Cody here again today 🙂 Ok so some of you reading might be dietitians or perhaps you are studying to be an RD. If not, I think it’s accurate to assume that many of you readers are on a journey with intuitive eating just like me – because we never really arrive and are always learning more about ourselves. You’re discovering and fine-tuning your peaceful relationship with food, exercise and your body. Whoever you are – or whatever your relationship with food is – you are reading this blog (and thank you!) Which makes me think you want to learn to care for your body or are already on the journey of caring for your body. And that you want to be kind to the bodies around you. You want to learn how to care for and best nourish your body so you can feel your best.
If you’ve been reading this blog for quite some time, you are most likely aligned with intuitive eating and Health At Every Size or you’re really interested in learning more – just like I was a handful of short years ago. This is exciting! Food freedom, exercise freedom and body freedom is what I think of when I think of health. And, that way of health is so much more enjoyable. Unfortunately, we live in a culture that sends the opposite message. We live in a culture that has a narrow view of beauty and health. Therefore, it can be uncomfortable to be in the intuitive eating camp sometimes. I get it – I know I’ve felt this discomfort and insecurity.
Who here has ever had a hard time defending intuitive eating to your friends or family? (I’m raising my hand) Have any of you ever had a difficult experience explaining you’re not the kind of dietitian that writes meal plans or diet rules? My family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances have heard me talk a lot about nutrition over the years. They’ve witnessed my professional opinion via conversations and social interactions evolve as I navigate how to confidently explain myself in a way that portrays rootedness in my beliefs and philosophy. For those of you new to the this non-diet world, I realize it can be hard to shift your professional mindset and properly explain how eating, moving and living intuitively not only is healthier mentally, but the research tells us it’s also healthier physically.
Although the non-diet and weight neutral world has gained a lot of traction in recent years, popular culture is still screaming diets, body shaming, and all the “shoulds.” It can take years to un-do a certain way of thinking. And it can take even longer to learn how to properly communicate exactly what you believe. Or at least I know it took me awhile! If you are struggling to defend your new non-diet mindset, Robyn has written some great posts about this specific topic. Maybe try reframing your negative thoughts or using these tools to cope with diet talk. As a dietitian I find it frustrating that my professional credentials include the word “diet” Maybe that’s irrational but I find myself annoyed with that sometimes. As an RD or RD-to-be maybe you do to? Or maybe just me… Strangers simply do not understand that I am a dietitian that whole heartedly doesn’t believe in diets.
But I also understand that we are all engulfed in diet culture and it makes sense that professionals including dietitians, doctors and nurses are all trained with diet culture in mind. I was trained through a lens of diet culture as a dietitian. Trained to estimate a person’s calorie needs and write meal plans. I understand there’s a place for calculating calorie needs…like in an ICU when somebody is on a tube feeding, but it’s not a broad prescription. That’s an extreme circumstance. But, whether you are new to practicing intuitive eating or you are an experienced non-diet dietitian, it can be really difficult to confidently explain your philosophy. Even if you truly believe it, walk it, and do it, you are going against the cultural norm and that can be uncomfortable.
I feel really grateful that thankfully I didn’t develop an eating disorder – reallyyyyy thankful. Of course, I’ve had my moments with diet culture, but in general, I’ve generally had a healthy relationship with food. When I was studying to be a dietitian, I remember being told when and how to prescribe certain diets. In front of a preceptor I had to do what I was told. I am a people pleaser and I was practicing under their credential and therefore felt compelled to do exactly as they said. Maybe some of you can relate? Don’t get me wrong, I loved my professors and preceptors – but it took me a little while to find my own “flow” as a dietitian. And I didn’t go to school knowing I would someday be counseling women with disordered eating, eating disorders and reproductive hormonal issues. In fact, I had no idea what Health at Every Size even was! I was easily impressionable by whatever research my professors and preceptors presented to me – not yet having the experience or exposure to develop my own professional opinion. Therefore, it took me awhile to confidently explain to a co-worker or family member what I meant when I said I believe in mindfulness and listening to your body as a pathway to health.
