Dillan DiGiovanni

coach | writer | speaker

Cookies vs. Broccoli: Both/And not Either/Or

Health and WellnessDillan DiGiovanniComment


The inspiration for this post came about a week before Christmas when several dozen homemade Christmas cookies sat about 2 feet away from me on the dining room table.

I love cookies. Well, I should say I loved them. There was a time in my all-too-recent past where cookies had a chokehold on me. I couldn't be near one without eating it. Some days I actually sought cookies out, but those were rare. I would mostly just be in the vicinity of a cookie and wouldn't be able to resist consuming it.

Cookies used to be a regular grocery store staple for me, especially growing up. My mom would buy several packages each week for our school lunches or weekends or evenings--basically whenever.

I have no problem telling you I was a sugar addict, mostly because don't consider myself one today. 

Here's why:

while I do consume sugar, I don't constantly obsess about it

I rarely if ever seek to buy food containing processed sugar (either out or when buying groceries)

I rarely if ever use processed sugar in tea or while cooking

I am 100% aware of the effects sugar has on my body and mental spirit

I don't have negative thoughts/feelings of shame while consuming sugar or sugary foods

I rarely if ever prioritize consuming sugary foods over fruits or veggies


I could probably add a few more but that will do for now.

Oh, and I intentionally eat sugar in front of people who think I wouldn't or shouldn't because I'm a healthy life coach.

I listed those habits because they are in stark contrast to my former lifestyle and nutrition habits--direct opposites, in fact. I sat down and thought about my relationship to sugar now versus just a few years ago and definitely 8-10 years ago and that's what came up. There was no way I was thinking about green foods back then. I thought about vegetables as this annoyance that got in the way of my sugar consumption. I also obsessed about sugar like crazy, constantly wondering about my next fix.

And that was as recently as 2009.

And then I became a health coach. And things changed significantly.

And then I addressed my deepest fears, one of which ended up being my transgender identity. And then things REALLY changed.

I think I really realized how differently my nutrition, lifestyle habits and relationship to food have all changed when I was staring at those tins of cookies on the table and there was absolutely no one and nothing stopping me from eating as many as I wanted. Seriously. I mean, that's really my life every single day--no one is responsible for telling me what to do and how to live my life other than me. I have the power to do whatever I want, eat whatever I want, say whatever I want, and love, learn, clean, color, write, think, walk, dance and dress however I want--the list goes on and on.

The question is: with all this freedom of choice and expression--what do I actually choose? 

Because that is what defines who I am and the life I want to live.

On this particular day, I regarded those cookies and I heard myself say out loud, "yeah. cool. Yum. As soon as I eat something real and something green."

And that's exactly what I did.

Good Grief

InspirationDillan DiGiovanni2 Comments

Those famous words uttered by Charlie Brown at least once in a Peanuts episode or cartoon in the newspaper.

Given the event in Newtown, CT last Friday, I wondered aloud, "can grief ever be good?"

Aside from what happened on Friday morning, this time of year is difficult enough for many people, while also being full of joy and celebration for others. In fact, it's possible it is both difficult AND wonderful for most people. From posts on facebook, more and more people are expressing that this year is particularly difficult for them.

Who's In Your Fellowship?

Health and Wellness, LGBTQ, InspirationDillan DiGiovanni1 Comment

I'm not talking about religion here.

Right now, I'm talking about your team. Your crew. Your people. The ones who will get you through a tough time of change and transition.

Last year was a rough one for me. In fact, there were quite a few rough years leading up to this massive change I just took on. But the last one was pretty tricky.

In those last few months as I was staring down decisions about permanent changes to my body and identity, I was struggling. Grasping at straws many days, I felt as if life were bottomless. A deep dark abyss that awaited my eventual drowning.

