I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been happy with my body. From 3rd grade, when I got a little chunky, to now as a 30-year-old, I have always been pretty awful to it in spirit and practice. Restricting what I ate, begrudgingly exercising to compensate for the tempting foods in which I indulged, making fun of how I looked to offset my real displeasure with my appearance…
Then I had a kid.
And despite the stretch marks I started to feel a little better about this beast-of-a-machine that created life, carried life, and nourished life. A lot of that had to do with this lovely lady.
Haley Goodrich is a dietitian and nutritional therapist at INSPIRD Nutrition in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While I have never sat across from her for a session, her Instagram feed alone is a well of inspiration and life that fills my soul.
She is an advocate for saying good riddance to diets and making peace with your body. Some of her battle cries include intuitive eating, joyful movement, flexible eating habits, body acceptance, health-promoting behaviors, and more. Haley helps clients learn to love their body through self-compassion – not guilt and shame. Especially as a new mother, I was finally ready to call a truce with my body and accept it and respect it more, and I was especially ready to give myself grace with what I ate, how I exercised, and how I treated myself.
Haley was gracious enough to chat with me and do a little Q&A about what she does, and she had some great insight that I think is freeing and encouraging to women and moms everywhere. Read our conversation below and get to loving your body – no matter how it looks!
Q&A with Haley Goodrich, RD, LDN
What made you want to become a dietitian? How did that lead to nutrition therapy?
I always knew I wanted to work with people to improve their health. My path to becoming an eating disorder dietitian wasn’t clear from the beginning, but is definitely the best use of the gifts I have to share. Through my own experience navigating diet culture and body image, I knew I was meant to be a part of a greater movement that helped change the narrative around food and bodies.
What is nutrition therapy?
As registered dietitians we provide medical nutrition therapy when working with clients, which is how we treat conditions through individualized nutrition plans. In my practice, I have moved away from the more traditional approach of telling clients what to eat and prescribing weight loss, to focusing on behaviors and intentions behind how they care for themselves. By embracing a weight neutral paradigm, I am able to practice in a way that is inclusive and respectful of all bodies, and that is ethical and evidence based. To be considered a nutrition therapist, I complete the required continuing education to uphold my dietitian licensure, but also receive ongoing clinical supervision from multiple colleagues.
I see you advocate a lot for saying goodbye to diets. Can you elaborate on that?
We now have plenty of evidence that prescribing intentional weight loss doesn’t work and is unethical. There is not a single randomized-control trial that can show sustained weight loss after 2 years. Around the 2 year mark, all of the data shows a weight regain that is higher than the pre-diet weight. Restrictive dieting for weight loss is ineffective in the long term for 95% of people.
With these statistics and the knowledge I have from working with real people in a clinical setting, I have found that focusing on self-care, intuitive eating, and health promoting behaviors (weight is not a behavior) is the most sustainable way to help someone improve their health.
What does it look like practically to advocate for a healthy, well-balanced way of life instead of adhering to diets?
Instead of the traditional approach of telling folks what to do, we are asking more questions and helping them to turn inward to their own body wisdom. Instead of assuming we know why a person weighs what they do, we spend a lot of time hearing our client’s story and letting them help us to understand what it is like to live their life in their body. Instead of prescribing weight loss, we are focused on behaviors they actually have control over and interventions that are health promoting, such as: honoring hunger, respecting fullness, joyful movement, satisfaction with food, gentle nutrition, stress reduction, preserving mental health, etc. There is no restriction, rigid rules, weights or numbers.
As a mom, I’ve had an adjustment period of accepting and appreciating my body after baby. Countless friends have struggled with the same. Do you ever work with mothers with similar thoughts? If so, how do you help them?
Absolutely! Full disclaimer, I have not yet been pregnant myself but I have worked with many moms and moms-to-be. There is a strong societal message that not only should we be ‘controlling our weight’ before pregnancy, but during and after. As if our bodies aren’t actually engineered to create a human. I think the majority of the body image work I do with women who have had kids or are expecting, is really about helping them to unlearn this idea that moms’ bodies need to look a certain way to be accepted. If your body is creating another human life, it’s going to do what it needs to do to make that happen. End of story. I help moms and moms-to-be become the best caretaker of their body so that they can be the best caretaker for their new tiny human.
What do you mean when you encourage readers to “listen to their body?”
