34: The Letter I Wish Someone Had Written to Me
Episode 5 in the NMP Body Image Series welcomes back to the show Blair Mize, RDN, LDN who wrote a beautiful letter to her younger self about what she’d say to herself if she could go back in time and provide comfort, assurance, and love. She reflects on her own story and history with disordered eating and an eating disorder and talks about her highlights of recovery. Today she works as a registered dietitian who helps people make strides to improve their relationship with food. She has so much wisdom and passion for the subject and I think you’ll love what she has to say.
Links mentioned in this episode:
Blair’s letter to herself
Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly
Blair’s blog post about weight at the doctor’s office
Positive Nutrition online course coming soon!
Join the Nutrition Matters Podcast Community on Facebook
Leave a review for the podcast here
Donate to the podcast
Hey everyone, thanks for being here, welcome to Episode 34 of Nutrition Matters Podcast and the 5th episode in the Body Image series. Just a little bit of housekeeping before we begin, I wanted to let all of you know that I’m going to start numbering all of the episodes in the titles so that if you share with your friends and family, you can say, hey, episode 19 was really interesting. Unfortunately I can’t go back and do the ones that I’ve already published but I’m going to do this from now on. Today we have a letter that my guest is going to read in the beginning and then we’ll get into the interview. I hope you enjoy it.
[guest reading letter]
Dear precious girl, I know you’re in a season of life when loving or even being content in your body seems impossible. I remember standing in similar shoes years ago, throughout high school and college. I can recall feeling that I could never achieve the thin ideal our society promotes and calls “the perfect woman” - unless of course, I worked a lot harder and had my own team of chefs, trainers, and stylists. As a result, I paid a very high price for several years trying to achieve this unrealistic and arbitrary standard of perfection. I missed out on fun memories and deeper friendships. I missed the peace and freedom with my body, food, and movement that comes from seeking a healthy ideal. My stress and worry about my body, my exercise, and my diet took up so much of my time, energy, and mental space that could’ve been used making fun, spontaneous memories with those I loved most. Instead of trusting that I was fearfully and wonderfully made, my self worth became tied to numbers and how I looked compared to others. I write this letter because I don’t want you to look back on this one life, this one body you’ve been given, with sadness or disappointment about missed opportunities or isolation from family and friends. Looking back in life to a younger me, I would tell her what I’m telling you today - to compare is to despair. We were created to be unique - how boring would life be if we were all the same? Sadly, we are taught to pursue the thin ideal, which convinces us that even though we are all so different, we should all strive to fit the same perfect mold. How ridiculous! I wonder what might happen if we set our goals based on health and functionality, rather than appearance. Imagine how freeing and safe it might feel to embrace our imperfections and live an authentic life without worrying about height, weight, shape, age, etc. What if we challenged people who said the F word - AKA engaged in fat talk, to stop judging themselves or others based on external appearance? By modeling this in our own lives, we have the potential to create a domino effect and encourage body acceptance in generations to come. Instead of competing with ourselves and other women, we could be breaking down barriers, reducing shame, saving money, staying healthy, and most importantly turning our eyes toward the inner qualities that make us beautiful. I see so many incredible qualities in you as a daughter, friend, sister, and child of God that far surpass the importance of any external quality. Though this letter talks about my own experiences and struggles, and I have no way of completely understanding exactly where you are with your body image experiences, I believe that our trials can be used to help others facing similar struggles or insecurities. You’ve been on my heart and mind, and my hope is that you’ll reject this thin ideal and focus on something that will outlast it. Our bodies will age and change over the years, as they should, but your creator, your family, and your true friends will cherish you based on your inward qualities and your heart. I see that inner beauty and I support and affirm these qualities in you. Love, Blair.
Paige: Blair Mize, welcome to the show, thank you for coming back.
Blair: Thank you so much for having me, I’m excited to be back!
Paige: For those of you who don’t remember or maybe haven’t listened to some of the previous episodes, we did a recent episode in the body image series on body positivity where Blair was part of one of the panel that we assembled to talk about that topic. And in that conversation, she mentioned this letter and I thought, oh man, we need to devote some time to that entire thing on it’s own. So she’s back to talk about this with us. Thank you so much Blair, for reading that letter.
Blair: You’re welcome, I’m happy to share it.
Paige: So tell us about the impetus for that letter and why that came to be.
