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  • Paige Smathers

50: Finding Your Own Way with Intuitive Eating


Kristi Cheek is a registered nurse who lived many years struggling with disordered eating. Recently, she was diagnosed with food allergies and also discovered intuitive eating. In this podcast episode she talks about how she’s been able to incorporate intuitive eating into her life despite her medically necessary food restrictions. She’s truly found a way to make intuitive eating her own.

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Full transcript:

Hey guys, it’s Paige. Welcome to another episode of Nutrition Matters Podcast. I’m so so glad you’re here, wouldn’t you know it? I’m actually interviewing another person named Kristi today on the podcast. Her name is Kristi Cheek, she’s registered nurse and the owner of the foodiern blog and she is here to talk a little bit more about what it means to find your own way with intuitive eating. Now we’re going to be talking specifically about food allergies that she’s struggled with and how to combine medically necessary restriction with the idea of intuitive eating but I think if you don’t have food allergies, I think you should still listen because I think no matter who you are, we have to find a way to individualize and make intuitive eating for us instead of working against us. So I’m really glad you’re here, and Kristi, do you wanna go ahead and say hello?

Kristi: Thank you Paige, I’m so excited to be here and to talk about intuitive eating and my story with food allergies.

Paige: Exactly, well I’m glad you’re here too. So overall, preview for people, that’s the basics of what we wanna talk about. We wanna talk about your journey to discover intuitive eating despite having some real limitations and some true medical restrictions you have to follow. And that’s a tricky thing to navigate, and I’m excited to get into it and talk about your experience with it. But let’s start, just give a little context into your relationship with food, kind of starting from maybe as a child, what was it like, kind of talk about that.

Kristi: Yes, so as a kid I feel like I had a very standard American type diet. My mom cooked a lot of casseroles, hamburger helper, macaroni and cheese, those types of things. And there was an importance that was placed on family dinners that I still very much value today. We always had things like fruits and lots of vegetables available to us and my grandpa grew this humungous garden and we would get a lot of our food from that. In fact, my mom never even had store-bought canned vegetables until she moved out of her parents house. So I don’t remember my mom ever dieting, I don’t remember anybody ever saying, oh, we should get this low fat version or anything growing up. My journey, unfortunately, to disordered eating, it made it’s big debut for make back in 6th grade. So I’ll never forget that day because it changed everything that happened in my life going forward and probably was a big emphasis on where I am today, even professionally. I was in line in the cafeteria and this boy in my class loudly says to everyone in front of the entire class, Kristi, you look pretty today. And then there was this brief pause and he says, yeah, pretty fat.

Paige: Wow.

Kristi: I was horrified. I seriously wanted to just start crying at that point, but you can’t do that. You have to look brave in front of all your friends so I acted like I just brushed it off but deep down inside I was so upset, I was just dying. And that’s the first day that I can ever remember restricting my food.

Paige: Where did you learn to restrict, you think? Was it just something you’d seen or heard or picked up somewhere - because with a mom and a family that didn’t diet, I’m just curious, like how did you go to that?

Kristi: Yeah, that’s a really good question and nobody’s ever asked me that and something I’ve kind of never even thought about. I think maybe I just thought it was just in my mind, well if you don’t eat then you can’t gain weight - maybe it was the calories in, calories out type of thing that I had heard or seen in the media.

Paige: I’m sure you picked it up somewhere, I mean all of these things that we’re not even conscious of.

Kristi: Right, and I’m 36 years old so it’s not like Facebook or Instagram or any of that was around back then. So if anything it was probably magazines that I saw or something like that too.

Paige: So you started that day.

Kristi: Yeah, that day. I didn’t eat anything for lunch that day and I started cutting back on my breakfasts at home. My mom was pretty involved in my life and still is, but I would try to not eat breakfast and like not let her know that I wasn’t eating breakfast. And then I would not eat lunch, or if I ate lunch I would eat a pear and a small bag of pretzels. I didn’t talk to anybody about it, I didn’t tell my mom about what had happened, I didn’t tell my sister - whom I’m very close to- what had happened, I just, I kept everything to myself and so in 6th grade, this is a time in a girl’s adolescence where she might be a little bit, I don’t want to say chubby, but it’s normal for girls to be a little bit, or have a little bit extra weight on their bodies and it’s needed, in fact. But then it’s also normal for girls to have like a growth spurt and then start, maybe their body weight doesn’t change but the way that they look is going to change because they’re taller. I was able, I lost weight here but I was, my mom didn’t necessarily think too much about it because I was at the time frame where it was normal for girls to start having their bodies change.

