don’t just take it from me…

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If you’ve read my blog before, then you know I talk a whole lot about Intuitive Eating (IE) and Health at Every Size (HAES). Maybe you’ve been introduced to these topics before and put them into practice every day, maybe you’ve only read about them on my blog, or maybe you’ve never heard of them before and just happened to find this post! Wherever you’re at, welcome- I’m so glad you found this blog post (it’s a good one 🙂 )! 

You may be skeptical about IE and HAES (you’re not alone, I used to be too). Perhaps you think, “Well this is one person’s experience, I’m not like them, therefore I cannot practice IE or HAES in my own life” (I also used to think this). You may also say, “Hey Becca! You’re not a nutrition professional, you don’t have the qualifications to be talking about this stuff!” You’re right. I’m not. That’s why I only speak to my own personal experiences on my blog and Instagram– because that’s all I’m qualified to do. But it’s because of that specific reason that I created this blog post!

For this post, I’ve gone straight to the source! I recently reached out to some of my favorite IE and HAES Registered Dietitians (RD’s) and RD’2be (currently in their Dietetic Internship and/or masters program) and asked them to tell me why they believe in HAES and Intuitive Eating! Here’s what they had to say….

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Amy Hanneke- RDN, LD, CLT, owner of Satisfy Nutrition

Website | Instagram | Facebook

“I believe in HAES and intuitive eating because they allow people to explore a version of “healthy” that isn’t tied to weight, restriction, or numbers. Research shows that 95% of diets fail, i.e. dieters regain the weight they lose (and then some) – plus, they’re metabolically and psychologically damaging. Diets set us up to lose touch with our bodies, because by design they make us rely on external cues like a meal plan or schedule. It’s not a sustainable or satisfying way to live, and it sets people up to fail. I think the worst part about dieting is its implications: that A) you aren’t “enough” the way you are and you need to live in constant pursuit of a different/smaller body, and B) that if you fail a diet, it’s because you don’t have the willpower (when really, the diet is impossible to stick with and designed for you to fail).

HAES not only encourages intuitive eating and this non-diet approach to food, it acknowledges that weight loss attempts are unnecessary and typically unsuccessful. Any time we allow weight loss to become part of the picture, it becomes the whole picture – and then people get lost in one number that actually isn’t related to their health at all. HAES focuses on behaviors, not weight – and it’s shown to be overall more effective at improving lab values (while keeping people sane!) than weight loss approaches. I really don’t think I could practice any other way!”

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Amy Shen- RD, LD

Website | Instagram | Facebook

“I practice an intuitive eating, non-diet approach for many reasons. One of those being: science! Nutrition is first and foremost a science, and a rather new and ever-evolving one at that. I hesitate to say I “believe” in IE + HAES because I don’t view scientific research as a set of beliefs, but rather, supportive evidence that this is how I can provide the best care for patients.

Included in this research is that weight loss does not automatically equal health. Rather, forming health-promoting habits, as both HAES + IE suggest, can have a much bigger, sustainable impact on our health. On top of that, 95% of diets don’t even work in the long term. They often cause weight cycling, metabolic damage, and unhealthy relationships with food. As a healthcare provider, prescribing something that doesn’t work, let alone one that may cause additional harm is something I try to avoid.

In addition, I’ve had my own personal experience with disordered eating. I’ve seen firsthand how switching from the restrict-binge cycle of dieting to an intuitive eating approach can improve the health of the whole person. This includes emotional, psychological, physical, + social areas of wellness, not just our body size. Because, ultimately, our weight + BMI are not good indicators of health. Instead, I strive to use intuitive eating principles to meet patients where they are in their unique food journey. And to also consider other real life factors such as taste preferences, food availability, financial concerns, cultural differences, familial or work responsibilities, time constraints, and many others. I would be doing my patients a disservice if I did not take all areas of wellness into account when providing nutrition counseling and recommendations!”

