58: Body Kindness Matters—Shifting the Focus of Health from Weight Loss to Well-Being
In this episode of Nutrition Matters Podcast, I interview registered dietitian and author, Rebecca Scritchfield, about her brand new book, Body Kindness. This book is all about this core message: "You can't hate yourself healthy. But you can choose to treat your body with kindness, love and respect throughout your life." I love this approach and I am so excited about the energy surrounding her new book.
In this interview, we dive into Rebecca's own journey of finding a more compassionate and kind approach to health including themes of motherhood, self-talk, behavior change, and more. You are going to love this conversation!
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Well hey everyone, I’m so glad you’re here for another episode of Nutrition Matters Podcast. As you know, I’m Paige, your host and this month, the month of March, is National Nutrition Month and it is also this particular week, is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week and I wanted to publish a special episode talking about a really near and dear topic to my heart with Rebecca Scritchfield, who is the author of the new book, “Body Kindness”. So Rebecca is a registered dietician in private practice in Washington, D.C. She also does a lot of media work, she’s obviously written a book, she has a podcast, she does so many wonderful things and in this episode, she talks about her journey with kind of a paradigm shift in her own life in regards to food and self care and wellness. She’s written this book all about her journey to discovering how to make peace with food and her body and how to basically spiral up with taking good care of ourselves and doing the next right thing. And I loved this conversation so much and I think it’s really appropriate for this particular week where we’re talking about eating disorders and we talk a lot about dieting and how it’s not helpful for us on this podcast and this book is a really important resource for any of you out there who need a little bit of help on your journey. So enjoy this episode and get ready to learn a ton from Rebecca, she is awesome and she has a lot of great wisdom to share to enjoy.
Rebecca Scritchfield, welcome to Nutrition Matters Podcast, we’re so glad you’re here.
Rebecca: Yeah great, so I’m am in private practice in Washington D.C. It’s a mindfulness space, behavior change practice. It’s called Capitol Nutrition Group. We do not market weight loss in any way but when we talk about weight, we talk about weight concerns and we’re very clear that we take a weight inclusive approach and that we focus on habits instead of weight loss goals. So we still get clients coming in saying, but I really wanna lose weight, but oh my god I can’t do another diet again or I’m gonna scream. And they feel kind of loss so it’s like how can you help us? So we definitely handle that and the bulk of folks that we love to focus on have to do with, you know, hitting diet rock bottom, breaking free from diets, body image, and really just learning how to be good to themselves. A novel idea! [laughs]
Paige: I know, it’s so revolutionary, how dare you! [laughs] And you also, I think it’s important to mention, your really important work, not only with the book but also with your podcast, Body Kindness so called by the same name. And I’ve listened to episodes here and there, I’ll let you know I haven’t listened to every one, but do you do all of them with Bernie or are some of them with other experts, or what’s the format of your podcast?
Rebecca: Sure, so year 1 was like, I have a great idea, and I have no time because I’m still working on my book, but we’re gonna do it anyway! [laughs] So year 1, you can listen to, I believe we were able to get out 12 episodes which I feel like was pretty miraculous with everything that was going on but it’s just myself and Bernie.
Paige: I was just gonna say, for people who don’t know who he is just introduce him, but that’s what you were doing so keep going.
Rebecca: So Bernie Salazar was actually a “winner” - air quotes but listeners can’t see that - a winner of the Biggest Loser, it was NBC Season 5.
Paige: So back in the beginning -
Rebecca: It was early, mhmm, Allie Vincent was the first prize winner, she was the first female winner, and then he was the at home winner, the runner up. I mean literally, confetti fell, he won a big fat check for being the runner up, and that was his life. So we were actually connected through some of my early spokesperson work and we did some advocacy work on The Hill for funding physical activity, like reimbursement so if you spend money on a gym and sneakers and all that stuff, can you use this as a tax deduction so that it’s encouraging a healthy lifestyle. And I wasn’t yet quite - I was nowhere near health at every size, so but we connected and built a rapport right away -
Paige: What year was this?
Rebecca: Oh god, the it must’ve been 2007/8/9 maybe. So anyway, long story short, I had speaking engagements I was doing, and it was, you know, just the classic thing that you can think of as dieticians that you learn in school like, here’s the portion distortion quiz, and you’re gonna fill the soda bottle with sugar and be like, look how much sugar is in here, shame on you, you know? And like I was giving these speaking engagements and honestly, my heart was in the right place, like it was called the nurture principles and I was laying the groundwork for how I say now, You can’t hate yourself healthy, I was laying the groundwork for things, I just didn’t know. I really didn’t know about size diversity, weight inclusivity, and I didn’t really know about the powerful role genetics plays, I didn’t really know about the dangers that dieting causes, which were literally still, we’re still learning. The real metabolic danger that’s outside of personal responsibility. But anyway, we traveled the country giving these “helpful” workshops together and then we lost touch, things were shifting a bit for me, my practice was growing, I was getting really busy with that, I was starting a family. But I was also learning more and more about health at every size and size diversity so it was getting difficult, it was almost like I had to crawl into my shell and hide a little bit because I didn’t wanna create any more harm and I didn’t know quite what to do. So I got a lot of training through conferences and reading and I was sort of working with clients with eating disorders and my eyes were wide open and there was this period where I just spoke a lot less frequently and started my family and we just lost touch. But when we were speaking together, he looked like post-show Bernie. We had this - I wonder if I still have it - but we had this banner, you know those more giant than lifesize banner? And it was his before picture! So we would like, show his before picture and he would be like, look at me now! I mean like it was so, my heart breaks. I mean I was a jerk, I really was trying to be helpful and I think this is a really key point because I think a lot of dieticians and health experts, we really really wanna be helpful and we just don’t know how to do it outside of diet culture. So I literally was making my own mistakes growing up, made mistakes working with him, and I went away and started learning about this and there were various things that happened where I said I have GOT to change everything I do -
Paige: - Okay and before you talk about that, I wanna ask like, just because I never know if this is like the first episode is gonna hear of my podcast, right? So when you say, I was such a jerk, for some people they’re gonna be like what is she fricking talking about, right? They’re gonna be so confused because that’s so normalized in our culture and that’s so confusing to people. So just take a minute and talk about why you think, looking back with your knowledge and experience now, why were you being a jerk back then or what do you mean by that?
