It’s been a really long time since I wrote a blog post here and I thought it would be appropriate to come back to blogging by telling you how I became a weight inclusive practitioner and why I practice through a non-diet, weight inclusive lens. If you want to read my personal story how I came to nutrition and decided to study Nutritional Therapy + a bit about my own complicated relationship with food eating on my body, it is here.
A few years into my new career it became quite clear that my passion is less so telling people what they should be eating, but rather helping people find their way back to having an uncomplicated relationship with food, so this means that how I work has evolved and changed over the years.
I learned through my own journey that dieting doesn’t work and that’s giving up the daily ritual weighing myself and handing over my power to the scales to let them dictate how I felt about and in myself allowed me to feel happier. Ditching the scales was the beginning of a journey to much more freedom and joy around food, and it also helped me developing more trust in my body.
Even with this personal experience I still believed that weight loss could be achieved without dieting. Now looking back, I am slightly embarrassed to say that my first set of business cards had the tagline “Lose weight without dieting”… But I suppose we all start our learning somewhere.
What I didn’t understand at the time, and I know that I am not alone in this, is that bodies tend to settle at a place where they feel happy once they are adequately fed, know that there is no more famine and we are at a place when we can meet our basic need of honouring our physical hungers.
The thing is that for some bodies this means they will settle at a place that is outside the “culturally acceptable norm”. This cultural “norm” is highly problematic and also as much a societal construct as anything else, and how we view and treat those bodies that deviate from this “norm” is equally problematic. Because my own body fits reasonably within this culturally accepted size, I realised how much I had been shielded, through my thin privilege, to the oppression, the blatant weight stigma and discrimination that those who don’t fit the culturally acceptable body size is experiencing on an ongoing basis.
Intentional weight loss pursuits does not work. At least not for the vast majority of people, long term. In fact, dieting is incredibly harmful and damaging to our relationship with food and our bodies, and it also harms our metabolism and possibly our physical health. Ongoing restrictions are not conducive to survival. That may be part of the reason why weight gain is typical after a period of dieting.
Research shows that going on a diet is the leading cause of people developing disordered eating and some of these people go on to developing full-blown eating disorders. I was lucky enough that I didn’t end up with a full blown eating disorder, however my eating and my relationship with my body was most certainly messed up for a long time.
Though I don’t feel like my initial foundational training was very weight centric (possibly because of the specific tutors I had), there was definitely some but because I wasn’t that clued in to it, I don’t think I noticed it as much. It was several years after my graduation that I came across the Health At Every Size (HAES) paradigm and taking a non-diet, weight inclusive stance. The idea that ALL bodies deserve respectful care, free from stigma is a given to me. However, I am learning that even the HAES paradigm is leaving some bodies outside the fold, it isn’t a perfect model by all means. However the early creators and fat activists who begun the movement decades ago, have paved the way for the immense work that is still there for us all to continue on today and into the future.
Over the years as I’ve become clear on my personal and professional values, it has become even more apparent that practicing from any other lens than a non-diet, weight inclusive one would be out of alignment with those values. I believe that all bodies (regardless of race, sexual orientation, religious background, size or health status) are inherently worthy and worthy of respect and respectful care. It wouldn’t be ethically to advocate for some behaviours that can be recognised as harmful for one population to be considered “helpful” for another. Furthermore, as someone who primarily work with helping people heal their relationship with food, eating and their bodies, it would be highly unethical of me to promote intentional weight loss, when this is often what has been the very trigger for their challenges.
In the past few years as I took the leap away from weight centric practice towards weight inclusivity I also learned that it is not just about helping my clients break free from the endless cycle of dieting, deprivation and bingeing but this has also opened the door to the much wider understanding of the harmful societal structures that allows for marginalisation, the roots fat phobia has in racism and even further over-arching structures such as the patriarchy and capitalism.
If I am going to be totally honest, these topics were not something that I learned about in nutrition college, but something I have learned (and continue to learn about) from peers, colleagues, books, blogs, podcasts etc.
The layers of complexity is vast and there’s so much nuance. I am far from an expert in this field, and because I don’t have lived experience of living in a marginalised body, I am immensely grateful to be learning from those that do, so that I can continue to learn and do better, in order to minimise any unintended harm + hopefully be part of the collective that chip away at breaking down these oppressive structures, whilst we are continuing to reimagining something new, that is fair and inclusive.
Diet Culture and weight stigma hurts us all, but they are even more harmful to those most marginalised where they can mean the denial of life affirming care. We can do better.
If you want to explore what it might be like working with a non-diet nutrition professional, find out more here.