Transforming Eating Disorders: From Body Dysmorphia to Self-Acceptance


Episode 255

Jillian Acosta, RD, LDN

In this episode of The Psychedelic Podcast, host Paul F. Austin welcomes Jillian Acosta to share her transformative healing journey through psychedelics. Jillian, a registered dietitian, reveals how ketamine and cannabis therapy helped her overcome childhood trauma, disordered eating, and body dysmorphia. She discusses the profound impact of removing her breast implants and offers insights into creating safety within oneself and fostering healthier relationships. Jillian also highlights the power of storytelling and the potential of psychedelics like ayahuasca for deep healing.

Jillian Acosta, a registered dietitian, specializes in functional medicine and the psychology of eating. Owner of the nutrition private practice, The Root Cause Method, she guides clients towards health and vitality in unconventional ways. Jillian believes many of the chronic illnesses exacerbated by obesity are deeply rooted in trauma. In her practice, she collaborates with physicians who administer ketamine, using this powerful tool as a means to help her clients transform their relationship with food, feelings and Self. Uprooting what shapes our relationship with food is essential, in her experience, for reversing and preventing chronic illness, and can lead to true embodiment, fulfillment, and connection.


Podcast Highlights

  • Jillian's journey of healing and transformation
  • Using psychedelics for eating disorder recovery
  • The Garden: Jillian’s one-on-one program
  • Unlocking self-love through the hidden gifts in the wound
  • The profound healing experience of removing breast implants
  • Creating safety: transforming relationships
  • Approaching conversations about eating disorders with loved ones
  • Specific medicines for healing eating disorders
  • Defining the Root Cause Method

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Podcast Transcript

0:00:00.0 Jillian Acosta: What I think is the most powerful thing is storytelling, is sharing stories. Because I was deeply suffering. I was overweight. I was inflamed. I got diagnosed with GI issues and endocrine dysfunction when I was 25 years old, and I no longer live there. And psychedelics was the way out. I think if more people that have been on this path, that have used these modalities to free themselves from eating disorders, have the courage to share their story, that's what inspires.

0:00:31.3 Paul F. Austin: Welcome to The Psychedelic Podcast by Third Wave, audio mycelium, connecting you to the luminaries and thought leaders of the psychedelic renaissance. We bring you illuminating conversations with scientists, therapists, entrepreneurs, coaches, doctors, and shamanic practitioners, exploring how we can best use psychedelic medicine to accelerate personal healing, peak performance, and collective transformation. Do you know if you're getting enough magnesium? Because four out of five Americans are not. And that's a big problem because magnesium is involved in more than 300 biochemical reactions in your body. Today, I wanna talk to you about the most common signs to look for that could indicate you're magnesium deficient. Listen carefully to the end because there's a special offer happening and this could be exactly what you need. Are you irritable or anxious? Do you struggle with insomnia? Do you experience muscle cramps or twitches? Do you have high blood pressure? Are you sometimes constipated? There are dozens of symptoms of magnesium deficiency, so these are just a few of the most common ones. And here's what most people don't know. Taking just any magnesium supplement won't solve your problem because most supplements use cheap materials that your body can't use or absorb.

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0:06:22.8 PA: Welcome back to The Psychedelic Podcast. My name is Paul F. Austin, and today we have Jillian Acosta to talk about her journey healing with psychedelics. Jillian is a registered dietitian and she reveals how ketamine and cannabis therapy helped her overcome childhood trauma, disordered eating, and body dysmorphia. Jillian and I met a couple of years ago at a conference in Miami and we became vast friends, and I wanted her to come and share her first person perspective on how she healed with psychedelics for eating disorder and body dysmorphia because it's a really important conversation and we'd never had anyone on the podcast to talk about it before. So she discusses the profound impact of removing her breast implants, offers insights into creating safety within oneself and fostering a healthier relationship, and she also highlights the power of storytelling and the potential of psychedelics like ayahuasca for deep healing. So just a quick note on Jillian, she is a registered dietitian and specializes in functional medicine and the psychology of eating. Owner of a nutrition private practice, The Root Cause Method. She guides clients towards health and vitality in unconventional ways. She believes that many of the chronic illnesses that we experience are exacerbated by obesity and that these are deeply rooted in trauma.

0:07:47.8 PA: And so in her practice, she collaborates with physicians who administer ketamine, using this tool as a means to help her clients transform the relationship with food, feelings, and self. So just a few things on what we talk about. We talk about how we can use psychedelics for eating disorder recovery. We talk about unlocking self-love through the hidden gifts in our wounds. We talk about her profound healing experience of removing breast implants, how safety transforms relationships, how we approach conversations about eating disorders with loved ones, and then also defining The Root Cause Method. As always, if you've enjoyed this podcast or you think someone would benefit from it, please feel free to share. And if you wanna go deeper with us, go to our community platform, Sign up there and join the conversation. And without further ado, we bring you Jillian Acosta. Jillian, it's great to have you on the show. Welcome.