Rebecca: Sure. I mean I wasn’t trying to shame from the stage. But look, I watched the Biggest Loser and I ignored that they were throwing up in puke buckets, you know? I ignored or like I would hear some of the negative things they would say but then when you would see someone cry on camera and say this is life changing, I love this - I didn’t know enough to read between the lines, I didn’t know enough of the science, I didn’t know enough of the lived experience. I was seeing a show that was manufactured for me. But I chose to believe what was in line with what my values were at the time which was that this show was creating transformations and these people are getting healthier and losing weight. And so it was reaffirming my bias, my weight bias, and my beliefs. And so that’s kind of what I mean now, is that even though my intentions might have come from I wanna help people, if you are saying things like, do this and you will lose weight, you are contributing to diet culture. You don’t know if they’re gonna lose weight, you don’t know everything about them, and even if they do lose the weight, that might now improve their health and now we have science behind that that shows that. So that’s kind of what I mean.
Paige: And it [weight loss] might not make them happier, too.
Rebecca: Oh, yeah.
Paige: Like how many people do you know who have lost a significant amount of weight and they’re like, where’s the happiness I was promised?
Rebecca: Well they are just waiting for the other shoe to drop, right? Because they’ve lost weight before and it’s weight cycling. This was my own mother, she lost 100 pounds as least twice in her life. So she has weight cycled through dieting. I mean it is what you have to do to try to lose 100 pounds is insane. And it just took me a really long time to put all the pieces together.
Paige: So in other words, by getting up and saying look at his before picture, and look at him NOOWWWW and you can do it too, and here’s how - for you, what you’re saying is, looking back that was sort of making promises that might not work for some people and might lead to disordered eating and might lead to some diet culture and pressure that now, looking back you’re like mmm, that’s not where my heart is now even though I had good intentions then, i’ve learned some things. Is that kind of a good way to summarize or would you add something else?
Rebecca: Yeah, and I wouldn’t even say might contribute to diet culture - it does! And we know it does. So I think it’s putting the value on appearance that that appearance does not equal health. You know when I did the videos for Body Kindness that was a key thing that we wanted to get across is that in our culture, appear = health and that’s a problem. And I had people of all different shapes, sizes, colors, gender, I mean I tried to get the gamut and they were all separately interviewed, I wasn’t even in the room. When you actually watch the video, they’re all kind of aligning on this theme. So yeah, I think it’s the idea that saying life starts after you lose the weight or if you change these things, you will lose weight, just even somebody’s body, I mean it’s almost like using his body as maybe like a weapon? Like, this should be you too. Like now what I know about social comparison and compare and despair, I mean we were on the stage trying to inspire people and people said that we were inspirational, but how were we not hurting them too? Like knowing what I know now, and I would love for Bernie and I to get to speak together again and again and kind of like complete the story, but we would just do it so differently like we would not contribute to diet culture and shaming and we would - it would just all be so different and I just think it’s really important that when you wrong someone, it’s important to acknowledge your mistakes and this happened when I was writing the book. I read The Book of Forgiveness by Desmond Tutu, it’s amazing. And in the book, I actually make an apology to people who I know I’ve harmed and it was very important to me, it’s part of how I’ve been allowed to forgive myself for mistakes I’ve made in the past and it’s why I’m doing what I’m doing now. I don’t want to shame individuals or be some angry person, but I need to use my voice to say here’s science, here’s what’s helpful and I really can’t tell anybody what to do, but I just hope that I can at least help present this wider view of what really matters. It’s not just appearance and we’ve read the article about regrets of the dying and if you’re on your deathbed you wanna know that I would’ve lived a good life, right? And so what does a good life look like? It’s not like, oh I’m glad I was a size whatever at my reunion, you know? We need to live our life NOW so it’s like I think we need to, even as a health expert, acknowledge where you fit into this place of truly helping people. And I just, I don’t think the science supports it and it’s not longer in my belief system that focusing on weight loss is a goal, I don’t think that’s a goal that you can control, I don’t think that’s helpful.
Paige: Exactly, and I think, Rebecca, just from feedback from someone who follows you and who really respects your work, I think you’re really good at what you just said. I think you’re really good at doing that and bringing in the science and not necessarily saying this is how it’s done, here are the things to check off your list. You’re just really good at bringing it all in and individualizing is and just giving people things to think about that are very counterculture and very paradigm shifting. And to me, that’s what your book is. And so let’s talk a little bit about how you made this shift because you’ve set the stage here of touring the country with Bernie and some of the intentions you had there that were great but just maybe looking back just not feeling so great about it anymore but what made you change your mind, what experiences stand out to you? I know I’ve seen little things here and there and heard things about how you know, becoming a mother was a big influence on this shift and I would just love to hear more about how you made that change in your life.
