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We asked alumna Charlotte Kikel a few questions to get to know her better.
by Susie P. Gonzalez
Growing up with a father who was an executive at a sugar company, Charlotte Kikel ’98 thought it was normal to eat lots of sugar. Not so, as she encountered multiple health issues that were solved by learning to reduce her sugar consumption and instead rely on food made by hands, not machines. Kikel has written a book about her journey from an unwelcome hospital stay to becoming a board certified holistic nutritionist and registered herbalist and maintains a website. To learn more, keep reading.
What is your favorite memory from your time at Trinity?
Swimming on the swim team. I loved my teammates and recall the long hours spent in the pool with them, as well as the fun we had, like wearing our parkas to drive to Austin late at night to eat at Magnolia Cafe. I've still kept in touch with some of them.
Who was your favorite professor or class at Trinity?
My favorite class was one that was required for my major in religion. (Her second major was business administration.) My father did not agree with the religion major, but it was one of the best decisions I made. It taught me about life, people, and cultures. It was wonderful. I also enjoyed a writing class taught by a linguistics professor who was awesome and loved Joseph Campbell. The class made me love Joseph Campbell, too.
You have published a book, "Eat in Peace to Live in Peace: Your Handbook for Vitality." Please share your journey that led to writing the book.
Long story short, I got very, very sick, landed in the hospital, and wanted to understand how I got there. This was NOT the plan! Early on, someone said that it could be what I was eating. My dad ran a sugar company, so my dream was to have my own bakery. I ate a lot of sugar. I started to study health and nutrition, made changes to my diet, and gradually started to feel better. But I would still cycle in and out of depression, anxiety, and debilitating fatigue due to chronic inflammation. My immune system was "on" all the time. It was like I was living in a fog, like I constantly had a low-grade flu, like my spirit was trapped in a body that just wanted to curl up and stay in bed all day. At one particularly low point, I reached out to a new health practitioner. I was desperate. He put together an herbal formula, and after two doses and a night's sleep, I woke up living in a different body. My spirit and body were aligned again. I felt peaceful, present, and full of gratitude. I will never forget that morning. It was the beginning of a new life for me; herbal medicine, paired with dietary and lifestyle changes, are what paved the way. Since I got sick, I haven't stopped studying what it means to be alive, so I felt very compelled to tell my story and share what I have learned. If it can save one person from making the mistakes I made, then the two years of writing was all worth it. That said, writing the book totally changed me. I appreciate art in a whole new way now. I have so much more compassion for the creative process. When someone shows me something that they made, I'm excited for them.
How do you eat differently now? Is there one nugget of advice about nutrition that would benefit everyone?
We tend to worship the intellect in our modern world. We love figuring things out, and that's a noble pursuit, but we also need to be informed in other ways. Our bodies are smarter than we will ever be, so eating for me has become both an intellectual and visceral experience. Something has to sound good to my body and make good sense. The first question I always ask is where a food came from. If it exists in nature and has been around a long time, great—and if my body likes it, great. That's how I eat now—lots of animal protein, nonstarchy vegetables, berries, nuts, and seeds, and good fats such as butter, olive oil, coconut oil, and lard. I used to eat according to my head and what the experts would recommend; not anymore. Something I am trying to instill in my 5-year-old son is to eat food made by hands, not machines. He gets that and so do most people. It eliminates a ton of processed foods.
Who inspires you and why?
My therapist. I've worked with her for 12 years. She knows me so well. That, alone, is comforting, but more than that, her work is so quiet and slow. We live in such a flashy world of technology and sound bites where everyone is trying to get our attention, but she's just there doing her thing. Without her influence in my life, I seriously doubt that I would be where I am today.
Do you have a favorite hobby?
Reading. Cooking. Walking. And trying new kinds of dark chocolate.
What sound do you love? The sound you hate?
Drums and singing bowls are my favorite sounds. I absolutely despise the sound of the air conditioner in most hotel rooms. Don't hotel managers know that we came here to sleep? Makes me crazy.
What is your favorite color and why?
Purple. It's always been purple and I have no idea why.
Where would you like to retire?
Colorado is on my bucket list. I can feel the mountains calling and that sounds like a nice place to be, but I don't plan on retiring. There's too much to do!