguarded. And so I totally relate to that experience, too. You can't really know it until you've gone through multiple layers and multiple iterations of yourself as you continue to heal and get to know yourself better and also relating very deeply to what you're saying about being whole and full and alive.
Of course, that's, like, the mission of this podcast is for people to know that they don't have to just survive. They really can be alive. What's the point of it all if we never get to relax, if we never get to experience pleasure, if we never get to just deeply enjoy life? And that is full recovery to me, for sure. Beyond that clinical acceptance, that clinical weight restoration, that clinical I'm eating enough that clinical food doesn't interfere with my quality of life that much. It's like, I don't want food to just not interfere with the quality of my life. I want food to add to the quality of my life and to be my life and to be experiencing all the tastes and flavors of the world in both a literal and metaphorical sense. And travel is also something that literally blew my perspective wide open when it comes to recovery. And so I definitely want to hear more about that for you. I mean, you're now living in Mexico, and I think you are truly an embodiment of full recovery for your clients, which is so inspiring to me because I think there are maybe a lot of clinicians who are trying to guide their clients towards full recovery and perhaps not living that full, free, liberated life themselves and being open about it. And I see that in you.
Alex: Thank you. Well, I see that in you. I mean, I think one of the reasons why you and I jive so well is because we're very similar in that I think we're both on this mission to live a whole, full and alive like hell, yes life. And that really is, I will say, a gift of my recovery. I'm a person that believes that you can trace the dots looking backwards. And that for me. And I believe it just for me that my life has happened for a reason and the way that it needed to, to get me where I am. And I have so much gratitude for my eating disorder and my struggles as a kid and substances, all the things, because it's allowed me to be this version of myself that I'm so deeply proud of and in awe of and who's really living an amazing, awesome life. And so are you, like, getting to travel and do work that we're passionate about and love and be in love and just really leave it all in the field. So I love that we share that.
I think about the connection, how there's, like, a bridge between, I say, food, sex, body, money, how we do one thing is how we do everything. So I see my recovery get deeper as it expands into these other areas. So food, body, like, substances, whatever. And then it's kind of like sex, money, relationships. And it's just the more recovered, the older, the deeper I go. Like, the more work and the more full, like, fully recovered I get to be, I think, in everything, like, growing up and leveling up in financial health and sexual health and I don't know, other areas. My business.
Caitie: Yeah, and business is a big one. I am working, actually, with a business coach right now. And my business coach said to me the other day, she's very intuitive eating anti diet informed. She said to me the other day, you are applying the dieting mindset to your business. And I was like, oh, interesting. I never thought of it that way. She's like, yeah, you're literally still on a diet, except instead of being on a diet, you're just taking the same lens to your business. And it's so true. As soon as you heal one thing, you're like, oh, I'm taking this perfectionist approach to food. And then it's like Whack a mole, oh, I'm taking a perfectionist approach to dating. Oh, Whack A Mole, I'm taking a perfectionist approach to my relationship with my mom. And it's like everything will just keep coming up. And that does allow you to get deeper and to the core of like, okay, well, where does all this come from now that you're done applying that lens to everything? Where is that lens coming from? What is the deeper thing?
Alex: Yeah, I love that you said that. I so relate with money, with business, with the same things that we healed decades ago with food, and it's showing up with finances, it's showing up with business, with clients. I think it makes sense.
Caitie: Yeah. And just to kind of speak to what you were saying before, too, about living that whole full and aligned life. And something else I see in you is that you have such a willingness to evolve and to kind of keep changing and growing and to keep changing the therapeutic lens that you're using and keep adding new tools to your toolbox and changing the ways you help clients. And you were saying off mic that you're feeling like, am I even a clinician anymore? I don't even know what that means. And I would love to hear more about that. What are some of the tools that you've decided to start using with clients beyond traditional talk therapy? How do you use those tools? And did they have anything to do with your own personal recovery as well? And how have you seen people be able to grow through things like somatic healing and EMDR? And if you could define what these things are too, that would be amazing.
