Like for many other fellow dietitians, my career choice was largely impacted by an increased interest in nutrition due to personal struggles around food and eating habits. My relationship with food was pretty good until the teenage years, when, like most teenagers, I became hyper-conscious about my appearance and whether it fits into the diet culture promoted “ideals”.
These newly developed body image issues coincided with moving to a new country by myself (as a part of a program for high school students), which complicated my relationship with food even further. Being homesick and having to navigate the world on your own isn’t that easy when you are fifteen and turning to food to solve your problems and take care of you was quite a common thing among my peers, myself including. A strong aspiration to find that “secret” to resolve disordered and emotional eating was what determined my choice of nutrition program for my academic and professional path.
I learned many valuable things during my study and practicum years, however, none of it addressed the issues I was hoping to learn about. I was able to somewhat normalize my own relationship with food and stabilize my weight but helping others with that turned out to be an unexpectedly challenging task. My clients would try their best to stick to “healthy habits” for a while, and many of them would loose some weight – only to gain it back after a few weeks, months, or (in rarest cases) years. I was puzzled but determined to figure out the tricks of how to make it work long-term, taking additional courses and workshops, going through professional literature and attending conferences and discussion with colleagues.
I came to a turning point in my search for the answers following our move to Canada. Having time away from practicing dietetics allowed for some sole-searching, self-reflection and dip-digging, which led me to discover a very different (from the traditional approaches to weight and eating behaviours) philosophy of Intuitive Eating. This approach was introduced and systematized by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch 25 years ago, and I cannot be thankful enough for them for doing that. Finally, I found the answers I had been looking for! Not only it helped me to address my own unresolved issues around food and body image, but also gave me effective and compassionate tools to help my clients with unlearning chronic dieting and normalizing eating behaviours.
Witnessing a paradigm shift in the current nutrition world toward self-acceptance and body diversity, instead of fat shaming; and guilt-free eating habits, based on your body needs, rather than weight-loss meal plans, is very encouraging and motivating.
Being a part of the Intuitive Eating movement and advocating for body diversity, to fight weight stigma and discrimination, I find my professional mission in spreading the intuitive eating message and helping my clients to heal their relationship with food and body.