Our body is constantly communicating with us. It tells us when we need sleep, when we need to pee, if we are hot or cold, and our hunger/fullness is no different. One major issue with dieting is that it pulls us away from these innate cues and teaches us to rely on a set of external rules. By learning to listen for the signals our body gives us, we don’t need external cues to regulate when and how much to eat.
If you have been dieting for a long time, it might require learning what a normal eating pattern looks like again. Consistency and getting enough food, frequently enough help to bring back appropriate hunger/fullness signals. If this seems especially challenging, I always recommend the help of an Intuitive Eating professional.
I’ve never been especially happy with how my body looks, and I’ve always thought of it as in limbo and moving toward something better. How do you help clients find peace with their bodies as they are?
I could write (and have written/talked about on podcasts) entire blog posts on this question (see links below). But to keep it brief, I think it is first helpful to understand your body story, what you think about your body and where these stories came from. Do they really have any truth to them? Or did they come about from the pressure of society to look a certain way? Know that you aren’t your body image and that your shape/size doesn’t define who you are or how well you take care of yourself. Many of us have a very narrow beauty lens of which we view the world…it starts with widening this view. Oh and making peace with food 🙂
You talk a lot about “respecting” our bodies. What does that mean to you?
Respecting your body means caring for and talking to your body as you would a good friend or someone you love. It means engaging in movement because you want to care for your body, not for compensatory reasons. Body respect means that you deserve the same treatment as any other human and that you are worthy right now without having to change anything about the body you have.
Mothers are notorious for putting everyone else’s needs ahead of their own. When it comes to caring for our health and nutrition, how would you encourage mothers?
It is absolutely necessary for moms to take care of themselves before everyone else. You can’t pour from an empty cup or be of service to anyone if you are on empty. This means getting consistent food, enough food, food that is satisfying, and plenty of YOU time. You may need the support of a therapist to have someone to help you navigate all that comes your way on a daily basis. Emotions are great, but can be overwhelming. I think it is also important to move your body in an enjoyable way, purge media/social media of any message that doesn’t lift you up and most importantly have self-compassion!
Social media can cause us to fixate on what’s wrong with our bodies in a heartbeat. Do you advocate staying off of it, or do you think it’s possible to control if/when/how we compare ourselves?
Social media can be both helpful and harmful, so I believe in being intentional and setting boundaries. Clean up your feed to get rid of anyone or anything that isn’t helpful (before and after photos, people dieting or talking about their weight, etc.), diversify your feed to widen your lens of what human bodies actually look like, and following accounts that make you feel better about yourself.
Between grocery budgets, after-school activities, and rushed dinners, how do you equip clients (especially moms) to find a healthy balance when wholesome food seems inconvenient or out of reach?
Can we please just take a minute to acknowledge how freakin awesome moms (and women in general) are!?! Seriously, not enough credit is given.
Give up the idea that food is going to be perfect and be ok with feeding your kids boxed mac and cheese every now and then. All food is good food (fresh, frozen or boxed). My number 1 tip is to spend 10-15 minutes on the weekend planning a few meal ideas for the week (keep it simple folks!) to keep the chaos to a minimum. Make your grocery list from that, include snack/breakfast options and get to the store. My instagram account has tons of meal ideas saved in the Highlights section: https://www.instagram.com/hgoodrichrd/
Most humans feel their best when they are eating every 3-4 hours. Letting yourself get too hungry is a set up to feel chaotic around food later in the day…which doesn’t help body image, digestion or wellbeing.
Paint me a picture of someone who has a healthy and happy relationship with their body. What does that look like?
Having a positive body image means not having your body image stop you from doing what really matters in life. A healthy relationship with your body means you respect it, speak kindly to it, feed it enough, treat it with compassion, and share its goodness with the world instead of staying isolated in diet land.
As you see clients come to peace with their body and develop healthy habits, how does that positive change trickle into other aspects of their lives?
If you can imagine your brain as a pie chart, what percent of time would you say you spend thinking about food and your body? Initially, many clients will tell me something like 90-95% of their brain space is consumed with food and body image thoughts. The goal of our work is to greatly reduce this occupied space. The way I see our work together trickle into other aspects of their life is that they replace most of this occupied space with more love, self care, connection, relationships, values, talents, and joy.
Thank you, Haley, for sharing some of your passion and expertise! You are such an encouragement and inspiration, and genuinely – my sense of self and self-worth is far better because of your work.