Alex: Well, disclaimer, I still am a therapist. Yeah, what I said offline, am I even a therapist? Dabbling in. And I have for a few years into all of these different modalities that you see maybe more in, like the healing space or the wellness space or the coaching space. And I think we're maybe even at an interesting time, probably in a big part due to COVID and pandemic, working remote and social media that the I think you're seeing like, a lot of overlap and bridging between you're seeing TikTok therapy and instagram therapy and doing coaching programs. It's an interesting time, I think. I think the game is way different and the lens is way different and has evolved from what it used to be, strict boundaries around things.
And I think I'm evolving with it and taking more risks. And it's been something I've had to kind of sit with. And even I mean, I'm noticing in myself, I'm even noticing nervousness talking about it because we're trained in this very specific type of clinical lens, lens, clinical boundaries, things like that. Ethics, which is all super important as a clinician. And now learning new things, learning new modalities that are not like traditional psychotherapy, breath work, embodiment, somatic healing, even like plant medicine, which we don't have to get into, but like, even that is like so new in the space.
Alex: So for me, how did I start to widen? I think I've always been a little bit of like I call myself like a woo woo therapist. I've always been woo woo because to be honest here we go. I never fully bought into traditional talk therapy before I started my training. Yeah, I never quite bought into it. I've always been a rebel. I'm a rebel therapist, I'm a rebel in the world. And I remember being in grad school and being kind of combative. It doesn't quite get to the heart of it, I don't think. Just talking there's value and it's amazing. But I think you have to get into creativity, the body somatics to really make that lasting change. That's my opinion. And so study therapy, that's a lot of what we talk about is how music, I studied music therapy attacks a problem in a different way, heals in a different way. We're all inherently musical beings. We all have a rhythm inside of us. And I haven't really thought about it, but I think I have been conditioned to be on this non traditional therapy path. Like being more interested in alternative therapies since before grad school.
Because I've never really believed in the therapist as a blank slate thing, which I don't know if that's still like, how it's taught so much today, but it really was. It's like you're a blank slate. You don't tell the client about yourself, you don't disclose things like that. That never sat well with me. I went to a treatment center with All Recovery Clinicians and that was incredibly powerful and being in twelve step recovery and things where it's like you share from your own experience. So I was raised in these lines of disclosure and how healing and important that is. So I think my approach is really being with a client in it, and in creative arts therapy and music therapy, you're with the client in it, you're making music together, you're participating in the piece together, you're co creating.
So this idea of co creation I think is something that has always been a thread through my therapeutic perspective and lens and how I've dealt with clients. I think especially eating disorder clients particular, there's a lot of power dynamics and there's a reason for that. And I think one of the things that has made me successful in that work is I really do sit next to a client, I think stand beside them. I keep it really real. I meet them where they are. I believe in this co creation, we're co creating a piece together, we're co creating art, we're uncovering and discovering what's present in the moment together. And that's gotten bigger with learning about somatic psychotherapy and embodiment, polarity and embodiment, which is somatic is like the use of the body. And how I think about that is letting the body be the driving force and the cue.
So really instead of operating from the thinking or the mind. It's dropping into the body and letting the body guide the session, letting my body guide the session and letting the client's body guide the session and working things through in the physical. So less about the verbal processing and about the physical moving it through. And that's very similar to the creative, arts like musicing, we would call it, where the therapy would be inside of the music. It wasn't about talking about the music or processing what happened. It was actually about working it through inside of the music. And then with EMDR, which I'm also trained in, that's also somatic with the body. But it's a protocol. I'm trained in attachment focused EMDR, and that's a protocol which uses bilateral stimulation, which is the left and the right sides of the brain through tapping or buzzers or some sort of eye movement thing to unlock, stored trauma in the brain and reprocess it so that you're unlocked. Because if you know, when we're having a fight or flight or freeze or phone response, when we're triggered, we're taken back to a historical moment. And EMDR is designed to heal that original trauma from the root so that it clears all the way up the channel. And then today, in this moment, you're no longer triggered. So it's a way to go back in time almost and heal what is still unhealed and causing you to help.