Rebecca: Sure. Well, you know, I don’t really think it was really any- it was not a big sweeping change. It was lots of little clues. And just being curious. Lots of little clues and just being curious about, well what if and why not? And so my first undergrad is in chemistry so I’ve always been like an experimenter so and I will always say literally even as a student like I loved school, I mean kindergarten through college, I love school. And I have this mindset of just always being a student. I look forward to learning and growing but I definitely, I would say so if I had to pinpoint some key things, I started developing a really strong inner critic about my body probably sometime between 10 and 12 and I remember doing, I don’t know exactly how old you are in 5th grade or so, so that’s when I did, my friend and I, we just said oh, let’s try to get our weight to a lower weight, a specific number. And I just started eating less food. And like I was on free and reduced lunch, I was already food insecure and yet I had something in my head that was if you weigh less, you’re more valuable. I don’t know where it came from. My family pretty much I remember growing up, we openly identified as emotional eaters but certainly I believed we lacked financial resources for nutritious foods and we lacked the education for how to better budget for food and cook and prepare food. My mom worked double shifts as a waitress to help support a large family so there were a lot of those socioeconomic that we tend to forget. We tend to just go, oh well I’m in private practice I’m gonna ignore all of that BS and sweep it under the rug. But all that was stuff that I was dealing with but then I kind of started to build up this inner critic that was very judgmental and I would compare my body to my friends and I knew I was shorter, I knew my thighs were bigger. I was in the smart, gifted classes but my friends were cheerleaders and on the dance team and I was on the dance team, but it was kind of like I never fit into either group and I was trying to fit into both. But I just had this inner critic that basically said, you need to look more like your friends and reading all those diet magazines and those glossy pages that said, this is what health looks like. So I would go through periods of just, oh, I’m just not gonna eat and just drink one juice today. So something that if a client came in and said I’d be like, ummm, eating disorder, body image issue - Like right away. And there were times I would do that and like my best friend would call and say, let’s go to Burger King, and I’m like yeah! So I truly believe that my best friend growing up, she’s in the book about promise and all of this amazing stuff that she does with animal rescue, but I really do think like we never really talked and I could really isolate my issues because it didn’t show on my body but like, she would often, when we’d hang out we’d go out for pizza or whatever and I do feel like that that was like nourishing me to help prevent really bad issues of malnutrition. So I think that I had those struggles through college, through becoming a registered dietician and I thought I was helping people by monitoring them, my mom wound up with some health issues which I talk about in the book and I finally woke up and wake like you know I think her struggles with her eating patterns and her weight truthfully could be related to dieting. And so between all these clues throughout the years and getting clients who were just truly unhappy and dealing with body image issues, I was like this just isn’t right. There has to be more to health than what I’m able to provide to people. I’m not helping them, I’m making it worse. And so I started picking and looking for tools then and everything from Intuitive Eating with Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, and doing supervision with them, Marsha Hudnall, who owns Green Mountain at Fox Run - we met and I spent a week at Green Mountain actually and we did an exchange where I did some social media marketing stuff for them when all of that was first coming out and I participated in the program. And it was very helpful for me to learn about mindfulness and self compassion and yoga helped me with self compassion and so all these little things that now I feel like is in Body Kindness that helped me along the way and so it was like I’m helping myself and my clients and learning about this and for many years, had no guts to tell anybody because I thought everybody would say I was insane, and my business would shut down, and every dietician would laugh me away. And I was afraid of losing that. So I did a lot of stuff in silence, but not anymore.
Paige: So you mean like you were afraid to be the rogue dietician who was saying, wait a minute, maybe weight loss - we shouldn’t be encouraging people to pursue weight loss through dieting - is that what you mean by wanting to do it solo?
Rebecca: Well yeah, I mean I think there are many and growing number of dieticians coming out and being body positive and I love it so so much. But yes, that’s what I would say I learned from reading “Intuitive Eating” and from doing supervision with Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch and so I was like okay and watching them have respect in the field and I was afraid to just come out and say words like weight neutral or weight inclusive because I didn’t want to lose clients, I didn’t want to be laughed at by my peers, and now I recognize that as more about shame and fear and I think you just get to a point where you say something one time and it’s scary, and then again and it’s less and then again and it’s less. And then it becomes a habit and then it’s like oh, now it’s just easy to call something out. I tried to really be respectful and I feel like you need to let people be where they are. I made so many mistakes. If somebody came at me with a really harsh criticism, it would probably scare me away from wanting to learn more because I’d be hurt. And so I don’t want to do that.
Paige: So let’s talk about your book and when did you start writing it in this whole process as you’re explaining little things you’ve learned along the way and how it’s come together in this giant philosophy of body kindness. When did you start deciding, yeah I’m gonna write a book?
Rebecca: Umm.. well, hm. So there was a point where I made up in my head, oh if you write a book, all these amazing things will happen. [laughs] And it really is, I feel like what I know now is that it’s an amazing honor to make it as far as I have in writing a book. And I would honestly encourage anyone that if you have even an inkling of an idea, that books can be a way that you can help people change lives - then too hopefully you’re already blogging, writing at medium, writing for other publications, writing every day, having time in your day to reflect because all those things need to happen to make you a great writer and we need more books and more influential writing and more like thought-provoking writing and less what’s the headline and everything like that. So I encourage everyone to just go for it and take action and you never know where it’s gonna go. I think mine was a mix of I had been practicing for a while, I had known about health at every size and been involved in it, and I met a literary agent and we had a meeting essentially and I said, I wanna write a book that’s like, who cares about your weight and here, like if you focus on happiness first, you’ll be more likely to create habits that you enjoy. And so we kind of came up with a very small part of body kindness and a fun chapter now but we came up with an idea called happy hours and that was what the publisher bought, actually. So I was writing to this book called “Happy Hours” and we were still trying to figure out the format but there were - you know I had spiral up as something that I had been working with -
Paige: I love that!
