This is a shout-out to all the dietitians on National RD (Registered Dietitian) day today! I’ve been talking more and more through the Running in Silence presentations about how little we’ve utilized them and how they’ve been undervalued/unappreciated. We need them in a time that diet culture is making many people feel inadequate and, more often than not, suffer from eating disorders/disordered eating.
We see a doctor for physical ailments and a counselor for mental struggles, yet many are not seeing a registered dietitian to improve their relationship with food and health. Instead, they fall back on various macronutrient-specific or “lifestyle” diets (think fruitarian, 80/10/10, Paleo, Whole30, etc). I was even told by someone that their doctor recommended they go on the Keto Diet (doctors, and coaches, by the way, are not registered dietitians–I wish they would refer anyone struggling with food/weight to an RD. This fantastic article clarifies all the certifications/courses RDs need to complete to do what they do.).
Anyone who has read Running in Silence knows I was convinced by these “macronutrient/lifestyle” diets. My eating disorder made eating confusing, and some of these diet communities made everything even more confusing. I wasn’t sure what information was right when books were being published on the subject of various macronutrient diets and people were supposedly thriving on them. And if a certain diet wasn’t working for me, it was because, according to many of these leaders, that I wasn’t doing it “right” or going through “detox.”
Let’s say these “gurus” were right. Let’s say eating that way is the best fuel for our bodies. Even if that were the case, what it did to me mentally, socially, and emotionally made it extremely unhealthy (cue orthorexia). It made it difficult to eat out, to have enough “right” food (fruit took up a lot of room and was very heavy to carry [haha] during that 30 Bananas a Day experience), and the cravings were horrendous. I thought I was in control, but the food/way of eating was in control of me.
Does Food Dominate Your Life?
If you are lured to eat a certain way, I highly recommend reflecting on how much food/eating takes up your life by adopting this way of eating. It really shouldn’t be on your mind much more than looking forward to meals or how you feel/enjoy what you’re eating in that moment. To me, that is recovery.
In recovery, I see how flexible my life is, how easy it is to go about my day not worrying about how I’d have the “right” food, and allow myself to eat whenever it sounds good rather than avoiding a certain craving or avoid eating “too much.” It’s easy to say that now that I’m out of the eating disorder, but I recognized how difficult (and seemingly unattainable) it is when you are in the grips of an ED. It is my hope that if you are struggling, you can get to this amazing place of balance and flexibility. From someone who thought she never would, I’m happy to say that I have, and you can too.
Meeting With a Dietitian
Over the years I’ve learned that nutrition is still a growing topic, and there is so much to learn. But if anything, through all the “lifestyle” diets I attempted and the eating disorder I recovered from, I’ve found the greatest benefit from meeting with a dietitian. I learned to eat plenty of nutrient-dense foods alongside other foods I enjoy that others may deem “unhealthy,” (I would say these foods are maybe not as nutrient-dense, but they are healthy in terms of feeding my soul and bringing me a great social life and balanced mindset).
Eating with flexibility brought me back to the weight I started with before the eating disorder ever took hold (I would say it’s likely my set point weight). But it took a while to get there—and it was a huge thanks to my eating disorder dietitian who began by creating a meal plan for me and encouraged me to eat foods I hadn’t eaten in years. It was one small manageable step at a time. I began to trust her when I realized my horrendous cravings weren’t due to a “broken” body, but because of the rules and regulations I had placed upon myself from outside influences.
It’s amazing to think back on my experience. I remember how many times I refused to see a dietitian at first because I thought she would be appalled by how much I was bingeing on. I thought she would force me to eat foods I didn’t want to eat (what I, at the time, deemed “unhealthy”). She ended up being the biggest, most critical part of my recovery. I feel fortunate enough to meet many more like her in this field and how to find the best ones to help others going forward.