Paige: So when you said that you didn’t really tell your parents or your sister, were you even aware that that happened and that that caused that reaction in you, or was it just like, because sometimes I know when you’re in the middle of something traumatic like that, you’re not even aware of what you’re doing or what happened or how you’re reacting, does that make sense? Not really aware enough to say, hey mom, I’m struggling with this, help me. You don’t even connect that that’s a logical thing to do.

Kristi: Right like I didn’t think like, I should go home and tell my mom about it, in fact I didn’t want her to know.

Paige: Why didn’t you want her to know?

Kristi: I don’t know, I felt like if I would’ve maybe told her what happened then, I don’t know, maybe she would’ve intervened and I just didn’t want her to.

Paige: You wanted to be able to restrict, maybe. You wanted to be able to solve it.

Kristi: I wanted to be in control.

Paige: That makes sense, because you’re worried that your parent would come in and put a kibosh on that. Not let you do it.

Kristi: Yes and my mom is that type of person who would have done that if she knew what was going on. So that was middle school for me and that continued on from 6th to 8th grade, I mean I did that same thing, I would restrict most of the day. I wasn’t a person who was athletic and I wasn’t in sports, so I can remember coming home from school and just running in place, doing jumping jacks, and doing sit-ups and that kind of thing but I did it in my room with the door closed and I wouldn’t want anyone else to know what I was doing, probably just because I wanted to feel like I was in control and that I could change whatever was happening at that time for me. And high school was more of the same for me. I continued to restrict all day but then that would usually backfire for me and I would come home from school, and my parents were both working parents, and I would come home and I was either by myself or just with my sister. So that’s when I would have my binges because I restricted all day and I was starving and I would eat and I would eat a lot of food but then I would try to hide it like, my mom would come home and be like, wow, I just went to the store and I just bought these chips or she’d be like I just bought this {whatever I had eaten) and it’s already gone and I can remember just being like, well I was hungry or just trying to hide it or just not saying much about it. So again, whenever you have those binges, it makes you feel, you have all this shame and everything around it too and I felt horrible about myself whenever I would come home and binge.

Paige: And it always makes you want to like buckle down even more with the restriction, right? So it just feeds into the problem even more because you start to trust yourself even less around food and you say, okay well I guess the boundaries I had before weren’t good enough so I’m gonna have even taller and stronger boundaries, right? And then it just perpetuates even more.

Kristi: Yeah definitely. And the next day you wake up and you promise yourself, I’m gonna be “good” today, I’m not gonna eat all day, I’m not gonna come home and have these binges, and then the cycle just continues day after day after day. And I think another thing I think in high school that was a bit triggering for me and hard for me was that I had a best friend and we were inseparable and in fact we were inseparable from 8th grade until most of college. And she’s a personally who’s naturally is just I felt like very fit and I’ve never seen her, at least she’s never talked to me about dieting or exercising, like to lose weight. I mean she exercises but she was blonde hair, blue eyes, naturally a small waist, naturally had a large chest, you know? And I mean when you’re that age, she had what seemed like the perfect body and we were constantly being compared to each other because we looked a lot alike but a lot different too. I definitely did not have that body type or anything and I’m not blonde haired or blue eyed but we just looked like we could be sisters and I think the constant comparison of that too just made it even worse. For me, it just made me want to restrict even more because I wanted secretly to be seen as better, I wanted to be just as pretty, things like that. And at that time, when you’re an adolescent, your world seems so small and those types of things are so important to you. So I think that that definitely had a role in my eating disordered days in high school and middle school. So things like this pretty much continued throughout high school and then I went to college and I can remember being really excited about going to college, I mean obviously for a lot of reasons, but one of the things I thought was that I would have complete control over what I did and didn’t eat, nobody would be policing me now, like my mom would police me in high school. For example, I can remember going on a date, and I told my mom that we were gonna go to dinner, so I didn’t eat dinner at home, and we didn’t go to dinner on my date, I think we went to the movies or something instead, but I can remember her saying to my boyfriend, who is actually now my husband, make sure she eats something and when we got in the car he was like, what was that about? And I’m like, oh nothing, she’s just being silly, and blew it off. But my mom definitely tried to, I don’t know what the word is, control me as much as possible when I was in high school. Anyway, fast forward going in college -

Paige: So you married your high school sweetheart?

