S1E13: Abnormally Normal Disordered Eating (ft. Kelly Neilson)

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Transcript S1E13

Hi, welcome to It’s like this podcast, your common sense mental and spiritual talk show. My name is Dr. Uejin Kim, a dual board certified psychiatrist from Texas. In this podcast, I explain mental and spiritual concepts with fun analogies, real stories, and positive message so you can not just survive but thrive. My goal for you is to gain understanding, acceptance, and healing so that you can know your worth and live the life that you are meant to live. If you want that as much as I do, hit that subscribe button. And let's listen to today's episode. 

In this episode, we have a special guest, Kelly Nelson. She's a registered dietitian who specializes in intuitive eating and an advocate for Healthy At Every Size movement. Disordered eating and exercise habits, and body image issues were like my whole life. Diet culture was so subtle and normal. And it still is today. It could be detrimental if you're not aware of it. We often have eating disorders or disordered eating habits without knowing because it's so normal. So, out of desperation, I stumbled upon intuitive eating and Kelly Nielsen. So today, Kelly and I will be discussing what Intuitive Eating is and what is not, and how it is so important for our mental health in this crazy, skinny and health-obsessed world.

 

Dr. Uejin Kim:    All right! Thank you for coming to It’s Like This podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Kim. And we have a special guest for this episode, Kelly Nielsen. She's a registered dietitian. And we got in contact, you know, just out of my need to understand where I was in my journey. To share a little bit of blurb, I think who I am now, and what size I am now is like a product of just a series of dieting in my life. And, you know, I was stuck in a rut and I was just kind of feeling like, ‘Is this the end?’ And I kind of started looking into intuitive eating and Healthy at Every Size. And how this is like a blossoming movement. And I got in touch with Kelly Nielsen. And so, Kelly, thank you so much for coming to It’s Like This podcast.

Kelly Neilson:    Yeah, you're welcome! I'm so happy to be here.

Dr. Uejin Kim:    And so, tell me a little about yourself. What do you do? So, let's just start there.

Kelly Neilson:    Okay, awesome! Yeah, So, I am a registered dietician. As you said, I have completed a bachelor's degree in dietetics. And I have a master's degree in dietetic administration. And I also have a private practice called Nutrition for Hope. And I have been doing that for about six years. And I help people who are struggling with eating disorders and disordered eating to be able to learn how to have a healthy relationship with food and with their body. And kind of be liberated from diet culture.

Dr. Uejin Kim:    So, you mentioned two phrases that I'm sure somebody in the audience is not familiar with. So, you mentioned, we know about eating disorders. As we've heard about it. There are movies about it. But you mentioned disordered eating. And then also diet culture. So, explain to me what that means.

Kelly Neilson:    Yeah! So, as you said, eating disorders are what you are familiar with. There's, you know, anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder. There are, you know, several others. But those are the main ones and most common. But disordered eating can kind of be on a spectrum of, very severe to mild. But it can kind of be dabbling with some of the eating disorder behaviors of restriction, or binging. A lot of times I like to think of it as chronic dieting. So, people who are consistently going back to dieting and regaining weight and going back to dieting. So, like the yo-yo dieting as we know it. There could also be disordered eating, where it's like compulsive eating or compulsive overeating. You know, habits where you're feeling out of control around food. So, that's where people are seeking help with their eating. Where they just feel like they don't have a sense of control over what they're doing with food. So that's where I come in with that.

Dr. Uejin Kim:    So, when you say like, chronic dieting, and dabbling here and there with restriction and too much exercise. To me, that sounds like everybody. New year’s! I know, after a holiday, like, ‘Let's all sign up for the gym and all that stuff.’ That sounds like everybody.

Kelly Neilson:    Yeah! And that's what I think is so tricky about disordered eating, and even eating disorders, as well. Because people can be engaging in these behaviors. And it can be so socially acceptable. So much praise and encouragement, even when people are doing extreme diets. When people are doing extreme exercise. And everyone's like, ‘Wow! Good for you. Look at what you're doing. Your Weight Loss is so amazing. You look so great.’ And yet, what they're engaging in is so unhealthy and an extreme and severe in a lot of cases.

 

Dr. Uejin Kim:    Yeah, and I think that's where, because it's so everywhere and everybody's doing it, I think that kind of links to that diet culture that you mentioned. We are living in a culture that praises disordered eating, disordered exercise, and eating habits. And that kind of priority, you know, the thinner, the better. And I'm guessing, you know. Just correct me if I'm kind of getting that.

