Dr. Allison Feldt (Interviewer): Natalie, thank you so much for joining us today. I am so excited to spread the nutrition word about healthy eating and healthy habits to our community. And you are the inaugural "Edmonds Moms" podcast interviewee, and we can't wait to share all your knowledge. Personally, I've worked with Natalie in the past, and she is a magical practitioner, and just really helped me find a really good balance with food, and she can really help guide you on a healthy life cycle.
Natalie: Yeah. Well, thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be your first and to talk to your community because I think it's a community that really can struggle with, I mean, every woman, especially in our culture, but there's so much pressure around nutrition, and bodies, and food that can get really overwhelming.
Interviewer: Completely. And I'm secretly looking for a reset today because every time I talk with you, whether it's at a baby shower or wedding, I get my own personal reset. So, I am very looking forward to that today.
Interviewer: So, there's so much information out there about good healthy eating habits, what kind of diet to be on, whether that diet is keto, or paleo, or being vegan, and there's just so many types of diets. Can you give us a little insight into what the research says, how we should be eating in that regard?
Natalie: Yeah, definitely. So, nutrition science is such a young science and what we think we know keeps changing. And so, you know, what is currently out there right now trending is, you know, keto and intermittent fasting. Talk to me in a year or two years, it's gonna be something totally different. So, you know, if we were having this conversation in the late 90's, it would have been all about low fat everything, carbs are totally fine. And then it was all about, you know, Atkins and then like South Beach and so on and so forth. It's important to be a critical reviewer of research because when you're reading something like, you know, research says, or studies show, there's often a lot that's either missing or not captured, whether it's the population size was really small or the studies were only done over, say, a year or two years, so we don't have that longitudinal data.
So, the work that I do, and I have to say that most clients who come to me are like, you know, "Natalie, I know what to eat. I just don't know how." The work that I do is grounded in an evidence space health intervention called intuitive eating, which essentially is about getting out of our heads around nutrition, and back into our bodies. So, really beginning to re-understand and reconnect with what does hunger feel like? What does fullness feel like? How do you decide when to eat? How do you decide when to stop eating? Most people approach a meal, and they're thinking about, is it good? Is it bad? Is it healthy? Is it not healthy? How many calories can I have it? And half the time we're not even responding to what our body is needing. And so, intuitive eating is about getting back to that space that we were at when we were little because we were all born intuitive eaters. That's the philosophy and approach that I do and kind of how I approach nutrition overall.
Interviewer: Yeah. That's so good to hear because if my kids had crackers, they would literally stop eating when they're full. But I don't stop eating until the box is gone.
Natalie: Yeah. Which it makes a lot of sense I think that's when people hear intuitive eating, they're like, well, "If I listen to what I would want, then all I would want is pizza and ice cream all the time." That comes from a place of scarcity. So, when we tell ourselves we can't have something, we all have the inner toddler in us, and then we're gonna want all of it. And then we have all of it, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of, "See, I can't control myself around the crackers, the snacks or whatever. Therefore, I need to like get them out of the house or not have any." And we set ourselves up to swing on that pendulum again. But yeah, kids self-regulate, which is pretty impressive and cool.
Interviewer: Yeah, I want that.
Natalie: Yeah. Yeah. And that's what I help clients do, stop being crazy around food.
Interviewer: So, clients who come to you are often caught in the cycles of dieting and constantly feeling like they're falling off the wagon, and they're gonna get back on the wagon on Monday or the next day. So, what keeps people stuck in that kind of diet cycle, and how can we change that?