Blair: I actually wrote that letter as I was going through training for facilitate the body project, which is a project that we kind of discussed on the last podcast, but it’s a workshop kind of more directed for high school aged girls up to 40-45 yr old women. And it encourages women to challenge the thin ideal and to challenge these messages that we are bombarded with in our society. And at the same time that we’re going through that training, I had also been doing a lot of my own work and just seeing where all my struggles with body image and self acceptance and disordered eating have come from. And that just all culminated and I put in this letter and it’s one that I hope to share with my kids down the road or nieces, nephews, and so I just wanted to get it all out, you know, at a time when I was really thinking about it.
Paige: Right. So when I read it, I kind of imagined that you were writing it to yourself, but did you have more of a broad audience in mind with that?
Blair: It really was to me because - initially, anyway - I was like well this could really be to anyone who’s struggling with body image, who’s struggling to see the value of their internal qualities rather than their external appearance or what others think. And so I just kind of broadened it rather than saying, okay, this is just a letter to my younger self, I wanted it to apply to more people. But it definitely outlines a lot of my thoughts and feelings and what I wish I could go back and maybe do differently if I had the opportunity.
Paige: Yeah well that’s a great segway into this conversation. So for those of you who don’t know, Blair is a registered dietician in - oh remind me where you are-
Blair: Memphis, Tennessee
Paige: Memphis Tennessee, okay - and she works with people who are struggling with disordered eating and eating disorders primarily, is that right Blair? Would you add anything else?
Blair: Yeah, and then people who are just stuck in this cycle of chronic dieting and that kind of thing - I’d say that’s the majority of what I do. And then of course there’s sports nutrition and other issues that come up as well but that’s primary thing.
Paige: Right, and she has her own personal blog, which is where this letter she read was published so, Blair is a wonderful champion of body positivity and I don’t really know her whole story, but I am excited to talk about it today because I just know that she has so much wisdom to share with us about her story and what she’s been through. So Blair, you’re talking about how you wrote this letter to yourself and I think so many of us can relate to being a bit older and wiser and realising how much time we wasted worrying about the way we looked and wanting to change and wanting to be just like everybody else. But talk about sort of your story and what happens with you, I mean kind of in general and then I’ll prompt you along the way to get more detail, but tell us about what life was like for you growing up with your body image and food and those struggles.
Blair: Yeah so I would say first and foremost that I was kind of born with that temperament that we often see with disordered eating and eating disorders. I was very much a perfectionist - I don’t know that I was born that way but that’s kind of how I developed - very type A, I was someone who liked to stay busy, I asked my teachers for extra homework, I mean, who does that?
Paige: Overachiever! [laughs]
Blair: I know, classic. Very much a planner, wanted to have structure in my day and to know what was coming. And I just had a tendency to kind of overreact to a lack of routine or surprises, that kind of thing. So there was the temperament aspect that was already there from the get go and as far as what eating was like, I think I grew up in a home and in an environment where there was dieting going on, but I never really understood that anyone around me was dieting at that point, when I was so young. I didn’t really know why someone would diet or anything like that, I wasn’t given those messages that I needed to change how I was eating, I was never told that I needed to clean my plate or not eat something - there weren’t a lot of those types of roles. I will say that I do remember there were times I would sneak food, especially sweets, and I don’t know if it had anything to do with the fact that I’d be punished with having no dessert at dinner, I just have always had a sweet tooth and have loved sweets but that’s really the only kind of disordered eating behaviors that I remember as a child. But what I do remember are, I have several memories - early memories - related to body image and worrying about my weight and my shape and that kind of thing. I remember being at a skating party, like a birthday party, and we were all rollerskating and I had this sweatsuit on that kind of swooshes when it rubs against you, if you know what I’m talking about. And I remember telling my mom how embarrassed I was that when I would skate, that you could hear my legs rubbing against each other. Nobody has put that in my head, I don’t really know where that came from, although down the road I remember like hearing comments about the size of my legs and people just would say, people say things and they don’t really think about the lasting impact it can have. I think I was told one time like, suck in your stomach, when I was wearing a swimsuit, that kind of thing. I would say one of the biggest memories I have was in high school, I was at cheerleading practice, and I was a base, and we were all stunting and we were standing back to back with other girls and I remember at one point, they pulled out duct tape and they wrapped it around my rear end because they said it was too big and that it was bumping into other people. And I think I laughed it off at the time, but it’s like you’re just taking all of these comments, you’re taking all of this information in, you’re seeing how other people interact with their bodies and so that all was there. In addition to the fact that I went through a couple different things in my earlier years and then on into high school, and I think that I was really struggling with depression, especially later in high school so it was all kind of culminating into a lot of shame that was really building up. So I’d say that was kind of my history in a nutshell around body image and eating and all of that.