Kelly Neilson:    Yeah! Yeah, absolutely! Diet culture is just this. Yeah! The culture we live in, a society that promotes dieting, weight loss, you know. Kind of in the name of health or in the name of fitness or in the name of, you know, elevating your status in a lot of ways, of being able to diet and lose weight. And it's just everywhere. Honestly, it's in the movies, you watch, TV shows, media, and social media conversations with friends. It's just almost like you can't escape diet culture. Because it's all around you. There's a registered dietician, who also is in this field of intuitive eating. Her name is Christy Harrison. And she defines diet culture as a system of beliefs that worships thinness and equates it to health and moral virtues. So, there's a lot of like morality that's wrapped up in it, thinking like, ‘Oh, I'm such a better person, because I'm staying on top of my eating and exercise. And I'm at least pursuing fineness than just to be lazy or whatever.’ It is kind of seen as being morally inferior.

Dr. Uejin Kim:    I liked that. I liked that there was morality connected to it. And I want to continue more about that. Because I think a sense of morality is all in us. And we get fixated on things to prove our moral status. But, good stuff, I took a note down. But let's kind of go back to how you got interested in, you know. Were you always interested in this? Like when you were getting your master's and bachelor's. Or like, how did it show up in your journey as a registered dietician?

Kelly Neilson:    Yeah, that's such a good question. I will try to go through it quickly because it can kind of be. Yeah, but it goes back to when I was quite younger. I, just full disclosure, I've never had an eating disorder. In my life, I've always loved food. And always, I grew up in kind of a foodie family. And I've always been fascinated by nutrition, fascinated by digestion. And when I learned about eating disorders, I think I learned about them in school, it just like my mind really clung on to that and just thought it was so fascinating that this mental disease could kind of overthrow our survival instincts of pursuing food. And that the pursuit of thinness could be so strong that it could also go against that survival instinct. So, I was also always like, super interested in it in high school. I would do research papers on it and just look into it. I just was like, I don't know, I loved studying and learning about it. And I initially wanted to be a therapist, and help people with eating disorders. And through my journey of discovery in college, I just decided that therapy wasn't my avenue. But because I had such a strong interest in food and nutrition and digestion, I found dietetics. And that immediately clicked for me. When I was in school, I had ironically decided I didn't want to do the eating disorders. I thought it was gonna be too complicated and too psychological. It kind of scared me a little bit. But, you know, I have learned about intuitive eating in school as well. Just kind of like in passing. They'd mentioned it not too much in depth. But once I became a dietician, I was just applying for jobs everywhere. Honestly, just so excited to work as a dietitian, and the first job that I got was at an eating disorder treatment center in Utah called the Center for Change. And that completely changed my life and my career. I fell in love with the population of, you know, people struggling with eating disorders and disordered eating. And, that's really where I learned about how intuitive eating can help people struggling in that area. And how it can help them find peace with food. And help be that solution to their eating disorder. So, you know, I worked at the Center for Change for two years. And then I had to end up moving for my husband's career. And that's when I started my private practice. So that's kind of an overview of it.

Dr. Uejin Kim:    So, you didn't start like crazy about intuitive eating. But you saw the power of intuitive eating, concepts, and beliefs to offset the eating disorder. But I'm guessing, that you realize that disordered eating and diet culture is bigger than the population of the eating disorder.

Kelly Neilson:    Absolutely. And just that, like I was saying earlier, disordered eating is so common. I think, especially since the pandemic, of course. And so many different ways that people kind of pick up some disordered behaviors through that. But disordered eating does have a lot in common with eating disorders. Although it's not quite as severe, clinically severe. There is a lot of overlap. And so, where Intuitive Eating is, you know, a really helpful solution for people struggling with eating disorders. It's also incredibly useful for disordered eating.

Dr. Uejin Kim:    So kinda like you're saying, disordered eating is influenced by the diet culture that we all live in. And it's very subtle. It could be very obvious as bodybuilding. But it can be very subtle as signing up for the gym on New Year’s. You know, that urge to like, be that. So, diet culture can be a spectrum. It affects disordered eating on a spectrum. An eating disorder is like the extreme of that spectrum. Am I kinda catching it?