Kristi: I did!

Paige: That’s fun! Okay, cool.

Kristi: Yeah, college though, college is just a whole new experience and animal all on it’s own. Different years had different things for me. My weight went up and down in college, I felt like I gained and lost the same X amount of pounds, I won’t say a number. And then my junior year, things kind of got a little bit worse for me because now I can look back on it and see that it was because I was really under a lot of stress. Here I was, I was studying to become a public health person, so I was studying public health, all my classes were health related, and here I am like the least healthy, you know? I cannot be a role model if I’m eating, drinking lots of coffee, and smoking cigarettes, like there’s nothing healthy about that. And then doing extensive cardio every single day so I would have 8 am classes and then there was a gym at my apartment complex and I would get up and work out for an hour before I even went to my 8 am class. I can just remember being so drained, I never had any energy. And I just thought it was because I wasn’t really sleeping but looking back on it now, it’s like well obviously you didn’t have any fuel to give you any energy so I did lose like a significant amount of weight but I never was a person that was extremely fat or anything. So even though I was thin, I was still like if you were to look at a BMI chart, which I don’t hold a lot of value to, but if you look at it I wasn’t in any danger for being underweight.

Paige: As far as if you went in for a primary care visit, they wouldn’t be alarmed and say, oh she must be not eating, right? So I think that’s a really important point that some people don’t realize is there are some people out there who restrict and who really have dangerously low body weight and you can see, you can visually see like, wow, this person is emaciated, and that’s sort of what we think of when we think of an eating disorder, we sort of think, oh, this is what this looks like. But what a lot of people don’t recognize is that even if you are restricting, and granted for you it was cyclical, it was restricting and binging, but then maybe you had maybe more periods of time where is was more restricting or more binging - But what people don’t realize is that you could visually look “normal” or even BE in a larger body and still be struggling with these things, so that’s a really important point.

Kristi: And I think it’s an important point too because, because I wasn’t extremely thin like that, I personally never thought I had a problem. I think I thought that because I looked “normal” and I honestly, I didn’t even really consider myself having an eating disorder or disordered eating. And I didn’t recognize it until the past probably year or two. I really thought there were issues, but I would never call it an eating disorder.

Paige: Yeah, and I think part of the point we just made about weight too that’s important to bring in here is that, that’s part of the danger of equating weight with health. We talk about it a lot on the other end of the spectrum and we say, well, you can be in a larger body and still be extremely healthy. But it’s also equally damaging to assume that just because someone has a really average, normal looking body, that means that they’re automatically taking great care of it. So It’s bad to assume that someone who looks larger isn’t taking care of it, and it’s bad to assume that someone who looks “normal” is taking care of it, right?

Kristi: Absolutely. And the other thing I wanted to point out here is that during this time, there were several times I went to the doctor because I was having lots of gastrointestinal problems like upset stomach, and nobody ever once questioned me like, what are you eating, what are your eating habits like - that’s obviously a huge part of your digestive system and nobody, and I feel like if somebody had maybe stopped and asked me these questions when I went to the doctor and maybe spent some time with me to figure out what was going on in my life, that I would have loved it if a doctor would have asked me like, are you struggling with eating? Do you need help? Because I think I would’ve accepted it then but I didn’t ever get the help because they never asked me!

Paige: And that’s a weight bias right there! And if you were emaciated, I’m sure a doctor would say, well gosh are you eating enough? And if you were by their standards, you know, obese, I’ll use the word that I don’t love, but if they were alarmed by your weight, they would say, look what are you eating? What are your habits like? But the assumption is oh, you’re a normal BMI, therefore you’re fine.

Kristi: Right, absolutely. I’ve thought about that a lot actually recently and I have even sought out more of a holistic positions, like I’ve seen a naturopath, and I’ve seen natural medicine physicians in the past and even none of them asked me that and they’re looking at health more from like a whole perspective, and everything that’s going on in your life and even none of them had asked me that, so I really have thought about that a lot.

Paige: So you went and kind of wished the doctors would’ve dove a bit deeper into, wait what are you eating, what are you not eating, how are you doing with your nutrition - what happened next? I know we’re gonna talk about food allergies, did you get diagnosed then or did you get diagnosed later?