Paige: You were definitely internalizing a lot of these different messages about your body and how that interacted with normal growth and development and personal struggles and how that manifested itself as an individual but talk about how that affected your eating, if at all. What kind of eater were you?
Blair: Interestingly enough, in high school and really all along, I was never one to restrict anything. I honestly didn’t have any knowledge of what a balanced meal was supposed to look like other than like, my mom would prepare balanced dinners and stuff like that but at school I would just get whatever sounded good. It may be the most random combination of foods that you can think of, I just look back on that and think, wow, I had no concept of what balance looked like or anything and so I don’t remember at that time ever restricting myself or anything like that. I also don’t remember having any concept or any, I don’t have any memories of thinking about hunger and fullness cues as a way to guide my eating like I do now. I think it was just based on when everyone else was eating or if something someone else was eating looked good, I mean there was really no concept of like, structure or balance or anything like that to my eating at the time even though I was taking in those comments. It didn’t really impact me at that time - so I thought. It really was not until college that I say like, prior to that I was probably a ticking time bomb, and then I got to college and it was like, just kind of an explosion, if that makes sense.
Paige: Yeah, so talk about what happened in college then.
Blair: So, I graduated from high school and I went to a college about an hour outside of Memphis, the University of Mississippi, and I wasn’t that far from home but I was still at a big school, it was a big change in environment for me, and knowing my personality that I’m like this perfectionist, type A, wants to have a plan, that kind of thing, it was just, I think leading up to college, I had been through a series of circumstances that I really kept to myself, I didn’t talk about, I really restricted my feelings, kept a lot of things to myself, and then when I got to college that perfectionism and that need for structure and control and everything just kind of took over. I enrolled in the honors college and University of Mississippi and honestly, I was so overwhelmed with those classes, I was so overwhelmed with the fact that I was around people, seemingly 24/7 like this introverted part of me ever had any alone time. Everyone was going out at night, staying out late, and that was never really me. I cherished my sleep and then there was like the pressure of getting into a sorority and not gaining the freshman 15 and all of that so I just felt like I had nowhere to turn, nobody to talk to who I really felt understood, and I think I just began to go down a path of overcompensating in a lot of different areas when it came to wanting control of my schedule, and then in terms of my eating, that’s when I got a lot more conscious of what I was eating, how much I was eating, and that kind of thing, and I slowly began to really focus a lot more of numbers and counting and that kind of thing.
Paige: Were you studying nutrition at this point?
Blair: I was not, actually. I came to college as an art major - totally different, so I was not studying nutrition and honestly, I can remember some of those first grocery trips where I was actually looking at a nutrition label and that kind of thing and it seemed like it was just, for me, a slippery slope and so I was spending more and more time at the grocery store, but I was eating less and less. And at that point I just kind of starting spiraling out of control.
Paige: So this is your freshman year?
Blair: Yeah that was my freshman year of college. And one of the things I look back at now, having recently read this book called Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown, she had a quote in there and I’ll read it real quick:
“Perfectionism is a defensive move. It’s the belief that if we do things perfectly and look perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, or shame. Perfectionism is a 20-ton shield we lug around, thinking it will protect us, when in reality, it’s the thing that prevents us from being seen.”
And I think that’s, I hid behind that in so many different ways, including my eating, or so I thought I was doing everything I could from a “nutrition standpoint” to avoid gaining that freshman 15, I was exercising and exercising too much, and I was just terrified of failing and terrified of what others would think of me and that kind of thing. And so I think at that time, part of the reason why I developed an eating disorder was to hide behind that shield of perfectionism or to attempt to and to keep everyone out, kind of at arm's length, if that makes sense.
Paige: It does, and did you successfully not gain the freshman 15? Just curious.
Blair: Yes, I did. But unfortunately it was a very slippery slope and I ended up losing too much weight. I ended up slipping into disordered eating and I really ended up reaching a breaking point. I guess it was the spring of my freshman year. So compared to what some have had to endure and what some people have struggled with, it was a relatively short period of time that I was struggling but I just remember I was sitting in my car and I was about to go into like union where they had different foods based on our meal plans and everything and I remember calling my mom and I just broke down in tears and I was like, I cannot live like this anymore. And I don’t think she knew really what I was talking about at all. And honestly I had been praised by so many people around me for the way I looked, the change in my weight, the way I was eating, that I had such willpower, and I was receiving all of these comments that I really enjoyed receiving but at the same time I was falling apart on the inside, I was miserable. I was starving all the time, couldn’t focus to get my work done, which I was already overwhelmed with, friends were worried about me and had confronted me, and led me to isolate myself even more. And any time that there was anything spontaneous that came up or anything that caused a change in plans, I pretty much panicked, not having that control. I was just getting extremely rigid, I was exercising too much, and I just said to my mom that day, I need help, I cannot live like this anymore. And so that’s pretty much where my recovery journey began. And I began to like, really own that part of my story rather than hide behind the disordered eating and the perfectionism and that kind of thing.