Caitie: Yeah, I have so many questions and thoughts popping up, of course, from so much of what you're saying. And the two main ones. One is, what is polarity? Because you use that a lot when you're talking. And I'm like, what does she mean by sexuality or sexual embodiment of polarity? I'm like, what's going on here? And the second thing is, I'm curious, as you're incorporating these different tools that involve the body, how do you help people feel comfortable enough to do this stuff, especially when people have history of an eating disorder. The eating disorder is literally like a body avoidance. It's a practice of avoiding the body. And so what tools do you use to help people kind of open up to this stuff without obviously, I'm sure you're not forcing anything on anyone. And what kind of results have you seen and felt or experienced yourself as a result of stepping out of that body avoidance?
Alex: Yeah, that's a great question. Okay, first things first. Polarity. Yeah, I do use that a lot. The word polarity is speaking to the balance of the poles in energy, so masculine and feminine energy. So the polarity I'm talking about masculine energy and feminine energy and how one is like the Yang and the Yang, and they balance each other out. Ideally, you're looking for that good balance of masculine and feminine energies. And that doesn't just apply to, like, male and female, but it's really we all have a masculine and feminine energy in us, and it's knowing which is what and how to work with it and how to use them so that you're in a flowing state.
Caitie: Got it. I do know a lot about masculine and feminine energy in terms of receptivity versus action oriented stuff. And I'm constantly being told by healers that I have very wounded masculine energy because I'm always in driving go go go moments and I need to drop more into the receptivity energy and the pleasure energy, which we'll kind of talk about in a few minutes. But yeah, that makes sense. I've just never heard described as like, polarity.
Alex: Yeah, and then sexual polarity is bringing that into sex and harnessing that energy and actually being intentional with how you bring it to the bedroom and your relationship and what that will do to strengthen a relationship if it's what depolarized, what depolarizes it. And I'm shifting into doing a good amount of work with my clients now. It's sort of this beautiful evolution of clients that originally came to me with eating disorders who've been on this healing journey, and now we're moving into polarity and sex in the body. And to your point, how do you get there?
To me, it feels like recovery grad school, like working polarity and embodiment. First we go through the structure. I talk a lot about structure and flow. And in recovery, structure is key. Learning how to feed ourselves, learning even just like, what the hell do I eat, how do I eat, how do I feed myself, what do I feed myself? So the structure is super important of helping client or myself, like, in my recovery, learn how to eat, know what to eat, know my body, like, create a relationship with my body first.
And then once you're at a certain point, I think, in recovery, where you have a level of intuitive eating, body trust, hunger and fullness cues, that ability to have that sovereign agency with a body as a body, then I think you're able to move more into pleasure and into embodiment and creating a deeper relationship with your body that's not just survival, not just like being fed and getting food in and eating and all those things, but actually like? What do I like? What brings me pleasure, feels good, what turns me on, what repulses me, what makes me sad, what makes me rageful, and developing a wider emotional body and experiential body through what's naturally coming through the body.
So much of eating disorders is about stuffing, control, cutting off from our emotions, not being able to feel our body, not having a body, not trusting a body, not feeling safe in the body. So the practice of embodiment and learning how to be in your body first, I think is the final step in healing to that full recovered life. I don't think it's enough for everyone. If what you're wanting is that full, full recovered life, to just be able to feed yourself without really knowing your body or being in your body, like existing body.
So what happens? How do I get clients to trust me in that? That's a good question. Slowly, I think is the first answer. Slowly. It actually feels like a similar skill that it takes to trust anything in recovery. Clients come and they're so afraid. And I was so afraid, terrified when I started recovering to do the things that were being asked of me. I thought it would kill me. Literally, I thought it would die. And developing that ability to just leap, to trust, leap, close your eyes, put your hands in the air and leap and trust that a net is going to appear and that there's a good reason why I'm being asked to do this. And what's on the other side of this discomfort is going to be so great. I think it's the same skill set. I hope, I think that my clients trust me enough and have seen enough validity in some of the weird things I've asked them to do or taught them that weren't going to be helpful, that they keep going.
And what I found, I've seen a lot of incredible deep healing and liberation in so many of my clients as we started bringing in embodiment and polarity and pleasure, it's like set things on fire. I feel like I've seen my clients come alive in this way that's incredible. And they're saying, they're talking about how incredible this work is and how impactful and their relationships are shifting and their sex lives are shifting and they're traveling and they're quitting their jobs and they're just like, doing all the things. And I really believe it's from the embodiment, from that full permission to be fully embodied and fully expressed. So the full liberated expression.
