BECOMING A FAT NUTRITION COUNSELLOR

BECOMING A FAT NUTRITION COUNSELLOR

My journey in the health & wellness space began with being a skinny weight loss health coach.  It molded into me going back to school and experiencing weight gain.  Then, eventually, I learnt to embrace my fatness as a licensed health & nutrition counsellor.

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This journey was long, tiring, challenging and beyond frustrating.  I want to do what I can to help others who find themselves on similar journeys.  

This blog is a backstage pass into what it looks like to have a career in the health & wellness space when you don’t “look” the part.  (According to diet culture that is…)

Let’s start at the beginning, when I still believed that thinness was more important than my diplomas and that thinness also equated to health.

The Start of my Career

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My career in health & wellness started in the weight loss industry.  (No surprise there…) I had lost a large sum of weight after some health issues and had become obsessed with health and diet obsession.  

I got a job at a clinic in my city as a health coach which, looking back, was a huge turning point in my obsession with health.

I became smaller and smaller and smaller.

I was praised more and more and more.

I gained clients simply because of my shrinking body and was suddenly getting attention from people I had only dreamt of being acknowledged by.  

To me it felt like my ability to stay skinny would mean I would have a sure-fire career in the health & wellness space.  I was convinced that if I stayed skinny and helped my clients become skinny, that I was making a true “difference” in this world. The increased attention also increased my fear of gaining weight. 

My intentions were pure, however my actions caused so much harm.

Fast Forward 5 Years Into my Career…the warning signs of obsession with my weight became real.

My worst nightmare began to happen 5 years into my career.  I was gaining back the weight.  Every month there were a few extra pounds added to the scale.  

I became more and more strict when it came to food and more and more obsessed with health.  I was convinced that my weight gain pointed to my health getting worse and that I needed help, NOW!  

I felt like such a huge failure.  Like a fraud.

I spent thousands of dollars and I listened to every piece of advice health professionals gave me.  It didn’t matter what diet they would recommend or even how contradicting to the previous diet I was on or the advice of the previous health professional.  

I became incredibly self-conscious and began avoiding going out in public or seeing people who knew me at my smallest.  I felt like I had no credibility as a nutrition counsellor seeing as clearly, I wasn’t self-disciplined enough to stay small.  

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At my worst I was restricting…

–       Dairy

–       Gluten

–       Soy

–       Peanuts 

–       Peanut Butter

–       Sugar

–       Honey

–       Maple Syrup

–       Artificial Sweeteners

–       Coffee

–       Alcohol

–       All Fruit (Except limes, lemons, green apples & berries)

–       Meat

–       Eggs

–       Potatoes

–       Corn

–       Nitrates

–       MSG’s

–       Vinegar

–       Starchy Vegetables

–       Tea (Other than green & herb teas)

–       Non-Organic Food

I’m probably missing a few but, you get the picture.  

I had unending lists of food rules on how & when to consume these foods.  These lists were so unrealistic that what had begun as severe discipline when it came to my diet (which I thought was something to be proud of…) ended in a restrict & binge cycle. This restrictive eating got even worse.

I would beat myself up for not being able to stick to “the lists” by implementing intermittent fasting or exercising for hours.  All I could think about was food, which would turn into me “slipping up” (eating foods on my “bad” list) and I would tell myself, “tomorrow you will fast in the morning for at least a week to “detox” and then STICK TO THE LIST” 

I was completely obsessed with food.

I was beyond obsessed with food labels & ingredients lists.

I spent hours every day thinking about food & nutrition.

I had severe stress when my “good” foods were not available.  

I hated my ever-growing body.

I want to note that the “good” and “bad” food lists were recommended by health professionals.  It was recommended by them that when I would mess up to make up for it by exercising for hours or fast in the morning.

If I was honest that I had binged I would be recommended to “detox” or do extended fasts.  The advice from these “professionals” drove me deeper and deeper into disordered eating patterns. My unhealthy relationship with food was oblivious to me. I wanted to be thinner at all costs.

Never once was I screened for or asked questions in regard to potential disordered eating.  I had so much shame around my inability to follow their lists of “bad” foods & their lists of food rules.  

letter-board-crisis

I was convinced that if I could just find the perfect diet along with the perfect food rules, that I could heal myself.  I was convinced that I was the problem.

How crazy is it that if we bought a brand-new car, drove it off the lot and a mile down the road it would break down, we would blame the car dealership.  Right?  And yet when diets & food lists fail us, we blame ourselves.

That ladies and gentlemen is the fine workings of diet culture.

For starters, if you want to know how to have a better relationship with food, blaming yourself is not the way to do that. 

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My Life with Disordered Eating

As my weight crept higher and higher my mental health got worse and worse.  Of course, at the time I never put two and two together.

Studies also show that stress (release of cortisol) also can increase weight gain. My obsession with weight gain and food was a perfect storm.

I began having crippling anxiety, my depressive episodes became longer and longer.  I felt like I was completely out of control when it came to my moods.  

I felt like I was losing it.  I hated life.

I was convinced that my inability to keep my weight low was making my body sick.  I was convinced that if I could just stick to the damn lists that then my entire life would change.  I was convinced that if I could just lose the weight and keep it off this time that then my entire life would be amazing. All the self-blame took to a further negative body image spiral as I had the “skinny disease”.

I was convinced that I was the problem.

I felt so unworthy in my work.  I would sign new clients, help them lose weight and meanwhile behind the scenes I could not for the life of me keep my own weight off.  I was convinced that this determined my worth as a nutrition counsellor.  

Not the diplomas hanging in my office.

What is Orthorexia?