Paige: That’s a really cool visual of that shield, that 20 ton shield that just hides you from the world, I love that idea. So what was the first step for you with recovery, I mean obviously talking with your mom that day was a big deal, what happened next?
Blair: So my mom actually had a good friend at the University of Memphis here in town that was or is a registered dietician and she connected me Leslie Schilling, who’s also a registered dietician and she was, at that time, she didn’t have her private practice or anything like that but she got me set up for an appointment with her at the place where she was previously working and I came in town and went to that appointment, just not knowing what to expect. And my go-to phrase was always, I just need someone to tell me what to eat. If I just knew what to eat, I’d be fine.
Paige: Yup, I hear that one a lot.
Blair: And up until that point, I really didn’t know who did that kind of thing. I thought you have to have a personal chef and you have to know all of this about cooking and I had no idea what a registered dietician was or anything like that so I had no idea what I was stepping into going into that first nutrition counseling setting. But that was a huge turning point for me.
Paige: So what happened that day?
Blair: That day, I cried a whole lot. And I sat down with Leslie, told her how I had gotten to this point - I think I still thought that some aspects of my eating and my thought processes around eating were normal. And in that first session, I began to realize, okay, what I’m going through is not normal. And I remember in that first meeting with her, she introduced me to the book Intuitive Eating and she was like no pressure, if you wanna read this you can, it might be helpful. And so she introduced that to me and then we agreed that I would eat breakfast each day and then I remember her basically just giving me permission to eat a sandwich and I cannot even explain how new, how novel that felt to be able to leave that appointment and sit down and eat a sandwich and enjoy it and to feel satisfied after. It had been so long and so I felt like through my nutrition counseling sessions, I really had to relearn how to eat. I was basically starting from scratch figuring out how to eat, how to listen to my body, how to trust my body, and I blazed through Intuitive Eating, because I was just at a point where I was at rock bottom and I wanted help. So I worked with Leslie for a while, I can’t remember exactly how long and she helped me tremendously. I mean I don’t know where I’d be today without her.
Paige: Can I ask you a bit about that?
Paige: So, I’m just curious because it’s so interesting to see what “clicks” for different people. Is there a way to sort of talk us through what “clicked” for you? Because I guess what I’m wondering is, was it logic? Was it her saying, well let’s talk about a sandwich. Let’s talk about the scientific and nutritional makeup of a sandwich? Like did that work? Or was it this authority figure telling you you can have a sandwich and then you had it, experienced it, and decided it was a good idea on your own? Was it some type of emotional connection? I mean I’m just curious, like there’s a lot of people listening to this who are right there with you and who are like, how do I figure this out, this is so confusing! So talk us through was worked for you.
Blair: I think initially, it was the fact that she was an authority figure. And I don’t think it’d be that way for everyone and I’ve experienced that.
Paige: And I’m sure it’s different hearing it from her than your mom. Like your mom could’ve said “Blair! Just each a dang sandwich, you crazy girl! Just eat a sandwich” and it wouldn’t have been the same as this person you’re coming to see and make an appointment with saying, yeah, you can eat a sandwich.
Blair: Yeah I mean, I think people come in a lot of times having had that experience like, just eat a hamburger or just eat the sandwich and it’s so not helpful. And I honestly think I was just starving and I desperately wanted help and I go back to that phrase of, I just need someone to tell me what to eat or how to eat. And so I think that’s where I started out initially in the process. I think I got more difficult as I got further into it.
Paige: The deeper she got, the scarier it got, is that right?
Blair: It got scary and I was realizing how rigid I was and how many numbers were swirling around in my head and how much mental space that was taking up. So those repetitive eating disordered thoughts took a long time for me to overcome and to get past. But it did start out with just, she was the authority figure, and I just trusted what she said for whatever reason. I just took her word for it and I would try, most of the things she recommended.
Paige: And there you go, there’s your perfectionist personality coming into play where you’re like, I wanna be the model A+ nutrition counseling student or whatever, right?
Blair: That’s so true yeah, I didn’t wanna fail at nutrition counseling.
