About Me

I’m a Certified Internal Family Systems Therapist and Somatic psychotherapist, coach and healer with over ten years joyful experience guiding women individually and in groups to identify and release their blocks to achieving total lasting freedom from compulsive food cycles, love their body, and step into a thriving life.

I’m Naomi Nygaard,

Food-and-Body-Freedom Companion-guide, therapist, coach, speaker, writer and program facilitator.  I’ve helped hundreds of women discover freedom from food and body-weight obsession and find ease and confidence inhabiting a peaceful, thriving life. 

I promote a paradigm of complete self-acceptance as the only sustainable path to healing food and bodyweight stuckness and shame forever.  I know that when we are free from these burdens, we can access all of our creativity, joy and gifts to create a better world for ourselves and our communities.  

My mission is to empower and equip women in groups and individually to align with their own visions of food freedom and inner-harmony, and help them identify and release any blocks to living them.

I know first-hand the hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness and shame that addictive cycles of body-weight and food can bring.  I spent years feeling trapped and hating myself for eating in a way that sabotaged my desperate desire to be and stay slim. 

I rediscovered health and an end to the madness of this long-time cycle.  First, I learned to slow it, and then in time I found I was blossoming in a spiral right up out of it.  I’ve been maintaining a healthy body-weight, a wholesome, joyful, delicious and easy-going relationship with food, and a happy life ever since: for the past 15 years.

I’m a woman grateful to be doing work I love with powerful, determined, and courageous women like you.  I’m loving living my life as a mum of two, wife, daughter, aunt, sister, psychotherapist, coach and guiding companion for women who wish to move beyond obsession with food and their body-weight.

It brings me joy when women release the illusion that there’s no hope for them to feel contentment and belonging in their own bodies: that true health, joy, ease, and love of their bodies may be for others, but is never for them (or at least, not until they look a certain way….!)

My life becomes richer when one more woman discovers how to live her life free from her addictive, compulsive, or obsessive relationship with food and weight-loss, rekindle her birthright sense of total okayness just as she is, and from there starts to chanel the grounded, shimmering power and energy of a woman living out her real dreams.  It looks different every time, for every woman, and it is always elegant, beautiful and stunning, in the true natural senses of these words.

For the past fifteen years, I have found myself committed to an ongoing journey discovering what works to heal addiction to certain foods and to healing the harsh judging we women can be habituated to – judging ourselves and shaming our bodies.  I’ve met women like you along the way, who had the courage to be vulnerable and share their inner worlds with me.  This has been a gift and honour beyond words, and has made my own life and growth immeasurably richer and deeper-rooted. 

I devote my vocational energy to guiding women through a healing process such as that which gave me back my life.  This is central to my purpose in this lifetime.  This work is ongoing for me: I learn as much if not more from the people I work with, as they do from me.  I consider us all to be walking alongside one another: equals sharing our experiences of this journey as we keep discovering our own unique recipes of what creates most freedom, peace and thriving in this oft-difficult life we share. 

In the group programs and individual sessions I run, together we co-create a reality beyond the negative food and body cycles, so we can blossom towards our full growth as the vibrant women we naturally are.

Feel free to deep dive with me below into my own story of suffering and recovery…

For twenty years I was mired in a crazy-making cycle, addicted to foods containing heaps of sugar and refined flour – stuff like pastries, cakes, biscuits, chocolate and sweets, as well as oily salty things.  I also became addicted to exercising and dieting to keep any weight gain (real or imagined) at bay. It made me high, lofty and proud to feel ’empty’ and to look slim-bellied. I swung between two states of being. One was ‘feast’: binging, overeating and feeling ‘sullied’ by certain foods; the other state was ‘famine’: in this state I felt ‘pure’, fasting or delaying eating, priding myself on needing and wanting little or nothing, feeling light and feminine, floaty and demure on the outside, while remaining ‘strong’ on the inside – standing firm against the hated base appetites of my own physical hunger. 

It wasn’t until my recovery began that I became aware of what I had been missing out on swinging between these two poles: the simple joy of just being ordinary me, and liking that person that I am. I also came to see how impossible it was for me to find balance on my own. Parts of me were (and can still sometimes be) very proud indeed. These parts didn’t want to admit that my life wasn’t bearing the fruits of my sweetest dreams. Whatever my weight, nothing I truly longed for – intimacy, creativity, spiritual nourishment, connection to nature, belonging to a loving community, work using my gifts and talents – none of these could enter my life.

