A letter to my new grad self…

A letter to my new grad self….

Sarah Peck NZRD, specialist Eating Disorder, Non-diet, HAES Dietitian

Well you have finally graduated and can call yourself a dietitian. When you started studying, your only certainty was that you genuinely wanted to help people, now you are filled with knowledge and skills to take on the nutrition world. You feel important, not in an arrogant way, but dietitians are considered the experts on all things nutrition. You don’t come out of 4 years of intense study to not know the answers or where to find them……. right?

You will find a job in private practice which suits you well. You like to be able to spend more time with people. Weight loss counselling seems appropriate for you. If you are honest, it fulfils your need to help and fix. People are looking for the answers to fix their bodies, and they will come to you to find those answers. You are also very much a people pleaser, so meeting client’s expectations is important to you.

Your clients are successful at first, you will feel good at your job, but after a while, your clients are struggling to stick to the advice and plan you gave them. You try harder to understand the complexities and individual circumstances which drive their food choices, you will work tirelessly to come up with many different ways they can make this work.

Yet still after a few sessions clients are coming back saying they have failed, or worse yet they don’t come back at all, all too ashamed to admit they have failed again. In their mind, it is one thing to fail a generic or fad diet but the feelings of failure are magnified when they can’t be successful with the advice and support from a dietitian, an expert in the field, which is tailored to their own individual needs and circumstances.

At first you start to think you are just terrible at your job, but then you start to realise this way of practicing which is considered ethical in our profession feels outright wrong, in fact it feels incredibly unethical. You start to question everything you have learnt. You fall from such a high place of feeling like the expert to feeling like you know nothing at all. What was all that study for? You start to question if this is the career for you.

Changing direction works for a while, taking on clients with IBS, allergies, paediatrics you name it. You are again fulfilling that need to help and fix people. This is your flight response to those uncomfortable feelings that weight loss counselling gave you. But eventually you start to find the same patterns with your clients – feelings of failure, lack of trust in their bodies, poor relationships with food. Upon reflection you realise that the flight response may not be the best path.

You start to wonder what the fight response might look like.

On searching for an answer, you realise this picture is bigger than you ever thought. You will read about other approaches. You will learn about Non-Diet approach, Intuitive Eating, Mindful Eating and Health at Every Size (HAES). You read more and more. Finally, you feel like you have found your place and your home. You find a community of like-minded professionals. What you will learn will not only validate your own thoughts and feelings about weight centric health care and nutrition education but makes you realise how much more you have to learn.

You will find a group of health professionals who are so encouraging and willing to share their wisdom. There is no competition just lifting each other up. This community and these approaches will save your career.

There will be many important lessons along the way but the most career saving lessons will be the following:

Weight does not equal health

This will be the first big lesson you will learn. You always had a feeling this was the case, but you were taught otherwise. However, you will learn that there is a huge amount of science that tells us weight does not equal health. You will be relived to find weight neutral approaches are very much evidenced based practice, but built on the foundations of compassion. This meets your values both professionally as a dietitian and personally as a fellow human being. The perfect match.

You will feel like you have de-skilled 

When you first discover these weight neutral approaches to dietetics, your mind will be blown but it will at first feel very de-skilling and that is scary, however it opens the door to so much learning. Professional development will no longer be a chore but something you seek out constantly.
You will learn to stop talking and start listening – You will learn more from your clients than you ever did studying nutrition. You were trained to talk and educate but this is no longer your best skill, you will learn to stop, listen and truly understand another’s experience, perspective and truth.

You are no longer the expert

 One of the best gift’s you can give your client is your trust. When you give meal plans to a client you are implying you don’t trust them and nor should they trust their own body. Working with your client so that they can learn to trust their body again, sitting with them while they become the experts on their own body really will be a game changer for you and your clients. You are there for guidance, support or ‘advice’ when you client truly needs it rather than assuming it is what they need.