Caitie: Full liberated expression is like exactly where it's at. I find myself coming back to those words a lot because when I get to the core of it and what I really want all of my clients to find it is freedom with food and their body and their whole life in general, and to just be their fucking selves, just to be themselves. That is the thing that ultimately keeps us stifled and trapped and unhealthy is living unauthentically. It literally makes you sick. It literally makes you feel contracted. And the word expression, sometimes I think it just feels like a little fluffy for people. But it's like, I just want you to express yourself, to be your fully expressed self. And that's when I found my own liberation, was when I realized I actually was just being myself and not trying to put on a face everywhere I went.
And speaking of that pleasure and full sense of embodiment, I appreciate that you call it like recovery grad school, because I didn't experience that until recent years. And when I started really experiencing the deep pleasures of life and what it feels like to actually be present in your body and to actually lean into a moment and actually feel things. And I'm not just talking about feeling good things. I'm actually talking about feeling really shit things, too. Some of that started to feel so beautiful for me, too. Breakups started to feel really beautiful for me. Grief and loss started to feel really beautiful for me. And I was like, I wish that I had this sooner, but when I look back at it, I couldn't have had it sooner. I wasn't safe enough in the early stages of my recovery, and that was when I really needed that structure, that structured meal plan, that structured self care plan. I needed people kind of telling me what to do so that I could then move to that graduate level recovery where you are living that fully embodied life. And I'm so glad that I stuck to that structure and trusted, because I had honestly no idea what was waiting for me on the other side.
I don't think anyone told me about the embodied, pleasurable part of recovery. I don't think anyone ever said to me in my early stages of recovery and I was old enough to hear this, that I would be able to really enjoy sex and really enjoy food and really enjoy my body and really enjoy just a free life.
Alex: Yeah, that's so true and so great. I mean, the word safety when you asked me the question, I was like, safety. Of course it's safety. Yeah, me neither, actually. Nobody was talking about pleasure and how much a little bit. I didn't know that there was pleasure in store for me. I thought if I recovered, because I started to see glimpses of it, I started to see glimpses of joy and glimpses of fun and silliness, and that not giving a shit attitude that I had when I was really young. So I started to see glimpses of it, but they weren't talking about it, and we weren't really doing it when I was recovering. We weren't focusing on the body. I think we were avoiding the body, actually. Don't talk about the body, don't look at the body. I wonder if that's still the case. I don't work in treatment centers.
But misstep, I think that's a misstep to not create a relationship with the body, that it's actually really important to create a relationship with the body.
Caitie: Yeah. And I can see the reasons for kind of avoiding the body in some stages of recovery, in some sense, to avoid labeling body shape or size, to avoid seeing your weight, to avoid certain embodiment like kind of meditations, like early in recovery. I could see the reasons for that. And I think that that avoidance is stretched out too long for so many people. I was surely one of those people that it was stretched out way too long for. I really, really wanted to avoid my body for way too long, to the point where I was avoidant of fashion, I was avoidant of doing makeup, I was avoidant of things that I could have otherwise really enjoyed.
Those things are not essential to enjoy and I could have really enjoyed them way sooner had I not been so avoidant of my body for so long. And I was also cut off from a lot of opportunities to express myself because of how avoidant I was of my body for a long time, for too long in my recovery. And it wasn't only until more recent years where I kind of realized body avoidance was a thing and how much it was preventing me from also healing some of my deepest limiting beliefs about myself and my deepest core wounds because they were literally just living in my body.
I grew up in a very religious household as well. And one of the things that you're taught is as a Catholic, you're bad and you are inherently a bad person and you have to spend the whole rest of your life trying to prove to God that you're good. And that was like a belief that lived in my body. And I had to do embodiment practices to get that belief out of my body. Because no matter how much talk therapy I did, it still was in my brain. And it was the thing that fueled my eating disorder in a lot of ways. And it fueled the issues that I struggled with past my eating disorder. And I couldn't break free from it until I did embodiment work.
