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The Courage to Become | Charlotte Kikel

The Courage to Become | Charlotte Kikel

I was only 26 years old, and life as I knew it was over. In the late spring of 2002, I could barely walk up a flight of stairs. I couldn’t believe it because I was an athlete. I had been a competitive swimmer through college and a recreational triathlete, so for my legs not to have the energy to get me up the stairs was alarming, to say the least.

I felt like I was wearing twenty-pound weights on each limb and all I wanted to do was lay on the couch and watch movies. A few days prior to this I thought I had just come down with a cold, but now I knew something else was going on.

So I did what most people do and went to my doctor who put me on a round of antibiotics.

They didn’t work.

So I went back to my doctor who put me on another round of antibiotics.

They didn’t work.

Third times a charm, right?

I returned to my doctor for yet another round of antibiotics.

They didn’t work.

Do you know the frustration of taking a drug and it not working, and possibly making things worse? Most of us do.

The fourth time I showed up to my doctor’s office, not only was I even sicker, but I was exasperated. The experts who were supposed to be helping me weren’t helping me! Somehow, I had a spark of fire still left in me, and I demanded blood work. At 11:30PM, I got a phone call from my doctor telling me to go to the emergency room. My white blood cell count and liver enzymes were off the charts.

When I got to the ER, they took one look at me and then my file and said, “Hmmm. Looks like your gall bladder’s in trouble.”

This made zero sense to me. The gall bladder helps digest fat. I had never had a problem digesting fat. $5000 dollars worth of tests and 8 hours of a sleepless night later, I heard a doctor talking outside my door, “Has anyone tested her for mono? She’s a textbook case.”

They ran that test.  It was $15. It came back positive, and they sent me home with the wisdom of a grandmother: sleep and drink lots of water. I had a viral infection called mononucleosis, and the medical system has no tools for this.


I went into a deep, dark depression from the inflammatory cascade occurring in my body. I had excruciating headaches and panic attacks. I passed out five times in restaurants due to low blood sugar. I slept 12 hours a night, took 3 hour naps, and still didn’t have any energy.

This illness also destroyed my relationships because here’s the deal: I looked healthy. So if you look healthy and the doctors can’t find anything wrong with you, then you clearly have a mental problem, right?



After a few years of living in this hell hole, I contemplated suicide on my bathroom floor. I know I’m not alone: 10 million Americans contemplated suicide last year and those are just the people who are willing to admit it.

Brushing my teeth seemed like an extraordinary task. I had this strange red rash around my hairline, and I just couldn’t take it anymore. My joyful spirit that wanted to engage with the world around me was trapped in a body that didn’t want to be here. I couldn’t reconcile this and wondered how much longer I could go on.

It sounds corny, but something deep inside of me told me not to give up. Curiosity, anger, and God kept me going. How did this happen? How did I go from swimming 3 hours a day to having a difficult time walking up a flight of stairs? What in the actual fuck is going on here?

After a conversation with a nutritionist and a friend of a friend who had a similar experience, I had a sneaking suspicion that the fact that my dad was vice president of Imperial Sugar in Sugar Land, Texas had something to do with my illness. Turns out I was right. With what energy I had, I started reading books about nutrition and holistic healing. Fifteen years later, I now have a library of over 300 health-related books.

Sugar, along with excessive exercise, too little sleep, and a stressful job, were the perfect storm for the collapse of my vitality.

The good news is that with a tincture of time, herbal medicine, and significant dietary and lifestyle changes, I got better. Much, much better. I got my life back, and this time it’s better than it was.


I have plenty of energy to move through my day. I can think clearly. I love my work and my husband. Life feels like worth living again.

I ended up pursuing a 2-year certificate in nutrition from Bauman College and obtaining a Master’s of Science Degree in Western Herbal Medicine from the Maryland University of Integrative Health in an effort to understand what had happened to me and how others could prevent it from happening to them.


I now know that same wisdom flowing through my body that resulted in chronic illness is the same wisdom that healed me. I got sick because I asked my body to adapt to the impossible. I controlled it every step of the way, until it made me surrender. Now, I have no choice but to listen to my body every single day or I suffer.

It takes courage to heal. I had to give up everything I loved to reclaim my vitality.

I am no longer a competitive athlete. I participate in gentle restorative activities.

I no longer eat sugar and have dreams of owing a bakery. I had to create a new career – one that would respect my health AND enhance the health of others.

We can’t have pets in our home. I had to find a new home for my dog.

And when I gave birth to our son at home at the foot our bed, and then slipped back into another deep, dark inflammatory depression, I saw it this time. I saw the opportunity for another layer of healing. I saw the need to hibernate with my baby. Under very different circumstances, I had to give up who I knew myself to be all over again.

As a direct result of that transformation, I wrote a book titled Eat in Peace to Live in Peace: Your Handbook for Vitality. I just couldn’t keep all that I have learned to myself, so I wrote it down for you…in the name of hope and for the courage to become.


Charlotte Kikel, MS, NC, ACN, MCPP
Board Certified Holistic Nutritionist & Registered Herbalist (AHG), Eat in Peace Wellness Consulting
512-587-0338 //

Schedule appointment here

Find Charlotte’s book, Eat in Peace to Live in Peace, here!


Hi friend!

I'm Catia, a woman, wife, mama, sister, sister friend, you know -- I wear a million hats just like you.

One of my biggest whys is that I want people to feel good about ALL of who they are. Including you.

The threads running through all my work (I’m an author - The Courage to Become, I’m a motivational speaker - TEDx, Choose Joy or Die , I am a private coach ) are hope, joy and empowerment.

If I could choose ten words that best describe me I would say: honest, welcoming, giving, curious, loving, earnest, empathetic, spiritual, playful, and sassy. Let's add: adventurous. That's 11.

Nice to meet you!


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