Paige: yeah, which is kind of good in the beginning when you need to have that faith in the process, but talk about how you moved forward with that because sometimes that rigid thinking, even in a recovery perspective, can be to your detriment.
Blair: I think for me I had to challenge myself and challenge the disordered thinking and one great book that I read during that time was Life Without Ed by Jenny Schafer and it really helped me to be able to separate what the eating disorder voice sounded like versus what my voice and the healthy part of me sounded like. And so I had to do a lot of that and I also sent Leslie so many emails with so many details in them, I remember her responding to me one time saying, I should just hire you, because I would basically just get her permission or her blessing on like every decision that I made when it came to food. So I needed a lot of support for a while and then I think that support just enabled me to build up that healthy voice to be able to challenge those eating disordered thoughts.
Paige: And gain that confidence that you can make those decisions yourself, right?
Blair: Right, I think there was a point between that summer of my freshman and sophomore year of college where while I worked at a kitchen at a summer sports camp and it was a lot of like, it was very labor-intensive, a lot lifting, mopping, sweeping, on my feet all day, running around and I was doing that in addition to exercising and when I came back home, I really had to nail down the structure of my eating and I really had to focus on getting enough and getting variety and balance between I was stilll so rigid with this set of foods I’d allow myself to eat but I think that was another turning point for me in my recovery.
Paige: So how did you decide to become a registered dietician?
Blair: Well I was further into my recovery, probably a year and a half to two years into my recovery, and I had developed just such an interest in nutrition because, like I was saying earlier, growing up I had no concept of balance or hunger or fullness or anything like that and so I had developed that interest and I thought it was so cool what Leslie was doing as far as building relationships with people, helping them with difficult periods in their life, helping them find peace and freedom with food - it was just all so interesting and so appealing to me and I think the one thing that was really holding me back was the chemistry. As you know, there’s a lot of chemistry you have to take and that was not my strong subject in high school and so I was actually out for a run one day, and I just was thinking about all of it and thinking okay, what is holding me back from pursuing nutrition and being a registered dietician? And after really thinking through it and realizing it was the chemistry i was like okay, I can get through some years of chemistry to do something I love and at the same time I was realizing with art and my personality that deadlines and art just did not go hand in hand for me and I wanted that to be more of a hobby for me rather than a career. So at that point I decided, okay I’m just gonna endure the chemistry and obviously I survived and I changed my major and finished it up.
Paige: So walk us through some of the highlights of your recovery process, what are some of the epiphanies you had along the way after starting off with Leslie?
Blair: I think the biggest things were the fact that I could eat and should eat regularly through the day. That was one of the biggest things because I had gone for many many years like skipping breakfast or probably not eating enough at meals, not listening to my body, and so I think there was that and there was the fact that I was learning that all foods can fit and you can still be in a healthy place without depriving yourself or restricting yourself. And it took me awhile to get to that point where I really could do that and I could incorporate all different foods and feel okay about it and not have the guilt associated with it. It was a really big challenge for me to learn to accept my body.
Paige: I was gonna ask that because I know you lost a lot of weight, so your recovery likely looked, or took the form of you gaining weight to be in recovery. So talk about what that was like, that’s gotta be hard.
Blair: It was hard. And I think, coming back from that summer camp, I was in a place where I was kinda scared too when it came to where my weight had gotten. I never knew numbers or anything, but I knew based on how my clothes were fitting, honestly like to be very honest, based on the hair that was growing on my body, it was scary. Seeing my dad’s face when he came and met me to ride with me home from working at that camp, and seeing how worried he was about me -
Paige: Because you had lost weight during that? During the camp, you lost weight? You meant by the hair growing on your body, you meant the hair that grows when you’re severely restricting and losing weight, your body does that to maintain its body temperature so people know what we’re talking about here.
Blair: Yeah, I’m glad you shared that. Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m talking about. So all of those things, I just got to a point where I was afraid and I was fearful too for my own health. I was having damaged my bones as well, developed osteopenia as a result and so I knew that I was gonna be gaining weight, although that was never talked about in my sessions with Leslie, interestingly enough. She would check my weight, but I think I was too scared to ever ask questions about what it looked like or anything. But it was hard. And I remember there were times where I wanted to know how much I weighed, I wanted to know that number, and there were times when I would weigh myself and I would regret it later because it was a trigger for me. But it was just a slow, gradual process - I would have my ups and my downs and eventually, the more I challenged the negative self talk that I had going on in my mind, and the more I kept reminding myself that I was listening to my body, that I was doing exactly what I needed to be doing to be in a healthy place, the less I had those thoughts and the longer the time periods were between those times where I felt like I was in a valley or a tough spot when it came to disordered eating and the distorted body image.