Rebecca: - Thank you! And long story short, it ended up coming to I was having difficulty with the writing and we were all kind of having difficulty about does every activity have to be an hour, are people gonna be confused because happy hour is known for drinking - and I just really felt like what I was doing was subpar. Like it was not the book I was meant to write, it was like okay, this is gonna be this cute flip-through, cute ideas, gift book because I always had in mind that it would be a book that someone would want to gift to someone else. And interestingly, when I was writing - so I had sold the book, I think I just had a six month old, and then I was on a writing schedule and there was a lot that was going on in the time because I had two kids that were only 19 months apart, and between managing my schedules and my own self care, it’s like stuff from the past came back - Body bashing, unnecessarily, judging, pushing both girls in the stroller that that wasn’t enough because I wasn’t getting a way to do “the hard workout” - and I wouldn’t call it postpartum depression at all but I definitely wasn’t myself. And there was a sadness and there was an apathy. My husband actually called me out. He, one night for dinner, he looked down at my plate and said, we’re eating pasta and you’re eating zucchini and sauce, so what is up with you? I basically just broke down in tears, and it was like I had like 3 bowties and it wasn’t really enough food. And I was like, I just I feel like I can’t catch a break. I have this really nasty voice that’s judging me and everything I do and I’m not happy and I think I can do a better job at taking care of myself but It’s like I can’t do it with this nasty voice in my head. And he was just very loving and was like, pretend you were your own client - and it just gave me this idea and I just started to journal and I started to write down things that mattered to me and in the book it wound up becoming the “body kindness manifesto”. I wanna say it was like the 4th or 5th one down was “be good to your body” and it just jumped out at me and I circled it and I was like that’s it! That’s what’s missing it’s like I’m just not being good to myself, and that’s what I need to focus on to be more kind, I need to be more compassionate. And yeah, I need to manage my time better. I need to not avoid things that I know are good for myself. I need to shut off the computer at a certain time because I do need my rest. Things kind of started to click from there and within a week I basically wrote what is about/around/pretty much the bones of the introduction for Body Kindness and I emailed my publisher and I just said, I really wanna write a book really bad, but I cannot write the one you bought and here’s why. Can you read this? And they loved it, and they just said, yeah, let’s have a meeting and figure it all out. And we still didn’t have the title of Body Kindness like we had all this stuff, like I had my bullet list, and I said well all I know - actually, what happened was I looked at the list myself and I was like - well what about Body Kindness? And then I was like oh no, that’s a bad idea. And then I went to bed and the next morning I went to the meeting and I was like, well all I know is if I had to give up everything on this checklist, the only thing I’d wanna keep is ‘Be kind to your body.’ And my editor says, what about Body Kindness? And I was like, oh my god, that was my idea too! So that’s really, I know it’s a long story, but that’s really the story of how it came out. I will always admit that I really wrote the book for myself first at a time when I really needed it. I just had a temporary, transitioning into motherhood is very hard, and transitioning from one to two is difficult and I just, I had sort of a lapse in my self compassion and I do think that it was really helpful for me to basically, you know write in a conversational style because I was really talking to myself and talking to my clients and putting their stories together and reformatting it and everything and yeah, it was very, it was a therapeutic work for me to do and it allowed me, I feel, to get better faster because I just, like what I was pulling together was making sense and it felt good and I did all the spiral ups myself and it was just very very helpful so yeah, I’m just very, very proud of it.
Paige: Well you should be! And it’s beautiful. It’s a different type of book just for anybody who hasn’t picked it up yet. There’s a lot of visual, there’s a lot of color, there’s a lot of flowcharts, and beautiful fonts. And I’m sure that that was very intentional, do you wanna talk about that little stylistic design element of it?
Rebecca: Sure, well that I have to give credit to my publisher and the graphics team there but we had a vision that it would be a gift book. And they’re really good at putting together formats that will be visually appealing. And so we kind of had an early idea of having these infographics so, just a pretty way to learn some information and a way to break up the copy with what I was creating with the spiral-ups and everything like that. So we knew there would be a lot of breakup in the copy with the spiral up activities and these infographics, I mean I think there are 12 or 13 throughout the book. And yeah, and I just think it kind of changes the experience and even the way that it’s formatted, I still prefer that a person reads it from front to back and it’s not like you have to slow your reading down to do every single exercise, but at least I think the best experience is to read it that way so that you understand the scope of the concepts and then you can really dip into any chapter. And one person in our Body Kindness Insider’s group, which is a free Facebook group you can be part of once you get the e-course on my website, one person said, well, should I start making some of the changes now? And I was like, yes! Like don’t say, oh no no don’t read the book, I can’t make this change but like when you see opportunities to make changes, make those changes. But you’re gonna need to pick certain areas that you want to work on that call you more and so I feel like you can kind of dip into the chapter on food, and learn from the infographics and the spiral ups there. And then skip around to something else that you find helpful.
Paige: Yeah, and just to give people an idea of how it’s organized, I mean it’s written by you, a registered dietician, but like you said it’s like your therapeutic journey through a huge paradigm shift and that’s, like I said in the beginning, I think the take home message for me is like trying to have the idea of being kind to yourself in the back of your mind as you’re doing all your tasks and decision making and behaviors in your life. And so each of the chapters and sections in your book sort of dives into various elements of that, wouldn’t you say? Or help me fix that a little bit.