To say I was depressed is an understatement. You never suspected that? Well, that's because I had a formidable crew of supporters to sustain me during the darkest, scariest of times, just like Frodo's crew in the Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Each person/dwarf/hobbit/elf, etc. in that group added an unique skill or talent to help Frodo accomplish the tremendous task and journey he elected to take on. Just like the Fellowship of the Ring, the members of my fellowship all possess different skills and traits and bring unique perspectives and gifts with them. I am grateful for each and every one, and I couldn't have done what I did without them.

Here are the top 5 qualities in my friends, therapists, coaches and mentors that I need and am most grateful for in my past, present and future transitions:

1) humor: I love funny. I love wit. Anyone who brings this into my life to lift me up gets bonus points. I especially appreciate it when it comes in the form of sarcasm with a laser-focus set on intentionally bringing me out of a funk. The witty, "I'm saying this to make you laugh" sarcasm. For instance, the other day I said to a struggling friend, "eat some broccoli, cut the shit. Go be a warrior." She texted me later, "that was the best advice I've gotten in months."

2) deeplistening: don't nod and say, "uh huh". Don't "yeah" me to death. Freakin' listen to me, tell me what you hear me saying and ask me if I need or want any advice or feedback. One of the best skills I've learned and developed over the past 5 years is how to actually listen to someone. I don't do it perfectly all the time but I think I do a better job than I did in the past. And I really appreciate someone who does it well for me.

3) homemade food: I can't explain what it felt like coming home from my surgery to weeks of homemade food from my friends. There was no feeling like it in the world. I felt like they really really knew me and my values and I felt incredibly safe and well-fed, as a result. And the people who let me cook for them? Winners. Food is love, and I like to give and receive it as much as I can.

4) no agendas: my best supporters during my time of massive change and transition were people who listened to me process what was real and true for me with no agendas of their own. There weren't any questions about hard things or if there were and I resisted or shrugged, they dropped it. There was no pressure to answer or explain myself because they wanted to know more details about issues I was struggling to bring into my consciousness. They existed to support me--not to use me as a classroom. There was no timetable in place--never once did my best supporters say things like, "well you have to make a decision soon" or "when will you use male pronouns--because I'm confused". Yeah, I was, too. And it was hell trying to get up and function every day but I still did it and sought out people who didn't need an answer to be able to love me. In fact, they got early on that it was damn near impossible for me and they took my lead when talking about it.

5) awareness: probably the best and most valuable skill my friends brought was a deep awareness of what I was going through. Not all of them were particularly trans* savvy, but they possessed a deep awareness of my process, perhaps as a result of their own deep suffering or transition of some sort, that enabled them to be fully present with my struggle. Some members of my fellowship were trained therapists and practitioners, some were deeply intelligent and intuitive people, some were learning through me but gentle enough to keep their questions for later. They got that it was big, all-consuming and incredibly scary. And even if they didn't fully understand and couldn't relate, they gave me the space and time to sort through it.

Who are the people in your crew? What qualities do you need in your friends to accomplish what feels impossible to do by yourself?

Buttered Black Beans, Collards and Sweets

RecipesDillan DiGiovanniComment

It was cold and rainy today. Bleary. Bleak.


Hello, comfort food!

I didn't feel like going food shopping so I went through the cabinets instead and pulled something super great together. Here's three tips to make something like this possible:

1) no matter how tired you are, always buy two different kinds of leafy greens at the grocery store 1-2x a week. Store them in bags or containers to keep them fresher, longer.

2) keep a few cans of Eden brand beans around. For nights when you want some power-packed protein but have no energy to cook. Paired with some butter and spices, they go from "meh" to "YEAH!"

3) think outside the box. You're keeping this simple. You're cooking dinner for yourself (or your partner or family)--you're not competing on a Food Network tv show. Although, the challenge of assembling dinner with little to no ingredients can feel a bit like being on Iron Chef...