You will be challenged 

Acknowledging your own privilege will be the key to unlocking a flood of compassion for your clients and human beings in general. You will care more deeply than you ever did before. You will get angry, sad and upset around issues of stigma and shame. You will become sensitive and defensive to other’s negative opinions and attitudes towards larger bodies and all other social justice issues. You will notneed to go out looking for examples of weight stigma, you will find them online, in your community and in everyday interactions with people. You will examine your own biases and how they may affect your language and practice. You will do all of this with curiosity and self-compassion. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you have made and will make in the future as you fumble your way through.

You will be rewarded 

The rewards are not your client’s successes or reaching their goals, your rewards are not going to be huge financial gain or a million followers on social media. The rewards are that you will have true connection with your clients. You will get to know them, you will hold space for them. The true reward for yourself is peace! The peace you gain from working from a place of authenticity and compassion for yourself and others. The peace you gain from no longer feeling you are part of the problem.

And so finally to my new grad self, listen to your instinct, it is right. Be brave. Keep learning, keep challenging yourself and others, keep caring deeply and definitely keep fighting!!

 

Sarah Peck is Auckland’s Body Balance Dietitian supporting eating disorder recovery. Sarah specialises in childhood and family nutrition, food flexibility and improving relationships with food and your body.

As a non-diet approach Dietitian Sarah can support you to regain trust in your body through intuitive, mindful eating practices and self-compassion.

Sarah is available for 1:1 consultations and facilitates the in school program “Feeding our Futures” supporting teachers to engage in safe conversations about food and bodies, and the delivery of developmentally appropriate nutrition education in the classroom.

Why we’re not going Junk Free this June

Why we’re not going Junk Free this June

It’s June the 1st and from the looks of my social media feeds the first day of Junk Free June for many!

We recognise this fundraising month is for a great cause. The Cancer Society provides advocacy, education and support to patients throughout the country and we absolutely support their fundraising efforts (we’ll share our fundraising alternative with you below!).

Junk Free June certainly encourages more movement and that’s something we can definitely get behind! After all, activity is something that we know will improve health and wellbeing and this is independent of your body size or shape. Want to know more? Hop on over and check this short video out!

As non-diet nutritionists and dietitians we work with clients who have battled through making food choices for years or decades, hopping from diet to diet with little success (no surprises there – dietary restriction to achieve weight loss has a 95% failure rate – yup you read that right!).

Attempting to cut out ‘pleasure’ foods from our diet for an entire month is diet behaviour – regardless of the fundraising intention – and restriction isn’t a concept that aligns with our health and wellbeing philosophies.

What do you think when you hear “junk food”?

 

Bad? Unhealthy? Fattening? Damaging? Lack of restraint?

 

How do you feel when you eat foods labelled “junk food”?

 

Maybe guilty, naughty, disgusting, anxious, sad, disappointed, happy, content or soothed?

We don’t buy into moral tags for food or use labels like ‘Junk Food’ and we encourage you not to. Once we drop the labels and relearn to look at food through a neutral lens, all foods can be included into our eating pattern without judgement and guilt.

Labelling foods, particularly with negative connotations such as ‘junk’ food or as ‘treats’ creates a situation where in our efforts to resist eating these foods, we end up feeling “out of control” when we do find our self presented with these forbidden foods.

Our efforts to restrict only sustains a cycle of periodic dysfunctional eating, feelings of loss of control and failure, and eating behaviours that might feel confusing, cautious or stressful.

 

So…what might this look like in real life?

Maybe you’ve considered giving up chocolate for Junk Free June. You find it irresistible and when you do eat chocolate it’s a frenzy, it’s all or nothing, until uncomfortably full and regretful. You’ve identified it as your vice food.

