Nicole Berrie begins her new cookbook, Body Harmony, by shattering the myth of the perfect wellness guru. Before the founder of food and well-being site Bonberi and plant-based New York convenience store Bonberi Mart shares aspirational pages of colorful, vegan recipes—from her go-to green lemonade to tomato coconut-milk bisque and Chunky Monkey Froyo—Berrie reveals snapshots from a lifetime of disordered eating.
It began with the clandestine bags of Doritos she’d bring to bed at age seven, around “the same time my parents’ marriage began to unravel,” she writes, and she began to suffer chronic verbal, emotional, and at times physical abuse from someone close to her. “I would clutch that foil bag like a security blanket in the dark,” Berrie remembers in Body Harmony. In her teens, she compounded food with alcohol and drugs to blunt her pain, including “ecstasy-fueled benders,” an addiction to cocaine, and periods of bingeing and purging that plagued her for more than a decade. Throughout early adulthood, Berrie, now 40, surrendered to never-ending fad diets: “I held really tight to my regimens, and then, with an equal and opposite reaction, binged,” she tells Vogue. “That was the vicious cycle that I led for many years.”
The death of Berrie’s father—whom she calls “my rock, my hero, my best friend”—when she was 20 brought grief “that was the impetus for finally facing my demons.” She began reading Thich Nhat Hanh, a “gentle Vietnamese Buddhist monk who wrote extensively on anger, presence, and pain”; spiritual leader (and later presidential candidate) Marianne Williamson; and When Food Is Love author Geneen Roth—“all stalwarts in the old-school wellness community who seek to bring us back into loving ourselves,” as Berrie describes them. She realizes that may sound Pollyanna to some, but it was near revolutionary to Berrie as she moved into “healing mode,” including therapy and meditation.
Berrie’s readings led her to a concept that would begin to repair her broken relationship with food: intuitive eating, the practice of trusting your body’s cues—not any prescriptive or restrictive diet—to govern what you eat. For Berrie, part of the process is distinguishing “spiritual hunger” (like stress, sadness, loneliness, or boredom) with actual bodily hunger—a feeling Berrie says diet culture has trained women, in particular, to skirt and suppress. “We’re not meant to be hungry, not only for food, but we’re not meant to be hungry for the life that we dream of,” she says. “I believe when we constrict everything that we’re eating, that’s sending a message that we are not worthy of abundance in life.”