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Jamie Magdic- Registered Dietitian Intern (Class of 2018)

Website | Instagram

“After finding intuitive eating and the HAES movement, there was no turning back….plain and simple. My passion has always been health…for as long as I can remember. At a young age of 14, I started my health journey and set out on the search to find out what it meant to be healthy. This journey was full of many battles, mistakes, and confusion. It was also full of times of enlightenment and invaluable experiences. As I approached my mid-twenties, this complete love of health turned into somewhat of a life mission I couldn’t ignore. I started to find that to live my purpose, I needed to use my passion and this knowledge I have acquired to help people find…what I like to call…their happy healthy. One of the many things I learned to be true about health was that true health creates happiness and elevates your life. When I discovered IE and HAES, I turned a corner and there was absolutely no turning back. I knew that these practices would give me the last thing I needed to bring my clients ultimate health and happiness, allowing them to leave me with a toolbox of knowledge, confidence, self-awareness, freedom, and above all else- happiness. When people find their happy healthy, they thrive. They do the things that excite them, they find their voice, they start trusting their bodies, they feel confident…life is just better. IE and HAES allows them to take all the awesomeness of their life and make it even awesome-r. So, why do I promote HAES over calorie counting, diets, and restriction? It is simple…for me, there is no other way. If my goal for clients is to help them lead the healthiest, happiest lives, then I have no other choice. HAES and IE take into account many things that traditional calorie counting and the pursuit of weight loss do not. These practices take into account the whole person, their individual and unique needs, and the fact that health is holistic and is determined by so much more than calories and pounds. I promote HAES and IE because I believe in promoting self-compassion, self-acceptance, food freedom, confidence, freeing up mental space for bigger and better things, whole-self health, and above all else- happiness.”

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Lauren Newman- Dietetic Intern

Blog | Instagram

“As a RD(2be) I choose to practice from a HAES and weight-neutral approach because I don’t believe that weight is a good indicator of health. To me, weight changes are a symptom (not the cause) of whatever is going on inside a person’s body, and their body size tells me absolutely nothing about their health or nutrition status. I strongly believe that research showing association between weight and disease risk or improvement in biomarkers is only showing correlation; there’s almost always an underlying factor/health behavior (nutrition, physical activity, stress, sleep, etc…) that can actually be attributed to improved outcomes. In fact, the stress that weight cycling (which is what inevitably happens for most people who attempt to change their body size) puts on our bodies is actually so damaging to our health that the consequences outweigh any potential benefits of pursuing weight loss in the first place!”

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Lindsay Koonce- MPH-RD student at UNC-Chapel Hill

Blog | Instagram

“When I started grad school, I wasn’t a fan of extreme diets but I still thought I would help people lose weight and give expert advice about what to eat in my career. That has definitely changed! Once I was in school, I heard about Intuitive Eating and HAES a couple of times. We had one guest speaker talk about HAES in the context of young athletes, and one professor did a brief lecture on the premise of HAES and weight stigma. I heard that Intuitive Eating was the goal for child feeding and for recovered eating disorder patients. All of this piqued my interest and I thought… ‘Well that sounds great! Why isn’t it the goal for everyone!?’
I am so thankful to have had those exposures because it led me to seek out other resources, like podcasts, blogs, and books. I read Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size and felt right at home. I love how HAES and IE acknowledge that we are all so different and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition and health. It helped me let go of the final bits of diet culture I was holding onto and move into a new way of thinking about myself, my body, food, and exercise. Untangling health and weight helped me see my own weight bias and challenged me to think more in depth about what health actually is. I believe we all have the right to feel comfortable in our bodies and that it is up to us to decide what health is and how, if at all, we would like to engage in it. I believe we are all the experts of our own bodies, and that tapping into our own wisdom about how to care for ourselves is more sustainable and enjoyable than following an external set of rules crafted by someone who can’t possibly know what we want or need. I am so thankful to IE/HAES and know that no matter where I end up in the field of dietetics, the guiding principles of this framework will help me greatly in my work.”

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Maddie White- Dietetic Intern

Blog | Instagram

“Why do I believe in HAES and Intuitive Eating? Oh boy, where to even begin!