Rebecca: Yeah no, that’s exactly right. And I would say that there’s this underlying focus on finding your inner caregiver voice. So our inner critic is something that is developed, I believe the science shows by the age of 1, we’re really able to absorb messages we receive from our environment. And it’s not that we can never have a critical thought, but criticism is reinforced by anything in our environment from family to friends to what we’re exposed to. This voice can get loud and strong and powerful and certainly, diet culture thrives off the inner critic because it says you’re not good enough unless you’re trying to lose weight. So the dieting and all the things we do to try to improve ourselves because we don’t feel good enough as we are right now - there’s a key difference there, like it’s okay to want to work on self improvement. If not, then that’d be like I’d never try a new recipe again, you know? I’d never challenge myself to something again. There’s nothing with working on ways that you want to learn and grow and enhance your life but it’s very different when you have an inner critic guiding you that says this is what you have to be in order to be accepted, this is what you have to be in order to fit in, this is what you have to be in order to be good enough, then we end up putting our lives on hold, isolating ourselves more, we’re less likely to set and accomplish important goals in life because we don’t feel good enough so our self worth is really, really low. And the antidote to self worth is self compassion. And so you build self compassion and self acceptance through growing your caregiver voice. And the critic doesn’t go away, at least I have not figured that out, but if someone wants to write that book, by all means, [laughs] yeah. But it’s not about the critic going away, it’s about understanding that the inner critic is a thought bully and it’s not helpful and in Body Kindness, the universal question is, does this help create a better life? Pretty much anything the inner critic says, it’s usually a no. And so it’s about doing what you would do to a bully on the playground. You would know that there’s a reason they’re there but also choose not to engage that thought and even if it feels like you, the problem is your thoughts that are repeated over and again become your beliefs. And I said earlier about the thing between beliefs and values so you repeat your thoughts become your beliefs and you have this value of I am worthless. And that’s all a part of the inner critic. But you can change that and you can grow a strong caregiver, one choice at a time, and it’s even that choice of like, oh, that’s a really critical thought. I’d like to replace that with something nicer. Inner critic doesn’t all of the sudden run away, but you do this one thing, that just helps you feel a little bit better and it helps you feel more optimistic and this is where really big change happens through the power of finding this caregiver voice that says, I love you, I care about you, I want to work with you, I want to take care of you. And you change your habits through that pathway. And the reality is, I’ve seen the gamut. I’ve seen weight loss, I’ve seen no weight changes, I’ve seen no weight changes but some body changes, and I’ve seen weight gain because people have been weight suppressed that when they were really truly a good balance of health and flexible, not restrictive it lead to weight gain and so that’s why you can’t really say what’s gonna happen to an individual and the less value we put on the appearance outcome and the more value we put on believing that my life is better, that’s the right path. That would be the Body Kindness path is that it’s about a better life, not how I look and it’s about giving up the idea that you control your weight and just because you give that up doesn’t mean, oh great, a whole box of Twinkies and that drives me mad when people say and jump from -
Paige: That’s the misconception. So, I’ve had a few thoughts while you’ve been talking and last night, this is so funny that you said the thing about the bully on the playground, because that was such a good visual, I think we can all remember what it feels like to have someone bully us on the playground and then we tell our parents and they help us know what to do, and you’re right, the answer is don’t engage and don’t fight back and don’t be mean but just, anyway don’t engage with the bully is the point. And last night, my 4 yr year who’s almost 5, told me that she learned at school about people being mean to you and what you’re supposed to do and how you’re supposed to be kind to people even if they’re mean to you and then she said because kindness grows or kindness spreads. And so she had just said this really wise thing about if someone’s mean to us, what we’re supposed to do is we’re supposed to be kind because kindness grows. And then the bully will think, well why am I being mean when they’re being nice to me, and that just really tied into what you said there because you said the antidote to self worth questions is self compassion and body kindness and I just totally agree with you, I think that bully in our head can’t stick around if we just treat ourselves with a little kindness. And yeah it might still come in and creep in, like you said we don’t just get rid of these thoughts forever, but do you engage with them and do you kind of say, you know what? I’m gonna choose a different thing. I’m not gonna do that, I’m gonna choose kind acts, or kind thoughts. And It’s cool that a 4 almost 5 yr old has internalized that at least on a physical level, not on a thoughts level of course, but she intuitively understands that when a bully is teasing you or being mean to you, you just need to be kind back. And I think it’s no different than the bully inside our own heads.
Rebecca: Mmmhmm, I agree and last night, I almost had this look of fear, I looked at my husband and I just had this fear in my eyes and I stood in front of the refrigerator and I forget what I was even doing, and my 4 and a half yr old just made some comment about some type of vegetable and calling it healthy, which is not wrong, and I know a lot of people have difficulty using the word “healthy” because it’s like this individual label on this individual food and for me personally, it doesn’t- there are other things, like saying weight loss or calling someone overweight that I take more of an issue with. But I just took a deep breath and said, oh yeah, sure. You know, and there are lots of foods that provide us lots of benefits for good reasons and so we don’t have to judge individual foods and we can enjoy a little bit of everything like when we put some nutella on your banana. So I mean she was young, and again, there was nothing but like, as a parent you can think, this is great, my kids are identifying vegetables as healthy, and yes, but I would say are you helping them see, at their age appropriate level, kind of a big picture value system that you want them to have around food? And so I think I rose to the challenge but I’m like, I’m not ready for this! [laughs]
Paige: We had that exact same comment come up in our house after a lesson about healthy foods in school with my 4 yr old and she got obsessed with asking me, is this a healthy food? And I just had to say, look, no foods are healthy. We are healthy if we eat lots of different kinds of foods. So I repeated that enough times and just very neutrally and not like, ahh you shouldn’t say that, but just kind of like, look, we’re only healthy if we eat zucchini, and bread, and chocolate, and whatever like we need to eat lots of different types of foods . And what’s really cool is I actually heard her say that to my 2 yr old recently and she said, we’re healthy if we eat all kinds of different foods, that’s how we keep our bodies strong - I don’t even think she used the word “healthy” - but that’s how we keep our bodies strong and healthy or something like that. But yeah, so it’s kind of scary - when you’re sensitized to these things which a lot of people listening to this podcast are, and they’ve actually written in like, ugh, it’s actually kind of a burden to be sensitized because I get so bugged by every little thing people say. But I think it’s good for us to model little things you can say, like what you said about zucchini and how you handled that situation. I think it’s nice to not feel like we can’t say the word “healthy” or we can’t have our kids go away to school and have lessons about healthy foods. Obviously that’s a great thing, we want to encourage well-balanced eating, but we just don’t want to become all orthorexic and scary, especially in such young kids who are so pure, innocent, and sweet and we wanna keep them that way as long as we can.
