Aaron and I reached out to you from home during the global COVID-19 pandemic in this episode of the Dietitians Unplugged podcast. This is clearly a time of stress and fear for everyone, and it can really bring up a lot of distress around body image, food insecurity and scarcity, and eating in general.
In this episode we discussed:
Our personal experiences of navigating scarcity at the grocery stores and the emotional roller coaster we’ve both been on
The hard work and ingenuity our clients and so many others are putting into their healing while stuck at home
The uptick in body image issues and how many of us use worries about food and body as a way to control anxiety and distract from bigger worries
Dealing with anxiety and difficult feelings during this time
How we can use this time to feel better about our bodies
How some people actually find themselves thriving in the slowed pace
How diet culture doesn’t go away even in extreme times of uncertainty and worry
Jessica Wilson, MS, RD joined Aaron Flores and I on the Dietitians Unplugged podcast to generously share her wisdom about how we need to create more inclusivity in the non-diet, Health at Every Size and eating disorder worlds. She talked about the inadequacy of dietetics education around trauma and what real nutrition looks like (vs the “calories in/calories out” paradigm). She also discussed her past involvement with the Health at Every Size Movement and the challenges she encountered there, including an early lack of inclusivity beyond body size, and what needs to happen to continue to help create forward movement in the area of social justice.
Jessica Wilson is a Registered Dietitian working in private practice, and with the college population. In private practice she works with clients to learn to eat without having a road map for their choices, and instead to learn to become fun and flexible in their eating habits. In her consultation she drives progress and advancement in the eating disorder field by fostering curiosity, building capacity for change, and inviting constructive challenge. She centers and elevates the narratives and lived experiences of individuals with marginalized identities and honors that our bodies and our histories inform how each of us show up and share space.
It’s the new decade and, unfortunately, humanity continues to be sold diet culture and weight loss as a remedy for all that ails us.
By now, however, a new theme has emerged. The collective wisdom the many who have ditched dieting has taken on a voice. Many of us are loudly saying, “No more. We know diet culture has harmed us.” We hear it in the growing tidal wave of size acceptance blogs and Instagram accounts and Facebook pages and newspaper and magazine articles that show up in our social media feeds.
This year I had the feeling that the anti-diet message had hit a critical tipping point when I sat beside someone on a plane recently who, after seeing the newsletter I had been writing, asked if I was involved in the body positivity movement, and we had a fantastic conversation about how diets were awful and harmful and how learning to accept our sizes and eat normally were more fulfilling and life-affirming than trying to lose weight. Literal strangers are bonding everywhere over their rejection of diet culture!
I’m such a Christy fan, and have been grateful to know her, starting with guesting on her podcast way back in 2015 (when I was still so green with podcasts). When we met at the BEDA 2016 conference, she was just as warm, friendly, funny and caring as you could imagine. On top of that, she’s a great writer and so knowledgable, and to me, her book reads like a drama or a thriller, it’s just that damn entertaining (and as I am someone who demands to be entertained by my reading, that’s saying a lot).
And…I got to be in the book! I discussed my time in the NWCR and experience with dieting, and it was a total thrill to be included alongside actual recognizable people in the index (yay Ijeoma Oluo and Amy Pershing; meh Gwyneth Paltrow). There are so many other wonderful HAES colleagues I’m excited to share pages with in this book – it’s a total honor.
We can make harmful diet culture and fat-phobia things of the past. Read the book, listen to the podcast, spread the word. Live your awesome diet-free life in full view of everyone. It takes WORK to change the culture, and we are no strangers to work.
We are social creatures, and community is important. But when you are divesting from rampant diet culture and are in a larger body, how do you find community when so many people are spouting off about their current diets and body dissatisfaction?
On the Dietitians Unplugged podcast recently, we discussed this issue with our colleague, Dr. Rachel Millner. She shared with us her thoughts on the importance of fat-positive spaces for clinicians and individuals and how weight stigma continues to negatively impact those working on healing from their eating disorder.
Rachel Millner, Psy.D., CEDS-S, CBTP (she/her) is a psychologist/activist, a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist and Supervisor, and a Certified Body Trust Provider. Dr. Millner has been practicing as a psychologist since 2005 and has been specializing in treating people with eating disorders throughout her career. Dr. Millner works with people struggling with all eating disorders as well as those trying to break free from diet culture. Dr. Millner is a fat positive provider who works from a Health at Every Size® and Body Trust® lens.
We welcomed Mollie Birney, Clinical Coach and Recovery Consultant with a specialization in the area of Eating Disorders and compulsive behaviors around food to the Dietitians Unplugged podcast.
Mollie holds a Masters in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in Addiction and Eating Disorders from Antioch University in Los Angeles, and has been in the field of mental health and addiction recovery since 2009. She has worked as a therapist with groups and individuals at all levels of care including inpatient, residential and outpatient treatment programs, as an interventionist for families in crisis, and as a private coach for high-performing individuals grappling with transitions and behavioral change. Her coaching style is deeply influenced by the principles of narrative therapy, and aims to arm her clients with strategies for challenging ingrained, and often trauma-informed belief systems. She has been in recovery from her own ass-kicking bulimia since 2007.
We’re in the midst of holiday season now, often a time when people who don’t have a peaceful relationship to food start to freak out a bit about eating.