I firmly believe in weight neutrality and instead pursing health promoting behaviors – NOT a certain weight. And I wholeheartedly think you should honor what YOUR body is telling you to eat, not what a handout or website tells you to do. You are the expert of your body. I am not. Nor is Google. I think it’s really hard to as dietitians to be practicing intuitive eating but still offering diet and exercise plans or guidelines to clients. It’s uncomfortable and really difficult in the beginning to sit with the murky uncertainty of helping a client become attuned to their body’s needs. It’s not objective, but rather very subjective and harder to measure success. Mindfulness is not black and white. There is a lot of gray with eating and moving freely and as a practitioner, it can feel weird in the beginning. Especially if you are a new dietitian! I get it- I was once in those shoes.
Soon after I officially became a dietitian, I realized it all came down to an insecurity. I was a dietitian and therefore felt like I needed to prescribe diets to people. However, I didn’t practice that nor did I believe in diets. I believed in living intuitively and eating based on what your body was telling you. Side note –> if you’re like “BUT I DON’T KNOW HOW TO KNOW WHAT MY BODY NEEDS!” It’s okay, you’ll get there in time. I thought my identity as a dietitian would be skewed if I went against what some preceptors had taught me. Maybe you are not a dietitian but you are known as “the girl who loves to exercise and eat healthy.” Your identity has been defined as the “super healthy girl” at your school or in your community. I think a lot of us have been there. We’ve had our own insecurities and quickly held onto whatever identity felt safe. It gives us a sense of acceptance and it makes us feel validated and even worthy if we are given a title or an identity.
I’m writing today to tell you that this boxed in identity DOES NOT MATTER. You are so much more than that. You are more than a dietitian who stays inside the lines and more than the girl who eats healthy food all of the time and always gets in her workout. A lot of my clients are known as this girl. They feel afraid to restore their menstrual cycle if they know it will likely cause their body to change or they will be seen eating foods that aren’t “healthy” – that people will think they are less disciplined or have “let themselves go.” Other side note –> you aren’t letting yourself go, you’re letting yourself be. When your identity is wrapped up in a title or a habit, it can be so much harder to let go. I’m am heavily imperfect, but as a non-diet dietitian, I’ve had to learn to stand up for myself and forget about whatever my identity may be to other people. It does not matter. What matters is that I stand up for what I believe in and that there is a greater purpose to my WHY. That WHY is what creates passion and purpose within our souls. It’s what compels us to stand up for who we are regardless of what others may think. That is their problem, not yours.
I feel compelled to communicate the immense grace and kindness you can have for yourself and for your body. That fires me up. I love helping women rediscover the joy of food and restore trust with their body. Your body has been there all along, waiting for you to come back and be friends with it again. Your relationship with your body can be healed. That doesn’t mean you have to love your body, but you are capable of respecting and caring for your body. There is a reason I am helping people live freely and peacefully with food, exercise and their body. So here is my question for you today: What is your personal WHY? Why are you a non-diet dietitian? Why are you on this journey with intuitive eating and body acceptance? Remember that. Because that is so worth it.
Thank you for this post! I was sent Robyn’s blog by a friend a little over a year ago. I had never heard of intuitive eating and had tried counting calories, extreme exercise (which led to a serious injury), and food restriction. Nothing worked to achieve the “perfect” body that I thought I had to have to feel good about myself. I hated that how I felt about myself was so wrapped up in how I looked or what the scale said or how many miles I ran. Nothing was ever going to be good enough. The more I read these posts, the more I started to understand that I wanted to be on an IE journey and lose the hold that food had on me. I feel so much better now mentally and physically. I was sidelined by another injury earlier this year and instead of feeling terrible about myself for not exercising, I was ok with it because I knew my body needed rest (and lots of comfort food!) to heal itself. I am back to exercising now, but instead of an “I must get these miles in” mindset, I am able to walk/run with my friend and enjoy it. Thank you! It is a great feeling!
Wow, Thank you for this post, Cody! I absolutely love what you said about the fears women have about making changes that may cause a change in their body shape/size: “You aren’t letting yourself go, you’re letting yourself be.” I think one of the ways that shame comes into our lives through the weight conversation is by telling us that we need to be smaller because we don’t deserve to take up space. But we each are vibrant, interesting, and unique individuals, and there is not only room for us on this earth, but there’s a special place and purpose for each of us as well. And, we need to be feeding ourselves so we can fuel that purpose! I definitely will be sharing this golden nugget with my clients.
