“You Are What You Eat.”
This phrase is mentioned often and marketed heavily in the organic, clean eating, and green movement. Do you think it is true? I can see how it would sway people to invest more in organic, wholesome foods so they think of themselves as being healthy. How about this one:
If you are what you eat and you don’t eat “clean” then what are you? Dirty? I do not say this to poke fun or say these phrases do not mean well, but in the world of eating disorders, binge eating, emotional eating, and body image distortion we have to challenge them all. We have to let them go. A diet can have the best intentions and help a lot of people but in the end it is a diet, it has rules, and mentally you cannot handle it.
Because you do not trust your body and you constantly shame yourself. Over time you have probably created diet rules:
“Do not eat past seven. No snacking. No carbs at dinner. Don’t eat anything that reads more then 300 calories on a food label.”
Over time you have collected these rules through different diets, articles you read, tips from people who lost weight, and shows you have watched. You probably are unaware of even how many you have, but you have them. You could not possibly follow them all but you try and when you fail you completely give up. Next thing you know you mentally throw your hands up and say well today is a complete waste. At this point one of two things happen, you punish yourself with exercise or go on an all out eating spree of all the foods you are not allowed to have and will swear off tomorrow.
Another scenario is you follow everything perfect all day until you get home and one bite of food sends you into a spiral where you can’t stop eating until your stomach is so full that you turn your food obsession into complete self loathing and hatred of your bloated body. Sound familar?
What led me to my career path is that I learned at a young age what an eating disorder could do to an individual, a relationship, and a family. My high school best friend struggled with severe anorexia, my college roommate battled bulimia, and family members around me dealt with emotional eating. , Restricting, purging, binging, and chronic dieting surrounded me. The cycle was endless and destructive. As a young woman entering the field of nutrition I thought I needed to eat perfectly or no one would listen to my advice regardless of my degree. I saw how praised I was for ordering egg white omelets cooked dry, hold the potatoes and dry toast. As I sadly ate my meal amidst the songs of praise all I really wanted to do was reach over and steal my aunt’s pancake covered in butter and syrup so when it came to my friend’s struggling with eating issues I did not handle it well, running away from the friendships because I was struggling to keep myself together. I knew it was wrong but I didn’t have the maturity or education to know how to give support and love. As I continued with my Major in nutrition struggling to stay perfect in my eating I started to realize the other end of unhealthy behavior. Woman obsessed with health, super rigid with eating healthy and never allowing themselves any moment of pleasure. I set out to find a balance between health and pleasure. Coming from a family with a history of addiction I knew I had the gene and could easily slip into unhealthy behaviors. When I was offered a job running the nutrition department of an outpatient eating disorder clinic, I knew I wanted to create change for women battling food and body image demons. Little did I know how much my clients would change my life as I worked hard on my own personal growth motivated by their ability to be vulnerable and how strong they were asking for help. After years working with women 14 to 70 years of age, the mindsets and fears were the same. Insecure, distrusting of their bodies, never thinking they were enough, prisoners to dieting and obsession around food. After I had my daughter, it became clear to spread the message far and wide. I was lucky not to fall into the grips of eating disorder but I have sure fallen into the trap of cravings and poor body image. It is hard to escape. These struggles hold women back from living the life they deserve and after helping hundreds, thousands of women heal I know this: these struggles grow in secrecy and shame. Together we can change the world spreading the message to flip the script on the diet world and learn how to be intuitive eaters and love our bodies. The diet world doesn’t deserve the money or attention. For all who suffer and for future generations like my daughter we must start to overcome and shine our lights on the world without apology to end the cycle once and for all.
Karen is a registered dietitian and busy mom to Claire and Lucas. Karen attended James Madison University and received her BS in Dietetics in 2001. She completed her dietetic internship at NY Presbyterian Hospital Cornell Campus in Manhattan and passed her RD exam in May 2003. After graduating, Karen started building experiences in pediatrics, food allergies, and weight management both at UMDNJ University Hospital and the research department at Mount Sinai Hospital NYC.
In 2006 Karen began applying her expertise to eating disorders and disordered eating through her work at The Renfrew Center, one of the leading centers for eating disorder treatments on the east coast. Karen is certified in intuitive eating and uses her expertise to guide women in overcoming disordered eating and body image struggles. She currently has