Mainstream media doesn’t help, with its scare articles about avoiding holiday weight gain and how to not eat what you want at parties.
Within this type of diet culture, instead of enjoying the special food and company of friends and family in a relaxing way, we end up in fear and distraction. We play at restriction by trying not to eat the foods we want the most. But overeating might happen anyway – most likely because of that restriction mindset – and then we fall into the guilt-restrict-overeat cycle. This is a lousy way to spend the holidays!
The non-diet approach encourages you to approach eating in a different way. Sometimes accidental overeating happens, and that’s okay. Sometimes accidental under-eating happens and that’s okay too. No one is a perfect eater, nor should we be trying to be. The goal is peace with food, honoring internal cues most of the time, and not having constant worry about eating.
For those of you who are not in a place of peace with food just yet, Aaron and I created this Dietitians Unplugged podcast episode to help you on that journey. Get a mug of cocoa, take some deep, relaxing breaths, and have a listen.
Did being on a diet ever feel like you were a member of a cult? Well, now we know there’s a reason for that!
In this episode of the Dietitians Unplugged podcast, Dr. Natalie Feinblatt, an expert in, among other things, working with former cult members, compares and contrasts cults with diet culture.
You’ll hear about what defines a cult, and how diets often align with these criteria. Most importantly, we discussed how to figure out if you’re in a diet cult and how to get free. (It’s hard for me to admit that this part was more important than our Days of Thunder discussion, but I’ll concede the point).
Dr. Natalie Feinblatt is a licensed clinical psychologist who sees clients in Los Angeles and virtually. She specializes in treating addiction, trauma, co-occurring disorders, LGBTQIA clients, and former cult members. She’s been working in the field of mental health for over 15 years at all levels of care, and earned her doctorate at Pepperdine University. You can learn more about her practice at her website, drnataliefeinblatt.com.
Diet culture and eating disorders can make one’s relationship to exercise complicated.
Allow me to flashback for a moment…
It’s the 1980s, and Jane Fonda has just ruined, oops, I mean revolutionized women’s lives with aerobic exercise. Who could resist those neon-and-pastel body suits, leggings and headbands? Without reading too much into the actual history of it all, this, in my mind, is the moment where exercise became some sort of imperative for being “the right kind of female.”
And me? I hated formal exercise. I was a rough-and-tumble kid who liked to play outside at made-up games, pick-up softball and kick-ball games, and still remember the glorious summer when the oldest kid in our neighborhood would organize block-wide games of hide-and-seek, kick-the-can and ghost-in-the-graveyard (Damn my childhood seems idyllic now). I was good at nothing except being scrappy and determined. Always the slowest, but it didn’t seem to matter when we were at play.
Anyhoo, along came high school and uninspired gym teachers who, on occasion, would play videos of “The 20 Minute Workout“, which, upon remembrance, actually came with a health hazard warning, and truly felt like a cardiac nightmare even for a teenager (or maybe just this teenager??). I mean, what was with all the damn jumping??
And then, later, the years of exercising because I felt I should because that’s what thin people did. Needless to say, that ended up feeling like more of a punishment than anything else and did not endear me to exercise for a lifetime.
Flash forward to the present. It’s been a long, circuitous journey to where I am now. I’ve found what works for me for now. And what works for me might not work for someone else, and that’s okay. No one is obligated to exercise either – it’s not a marker of your worthiness as a human in any way.
So what’s your relationship to movement feel like? Do you feel compelled to exercise even when you don’t want to? Do you struggle to incorporate movement into your life even though you truly want to? If so, you might enjoy this Dietitians Unplugged podcast episode that we did with my good friend, colleague and mentor, Lauren Anton MS, RD, CEDRD-S, CPT. She’s knowledgable in all things exercise and eating disorders and Health at Every Size® and non-diet sports nutrition. She’s amazing and I think you will find her story interesting and her advice helpful.
I don’t know where I learned the idea that I needed to be perfect (not from my parents) but I really embraced this idea sometime in my teens and went whole hog on it by my 20s. I suspect it was a way to relieve anxiety about not being good enough in the world, but it eventually became an anxiety all on its own – and it never propelled me to where I wanted to go.
By the time I reached my late 30s and was back in school full-time, I was putting that perfectionism to use with great study habits and turning out amazing school work, but I was also wasting time, energy and stress because probably 90% of what I was doing didn’t need to be perfect. I have since learned when good enough is acceptable, and when to pull out that perfectionist streak (less often than you think).
I notice that my clients are often perfectionists, too. It’s my belief that anyone who has been on a diet for any amount of time is a perfectionist – even if they feel they “failed” the diet. Diets come with rules that you have to follow perfectly for “success” (except we know that failure is built-in to diets no matter how perfectly you follow them). When we begin to do the messy, ambiguous work of learning to honor body cues and appetite, perfection is not only needed, but it can hinder the process.
I was happy to talk about this subject with my wonderful colleague Laura Westmoreland, LMFT on the Dietitians Unplugged podcast. Laura, who is a certified Body Trust provider, talks about aiming for C level work when we’re learning how to trust our bodies. We don’t need to be perfect as we stumble towards compassionate connection with our bodies and ourselves, and in fact, expecting perfect work can even hold us back.
If you are a perfectionist and feeling anxious about not
doing this work of learning to trust and respect your body “right”, then this episode
is especially for you.