Catie Payne on food and burnout

This post was written by Megan on September 21, 2012
Posted Under: burnout and food

Catie Payne food and burnout cartoon

Embracing the adage “We are what we eat”, does not mean accepting that if I eat a Brussels sprout, I become a Brussels sprout. But the natural question for us burnees is: What should I be eating?

In my search for an answer, I stumbled across Catie Payne’s site Head Plant Health. I laughed, I cried (from laughing) and came away feeling rather well informed about nutritious food and how it can actually be edible – except perhaps that post on cows tongue.

Who is this mysteriously entertaining health enthusiast Catie Payne? It turns out she is a recent graduate in an Advanced Diploma of Naturopathy. “I’m working under the wing of an amazing Sydney-based Naturopath, absorbing as much as I can and gaining invaluable clinic experience” Catie explained to me. “My official title will be Naturopathic Assistant (or: brewer of tea, blender of herbs and consoler of clients).” On the site she claims to be 23 years old. I asked her if this is still the case. Her answer: “Yes, and I plan to remain so.”

Young and only newly qualified, what could Catie Payne really know about food and burnout? Plenty, it turns out. And she blows some assumptions about healthy eating right out of the water.


Megan: Catie, why is naturopathy your weapon of choice?   

Catie: Naturopathy, to me, means getting out of the way of our bodies as they do their healing thang. We possess the materials and the potential; sometimes we simply need a little herbal/nutritional garnish.

Why is food so important to us burnees?

The majority of our nervous system resides in our gut; it is where everything starts (in a naturopathic sense). If you aren’t absorbing what you eat, if you have perpetual internal inflammation and if the pipes are blocked, your chances of overcoming any chronic condition are markedly diminished.


What is your experience with dodgy health and burnout?

My health in my teens and early twenties was woeful. And, thanks mainly to girlie vanity (i.e. not wanting to resemble a giant caramel tart – a favourite foodstuff) an interest in food for pudge-prevention purposes was born.

After becoming a strict raw-food-dabbling vegan, I had a chronic fatigue run-in after my body failed to clear an old Epstein-Barr virus (glandular fever/mononucleosis). Nutritional deficiencies, lack of fats and protein, over exercise and sub-clinical dogmatism prevented me from achieving vibrant health. The moment I was physically unable to attend my best pal’s birthday party after taking root in an armchair was the time I decided my health needed yet another kick in the pants. That was 18 months ago.

So how did you become ‘bon vivant’?

A traditional diet that includes organic, grass-fed meats, organs, broths (and all manner of slippery delicacies), organic veg, happy eggs and an abundance of beneficial fats has supported robust cultures for thousands of years; and now does the same for me. It was only when I ‘got healthy’ (an ongoing journey) that I made the connection between what I ate and how I felt.

I was a vegetarian before the invisible piano landed on me (chronic fatigue syndrome). My partner dragged me back to eating meat (he’s an acupuncturist, can’t help but meddle). I found it difficult getting my head – and principles – around eating meat again. How about you?

It was a philosophical sh*t-storm, morphing my vegan idealism into meat appreciation, and one I don’t expect others to adopt lightly. Re-evaluating my beliefs surrounding life and death, animal rights and environmentalism was key to my transition, and has left me with deeper connection to my food.

Interestingly, trying to avoid all death and disharmony by practicing veganism actually widened the gap between myself, nature – and it’s realities. Being complicit in death cannot be escaped; all we can do is act mindfully & respectfully, acknowledging that one day too, a big slobbery cow tongue will wrap itself around the grass we’ve since become.

So what’s the dope on food for ‘burnees’?

Nutrition for ‘burnees’ will involve the same basic principles that I feel, apply to everybody (charred or blister-free!):

  • Real food
    Free from chemicals, pesticides, Franken-ingredients (such as hydrogenated oils and yeast extracts) and e-numbers (numerical codes for chemical additives). Animal products that are rich in a range of essential vitamins and minerals, and that are ethical, local and organic.
  • Seasonal produce
    Because it’s bursting with just-picked nutrition, supports us constitutionally (denser veggies in winter, berry abundance in summer – with specific antioxidants for sun protection for example And the most nutrient-dense fare available.
  • Avoiding allergenic foods
    Or ones that don’t support your personal constitution (e.g. diary, wheat, gluten, etc.).
  • Food that gives you pleasure
    Meals that can be chewed mindfully between raucous laughter and jokes around the dinner table.

For burnees, this traditional diet fulfills all requirements – with alacrity! However, compliance needs to be high (steely Bruce-Willis-resolve required) and sneaky optional extras need to be kept low. 

I often hear from natural health practitioners, “Let’s take out wheat and dairy from your diet and we’ll review.” Some also go as far as outlawing coffee and grains. What say you on this?

Unfortunately, these recommendations hold firm. Wheat and dairy line are allergenic foods for a vast majority of people, and their removal can address the top in a chain of harmful internal happenings. It sounds no fun. It appears militant. But realistically, it isn’t so tragic! Life does go on sans milky coffee and croissants. Plus, some people can return to eating properly prepared grains and whole, high-quality milk once they’ve aced their gut-healing protocol.

Does anything taste as good as having energy, zing and swagger feels? I think not. Harmful foods and liquid stimulants are a small dietary concession for those intent on healing. A resounding ‘Man Up!’ springs to mind…!

