Diet culture often comes in full force as the summer month approaches and beach-ware is pulled out of the shadows of our closets. With bikini season comes “swimsuit-ready diets” often compiled of detoxes and intermittent fastings that promise you the body of your dreams.
We got the chance to interview someone who’s attempting to combat this dieting stigma, Chrissy Harrison, a registered dietitian and intuitive eating coach based in Brooklyn, New York.
AFM: You specialize in online courses and private intuitive eating coaching available on your website? Can you break down what inspired you? What does intuitive eating mean to you?
Chrissy Harrison: I’ve been covering nutrition and health for 20 years now.I got my dietitians license and started working in community nutrition, all the while struggling with my own eating disorder. This was largely around the time where the diet culture paradigm was centered around the “obesity epidemic”.I really bought into a lot of the rhetoric surrounding that. It was then I discovered intuitive eating, which is using internal cues rather than external to make your food choices. I realized intuitive eating is the goal for most people to recover from disordered eating and toxic diet culture. Eventually, I got my certification as an intuitive eating counselor and eating disorder specialist.I started working with individuals in intuitive eating counseling, and created online courses to serve more people.
AFM: Do you think, as a society, we tend to see an increase in eating disorders and falling victim to dieting misinformation as we approach the summertime?
Crissy Harrison: Absolutely. I think there’s a lot of increased pressure on people to shrink their bodies, change their bodies, or have a body that’s “bikini ready or swimsuit ready”. It really pushes a lot of people down rabbit holes of disordered eating and other wellness misinformation. I think intuitive eating can be a helpful antidote to that.
AFM: So you’re an author as well, and have a new book coming out called “The Wellness Trap”. Could you tell me what kind of story this book is attempting to tell?
Chrissy Harrison: The Wellness Trap is about people falling into rabbit holes of wellness myths and disinformation, kind of like the “bikini diet”. In some cases, people who have disordered eating or fall into sham diets can have physical symptoms as a result. People then try to figure out how to treat themselves via social media or the Internet. This leads to even more misinformation that unfortunately drives them further into bad habits. This world of wellness can be so problematic, and very minimally regulated, or in many cases, not regulated at all.
AFM: Can you recall any success stories from clients that stuck out to you?
Chrissy Harrison: I’ve had a lot of people come in from a place of overwhelm with binging , emotional eating, or working out a ton. I’ve worked with those folks to start relaxing their restrictions, eating more earlier in the day. I’m teaching them to open up to more pleasure and satisfaction by bringing back in foods that were supposedly off limits on these “bikini diets.” People are often really surprised that their emotional eating has dissipated significantly because they’re eating enough throughout the day and honoring their cravings. I’ve been there myself, so I get it. Even if you’re not in the most restrictive place you’ve been with food, there can still be a long way to go towards opening up to intuitive eating.
AFM: What is your main philosophy around intuitive eating that you hope reaches your audience?
Chrissy Harrison: I think for folks who are fitness enthusiasts and enjoy athletics, it can be a real slippery slope. It comes back to how mindful you are with approaching food and fitness. It’s important to approach food from a place of joy and intuition. It’s not always about the diet. Do what feels good in your body. If you’re finding that you’re restricting yourself and are really boxed in on what you’re allowing yourself to eat, you’re not prioritizing pleasure or potentially fueling yourself enough for your physical activity. Missing or irregular periods, stress factors, or extreme fatigue are all potentially signs that you’re not eating enough. Having flexibility and fun with food can be really beneficial.