Kari Ealy first joined the COR Retreat program three years ago after realizing that dieting wasn’t proving to be a long-term solution.
“I could never figure out what the missing link was. I’d work so hard. I’d go to personal trainers and follow what I was supposed to do,” she said.
Ealy could lose all the weight she wanted, but when it came time to maintain, she would eventually gain back all 60-80 pounds she fought hard to lose.
“It was just kind of a vicious cycle,” Ealy said.
Located in the McIver building adjacent to the The Retreat drug and rehabilitation center in Wayzata, COR Retreat is a five-day, four-night food recovery program that operates under the same guiding principles of the 12-step program. Residents are provided healthy meals, a schedule of informational programs and activities, and a chance to detox the body of problem foods.
“It’s a program that honestly saved my life,” Ealy said.
The name COR comes from the Latin word for “heart” or “soul.” Founded in 2011 by entrepreneur Burt Nordstrand, the program is centered around getting to the root of the problem that food addicts struggle to find.
“The genesis for COR Retreat was born out of my own battle with overeating and the problems it caused in my life,” Norstrand said.
Like Ealy, Norstrand said his problems were not in losing the weight, but in keeping it off and leading a life free of addiction. He said before no matter what the diet, food would keep pulling him back.
Coming to the realization that his issues with food were deeper than he had once thought, Nordstrand turned to a 12-step program that’s proven successful for many dealing with drug or alcohol addiction. It was that decision 30 years ago that Nordstrand said saved his life. Now he’s working to incorporate the same recovery method into the COR Retreat and help others who are suffering like he once was.
“I have a wonderful family, wonderful business and a wonderful life. None of that could be possible if I was still living day-to-day in my addiction,” Nordstrand said.
Nordstrand said when newcomers arrive to COR, they’re depressed, disillusioned and see their struggle as unique. Recovery can only begin once they understand that their problem is an addiction and can be treated the same way as a dependence on drugs or alcohol.
The COR Retreat focuses on creating freedom from food obsession through the 12-step recovery program with the first phase being understanding the steps. Nordstrand said the goals aren’t directly related to rules about eating or weight loss, but rather are grounded in the recovery principles of the 12-step program. The founder said it’s a method that creates a fundamental change in COR members long after they leave the grounds of the McIver building.
“Many times – a month or even a year later – these same folks return to COR Retreat to share their recovery story with another set of newcomers. I see the joy in their smiles. The physical, emotional and spiritual change is amazing. Their proudest achievement – recovery from food addiction – is also my proudest achievement,” Norstrand said. “Funny how that works.”
Michelle Goldberger, COR’s program director, said a key factor early in the recovery process is identifying which foods are “trigger” foods. She said once these foods are eaten by a person with a food addiction, the body has an abnormal reaction that causes them to overeat.
“That’s often the biggest news to people. They come in and find out their bodies are actually different and that their bodies might react to processed sugar differently than normal eaters,” Goldberger said. “They realize it’s not their fault and that there is a solution.”
Goldberger said retreats are scheduled throughout the year with the next five-day session beginning Wednesday, Dec. 10. The holiday season, she pointed out, is an especially challenging time for those trying to control their addiction.
“Many know they’re not going to be able to control it and they want to, so they come to COR before the holidays to get through them without overeating and to enjoy the meaning of the holidays and the people they’re with,” Goldberger said.
The program director said creating a safe place where people sharing the same afflictions can gather and talk is essential in the recovery process. A recovered food addict herself, Goldberger said she’s found great reward in talking about her past and helping others overcome the same issues she once battled.
“I am the luckiest person in the world that I get to sit and watch the lights turn on in people’s eyes and watch their lives basically transform in front me,” Goldberger said.
The program director said there are over 400 COR Retreat alumni and have come from over 30 states as well as Canada and England.
Many of COR’s alumni, like Ealy, have decided to come back to the center in Wayzata to tell their story of success. Ealy said she has gladly volunteered her time in hopes that other will feel the same encouragement she once felt by visiting alumni when she was in the program.
“It was great to just find that connection from people who understood me and what I had been going through with food,” Ealy said.
COR Retreat is a nonprofit organization and is operated by a small staff and relies on the help of volunteers. With registration fees paid by COR participants covering only a portion of the cost of each retreat and administration, much of the funds come through donations from those committed to help others overcome their food addiction in a supportive environment.
“It’s just a great solution for people to live by,” Ealy said. “And it has to be taken one day at a time.”
Contact Jason Jenkins at [email protected]