How Nutrition School Nearly Gave Me An Eating Disorder.
I was a bit hesitant to write this post, because of the personal nature of the content but at the risk of being vulnerable, I knew it was an important story to share in case there are others who may find themselves in the same boat. I realise this will also be controversial, and I may even lose a few followers, but that’s ok with me. This is simply my story and the challenges that were created because of the history of yo-yo dieting, low self-esteem and low self-worth that plagued me for many years.
You may have heard of IIN or The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. It’s founded by Joshua Rosenthal, a man passionate about a holistic approach to health and training health coaches to teach the same. There are a number of famous graduates of this school including Pete Evans – Paleo Guru and I Quit Sugar – Sarah Wilson, even Pippa Middleton is a recent graduate.
There are a lot of good intentions behind the program and a lot of good that comes out of their training and I’m grateful for the opportunity it gave me to follow my passion and create the life I’ve only dreamed of helping others (and myself) to feel amazing! It taught me the business skills I needed to go from a full-time schoolteacher to an entrepreneur and taught me some valuable coaching skills that give an opportunity for people to be heard and break down barriers preventing them from reaching their goals.
It was really the nutritional side of their training where things became a bit unstuck for me.
The title of this post is not meant to insinuate that this school will give everyone an eating disorder or distorted relationship with food. I’m not trying to claim that I didn’t have pre-existing food issues and an unhealthy relationship with my body to begin with. But in my case, things definitely didn’t go in the right direction for my health for far too long afterwards and I still at times battle with the consequences.
So what went wrong?
As a recovering yo-yo dieter, IIN offered me the ultimate Holy Grail for health. For years leading up to taking the program, I had finally begun to develop a healthy relationship with food after many years in the diet trap. I was eating when I was hungry, not thinking too much about food and just enjoying life. I knew I was unhappy in my profession at the time and knew it was time to refocus my life’s purpose. Knowing I had a drive to help others and a passion for nutrition and health, IIN seemed the best bet.
IIN praises itself as having a bio-individual approach to nutrition. They boldly claim “We teach more than 100 different dietary theories, from the traditional to the modern, Eastern to Western, popular to esoteric.” This was exciting to me! I couldn’t wait to dig in. Little did I know at the time that my past experiences with yo-yo dieting meant that this was an all too powerful trigger for past behaviours to resurface. I tried every single diet they taught us, each time striving for ‘perfect health’ and a ‘perfect body’. Just ask my poor husband! We did Raw, Macrobiotic, Atkins, The Zone, Vegan, Paleo, Primal, you name it, we did it! Each time we’d try something new there was a different rule and another food to omit.
In the hopes to achieve the perfect state of health, my body became increasingly unwell. I was increasingly afraid of “bad” food. I couldn’t eat a Cadbury cream egg without guilt or anxiety or a Reese peanut butter cup without worry. After all, every bite can be harmful or healing right? I would stress about eating with friends, I wouldn’t allow my favourite foods in the house or eat cake on special occasions. Things were spiralling – until I read some books and met and listened to some people who literally threw my life upside down (for the better!).
I truly understand now, that health is not just what you put in my body, it’s your relationship with food, yourself and others as well as many other things. Yes, IIN does teach this to us but without realising that every one of those 100 different theories can be a powerful trigger for someone with a history of yo-yo dieting, an unhealthy relationship with themselves, or, someone who already has some form of distorted relationship with food.
I would love for IIN to be more transparent with the risks and even consider a disclaimer relating to the above. I went from enjoying food to fearing it and it’s taken me awhile to regain that sense of joy again. Even now, I recognise the ‘next best diet’ as a possible trigger and I need to be mindful of my thoughts and feelings when these things come up. IIN does great work teaching its students how to be successful coaching entrepreneurs but it really needs to focus on an idea that all foods fit, and curiosity and experimentation need to be more strongly focused rather than simply teaching about all the different theories.
A truth that many fail to educate about in the diet industry (and health industry) is the idea that all foods fit, every single one. Healthy eating has no rules, it’s intuitive and curious and compassionate. Even blue zones (where people are prone to living over 100 years) practice this belief!
That’s why it’s my passion to help you feel great physically, mentally and spiritually without having to give up the foods you love.
Food is meant to be celebrated not regimented.
While I didn’t develop a full-blown eating disorder, I did develop a distorted relationship with food (what’s the difference?) that took a long time to recover from and still rears its ugly head. So, if you, like me would like to study nutrition, stick to accredited schools such as HPN or other accredited nutrition schools and do so with an open mind. Question everything, pay attention and use your best judgement.
If you’d like to learn to be a coach? IIN is great, but please, if you have an unhealthy relationship with food or have had one, do so with care, compassion, and grain of salt.
Want to chat with like-minded people about health without deprivation? Feel free to join us in The Empowered Eating Facebook Group.