Hi hello RLRD readers. It’s Connie, the virtual intern for the RLRD and now real life CSULA dietetic intern – it’s been quite the couple weeks starting my dietetic internship. Along with some of my intern roles of tending to the admin email inbox and interacting with clients for non clinical stuff, I get to do some fun behind the the scenes things that a future RD like myself find really helpful (and enjoyable!). Most recently I got to sit in on one of the Intuitive Eating support group calls to hear how a session is facilitated by Liz, an amazing therapist, and how the women of the group work through their challenge and support/encourage one another.
In a society where diets are praised and normalized, not dieting is a brave step to take. It’s intimidating, challenging and uncomfortable to work against societal standards and to dig through the hard emotions that come up when we stop using food and manipulating our bodies as a coping mechanism. This journey means going against the grain, taking the path of most resistance, or in Brene Brown’s words…. “braving the wilderness”
When I first start my journey out of unhelpful beliefs and thoughts around my body and food, I remember feeling alone in this journey. I followed Robyn and Kylie’s blog which offered me a lot of support, but not like real life humans would have been able to! I was feeling a sense of freedom that would often been counteracted with feelings of frustration, questioning and “stuckness” when I saw (what felt like) everyone else engaging in diet behavior around me. I just really wished I had other people to talk to about what I was going through, share my wins with, and get support with the hard stuff. I didn’t have anyone until much later in my journey, but I can only imagine how much easier (still hard, but less hard) my journey would have been surrounded by women walking the same path.
There were some things that struck me while sitting in the intuitive eating group. First, it lit me up hearing women start to reframe their thoughts around food and their health out loud. Sitting in on real-life intuitive eating experiences (not just reading about it) makes me hopeful that one day, I’ll able to help my future clients overcome similar hurdles. It made me want to keep pushing forward through my program and continue to re-wire my own brain (and hopefully some other brains along the way) from things I’ve been taught in school.
Unfortunately, a lot of what I’ve learned and am learning in program and many other dietetics programs reinforce the diet mentality. Our education is rooted in diet culture. This makes it really hard to go back to class after seeing the growth and positive changes that occur by practicing through a weight-neutral framework. When I was digging deeper into intuitive eating 2 years ago as a new grad student I felt incredibly torn. I was being exposed to one philosophy (a weight neutral, intuitive eating one) by following the work of amazing practitioners through blogs, social media, and books….but then was being taught the total opposite in school. I felt so frustrated and lost at times!
The more I read and worked through Intuitive Eating and the Health At Every Size paradigms during my time in school I grew more courage to not stay passive. I didn’t know everything about these health and nutrition yet, nor will I ever know everything, but I figured the only way to learn was by having some real dialogue. I began to offer my very unpopular point of view in an effort to plant a seed or start a conversation. Sometimes I only got negative comments and arguments in return. Sometimes I was just plain exhausted from defending myself all week so I threw in the towel and sat passively in class. Sometimes though, my efforts worked! Slowly, but surely, my cohort and professors started to be willing to reading more of the research, ask questions and engage in a dialogue. Some are still really not on board at all and that’s ok too. I was pumped when we were assigned to read the books Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size for our eating behavior class during the last semester as students!
I share this with you because I think this is where many people feel discouraged when they work through the IE principals. Whether you are a student trying to convey your point of view to your professor or a friend/professional/family member trying to convey your point of view to another friend/professional/family member it can just be hard to stand alone. There are some days where we will have our cup filled to the brim and feel like YES THESE PEOPLE GET IT. Like the day I was listening in on the support group with Liz. And there will be days that just poke a hole right through our cup and we feel down and defeated. Like when I felt lonely and exhausted in my program.
If you can relate to the push and pull of emotions, thoughts and feelings…you are not alone. I want to encourage you to dig deeper and build up your “toolbox” by listening to webinars, reading research and books, dialoguing with other people, and taking time for self reflection and care. A lot of self reflection and care. Start small by responding to a comment or question from and IE/HAES perspective with a single colleague or in a small class. I found it easier to chat in just my masters level classes where there were only about 20 people rather than a huge lecture hall.
In school if you have the chance to pick your own presentation topics, choose something that’s rooted in a non-diet philosophy. One of my personal favorite presentations was around Ellyn Satters Division of Responsibility – which is essentially a feeding philosophy for children that preserves the intuitive nature of our tiny humans. I also did a literature review on diet interventions vs non-diet interventions and their effect on health outcomes. Those experiences increased my knowledge and added fire to my passions. I would also give yourself a lot of compassion. Find your people. Whether that’s some peers or colleagues that have your same philosophy, friends that align with you values or an online support group or in person community that will make you feel not alone and supported….finding our people is really important. We need our people!