Paige: Sometimes people think when they’re using that “Life Without ED” mentality they’re separating their own thoughts from their eating disordered thoughts, sometimes people fall victim to this like, okay I’m just gonna quiet down the ED voice by giving in to what it’s demanding - and I think what’s interesting about that is that it might be quieting the voice in the moment, but it only makes it more and more powerful and it’s kind of like a two year old who can manipulate you - the more you give in to the manipulation, the more they’re gonna just cry and throw fits to get their way, whereas if you can stand firm and have power over that voice and say, you know you want me to choose a salad right now with no dressing and whatever, but I’m gonna choose this other option that I actually really want because I want it. Where that might make that ED voice just ramp up and get really scary for a while, what’s cool about that is it actually dampens it long term. So you have - did you notice that and did you feel that?
Blair: Oh, absolutely. And it was really hard at times to I guess, talk back to that eating disorder voice. And there were times where I felt really successful with doing that and there were times where I felt like I was really struggling but I think the successes and actually being able to follow through, it builds on itself to a point where you realize, okay if I do this, it’s gonna be fine, I can make it through this, and I think it takes away a lot of the shame around eating and a lot of the shame around our bodies when we actually do begin to challenge those voices.
Paige: Yeah, thanks for sharing that. That’s really cool. So I think we’ve gone through some of those highlights of your recovery process. One thing I always want to try to do with this podcast is help people see what recovery really looks like because sometimes when we’re reading a blog post or listening to a podcast about someone’s story, it can kind of end in this, rainbows and unicorns way where you’re just like, oh - and it all magically went away and there’s never a struggle ever again and life is easy now and I think that can actually get in the way of people finding peace and recovery because they think it’s so unattainable and they think oh, that’s just not me, it’s never not gonna be an issue, or I’m never not gonna have a challenge with this. And I’m not trying to lead you in a certain direction here but I’m curious like what’s come up in your life since you feel like you’ve been working on this recovery thing? I mean I can tell you that gaining weight for me in pregnancy, was like a real eye opener - there’s a lot of people who comment about your body when you’re pregnant, a lot of people who call you fat - like straight up tell you you look fat, and then there’s a lot of people saying you look so tiny, how could you possibly be pregnant. And one person could say one fat comment, and another could make a thin comment, all in the same day so it’s very confusing. Meanwhile people are touching you, people are staring you up and down, and so while I’ve struggled with disordered eating in my past, I’ve never had an eating disorder. I’m just curious like how was gaining weight in your pregnancy? Like how is that, how was that, how do you deal with that, how do you cope with that?
Blair: I think the hardest part for me was early in the pregnancy, when I hadn’t shared that I was pregnant yet and even then though, I didn’t feel - I didn’t struggle that much with the fact that I was gaining weight in the pregnancy, fortunately. I’m so thankful for that and I’m also fortunate in that I get to talk about this subject a lot about body image, about intuitive eating, and all of that and I think there’s a lot of power in being able to speak your truth consistently and so that probably was helpful for me during that time when I was pregnant and I was gaining weight. I think probably the most challenging time for me, when it comes to pregnancy anyway, was when I had my son - it was realising that my body was different and it was probably gonna stay different and it was just allowing that time that my body needed to adjust back after pregnancy and that was a little bit more challenging.
Paige: Can I say something about that? The common thread I see there is you established this really good, positive sense of trust in your body in your recovery like you did some really hard work because you can’t recover and you can’t do this whole process of recovery and working on your eating issues and your body image issues and gain weight during that process - it’s hard to do that without establishing a sense of trust and sort of marrying your mind and your body back together where it’s not these two competing things and it’s a sense of trust and it’s a sense of partnership. And so I wonder if that’s part of what was going through your mind with gaining the weight was, well I can trust my body that this is what it’s supposed to do and things will work out and this is for a healthy baby - sometimes it is easier for women to gain weight during pregnancy and with their food because they know that they’re feeding a baby who they already love more than life itself.
