Can you imagine living a life free from dieting, food and body obsession?

If this is a challenging notion, you’re not alone. It might even seem impossible given how insidious and normalized diet culture has become. 

Diet culture is pretty good at convincing us that something is wrong with our bodies, and that if we hustle hard enough, we’ll finally reach this unattainable standard of beauty. And, it comes at a steep price. Think about the billions of dollars diet culture has sold us on the latest pills, injectables, potions, procedures, diet plans, apps, memberships, you name it. 

The relentless pursuit of dieting and weight control sets into motion a series of problematic thinking and behavior patterns. First off, attempts at dieting over time tend to diminish our sense of self-esteem, efficacy and joy. Remember that diets have a failure rate of about 95% over the long term. Dieting hijacks our mental space where all we think about is food, calories, exercise, points, steps, etc.  We get caught in a vicious cycle and begin to feel deeply inadequate and flawed.

Why can’t I control myself?

Why can’t I figure this out? What’s wrong with me? I’m a failure.

Sound familiar?

For some, dieting can lead to a full-blown eating disorder, but for most, it creates a ruptured relationship to food and our bodies, also known as disordered eating. 

So, what do you do when you’re ready to break free from this cycle of suffering? How does one begin to think about healing this ruptured relationship with food and body? When all you know is dieting and body loathing, where do you start? 

Nutrition therapy or nutrition coaching 

What is nutrition therapy/coaching? 

Nutrition therapy is a form of talk therapy facilitated by a nutrition therapist, typically a dietitian specializing in eating disorders. This type of therapy and coaching provides a safe space to explore and find ways to access your own wisdom and healing.  It involves collaboration, open communication and trauma-informed care. 

In nutrition therapy/coaching sessions, you’ll unpack and sometimes challenge your thoughts and beliefs about food. More importantly, you’ll seek to share your story to be understood, witnessed and deeply validated.  When you can tell your story and be seen and heard without judgement, this is the first step in shifting the narrative towards a more compassionate view. We come to understand and appreciate the deeper layers and fears that drive and maintain these stuck patterns with food and body.  Unpacking some of these deeply rooted food and body fears is not easy work, but necessary to create the healing conditions for a new way of relating to food and the body.

Nutrition therapy/coaching sessions sessions may involve creating meal plans, especially for those who are active in their eating disorders (restricting, binge and/or purging, over-exercise) and need stabilization. Often if these behaviors are not stable, it can compromise traditional psychotherapy, so having a dietitian to help stabilize behaviors will make the therapy sessions more productive. It’s also important to mention that simply imparting nutrition information isn’t enough to address the deep roots and  causes of the disordered behaviors. Nutrition therapy/coaching sessions will help to uproot these deeply entrenched patterns.This is done using a combination of psychoeducation, somatic practices, cognitive behavioral tools, behavior decoding methods, as well as other modalities based on individual needs.

Topics explored in nutrition therapy sessions include: 

  • Explore your body story; explore your family of origins’ relationship to food and their bodies. How has this impacted your relationship to food and your body?
  • Explore your dieting history and food and body fears. 
  • Discover and appreciate how your pattern of coping is rooted in wisdom and has helped you to survive. 
  • Explore how trauma intersects with eating disorders/ disordered eating. 
  • Learn how to divest from diet culture and healthism….what is healthism?
  • Challenge cultural myths about food, nutrition, diets, health and bodies.
  • Learn to reconnect with internal cues of hunger, fullness, and the nuance of intuitive and mindful eating. 
  • Identify and reduce food fears by systematic exposure and habituation food challenges (your nutrition therapist/coach may eat with you in session).
  • Create an eating plan together that honors your ancestors, culture, ethnicity, philosophy, religion and personal beliefs. An eating plan that is rooted in pleasure, forgiveness, flexibility, practicality, and sustainability. 
  • Address the personal and systemic impact of weight stigma and anti-fat bias. Explore your internalized beliefs about bodies and fears involving weight gain.
  • Explore the intersection of mental health and nutrition. How does stress, anxiety and depression impact the relationship we have with food and our bodies. Explore nutrition, supplementation (if appropriate) and self-preservation practices to support optimal brain support/function.
  • Reclaim movement. Divest from toxic fitness culture and find new ways to move the body that foster connection to pleasure and joy.  
  • Be seen and held to move through all the stages of grief that can surface with this work as it pertains to body acceptance.
  • Reconnect with your needs and boundaries, with food, the body, with people, situations, etc. 
  • Redefine what healing look and feels like. Create your own roadmap for recovery that is not driven by perfectionism but rather a harm reduction approach. 
  • Locate yourself in the system and make healing bigger than you. 
  • Find community for lasting recovery. Find a group online or in-person to eliminate isolation and shame. We are all in this together. 

What nutrition therapy/coaching is not:  

  • A substitute for mental health therapy i.e. dietitians/nutritionists are not mental health therapists. Dietitians can do therapy as it related to food and body image issues but not the therapy of the root causes and traumas. 
  • Deep trauma, relational and family work. This is the domain for a licensed psychotherapist/mental health counselor. 
  • If you are looking for a diagnosis of any kind, seek a  licensed psychotherapist/mental health counselor.
  • Processing and or treating phobias, addictions, grief/loss, anger management, ADHD, OCD, and other diagnosis.
  • Relationship problems, bereavement, suicidal ideations, nightmares, flashbacks and other traumas. 

There are some overlapping roles between the nutrition therapists/coach and psychotherapists, and it is important to know the different distinctions so that each can better refer to one another. There are times when the therapist may talk about food patterns etc., and there are times when the nutrition therapist/coach may talk about relational issues which is why working as a team is so vital so communication is transparent and supportive.

Healing happens in relationship, and the work is most effective when there is a sense of trust, safety and connection. An experienced nutrition therapist/coach will take a holistic approach to better understand how everything is connected in life and how this impacts one’s overall relationship to food and body. 

If you are feeling stuck with your own relationship to food and body, working with a nutrition therapist/coach can help you to break out of these painful cycles that keep you feeling trapped and disempowered. Healing in this capacity will allow you to reconnect to what really matters and to reclaim your time and energy so that you can live the life you truly desire.

Are you on the fence about seeking nutrition therapy/coaching?

This is actually quite a common response for a lot of folks. We might already know a lot about nutrition and “healthy” eating. Maybe our symptoms get better for awhile, but then someone says something triggering and we go back to our old ways. These issues run deep, so don’t wait until your thoughts and behaviors worsen, don’t put this off another month, don’t minimize how bad things are, don’t tell yourself you can do this alone. 

Why not prioritize getting the relief you deserve. You have already spent years and probably thousands of dollars trying to ‘fix’ yourself, so why not try something else?

If you know anyone or perhaps yourself might want support, I offer a 4 month Intuitive Eating and Body Trust Transformation program. In as little as 4 months, together we will find a way out of this suffering, so that you can live your life free from food and weight worries. 

Book a free 30 minute call with me here.

Much love,

Karen Louise (your anti-diet nutrition therapist/dietitian and body liberation coach since 2005)

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Karen Louise Scheuner, MA, RDN

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