 For starters, these philosophies helped my own recovery process immensely.
Many of us don’t realize we’re living in a culture submerged in the diet mentality. From a young age, we absorb the messages that we should look a certain way, eat a certain way, & feel a certain way about our bodies. Health At Every Size and Intuitive Eating spotlight diet culture for what it is and the effects it has on people. HAES takes that blame and frustration we put on ourselves after feeling like we’ve consistently failed, and shows us it’s not our fault. Scientifically, biologically, and physiologically – not being able to manipulate your body shape IS NOT YOUR FAULT. And then there’s intuitive eating, and it just sets you FREE. It’s hard to describe the feelings (and there are many) that one experiences when simply just learning that food doesn’t have to make you feel SO WEIRD. Chips become chips and broccoli is broccoli and food is just something we need to survive, and should be enjoyed in doing so! You realize that the rules you’ve eaten (and lived) by are just these arbitrary and irrational guidelines you’ve let dictate the daily choices you make. Are IE and HAES the be-all, end-all to your problems? No. But in helping you reconnect your mind and body again (something many of use haven’t experienced since toddlerhood) it’s certainly a dang good start. I believe in these philosophies because at the end of the day, they allow you to be you. They allow you to learn how focus on relationships, self compassion, exploring yourself, setting boundaries, and all the things that contribute to a joyful and fulfilling life.”

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Megan Price- Dietetic Intern and Owner of Run Whole Nutrition Counseling

Website | Instagram | Email

“I choose to promote HAES and Intuitive Eating over the traditional dietetics model because I have seen firsthand how damaging, ineffective, and unethical prescribing intentional weight loss is to the vast majority of people. Focusing solely on one’s body size keeps us away from actual health behaviors – including taking care of our mental health, social relationships, nutrition, and physical activity. HAES provides a framework to actually get to the heart of an issue rather than slapping a weight loss band-aid on top. It enables us to look deeper at what is actually going on in our lives, rather than inefficiently coping by trying to micromanage our body size.
Also, not only do many of us have lived experiences that demonstrate how damaging dieting can be, but research shows that recommending intentional weight loss is not an evidence-based practice. To date, we have no studies that show that rigid nor flexible dietary restraint leads to improved health OR long-term weight loss. Studies on weight control are highly flawed, because 1) Randomized controlled trials typically only run 6 months – 1 year on average, which doesn’t give us a good picture of long-term outcomes, 2) Studies that show that long-term weight loss is possible are highly biased with their participant selection criteria, and 3) These studies tend to make unsupported assumptions in their conclusions that results did not actually show. Plus, even if a person does lose weight, that doesn’t mean their actually any healthier. We know from research on the National Weight Control Registry that people that ARE successful losing weight aren’t actually any healthier – they just feel more neurotic around food. You can take care for your health without micromanaging your body size. In fact, not micromanaging your body size is likely the first step to achieving better health!”

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Michelle Pillepich- Graduate student and dietetic intern
“I believe in Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size because at this point we know that traditional dieting does not work.  You may have heard the statistic that I love: 95% of diets fail!  Prescribing diets is a recipe for disaster, and I am entering this profession to help people, not harm.  I also think that health is so multidimensional.  It would be wrong to ignore that mental health is a crucial part of overall wellness, and restricting food (or even thinking about food more than necessary) does nothing for improving mental health.  I love the approach of focusing on behaviors rather than numbers.  We know that drinking water, moving our bodies, sleeping well, and getting enough vitamins and minerals are all important.  You can do these things and know you’re healthy rather than striving for an arbitrary number via practices that may or may not promote real health.  My personal philosophy is that eating should be intuitive, accessible, and easy.  To me, this approach means listening to your body, definitely acknowledging nutrition (and enjoying fruits and veggies!), and also never depriving or restricting yourself.  We only have one life, and a life of strict control is not the life I want!”

That’s all she wrote…

Wow! Am I right?! I hope you got as much out of this post as I did! These are some amazing women, and I so hope you will follow them on social media, read their blogs, and interact with them- they’re all so welcoming, friendly, knowledgeable, and compassionate! I’m so so lucky to have met these wonderful ladies (all thanks to Instagram!) and have them as a part of the Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size community!

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