If I try to describe my earliest (& favorite) childhood memories, they’d probably involve being in the kitchen with my mom and grandma. I was born and raised in Lebanon, so I was lucky enough to experience the true beauty of Mediterranean cuisine. Ever since I was a little girl, I remember always wanting to help my mom cook. I wanted to be involved in the entire process, from grocery shopping to licking the spoons. I was so enamored with food that I knew I wanted to become a dietitian from a very young age. I figured hey I love food so much, why not major in it?!
So, I got into a reputable university and majored in Nutritional Sciences. I was fascinated by all the knowledge I was learning. Yet, semester after semester, my relationship with food started to change. Food wasn’t so simple anymore. I went from seeing food as love, family, gatherings, culture and nurture to calories and portion sizes. All of a sudden, I had constructed a list of “bad foods”. My dietetics classes were so weight-centric and heavily rooted in diet culture that food started to make me anxious. I stopped eating Pita bread because “calories”(I’M LEBANESE SO DO YOU REALIZE HOW HARD IT WAS TO AVOID PITA?). I developed something called orthorexia; an obsession with healthy eating. I knew so much about food that it started to harm me.
At that time I remember digging into the literature to see if I was the only dietetics student whose food relationship got ruined because of their major, and it turns out that in one study of 2500 dietitians, 49.5% were at risk of orthorexia, 12.9% were at risk for an eating disorder and 8.2% were in treatment for an eating disorder (Tremelling, Sandon, Vega, & McAdams, 2017). Seeing these numbers was scary, but also somewhat reassuring because it wasn’t “just” me.
I didn’t really recognize that I had a disordered relationship with food since my classes and my books were promoting that lifestyle. Moralizing food was the norm. Counting calories, pushing diets, worrying about portion sizes – all of that was expected from a dietitian. I thought well, I have to practice what I preach. So that’s what I did. And friends, it sucked! Fast-forward again a few years, I moved to the US after finishing my bachelor’s degree and started my Master of Public Health in Nutritional Sciences. Thankfully, my school offered some nutrition classes that were weight-inclusive and anti-diet. I was learning a whole new approach to dietetics that had nothing to do with calories, weight-loss, restriction, or shrinking larger bodies. I couldn’t believe it. I was challenged, I was confused. How is it that everything I learned so far was scientifically proven to be harmful. Weight bias? Not helpful. Counting calories and restriction? Sooo not helpful. I think for the first time, I felt like I knew the kind of dietitian I wanted to be, and the type of eater I was going to become again.
Learning about Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size(R) changed my life and career path forever. I felt comfortable in my relationship with food again. I was at peace. I threw away the scale, regained my ability to eat intuitively and trusted myself around food again. The reason why I do the work that I do today and have this belief system, Is because I don’t want any other vulnerable human being to go through what I went through. To anyone struggling with their relationship with food, their bodies and movement, I see you. I know what it’s like to feel stuck, but I am here to support you on your journey back to guilt-free eating and body peace.
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