Alex: I love that. Yeah, that makes so much sense. And I agree with you around the yeah. That it's definitely important and there for reason at a certain stage of recovery and for myself too. I was body avoidant for a long time. Yeah. I just wasn't in my body. I was in my life, but I wasn't really in my body so much. And same for me in the past few years. It's been layered and layered and layered in the past few years where I've really felt like I'm in my body and have a deep emotional relationship with my body.
Which doesn't mean I'm always obsessed with my body or think I'm hot or anything, but I have a really personal and intimate and sacred relationship with my body today. Yeah. And it took a still working on it. Still working on it. I think it's a lifelong journey to get there. And I liked what you said about embodying not just the high vibe, emotions, joy, fun, sexy pleasure, but like finding pleasure in grief. In rage.
When I started doing a rage practice and a grief practice, an embodied rage and grief practice, that was a game changer learning yeah. That I could be fully expressed in rage and loss and grief. I went through this breakup that kind of launched me on this whole journey, love warrior journey. And I have a teacher and he had said to me. I think I told you this story. And he had said I was in my first immersion with him and I shared at the mic that I was having such a hard time focusing and I was so heartbroken over my ex. And he kind of prompted me and asked me if I was allowing that to be expressed, to be fully expressed. And in grief, in rage, like, am I moving it through my body? Am I expressing that? And I was new to the work, and I was like, I don't know, I'm thinking about it and crying or whatever. And he brought me to the front of the room and he had me do this practice in front of 40 women embodiment teachers. And he had me get on my knees and put my arms out and scream and wail for losing love and for what I had gone through in that relationship and the grief that I was carrying and the anger towards myself. And that was sort of the beginning of creating a deep and intimate and sacred relationship with those darker emotions and just what started to open up this level of acceptance. And I think just like beingness full human beingness from there. And I think that kind of launched me on the mission to want all the women in the world to have that, because we don't really. Yeah, it's a game changer. Screaming, crying, raging rage practice, punching pillows, flailing on the floor, like all the things. It’s deeply healing, I think.
Caitie: I get that. I feel that. I just did a rage practice last night and I totally understand that feeling of just like, wanting to be on a mission for all people to have that. And that is what we talked about the first night we met, was like, it needs to be shared with people that it's possible to feel embodied. And I also love the nuance you provided of it's not being obsessed with your body. Right. Because I think there is actually a lot of toxic embodiment coaches kind of out there that are like, here's my selfie, here's my ass, here's this, here's that. I'm so embodied. And it's like that’s not what we're talking about right now. There can be moments where you do feel sexy and powerful and wonderful, and that is great. And also if you're living in one extreme or the other and you're not allowing yourself to kind of flow in these different types of embodiment. And it is becoming more about what the body looks like, more than what the body feels like and what the body can express and what the body can do and what the radiance and the energy that kind of comes from the body. That's what it's about. That's what you want it to be about. That's what I think. I'm curious how you see that.
Alex: Yeah, I mean, how I see what.
Caitie: Kind of just expanding on that nuance a little bit more of it's not about mirror selfies and feeling hot all the time.
Alex: Yeah, totally. Thank you for saying that. Yeah. Oh, gosh. Especially with TikTok and instagram and influencer culture. No, it's not body positivity. It's just like body, body acceptance. Having a body. Which sometimes feels great and sometimes does and feel great, and you can be embodied no matter what. I think. Yeah. I definitely don't wake up every day and feel like this sexy goddess all the time. Put on my goddess dress. I so appreciate you saying that, too. That's a rip on the industry. But yeah, I think it's really important that we're we're we're saying the whole picture, not just the shiny, sexy embodiment reels where, like, you're dripping honey fingers.
Sometimes embodiment looks like a red puffy, like rage, crying, sniffly face. Like finding pleasure in that. Finding pleasure in being wrapped up in a delicious blanket. Because that feels good to be in my body. It's not all sex and sex and magic and tantrica. I think it's about the deepest truest expression. And something my teacher talks about, too, is like, gifting, gifting, gifting, like, the truth of your heart. How can I gift the truth of my heart? And now we're sort of talking about partnership, but really to the truth of my heart. And I work with clients so much with this. What is the truth of your heart? The truth of your heart? Not the pretty truth of your heart. Not the sexy truth. But like, the truth today is like, I'm deeply lonely. How can I embody deep loneliness and make art out of it and make it artful? Which art is not always beautiful. Art is not always sexy or marketable. It's real. It's true. And finding the artfulness and the truth, the sacred, in the full expression of who and where we are without it needing to be anything else.