In my recovery, I learned first-hand, step-by-step, in a simple, manageable and piecemeal way, how to move beyond food addiction to healing and freedom.  I adopted a holistic method to recover my health, happiness and self-worth. I’ve been enjoying these gifts fully for the past fifteen years, never taking them for granted.  My life now contains loving relationships, nourishing creativity and a deep connection to our beautiful earth.  I know that a life of peace, ease, and pleasure being in a human body is waiting for you too.  I’m committed to walking by your side as you discover these gifts for yourself.

More About My Past Journey

When I was age 10

I was born in a very rural part of West Wales, in the U.K. My parents owned a wholefood shop and between stock from the shop and produce from our vegetable and herb garden and our orchard and our own chickens eggs, I grew up a very healthy eater. I had always been a normal weight and despite all the junk food I ate throughout my teenage years I burned the calories off easily, simply through all the growing I was doing.

It wasn’t until I went to university that I begun to gain weight. I found it an extremely hard time, getting used to living away from home, trying to fit in socially despite being extremely shy, and needing to take care of things I’d never had to do before. Things were not good at home, and I felt displaced in the world, uprooted and with no idea how to create my own new roots in the world ‘out there’.  The residual pain and loneliness of past experiences in my family and school life also began to bubble up to be felt and understood by me, and I was completely unequipped to cope with it. I found myself turning to processed foods – cake, chocolate, crisps, cheese sandwiches – for comfort.

What began as an unconscious habit took on momentum and gradually spiraled over the years into something that felt wildly unmanageable.  I often had the spooky feeling that I was outside my body as I sneaked food and ate voraciously.  It began to frighten me how little control I felt of what and how much junk food I ate. After uni ended, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I moved in with some very ‘cool’ people who, like me, took drugs and partied hard.  I got a job as a bar-tender and waitress in various clubs and restaurants to fund my aimless life which was centered around how I looked and what people thought of me.  I wanted men to fall for me in droves, and underneath that was a (largely unacknowledged) wish I had to be loved for who I was, and looked after and protected from what I experienced as a threatening and unpredictable world. Being desired romantically was my key life goal, and this depended on being the most beautiful, more beautiful than my friends – and to me, this meant having a flat tummy.  I was around food at work, and sabotaged my desire to slim down by stealing and eating food secretively there, to relieve the stress of those environments. I performed as a singer on stage whenever I could, and partied hard outside of work. Life got wilder still.  I sought out extreme mind-and-body states and scenarios. I wanted to get outside myself and beyond my limitations.  I wanted to bust out of my (deeply held and then largely unacknowledged) pain.  I won’t go into everything that happened to me back then in my early twenties, but, looking back, it was a whirlwind of dramatic extremes and crazy relationships. In an attempt to heal trauma I’d experienced and burdens I’d taken on through my early life, I tried repeatedly to expand my mind and be free, I experimented with lots of different types of drugs, sometimes with others, and sometimes alone. My experiences with drugs didn’t ultimately play the healing role I hoped they would, and in fact made things spiral more and more out of control and intensified the pendulum swing of my troubles with food and dieting.

Someone put a copy of the classic ‘Fat is a Feminist Issue’ into my hands and, devout lifelong feminist that I am, I devoured it and copied out large extracts… it was a relief to learn I wasn’t alone.   I was an earnest student, however, my addiction was so entrenched that I couldn’t seem to approach the suggestions therein with any kind of balance.  When the author advised that I take all rules off the table and put whatever I wanted into my supermarket trolley, I spent several days eating only belgium chocolates.  It felt sensual, rebellious, daring, even sexual… I was floating on a cocoa-sugar cloud and let my fantasies about myself and my future dreams be untethered.  Looking back, it was a time when I was ungrounded and imbalanced on almost every level.

My weight fluctuated, with bouts of self-discipline and rigorous exercise in between periods of binging. I exercised hard with rigid regularity, pushing my body to new limits of (a type of brittle) ‘strength’. I felt restless, irritable and discontent if I hadn’t started my day with an hour of running the streets straight out of bed. Or else I danced off calories to hard trance on a podium and lost out on much-needed sleep. I know now that the exercise was an addiction too, because I was sneaky about it and wouldn’t admit to its inseparably connection with my eating habits.