Kristi: Yeah so I got diagnosed with food allergies in 2006, so this was post-college. Post-college I was still doing the same thing, but in post-college I felt like I was more of “orthorexic”. I was a fitness instructor, so I was working out a ton, teaching a bunch of classes, and I was eating what I thought was “the healthy diet” so lots of whole grains, that kind of things, low fat, and I still struggled with upset stomach, etc. Then, I had a very stressful event happen in my life and after that, my digestive system just went crazy. And I got to the point where one of our really close friends, her husband so to me, Kristi, something is wrong with you because every time we go out to dinner - which was like once or twice a week with them - you get sick. That’s not normal. And it took that comment for me to be like, wow, maybe what I’m going through really isn’t normal, like it’s not the oh I have a sensitive stomach, I have a nervous stomach. And so that is what propelled me to go see a physician and I went to a D.O. - so a doctor of osteopathy - and it was my first visit with him, and he was great. He took an hour with me the first thing he said to me, I just want to know what’s going on in your life, I want to know what’s been going on in your life the past year or so, I want to know what’s currently going on in your life, and I just kind of wanna get an idea of when the exacerbation of your symptoms occurred. And so I told him everything and then he just looked at me and after I shared everything he said, okay, now I just want to examine you. So that’s when I got on the table and he started like pressing around on my stomach and just really did like a thorough exam on me and afterwards he sat me up and said, I think you have been through this very stressful event which your immune system has just gone crazy, and I think you have developed food allergies. So this again is in 2006, this is pre-anything gluten-free, dairy-free, anything like that, pre-paleo, and I just looked to him and I’m like okay? I didn’t really know what to think of it but I had the testing done so I had a blood test done. I had an IGG. So IGE, that’s what people think of when you have like a peanut allergy that’s whenever you’re gonna have the anaphylactic symptoms but an IGG is more delayed symptoms. So your symptoms can happen up to 24 hours after you ingest the food. So I had this IGG test and it came back two weeks later and I was like off the charts with everything. So here I am a health professional, I’m working as a health and wellness coach at the time and I told my husband that I have all these food allergies, I don’t know what I can eat, and he told me that I should just avoid them, I need help. And ironically I think that once I was able to heal my body and remove all these foods which seems very restrictive, that I was able to also start moving out of my disordered eating habits which seems very contradictory to me a little bit because it’s like you’re getting more restrictive. But the thing is I wasn’t looking at this from a weight loss perspective, I was looking at it as, I want to feel better. And it was very easy for me to avoid something like pizza, which has gluten and dairy, it was very easy for me to start avoiding things like that, because if I ate that, I knew I’d be in the bathroom the next morning or that night and I’d be in there - it was not uncommon to wake up and be in the bathroom 7 times in the first hour that I was up and that’s not normal and that’s not a way to live. And so it was easy for me to know if I eat that, that’s what’s gonna happen and that’s how I’m gonna feel and I don’t wanna feel that way and okay, so what can I eat instead to still be satisfied and maybe still have the same thing as a pizza but how can I make that pizza in a way that will make me feel good after I eat it?

Paige: You know what’s interesting about this, Kristi, is I’m thinking about people who might be listening, and sometimes this is just really tricky because sometimes people truly have medically diagnosed food allergies and real reasons for restrictions but then a lot of times, especially in our current culture which is very different from 2006 when you were doing this, we’re so hyper aware and hypersensitized to restricting certain things because they’re “bad for our bodies” and I noticed that when I eat this, I have this response and so that’s like, part of me is like, I hope when someone is listening to you that they’re not saying, oh yeah, that’s me. if they haven’t really gone and done the work of getting that diagnosis because there really can be psychological components to this where, we call it psychosomatic where we have certain fears about a food that then cause certain physiological responses in your body and we want to rule that out before we make any restrictions because gosh, if you don’t have to restrict gluten and dairy and anything else, don’t do it! Pizza is a lot of fun! So don’t restrict it if you don’t absolutely have a medical reason for it. So that’s one distinction I just wanna make while we’re talking here, I just don’t want anyone listening to say, oh yeah, that’s me, I’m always in the bathroom. Well you could always be in the bathroom because you’re so dang worried about what you’re eating, so let’s rule that out.

