A couple of months into learning about Health At Every Size philosophies, I made a huge realization:
It is likely that many, if not all, of the coaches and nutritionists I ever paid money to help me learn how to “develop a healthy lifestyle” or “eat clean” or “find holistic wellness” were struggling with their own disordered eating.
The more nutritionists and wellness coaches I speak to, the more I realize that often it is people who struggle with disordered eating (and sometimes full blown eating disorders) that choose careers in these fields. They are often obsessed with healthy eating, and choose a career that allows them to get paid to think about food 24/7.
Those who don’t choose these careers due to an unhealthy obsession with food can sometimes even develop eating disorders while they’re training. Once you learn food rules, I think there are certain personalities (particularly those of us with perfectionistic and people-pleasing tendencies) who tend to take things to unhealthy places.
This is not an “exposé”! I am not claiming that every nutritionist or food coach on the planet is a disordered eater. But looking back on the people I chose to help me, the ways they ate, and the ways in which they tried to help me, I have realized that they were likely inadvertently training me to be a disordered eater.
One extremely well-intentioned woman, trying to help me recover from chronic back pain, exposed me to raw veganism, alkaline and acidic foods, food-combining rules, supplements (eww, chlorella and aloe juice!), sprouting, and plenty of “never eat XYZ” rules, all in the goal of reducing my inflammation. I walked away knowing that if I eat bread, it should only be sprouted-grain bread. (I just threw out an entire loaf of Ezekiel bread because it was triggering me from the back of my freezer.)
Another woman, trying to help me lose weight, encouraged me to see if maybe just one slice of toast would satisfy me for breakfast instead of two. (It didn’t, but believe me, I tried to do it anyway.)
I believe another coach from a long-term weight loss program I took part in was actively struggling with an eating disorder while attempting to teach me to follow healthy habits. It’s so sad, but I wonder how many of her disordered behaviors she inadvertently transferred to the women in my group.
I want to emphasize that I know that all of these women were extremely well-intentioned, and I still think that they were all extremely compassionate individuals trying hard to help me achieve my goals. I am incredibly grateful for their efforts and will be the first to say that none of this is their fault.
I mention this only because I feel it’s important for those still in the deep end of diet culture to realize that many of those teaching these techniques are struggling deeply themselves. Whether they intend to or not, their advice can sometimes do harm. You may actually be paying money to learn how to be a disordered eater.
If this is you, it’s ok. There is no shame here, for you or the people who have tried to help you. You are in a good place to learn more about the alternatives. I promise it is possible to have a relationship food without fear or shame, and I and many others are here to help you along your journey.