Rebecca: Yeah, and we need - kids need a consistent reinforcement because that helps them because they’re literally building their inner voice, right?
Paige: That’s so true and that’s a good way to tie it back to your book!
Paige: Yeah, we as the parents are helping them create those tracks in their head of what they said when they’re encountered with a bully or when they’re encountered with a bad thought, or when they’re encountered with pressures to look a certain way, right?
Rebecca: Yeah and I think that’s the thing is it’s like you’re allowed to be scared, but you need to have the conversation anyway. And in fact, when I first came out with Body Kindness, you know how many people were like, that’s great, maybe it will help me with my kids. So I’m convinced, I wanna do something on help me not screw up my kids [laughs] Yeah because I’ve had in my practice, I had a 9 yr old who got diagnosed with failure to thrive and as it turns out, the well-meaning parents were doing crossfit and paleo and so the child wasn’t getting adequate nutrition and started becoming afraid of all these other foods and wasn’t eating her lunch and all this stuff and it’s like I truly believe the parents were finding something that they thought worked for them, that they read about, hey I read this book and it was in the right direction and this workout makes me feel good and everything - And the child ended up needing treatment for an eating disorder and malnutrition so it’s really important to think deeply about your values, what you care about and why, what works for you, and align to that and there are gonna be people that don’t necessarily do everything you do but it’s not your job to try to sell them on what you’re doing or convince them. You can if you want, but that’s gonna take some of your energy so I think it’s about first saying, okay let me do me and let me do the best I can for the people I care about the most, and if people come curious, I’ll share what I know. But it’s not everybody’s individual responsibility to make sure they fix everybody else, that would take forever.
Paige: Yeah and I think that hits on a basic human need of wanting to be understood, right? And we don’t really wanna go through our lives feeling like everybody thinks we’re crazy or everybody thinks we’re doing the wrong path or whatever. So I think that there is a natural instinct to say, hey guys! I’ve been enlightened, I’ve found this new way! You don’t have to diet! And I think it is important for both of us to just say, I mean I’m sure you’re the same way as me, I don’t go around having these conversations with people in my life, you know? If someone asks me, because they know what I do for a living, I’ll talk about it, but most of the time people don’t really want to know unless they really want to know and if they do, they’ll listen to my podcasts and they’ll read my blogs, And so sometimes people assume that we just go around evangelizing this point of view all the time and the truth is in my personal life, I don’t really talk about this stuff. In fact, it’s a little exhausting to constantly talk about it. So that’s sort of an expectation people can have too of their own lives. People aren’t necessarily going to want to hear it even if you have that desire to be understood, people maybe aren’t ready or wanting to hear it, and that, like you said, can take a ton of your energy away. So be careful of that and remain, cognizant of your own self care practice so that you’re not getting exhausted in that journey in talking with other people about it. But you actually have a section in your book about this that I actually flipped to here, that says 5 things you can do to spread Body Kindness to the world and I love these a lot. Do you mind if we talk about these to kind of finish off the conversation?
Paige: Okay, so the first one you talk about is to elevate your conversations to things more important than appearance. I am obsessed with talking about this. People get really mad at me when I say, let’s just not comment on each other’s weight. And people say, that’s so rude that you wouldn’t want people to compliment each other. And I think there’s just some angry responses I get from that type of perspective but can’t, first of all that can really hurt people and that can really drive people into disordered eating patterns and shame and guilt and all of that. But second of all, aren’t there more important things about us than the way that we look?
Can’t we recognize that in each other, and can’t we give those compliments that are actually meaningful, right?
Rebecca: Yeah. Yes, giving other people compliments, letting them know you appreciate something about them, like oh that’s a colorful dress, or wow, I really like your lipstick color or your makeup today. Certain things can be a way of sharing a kindness or spreading a kindness. I do think that when it’s a body specific comment, it’s kind of like, you look great, have you lost weight? Or you look great, you look like you lost weight. And first of all, maybe they have lost weight and maybe it’s not necessarily a good thing. So taking that from the assumption that their weight loss is good. But I can think of a few reasons where weight loss isn’t good like if they’re battling a disease that causes muscle wasting or low appetite and there’s medications and side effects, you know, that weight loss could actually be meaning a side effect of poor health.
Paige: Exactly! You never know what someone’s going through, whether it’s cancer or an eating disorder or whatever.
Rebecca: yeah, and then just usually, if it’s not any of that, like your besties, you know how that conversation goes. Oh you look so great! I wish I did, I’m such a fatty. - Oh no YOU look great, I was a pig, I just ate this thing. And you know you try to one up each other on the no-you’re-good-and-i’m-bad kind of conversation and it’s like that is just so unhelpful. So yeah, I agree with you, I have a client who’s going through some of this stuff with her mom and her sister and friends and we’ve kind of worked on this idea of boundaries and that to stop and think about who do you even want to set a boundary with, because you don’t even have to verbalize the boundary with everyone. You can leave the room, you can just avoid the person or whatever. If it’s somebody you do care about, then it’s about setting a boundary and just saying, you know, I choose not to have these conversations- and if they ask why, it’s just not helpful to me and i’m just not interested in it. So-
Paige: And that’s absolutely appropriate, like you can set a boundary and I love what Brene Brown says about boundaries, it’s a way to have more love for people and it’s a way to teach people how to love you better, and it’s not mean, it’s actually an act of love, and courage, and bravery and it’s an important part of our interactions socially and so yeah, that’s a really important point with the boundaries. I’m big on that. And I’m trying to work on it too. So the second thing you said is, care about yourself enough to to not care too much, shake off judgements from yourself and others, and when in doubt come back to body kindness pillars of love, connect, and care. Yay, yay! I think people struggle with this so much because we tend to want to make the world an easier place to survive, we tend to be like okay, that’s black, that’s white. That’s good, that’s bad. And the truth is, that’s just not really how it is and you can care but you can also kind of not care and let it go and you can be, balanced in your nutrition but you can also be not balanced sometimes. And that’s life and that’s normal, that’s expected, that’s healthy, that’s good, and I just like how you make that point throughout the book. I think that you do a really good job of trying to teach people how to strike that balance.
