Healthy Living Blog

Get To Know: The CEO, Katie Rickel, Ph.D.

Tell Us About Your Background.

Structure House is most definitely my home away from home and has been a part of my life since 2007. Up until my senior year of college, I intended to go into psychiatry. I had an amazing psychology professor in my final undergraduate year at Duke University, and I quickly changed gears and decided to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology instead. I chose to attend the University of Florida so that I could study under one of the country’s leading obesity researchers at the time, and although my graduate program was broadly based in health psychology, I focused my efforts on studying obesity treatment specifically. I elected a residency program at Duke University where I could receive specialized training in the behavioral management of obesity.

What Brought You to Structure House?

It was in my residency program that I rotated through Structure House, and I was hooked after my first day. Getting to see how a multidisciplinary team came together to treat the entire person — nutrition, fitness, and psychological — was exhilarating, and I knew that I wanted to make this my life’s work.

When my residency year ended, I begged the founder of Structure House to let me stay on as a postdoc, and I was eventually hired as a staff psychologist and served in that role from 2008-2016. Through those years and with different leaders, I had countless opportunities to create, to innovate, and to really get to know what resonated for Structure House participants. I piloted several new tracks (Family Support, Binge Eating Support, Pain Management), designed countless workshops and seminars (my favorite was “From the Food Police to the Food Pusher”), and had the honor of holding space for our folks in both individual psychotherapy and support groups. I grew to think of the staff — and of the participants, since we have such a robust alumni base — as a part of my family.

In 2016, I felt called for a change, and so I left Structure House (the only place I had ever worked as an adult) and opened a private practice. Being a therapist is my true calling, and I delighted in being able to focus exclusively on that role. My practice took off, and I was convinced that I would remain in private practice until I retired.

However, the universe had a different plan for me. Out of the blue, in December 2018, I got a call about returning to Structure House — not as a therapist, but as the CEO! What Structure House needed at that time was a person who believed in the mission, who felt connected with the participants, and had the drive and energy to resurrect a then struggling program. I am proud to say that, five years later, Structure House is thriving once again, and we are still able to support our participants in transforming their relationships with food, with their bodies, and with themselves.

How Do You Manage Your Own Health and Weight Journey?

I can honestly say that I practice what we preach to all our participants. I plan all my meals for the week on Sundays, using lots of repetition. I have two to three breakfasts, two to three lunches, and two to three dinners that I rotate between. This keeps it simple so that I don’t have to reinvent the wheel every weekend. I am at my local gym every morning when they open at 5 a.m. — I follow a progressive overload training program five days a week, I do 20 minutes of cardiovascular training six days a week, and I try to get at least 10,000 steps each day. I can say that my healthy habits have been a work in progress over the years — and certainly there are unexpected changes to the plan on occasion — but I feel best when I prioritize the behaviors that I know help me to feel my best. I have learned to love this lifestyle, and I adore it when our participants catch the same healthy living bug.

the confidence to believe in myself again

As Seen On
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