0:08:50.3 JA: Thank you so much. Happy to be here.

0:08:52.8 PA: So we first met at a Wonderland Conference. I believe this was in 2022, I wanna say about a year and a half ago. And at that point in time, you were just starting to enter the psychedelic space. You had recently gone through what I would frame or contextualize as a dark night of the soul. You had spent a lot of time internally healing and navigating various terrains of your life. And so where I'd love to start is let's talk about your journey. Let's talk a little bit about those two years that you were spending very internal and sort of close to yourself. What catalyzed that turn inwards? And what were you transmuting and processing during that phase?

0:09:45.9 JA: Wow. Yeah. So just some context. I lived in a space of suffering, quite frankly, for the vast majority of my life. Without knowing why, I had developed a disordered relationship with food, a dysfunctional relationship with food at a very young age and moved around a lot as a child. And because of that, I was in this self-consciousness and kind of isolation way of being very unhappy. But I was seeking. I was always, especially as I grew older, I was seeking relief. I was understanding that people were living their lives. People were going away to college and having friends and communities and experiences, and I wasn't. And so in my quest, I finally came across the idea of psychedelics. And hilariously, was ravenously consuming your content when I was in undergrad just because this felt like my way out. Psychedelics felt like my way out of just this depressive way of life. And in that journey, I was led to an ayahuasca experience. And that really opened up Pandora's Box of the why I had been suffering so deeply.

0:11:18.6 JA: I was shown that I was sexually abused as a very, very young child without any recollection for over 30 years. And because of that revelation, so many aspects of my life began to make sense. And it was really that knowing and that remembrance that flung me into this very deep space of isolation, solitude, but with a different flavor. Instead of kind of hiding from my life and suffering, I was in this quest of like liberation, this quest to understand myself and giving myself permission to grieve what I had learned and kind of deconstruct myself to reconstruct myself, discover and remember who I really am. And in that process, I started to realize that all that I was learning and the wisdom I was gaining wasn't just for me. And So yeah, it was incredibly expansive.

0:12:22.4 PA: Beautiful. Well, thank you for the opening context. I'd love to go a little bit deeper into your eating disorder and kinda in a way, how that came about. In a way, what was that like on a day-to-day basis? I also I have a family member who struggled with an eating disorder for years. I wanna say seven or eight years, to a point where it got very concerning. And thankfully, she has since healed that and now has two kids and is very healthy. But what is it like to experience that? And what is the day-to-day like when navigating or struggling with an eating disorder?

0:13:03.8 JA: Yeah, it's a great question. As I was aging and reflecting on this pattern, what became clear was that I lacked a reference point of life prior to the development of this way of relating with food. It began when I was like three years old. I was surrounded by candy. There were treats in the house. It was what I learned to reach for in an attempt to regulate my system internally, to find moments of comfort or really escapism, distraction, pleasure from what I was in the midst of. And so that was kind of how I learned to attempt to regulate. Anytime there was an activation or a charge or a trigger or some sort of internal contraction, that was always my go-to. And so it was disordered, but I was a super active child. Like I wasn't excessively overweight. I was an athlete. It wasn't visible. I was an athlete in high school, I was the captain of my volleyball team. You couldn't ever see it. But then as soon as I graduated high school, it was a little less active and without a lot of direction, it became like full-blown bulimia because that pattern had become exacerbated.

0:14:24.3 JA: I lacked a lot of guidance. I lacked a lot of support, and I was very angry as a teen without support at all. And so it really snowballed into this way of self-soothing and this fear of gaining weight and so much of my worth being wrapped up in appearance and attention and desirability towards men or from men, that it was this kind of like explosion internally or implosion rather of like out of control. And so what it ended up looking like was that I was consumed by this pattern. I would plan a binge. I would binge, I would purge, and I would plan my next binge all day, every day for a while. I couldn't hold a job. I had no friends. I had no support. It was this incredibly isolated experience, and I was also hiding it while simultaneously crying out for help. Yeah, it was very strange because it was hidden, but I was desperate for someone to notice the depth of pain I was navigating. And I ended up really scaring myself towards the end of that phase. I went exploring on Google about health ramifications of bulimia and freaked myself out to the point where I finally shared with my mom what I had been going through.

