Hey friends! I’m still in Japan this week (back next week!) and so my other awesome intern, Dana, is taking the reigns here on the blog today. Dana is an amazing new RD (woot, woot!) who is passionate about intuitive eating and Health At Every Size. She’s also just an overall lovely human being and I think you’re gonna love getting to know her today. Dana is brave enough to be sharing her personal story of her relationship with food and her body here today and I’m sure you’ll be able to relate to some pieces of her story. I hope today’s post reminds you that we’re all on our own journeys; no one has really reached “the destination.” We’re all works in progress. xo
Hi everyone — my name is Dana! I’m a new RD, a lover of good food, yoga and a great book. I’ve been interning with Kara since January and I’m excited to be here while she is away to share my story with you all. I practice intuitive eating now, but that wasn’t always the case. Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
To this day, when I hear the opening chords of Britney Spears’ … Baby One More Time (I promise this happens more than one would think), my mind flashes back to my childhood bedroom and my abdomen feels tight. I think about the crunches upon crunches I used to do in hopes of one day scoring a Britney-worthy six-pack. Normally I wouldn’t consider playing a CD for hours on end to be one of life’s milestones, but with Britney, it was the first time I ever wished my body looked like someone else’s.
And so I crunched — side crunches, regular crunches, reverse crunches — trying to reach a certain number each day. Only to examine my nonexistent, or so I thought, abs in the mirror in disappointment. The next day the cycle would repeat itself, but, in retrospect, luckily this is pretty much where the cycle ended as well. Even though diet culture got into my impressionable pre-teen brain, it didn’t fully grab hold.
Diet culture is funny like that. It’s pervasive and coy all at the same time. It’s a new fad diet that promises you’ll lose 15 pounds FAST but still insists you’re perfect just the way you are right now. It’s a trendy new workout meant to tone your body in JUST TWO SESSIONS but still suggests you listen to your body and take things slow. Diet culture is sneaky… and confusing… and misguided.
Growing up my relationship with food was pretty great actually. A variety of foods were always available and I was never made to feel bad (or good) about the things I chose to eat. Whether I was eating a bowl of ice cream after a late dance class or diving into a pint of strawberries on a Saturday afternoon, it never mattered. And for this I’m incredibly grateful.
But what happens when diet talk is disguised as credible nutrition advice? Shortly after graduating from college I started reading all I possibly could about nutrition, food and health. And honestly, it was the ability to be an expert on exactly which foods were good or bad that made me want to be a dietitian. Clearly, I thought, people just needed to be educated in order to be healthier. Disclaimer: I was so wrong!
Somewhere between eating whole grain everything and attempting to eat low carb, I realized there had to be a better way. I hated counting calories, but in the few weeks I tried it, I was obsessed. Not healthy. Giving up food groups only made me crave them more. Not exactly healthy either. So I started my Masters program in nutrition thinking I’d finally find the answer.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. While I learned an invaluable amount about nutrients, disease states and the human body in general, we never really discussed positive patterns of eating. Sure there was plenty of discussion on using formulas to calculate calorie and protein needs, but outside a hospital setting, I didn’t see their value.
Luckily about half way through my education, I discovered a concept called intuitive eating. It was rooted in science (Yes!) and rejected the diet mentality (Yes!!). I finally found a framework I could apply to my own eating and my own beliefs as to how food and nutrition should be approached.
Now I’m not “perfect” at intuitive eating (there’s no such thing), but through the process I’ve become more in tune with my body. I know which foods are nourishing for me and which ones make me feel not so hot. Most of the time, my meals and snacks fall somewhere in the middle and by listening to my body’s cues I can adjust and move on. Move on without feeling guilty over eating a bad food and, conversely, move on without a false feeling of idealism after eating a good food.
Like any relationship, your relationship with your body and food requires compassion, trust and love. Some days are good and others are not-so-great, but you keep showing up. I work every day to not only nourish my body but to be kind to it, to respect it and to be grateful for all that it can do because it’s my only one. Now I can look back at those Britney videos and think, yeah girl you look good, but I FEEL pretty darn good too. That’s more than good enough for me and I hope you can find those same feelings are good enough for you too.
Trying intuitive eating or changing your relationship with your body and your thoughts around food can be a scary thing. I encourage you to take time and get curious about your own body and your feelings toward it. Becoming more aware of your own feelings can be incredibly freeing and helpful. And always remember, change is a fluid process and perfection doesn’t exist.