Natalie: Yeah, most clients who come to me, again, they're like, you know, "I know what to eat, I just can't seem to do it. I have a problem with my willpower. I'll do a diet, and it works, but then I just can't keep it together. It's something that I just have cravings, and I can't overcome them." And so, that's one of the first things I talk about with clients is breaking down the diet cycle. And it begins with the "problem behaviors." So, for many people, let's say, emotional eating. And there's a reason why we engage in our "problem behaviors." And so, for emotional eating, maybe it's, you know, a reward at the end of a really long week or it's a way to connect with our partner at the end of a long day. Or maybe it's a way to get through a really boring project at work. So, there is this reason why it's helping us, but then we have that onslaught of negative internal dialog like, "Oh, what's wrong with me? Why can't I just get my act together? It's not like anyone's putting the food in my mouth. I'm never gonna be able to like fix this." And then that causes, for many people, a lot of shame and guilt or just feelings of frustration.
And it's from that space that we make the plan. So, tomorrow, dot, dot, dot, or, you know, Monday or January 1st. And making that plan, it distances us from the shame we feel already just even making plans better. We're like, "Okay, I'm gonna fix this. There's hope." And then there's the honeymoon phase, right? Where it's working maybe for a day, maybe for a week, maybe for 30 days. But then life happens, right? We're tired. We're stressed, we're hungry. The premade meal that we, you know, prepped, we forgot it at home, or it just looks really boring on day five. And we cycle right back around to the problem behavior, and the cycle repeats. And what keeps us in it is the fact that we internalize it as our fault. So, we believe that there's something wrong with the plan or the diet. It's our lack of willpower, our lack of discipline, us just not being able to implement it correctly. And our diet industry is a $60 billion industry. So, it banks on repeat customers, and it wants us to internalize it. And so, that's why we get caught and keep cycling back around constantly looking for the new plan.
Interviewer: Okay. So, the cycling, is it my fault?
Natalie: No, it's not. I know. That's crazy.
Interviewer: What if... I love that. What if I decided not to look at? That is my fault, okay? Or what if there was no wagon to fall off of? So, is having a plan, is that considered negative then?
Natalie: Great question. So, when I say plan, I think it's important to note that dieting is less about what we do, and don't eat, and more how we feel about it. So, for example, two people can go into a restaurant and order a salad, and for one person it's very diety. It's, "Okay, well, I really want this sandwich, but the salad has less calories and, ah, you know, the sandwich has too many carbs, and there's a lot of internal chatter." Maybe there's self-righteousness that the person has when they eat the salad or deprivation. Whereas for somebody who eats intuitively, it's very much like, "Hmm, what am I hungry for?" It's like, "Hmm, not that hungry. The salad sounds good. I'm having a heavier dinner later, so I want something lighter now." They eat, and they move on. So, with intuitive eating and with this process of how we break the cycle, it's about letting go of these rules that we have, letting go of the diet mentality, and, again, approaching food, going into a restaurant or a meal and saying, "How hungry am I? What is gonna fill me up based on my experience? What's gonna leave me feeling satisfied, and what's going to leave me feeling good physically?" And so, being able to approach each eating opportunity in that way, and it's a process, it takes time to unravel and unlearn diet culture and then relearn this new way of eating. So, there's, I think, that piece of exiting the cycle is one of the main areas.
Interviewer: Wow. This is kind of mind-blowing.
Natalie: It's really hard because, you know, weight loss sells and the promise of weight loss, and the fantasy that comes with this image of this cis-gendered white woman with a six pack, you know, that is what society says is healthy, and everywhere around us, we're just told that, you know, that's what we need to be, and dieting and weight loss is the way to get there. So, it's an uphill battle. It's hard to step outside of that or even to learn like, "Hey, you don't have to diet. There's another way."
Interviewer: Yeah. So, my next question is, can you lose weight with intuitive eating? It's almost become the intuitive eating diet. Like, you know, you have to eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full, and you can intuitively eat yourself into weight loss.
Natalie: It's almost become the intuitive eating diet. Like, you know, you have to eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full, and you can intuitively eat yourself into weight loss. With intuitive eating, it helps people reach their natural set point. So, the space that your body feels healthiest at. So, some people when they start practicing intuitive eating lose weight. Other people don't lose weight. Some people who come into the process really restrictive, they may gain weight. With intuitive eating, it falls under this umbrella of health at every size, which essentially focuses on helping people find consistency in health behaviors. So, looking at health from that broader lens, from, you know, health includes genetics, stress, sleep, social connection, mental health, movement, nutrition. So, focusing on achieving consistency in health behaviors and trusting that your body is going to get to a space that it feels healthiest at.