0:15:52.4 JA: And I remember her bringing me to a psychologist and a doctor and getting diagnosed with bulimia, but also depression, and just not really getting the support that I really needed. And then three years later, finally after... Because I stopped the purging, but the bingeing didn't stop. The way in which I learned to manage emotion with the only tool I had access to still remained. And so that was out of control. I was gaining weight, I was super inflamed. I was isolating even more because I was ashamed of my body. And so it got to the point where it was like, my life was consumed. And I checked myself into a treatment center at 22 years old. And that experience was powerful because it was the first time I'd ever met other women walking the same path with the same kinds of thoughts and the same strange behaviors, and they knew the world I was living in and that was really supportive. I think now I know there's tremendous medicine in allowing other people to witness us in our pain, like being witnessed in the sharing of our struggles and then being met with compassion and empathy, was just like medicine in and of itself.

0:17:12.3 JA: But what I quickly realized was that the structure of this treatment center was really focused on behavioral modification. It wasn't addressing what was triggering the trigger to use food in this way. It wasn't addressing the underlying, the root cause. And so that kind of planted the seed that became this business that I now operate and with love and with deep passion because I believe all addiction really stems from deep pain caused by trauma. Yeah. I don't even remember your initial question, but hopefully that answered it.

0:17:52.4 PA: No, this is good as we build up to it. Because the next question that's coming up, you mentioned triggering the trigger, the root cause. And this is a podcast about psychedelics, and you did quite a bit of research before. And we talk a lot about psychedelics for depression or PTSD or addiction. We know the FDA is in the process of approving. There's been quite a bit of clinical research on the efficacy of psychedelics for mental health conditions. It's still quite new in the eating disorder space. I think there is one clinical trial that's going on, if I'm not mistaken. Sanjay Singhal, who's an investor of ours, is supporting it because I think his daughter struggled with an eating disorder for a long time. So I'm just curious, as you started the research process, what was it about psychedelic work that led you to believe this could be a really useful modality to actually heal the root cause of this eating disorder?

0:18:53.2 JA: The connection between eating disorders and adverse childhood experiences are inextricable. The evidence or the research between adverse childhood events or experiences and early mortality, incarceration, narcotic addiction, all these other kind of secondary symptoms, they're directly correlated with ACEs, with adverse child experiences. And so in my work, I don't actually work with people that are dealing with acute eating disorders. My client has disordered eating, has a dysfunctional relationship with food, which looks like the vast majority of people carrying excess weight. People that are dealing with obesity, hypertension, diabetes, even people that aren't carrying so much weight but have this kind of feeling of like loss of control around food. It's a massive demographic. And what it comes down to is childhood trauma, big T, little t, and the ways in which we learn to cope with that, how our needs were met or unmet in the wake of that, and nervous system regulation. And so psychedelics is so incredible because, a, it helps us access our story that for some have been repressed, but it brings us right into the somatic experience of where the wound lies. Before I found psychedelics, I actually heard about them on another podcast, and I remember my whole system being like, holy shit, this is my way out.

0:20:29.5 JA: Like, this is it. I had tried treatment. I relapsed, I went back to treatment. It still didn't really give me what I was looking for. I had tried hypnotherapy, past life regression, Reiki. I had tried so many other beautiful modalities, but nothing was really allowing me to access the thing I didn't even know was there, but kind of knew was there. I didn't suspect what I would find, but I knew there was a reason I was living so unhappily. There had to be. I wasn't inherently flawed, like there must be something. And so psychedelics fortunately led me there and gave me this perspective that I had never been able to access, which was this profound depth of compassion for myself instead of this energy of self-hatred and self-loathing and frustration with myself and powerlessness that I had been dancing around in for so many years because of this eating disorder. I saw myself with so much compassion. Like, holy shit, this little three-year-old. Like, no wonder. No wonder I couldn't tolerate feeling anything. No wonder I abused myself and my body. It just made sense. And psychedelics was the catalyst for that. There was nothing else that would have brought me there.

0:21:55.1 PA: And did you have professional support through this process as you were starting to do psychedelic work? Did you have a therapist that you were working with to prepare and integrate or did you just go at it alone and figure a lot of this out on the fly? What was that like in terms of the network of support that you had available to you at that time?

0:22:10.5 JA: Yeah, I would say both. I sat in underground women's ceremonies, women's circles, but I also had a psychotherapist who was aware of what I was doing, and so was really supportive in the integration and the making sense of things. And I would say, well, this actually existed later. The first couple of years, I was working very closely with a teacher/mentor friend. In the ceremony in which I discovered everything, I met this person there, and he, yeah, kind of took me under his wing for four very concentrated months and spent that time deeply processing and doing a significant amount of medicine work in a very short amount of time, but under the care of this teacher. And it was life-changing. It was especially to be supported by the masculine in that way, in a very safe and integrous container, was deeply healing. But then again, to be witnessed in the sharing of my experiences, and that whole process was really beautiful. And then kind of coming out and finding other medicines and working more deeply with ketamine, for example, having a psychotherapist to both guide my experiences and to integrate the ones I did on my own was super, super supportive. I think that therapeutic alliance is incredibly significant in this process, especially when we're dealing with complex trauma.