You & Robyn do such a great job of showing what an intuitive life looks like!! This blog has done so much to help me learn to live intuitively in a diet world (:
Nicole @ Laughing My Abs Off says
I love this so much. Honestly, I think it’s ridiculous that dietetic training still focuses so heavily on things like calories and such and that is the main deterring factor for me right now as I consider what I want to do career-wise after college. I definitely relate to the struggle of letting go of the “super healthy girl” identity, of having dessert around others and skipping workouts and taking all the comments like, “woah you’re eating THAT?” lightly. I never really try to instill my views on intuitive eating on others, but I think I do lead by example in my friend group. I’m still the healthy one, but it’s more of a health-conscious, not health-obsessed thing, and I think that makes me a much better role model anyway.
Great post! It’s easy to get sucked into the latest diets these days…they’re everywhere. But I believe intuitive eating works…if people have the patience for it. The problem is, most people want instant results now! and they’re not willing to take the time to understand their bodies better.
Megan @ A Continual Feast says
Thank you so much for this post, Cody! Sometimes I get into my little non-diet bubble and forget that like 90% of the world is dieting… womp womp. Haha but I lovedd this: “you aren’t letting yourself go, you’re letting yourself be.” Yes!
Emily Swanson says
I love the reminder to be your own person and do your own journey and not feel really bad about doing it. It can be hard especially when you want to please others and not rock the boat. But often I think that rocking the boat in this case can be a really good thing to change thinking and bring SOOO much freedom! 🙂 Love you and Robyn.
Thank you for this post Cody! As the girl who is trying to find intuitive eating and not give into diet culture, I can relate with this so much! I have to come back to my “why” which is that I want to live freely and enjoy life, not be ruled by food.
Thank you so much for this post, Cody! While in school to become an RD, things never truly aligned with my values and left me unsure of what my ideal career path would even look like. I too am a people pleaser and felt the need to do what I was told and follow the traditional route throughout school and afterwards. I’ve only recently become privy to the intuitive eating world, but nothing has even felt so aligned for me! I realize now that my own food journey has led me to become an intuitive eater myself, and now to start sharing this perspective with others as I know this approach is what the world needs more of!
I love this post! I’m wondering if you have any great resources for new or soon-to-be dietitians regarding teaching intuitive eating? Anything that has helped you as a practioner would be awesome to hear about!
Writing a post on this is a great idea! I’ll have one in the works over the next month!! Starting with the book, Intuitive Eating, is a fabulous start.
I only just started trying to listen to my body’s cues in hunger so I can regain my period after an eating disorder. I’ve been at a healthy weight for a while now, and I’m starting to understand that everyone has their own natural weight. I’m afraid of weight gain, I know that it’s probably going to happen, but I’m trying to accept it. The hardest part with this is that I’m only 16, so when my classmates watch me get bigger they’ll be the first ones to judge. Especially since I’m known as the “skinny health nut.” How do I combat these negative feelings? Also, on a side note, I was wondering if it takes a long time for your body’s hunger cues restore after ignoring them for so long. I notice that when I should be hungry, I’m not. Is there any way to fix this?
This is a great post! I am so fortunate to have had a dietitian who “prescribed” the book Intuitive Eating to me. She also told me a great bit one day, which I’ve kept with me ever since, that diet in its most basic form is really just what you eat. So my “diet”… is food!
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I love this and how real your words are. I am not a dietitian, however I am a health coach with a bachelors in health and wellness. I chose this degree because I did not want to be restricted on one certain aspect of health. I wanted to be to help people with it all. Like you, I was scared to become a dietitian and have to force people to follow diets I didn’t believe in. I have tried many different diets but always come back to the same one… the one my body tells me it needs and yearns for! I am extatic to have found this blog and find other non-dieting health professionals out there! I could really use some friends like you!
Jen Walsh RD says
This was a very meaningful post for me. Thank you.
Thank u for this post! So much good info!
Great blog. So informative and encouraging!