Interviewer: Oh, I think that's so beautiful, health at every size.
Natalie: Yeah. And it's not saying that everybody is healthy at every size. It's saying that body diversity is a thing that is true and real. And instead of just trying to make people universally thin as a proxy for, health behaviors, focus instead on the behavioral piece and trust the body to sort itself out.
Interviewer: I have all the feels right now. Because I think that's so important, and, oh, to think that that even exists and not to correlate health with some image that we get so sucked into, you know.
Natalie: I'm sure as like a practitioner yourself, and, you know, in the medical community, a lot of times people go to practitioners, and there's such this, "Oh, you have pain, or you have this issue. Well, just lose weight." Or that that's the cause. But prescribing weight loss, which is what many clients who come to me have been prescribed essentially by providers, is actually counterproductive because what we do know from the research is that the greatest predictor of weight gain is going on a diet. So, to tell somebody go lose weight without...even oftentimes there's a medical provider who's not actually really trained in nutrition prescribing this, knowing that they're setting their client up to fail or not even being helpful in the information that they're giving.
Interviewer: That's so important to know because that is prescribing weight gain than if you prescribe a diet.
Natalie: Yeah. Or even just a disordered relationship with food and shame, a lot of shaming. Unfortunately, medical industry, people want to do good. We all are in this profession to help, but there's a lot of unintended negative side effects that come along with that.
Interviewer: So, the shame that's created, obviously non-intentional, is that the person's shame putting it on themselves or is there some underlying shame in relationship to the medical provider? We have like the fat shaming. People are scared to go to the gym because they're judged, right?
Interviewer: So, then is this more individual, or is this from the medical community?
Natalie: I think both. I mean, our culture is extremely weight bias. So, there's thing called “thin privilege” exists. So, the thinner you are, the more cultural currency you have. You'll be able to more easily find clothes in your size. You're not gonna go to the doctor and just be told like, "Oh, you have this issue." It's because of your weight, people aren't gonna stare at what you have in your shopping cart when you're grocery shopping, right? So, there's this collective shame that's, you know, felt by individuals in larger bodies. And there can be direct shaming from medical providers, and then also just internalized chain. Even if an individual in the larger body hasn't received direct shaming, it's still going out into a world that you know doesn't support or see your body as valid or okay. There's a lot of internalized weight bias that comes with that, for individuals in larger bodies and even all of our bodies being constantly told everywhere that health equals thin, right? So, individuals who don't know that that's not actually necessarily the truth, walk around feeling that there's something maybe wrong with them, that they're just not trying hard enough. They're letting, you know, people down or they're giving up on their health if they're not dieting.
Interviewer: I feel like what you're explaining right now is truly my life, you know, and like the whole yo-yo dieting from figure competition dieting to trying to lose weight postpartum. It's so important to not go on that cycle.
Natalie: And it's so hard to be in postpartum especially if there's such pressure on women to get their pre-baby body back. And even, I mean, from even around wedding... I work with a lot of clients postpartum. I work with a lot of clients post-wedding, just so much cultural pressure. You know, there's the dad bod, but, like on the women's side, you know, you're expected to have that six pack, and no cellulite, and no stretch marks, you know, within four months of giving birth. And it's just not helpful or supportive of actually taking care of your body and what you need. And, I mean, that in and of itself leads to such negative behavior in exercise, and women going to the gym when really their bodies aren't even ready to go back to the gym or fitness classes. It's sad. And that's how people are enjoying themselves. And movement has become, in terms of like that idea of the diet mindset, movement in the diet mindset is often very compensatory of, like, you know got to earn your cheat meal, or, "Oh, you know, like you ate this thing for lunch, you better work it off." And I think postpartum especially, but then, in general, like if we actually thought about like what movement makes me happy? What do I find joy in this? Do I even like this? And we really tuned and we would crave and want to start slower, build that foundation, like we're actually tuning in, jumping from giving birth to a boot camp class probably isn't gonna feel that great. But when we're just focusing on the aesthetic or calories burned we’ll overlook those things in pursuit of this external results.