0:23:44.3 PA: What was it like to work with ayahuasca as someone who had a history of bulimia?

0:23:50.1 JA: Well, I didn't purge.

0:23:52.3 PA: Interesting.

0:23:53.5 JA: I discovered this, when it came through, I was beyond nauseous, like beyond. All I wanted to do was purge. And I heard the medicine say, "You're not gonna purge because you have done that and it has been like instant relief. Now you need to learn to sit with discomfort and learn that it won't kill you." And I was so sick to my stomach for like a week after I sat in that ceremony. It was really brutal, honestly because it was like undigested trauma. And so like that unprocessed, undigested, unmetabolized trauma was like all of a sudden I could feel it in my body, had been there for so long, and the medicine was just like bringing me into experiencing it. All I wanted to do was purge, and I couldn't.

0:24:46.7 PA: Yeah, it's always a question that I wonder about specific to ayahuasca because most of the other medicines we don't purge necessarily, at least not to the same degree. What role, if any, does ayahuasca and that purgative process play in the healing journey for someone who might have a history of bulimia? So to hear that context is really interesting. And I think the other thing I would wonder about is, as you've gone deeper into this space, what do you think are some appropriate protocols? Or maybe we just start with, how do you work with clients? You are an important piece of context for listeners. You are also a registered dietitian. So this is your profession in terms of helping people to navigate diet and food. You also now actively work with specific psychedelics that are legal. And so I'm curious to know, when you engage with the client, when you start to work with the client, what is that assessment process like? And then what type of containers are you creating for this deeper work?

0:25:49.6 JA: Yeah. So I work with women mostly, and now several men, which I think is beautiful in a program that I have called The Garden. And the name of my business is The Root Cause Method. I'm very earthy, love nature. Nature saved and supported me when I was a child. And it's actually the garden which I used to lay in the summers in Michigan for hours and just honestly dissociate in the grass. It was just like a safe space. And so I named my program The Garden because the garden is like an energetic container in which things grow. It's where we can pull out the roots and plant new seeds and nurture new growth. And so the assessment process, of course, there's a psychosocial and a health history and all these things. I'm making sure a client is not in an acute phase of an eating disorder. And if they are, then there's a referral process. But when someone is kind of dancing in this dysfunctional realm with food, using food to navigate large emotions or kind of self soothe and distract themselves, that's really when my work is appropriate. And the medicine that I use is ketamine.

0:27:04.9 JA: And sometimes I use a combination of ketamine and cannabis. And so I'll refer out to either an at-home ketamine company or a prescriber in their area. And so it's all above ground, it's all kosher and I'm essentially guiding the space. They sit with medicine three times over the course of a 13-week program in the middle of the program, so there's a lot of trust and safety and rapport established before they touch medicine. A lot of me understanding their story and the nuances of their patterning and their wounding and what that's looked like. And then they're in a relatively low dose. Typically, people start with a 75-mg trochee, and then we kind of navigate from there. But they're verbal, but they're in a ceremony. I'm opening ceremony space, ritual space. Even though this is a synthetic, it's still connecting us right to the divine, to a higher level of intelligence. It's still super sacred terrain. And so I'm opening that space, and then they're dancing with the medicine. And there may be moments in which I intuitively guide them into certain realms of their story or certain pain points, or they bring something to the conversation and I help them in real-time move through it.

0:28:23.6 JA: So it becomes this really kind of co-creative between them, myself, and the medicine, this dance of discovery and opening and softening. Because eating disorders is a mechanism of control, and not control meaning like I need to control what I'm eating and be really rigid. That's kind of a manifestation of it, but it's actually this internal mechanism of control, meaning I don't wanna feel that. It's this contraction or this refusal of feeling certain sensations or feelings in the body and so they're reaching for something to dissociate, quite frankly. And so it becomes this... If I had to boil my work down to one sentence, it would be to help a client create safety within themselves to feel because when they're safe to feel something, they no longer need food or other substances to numb. And then the physiology changes, and then their relationship with themselves changes. And because we're using food to maintain a level of disconnection from ourselves and from our bodies, and so when we remove that wedge, we become deeply connected to ourselves. And that's when a relationship with ourselves is reestablished and vastly improved. And that's when intuition comes strong and deep sense of power and all these beautiful, just new growth happens.

0:29:45.9 JA: And so it's incredible. It's moving, deeply moving every time I have the honor of witnessing this transformation. And then after this module called uprooting the weeds, where they're in deep the depths, we're in the dirt, we're digging around for stuff in the subconscious. Then there's a whole another month where we're deeply integrating and reinforcing new patterns and belief structures. And I love medicine in many ways, I'm sure similar to you because it's like, if 95% of our behavior is driven by the subconscious mind and in the subconscious mind is where trauma is stored, then if we wanna make changes with the way that we eat, the way that we show up, the way that we whatever, we need to go into the subconscious realm, we need to... It's like the puppet master on the string, and it's like we gotta look up at the strings and see who's making us bounce. And I think that's what psychedelics allows for. It's like, yeah, who's driving this bus? Trauma.