Kristi: Yes, and I mean anxiety - and I know this for myself - anxiety definitely or stress has an effect on your GI system and yes, and I absolutely think that if you, maybe if you suspect you do have food allergies or something going on, you need to work with a qualified healthcare professional to be able to walk you through and hold your hand and make sure that you get the right diagnosis because unfortunately, a lot of gastrointestinal disorders are problems that all have very similar symptoms. For example, like somebody who has Crohn's disease, I have very similar symptoms to them but I do not have Crohn’s disease. So even if it’s not food allergies, like you need to get that testing to figure out exactly what’s going on with you.

Paige: So let me summarize what you’ve said so far. So you had that terrible comment said to you as a younger girl that kind of morphed into lots of restriction that then turned into binging because you were so hungry which then continued on through high school and college with those patterns and yeah, you might’ve gone down some but you might’ve gone up some in terms of weight. And then post college, sort of got into this realm of orthorexia of just ultra concern and kind of restriction and concern with being healthy. And then finally realizing, okay, my stomach symptoms are not normal, let’s look into this. And then you finally got some diagnoses that you could work which, which then you ironically the restriction of the diagnosis led you to the ability to let go of some of that disordered eating.

Kristi: Right, exactly.

Paige: So let’s talk about how you found intuitive eating in that context.

Kristi: I’m a podcast junkie, I would say and I’m always wanting to just learn more and podcasting is one of the ways that I can do that. And I don’t even know how I got onto Christy Harrison’s Food Psych podcast, I found it, I don’t even know how, but anyway I started listening to her podcast and she talks obviously a lot about intuitive eating and I decided that I need to read the book and I read the book and I resonated a lot with the book and all of the 10 principles.

Paige: And this is about a year ago, you said?

Kristi: Yeah, about a year ago. Really recent. And I thought, okay, how can I incorporate my food allergies, how do they fit into intuitive eating? And I came to realize that one of the things is that they came in 2 areas: one is in respecting your body and I actually, I’m in the process of becoming an intuitive eating counselor so I was listening to their seminar that they have that the creators of intuitive eating have, and one of the things they said is in respecting your body, you want to make sure that you’re going out and doing all the things you want to do. For example, somebody who is restricting might not go to a dinner party because they don’t want to chance that they might eat a lot of the food or whatever and so I thought of it that, okay in respecting my body, if I don’t follow my respect for my food allergies, then I’m gonna be in the bathroom all day long, and I’m not gonna be going out and doing things, and I’m not gonna be reading, I’m not gonna be blogging, I’m not gonna be doing all the things I really want to do right now because I don’t feel well. It makes my brain feel foggy. And then the whole point is also to feel good, right? So if you are putting in things into your body that don’t make you feel good, you’re not respecting yourself but then I feel like it also comes into her area of gentle nutrition. So that’s the very end thing and I feel like there it’s coming in and again, I’m providing myself with fuel that makes me feel good but I’m not counting my calories, I’m not doing anything, I’m just giving myself food that makes me feel good and I’m not like following a food plan or anything like that so when I think about my day I think, okay, I’m really hungry right now and I know that if I eat a balanced meal of providing my body with some protein, fat and carbohydrates, that that’s gonna make me feel good and that that will give me enough energy to get through probably about 4 or 5 hours of my day. And so what do I have in my house right now that I can make a meal that is satisfying and sounds good and that I really want right now. So I think about it that way and I make sure that in my meal that I have these other components but I’m not measuring my food, I’m not like saying, okay well I have to have 4oz of protein and 2 tbsp of fat or anything like that, I’m just making sure they’re in there. And then the one thing that I really have taken away is from intuitive eating is really being present with my food and sitting down with it and not being distracted by my phone or work. I was a person who would always work and eat at the same time and I really have changed that since I’ve started intuitive eating and I sit down, and even if I only have 10 minutes, I still sit down for those full 10 minutes and really focus on my food and enjoy it. And it’s just made a huge difference in my life and I’m going out and doing things that I’ve wanted to do that I had put off because I thought like, oh I need to be a certain weight, you know, things like that.

Paige: Well that’s awesome, let me ask some questions to frame this a little bit. So for anybody who’s listening who might not really be familiar with intuitive eating, why is it challenging to have food allergies and work on intuitive eating? What about it is hard?