I ended up being confronted by a group of medical professionals that I had severe disordered eating and likely, Orthorexia. Finally, the clarity to my food disorder that wasn’t easy for me to hear. 

woman-watching-sunrise 

If you want to learn more about Orthorexia from the National Eating Disorders Association, click here!

These medical professionals kindly explained that my obsession with health was in itself making me unhealthy.  The medical definition: orthorexia nervosa. They encouraged me that it would be far healthier to pursue health at my current size then continuing to try and lose weight.  

They laid out statistics that showed me that what I had experienced (both mentally & physically) was not my fault.  That I simply fell into the 90th percentile of people who would gain all their weight back and more.  

They took the emotional weight off my shoulders by explaining that the advice I had gotten from past health professionals was fatphobic and incorrect. All of their food addiction help and insight was just what I needed, not necessarily what I wanted. 

At the time I fought back.  I brought up studies regarding obesity & explained how I had “never felt healthier” then when I was at my smallest.

They listened patiently and explained that that was likely simply because society accepted me at my smallest.  My past doctors never asked me about my weight when I was tiny.  I never had trouble finding clothes when I was tiny.  My career advanced far more quickly when I was small.  

They explained that what I determined as “health” then was likely majority an external reflection of the world accepting me as I was.    

It took me weeks to accept that maybe they were right.  That maybe I had gone too far.  That maybe it would be healthier to no longer be obsessed with health and thinness.

Maybe my obsession with health was keeping me unhealthy and I actually was displaying orthorexia symptoms.

What Came Next…

I began by loosely committing to heal my relationship with food.  My attitude was, “let’s see how this goes…” with endless amounts of skepticism.  

I worked with a nutrition counsellor and a psychologist while I worked through my disordered eating and I must say, it was the best decision I ever made!

I worked through my fear foods one by one during this eating disorder treatment.  Often within literal sessions with my nutrition counsellor where I would try the food I was terrified of eating while she was there with me.  There were so many foods I was convinced would kill me if I gave myself unconditional permission to eat them, even in public.  But one by one, I chiselled away at my food phobia list.  

terri-lynn-bowl

And I was ok.

I challenged myself to eat.  To eat more often.  To eat more food.  To eat all foods.  I gave myself unconditional permission to eat and what surprised me most, was that food made me happy.

And I don’t mean the classic picture of a child consuming ice cream and smiling from ear to ear.  (Although I 100% understand that feeling!!). I mean that my moods shifted.

My depression felt less overwhelming.  My anxiety felt more manageable.  And I felt happy.  

No, not all the time.  But I began feeling excited to live again as my food obsession waned.  

Today I am Truly Happy & Fat

I have no clue what weight I am today but what I do know is that I don’t fit into the societal “norm” of what a nutrition professional should look like in the world’s eyes.  That I gained back all the weight I initially lost and more.  That I dieted myself fat by the food rules recommended by physicians.  That losing weight is what caused me to gain weight.

But get this.  I truly love my body.  I know in the past I would not have believed someone in my position who had gained all the weight back plus more in saying that.  But trust me – it’s true!!!  My mental health has done a complete 180 from my Orthorexic days.  I am busy living instead of busy trying to shrink myself.  My blood work looks incredible, I feel GOOD and out of the mouth of my doctor, I am “in the 90th percentile of overall health.”  I restrict zero foods and have absolutely no food rules in my life. That decision to ditch the scale, quit dieting, and instead, focus on my holistic wellness has been life changing.  

 

I will never again focus on weight loss for myself OR my clients.  

My Focus Today

plus-size-model-leopard-top

My private practice today couldn’t be more different than my old teachings when I was a health coach.  

Today I believe that health is truly achievable at any size and that focusing on weight loss will more than likely end with you becoming unhealthier than your starting point.  

95% of people who intentionally lose weight will gain all the weight back plus more.  85% of people will gain it all back. (Some studies even show upwards of 97%.)

Weight cycling (losing and then gaining back the weight) has a risk list that is far more costly than simply staying at your current weight and pursuing health, no matter your size!  (Unless you fall into that 5% of people who keep off the weight beyond 5 years, but let’s be real, who wants to bet on 5%?!). 

Think about it, if weight loss was a drug, the FDA would not approve it.  

Why?  

Because of the high failure & risk rate! Let’s not mention the mental impact of having an avoidant restrictive food intake disorder.

You can pursue health NO MATTER YOUR SIZE!  You can be healthy NO MATTER YOUR SIZE!  You are WORTHY of Food Freedom!

It is absolutely possible to focus on your health without focusing on your weight.  In fact, it is far more impactful this way!  

Instead of constantly looking at the scale as your measure of success, we get to truly look at your health!

  • Do you want to improve your labs?
  • Do you want more energy?
  • Do you want to sleep better?
  • Do you want to have less pain when moving your body?
  • Do you want to work on your blood sugar levels?

These health goals, and any others, can absolutely be worked on void of a focus on weight loss! Yes, changing your relationship with food IS possible and not at the expense of your health.

Work with Me!

Terri Lynn Health Counsellor

Sometimes we need help beyond reading another blog post or listening to another podcast on healing your relationship with food.

I do what I can to create products that can help you heal your relationship with food at an affordable cost!  

Are you curious about intuitive eating?  Meditation to aid in healing your relationship with food?  Implementing gentle nutrition into your life?  Working on body respect or identifying & removing diet culture from your life?

Click here to see if any of my offers are the perfect fit for you!  

I hope this blog encouraged you and opened your eyes to a world within the health & wellness space that is NOT focused on weight loss.  Thank you so much for reading and until next time, happy healing!

Xo,

Terri Lynn

Certified in Intuitive Eating

Licensed Health & Nutrition Counsellor

Terri Lynn

Terri Lynn is certified in intuitive eating and a licensed health & nutrition counsellor.

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