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Interviewer: Yeah. Are there guidelines for intuitive eating?
Natalie: There are principles of intuitive eating. So, like I said, intuitive eating is not the hunger fullness diet. It's not a diet. It's a way of relearning a relationship with food that's positive, sustainable, and responsive to your body cues. So, some of the, guidelines include things like letting go of the diet mentality, recognizing your food rules that you have, things like, you know, don't eat after 8:00, you have to eat X amount of protein after a workout, you know, carbs are bad, this or that. And then learning to honor your hunger, right? With the dieting, hunger is something to be managed, or hunger is good, it means you're losing weight. So, instead with intuitive eating, am I hungry? How to respond to that? Honoring fullness on the other end, you know, coping with emotions without using food. So, often, you know, food as a source of comfort or something we're using for reward, which is part of normal eating, but being able to have multiple tools in your toolbox for that, things like discovering satisfaction.
So, you know, in our culture, food is fuel, it's protein, carbohydrates and fat, and we totally, you know, leave out pleasure and the importance of pleasure in food. And then things like movement, finding a positive and joyful relationship with movement and also respecting your body and genetics and the whole body image piece that goes along with the work. So, those are some of the guidelines, and it's a process. It's exploration of your body story. How did you get to where you are with your relationship with food? What are your food rules? Where do they come from? And then really what I like to call experiments and data collection or at least approaching it that way, like go out, and, you know, try something. What do you notice? What happens? Starting to slowly learn and let your body guide you. And at first, because trust has been broken a long time ago, it is hard to trust your body to tell you what to do. There is, you know, kind of training wheels as you're getting going. And then as that trust builds, it becomes a lot easier, kind of like driving. It's scary at first, you're really focused, and then before you know it over time, it's second nature, and you don't think about it at all.
Interviewer: What's a food example of going out and trusting yourself experimenting?
Natalie: You know, something that comes to mind maybe for like breakfast. So, if someone's like, "Well, how much do I eat for breakfast?" Or, "What should I have for breakfast?" It could be something like, "Okay, well, why don't you experiment?" What would it be like, you know, the difference if you had eggs with toast, or cereal, or yogurt and granola? Have it. You know, how long does it keep you full for? Which did you find most satisfying? What do you notice if you had two eggs versus three, versus four, or, what if you only had a piece of fruit for breakfast, versus something that had more substance to it? So, collecting that lived personal experience. So, for example, eating before bed is a big one that I get asked. For some people, if they eat before they go to bed, they get heartburn, some people have weird dreams. For other people, if they don't eat something before they go to bed, they wake up in the middle of the night hungry, or they have a hard time sleeping. So, it's really about try it out, what do you notice? Comes up for you and starting collect information about your unique body because what works for me isn't necessarily gonna work for you, right?
Interviewer: So revolutionary but yet just simply evolution, right? I mean, it's like this is how we evolved and developed, but then we input restrictions on everything and created body image and health image and...
Natalie: Yeah. Kids, you know, grow up, and then at some point, it's often, you know, as parents like transferring our own food anxieties on to kids. Like I don't trust that they're gonna self-regulate. Like Halloween candy came, they ate all of it, like they'd clearly don't know. And then we start putting kind of rules, or, you know, you can't leave the table until you clean your plate, teaching them to override fullness or, you know, well, don't have too much of that, or... It is hard. It's a delicate balance of the parents of being able to provide structure like this depending on the age.
Ellyn Satter is great in terms of her education and guidelines around raising competent eaters, but we just absorbed all of these rules from such a young age and trust often gets broken, like very early on.
