a non-diet dietician turned out to be the best form of self care

It was April of 2017. I wouldn’t eat anything that wasn’t green, sugar-free, or “anti-inflammatory”. I wanted to be able to eat family dinner without crying, so Cam and I sat in our favorite tea shop in Fayetteville and I googled therapists.

I found Kylie, who would become my dietician. Her website said something like “make peace with food” and I imagined shaking hands with a croissant, the flakes landing on my favorite dress, and it seemed right.

I went for my first appointment just after my 21st and a half birthday.

(I like to celebrate my half birthday.)

I had no idea what to expect. I’d been in a therapist office, but what did a (non-diet) dietician’s office look like? What kinds of questions would she ask me? Would she make me eat a snack with her?

It turns out, if you’re curious, that an appointment with an eating disorder dietician looks a lot like an appointment with a therapist. There’s a quiet room, often with a white noise machine which I’ve become quite comforted by. (I looked one up online the other day – I might get one myself.) There’s usually a Target rug in some kind of cool blue hue and an abundance of throw pillows. There’s always a tissue box.

Kylie’s office has this weird little scale. It doesn’t have any numbers on it. This is so the client can step on it and be weighed, but the clinician sees the weight on a little hand-held screen that they pull towards themselves on a coiled line, like an old landline phone on the wall of a sunny, wallpapered kitchen.

Other than that – it was familiar to me.

That first day, I don’t remember much about now (it’s been 1 year and 9 months since then) but I do remember talking about how I got there. When it all started.

When did it all start?

Anyway, going to a non-diet dietician was an entire, new, freeing, exhilarating world. A world that was almost too good to be true at first. A world where food is just food. You learn food neutrality pretty early on. That croissant is the same as a banana. Your body knows no difference really.

And other mind blowers –

Your stomach is not a restaurant. It doesn’t open and close. You can eat when you are hungry.

Every body is different. You can eat when others aren’t eating and you can eat more or less than they do in one sitting since everyone is not exact carbon copies of each other.

You don’t earn food by working out, working hard, etc. Your body needs nourishment even if you did absolutely nothing all day and didn’t move a muscle. Even people in comas have feeding tubes to access nutrients.

Going to see a non-diet dietician is my escape and my solace from the diet culture that we live in.

Just today, I received an email at work with some really negative language around certain foods. I overheard a conversation the other day where someone spoke about the need to “work off all the calories they ate” at the previous holiday. I saw an ad on Instagram today regarding “quitting sugar”. These kinds of messages are everywhere and when you’re trying to pursue a life of food freedom and intuitive eating (most times in order to SAVE your life), you notice more and more how pervasive this messaging is.

Those of us in ED recovery or just those of us that are working to pursue a more joyful relationship with food, our bodies, and even exercise, can surround ourselves in what Kylie has coined “a cozy non-diet bubble”. Here’s some artwork from her to illustrate that:

In the same way that someone from anxiety may remove certain stressors from their life and bring in more peaceful pieces of the puzzle such as meditation, yoga, therapy, etc. – that’s essentially what someone seeking a non-diet lifestyle can do.

For me, my number one support system is seeing my dietician bi-weekly. I can bring up these instances where I feel like diet culture is SO FREAKING LOUD and we can debunk diet culture myths together in order to keep me feeling strong and solid in my recovery.

I figure that most of you reading this aren’t in a place where a non-diet dietician is really something that you need, and I also realize that it may not be accessible to you. I happened to get lucky that one of the most renowned in the US offices just a few miles from me and she accepted one type of insurance and it was mine.

So that being said, if you are trying to form a cozy, non-diet bubble, I’ll point you to some resources that may help!

(1) Christy Harrison’s “Food Psych” podcast*

*I recommend starting at the early, early episodes. It’s a lot to digest, but the messages are great. If you listen chronologically, it’s a better, slow-released in take of non-diet literature from intuitive eating to HAES messaging.

(2) Intuitive Eating Book*

*spend extra to get a new edition. The older ones are from the 90s and have some not-so-helpful language, but the newest edition is very body positive, HAES, and anti-diet

(3) Follow Kylie, Robyn, and Dena on Instagram 

(4) Join a support group! 

I know that my previous college campus had one, though I never attended. I go to one that happens to be organized by my therapist who I see for individual therapy. I would just do a search, ask a therapist or psychiatrist, or even look for Facebook groups. I would also trust anything organized and/or affiliated by NEDA or Project Heal.

For me, I love doing a variety of these things, along with art therapy and seeing my dietician bi-weekly. It’s my cozy, non-diet self care and I love it and it makes me whole.