I always say to my clients, like, there's nowhere to get to. There's nothing to do. There's nowhere to get to. We're just being. How can we just be with what is right now? How can we just be with what's true and have it be fully expressed? What would it move like? What would it sound like? What would it feel like getting away from this performative culture, too? Especially with the social media. I think it's even more important to create those spaces for Ugly Truth. Maybe yeah, maybe I should start a coaching program called, like, Ugly Truth. That would be cool.
Caitie: I love that. That's so important. And as I was saying, I did do a rage practice last night. I made a playlist of songs that I felt were just, like, going to be good, angry songs. And I put them on and I just started punching my pillows and kind of intuitively, like, punching my ottoman. I was kicking things. I was just yelling, and I felt so good. I felt like there was a literal elephant lifted off of me, like I had something on my chest. I really had to feel about it. I really had to let it go. And Jesus, I let it go. And I looked in the mirror shortly afterwards because I went to go take a shower and I was like, I look rough. I look like I was just beating up a pillow and it's so funny. And I thought that exact thing of like, yeah, I look rough right now. I look really rough. My hair is a mess, my face is puffy, it's swelling, it's red, and I feel amazing. And I think that is important because that is embodiment. I think instagram really does try to make the truth look pretty all the time, and it's not pretty all of the time.
Being alive is feeling it all. Being alive is feeling the full range of emotions. And so that is an important piece of embodiment. It's like when you're telling clients when they're going to this recovery grad school phase and they're going to tap into pleasure and sensuality and all of these things, it's like, oh, you're actually signing up to feel the other end of this too. Just so you know.
Alex: Yeah, I mean, you can only feel as much pleasure as you feel paint work. It's the light in the dark. And I think personally, I'm craving I'm like dying for more people to be showing their raw, messy, ugly truth on the Internet. I think everybody is craving that. The influencers who keep it so, so real just blow. Yeah, I think we're right for that.
Caitie: Yeah, we truly are. And I think in similar to, or just speaking to what you were saying about the blank slate therapy approach, I think people are desperate for human counselors at this time, too, because I think people are more starved for connection than they've ever been. I think in a world where so many people are working remotely, so many people are working on computers all day, so many people lack in person really deep, tangible connections. I think that's why a lot of people are craving more human therapists, because historically, people used to be closer with their families. People used to be closer with their coworkers. People used to be on a screen less. And now people are on a screen so much that when they go to therapy, they don't want to talk to siri like they want to talk to a person, a human who's also been there with them. And I try to sit beside my clients for that reason as well. And it's a line that I've been straddling for a long time because I've worked in treatment centers that have wagged their finger at me and said, take a more blank slate approach, Caitie, private instagram, what are you doing? Stuff like that. And so I still cope with a lot of those feelings as well. That you were talking about earlier, but I feel in my bones that this is something that people need.
Alex: Yeah, I do, too. I love you for saying that. I love you for being a trailblazer of that, for having a podcast. I mean, like I told you, I didn't want to come on the podcast. I'm still pretty highly programmed, even for someone who's so rebellious of that blank slate. Therapy flip the questions. I don't buy it anymore. I see the value historically, but I I think I think you're so right. We're we all just want to connect. We're desperate to connect, to be known, truly intimate. We truly yeah, it's so important. I love you for saying that, for modeling that and being that, and I love that you're also a finger wagger receiver. Yeah. But I'm sure your clients love you for that. Clients always say me, oh, you're not like regular therapist, which I was like, Is that a compliment? Or is it not? But yeah, I've always been just how I am. I think I've always kind of guided by what my body felt was true. I've always been guided by my body, and it's, for the most part, I think, worked out.
You have to be willing to be think a little rebellious and I don't know, nontraditional to make a big impact in the world.
Caitie: And I've always had that desire to be a little bit creative in whatever it is I do, and I didn't realize how uncomfortable it was going to be. And it's been nice to connect with people like you who take a similar approach. And I had a client tell me that I was dietitian version of you, so I know that I'm following very closely behind you.