Food and exercise played roles in an internal, secret picture of deserving and punishment, and all the while my primary goal was to avoid the feelings of shame that surfaced when I felt ‘fat’ – any overindulging took the lid off a feeling I’d experienced through my younger life too – a flat kind of drabness and worthlessness. I was determined to outrun this horrible feeling. The exercise gave me ‘permission’ to feel hungry and to feed my hunger.  If I exercised enough, I could even and even overeat without this feeling taking over. 

I mercilessly judged my body. I felt unworthy of receiving romantic love or sensual enjoyment until the day I could somehow reach the ‘perfect weight’ I aspired to and, in fact, be perfect in every way. (Quick aside: the type of men I was attracted to were ‘bad’ boys, often incapable of emotional intimacy and wrapped up in addictive cycles themselves… so no regret about not having ‘made it’ with the men I so badly wanted to be with back then.  Thank you, Life).

When it came to exploring my sexuality, I felt rigid with fear of being judged as I judged myself. This fear kept me cut off from being present unto mine or others’ bodies, and prevented me feeling any pleasure. I had no idea how to speak for my needs in this area, or go at a pace which felt comfortable to me.  As such, the sexual encounters I had through these years left me feeling overwhelmed, unempowered and disconnected from myself.  

I had a harsh and constant inner-critic whose role it was to keep me hardened (never vulnerable) through a belief in my own unworthiness…. unless I could just be better in every way! And so I pushed myself ever onwards, living life hard, fast, and full of busy activity with a central aim: perfect myself to be acceptable.

My Recovery

Around eighteen years ago, I reached my rock bottom: my wild times culminated in a five month period of terror, depression, darkness, and despair. I had nowhere to live, no job, no money, and no ‘plan’: no idea of where my life was headed. Most of the people in my life were just as wrapped up in addictive behaviours as I was.  I always looked down on ‘normal’ people (getting steady employment, saving for a mortgage) as ‘boring’.

I wouldn’t wish such a time of protracted panic and mental suffering on anyone. Over time, however, I have come to know that the depth of my despair provided the fuel of determination and energy I later channeled into my recovery. The extreme nature of my pre-recovery life and behaviour gifted me: out of my the suffering I came to understand with utmost certainty that a different way of living was not a choice, but was vital for me. This grave certainty meant that I would later go to any lengths to follow spiritual guidance laid out to me, and apply daily practices with an openness and steady discipline that rescued me from the maddening destructive cycles I was trapped in. GOD: the Gift Of Desperation; this is what Twelve Step programs call the pain that gives rise to the honesty, openness and willingness to accept wise instructions from others and apply it in one’s life.

I started going to Overeaters Anonymous  (OA) meetings: a 12 Step fellowship for healing all types of dysfunctional behaviours with food, weight and exercise. I also joined a buddhist meditation group and met Flint Sparks, Zen priest, clinical psychologist, Internal Family Systems psychotherapist, and teacher of mindfulness. I held on to both communities with growing devotion, and I started consistently doing the daily practices suggested.

I also started to feel the beginnings of a sense of belonging. Before this, even at my lowest points, parts of me had looked down on other people saying, ‘They’re not like you’.  These parts had prevented me from ever feeling truly connected, protected me from being vulnerable, and ultimately stopped me receiving the help I had so desperately needed.  In 12 Step fellowships, we’re encouraged to look for our similarities rather than our differences.  This golden nugget of advice has allowed me to remember my connection to all other fellow humans, all living beings, and all of life, even when my tendency is to swing between ‘better than’ and ‘worse than’ thinking habits.

In OA, people understood the way parts of me reacted around food.  This began to penetrate the isolation of years. I let others guide and inform my daily food choices and I practiced 100% honesty about what I was doing with food.

I made sure to sit down calmly and eat my meals quietly, when so many parts of me wanted to jump out of my skin, or at least to jump up nervously and get back to busyness and constant work.

After the chaos of my food life the previous ten years, I found huge relief in having some healthy guidelines around what, when and how I ate, and some robust accountability supporting me to stay within these guidelines. I felt like a child again, which was humbling, and also tender. I got some (initially fleeting) tastes of innocence, gentleness and self-acceptance towards myself. Flint and my zen community were also there to help me contain and handle the rawness I felt.  With their support, I could be with the waves of feeling as they rose up inside, and I felt held and accepted through it all.  Flint helped me understand and appreciate the role my protective parts had been doing to keep me from being overwhelmed by the reservoir of pain that had been growing in volume through my life so far. I learned about the Internal Family Systems model, and I discovered the first seeds of what became my life’s calling to work with others in this way.