Kristi: Yeah because in intuitive eating, you’re supposed to give yourself full permission to eat whatever you want. There’s no food rules. And yeah, I felt like, okay my food allergies could feel like food rules to some people and so I can’t go out and eat a pizza, like I can’t just go do that like my allergies cause things like severe things for me like ileitis, I just recently had a bought of that, and it’s seriously complications for me if I do not follow them.

Paige: So it’s sort of like two things you’re trying to do that are opposite, but doing them at the same time. So on the one hand you have medically necessary restriction, and on the other hand you have the food philosophy that you believe in and that helps you break free of that disordered eating you’ve struggled with but the fundamental tenant of that is let go of food rules and give yourself full permission. And so you’re like how do I hold these two truths at the same time?

Kristi: Right.

Paige: Yeah, that’s definitely challenging and for some people who have food allergies, they might sort of feel like, well because I have food allergies, intuitive eating isn’t for me. They might write it off like, well that works for other people but that can’t work for me. So I think this is a really important conversation to help people who might have a medically necessity that they’re restricting. But to find a way to make it feel less like that, as you’re trying to work in intuitive eating. One thing I heard you say is that you’re focusing more on what you can have instead of what you can’t have, I think that’s sort of a summarized version of what I just heard you say. Like when you’re thinking about what you can have for lunch you’re thinking, oh I can have this, oh I can have that it’s not like, ugh, I can’t have this sandwich I’m so mad!

Kristi: Right, in my mind I think I can have whatever I want. I can have that pizza if I want it but I choose to have foods that make me feel good because that’s ultimately what I want is I want to feel good.

Paige: That’s a really good outlook.

Kristi: Yeah, I just think of it as like, I can have whatever I want and I give myself permission to have anything that I want. I can do whatever I want, but my choices, that’s what kind of brings me more of the freedom is being able to choose to feel good.

Paige: So you think about it like, okay, physically I can put any food I want in my mouth. I choose to have respect for my body and I choose to practice gentle nutrition in my choices about what to have and what to not have. And I think that’s applicable to everybody, whether or not you have food allergies. So I’ll take myself to example - I don’t have food allergies, and if I go out to Cheesecake Factory and I eat this giant, even if you get a salad there it’s huge right, so no matter what you get you are full and if the person I’m with says, hey let’s get a slice of cheesecake, if my body if communicating to me like you are satisfied, you are full, you really don’t need more food, and I just don’t really feel in the mood for it, it doesn’t really sound all that good, I’m gonna choose to respect my body, respect that fullness, and also practice gentle nutrition like, oh I’ve already gotten all of my caloric needs met today, and I’m fine and I don’t really want it. Now, sometimes it’s a different story when you’re like, no, that sounds amazing, I want it, I haven’t had it for a long time, it’s a fun night out with friends, let’s just do it. So I’m not saying don’t eat the cheesecake ever, but I just think people people listening who don’t have food allergies can just relate to you in that way where it’s like, I can put that cheesecake in my mouth and eat it, but I’m choosing whether to do that or not based on how my body feels and my respect for it. But for you that’s just a little nuanced, like a little different, you know? Because you have some consequences that the rest of us don’t have if we make choices in that way. But I really like that perspective where you’re just getting rid of the language of “I can” and “I can’t” and “I should” and “I shouldn’t”. You’re still getting rid of that language but you’re sort of a little more motivated than the rest of us to avoid some foods because of the consequences whereas the rest of us it’s like that food didn’t make me feel good or I ate too much but it’s like oh well. For you it’s a little more extreme.

Kristi: It’s a little more extreme but at the same time like for you if you were to eat that cheesecake and then you felt overly stuffed, that’s not a good feeling either. And you don’t want to feel that way so you’re choosing to not feel that way. You’re choosing to feel good after you have that lunch that day. So it’s kind of the same thing. The other thing in intuitive eating that I love is exercise to feel the difference. When I was a fitness instructor, I was teaching several classes a week, I was also doing a lot of half marathons and then I have even completed a full marathon and so I was running a ton because in my mind I thought, well I need to run because that’s how you stay fit, that’s how you lose weight, that’s the thing to do and I didn’t really lift weights or anything at that time and that also backfired on me because during one of my really long training runs, I had all of the sudden, horrible side pain, and I felt like I had to go to the bathroom, and I did, and I had bleeding. And I had a colonoscopy done at that time and they came back and said, nothing’s wrong with you, you look fine. And I’m like so I look fine but why am I bleeding?