Rebecca: Yeah, you know and that’s a classic needing to fit in that makes us always question, well does this person like me and just kind of when everything that’s happening in your life becomes an issue, then it takes time away from dealing with each issue. And so we do have to practice this idea of is this thing worth my energy to work on? Because it something I really care about, because it’s something that really matters to me. And then if not, being able to let it go just so that you can conserve that energy for good things in your life. So it’s not that you don’t care just because you decide not to go there with a person or not engage that, it’s just that your well being doesn’t hinge on somebody else’s approval of you.
Paige: Absolutely. That is so important. I love it! Okay, so the third thing you say is Be Brave, Share Body Kindness with those you care about, speak up and use your powerful, educated voice for good. I think we talked about that a little bit when you said, if some people might not really be ready or an integral part enough of your life to say, look this is what’s going on with me, let’s talk about it, let me share with you why it’s important. But there will be those people who are important to you and who you want to be on your support team and in your circle and on your side and you want to feel understood by those people and I think that’s kind of an important distinction to make as you’re navigating this experience, it’s like who do I share this with and who do I not? And that’s a way to keep a good balance. Do you have anything else to say?
Rebecca: Yeah, I mean I just think that you, I think that there’s a certain vulnerability with sharing our stories and the reality is that when you decide to take a risk and share something about your story, that you realize you’re not the only one and you realize you’re able to actually help a lot of people in surprising ways. And so when I see things like that out there, all I can ask that I keep seeing more, because the more images we see of people accepting and loving their bodies and a wide variety of shapes, that’s good for everybody. And that’s progress so I think a lot of times we, you know, be more of an inner critic, lack of self worth where it’s like well what kind of impact can I make? And it’s like actually, a really big one. But you make it from not hiding, and you make it from showing up, and you make it from, in your way, using your voice for the greater good of our humanity.
Paige: Yeah, and deciding when that’s worth it to you and not too high of a cost for your own mental health, right?
Paige: Okay, so number 4 you say, vote with your dollars, support businesses and communities that make room for everyone in their definition of health and beauty. Do you have any recommendations for practical how to do that?
Rebecca: Yeah that’s an interesting question because it’s like, we also need to just kind of get on with our day to day lives and I love my morning latte and am I gonna stop buying the pods from the maker because they don’t have a body positive campaign? Probably not. But certainly I think like authors and books and things like that that can be reviewed, right? If you do get coaching and help and support, I mean I’m always with food related pieces I’m always gonna advocate for registered dieticians. But there are non-dieticians that are doing coaching that have a following and I just think you need to look and see, do I think this is something that would work for me? But that is a way of supporting. Clothing is interesting - so I do know that there’s growth in clothing manufacturers offering more sizes, more specifically sizes in the larger body sizes because I mean, with thin privilege you can walk into any store and you get your pick of what size options their options will be. Other people walk into a store and they don’t even carry their size so if they say they have to buy a bunch of stuff online, try and see what works, if anything, ship it back, i mean it really is crazy for me to think of the sizest issues in clothing. So one point there would be, if you hear of companies doing stuff or if you’re their customer and you like their stuff, share that so they get more business then if you’re more of an ally and say you could shop anywhere but you find a clothing maker that your fat friend is like hey, I love this then you could show with your dollars, well I’m gonna support them in stuff that is for my size. Or write letters and say how much you appreciate that kind of stuff and when you see people, like Refinery29 did their 67% where they showed diverse body images based on what the 67% of the population looks like so letting them know that that was great and you want them to do more stuff like that. That FabUplus is a magazine that you can subscribe to so I can’t really give tons of specific name drops. I dream, I have this dream where like FitBit comes to me and is like we want to do something that is body positive and we wanna cut out the calories and this and that, and what do we do with that and how do we market that - I mean I could be way off in things like that or they don’t even have to come to me, if they just want to do that stuff. But it’s certainly stopping to buy the diet-y stuff as much as you can. Especially when they’re promoting weight loss, or you will lose weight if you do this body positive thing - that is rampant and it’s annoying so when I mentioned that there are some non-dieticians, it’s not very many and it’s kind of like and you kind of figure out who they are. And it could just be that there is something that that resonates with you personally but certainly I think that being a registered dietician is really helpful if you’re in the body positive space that you get an extra level of a person’s training and expertise.
Paige: Yeah, alright so let’s close off with this last one, #5 you say, Build a strong tribe and share your kindness, gratitude and passion for life with as many people as possible. So how do you do that in practical - in a practical sense? Like you personally, how have you built that tribe for yourself?
Rebecca: Well we’re still building, right? [laughs] I think that, I guess in some ways like the book is helping me because when I’m hearing from people, that’s really helpful so I’m growing who I’m following on social just based on who the book is resonating with and I check out what they’re doing and that has certainly been helpful. Who’s going to the conference or I’m meeting them at a certain conference or in a certain session or they’re speaking or doing videos and it’s resonating - I think there’s all types of things like that that really kind of help me find and discover .. I read a great book, and you start following them, and it’s like who are they retweeting or messaging, something like that is really helpful too. So there are people who are always gonna be a part of your life and it’s important to try to figure out what the nature of your relationship is going to be and try to get it to as good a place as you can but it might not be exactly what you want but to be able to make peace with that, because they are just a part of your life. And then I think that with others you can then make decisions about who you wanna let in closer based on that 2 way street of value, what kind of value are they bringing to you and what kind of connection do you feel. But I think by and large, the idea that body kindness is not about what am I eating and what kind of sleep am I getting and what am I doing for me, me, me, me, me, me, me it’s this idea that what makes our lives better is also our relationships with our most valued connections and then just distant connections of people that inspire us and energize us and help us want to kind of learn and grow and be more curious because those are the types of things that help make our lives more meaningful.
