Why We Choose to be Intuitive Eating Dietitians
When people see dietitians who eat all foods, they get a bit confused. Why would nutrition experts choose to include oreos and pizza in their diet? Well, us non-diet RDs hear you and we totally get the confusion. Us non-diet RDs have plenty of very good reasons as to why we practice the way we do. And let me tell ya, at one point, we were all baffled by the idea of “food freedom” ourselves. We didn't start our journeys praising Intuitive Eating (IE). It took a lot of hard work, research, inward reflection, and challenging of our own personal biases. At one point we were in the throes of diet culture and restriction, tying to find our way in the health world. So yes, we get your confusion because we were there. We get it. We see you. And we want to help.
So today I want to give you a glimpse into two dietitians' journeys, in hopes of shedding a little light on what led us to where we stand strongly today and how we finally found what we were looking for all along- true health.
Meet Amanda Lambrecht, a registered dietitian from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and owner of Spilling the Beans Nutrition, LLC, who was lovely enough to share her story!
“When I reflect on my journey around food, I’d love to say it has been an easy one. Wouldn’t it be magical if one day I had just stumbled upon Intuitive Eating and it all just clicked? However, like most people I know and work with, this wasn’t the case. Throughout high school and college, I struggled tremendously with body image. After years of restrictive eating and excessive exercise, I was finally introduced to Intuitive Eating (IE) in graduate school. One of my classmates presented on IE. I remember thinking “yeah, that sounds nice, but I could never do that.”
Eventually I developed a friendship with the classmate who presented on the topic and she encouraged me to consider IE after talking about my eating struggles. Though I wasn’t ready to embrace IE at the time, I was reintroduced to the approach after stumbling across Robyn Nohling’s blog my first year as a dietitian. I finally picked up the book and so much of my struggles started to make sense. After learning of the 95% failure rate of diets and the binge/restrict cycle, I couldn’t imagine approaching nutrition any other way.
As dietitians, we often talk about how eating healthy is a lifestyle not a diet—but this was finally a way of living and eating that didn’t have rules attached. Intuitive Eating has brought me the freedom I was always looking for in life. While IE began as a way to normalize my eating, it turned into a more fulfilling life. Changing my eating led to a cascade of learning to live a more intuitive and meaningful life. Clients often come to me looking for diet rules to follow, but my hope is that they leave their time with me with a more meaningful life.”
Like Amanda, I too had a similar story with similar battles.
At a young age of 12, I set out on the search to find out what it meant to be healthy. This journey was full of many mistakes and much confusion. If I chose to explain my whole story leading up to IE, we would be here for quite a while, so I will try and give you the super quick version.
Diet, diet failed, new diet, diet failed, decreased confidence, self compassion, and brain space, new diet. Continue cycle.
That pretty much sums up pre-IE life. And through it all, I never found the right diet. Through it all, I never found health. Finally, about ten years later, I discovered the answer, and it was nothing like what I thought it was going to be. While I was always looking to someone else to provide me this answer, the answer had always been there, silently waiting for me to listen and drown out the outside noise of diet culture that was telling me how to feel about myself and the way to be.
When I think back to what sparked this intuitive eating journey, I always think back to a blog post about one woman’s experience after giving up exercise for a month. This idea of giving up exercise and still "being okay" made me think. Although I didn't listen at first, four months after reading this blog post, I hit a point where something clicked and I thought- you know what…I don't want to do this anymore. For the first time I thought- this way of life can not be healthy. So I decided to give up exercise after ten years of a consistent exercise routine. I quit planned exercise for about two years and began healing my relationship with exercise. A healed relationship with food and my body followed. Not only was I “okay” after giving up exercise, but I was feeling the healthiest I have ever felt. For the first time I thought to myself- wow, I feel good…like really good. From that point on, there was no turning back.
This did not all of a sudden heal me. It doesn't happen that way. However it did get me started in the right direction. Slowly, I starting filling my world with all things intuitive eating and health at every size (HAES). I started listening to podcasts and reading books by non-diet RDs and other health professionals. I started challenging my beliefs and biases. I started looking inward. I leaned that for so long, I was ignoring so many important facts to what makes up health. I was ignoring the importance of my own intuition, individuality, freedom in health, and so much more. When I discovered IE and HAES, I turned a corner and there was absolutely no turning back. Not only did I feel better but I knew that these practices would give me the answer I needed to help my clients find ultimate health and happiness, allowing them to leave me with a toolbox of knowledge, confidence, self-awareness, freedom, and above all else- happiness.
So, why do we promote HAES over calorie counting, diets, and restriction? It is simple…for us, there is no other way. If our goal is for our clients to lead the healthiest, happiest lives, then we have no other choice.