Paige: that’s not fine.

Kristi: That’s not normal, I’m a young girl like I’m otherwise healthy, what’s going on here? So I’ve come to realize that running is not good for my body and I was able to really realize that through reading more of intuitive eating and really getting into that. And so I choose not to do long distance runs and if I do wanna run one day, maybe I’ll run 1-3 miles, nothing more really. And I choose to do activities that are supportive of my body such as yoga. I also do really enjoy, I really do enjoy this 21-day fix program and I wanna say that I do not think anybody should do a program like that if they have any issues going on with disordered eating because it’s really pushing things like watching meals, it’s like drink this shake, which I do not, that’s not in my philosophy. But I really like the actual program, because for me it’s 30 minutes and it’s doing activities like lifting weights and pilates and yoga and I really like the variety that it provides and it works well for me but I think I’m at a place where I can tune all of those messages out. And I think somebody who might be still struggling might not be able to tune those messages out and might go down a path that they might not want to go down.

Paige: And fundamentally, I don’t really like that name. Like the “fix” it’s like you’re not fixing something, you’re just moving your body, let’s just not call it fixing. But yeah, like if you enjoy the movement that it offers you, great. I like that you can find a way to make it work for you. That’s good.

Kristi: Yeah and I choose to do exercise to energize me, like restores me, that makes me feel good instead of doing long distance running? After that you’re so tired, I mean I never felt great after that so I’m really switching that mindshift that exercise is seen as we should look forward to and that should make us feel good and shouldn’t deplete us and not use as punishment.

Paige: Exactly. I had an experience like that that I haven’t shared on the podcast before. I was in an exercise class once and I noticed that the person next to me was kind of, we were on spin bikes, and I noticed that the person next to me was kind of peaking over to see because there was a little screen to show how fast you were going and your resistance so there was sort of a way to compare. And I got a little uncomfortable and was like, okay I’ll increase the resistance and then I just looked around the class and everybody just looked like they were in utter pain, hating life, punishing themselves, like grimacing, right? I just had this moment where I was like okay, I have this person over here trying to check out what I’m doing, and every single person in this class looks like they want to die, and I was like why are we all here? And in that moment I realized, because I was working on intuitive eating from the eating perspective and I was like, exercise should be intuitive. Exercise should feel good. And so I turned down that resistance, I put a towel over the screen, and I just enjoyed the rest of the class and kind of felt sad for people who didn’t because the way we move our body should feel really really good to us. And yeah, sometimes you push it and that feels good but you don’t we don’t push it so far that we bleed when we go to the bathroom, right? That’s your body trying to communicate like hey, that’s probably not working very well. So anyway -

Kristi: I also respect my body too with exercise so if there’s a day where I’m stressed to that max, I’m maybe not feeling optimal and I know that if I do this workout is going to do nothing but deplete me further, I will choose not to work out that day, and it’s okay. It’s okay not to work out on a day. And your body needs the rest.

Paige: Really good point and sometimes for me, one of my favorite ways to move my body is just walking, just go on a walk. Like a solitary, plug your podcast in kind of walk. Like that’s so healing and restorative for me and it gives the chance to look around, say hi to neighbors, look in the distance rather than looking so close on the computer screen all day, and just take a minute to just be. So yeah, finding ways to move your body that feel good to you, I think is really, really, important to bring up especially in context here with your history. I also really love that you made the point that you like that 21 day fix exercise program and I like that because sometimes in this community we get to be a little bit like, NO, you CANNOT EVER do those types of things and granted, what you said was perfect like, if you’re actually struggling it’s not a good idea like you might not be able to tune out some of those messages. But for you, you’re able to find the good in some of that stuff, which I think is nice.