Blair: Oh I absolutely think that played a huge role. The fact that I had established that trust in my body and that it was gonna do what it needed to do and I was so thankful for that. I have to say, I’m really grateful and just have - I feel really fortunate, really blessed the fact that I did go into the career that I went into because again, people recover from eating disorders and go into different careers where recovery is still in their mind but they’re not thinking about it, they’re not speaking it day in and day out and so I think that I had some advantage there and just having that constant reminder and that constant reinforcement - but then I’m also realistic of like I live in a world that’s saturated with diet related messages, messages related to pursuing a certain body type or size or shape and it feels like you’re swimming upstream sometimes and it’s hard not to struggle sometimes. I think that’s important for everyone to know too is that just because you have struggles here and there that pop up, that doesn’t mean that you’re relapsing or that something’s wrong with you or that you’re wrong for thinking that way. I was just fortunate to be in a place where I was hearing a lot of non-diet related messages, body positive messages, and that kind of thing. And I think my recovery for the most part was shorter that a lot of people who may have struggled a lot earlier in life or may have had a more extended recovery period.
Paige: Yeah, I think that’s a fair view though. I mean I think what you’re saying is you’re doing really well, you do have blips in the road like all of us do because of the environment we live in but you do have this advantage of being able to talk about this and investigate this and work on this and also like your blog I’m sure gives you that outlet to help spread that message that I think can provide a lot of meaning to your struggle. Same thing for me with my podcast - it’s just fun to feel like you’re helping someone work through it. Cool. Okay, so give us an idea of what you’re doing now and what your projects are, and what you’re passionate about and then we’ll go from there.
Blair: So as of March 2nd of this year, I own a business with my partner Bridget K, so it’s called Memphis Nutrition Group and we actually took over the practice because Leslie Schilling, the dietician who counseled me throughout my eating disorder, she sold the practice to us and she’s now moved to Las Vegas so it’s been pretty incredible and just amazing to see God’s plan just unfold around all of this. In the perfect timing, because I never ever imagined that I’d even work with Leslie down the road though it was a dream of mine, much less buy her practice from her, I mean that was a dream of having my own business but it was one that I did not even think would be possible, at least at this point in my life or unless I moved because I thought, okay, Leslie will never leave memphis so we’ll work together and I was happy with that. So that’s been a very big transition that I’m really excited about and is going well so far and so along with that, we’re still offering The Body Project and I’m working a good bit more with people with food allergies, actually. My son was diagnosed with a couple of food allergies and that just kind of grew my interest in it so since then I’ve become a nutrition advisor to an organization here in town and so I’m doing that, writing, blogging. I’ve really become passionate about working with other health professionals around weight bias, weight stigma, counseling or working with their clients or their patients with a non-diet approach so there’s been a lot going on this year.
Paige: Yes, definitely. Is there anything that you would kind of want to say about that or just want to quickly say or in your perfect world, what people in those positions would know?
Blair: Well I think it’s really important that people know not to jump to conclusions and not to make judgements based on a person’s size or a person’s weight. And I think it’s important that we recognize weighing someone for the information that it really provides. And sometimes that information isn’t really useful or necessary. If you’re going into the doctor because you have a sinus infection, do you really need to know how much you weigh, or you have pink eye, like do you really need to know how much you weigh?
Paige: Unless they’re dosing medication based on their weight and then in that case you could tell them what you weigh or whatever, but yeah.
Blair: Yeah there are definitely certain aspects where it can be useful and then you have congestive heart failure with changes in fluid and there are certain reasons why I weigh people here in the office and there are times where it’s medically necessary and times where it’s not and this past year, I was actually in the doctor’s office and I don’t know why, I just decided I was gonna go ahead and let them weigh me and I think that’s what a lot of my clients end up going. They’re like, I know I don’t really need to be weighed, or I know this could be triggering for me, or whatever, - yet they do it anyway because they’re afraid of what would happen if they spoke up instead that they didn’t want to be weighed or ask questions about why they were being weighed, that kind of thing. And it was really interesting, just the response that I got after I was weighed and the comment of like, you’ve gained X number of pounds over the last year and I actually wrote a blog post about that too because I think so often we’re quick to say, you’ve gained this much weight, eat less, exercise more, or there might not be any reason to even mention how much a person weighs at an appointment yet it comes up so often without a conversation surrounding it, it’s just like these brief, eat less kind of messages that people are getting.
