Meet Cat Dillon | Trauma Informed, Holistic Nutrition Provider & Transformational Life Coach

“This article originally posted in ShoutOut, Local Stories, September 20, 2022”

We had the good fortune of connecting with Cat Dillon and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Cat, can you tell us about an impactful book you’ve read and why you liked it or what impact it had on you?

Karla McLaren’s book – “The Language of Emotions” taught me about befriending and using my emotions. How my emotions really don’t have to be terrible villains – that I can learn to use them to access solutions to my problems and issues.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?

My name is Cat Dillon, and I have a solo practice as a holistic nutritionist and trauma-informed life coach. My work focuses on the multi-faceted art of healing, and I serve others both locally and globally. I embraced the difficult chaos of the pandemic to help me dive deeper into my own mental, emotional, and physical healing. We are all continual works in progress, and I feel more connected to my path of service than ever before.

In the past, I did a lot of focused work…I was a chef, a coach, a personal trainer, and a nutritionist that only worked at the level of healthy eating, nutrients, workouts, and labs. But many of my clients were making changes that weren’t holding, and I was constantly fighting in my head and blaming myself for not coaching correctly. Something that a lot of us who have experienced trauma do regularly!

I knew there was something missing…so I went out and found it. Over the last 10 years, and after doing my own personal work (Which I am constantly doing!), I brought in a collection of additional treatment modalities to complement my treatment protocols. I completed coursework and certifications in Transformational Coaching, Food & Spirit, The Language of Emotions, and the Biology of Trauma.

Many of my clients are feeling fundamentally shutdown and disconnected. They come to me carrying a heavy load of coping mechanisms, like self medication with alcohol “to feel engaged with others”, or with caffeine to “just get through”. They’re often living in states of chronic stress whether they feel it or not: up and down, fight or flight, anxiety and then the collapse of depression.

Did you know that many of us are addicted to stress? It is not uncommon to create busy patterns of overwhelm JUST to get our adrenals firing. And that was me…. “Move out of my way, I’m busy and can’t connect with you right now….” Because it was dreadful for me to feel bored. What on earth would I do with all the thoughts that come in those still moments? My head would tell me that I wasn’t enough, I wasn’t smart enough, and made me question who I was!

That is where most of us are living – and it’s the new norm. We are unable and unwilling to feel, so we look to something else to make it better, rather than allowing our minds and bodies to do what they’re supposed to do.

Espresso for that surge of dopamine and adrenaline in the morning. A cocktail and an excess of food at night to calm and ground us. The problem is that these things do the opposite, like cause a spike in adrenaline or cortisol in the middle of the night after drinking thanks to a related drop in blood sugar. And then comes the burnout.

Many practitioners, myself included, choose their populations based on their own past or current struggles, so I empathize and understand these situations deeply.

People do try to balance their lives. More exercise. Eating low carb. Eliminating sugar. Maybe they start yoga, therapy, breathwork, or meditation. The desire is there, but most will eventually note that something is missing.

Someone can come to see me for weight loss, gut issues, stress (or all 3), and we might look at improving sleep, regulating glucose and insulin, lowering inflammation, or eradicating a gut pathogen. And we do get to work on that with lab testing, and begin tracking using a CGM (continuous glucose monitor). Wheels do turn. But it’s all too common that these issues are only part of the picture. Rarely are they the cause, but the cumulative effects of what has been going on in the body for a long time.

My work is highly comprehensive, and really a new beginning and discovery of the real self. When I work with my clients – usually women in their 40s, 50s and 60s – I address much more than what clients think that they need. (Shh, don’t tell them that!)

As a holistic nutritionist, I address healthier eating, getting optimal sleep, movement, exposure to nature, and social relationships. As a trauma-informed life coach, I’m able to recognize if there may be other things holding people back from what they are reaching for with their health. It’s common to hear people say “I have tried all these diets, I have been on all the programs, and I am still confused, and struggling, and have no energy to figure it out myself.”

Trauma is not just an event, but anything overwhelming to your nervous system. It’s how your body responded to something, which was based on how much support and resources you had at that time, as well as genetics, epigenetics, toxin exposure, and more.