With my sponsor in OA, I worked my way through the 12 steps using the ‘Big’ book, ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’, changing the words from alcohol to food/chocolate/cake/hunger to make it relevant to me.  I’m feminist in outlook and I’m sometimes bemused looking back at how I could have had such a powerful experience of insight, identification and spiritual surrender, studying and applying a book that was primarily written by a 1930’s American male stock-broker. I know it has a lot to do with the small and trusted circle of fantastic women that surrounded and supported me through the process. And so  it worked for me: thoroughly, profoundly, and irreversibly: I was changed. 

I held on to my healthy new behaviours, outlook, people and practices, knowing that they were reconnecting me with my goodness and my worthiness, which has nothing to do with looking perfect or making no mistakes. I began to recognise my newfound recovery as a thread that was guiding me out of pain, tension and darkness that had been infusing my whole body and life.

My recovery was not an overnight matter, but little by little I found more groundedness and could rest in longer and longer moments of total serenity.  I went on many zen meditation retreats through those years with my buddhist sangha (after all these years, I’m still a grateful member of Just This).  In time, I increasingly enjoyed simple, kindly connectedness with others, and a newfound feeling that I belonged in life: that I’m a good person and, despite the way pain had driven my behaviour, I always have been a good person.

My recovery marked my understanding and acceptance that I need others’ support, and that everyone doe.  As in the natural world, we beings are all connected and interdependent, even if our crazy society has conditioned us over thousands of years to believe otherwise. At first, this support was with my food and my spiritual life, and from there with many other areas of my life. Society had given me the notion that independence was a strength to be strived for and the only way to be secure in life, but it hadn’t worked out that way for me at all. I don’t know anyone who became happy or truly felt safe living this way.  Through allowing trusted others in turn to support me in each area I’d struggled with – food, relationships, sexuality and romance, finances career and business –  each area became more healthy and flourishing. I learned how to be discerning in the support I received, embracing input that felt good to me: loving, wise, balanced and clear. Today, I aim to offer women the same high quality of presence and wisdom that was gifted to me and was so instrumental in my own transition from tentative beginnings blossoming into confident wellness.

Gradually, gently, over the years, I have built into the fabric of my life a manageable, flexible system of self-care and ongoing growth. It has taken a few knocks through the years, particularly through the intense journey of birthing and caring for children, and then my mum becoming critically ill with cancer… however, these daily self-care practices (done imperfectly, but done nonetheless) enable me to maintain a healthy body, mind and emotional life: a baseline joy and calmness which have sustained me even through some major ups-and-downs.

Today, I enjoy a loving relationship with my body, trusting its cyclical fluctuating energy levels to guide me. I feel comfortable in my sexuality and I know that I deserve the pleasure, joy and rest that is essential for living a healthy life.

I have spent the past twelve years witnessing the gentle transformation of many women, as they recover their lives from the grip of endless cycles of dieting, binging, and other addictions. This work feels like what I’m here to do: finding a dynamic balance in my own life so that I can contribute to those seeking healing despite our often wildly-off-balanced human-constructed society.

These are the unique set of influences that healed my life back then and continue to heal it still: connection to the vast abundant resource of the natural world here in my home city of Sheffield – simply sitting or walking in nature for hours in Sheffield’s many woodlands and parks, as well as the surrounding Peaks National park … An embodied zen meditation practice (I think of it as ‘bodyfulness’, rather than ‘mindfulness’, and by the way, I don’t consider myself religious or label myself in any way), Internal Family Systems therapy – giving and receiving, and 12 Step fellowships and programs. These all have led to a sustainable healing from the grip of addiction.  I’ve created an integration called the Food and Body Freedom Steps, or
The Freedom Steps (for any and all addictions), so that others might benefit likewise from the wisdom and support I received.  I’ve since thought that I experienced it much more like a spiral then steps… I often come to find I’m learning the same lessons, but from a different and ever-expanded vantage point… ‘Steps’ suggests an end to arrive at, but somehow I’ve come to know this journey as an ongoing process… and I’m comfortable with that now.  So I’m going to change the names of the process to ‘Food and Body Freedom Spiral’… watch this space.

Why Do I Love This Work?