Buttered Black Beans, Collards and Sweets


1 12-oz can black beans 1 bunch collards, washed and chopped 2 large sweet potatoes 2 Tbsp org. butter 1 carton org. chicken broth 2 cups water 1 medium onion, diced 1 tsp. cumin 1/4 tsp. cinnamon 1/8 tsp cardamom 1/2 tsp. chili powder


1) In a large pot, combine chicken broth, water and collards. Simmer over medium-low heat for 45-60 minutes. The longer you cook them, the more tender they will be. Allow for this time when prepping your meal.

2) In a large saute pan, melt butter over medium heat and add onions. Cook until translucent. Add black beans and spices and simmer over low heat for 20-30 minutes.

3) Cut sweet potatoes into long rectangular cubes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook potatoes in the oven on a cookie sheet (adding parchment paper is even better) for 15 minutes or until browned to your liking.

Combine and serve.


Waste Not, Want Not

InspirationDillan DiGiovanniComment

Dear Dillan, I made that recipe you posted, where you cooked the collard greens in chicken broth. They came out great! Super soft and tasty.

I wondered, do all the nutrients get lost when I cook them like that? What should I do with the broth after I cook the greens in it?


your rad client

Dear My Rad Client,

Drink the broth. That's where the nutrients go. Makes for a tasty warm drink!

Choosing to Relax

Health and Wellness, InspirationDillan DiGiovanniComment
This past weekend, I made a decision.

I was going to relax. On purpose.

It's been an extremely enjoyable few months. I have been living it up since coming home from my surgery in August. I made a decision to enroll in grad school during the summer and really wondered if I'd be able to make it along with my coaching biz and some other side gigs. The good news is: not only am I making it, I'm thriving!

But it's a lot of work. And I'm busy. But I couldn't be happier. I get to decide what I do each and every day of my life and it is THE ideal life for me. I honestly couldn't ask for more and I wouldn't change a thing. It is exactly the life I want to be living right now and some days, I honestly can't believe I pulled it off---let alone that I've been rockin' it for the past 5 months.

That's a long time to be living the dream. Can't wait for more years ahead!

In the meantime, however, some rest and relaxation is called for. I keep a packed schedule so I had to be sure I scheduled in some downtime--balance in all things, after all, right?

I had a craving for some escapism--so I downloaded the Lord of the Rings triology and got through parts 1 and 2. Still have to make some time for part 3, the final chapter. I've seen them before. They are very staged, a little silly but just the kind of stuff I was craving: total fantasy and a departure from my real life and all the serious and wonderfully powerful stuff that involves. A little mental vacation, if you will.

After being hosted by some incredible friends this past Friday night for dinner, I put my feet up, grabbed a bottle of the new Woodchuck cider Winter brew and enjoyed the heck out of my Saturday evening. And then I did it again on Sunday night. Three evenings of pure bliss!!

It was the first real relaxing weekend I've had in way too long, and it felt damn good especially at this time of year. I remember the years of running myself into the ground at work and getting caught up with the holiday prep and expectations. That stuff can be so fun but so stressful, too. I want to enjoy my life, I don't want to merely "get through it".

It is a choice. A choice I need to make on purpose.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

LGBTQ, InspirationDillan DiGiovanni2 Comments

If I kept telling myself the story that "I could never live in limbo as a trans* person", I wouldn't be enjoying my life the way I am today.

This time last year, life wasn't very rad. And the year before that. And the year before that.

I never would have known that I would enjoy life this much and have this much fun, but it took a lot of time for me to stop telling myself the story that I didn't deserve to be happy, healthy and live my life on my own terms.

Now I look awesome, feel awesome, spend my time doing exactly what I want to do and I am not dreaming about all that---it's my reality.

I am so glad I stopped telling myself the story that it wasn't possible so I could start using my time effectively toward MAKING it happen.


A New Normal

Health and Wellness, LGBTQDillan DiGiovanniComment

I left "normal" behind a long time ago.

See ya!

I pride myself and cruise through life these days as a result of questioning the concept of normal and generally doing everything in my power to make sure I don't believe the hype.

There is no such thing as normal. #justsayin

I have a lot more fun and love my life because I listen to myself, surround myself with people who support me and persevere at "work" I love (quotes because it never feels like work) and eat real food.

