When I first started my journey to becoming a registered dietitian, I remember thinking “This will be easy! I just have to calculate calories and macronutrients and give people meal plans and they’ll know what to eat!”
Well, that is absolutely NOT how I do things now. After spending a lot of time in clinical nutrition during my internship, I found myself interviewing for a job at a small eating disorder treatment facility. My soon-to-be mentor asked me to learn about Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size®. My mind was blown. There was another way to help people as a dietitian that didn’t involve prescribing restrictive diets and counting calories! Suddenly I found myself much less interested in what people were eating, but more on how and why. I began to shift away from focusing on individual nutrients and exploring how someone’s relationship with food can impact their overall health (including mental and emotional) and wellbeing. Over the years I have expanded to learn more how incredibly harmful anti-fat bias, weight discrimination and weight bias can be to one’s health and wellbeing. I have recognized the importance of including fat liberation and fat acceptance in this work because it is not enough to simply include folks in larger bodies in accessing respectful care, but we need to be centering those who this movement was created for and uplifting the voices of marginalized folks within the work of body liberation.
In my practice as a dietitian, I recognize that you are the expert of your body, not me. My goal is to support my clients in rejecting diet culture, healing their relationship with food, and re-connecting with their inner wisdom. I take a weight-inclusive, Health at Every Size® approach in my practice and I aim to cultivate an affirming, client-centered space. I recognize how diet culture perpetuates oppression, and I believe that each body is ENOUGH, just as it is. I believe each individual’s definition of health is different, and I also believe that health itself is not a moral obligation. I recognize that eating disorders do not discriminate and can affect ANYONE. I reject the idea that you can tell someone’s health status by looking at them, and believe that everyone has the right to access compassionate healthcare. I recognize and honor the efforts of activists who have fought for the fat acceptance movement. I take a trauma-informed approach and hope to help cultivate a space in which radical self-love and body liberation can thrive for all folx. My practice is informed by core concepts within Internal Family Systems (IFS), Radically Open Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (RO-DBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Language of Emotions, as well as Window of Tolerance.
Some articles/resources to learn more:
What is Health at Every Size®?
Health at Every Size (HAES)® is a weight-inclusive approach that respects body diversity, supports health from a holistic perspective (physical, psychological, emotional, social, relational, spiritual, etc), and works to end weight stigma & discrimination. This movement recognizes that health is complex and that the pursuit of health is not a moral obligation, as well as the notion that health status should never be used to judge or oppress an individual. HAES® is rooted in a social justice framework and acknowledges the impact that shame, stigma, and oppression can have on health and well-being. The focus is shifted from weight control to supporting self-care practices that allow one to tap into their body’s inner wisdom. The HAES® principles include promoting flexible eating with respect to internal cues, and life-enhancing movement that support physical activities for all sizes, abilities, and interests.
Learn more here:https://www.sizediversityandhealth.org/content.asp?id=76
What is Intuitive Eating?
You might be most familiar with Intuitive Eating as the book written by 2 dietitians. This anti-diet approach includes a set of principles to help folks heal from dieting. These principles include rejecting the diet mentality, making peace with food, discovering satisfaction, honoring internal hunger & fullness cues, and discovering movement that feels good in your body.
Learn more here: https://www.intuitiveeating.org/10-principles-of-intuitive-eating/
While I often incorporate these principles into my work, I aim to take a nuanced and individualized approach to working with all clients as everyone’s healing process looks different.
Can I practice Intuitive Eating if I’m recovering from an eating disorder, have a history of disordered eating, and/or don’t feel hunger or fullness cues?
I want to be mindful that there are many factors that can impact one’s connection with their hunger & fullness signals such as trauma, a history of disordered eating, and certain medications (e.g. stimulants). Neurodivergent folks (particularly those with autism and/or ADHD) also may experience poor interoceptive awareness and can have difficulties identifying body cues like hunger and fullness. Therefore, gentle structure may be needed to ensure someone is getting adequate and consistent nutrition to promote healing. I aim to support all clients in healing their relationship with food, whatever that looks like to them. This also means recognizing the impact of food insecurity, trauma, oppression and discrimination on someone’s overall health, well-being and access to certain concepts that are promoted in Intuitive Eating practices. Rather than focusing on setting Intuitive Eating as a “end goal” or something to “graduate” to, I believe that each person’s journey towards food peace is different, and I strive to take a nuanced approach by honoring their individuality with compassionate care.