0:30:41.0 PA: And then uprooting that, getting that out, integrating it, having a catharsis. And what do you find then is... And I'm gonna do my best to frame this question. What's the power that's hiding in the subconscious for someone who may struggle with an eating disorder? In other words, what do you find often comes up, and how can that be utilized to carve a new path or to create a new future for someone so they're not continued, they're not beholden to this control that has been so present for so long?

0:31:13.3 JA: I always say that every single thing in our lives is a direct reflection of the relationship we have with ourselves. And so I had this very disempowering, kind of shame-infused relationship with myself, the way I saw myself. I was objectified. I was diminished. I was self-conscious. All of that world, that was the way that I saw myself, treated myself, talked to myself, and so naturally, everything in my life was a reflection of that. And then because psychedelics allowed me to see the reality that I had experienced when I was a child and flooded me with this sense of self-compassion, I began to see myself in a new way. I began to recognize that the ways that I had been living were a byproduct of what I had experienced, not the truth of who I am. And so it allowed me to discover, well, who is that then? If everything that I have lived is actually based on a lie, lies. I'm not powerless. I'm not an object. I'm not all these things, then who am I? Recognizing and kind of harnessing this sense of love, this way of showing up for myself, of seeing myself in new ways, allowed me to cultivate this deeply loving, deeply honoring relationship with myself.

0:32:37.5 JA: And from there, a mass amount of power has come back into my life where I can set boundaries, I can hold myself with respect. I honor myself. Yes, my whole world has opened up. It is like, yeah, I think underneath the wounding lies tremendous gifts. This is kind of controversial, but I'm deeply grateful for what I lived because it has given me access to tremendous amounts of wisdom and strength and power and the capacity to serve and make an impact for other people on this path, is I don't feel is something I would have had access to had I not been forged by this experience. And so I think that I'm no different from other people, that our patterns, our wounding, our stories are really just opportunities for us to harness like the truth of who we really are if we're willing to sift through the mud. And I think that's available to everyone.

0:33:43.6 PA: One thing I wanted to bring up and talk through as well is your explant surgery. It's not as prominent in terms of, I think on your website, and it's a slight tangent, but I do think it has relevance for the broader conversation where we're talking about this Root Cause Method that you had. And you know the details obviously much better than I do. But you had implants for a number of years, and just in the last few years, you had those removed. Why specifically did you have those removed? What physical health issues were you noticing, and how did that overlap with the overall sort of healing process from eating disorders as well?

0:34:25.3 JA: I appreciate you bringing this into the space. So I experienced, as I said, sexual abuse at a very young age from a man. So there was an early imprint of be desirable to men. That's how I get love. That's how I feel worthy. That whole world I was steeped in. And so as I aged, my prerogative was that that's one of the reasons why I struggled with an eating disorder. It was this control and rigidity around my body needing to look a certain way so that I would feel worthy of love, quite frankly. And it was really confronting and conflicting with this desire to use food to self-soothe. The combination wasn't working for me, so I was always at odds with my body, but there was this undercurrent of, yeah, needing to look a certain way to get love. And so implants were a way in which I could feel desirable. I was voluptuous. I was desirable. And while also feeling incredibly unsafe in my body. And especially after getting those, they were... 5 pounds of silicone was on my chest for twelve years. I got them when I was 21 years old, like deeply unconscious, deeply struggling, just grasping for the crumbs of love and attention that, yeah, were available.

0:36:03.8 JA: And so finding medicine in 2018 and eventually in 2020 realizing my story, as I started to go deeper into my patterns and this process, I quickly realized that these implants were symbolic of the trauma I had lived through, and very disturbingly realized they were encapsulating it in my chest energetically. That's what it felt like. And so it was like, "Oh, these things gotta go."

0:36:39.2 PA: Can you say more about that? Like how it was encapsulating the trauma, what did that mean to you?

0:36:44.4 JA: I had an MDMA journey where it felt like there was something so powerful, so emotionally charged, but I couldn't... I didn't have access to it. And I would try to like kind of permeate it, and I was like navigating that space, and like was really trying to access that thing and it felt like I kept getting like kicked out. It felt like I was meeting this like this barrier, this barricade. And so I felt into the barricade, and it was like this two-inch thick like gelatinous force field that I then realized was silicone. And it was like I was blocked out of my own heart because these things were like an actual physical barrier. And within the capsules was the energy of this trauma, was the need to look a certain way to get love, the need to mutilate my body and just disconnect from my body to be desirable and please men. Like it was just the whole energetics of the wound was in my body, and so it was just this knowing. I say I didn't have breast implant illness. I didn't have major, strange, lingering autoimmune symptoms, I had some pain and some calcification on the left side interestingly right above my heart.