Kelly Neilson:    Yeah. And honestly, even though this sounds cliche, it can be very much a slippery slope from disordered eating into eating disorders. It's very easy to, you know, not see the results that you want. And so, getting further and further into more and more severe behaviors into an eating disorder. And so yeah, you know, there are lots of things that cause eating disorders. And it's almost like a perfect storm. And so, this doesn't happen to everybody. But it can be a very easy gateway into an eating disorder by starting those disordered eating behaviors. Real quick, sorry, one disordered eating, that I forgot to mention. But it's also very important because I mentioned the kind of overeating aspect of disordered eating. There's also disordered eating called orthorexia. And that is not officially in the DSM-V criteria for eating disorders, although it is starting to be campaigned to be included. Because it is starting to be more, I guess it is very common. And it's starting to be more prevalent. But orthorexia is a kind of unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. Of when, you know, individuals can be so obsessed with healthy eating, that it's unhealthy because they're so focused on it. And that may be restricting food groups. That may be, you know, looking like trying to eat very “clean” all the time, or obsessive about exercise routines and things like that. But that's kind of the antithesis of orthorexia. And what it can be. So, yeah.

Dr. Uejin Kim:    So, I think we're hitting really good ones. So, like, I just want to talk about diet culture. Because I bet you, people who did not hear about intuitive eating or even recognize that there's disordered eating, it’s, like we are kind of tackling something so common, is so normal. But if I'm conceptualizing, we brought up the root cause of morality, you know. And we touched on self-discipline, you know, for the sake of self-discipline. For the sake of being accepted, you know, being thinner or being healthy. And underneath it, I sense a lot of insecurity, you know. In a sense that I just want to be proven. I just want to be accepted. I just want to be loved and respected. But then there's also this aspect of like, I can't trust, you know, hence the word instinct. My intuition of hunger cues, survival cues, like. So for this, you mentioned, like, it was amazing how the mental need, emotional need, surpassed the survival need of being fed. And I think there’s the connection of being morally right, being disciplined, being accepted, being loved, being cherished. Compensated of neglecting your intuitions, you know, intuitions, instinct to survive, and be fed and be nurtured. We’re kind of going quasi-spiritual and mental. I know that you didn't like psychology. But I just see so much connection in that. And how do you see that day to day?

Kelly Neilson:    Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, diet culture is pretty much driven by the dieting industry. Which diet and weight loss industry is worth $80 billion, or something to that degree. And so, there is a lot of money in that field. And their whole business model is staked on the kind of preying on people's insecurities. And it is to their advantage to make everyone feel like they need to lose weight. And to make everyone feel like their body is not good enough as it is today. And to buy into their products, their dieting, their, you know, program, whatever it is. So, that's largely where a lot of this is driving. And truthfully, sadly enough, they do influence a lot of research on weight loss and the information that we have on weight loss. Because it is to their advantage, you know. So, they fund a lot of those studies and where some of that information comes from. But that could be a whole other podcast itself.

Dr. Uejin Kim:    Oh, yeah. I think, take-home messages. Where the money's at? Watch out! Who's paying for that research? Who's paying for that advertisement? 

Kelly Neilson:    Exactly! 

Dr. Uejin Kim:    Whose paying for these organizations?

Kelly Neilson:    So, it's definitely to their advantage to prey on our insecurities. And you know, it's just promoted everywhere. And so, I think diet culture is one of those things that I mean, Christy Harrison also talks about this in her podcast called Food Psyche, about diet culture. I mentioned her because she's kind of a pioneer in this field, where she has made this distinct definition of what diet culture is. And, you know. So that's why I mentioned her. But she has described diet culture as being like, water that we're all swimming in. And, you know, the fish don't know that they're wet because they're just in the water. And so, diet culture can be kind of a shock and a surprise for people to learn about. Because they're like, ‘What? That's just normal. It's just what life is.’ But once you start seeing it for what it is and what it does to us and our mentalities around food and our body, then you almost can't unsee it.

Dr. Uejin Kim:    Yeah! So, you mentioned the research that's being funded by these businesses. And you know, I'm a physician, you're a registered dietitian. Intuitive Eating is not popular, and well received in both of our fields. You know, and it must be confusing as it is for me, you know. When I hear intuitive eating, you're like, ‘What?’ Like, thinner is healthier, you know. And there's a lot of biases that I picked up on, you know, from medical school. Like, and I mean, we're getting harped on this. Like nutrition is not told or taught, you know, in medical school. Because we just have to cover so many grounds in such a short amount of time. But, like registered dieticians, there's a lot of people, you know. I met a dietician who does calorie counting. You know, who says, ‘oh, carbs, low carb, and all that keto,’ all that stuff. They promote all that stuff. So, it's almost like, physicians and dieticians are in the water, too. And we're promoting this lifestyle to people.

