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  • Writer's picturePaige Smathers

7 Ways Intuitive Eating and Body Positivity Have Changed Me (Professionally and Personally)

I absolutely love my job! I feel grateful every single day for the work I get to do.

In a nutshell, I get to hold space for folks who are looking to heal their relationship with food. I listen, offer support, provide education about nutrition, and strategize about self-care every day with my clients. I get to witness some of the most incredible shifts in perspective and approach that brings peace and wellbeing into people's lives. I don't say this lightly but it's true: the work I get to do feels truly sacred.

One of the greatest and most unexpected benefits of my job is that it means I have to do my own personal work. Because my work intersects with mental health, mindfulness, social justice, and more, in order for me to do my job well, I have to continually look inward: learning, growing and progressing personally so I am able to responsibly do the work that I do.

This isn't to say that I have it all figured out—far from it! But, when I reflect on the personal growth that has happened in my life as a result of the work that I do, I realize how much of a wise teacher my career is and has been for me.

Here are some of the things I'm most grateful to have learned so far:

  1. Everyone deserves respect, dignity and quality care. This might seem like a duh thing, but let's go beyond the surface here. I've always believed this is true, but I was ignorant to just how often people in marginalized bodies (i.e. size, skin color, religious identity, sexual identity, etc.) can chronically experience stigma as they navigate life. We are trained to think we can look at a person and know things about them, including what or how much they eat and whether or not they're healthy. I've been so grateful to have learned over and over again that this simply isn't true. You cannot look at a person and know their health status. It's in all of our best interest to remain curious, to withhold judgment and to ask questions. Everyone, regardless of health status or body size or anything else, deserves quality care when seeking help from a medical professional or anything else. Beyond anything else, we all deserve to be treated like human beings.

  2. Eating works best when it's values-driven. If you've followed my work for a while, you already know that I like to draw distinctions between goals and values. When you can sit back and consider what matters to you and what values you want to embody as you navigate life, it can give clear direction about how you want to care for yourself. When we forget to connect our food and self-care to our values, whatever changes we make typically are extrinsically motivated, short-lived and don't bring long-term peace with food.

  3. We all have biases. Although it's not comfortable to admit, we all have bias and looking at them can be painful. But, as I've done some hard work on my own internalized stigma and biases, I have found myself more capable at my job and more open. This is by no means implying that I'm perfect at this: in fact, I see this as a continual endeavor where I will likely never stop exploring this, but I'm grateful for the work I've done so far in uncovering layers and social constructions that keep me from connecting fully with myself and my clients.

  4. Curiosity is more powerful than judgement. The work I do with clients involves lots of exploration and self-discovery. It's about remaining curious as we try various interventions to see what works best in the individual's life. What's so great to see is as I've embraced curiosity myself

  5. Diets don't work, but aren't the same thing as healthful, balanced eating. So often folks feel like they have to choose between rigid diets and free-for-all chaos with food. The issue typically lies in confusion about what the word diet actually means. Many people conflate diets with health, and the truth is there is a middle ground that brings far more peace than either extreme. If you're reading this and you haven't experienced the middle way with food, I want you to know it exists and there's hope. You don't have to choose between absolute rigidity and utter chaos.

  6. Listening is more powerful that answering. When I was a new dietitian, I found myself believing I needed to answer my clients' questions. Over time, I realized that "answers" don't usually serve my clients well long-term because no matter how great my advice is, it tends to turn into rigid, diet rules. What I've found is that holding space for clients to explore their questions and to experiment with finding personal answers is far more powerful than any "answer" could ever be. There's definitely a time and a place for education and recommendations, but as I mature in my counseling approach, I lean toward listening and asking questions rather than fumbling for answers above all else.

  7. We are all more than our bodies. Our bodies aren't the most important things about us! We have things to offer this world outside of the way we look. Believing our bodies are the only thing that matters about us hold us back from reaching our full potential and finding our peaceful, centered purpose in life.

This work has caused me to dig deep to say the least! I owe so much of my personal learning and growth to my incredible clients and their wisdom as well as fantastic mentors and friends. I'm excited to continue to learn and grow as I do this work and I'm excited to never stop learning.

Attention RDNs: If you'd like to learn more about the art and science of nutrition therapy and how to incorporate intuitive eating and body positivity into your practice, join me for a 1.0 CEU webinar on March 12 at 10am MST. Joining live means you get to ask questions, but even if you aren't able to make it live, you'll still have access to the training and the CEU credit. Click here to register!


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