It’s the survival response – high activation, overwhelm, and shut down. A lot of what hasn’t been emotionally processed by the body gets stored in the nervous system, which is why we often talk about the issues in the tissues. Trauma exists on a cellular level, and becomes our biology.

I help support my clients with all of the things that take a hit, helping them rebuild their energy, mitochondria, neurotransmitters, gut/brain function, immune system, and bio-chemicals like insulin, adrenaline, cortisol, and sex hormones…because they are all affected.

I like to begin with a focus on energy to the cells, because if they don’t have the emotional energy and capacity to do their therapy work, either nothing will change, or change will be slow. All of these avenues inside our bodies that are taking a beating are also predisposing us to more chronic stress and trauma in our lives, so it is delicate work.

While we are building cellular resilience, we’re also building resilience with foundational somatic tools, which are exercises to support and build the nervous system’s capacity. I do them alongside all my clients as an act of trust, so that I earn their openness to my recommendations, and better allow for all the changes to stick.

My goal is for everyone to feel more peace, calm, and a sense of safety in their bodies that they never knew. I equip everyone with some very basic tools like “tracking the nervous system”, “orienting”, and “grounding”. There’s so much help to be had!

Without this feature, the body just wants to go back to what it knows. The path of least resistance, the old ways, feel safe. You can stand back and recognize and appreciate that your body was simply protecting you, while also recognizing that it is time to let those adaptations go.

Layering my modalities has helped me help my clients finally unveil the root or source of their unhelpful patterns. My work often acts as a primer or warm-up for traditional therapy sessions done with outside practitioners. It is an honor to help others embrace compassion for themselves WHILE they make improvements in their diet, sleep, movement, social engagement, and connection with nature/spiritual self. Momentum, in all its forms, is a beautiful thing.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
For some “not to miss” touristy, but not too touristy, places I’d be sure to…

Take a sea cave kayak, or snorkeling, tour at La Jolla Cove. Be sure and grab your healthy bites at Parakeet Cafe on Silverado.

Rent bikes and cruise the Coronado shoreline. Or, take a super fun stand up paddle class on the San Diego Bay.

Stroll through Little Italy and grab an espresso, lunch, or dinner at Civico 1845, Herb & Wood, or Bencotto.

Check out the Balboa Park Gardens and museums, and since you’re close by – the Cabrillo National Monument, where you can see the tide pools and picturesque views.

While you’re there, don’t miss Point Loma Seafoods for chowder, fish taco, smoked fish platter, and even sushi on certain days of the week.

Everyone has to visit San Diego’s Old Town for good Mexican food and margaritas, but if you’re into sushi like it’s done in Japan – you can’t miss Sushi Tadokoro on San Diego Avenue (right on the outskirts of Old Town).

Take a short drive up to two of the most beautiful ocean views in California – The Torrey Pines State Natural Reserves (hike the hill for a decent workout), or the Self-Realization Fellowship Meditation Gardens in Encinitas for a slower contemplative walk.

While you’re in Encinitas you can’t miss Lofty Coffee for the best coffee in town, plus organic breakfast delights (everything made in-house).

The North County scene has blossomed and some high quality restaurants have opened in the last 5 years. You’ll find us locals at Buona Forchetta, Valentina, Waverly, and for beautiful sunset dining – Vaga, at the Alila Marea Beach Resort, or Ponto Logo at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Carlsbad.

If you have time throughout your stay, definitely reserve a tour at Valle de Guadalupe, 113 K southeast of the San Diego border crossing, and taste some nice local wines and cheeses.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?

I’d like to give credit to a book written by one of my teachers, Karla McLaren, on The Language of Emotions. Reading this book and taking her courses has taught me how to work with emotions and receive their wisdom in healthy ways. (http://karlamclaren.com)

I’d like to offer a big shoutout to some of my teachers and mentors, Dr. Deanna Minich (https://deannaminich.com), and Dr. Aimie Apigian (https://www.instagram.com/draimie/), who have offered me incredible teaching though my long journey to finding my body again and
an ability to tune in – creating the space for presence, calm aliveness and peace throughout.

They have been life-saving and inspirational for me as well as helping me add this valuable layer to my holistic health practice.

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