The first few days or week of June might be ok, but then you “cave to a craving”, shit hits the fan and you find yourself preparing for a shame hangover. Attempting to restrict or cut out chocolate hasn’t proved helpful and if you do manage to silence your cravings and your hunger through to the end of June, what do you think July 1st is going to look like? **Cue an absolute schamozzle**

 

May we suggest there’s another way to live with “junk” food in your life?

We know, from personal and professional experience it’s unhelpful to shut the door on any one food, unless of course it makes you feel physically ill, you are allergic or intolerant. Instead we encourage you to approach eating from a place of curiosity and explore how food makes you feel – both physically and emotionally. Working to make peace with food and accept that you can have anything you want to eat without feeling like you’ve broken a rule goes a long way to solve the issues we hear about ‘vice foods’ or ‘trigger foods’.

Sure as nutrition professionals we don’t ignore the fact that some foods promote good physical health while others promote psychological health. Foods complement each other in this way and it’s important we eat widely to ensure both our physical and psychosocial needs are met. We sure work hard to keep moral tags or ‘judgements’ out of our food choices! We make food decisions based on how they make us feel and what will be satisfying to eat.

When you are making food decisions based on how your body feels and responds, you are unlikely to persist in choosing foods that do not make you feel well or energised.

In other words, and for those concerned that intuitive eating promotes a “junk” food diet – it’s simply not the case. When you are truly listening to your body’s cues and responses, you find yourself recognising that you need a wide variety of nutrient dense foods and a variety of pleasure foods to ensure you are nurturing both your physical and psychological needs.

 

What will we be doing instead?

The Body Balance Nutrition & Dietetic Team are going “Judgement Free for June” an entire month of tuning into our inner voice, listening with curiosity and keeping negative self talk about our food choices and body in check!

As a team we are pretty good at checking our bias at the door and reflecting on our own inner dialogue, but it’s always great to take some time to strengthen and flex our self-compassion muscles. I think Judgement Free June is the perfect opportunity for us to practice some of the activities and homework we do with our clients in clinic!

You can follow along this Month as we share Judgement Free June content on the #judgementfreejune hashtag.

Other providers – especially The Mindful Dietitian @themindfuldietitian and The Whole Embodied Therapist @whole_embodied_therapist will be getting involved too!

Want to work with us?

Are you really off the diet rollercoaster?

ROSA BACH

Wellington’s Body Balance Nutritionist

Are you a victim of Pseudo-dieting? Have you hopped off one diet rollercoaster and found you’ve stumbled onto another?

Hidden dieting is what I’m talking about here, or dieting without even knowing it!

The word Pseudo, pronounced “seu-doe” is a term for deception, or something that is misleading. This makes it the perfect way to describe the type of dieting we all do, or have done: when we believe we aren’t dieting but are still acting out diet-like behaviours (or thoughts!).

“My position with food and nutrition has now done a 180 and I’m thrilled to be here now with some Body Balancing wisdom!”

Don’t get me wrong it seems more and more of us are becoming wary of labelled diets and diet-culture (Yayay!). But it is so easy for the pseudo-dieting to sneak in and put us back on the diet rollercoaster.

To start here are a few examples, of how dieting might show up in disguise:

  • Cutting out food groups.
  • Choosing to go vegan or vegetarian in the pursuit of weight loss.
  • Making up for eating with not eating or exercising.
  • Limiting eating to certain times of the day.
  • Soothing hunger by other means, i.e. chewing gum, gulping down water or coffee, smoking cigarettes.
  • Second guessing and restricting based on what was eaten earlier!

Have any pseudo-diet behaviours creeped up on you?

These pseudo diet behaviours arise from our deeply engrained learned behaviours and are reinforced by societies “norms” (it’s normal to be dieting and to pursue the idea of thinness) – in our minds we have described it and prescribed it. But hey, habits can change! If after reading this and something strikes a chord, with some self-reflection, and a bit of habitual retaliation you will be able to rid yourself of these pseudo-diet behaviours.