Paige: Yeah like, do you happen to know I’m a registered dietician? [laughs] Maybe that was weight I need to gain, or the thing I would want listeners to know is that it’s perfectly within their right to step on a scale backwards and say, I don’t really want to know my weight, you’re welcome to write it down, but please make a note to not talk to me about it. And I think that’s perfectly within people’s rights. In fact, I’ve actually told someone close to me in my life who was pregnant and it was really stressing her out how much weight she was gaining in pregnancy and I told her to step on the scale backwards or refuse to be weighed, like that’s okay. You’re 8 ½ months pregnant, what are they gonna do if you gain 2 pounds more than they wanted you to this week? Like if it’s not medically necessary, what’s the point? And then the thing I’d want medical professionals to know in a nutshell is sometimes people are more sensitive about that number than you could even imagine. Different people experience life differently and you just need to be open minded to the fact that it could really send someone into a tailspin, I’ve seen it happen more that you could even count. And to just default position should be sensitivity to that number and a conversation around it and asking more questions than providing overly simplified answers I think would be good, kind of like not saying, oh you’ve gained 7 lbs, whatever it might be, so just stop eating bread. I’ve heard that so many times in my office that someone’s doctor said that to them that who knows if that’s the interpretation from what the doctor said or if that’s really what the doctor said but I think asking more questions, being sensitive, recognizing that not everyone wants that number to be known is a good thing.
Blair: Well it can be triggering whether the number goes up or it may go down as well and I think that a lot of times, when the number goes down, then the tendency is to praise that person for losing weight. And we just, we can’t make assumptions and we can’t know what’s going on in a person’s life unless we ask the questions like you were talking about and we invest in a relationship and in a conversation to fully understand what’s going on with someone.
Paige: That’s the tricky part about being a doctor is that they don’t have much time, they have a few minutes with you and they have lots of stuff to try to assess and I can see where they’re coming from and they’re trying to provide a solution but it’s just often less helpful that intended.
Blair: They just need the dietitian's business card I think.
Paige: [laughs] Yeah, there you go! Well Blair I loved this letter that you wrote to yourself and thank you for starting off this episode reading that for us and just to tie our conversation back to that, I just really wanna hear what the experience was for you kind of reflecting in this way of, what would I tell myself or someone I love who’s younger than me and less experienced than me, about food and body image and weight. Just give us a quick sort of synopsis of your experience doing this and just kind of close in whatever way seems good to you.
Blair: I really think the main thing that comes up when I think about having written that letter and reflected on my past and what I felt or what I wish would’ve been different is I’m just so grateful that I have the opportunity to share my story, to share my experiences because I think there’s so much power in doing that because it helps connect people with you and so when people are able to see this authentic version of you and see, okay this is something that someone else has struggled with and they look back and they regret it and they see, was it worth it? I think that can be really encouraging and really powerful motivation to move away from that mentality or lifestyle and to move toward recovery and self acceptance. And so it was really therapeutic for me to be able to write that letter and I’m just so glad that I have it and that I’m able to share it in hopes that it will impact another young girl in my life or somewhere.
Paige: Yeah and I would imagine that that provides so much meaning to what you’ve been through - the hell and back you been through and those experiences and climbing your way out of this hole and figuring out who you are and what you believe and what matters to you and all of that is for a reason if you can help somebody else, right? That’s sort of what I got from your letter.
Blair: Absolutely and it just helps solidify even more that there’s a reason why I went through what I did and I’m so grateful to be able to use it to share with others in hopes that they don’t have to experience the same thing. And it’s encouraging to me too as well just being in the field that I’m in and doing what I’m doing. I think sometimes people get into their jobs and they think, is this really what I should be doing? Is this the right fit for me? And I’ve had such a peace just knowing, okay I’m right where I need to be doing exactly what I need to be doing and that’s a personal benefit to just never be questioning am I where I need to be, am I doing what I need to be doing, so yeah I’m grateful for that.
Paige: That’s awesome. Blair I’m so glad, and just to tie this into what this podcast is all about, we love to talk about what really matters and I love that you’ve shared with us what really matters to you and what’s important to you and what you’ve learned - I know that that can feel scary and kind of messy and I know you’ve shared it a lot already on your blog and in other ways but I just really appreciate you being willing to share this level of intimacy into your life and I know that’s hard but I think we all learn from it when we do that. And during when we were talking about Daring Greatly, I love Brene Brown and I haven’t read it yet but in the book The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown she talks a lot about vulnerability as a way to be connected to each other so I really feel like that’s just so true and I’ve felt that today as I’ve talked with you so thank you again for being here and being willing to share your story. I will post some of the books we’ve talked about today and I’ll also post your letter and quickly, just let everybody know how they can keep in touch with you.
Blair: Sure, well thank you so much for having me first and you can find me on Facebook at Blair Mize RD and then we have a page for our business as well, Memphis Nutrition Group. I’m also on instagram under Memphis Nutrition Group and Twitter as @nutrition_901
So lot’s of different ways that you can find me and I look forward to connecting with some of your other listeners who may relate.
Paige: So this is another episode in that Body Image Series for listeners to listen to and thank you again Blair for being here.
Blair: Thank you so much.