Some of us are in worse shape than others. How do we eat according to our level of health-crappiness?

The severity of the ‘burns’ determine the treat allowance. Here are three basic categories below with some tips to shoot for:

  1. ‘Feeling Tired’
    Lighter end of burnout: ongoing lethargy but still able to function.
  2. ‘Wired Tired’
    Mid-range burnout: lethargy but also hyper-anxiety (wired tired) that makes it hard to rest.
  3. ‘Barry Manilow victim’
    The dark end of burn out: i.e. “I can’t dance, and I can’t sing, I’m finding hard to do anything”

1. ‘Feeling Tired’ tips

  • Reduce caffeine/stimulants dramatically; replace with herbal teas, dandelion coffees and water
  • Decrease dependence on sugary pick-me-ups that only serve to perpetuate blood-sugar imbalance
  • Break-up with soft-drinks, energy drinks, sweets and (even) swathes of fruit
  • Eat a large protein and fat rich breakfast to ensure you’ve got a sturdy ‘log’ on the fire to see you through the day (i.e salmon and eggs, bacon and eggs, dinner leftovers & veg, salad, sardines and homemade aioli etc)
  • Ensure each meal has a protein and fat component to regulate energy, mood and satiety (satisfied appetite)

2. ‘Wired Tired’ tips:

  • As above – achieve balance throughout the day so body can retire peacefully at night!
  • Eating a higher protein/fat snack before bed can ensure a deep, complete sleep – prevents blood sugar dips during the witching hours. A handful of macadamias, a boiled egg or two, some coconut oil/butter/(cow) cream & berries make nice bedtime desserts
  • Drinking homemade broth during the day and before bed will assist sleep and relaxation. It contains a range of zennnnnn-promoting nutrients such as magnesium, zinc and sodium (which, incidentally, helps to lower night-time aldosertone/cortisol/adrenaline). The amino acid glycine in broth also acts an inhibitory neurotransmitter, helping to promote a deep, restful sleep
  • Having a glass of (whole, high-quality) milk with honey and a pinch of salt before bed also helps induce the z’s. It actually mimics the action of T3 (thyroid hormone) regulating body temperature and adrenaline. A winning old wives tale!

3. ‘Barry Manilow victim’ protocol:

  • Get thee to a naturopath/herbalist! This poor soul may require extra nutritional and herbal support for profound positive change.
  • Consume extra saturated fat (yes, the kind the heart-foundation gives the stink eye). Our hormones are synthesized from fats and cholesterol – if you’re lacking adequate precursors to these, your mood, energy and health will suffer! Cooking with butter, coconut oil or ghee, liberally wielding the butter knife, eating slow-cooked fatty cuts of free-range meat, eggs and coconut products will help direct extra resources to an ailing, undernourished system!
  • Foods such as liver pâté, broths, seafood and leafy greens will provide stellar nutrition – the focus should be on delivering maximum vitamin/mineral bang for your metabolic buck. When everything is flatlining, you need to rebuild with bricks, mortar and burly tradies – flimsy balsa ain’t gonna cut it.


How is it possible to have a nourishing diet that is rich in fats and cholesterol?

Believe it or not, a diet rich in fats and cholesterol has underpinned the growth and development of humans since time immemorial (or at least, since we ceased being balding apes and adopted business suits).

It’s a huge, lengthy, nerdy explanation, but a précis goes something like this: everything we are fed about nutrition from mainstream sources is, disrespectfully, wrong. When examining the nutritional requirements of the body and how we operate (past the black/white, cause/effect simplicity of modern western medicine) we discover that traditional cultures revering animal fats, dairy, organ meats and eggs were physically fit (in the slang British sense).

Every cell wall is made of fatty, cholesterol-rich substances, as well as 60% of your brain! We run on the stuff. The demonization of these nutrients is misguided in every sense, and motivated by big-business interests, cheap, subsidized monocrops (wheat & corn empires) and a sickness industry that revels in pharmaceutical prescriptions, not preventative nutrition. But now I’m just sounding like a conspiracy theorist!

How are you feeling now?

Like a wombat on speed (if you can imagine it). Strong, robust, purposeful, with energy to burn! (And a rather hairy nose). To avoid the infomercial, I do have low-points like everyone. But only if I disrespect my nanna sleeping schedule, make poor nutritional choices or insert too many exclamation marks in one paragraph! Otherwise, I finally feel I am healing. After 18 months, my body is relaxing, digesting, assimilating and rebuilding. My hormones have come back online, I can go for a run without needing a nap and life is colourful again.

This is the sum of proper nutrition, sleep, exercise and, of most supreme importance, happiness. All the best to everyone on their way!


Thanks a bunch, Catie. And all the best to you, too.

For helpful health-boosting info (and some chuckles)
check out Catie Payne’s site: Head Plant Health


Catie Payne was interviewed by Megan Hills. Megan is a writer, marketing swashbuckler, and cartoonist who daydreams of her next 'food move' more than perhaps she should.  Find out more about Megan

Reader Comments

LOVE this post! Thanks for the witty take on the drudgery of burn-out and I'll be trying out some of this advice.

Written By Tori on September 21st, 2012 @ 7:47 pm

Thanks a bunch, Tori :)

Written By Megan on September 29th, 2012 @ 10:10 am

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