It is the greatest honour to connect with others and learn how to co-create a new way forward with food, people, the body, money, time and in life. I love to help people reconnect with the joy and aliveness that has always been there, though often buried beneath pain, confusion, or obsession. I enjoy being a catalyst to help find a way back to the peace that is all our essence.  It is this place of peace within from which naturally flows one’s own true life direction and contribution.

What Do I Believe?

No matter what any expert may say, one’s own intuitive wisdom about what is right to do, eat and feel always knows best. As our human, fear-filled ways of grasping at what we want begins to relax, we can experience a different way of living that is centred on trusting ourselves. In the process of rediscovering this Self-trust, trusted others can play a vital role in guiding our way.

This inner-knowing can be made accessible to us in our lives amidst all of our problems and challenges; it can shine through and direct all of our life choices. The right support, guidance and input can activate one’s innate inner support network and, moment by moment, we can find our own way through any difficulty.

Love is always there, even in the midst of our deepest pain. We can learn to notice this and, in time, to trust it.

Our bodies hold the key to our pain, and our capacity to heal lies within our willingness to bring presence to our bodies. Simple awareness without judgment or pushing ourselves brings gradual transformation.  This occurs when the right support (inside and outside ourselves) is in place.

Those of us with food issues can most easily begin this healing process once a peaceful relationship with food is established and accepted by all our parts: this newfound relationship can act as a foundation of inner and outer support as we go through this process of growth and change.

Our food and body image issues stem from painful events that took place both in our own lives and also in the lives of those the came before us. When there were traumatic events or prolonged periods of ‘not enough’ in our ancestral lines, and the painful feelings, beliefs and energy charge surrounding these experiences were not previously processed, they can find their ways into our own bodies and lives and make manifest in how we relate to food and our body-image. This can be healed: safely, effectively, and completely. This healing also heals the world and opens the way for newness and possibility for us and future generations.

Wars, famines, social inequality, traumatic deaths, sexual abuse… these experiences that occured in our ancestral lines can play a huge role in how come we end up with distorted ways of relating to food, whilever they were not grieved, healed and recovered from back then. The good news is that the suffering our ancestors went through can be healed by us retrospectively: this occurs as we do this work of releasing food and body burdens, and transversely, to heal these historic wounds helps us in our food and body-image recovery.

Twelve step programs are a powerful tool for healing.  We therapists can encourage and support our clients in this process. I believe the healing process of therapy is compatible alongside 12 Step recovery: that both healing vehicles can align for the best possible outcome.

I’ve learned more about myself in relationship with others than I could ever learned in isolation. Some of this has been painful and has involved making mistakes, forgiving myself, getting back up, and trying again to engage in this messy business of relating to others.

I love the smell of hot soil in summer after rain.

Music is the medicine my soul craves.  Moving my body to music, singing, and playing my harmonium has got me through some hard, barren times. My instruments are like having friends to play with, and the music we make is like being carried on a cushion of love.

Why do I work with women*?

[*Though we may live in womens’ bodies, it may be that not all parts of us identify with us being ‘a woman.’ No matter how we wish to identify ourselves, I aim to provide a space of openness and freedom to explore gender wherever this is a part of your process.]

I love to journey with others wishing to discover the connections between how we relate to food, and how it is living in womens’ bodies.

The cycles and rhythms of puberty, menses, pregnancy, birthing, breastfeeding, mothering, menopause and ageing can bring both transformation and challenge to the subtle balances within us that govern our relationship to food and our bodies.

This isn’t an easy world in which to be cyclical physical beings. There are times when we need to go slow and rest, as well as times when our energy is at a height and we can easily do more.  In our westernised cultures with all the demands upon us, there is often no time or space for slowness and rest and this can cause harm over time and prevent healing to happen.

I find it fruitful to pose questions together that can open the way for sustainably wholesome food relations. Examples of such enquiries are:

Can we allow ourselves guilt-free rest when needed, especially during menstruation (for those of us with cycles)?

Can we stay awake to the rhythms of our bodies’ changing energy levels, and honour these in how we show up in our lives?

What does it mean to care for ourselves by prioritising our basic needs (for regular meals, rest, fresh-air, creativity and stillness) as a radical act of service to our children, partners, parents, clients, and communities… and how does the healing impact of this ripple out to the whole world?

To explore all the ways of working together, click here and go to
‘Work With Me’.