Kristi: Yeah I think, I want to kind of - I think that we need to find a bit of common ground sometimes and the two different communities like the fitness industry and the body positivity. Sometimes and not all people but some can get so extreme that we forget that there’s good in each. So for me I think that I can see the good in the 21 day fix program because it’s making me feel stronger, it’s making me feel good. And I can see that but -

Paige: But you’re also able to call the BS [laughs]

Kristi: Yes, definitely I can see that. And then with intuitive eating, the only other thing I really wanted to be able to mention here was it has allowed me to get the scale out of my house. And that took me a really long time to be able to do and it’s been one of the most liberating things that I’ve done for myself - I was a person who would weigh multiple times per day. I would weigh before I worked out, I would weigh afterwards, I always weighed in the morning, I would maybe weigh at night and it would dictate how I felt for the day, the clothes I would wear, if I would restrict, if I would allow myself a bit of wiggle room, just dictated so much to me. I had to wean myself off the scale though I could not do it cold turkey. So I started every other day and I did that for like a week and then I did once a week for a couple of months and then I was like okay I’m ready, I want you to take this, I want you to put it in your car in your trunk, where I can’t get to it, and I want it out of the house. And it’s been almost 2 months now that it’s been completely out of my house and I don’t know, I just think it’s been one of the best things I’ve done for myself and it’s really allowed me to get into intuitive eating even more, like really in tune with my body.

Paige: Good for you! Yay!

Kristi: I wanna say though, one of the things I had to use was a lot of journaling during that time and there were times when I wanted to throw in the towel and I wanted to go get that scale still and I had to step back and say, if I weigh myself right now, what’s gonna change? What’s gonna be different? What would I do differently than today than right now? And a lot of times, it was like, well, maybe I would restrict or maybe I would do this, and it’s like do you want to do that anymore? No. okay, well then what does it matter? What does it matter what the scale says? Just do you, do what feels good, move your body- which I would still do every day, I would still eat to make my body feel good, so it’s like do those and don’t worry about what’s on the scale and for me that was able to keep me on the right path.

Paige: Well that is so awesome, and I like the idea of weaning yourself off of it because when someone is weighing themselves multiple times a day and someone hears, hey just don’t weigh yourself anymore it can feel like, hey yeah, you’re kinda whacko - but maybe if you can take it slow and really do it at your own pace, maybe it will be the last, one of those last pieces to help you really connect with your body without having this sort of arbitrary number always in the back of your mind when you’re trying to make decisions about what to eat and how much and how hungry you are and how full you are, right? It’s very hard to do that when you’re like, well I’m up 3 pounds!

Kristi: Yeah, but then I also think too if you are practicing intuitive eating and say you go a week and your weight doesn’t change it’s like, see, I did all of this, I didn’t restrict, I didn’t overexercise, and I felt great and my weight stayed the same. I feel like it can also prove that intuitive eating can work for you.

Paige: It’s a little bit of a risky thing and if you are working with like a registered dietician with working on your relationship with food or things like that, that could potentially be something that they could help you with because they’re weighing you blind and reassuring you that things are okay but you don’t necessarily need to know that number. I don’t know. There’s different ways to do it but yeah.

Kristi: Yeah and I think just like food and nutrition and that one food works really well for somebody and not for the other I think that different techniques like that with the scale is the same way. For some person, getting rid of it like that would not work for them and they just need to go cold turkey automatically and get it out of the house and honestly, I wish I could’ve done that but I wasn’t at that place yet when I started practicing intuitive eating. But that is one of the first things that they do recommend though that you do.

Paige: And I think it’s okay to do intuitive eating your own way and that’s been sort of the theme of this conversation, I think. You’ve really individualized it for you based on your medical history, based on your disordered eating past, and just really made it your own and I think, personally, intuitive eating is like fundamentally not supposed to be cookie cutter. Like I don’t think we’re all supposed to practice it the same way. I think we have to allow our bodies to teach us what we need and how we learn that is by seeing, oh when I make this change, how do I feel? Or when I do this a little bit differently, what does the rest of my day look like? And that to me is like the fundamental of intuitive eating is like gosh, you just pay attention to what your body communicates and you stick with the things that work really well and the things that don’t work all that well you learn from them and you move on.

Kristi: Absolutely. And that’s kind of why I wanted to come on the podcast today. I kind of wanted to share my story and share how I’ve been able to incorporate intuitive eating into my life with having also these restrictions so that somebody out there who might be struggling with the same things as me or another disorder that requires specific medical nutrition therapy that there’s hope that they can do this and it can work for them and they can find their own way.

Paige: I love it and you’ve done an amazing job articulating what you’ve been through and how you’ve applied it, thank you! I know this is gonna be really helpful to people so thanks for being on.

Kristi: Thank you.

#intuitiveeating #positivenutrition #foodallergy

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