Interviewer: We just heard about Ellyn Satter the other week. So funny you bring her out, but yeah. One of the things from her staff was like, it's okay to have dessert first or just like have dessert as part of the meal, and you don't have to regulate that as good or bad or should come after the meal. So, that was mind-blowing for me.
Natalie: Yeah, and I think that actually what you said brings up a good point. Intuitive eating, like I said, is an evidence-based health intervention. So, it is grounded in the principles of nutrition. You know, we need protein, we need carbohydrates, we need fats. And principle number 10 of intuitive eating is honor your health. We're not saying that ice cream and apples are nutritionally equivalent. We're saying they're morally equivalent. So, it's not good or bad, maybe something is more nutritionally dense, but when we are labeling something as bad and putting morality into it, then one, we rebel against perceived restrictions and want it more. But it gives that food power that it doesn't need to have, and it makes it difficult to really tune in and know if we actually want that thing or for wanting it from a place of scarcity.
Interviewer: Yeah. Fascinating. Oh, that's so good. So, diving into that morality, bringing it more mainstream, what's happening right now, the sugar is so bad. I'm sugar addicted, how do I get off the sugar? Can you tell us a little bit about that, and is that a healthy balance to have? From what I'm gaining, it's not.
Natalie: Yeah, you don't see, you hear a lot about like food addiction, overeaters, anonymous sugar addiction, and currently, you know, meta-analysis of the data that we have, the results are inconclusive. What we do know though, is that restriction and dieting is a major predictor of overeating. So, again, it's the scarcity thing. So, it's that self-fulfilling prophecy. People are like, "I can't have sugar. I shouldn't have sugar, I'm not going to have any of X, Y, and Z." And they're able to sustain that for a period of time. But then they get, you know, someone brings that hot plate of, you know, warm cookies around or candies in the office or whatever it is, and this is all or nothing, you know, you have one, and then it's like, "I'll screw it. Might as well have them all." And then again, self-fulfilling prophecy. See, I can't control myself, so I pull myself back to that space of restriction. Whether it's literal, like I don't have any of the thing in the house, or whether it's just perceived.
So, you can walk into a grocery store full of, you know, all the fun foods, but if your mind is like, "These are off-limits, these are bad," They start building and having a lot of this power. So, you know, highly palatable foods and certain food combinations are gonna be very exciting to the pallet or to the brain. However, it's most often what's on top of that is the morality that replacing a food, the scarcity that we're feeling around these foods, the dieting behaviors that are driving the cravings. Oftentimes people with sugar are doing low carbs. Your carb depleted, you're gonna really feel a pull towards sugar, or you're not getting a lot of variety in your meals, and you're having the same,, chicken broccoli, quinoa for lunch every day. So, of course, like anything more fun than that we're gonna feel a really strong pull towards it. There's multiple reasons for that.
So, I think the sugar addiction and food addiction model is something to be looked at critically, and it's much more complex.
Interviewer: It's yeah, self-fulfilling I suppose. Well, thank you, that's helpful. So, I get a lot of people in my practice that want to...they want transformation. They want their mommy tummy gone, and they think that part of that health journey is losing weight. Can you tell me how you approach that?
Natalie: Yeah. So, I often have clients come to me and say, you know, "Natalie, well, it's for my health, like I want to lose weight for my health." And sometimes I'll ask, you know, "If I could wave a magic wand and know 100% for sure that you were perfectly healthy, would you still want to lose weight?" And most of them will say yes. So, I think there's that separating of, "Is it really about health or is it about body image?" The health side of things. I get a lot of it like our medical industry, especially with the BMI and our fitness industry, I think, really sets us up for this vision where, you know, everywhere we look is like health is equal to a smaller body or often health conditions or health situations are blamed on somebody's weight. And what we know from the research, again, like I said, trying to lose weight through restrictive dieting or dieting is the greatest predictor of weight gain. You know, 95% of people regain the weight, 75% gain back even more. We don't hear this because often, you know, those before and after pictures are captured 30 days out, you know, you finished the challenge. Let me get that picture. One to five years out is when people have regained that weight.