Before we go further, let me tell you I know about those merry go round thoughts. I understand about the diet rollercoaster. I once was a fiend for the treadmill and I’d read every health and fitness magazine under the sun. Although I didn’t think I was dieting I attempted to follow every piece of advice. I ‘ate clean’ – so clean that I thought my food habits were perfect. But these controlled my lifestyle, and I soon became a very unhappy girl!

My position with food and nutrition has now done a 180 and I’m thrilled to be here now with some Body Balancing wisdom. Let’s start the process of breaking down pseudo-dieting.

Help! I think I might be pseudo-dieting…How can I change my ways?!

 

  1. Finding it       Believe in the need for change.

We want to consider where pseudo diet habits kick in for you! These are unique so it’s time for a bit of TRUTHFUL self-reflection. I say truthful as pseudo dieting often revolves around denial, in the continual yearn for those weight loss tools to work! But hello, this puts us straight back on that diet (not-so)merry-go-round.

So, being true to yourself think… do you find yourself abiding to rules around eating? Did any examples at the top of the page stand out to you? Grab a journal or notebook and write these out so you are aware of them. Habits form over a long time, but the realisation of restriction can be a quick game changer.

My advice: get hyperconscious about your habits, this is key to start thinking about the diet clear out.

  1. Fearing it      Tackle the diet hitches.

Okay so you may be thinking that saying good bye is said easier than done – well how about we pin point what’s stopping us from getting rid of these pesky behaviours. And right now, I feel we should really acknowledge the bombardment of external influences at play here.

Often there is the expectations from those around you – parents, partner, friends or colleagues in the endless diet battle. If you allow people to comment on your eating or you engage in their ‘diet chit chat’ you are more likely to continue with your secret diet tools.

My advice: respect your food bubble and keep it free of others’ opinions.

Media has a strong influence on pseudo dieting media can plant seeds of dieting within our food and body image bubbles. Keep an eye out for the hijacking of diet-free living. Confusion creeps in as headlines tell us: “Say no-more to dieting, and say yes to our top 5 weight loss tips!”. Media has no qualms about being full of contradictory weight loss messages! Become a critical reader. (Jess shares her thoughts on this here.)

My advice: skip over the ‘tips’, they aren’t going to give you any sort of superpowers.

 

  1. Fighting it    Reap the benefits of saying bye-bye.

While it might be scary stepping away from diet routine isn’t is scarier to realise you are not in full control? Or that you don’t trust yourself to move away from this mentality?

Are you going to turn down the ability to find joy in your food choices, and be free of food guilt? I have my hand up for you saying no.

It’s time to take back the control from pseudo dieting, you will create a confidence in yourself as a new food journey begins. It is a pathway to discovery, so explore, and be curious! See what happens when you allow yourself no limits.

My advice: keep reading, thinking and learning about yourself in rebellion against the pseudo-diet habits. 

If you are wanting some more inspiration to overthrow your pesky diet past check out some of our other blog posts on intuitive eating here!

If you are ready to illuminate your life and leap over the diet wall – have a chat with one our 100% diet-free BBN nutritionists & dietitians. We’ll wing-woman you through your diet break up and help you to trust your instincts, satisfy your emotions, and value your thoughts. See you then!

Rosa Bach x

Rosa is a non-diet nutritionist practicing online and in Wellington, New Zealand.

Rosa is a non-diet nutritionist practicing online and in Wellington, New Zealand.

How we think and talk about food might be leading to food prowling…

RACHAEL BENSLEY
Christchurch’s Body Balance Nutritionist

Despite what the media, diet trends and the diet industry tell us, food doesn’t have moral connotations – what you eat can not make you a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ person! But sheesh… with all the clean eating messages out there you could have fooled me! 

Sure, as nutrition professionals we can’t simply ignore that there are certain foods that are fundamentally more nourishing for your body than others – foods high in fibre for example are great for bowel health! But, it’s important to remember that food plays more than one role in our lives, and we eat not only for nourishment but also for pleasure, celebration and commiseration – food has the potential to impact our psychological health both positively and negatively.