Kelly Neilson:    Yeah! I mean, it is extremely common for physicians and dietitians to be promoting weight loss. And truthfully, like, that's what people want, you know. That's what people are willing to pay for. Because of all these constant messages that they're receiving, about what their body needs to look like. What their body needs to be. And I think that a lot of times research can be biased by diet. A lot of times physicians can be biased by diet culture. And not even really realizing that they have that bias. But that's just where the training kind of comes from. And, yeah, I can attest to when I was in school to be a dietician that taught us how to help people lose weight. And you know what to do and how to counsel them in that. And so, you know, even though I know how to help somebody lose weight, I don't feel like I ethically could help somebody lose weight. Because I know the damage that it causes physically, mentally, psychologically, and spiritually. All of those things that the pursuit of dieting does to you as a person. I don't feel comfortable helping people with that. 

Dr. Uejin Kim:    Yeah! So, we talked enough about how even the professionals in the health, you know, we're in, we're all in this water. We're all swimming, and we're all going somewhere. But it seems like intuitive eating and the Healthy at Every Size concept is swimming upstream. You know, and it's harder. It's difficult to see. But like you said, once you see it. Once you swim upstream is hard to just, you know, let yourself be passive. So, let me kind of ask you, so you're saying that intuitive eating is like an antidote to our diet culture? So, can you explain to me the concepts and foundation of intuitive eating?

Kelly Neilson:    Yeah! So intuitive eating is this philosophy with eating and kind of a way of life. And your body. But it is comprised of 10 principles. So, it's kind of hard to describe in one sentence. But it's essentially learning how to get back to our roots of how we were born into this world, with the ability to be able to eat when we're hungry and stop when we're full. All babies know how to do that. And nobody had to teach them that. And so, we all have these innate cues that tell us when to eat, how much to eat, when to stop, things like that. And throughout our lives through, you know, parenting, diet, culture, different things, we are taught to mistrust our body, our bodies. We don't know when we're hungry. And we don't know when we're full. And so, a lot of times those come to question or when you go on a diet, you can be very distanced from those cues, or you have to numb your hunger for a while, things like that. And so, Intuitive Eating is teaching you to get back to learning how to trust your body. Being able to nourish yourself consistently, so your body can trust you. And it's not only learning how to respond to those innate cues. But it's also learning how to incorporate your emotions into it. And also learning how to bring wisdom into it. So, one way that I heard it explained was by one of the authors of the book, Intuitive Eating. Her name is Elyse Resch. She described it as a combination of kind of three parts of our brain. So, she says that it's a combination of our reptilian brain, which is that stimulus-response part of our brain where we just feel those cues, we respond. But it's also in addition, our mammalian brain, which helps to bring in those emotions, you know. If you have dogs and cats, you know, they feel emotions. And so, we as mammals have that ability as well. And we can’t discount the role that it plays in our food choices, in our body decisions. So, it's taking those innate cues, the reptilian brain, combining it with the mammalian brain. But we don't stop there. Because we as humans also have this higher-level thinking, logical brain that allows us to look at the stimulus, and look at our emotions about the stimulus. And make an informed decision about that. And so, I know this is all sounding very complicated. But hopefully, that explained what Intuitive Eating is about. Because I think there are a lot of misconceptions when people hear about intuitive eating. They think it's just “eat whatever you want, whenever you want.” And that's not what it is. Sure, it's part of it to be able to allow yourself unconditional permission to eat. That is one of the main pillars of intuitive eating. But you have to allow yourself unconditional permission to eat, meaning there are no good foods, no bad foods. But you're also considering your health, you're considering what sounds good to you to eat, you're considering what feels good for you to eat. And so, it's not just throwing caution to the wind and eating on the fly whenever you feel like it. It's bringing in wisdom to that.

Dr. Uejin Kim:    Yeah! And then I'm glad that you mentioned that because I think if anyone's listening, or even finding out intuitive eating, we automatically reject it. Because you're like, what? Then I'm gonna eat chocolate chip cookies and cake all day. You know, like, I can't trust myself. You know, and I think that's the most common misconception, but I like that there's an aspect of discipline and wisdom in it too.

Kelly Neilson:    Yeah. And I will mention, if anybody listening to that is currently struggling with an eating disorder or disordered eating, it is very difficult to try to do intuitive eating on your own. I've had many clients come and say, like, ‘I read the intuitive eating book and, like, it didn't work. So, I don't think that approach is good for me.’ It's really hard to do on your own when you're coming from that place. Because like I said, you're so detached from your internal cues, that you can't fully jump into intuitive eating in that way. And you absolutely need to have a practitioner. You know, a dietician that is familiar with intuitive eating can help guide you through that and help, you know. Where to put the structure? Where to have flexibility? Where to have permission and give you that guidance? So, that you're not just trying to flounder through the whole thing. That is what it kind of feels like, I suppose.