0:38:11.5 JA: But I wasn't losing my hair or had dark circles under my eyes, I looked relatively healthy, but I say that I had spiritual BII. It was a big death process. It was a big purge on an energetic level of removing these things from my body. I was throwing up the night before surgery, not because of anything other than energy, it was literally a purge. And it was profound, the experience of releasing that and coming back into my body and trusting myself and loving the scars that I now carry because I'm proud of them. It was like battle wounds. No, like, yeah, just this incredible initiation.

0:39:00.3 PA: And how has your relationship with men in particular changed through this process as you've had explant surgery, as you've healed yourself through in your relationship to food, how do you relate differently now to men in your life?

0:39:15.4 JA: I love this question. I love this question. Again, everything is a direct reflection of the relationship we have with the self. So I didn't know how to create safety for myself. I didn't know that I was worthy of being honored and being treated with respect. And so I was attracting all people, but specifically men who were reinforcing the energy that I was holding. So that was like men that would objectify me, men that dishonored me, men that disrespected me, men that could not see me. And so as I dove into this deep, introspective space and began to like heal these wounds, I landed in this space of self-honor and self-respect, and I began to attract men who mirrored that. As soon as I began to create safety within myself, I began attracting men, and even a partner now who is incredibly safe, who can reflect back to me what safety feels like. And so I have brothers now in my life that I love dearly and who love me and see me. I consider you a friend. I have friends in my life that are men who see me, who respect me. And it's not because... Yeah, it's only because I have that within myself.

0:40:33.3 PA: Yeah, that I think to me, it speaks to the nut of it, meaning not, no pun intended. Just because the experience that you had at such a young age, the relationship, you were also married for some period of time, right? And so the relationship there, stepping out of that, and now the way you've really transformed, even since I've known you the last couple of years, I've got you just in the tail end of it. But just to see the way that you navigate, and I know your partner quite well as well, and he's a fantastic human. So it's been great to witness that. And for me, that's what a lot of this work comes down to. It's how do we relate better to humans? Whether it's in business, whether it's in love, whether it's in community, but a lot of it, sure we need to better regulate our nervous system, and sure we need to do our shadow work, and sure we need to confront our demons. All of these things are important, and all of it's for naught unless there is a way in which it gets woven into the relational fabric of our life and our existence.

0:41:42.2 PA: And that's when it actually, I feel like takes on a real tangible meaning, a thing. Because life is about other people and being with other people and loving other people. We can only... The vast, vast majority of us are not interested in becoming monks or hermits or living by ourselves, we are naturally relational. And so that, I think, is so central and essential.

0:42:03.5 JA: Absolutely.

0:42:05.8 PA: So I wanna talk a little bit about some of the scientific literature that we know as it relates to psychedelics, eating disorder, or body dysmorphia, and even to step back a little bit more, how that might be contextualized in communications or conversations with loved ones. And what I mean by that is there's probably quite a few people who are listening to this podcast episode who have a loved one who at some point or currently struggles with body dysmorphia or with an eating disorder. And so give us sort of like the rundown of as you've talked to hundreds of people about this, as you've learned more about psychedelic medicines and the impact that it can have on our psyche and healing our relationship to the body. Folks are listening to this and they're like, "I'd love to have a conversation about this with a loved one." How do you recommend approaching it? What's the important context to communicate? What are maybe some of the key scientific elements that could be helpful in that communication? I just wanna leave that super open-ended to see where you take it.

0:43:20.8 JA: Yeah. So just let me clarify the question. Like if a family member sees a loved one kind of struggling with an eating disorder, how do they approach this person?

0:43:31.9 PA: That, to start with, right? And I had, like I said, I had a very close family member who had an eating disorder for years, and it's one of those things where I didn't really wanna talk about it because it could be so triggering.

0:43:45.6 JA: Yeah.

0:43:46.8 PA: And I remember we'd be having family dinners and she would just eat a tiny, tiny bit. And initially, when that would happen, I'd make sort of a snide comment about it. But I learned quickly not to do that because of how painful it was for her. So there's that aspect, but even more importantly, the role that psychedelics could play in helping someone to heal or navigate that eating disorder. So yes, how do we communicate that or talk about it, but also, how do we come from a place of love to let our loved ones know that psychedelics may be a useful modality in this context?

