I left uni keen as mustard to change the world one person at time through the stock standard, general nutrition advice of eating more fruit and veg, less saturated fats, less salt and exercise more. I could see my clients struggling with today's fast and convenient foods and I was determined to show them how easy healthy eating was.
It was clear that the "eat less, move more" message wasn't working and I could sense the frustration and held-back emotional turmoil most of my clients were struggling with. I had no idea of how to support them or make inroads to change their eating habits for long term weight loss. Weight reduction was everyone's goal and very few were able to get there (and stay there). As a recently qualified and optimistic dietitian, this was as disheartening for me as it was for many of my clients.
Turns out, this scenario is the norm. Because 95% of those who intentionally diet or restrict their food intake to pursue weight loss are not able to maintain these changes for more than 2 years (for very clear, and rational reasons outlined below).
I began to study behaviour change, trying to understand people's motivation and what makes them tick but it still wasn't enough. There was a huge elephant in the room and no one was talking about it.
That elephant turned out to be weight bias and society's thin ideal. Weight bias refers to the negative ideologies associated with being in a bigger body, which can include (but not limited to) laziness, lack of will power, a lack of moral character, bad hygiene, low level of intelligence and unattractiveness (World Obesity Federation).
I hate to say it but we've all been influenced by weight bias in some shape or form in life - be that socially, fashion, school, medical and the biggest one - media.
It is ludicrous (and perhaps crazy) to think and expect that thinness = good health = better person = ultimate lifestyle = success but that's what the thin ideal projects.
Taking a step back, every person has their own DNA and have different body parts and makeup because of. So why should our body size/shape all look or be the same?
Imagine asking someone to change their shoe size, because someone believes that being a Size 8 is ‘best’.
That was the game changer for me.
Now I was starting to join the dots that these social beliefs and ideologies, whether overt or subtle were having long term ramifications on my clients and their families which often manifested into a complex and scarring relationship with food.
I worked hard to dissect my own thoughts, judgements, past advice (help!!!) and HOW I wanted to move forward in helping people in a more impactful way. Because what I came to realise (with more emerging evidence and research) was dieting is harmful - and I had to come to terms with the fact that my old advice was probably part of this bias (and stigma). This was not an easy process, and it took me more than 3 years, a lot of conversations and deep pondering to move towards letting go of what I thought was best advice, and begin to trust that I needed to learn more about the impact of weight bias and really allow people to tell me their stories and what they needed in a dietitian.
This led to discovering a Weight Neutral Approach and the Intuitive Eating Framework, which suddenly made a lot of sense to me and for so many of my clients. It was the monkey on my client's back that even they didn't know they were carrying.
Intuitive Eating also challenged my ideas and bias towards what really NEEDS to happen (versus what we think SHOULD happen) in the weight and nutrition space, and it has allowed me to reflect on my own food philosophy that (gratefully) was influenced by my mother who instilled a “food is neutral, food is to be enjoyed” approach.
This is why I'm passionate to help other women find their sense in the non-sensical world of 'health and wellbeing', to let them know it's not them that's failing - its the diet and all of the false promises that come with it. Intuitive Eating aIt's not easy at first, but it is possible to let go of the pressure to be smaller, and focus on how to nourish with liberty and a sense of real self care.
The way to Carla's heart is all things food. Follow her thoughts and opinions on the latest food news and myths.