Dr. Uejin Kim:    What are other some of the common myths or misconceptions about intuitive eating?

Kelly Neilson:    Yeah! I mentioned that people think that it's just eating whatever you want. That's a really big one. I think that there's also a misconception that it's disregarding health. And this also goes back to diet culture's message that health is equated to body size. Because in intuitive eating, we do not focus on weight loss. And I think that's another reason why it's so countercultural. Because people do want to lose weight. 

Dr. Uejin Kim:    Yeah. 

Kelly Neilson:    But what Intuitive Eating teaches is, you know, the very first principle, Intuitive Eating rejects the diet mentality. Because it's through the diet mentality of pursuing weight loss that can promote or exasperate, many, intuitive, sorry, disordered eating behaviors. So, it talks about the psychology of deprivation. And when you're deprived of something, food, or any other thing, it makes you think about that thing and obsess about that thing over and over again. And that's part of our survival mechanism. When your body's not getting enough food, it's trying to get you to seek out food. So being able to reject the diet mentality is extremely helpful for being able to be an intuitive eater. And if you're pursuing weight loss, you will be in one sense or another deprived. That's just how it works. Whether you're cutting back calories, whether you're cutting, cutting out food groups, or whatever it is. Whatever you're trying to do to lose weight, you're trying to create a deficit, right? And by that deficit, you are being deprived of something that your body needs, through that deprivation. It's going to be turning on all of these alarm bells in your body, so to speak. We have this whole beautiful biological cascade of events that happen when our body is in starvation mode. And its whole purpose is to get you to eat. So that's where you get people who feel like they're addicted to food. They're not addicted to food. It's just their body trying to get them to eat. And almost saying, in a sense, ’Okay, you're not taking care of me and getting me the food that I need. So, I'm taking the reins. And I'm going to get you to eat by making you think about food more. By making you crave foods that are higher in calories. That's going to give you more bang for your buck. That's going to be you know, maybe decreasing your inhibitions around foods. So that you're more likely to go ahead and eat.’ That's going to, you know, that's where people will feel out of control around food. They start eating, they're like, ‘I can't stop.’

Dr. Uejin Kim:    Yeah! Because it's like a child. Like, if you're not meeting and nurturing his needs and listening to his, you know, request or, you know, whatever. Like, eventually you're gonna have a toddler throwing a tantrum. Or sometimes I think this is all just true, a toddler who checks out. And he was very indifferent towards you. And it's like, well, ‘What's the point of telling mom that I am hungry because she's not gonna listen to me.’ So sometimes, like, I think that's kind of a little bit of like, when your body, you know, metabolism goes down, you know. Like, your body's checked out. And it's in starvation mode and is sadly in a point of acceptance of that.

Kelly Neilson:    Right! And you mentioned the fear that people have. This is going along with like, the misconceptions. But you mentioned that a lot of people have fear. Which is completely legitimate of like, ‘Oh, what if I'm like, let me eat whatever foods. Then I'm only going to eat chocolate chip cookies and fast food all day long.’ And I hear that all the time from my clients that like, ‘You're telling me to just eat anything?’ Like, but we address those fears and talk about them. Because if that's been your experience that when you allow yourself to eat chocolate chip cookies when you've been deprived of them. And you eat the whole plate, then yeah, that's gonna be your thought that's going to happen in the future. But it's recognizing that it's not the chocolate chip cookies that caused you to eat all of them. It's the deprivation, from the chocolate chip cookies that caused you to eat all of them. And there are two kinds of deprivation as well. I know this is a little bit of a tangent, but it helps to understand. There's mental deprivation, and there's physical deprivation. So, you could be physically avoiding the food and saying, like, ‘I'm never going to eat that.’ Or you could be eating it and telling yourself mentally, ‘This is so bad. This is wrong. I shouldn't be eating this. I need to hide. I've got to eat this in secret.’ Like that are all forms of mental deprivation. And so even if anybody's listening in, you're like, ‘Well, I eat everything.’ But if you're telling yourself like, ‘Oh, this is bad food.’ That's part of that deprivation. And that can come back in the form of making you kind of feel out of control around that food. So anyways, back onto about how people feel, or worried about, you know, binging or overeating, or eating only on this one kind of food. There's this concept taught in Intuitive Eating called habituation. And this is true with not just food, but with anything in our lives. When we have free access to something, it kind of begins to lose its novelty. And, and the excitement wears off, right? So, like, if you buy new clothes, they're fun for a little while, and then they're not fun anymore. You know, it's kind of the same thing with food. And initially when people are making peace with food. And I'm encouraging them to explore all the foods that they have previously forbidden and start incorporating them into their life. Yes, those foods are more commonly eaten. And they may eat more of those foods initially. But over time, as your body and your mind continue to trust that those foods are truly not going anywhere. And that you will continue to include them. There’s no like, conditional like, ‘Okay, if this doesn't work in two weeks, then I'm taking it out.’ That you continually have that open-ended permission. That you will start to want to have balance. And that you know, even if you initially start eating ice cream every single day, you'll be like, ‘Yeah, okay, I don't think I want this every day anymore.’ It stops losing its power. 