0:44:21.3 JA: Yeah, amazing. Eating disorders, it's tricky because it's like the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the DSM-5, is how they're diagnosed. So we know it's like a... It's a psychological condition that is manifest in the body. And so it's straddling these two, even though they're really one, but they're these kind of two realms. And I think, of course, the common denominator or really what's at the root, of course, is trauma, like we've mentioned. But there are so many threads, and one of these major threads is the energy of shame. And what I know about shame is that it thrives in secrecy. And so a big component of eating disorders is that it's secret. It's like there's a lot of shame. There's a lot of self-judgment. There's a lot of self-hatred and rigidity. And also, another thread is this dissociation. Whether you're overconsuming food or you're restricting, they're not in their bodies, they're shutting off the communication from within. And so it's very delicate. And I would say that if there is someone who's wanting to open the conversation, it's gentle and it can be done in a way that invites them into considering maybe a way out.

0:45:56.3 JA: It's so difficult. 'Cause even as I say that, it's like some people aren't ready to leave that space yet. It's very nuanced. But what I really needed, which I can speak to most, is that there was a cry for help. I wished someone had noticed the depth of pain I was in and say, hey, let's have a conversation. What do you need? How are you feeling? Even just that question, not how are you, but like what's going on? Like how are you? How's your heart? How are you feeling? And maybe... Here's what I notice. I notice that maybe you feel really down. You feel really heavy. Like how can I offer you support? It sounds kind of benign, but that may make a really big difference for somebody in that space. And then as more and more research is being done in this realm, I know there's literature around anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder. Body image issues or body dysmorphia, it's all wrapped up. There's some really incredible work being done. And it's like that can be presented as like there is a way out. There's remission is available, like deep healing. I remember I gave a keynote recently and one of the findings was why these medicines are so powerful for eating disorders is that they catalyze the healing of trauma. They also change the way we process reward in the brain.

0:47:34.4 JA: So there can be this negative feedback loop of reward being restriction, and that can become transformed where it's actually a nourishing meal can feel really rewarding. It changes the way in which we see our body, so having this body dysmorphia all of a sudden like a pretty deep appreciation for this vessel in which we live, is available in these kind of interventions. Yeah, the list goes on. So I would say, I don't know if actually presenting the studies is a viable direction in terms of inviting someone into this work. But what I think is the most powerful thing is storytelling, is sharing stories, because I was deeply suffering. I was overweight. I was inflamed. I got diagnosed with GI issues and endocrine dysfunction when I was 25 years old, and I no longer live there. And psychedelics were the way out. I think if more people that have been on this path, that have used these modalities to free themselves from eating disorders, have the courage to share their story, that's what inspires people. I think that's really... That's it. And so sharing this conversation maybe with someone, if someone's listening to this and it resonates and they know someone who's struggling, maybe sharing this conversation or others that have been speaking to this as a way out of this particular condition, it really can inspire people to explore.

0:49:06.3 PA: Are there any support groups that are specific to eating disorders or body dysmorphia and psychedelics? Are there any online educational platforms? Are there any resources that folks could also point specific individuals to? Your website I imagine is also a pretty good starting point, But any others that come to mind that you're aware of or have done some research on?

0:49:30.3 JA: I'm not aware of anybody. There are some really incredible people doing beautiful things in the space around eating disorders. I'm not familiar with any particularly. I haven't really put myself in the eating disorder niche. It's more...

0:49:48.8 PA: Gotcha.

0:49:49.3 JA: As I mentioned, it's broader. But, yeah, I'm always available to be a resource. But I'm launching a program actually a week from today called Wildflower, which is really geared towards women who are on the path of emotional eating. It's really a... It's a support group, but it's also a transformational experience over eight weeks where it's focused on exactly this. And so I'm getting more into group work because I recognize the power in women coming together and, again, being witnessed in the sharing of our stories and all of that medicine. And so I know what I'm doing, but I don't know of a lot of other people that are using medicine to uproot the why and the how we eat, as opposed to just focusing on the what.

0:50:40.8 PA: Gotcha. Okay. I have a couple of final questions as we look to wrap up. One is, just in terms of the menu of medicines, ketamine is currently legal, and you work with that in your container. You also mentioned prior, I don't know if you've mentioned on the podcast, but at times you've worked with cannabis as well as that as a legal medicine in certain places. MDMA looks like it could be approved by the FDA this year. Psilocybin is legal in certain states. You talked about your ayahuasca experience. If all medicines were legal and accessible, is there one in particular that you think may be more useful or more effective for what it is that you're working on? Do you think ketamine is the ultimate, or is there another medicine just for folks who are listening to this or two, that you think might be more useful, it's just not as legal and available yet?