And you can believe that I'll keep seeking out new ways to support everyone in rethinking normal and why they can ditch that expectation for themselves.

Counting Raisins

Health and WellnessDillan DiGiovanniComment

When I was in high school, I developed a serious eating disorder.

I've alluded to it here and there, but I've never really written about it--or shared it with any great detail.

Speaking with a prospective client the other night dug up some memories for me, particularly when he mentioned counting raisins. You might think it's silly. Or unnecessary. Or any number of things. But me? I got it. Because I once did the same thing.

What are the odds that he'd find someone to talk to who had the same exact experience? Maybe the odds are pretty good, I have no idea. But I can share how it affected me to sit across from someone who is so compelled and consumed by counting calories, that he's missing a lot of his precious life. And how I remember being in that same position. I remember being that stuck in something that felt so exhilarating ("hey! Look how good I am at this! I am so damn good at depriving my young developing body and mind of essential nutrients on a daily basis!") yet exhausting at the very same time.

I know that, for as good as I was at the game, I never got any damn medals for my meticulous calorie counting. There are no Eating Disorder Olympics, unfortunately. No awards doled out for how many days my weight stayed the same, the needle never budging from that precious and--extremely--important number over which it hovered. I got no Honorable Mention for the amount of time I managed to take to consume a bagel. A bagel. On average, they contain about 600 calories, give or take. To most people who are conscious of their nutrition in healthy ways, plain bagels wouldn't be considered an option, mostly because they are 600 calories of pure carbohydrates--nothing of real value unless I was running a 10K. But to my eating-disordered mind--bagels were on "the list" and believe me, I wasn't running any 10Ks. In fact, I had to quit my high school basketball team my Junior year because my weight dropped so low I couldn't hold my own against opposing teams. If you know me today, you would find this unimaginable--I am pretty stocky and incredibly fucking strong. And I had been that strong as a kid and teenager, too, but not when I starved myself to the point of losing all my lean muscle mass--you know, the kind that makes us strong and, ironically, burns the most calories.

Never knew this. Wish I had.

Instead, I allowed myself to fall down the rabbit hole of a sub-clinical (called thusly because I was never actually hospitalized for it) eating disorder. It was, in many ways, the opposite end of a scale I had been on as a kid. I maybe ate a bit too much sugar and sweet stuff than I needed to. I probably carried an extra 10-15 pounds I didn't need between the ages of 9 and 15, but it never was anything the Doctor spoke to my mom about. But let me tell you, he certainly spoke to her when I went from 165 pounds to a drastic 118. I can't tell you how long it took to lose that weight--I think a few months. I don't have much memory of that time. I just remember being very hungry, very tired, very confused and very angry. Nutrient deprivation will do that to you.

I remember starving myself most of the day and coming home late at night from hanging out with friends and standing in my pantry counting out raisins in my hand. Or bingeing on dry cereal right out of the box--never making the connection that the massive amount of late-night calories I consumed off-set the "great work" I did during each day.

None of it was rational or logical. None of it made sense. But it was my friend--it was the best friend I had when my life felt extremely lonely and challenging beyond what my teen brain could comprehend.

Many years later, I have conquered the obsession with calorie-counting. I eat and drink every day with no real clue about the calories I consume. I eat nutrient-dense, organic food as often as I can because it tastes good. I do it for my health. I still love sugar, and so I have to be mindful when I eat it--because it's also a friend I reach for in times of stress and confusion.

I am glad I struggled with that eating disorder--that compulsion to control my food when the rest of my life felt unmanageable. I am glad, so so glad, I know the visceral reality of that experience so that when clients talk to me about it, I can say with total honesty, "I get it. I really do."

But I am also glad I worked my ass off to end it. And I am glad that when I pour boiling water into my plain instant oatmeal--flavored now with a nice swirl of pure maple syrup and a pat of organic butter---that I don't have to count the raisins anymore.