Dr. Uejin Kim:    So, I think there's something to be said. That there is something called food addiction, you know. And I think that's what people are afraid of. Like, I'm going to be addicted to food. But I think what you mentioned are words like wisdom, peace, nurture, and trust. And those are some of the spiritual concepts. That is hard to do it by yourself, you know. So, it's like, I think everybody's kind of like, either addicted to food or deprived of food. And you're swinging back and forth like the pendulum is always going back and forth. But I think you mentioned, this is why it's so hard to do it by yourself, even if you knew. Because the dietitian who's very sound in Intuitive Eating concepts would be like, ’Yeah, so you ate the whole plate of cookies? Like, how did you feel?’ you know. Like, you know, you can check those kinds of pendulum swings. And I think that's the key to having a professional guide you. So, that you stop swinging back and forth. Which is what everybody does, you know. Like, holidays, we're addicted to food, and then we're deprived of food on January 1, you know. And I think a professional can like cut through that.

Kelly Neilson:    Right. Well, I want to hang out on food addiction for a second because this is such a hot topic right now. And such a big fear that a lot of people have. But this concept of food addiction is very interesting. As I mentioned before, it's this feeling of being out of control with food that is driven by being deprived. Or under-eating or withholding of those things. And so, it's actually not a true addiction, because of addictions to alcohol, sex, drugs, things like that. It's through abstinence, that you're able to be relieved from that addiction. But we can't be abstinent from food. And that, it's actually, if you do try to avoid certain foods, or if you do try to restrict yourself or restrain yourself, that's what drives the disordered behavior. So, it's psychologically different than other standard addictions. It may feel like, I do want to acknowledge that individuals who are stuck in this cycle do feel like it is an addiction and do feel that loss of control. But it is so different because it's actually through bringing in and embracing those foods that they were avoiding, that releases them from the so-called addiction. And it's possible that they may be addicted to the behavior, or they may be addicted to its compulsive nature. But it's not the food in particular. And there are a lot of arguments about you know, food causing the, what is it like the dopamine receptors in our brain. Just like it does with cocaine or alcohol. And there are arguments like that. But that same center in our brain also lights up when we listen to music. Or when we cuddle a baby, you know. There are also those life-sustaining practices or behaviors that also light up the dopamine receptors in our brain. So, it doesn't mean just because it's being, like, lit up in the same way that it is with cocaine, that it's equal to cocaine.

Dr. Uejin Kim:    And yeah, as a psychiatrist, I can say that dopamine is just one of many neurotransmitters that send out messages to different parts of your body. So I think it's so hard to even simplify that dopamine means addiction. You know, like dopamine is a reward system, just like you said. You get rewards by listening to music, rewards by exercise, you know. And so, you know, since yeah, you're 100% right. Dopamine does not mean addiction. You know, and I think people, you know, probably…

Kelly Neilson:    They try to oversimplify it. Absolutely. Because it's easy to try to villainize food. Again, going back to diet culture. Like diet culture benefits from us villainizing food. And having that belief that like, ‘Oh, these things are bad,’ or ‘Oh, I can't have this because of this,’ or ‘I can't trust myself around food.’ And all of those insecurities around food drive us further into diet culture. And buying into the products that will help, you know, “health issues.”

Dr. Uejin Kim:    You know, this is just kind of me thinking out loud. One thing that I love about Intuitive Eating is just cutting the crap of influences around us. And you know, because deep inside of us we are insecure, and we don't know what to trust. And we see documentaries of like, what if work over food or like an animal. And you're like, 'There's money's going to the animal farms, and it's unethical.’ And now you feel more insecure, or like, you know. I don't know, there are so many documentaries out there that help us mistrust anything, including our cues. So, we hear, you know, advice, like, ‘Oh, when you're hungry, drink a cup of water. See, you're thirsty, not hungry.’ Or like, ‘If your body weight is this, then your metabolism is this. So, you should eat this number of calories.’ We don't trust our cues. We trust the numbers spitting out in our faces, you know, and like little tips and tricks to bypass our hunger cues. And, you know, there's so much fear in foods. So, there's whole vegan, vegetarian, or keto. And it’s just so confusing. And I think Intuitive Eating is like, ‘Let’s just cut the crap. Let’s just go back to the basics. And you will be okay. And you’re fine.’ I think it's almost the message like, ‘you're fine.’ You know, you called me to listen to this crap.