Paige: Yeah and I really like the idea of even if that person doesn’t quite understand where you are or like you were saying about you might not ever connect on that level with body kindness so to speak - but it’s not a prerequisite to be your friend to agree with everything single thing about you or to understand or to do the exact same things you do and we can all learn from each other if we’re sort of able to expand who’s in our circle and be comfortable with some differences, whether they’re physical or the way we approach life, or age or gender or ethnicity - I think it’s nice to surround ourselves with differences so that we can just be a little bit more sensitized and aware to different people’s experiences too, so I don’t know, that’s how I approach it is I don’t think everyone needs to agree with every little thing I do in order for me to let them into my tribe type of thing. Does that make sense?
Rebecca: Yeah, oh yeah. Especially if you’re getting a value out of it. It’s interesting, it’s almost like these so what are the rules of being able to align with this person? Yeah that could really result in a lot of overthinking, you know?
Paige: Yeah, well Rebecca I’m just so excited for you and this body kindness paradigm shift that people are experiencing I’m sure you’ve gotten lots of positive feedback so far, I’ve seen it on some of your social media posts and I’m just excited about the energy surrounding your book and around this whole thing that you’re doing. I feel like it’s more than a book, don’t you think? I heard on your podcast, it sounded like you are opening up some courses, is that true? You wanna talk about that for a sec?
Rebecca: Sure, so there’s a couple things that are in the works. One is a couple of courses that I’m gonna be doing but I was very adamant about not - like it’s just gonna be a recording and if you subscribe you get the recordings kind of a thing, because I’m much more of an interactive and reflective type person so they’re gonna be 4 week courses that you can get in and you actually get to help contribute to the content based on what your interests are and then we look at the interests of the group and so they’ll be themed and then you’ll get some individual coaching, there’ll be some group-based work and opportunities to chat live and you’ll have access to recordings if you can’t make it on live and a 24/7 private area on Facebook where you can interact as well. So those will be available soon and then just I already have on my website it’s like a free e-course, it’s basically a video but then it has a reflective guide, you can read a book chapter, also get my health and happiness journal, and it really is even before getting the book, some things you can kick of with doing right away and then of course anything you wanna do with the book when you become a Body Kindness Insider through my website you’ll get invited to a Facebook group and we do book club on there every week and until we get through the book and the recordings will be available. And then people can ask questions any day. So those are some of the ways that you can kind of get some support right away.
Paige: Awesome, so how can people find you, Rebecca?
Rebecca: Um the website bodykindnessbook.com.
Paige: Great, and then social media, what’s your handle on Instagram and Facebook?
Rebecca: Sure, so it’s Rebecca Scritchfield.
Paige: Okay, and I’ll link to that if anybody wants to follow you, that would be great. So is there anything else you wanna say to wrap things up? I feel like you’ve just done such a great job of explaining your story and why you wrote the book, and what the book’s about and what it’s trying to do and I just wanna give you the chance to kind of conclude if you want to.
Rebecca: Yeah, I just think it’s that, it’s this idea that if you’re feeling like something's not right with your health and well being, to follow that. That there will be a lot of uncertainty, you don’t have to really see where you’re at at the end of all this, you just need to know that you’re dissatisfied with that inner critic and your ability to handle that inner critic, or dissatisfied with the food rules, dissatisfied with feeling like no matter what you do isn’t enough, or you’re not an exerciser and you really want to be but you feel like you can’t fit it into your time schedule so that being uncomfortable and dissatisfied is actually good information because it’s a sign that something you care about needs your attention and so use that as the reason to take the next step and that’s what it’s really about - starting, and then taking the next step and the next and the next. But that nagging feeling will not go away and I’m not expecting you to jump into body kindness fearlessly. [laughs] You know I like the idea of it, but we always carry around a little bit of fear. But feel confident enough to just start taking action and you will figure it out.
Paige: And that resonates with your story, too. It’s like I asked you the question, what were some important events that happened to change your mind and help you make a shift and I loved your response of well it wasn’t really like that, it was little tiny things that started to fill in the puzzle pieces and that’s a really good way to sort of jive what you just said with your own journey is that is the expectation, it’s just keep doing little steps in the right direction and don’t worry about 20 steps from now, just do what feels right to you and let this book kind of guide you in some ideas, but listen internally and be your own expert just like you did for your own journey. And I resonate with that too, that was really true to how I experienced my own process of making peace with food and my body. So that’s great.
Rebecca: Yes, and then thank you for everything you’re doing as well. I mean we all just have to kind of jump in and take action and be consistent and we all know that life isn’t easy, it pulls you in a million directions and so to follow these callings are very very very important if we’re gonna make progress in our own lives and really work together to just dismantle that diet culture.
Paige: Absolutely and that’s why I’m here. Just trying to help people and it’s a fun way to connect with people like you but in the end it’s to help our listeners and it’s to help people out there do a little bit better with taking care of themselves. And that’s it, you know? Thank you so much for being a part of that and for giving us your time and for writing this beautiful book - I am so excited to share it with people and to hear the responses so, way to go.
Rebecca: Well thank you for having me.
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Paige: Well, I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed this conversation. If you haven’t already, please go ahead and leave a review on iTunes. Thanks again so much for listening and we’ll see you soon for another episode.