Alex: You had a client with the dietitian version of me?
Alex: That's so interesting.
Caitie: Yeah. So funny. But yeah, because she was like, oh, you're always traveling, and you're just so down to earth, and you're so vibey and earthy, and I'm like, oh, okay. Is that what is that the vibe I give off? But yeah, it's so funny that we very serendipitously connected. There are multiple people who told me to reach out to you just kind of randomly, and, you know, you drag your feet on reaching out to random people coldly, and I was just like, all right, fine. I guess I have to reach out to Alex now because enough people have mentioned her to me.
Alex: I'm so flattered. So good to hear. Because I feel so out of the loop on the New York scene.
Caitie: Yeah. And so I left New York, too, but it's very much you're not out of a loop. You're talked about very highly of often. Your name has been dropped many times to me.
Alex: I love that. I appreciate that. And you just reminded me I mean, even having this conversation with you feels so nourishing, nourishing. In my body. To be in a space, in a deep intimate, honest, vulnerable, open, like yummy conversation with a like minded person who sees the world the same, who sees recovery and clinical mission the same. I think it just really speaks to how important community is and having depth and honesty in our relationships and spaces where we can be fully seen and loved and accepted in our weirdness or creativity. It's so healing.
Caitie: I guess before I ask you my final question, I want to say, like, I had a little epiphany about that this morning, that idea of just like saying the truth, just like just allowing the truth to come out. I was like, speaking to my dad and I have a relationship thing going on right now. And he kind of very gently asked me, like, oh, how is that thing going? And I was like, what if I just tell him the truth? And I wasn't going to tell him the truth. I was just going to be like, Good. And I was like, what if I just say exactly what's happening? And so I just said it and I felt this full body just like, wow, it feels so much better to just say the truth and not just say, yeah, you know, good. Of course set boundaries where you need to set boundaries. Of course use social cues where you need to use social cues. You don't have to tell the barista, like, everything about your life. But at the same time I just had this moment of like, what if I just said exactly what was going on? And I felt myself go into that sort of like a fawn response, but also like, how am I going to hide what's actually happening right now so that I don't have to get into this? And I ended up not having to get into it because I just said the truth and it was just so easy and it was so much easier to just tell the freaking truth.
And it's not like we're all walking around lying all day, but we're not all walking around telling the truth all the time. And I think when you're connected to your body and how good it feels to tell the actual just truth all the time, you can't unfeel that and it just makes it so much easier to express yourself and be yourself.
Alex: Oh, I love that so much. I mean, it's so freeing. And something I learned pretty earlyish in my recovery was how much my recovery and my body image was dependent on telling the truth. Because whenever I wasn't I remember being dating a guy and it just wasn't my body image would come up, my food would start to get a little weird. And so I really learned that the truth was always setting me free. And it was like the second I was in integrity, the second I told the truth, the second I left the relationship or quit the job or said no to the thing, my food and my body would go back into that flow state. So yeah, I think it's so much deeper, it's deep, like integrity. One of my favorite books, like this notion of integrity with self, it's just so important. So much more important. Even society, not by any fault of anybody's, but we're all kind of lying a little bit to protect our reputation and not lose love.
Caitie: Yeah, my eating disorder led me to tell very explicit, straightforward lies all the time. And I also was just kind of living out of alignment and living out of alignment with the things that were actually really important to me was like the biggest lie of all. And that you just feel that in your body and it comes up right away. And I totally understand and relate to that notion of yeah, as soon as you realize you're in the wrong relationship, even subtly, it manifests itself in these automatic negative body image thoughts. And it's like, where is this stuff coming from? Automatic negative body image thoughts for me come up as a way to protect me as a safety mechanism, a way to source control. And I'm like and whenever it comes up, I have to ask myself, what am I trying to source control from right now? Why am I feeling unsafe? So I really appreciate that you shared that too.
I love kind of basing my episodes on this quote by Brene Brown. One day you'll tell the story of what you went through and it'll become someone else's survival guide. So this episode is kind of Alex's survival guide. I'm realizing I don't like the word survival recently. And I'm like, I feel like it needs to be like thrival guide or something like but I'm playing with that. Anyway, the last question that I ask all of my guests is, like, if you were going to create a survival bag for somebody and it had books or podcasts in there, or even certain foods or songs or pieces of art, what would you tell them to put in their survival bag to help them live this full, embodied, like, liberated life?