Kelly Neilson::   Absolutely. And it's just like, let's eliminate the fear around food. We don't need to be afraid about food. And I think that's what so many of those documentaries are seeking to do to make people nervous about the food. ‘Look where your food's coming from. Look what you're eating. What you're supporting. And what you're buying into.’ And we just don't need to be so afraid about food. It's a lot simpler than that. And I mean, with those documentaries, I know we've all seen them. You, just like anything else, have to take it with a huge grain of salt. They're hugely, hugely biased. And they're definitely going to only be showing you the interviews that support their pieces. And only going to be putting forth their point. And so just, you know, make sure that when you're watching those that you're not taking it as fact. But you're just kind of like, ‘Okay, this is interesting.’ This is one side of the story. But you know, obviously, they're not going to be showing you all of the opposing sides.

Dr. Uejin Kim:    And documentaries are helpful. I think they're helpful. But then, just like we talked about, where's the money at? Right? The money's in the diet industry. Also, money's in the making people fat industry. And I think you and I had this conversation, like, there's money getting spit out in all directions. But I think what Intuitive Eating does is, let's just cut the crap. Let's just nurture and take care of you. And you're okay. Like, Healthy at Every Size. You're accepted, whatever size you are. So, yeah, I love that.

Kelly Neilson:    Yeah, yeah, definitely. And I do want to touch on Health at Every Size a little bit. So, it has a lot of misconceptions around it. And there's a lot of contention and uncomfortable feelings around the concept of Health at Every Size. And I think a lot of it does come from diet culture and the information that we have about body size. And what we think we know about body size. But it's called Health at Every Size. It's not actually Healthy at Every Size. Because we’re not trying to say that every person is healthy at the size that they currently are, no matter what. But Health at Every Size is saying that every person has the right and the ability to be healthy at the size that they are if they want that. That makes sense. So, it's different than saying, ‘Oh, they're already healthy. Everybody's fine just the way they are.’ As opposed to, like, you can be healthy without having to change your weight. Weight does not equate to health. And that our body size is far more complicated and complex than just the calories in versus calories out. We've been told. So, it’s multifactorial, where, you know, what our body size is and where it's meant to be. And what our body needs to be at in order to be healthy. And that we can no longer rely on the BMI scale to be telling us what's healthy or not. Because it's an arbitrary scale, that doesn't even, it's not accurate. 

Dr. Uejin Kim:    You're always trying to simplify something that's so complex. Because we all know now that there's a certain thing called skinny fat, you know. You can be skinny, but really, really unhealthy. You know, so it's just kind of removing the size out of the equation. 

Kelly Neilson:    Yeah, and in truthfully, looking at, like Health at Every Size focuses on your behaviors. Because health is not body size. You cannot look at a person's exterior and say, ‘Oh, that person is healthy, or that person is unhealthy.’ You have to really look at their behaviors. Because even if a person appears healthy, like you're saying, from the outside, they can be binging and purging every day. And you would not know it. They can be obsessed with exercise. They could be dieting. They could be restricting. They could be, you know, who knows? Like, they could just only be eating meat or only be eating, you know. It's just like, you don’t know what's going on unless you look at the behaviors. And there's also so much more to health than just what you eat and how you move. How are you sleeping? What's your social life like? What's your psychological life like? What's your spiritual life like? Like, there's just so much that goes into health that I think it's so much focused, and the pressure is put on. You have to eat perfectly. You have to exercise this much every day. When in reality, like, that's not all it is reliant on.

Dr. Uejin Kim:    Yeah! And just to kind of tie it to, you know, the last episode that I did on depression. It was like worth, you know. Your sense of worth. The world will try to measure you by popularity, you know. Like how you're seeing outside, you know. What is your market value, productivity, you know? Like, are you achieving the goals that society has set for you? Which in this case is to be “healthy,” and be “fit,” and be thinner, you know. And also appraisal of like, what your family says, what your doctor says, even sometimes, you know. But it’s just kind of like, let’s just kind of cut the crap. And like, think about what you think of yourself. Like, how are you doing mentally, and emotionally? Like, I just, you know, I just gravitated towards intuitive eating as I'm kind of learning more about it and applying it to myself. There's a huge component of wholesomeness, you know, and acceptance. And trusting your intuition and being proud of who you are, you know. And the progress that you're making. So, to me, it's just like, the definition of health.