So, health in terms of metabolic health is more about our health behaviors than it is about our body size. So, for example, with movement. An individual who maybe lives in a larger body but it's metabolically fit, who exercises, is gonna have reduced risk of disease or greater longevity than somebody in a smaller body who isn't metabolically fit or who doesn't move and workout, or social connection, especially men later in life. Social connection to social network is shown to be protective against heart disease. So, if we're only looking at weight, we're missing a lot of the picture. And we know in terms of weight that weight loss and weight gain, weight fluctuations are actually more harmful on the body than a stable weight, you know, a higher weight. BMI is something that, you know, clients will often come to me and like, "Well, my BMI is in the overweight or unhealthy range or obese."
And even that, a lot of people don't know that the BMI is a statistical measurement created in the early 19th century by a mathematician, not a physician. It was never intended to be a health indicator. It's useful for insurance companies and billing. But that's about it. And so, with this whole, you know, health at every size approach, it's about honoring the fact that body diversity is a thing, restrictive dieting doesn't work. But if we're focusing on actual health, then focusing on health behaviors is how we can actually make a true impact. So, having clients, you know, helping them understand that and then approaching body image as a separate thing of honoring the fact that living in a smaller body has a lot of benefits culturally. But then how do we support positive body image regardless of the size that we're at? So, not about saying you have to love your body, but you respect it, like loving a partner or a child. There's some days where you're like, you're the best thing ever. And other days where you're really annoyed and you just like want them to go away, but love is like how do you respect the person or yourself regardless how you feel on a given day?
Interviewer: Definitely complex, for sure. So, Natalie, this has been so informative. I can't tell you how much I appreciate this, and I absolutely got my own little reset here. So, if someone was interested in everything you're saying, how do they know, A, that they're an ideal client to work with you, and how do they go about finding you?
Natalie: So, typically clients who reach out to me often what I hear are things like, "You know, Natalie, I know what to eat. I just don't know how. I feel like I'm good all week but then fall off the wagon on the weekend. I am tired of dieting. I've hit diet rock bottom, thinking about food as either good or bad, tired of feeling preoccupied with food or tired of struggling with body image." So, these are all sorts of concerns or language that I hear when people seek me out. I think it's helpful to also note that many people reach out to me or start looking for a provider because weight is a frustration or that body image piece. So, it's okay if you want to be in a smaller body, or if like weight loss is what prompted you to reach out. It's something that I hold space for within the body image component. Like I said, I don't prescribe weight loss, but it doesn't mean that you have to have totally let that go in order to approach intuitive eating. Yeah. And if you're not sure, like I offer free consultations, so I always encourage people just to sign up. We can have a conversation and see if it feels like a good fit. But you can find out more about me on my website, nataliejoffe.com is a good place to go email, call and go from there, yeah. And then hopefully you get to the website, you have a link, and people can reach out through that.
Interviewer: Yeah. Yeah. We'll put your website in the show notes so that'll be there, your contact information.
Interviewer: Well, thank you so much, and I think that you've provided a lot of people with clarity today on how to stop dieting and get health for life.
Natalie: Yeah. Well, thank you for having me, and I'm excited to be able to share about this because I think that it's not something that people know is an option out there. And if I can help even one more person stop feeling crazy around food and actually feel more grounded in their bodies, and that would be amazing.
Interviewer: Yeah. Fantastic, and thank you.
Female: The "Edmonds Moms Room" podcast is brought to you by Body Motion Physical Therapy. We help women through pregnancy and beyond so they can live active, confident, and healthy lives.
Author: Allison Feldt
"We Help Women Through Pregnancy And Beyond So They Can Live Active, Confident And Healthy Lives To Prevent Surgery And The Need For Medications."