0:51:36.8 JA: Yeah. Ketamine is incredible as MDMA for complex trauma. And the thing that I love about ketamine is that it's very gentle. When I go into an ayahuasca experience or a mushroom experience, even MDMA, quite frankly, because of the properties, the methamphetamine in which it accelerates my heart, I feel a contraction of my nervous system. There is like some fear because of the nature of what I experience. And typically, when I go into medicine spaces, I'm usually working in this arena. There's some contraction to my system that I have to trudge through before I can get to the good work and the beautiful experiences and all that stuff. And so I found that ketamine, I don't have to go through that, I can enter into a space with an open system and ended up... And because of that, I end up doing really deep and profound work because there's not this contracted kind of preliminary thing I have to wade through. So I love it for that. Of course, it's super anti-inflammatory and antidepressive, and so there's benefit on many fronts. So I like that medicine for that reason, but when I work with a client, man or woman, whenever there's a dysfunctional relationship with food, in my perspective, there's typically deep wounding in the relationship with their mother because the mother's role, one of them is to nurture, is to comfort, is to protect.

0:53:08.8 JA: And when we didn't receive that level of nurturance and warmth and safety and all that yumminess from our moms when we were children, we hunger for that and we crave the thing that feels most like that, which is food. And so what I love about the medicine of ayahuasca is that it's deeply feminine. It's so deeply feminine in the spirit of that medicine. And so I've found, and I just sat with this medicine several times only a few weeks ago, again, was that it puts me right into the mother wound, right at the forefront of the relationship, the fragmented relationship with the feminine. And the feminine is the feeler. When we have a dysfunctional relationship with food, it's typically this mechanism of that we're not willing to feel. And so we reach outside of ourselves and use food to kind of push down whatever discomfort is in the body or in the system. And so opening ourselves up to feeling is actually a deep healing of the feminine, of the dynamic with the feminine with the mother. And so ayahuasca is... She's so beautiful in that regard because she puts you right there. And so everybody's journey is perfect.

0:54:29.4 JA: But I have a lot of people who begin with me with ketamine, and then they find themselves in an ayahuasca experience to really delve deeper into this wound, which I think is a really beautiful trajectory. I myself just kind of jumped face first into ayahuasca's lap without having any experience with any other medicine other than sassafras, but it's all divine. But if I had to do it the way now that I know what I know, I'd probably go the gentler route, do a lot of the preliminary work, and then really open myself to a deeper healing with that medicine.

0:55:07.4 PA: Yeah. We call that tilling the soil. We first wanna till the soil and heal the trauma and set up a really good sort of thing to plant that new seed of self.

0:55:15.9 JA: Exactly.

0:55:16.8 PA: And ayahuasca can be a starting point for some, and typically, ketamine, MDMA. I've also been working with very low doses of 5-MeO through vape pens. That can be a useful modality as well, not the breakthrough sort of white light, unity, consciousness, that's a bit more intense. But there's a lot of great entry points there.

0:55:37.8 JA: Exactly.

0:55:40.3 PA: Final question is, just because I wanna hear it in your words, how do you define The Root Cause Method? What is The Root Cause Method?

0:55:52.8 JA: So as a functional dietitian as I practice functional medicine, which is really root cause medicine, it's our job to help decipher what's catalyzing imbalance in the body. And so I believe that the root cause of many illnesses that are typically exacerbated by weight and inflammation is trauma, and the ramifications of the long-term ramifications of trauma on our physiology, but then also the consequences of the ways in which we try to regulate our system as a result of trauma. And so if we just go straight to the root and deeply heal and integrate the trauma systemically, there will be tremendous improvement in the physiology, in our quality of life, in our relationships, in all facets of our life. And so I just... My style is I just like efficiency, which is why I like these tools and these teachers, these allies in plant form, and to bring us right to that because from that space, so much healing can happen. I'd rather address it at the root than focus on symptom management. And I just found that to be my experience and the experience of so many that I've had the honor of serving that that's the way to go.

0:57:24.9 PA: I love that. Get to unwind the nervous system, help us to feel safe in our own body and remember our divinity and love. Well, this has been just as good as I had hoped. So I appreciate you sharing so much of your story with our audience. If folks wanna learn more about your work, You have context there about your offerings, The Garden, which you mentioned, Wildflower. There's a little bit more context about you and your background at And then you're quite active on Instagram as well. What's your Instagram handle, Jillian?

0:58:06.9 JA: It's jillianacosta_rd.

0:58:10.8 PA: Jillianacosta_rd. Any other places or assets that you wanna point folks to before we wrap up today?

0:58:19.3 JA: No, that's where I'm most active, my site and social. And of course, I'm always available to hear from people. If they wanna send me a message and learn more, I'm happy to be a resource. There's some really incredible material out there that I didn't create that I'm happy to connect people with that has just been really like massively assisting in my journey. And, yeah, I'm here to serve.

0:58:46.2 PA: Great. Well, again, thank you so much, Jillian, for coming on the podcast and sharing a little bit of your wisdom and your life with us today.

0:58:54.4 JA: Thank you for having me. Thank you so much.


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