Kelly Neilson:    Absolutely. And I cannot even tell you that. I mean, this is one of the reasons why I am so passionate about intuitive eating. Because I can see it changing people's lives on so many different levels. That is when people are able to start being confident with food. And that they're not feeling like they're out of control with food all the time. It actually can help increase their self-esteem, and self-worth, because they feel like they have choices. Like they have the ability to choose. And it just helps them feel more secure as a person living in this world. And, you know, body image is a very difficult and complicated concept. And I think it does help promote body image. That's not to say that somebody's doing intuitive eating, you know, their body image concerns are not healed in the moment of being an intuitive eater. But it's definitely a huge part of the process, and can help you feel more confident and secure in yourself. As you are able to be more confident in your food choices. And the way that you are able to live around food.

Dr. Uejin Kim:    Yeah. And we're around food all the time. 

Kelly Neilson:    All the time. Always there.

Dr. Uejin Kim:    Yeah, I love that. So, Kelly Nielsen, if you had words of wisdom or advice, you know. I'm sure the audience is in a wide spectrum of, you know, their journey with food and eating and self-esteem and all that stuff. Like, what is your advice, and wisdom for them?

Kelly Neilson:    Oh, my goodness! How much longer do you want me to take? Because I can go on. But I mean, if I could boil it down, I think just really consider intuitive eating, if you are struggling with disordered eating or you are an eating disorder. Really consider that and consider seeking out how. Because being able to have that freedom with food is just so transformative for you in your life and can help you. Like I was saying kind of permeate different aspects of your life. As you're able to feel like you're in charge of your eating choices. And that you don't have to be scared of that anymore. That you're not obsessing about it and pouring in so much of your time, your money, and your energy into your food choices. And that it can start to be a little bit more effortless and more natural. You're able to spend your focus in your life, on your life's purpose and what you are meant to do. Your passions in your life and creating and loving. And all of those things, because you're not so obsessed with food. So, I think, yeah, my advice is to consider intuitive eating. And, you know, we really didn't have time to go much into weight stigma and Health at Every Size. But just knowing that you do not have to change your body size in order to be healthy. Don't buy into that message from diet culture. That you have to be healthy in order to be, I'm sorry, that you that you have to be smaller in order to be healthy. That is not true. But as you start focusing on what healthy behaviors in your life I can adopt, that's how you can attain true health and you will notice you will have more energy. You will have more confidence. You will feel better throughout the day. And in a sense, your relationships can be better because you won't be withdrawing as much as you're diving into diet culture. So yeah, there are just so many areas of your life that it can benefit. And I've staked my whole career on it. I love intuitive eating. I'm extremely passionate about it. I have seen firsthand in all of my clients, the ways that it changes their lives. And helps them to live their best lives. So, I love it. And that's why I'm here. It's just great.

Dr. Uejin Kim:    You know, when you were talking about that I can just like feel your passion, you know. To swim upstream, you know. Like and that in itself is so hard, you know. So, I just enjoyed our discussion together. And thank you so much for just, you know, talking to me about it. And, you know, teaching me about it. So, if they're like, ‘you know, I really enjoyed this podcast episode. I really want to know about, you know, what Kelly Neilson does, you know.’ How could they find you?

Kelly Neilson:    Yeah, so my website is nutritionforhope.com. That's the name of my practice. You can find me there. I'm also on Instagram @nutritionforhope. So that's a great place to find me. I had just taken a long hiatus from Instagram. But I'm back in and starting to come out with new content. So, I'm excited to support you there.

Dr. Uejin Kim:    Yeah, and all that information will be in the description box below. So, you can kind of reach Kelly Neilson. And just kind of bounce back ideas, you know. And, you know, this whole point of this, like this podcast is to really kind of as is going on freeing you and myself from these influences that really hinder us. And I really liked that you said that you can live your life. The life that you want to, when you start to worry and obsess less about things that don't really matter that much, you know. Like, in that direction. So, I really just love that kind of statement. So, you know, thank you for being here. And thank you everybody for listening to this podcast episode. As I said, her Instagram and email, and website will be in the description box below. And again, thank you Kelly Neilson for joining us.

Kelly Neilson:    You're welcome! Bye 

Dr. Uejin Kim:    Bye.