Alex: What a gorgeous question. My God, how big is the bag? It's like in a term.
Caitie: It’s huge, massive. The size of the world.
Alex: The first comes to mind is the ocean. I want the ocean.
Caitie: Well, good thing it's like a piece of the ocean.
Alex: Yeah, I'd like bottle the ocean and put the ocean in the back, at least like a patch of grass that I could lay on. Over the years, I've gotten more in touch with the importance of nature, of being in nature for my nervous system, for my regulation, for my truth. So definitely like a patch of grass or the ocean I would bring into it. But for keeping it real there's two books there's two books that, actually there's three books that I call like my Bibles. One is. Called Tattoos on the Heart, and most people haven't heard of it. It's by this guy. God, I hope I don't edit this out if I'm saying this wrong, I think he's a pope. Oh, Gregory Boyle. It's called Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion. It's my favorite book, so I should probably not mess up the name. And it's just such a beautiful, beautiful book about just about that about boundless compassion. And just bring it full circle. Like love warrior, right? If I want to be a warrior of love, that notion of boundless compassion gets to be there. And what we do is hard. Treating clients, treating addictions, treating eating disorders is hard. And so living in the world is hard. So, like, this notion of boundless compassion is something I try to hold on to. And that book is so deeply inspiring to me. It always kind of plugs me back in when I'm burnout or that maybe fatigue. That book, The Way of Integrity by Martha Beck, I don't know if you heard it.
Caitie: I love that book so much. I want to name my dog Dante.
Alex: Game changer book. Me and my partner started reading that together, and it just shattered our lives and especially did all these things to get into integrity. It's amazing. And then Eating in the Light of the Moon is probably my favorite eating disorder book. That's been like a Bible for me for decades. So those three books, if you're someone like me. And God, what else would I put in there? I would definitely put, like, survival. I mean, if it's like a Thrival guide, I'm going to put water, iced matcha, snacks, nourishment food and snacks. The ocean, grass. Those books, I think I would absolutely have a good speaker and my spotify and music that inspires me.
Sarah Bareilles is someone that's always inspiring me. Her song Gravity, her song Used to be Mine. Access to music would definitely be in there. What podcast I would bring for a survival guide? There's so many that I like and so many that I listen to. I mean, Brené, I think I would just put literal Brené Brown herself inside of everything that offer because she's my north star. Yeah. I feel like as long as I have Brené, a couple of books, some food, snacks, matcha, a little bit of nature, and a journal, like the ability to write stuff down and just write things down and process it out in music, then I think I'm pretty good. And probably my girlfriends, too, because I definitely cannot survive without my girlfriends. I would tell everybody, have a friend, have a girlfriend. Hopefully one that you can ride or die with, that knows everything and put her in your bag. Her and Brené Brown. Put her in your survival.
Caitie: Her and Brene. I love it. Oh, my God. I was watching Brené Brown's Netflix special the other night just for comfort. I just wanted to just be in her energy for a minute. I was barely listening to what she was saying, and I was just like, I just want to put her on the TV right now while I'm cleaning my apartment.
Alex: I watch her all the time. I know. I feel like she's my good enough mother. She's like, my mother put her on and she's so funny in her Southern accent.
Caitie: Yeah, exactly. It's like, definitely healing. A big mother wound for me. I love her. Well, thank you so much for this conversation. I know we went way over time, but I am so grateful that I got to ask you everything I wanted to and just get to this place where I got to learn so much about you and your work. If you want to follow Alex or connect with Alex, you could find her at @antidiettherapist. Right? That's a great handle. Amazing handle. I'm so shocked you got that one. And your website is going to be linked in the show notes. If you want to connect with Alex and if you enjoyed this episode, please leave a five star review on Spotify or on Apple podcasts.
And send me feedback, send me questions, send me comments. I want to hear from you. What is this stuff bringing up for you? What questions do you have? What thoughts are you having about embodiment, somatic, healing, blank slate, therapy, all of the things I really want to hear from you. And we'll be back with another episode in two weeks.