“The power of a gentle and flexible food relationship is not one to be overlooked!”

When we label certain foods as ‘bad’ or ‘unhealthy’ we may try to restrict or eliminate foods carrying these labels (even when we enjoy them). A strategy often used to limit eating “unhealthy” foods is trying to swap out for a “healthier alternative” – unfortunately in doing so we are often left unsatisfied by what we eat and this tends to lead to the phenomenon we call here in practice…“food prowling”.

When we start food prowling two things may happen:

  1. We spend the best part of the day eating our way around the food we are avoiding with our “healthy alternatives” – end result? We eat far more than we would have, had we just allowed our self to eat the food we were trying to avoid in the first place!
  2. We may find our self “caving to the craving” and eating the food we are trying to avoid, but in a totally un-attuned (possibly out of control way) leading to feelings of shame and guilt. 

The same can be said for labeling foods as “good”. Creating a moral pedestal for food can lead to us disowning our own internal satiety cues, and the experience of eating can become restrictive, repetitive and boring – think clean eating “meal prepped and portioned” chicken, broccoli and kumara meals for lunches and dinners seven-days a week!

Instead, of following external rules and restrictions around foods, we can accept that food plays more than one role in our life, at the heart of developing a healthy relationship with food is being able to enjoy all foods – unconditionally.

So, you may ask, just how do you stop labeling foods as good or bad?

Addressing how we think and feel about food, dropping away labels with moral connotations for more descriptive tags such as crunchy, hot or fresh; helps to move us toward eating intuitively. 

Intuitive eating (find more about intuitive eating here) is a way to embrace and honour your body’s natural hunger, fullness and satiety. By listening to these cues, we tune in with what our body wants and we honour not only our hunger, but accept foods we enjoy eating and will be satisfying.

Listening and responding to your bodies’ needs and want’s as an intuitive eater is not an excuse to hop on a ‘junk food’ diet! You learn to recognise how your body feels before, during and after eating certain foods. Therefore, if we are truly engaged and responding to how our body feels we often gravitate towards nourishing foods, with plenty of room for guilt-free ‘play food’. It is only by ditching the food labels that we can acknowledge there is a time and space in our diet for all foods. 

We invite you this Easter weekend, instead of stressing about whether you should, can or will eat that Easter egg to just sit down, relax and enjoy the eating experience!

Rach x

Rachael is a non-diet nutritionist practicing online and in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Rachael is a non-diet nutritionist practicing online and in Christchurch, New Zealand.

In the Media: What’s In, What’s Out

I can report that there is still a little happy dance in my office when I see my work go to print! In this edition of Living Well Magazine – I dish up this years Food Trends.

Words I’m extremely pleased to see in print: coconut everything is on it’s way out, as is “clean-eating” (can I get a wooooh!)

Booming on to the scene are the Non-diet philosophies, close to my heart – Intuitive Eating and the ultimate girl gang The Moderation Movement (not that they’ve got anything against blokes joining the gang of course!… as a side note if you’re a man looking for some diet-free support I highly recommend you get acquainted with diet free Dietitian Aaron Flores one half the Dietitan’s Unplugged Podcast.)

Trending this year are meat-alternatives, so best you familiarise yourself with jackfruit & cricket flour! Seaweed has stolen kale’s “green queen” crown and teetotalism is taking off!

Read all about it on pages 14-15 below. Jx

Reader above not working? You can read the magazine online here >>

Want a hard copy? Pop into your closet Unichem or Life Pharmacy and pick up a copy!

In the Media: To Eat or Not to Eat?

A big thank you to Living Well Magazine for inviting me to write about Intuitive Eating for their Summer Issue! As always, I am stoked to see it in print and thrilled to be sharing the diet-free message with y’all!

Hope you enjoy. Jx