Amanda Villescas is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, passionate about helping others develop more peaceful relationships with food and their bodies. In this feature, Amanda shares insights on achieving a healthier, happier lifestyle.
I’ve been passionate about food for as long as I can remember! Feeding ourselves and others well was always something my family valued and prioritized growing up. Additionally, a longstanding fascination with the complexities of human bodies – physically and emotionally – somewhat naturally led me to explore a career in Dietetics. Now, with almost 20 years of experience working in the wellness field, my perspective on what it actually means to be healthy continually shifts and evolves, as I keep exploring how the concept of health actually connects to my personal values. In my current work with clients, we spend a lot of time unpacking harmful or untrue messages they’ve received about health and nutrition, and how to cultivate nourishment patterns that fit within their personal frameworks of health, and also align with their personal values.
Nutrition is a LOT more nuanced than most people living in our current diet culture might think. Much of the messaging that most of us receive about health and nutrition tends to be very black and white, and tends to be communicated with moralistic language (example, “good” vs. “bad” foods), which can invoke feelings of judgement and shame. Additionally, I believe that our relationships to food and our bodies matter just as much, if not more, than the micromanaging every morsel that we put into our mouths. This is especially true for folks who struggle with disordered eating and/or food insecurity. If we are fortunate enough to have adequate access to food, and we’re finding ourselves constantly stressing out about whether our diets are healthy enough, that’s worth noting and paying attention to…because elevated stress levels definitely aren’t going to support or improve our overall well-being.
Sure. The first would probably be to get curious about why mindful eating might be a practice you’d like to engage a bit more with.*
Next, consider that there is no “correct” or “perfect” way to mindfully eat! Mindful eating isn’t a destination or place we arrive, it’s a process.
Lastly, notice (without judgement) what starts to happen (or not happen) as a result of eating more mindfully. What’s working well with your mindful eating practice, and what isn’t? From there, you can tweak and adjust your approach to mindful eating, and to your overall daily nourishment.
*For folks with chronic illness, disabilities, and/or neurodivergence, eating mindfully might not be a plausible or particularly helpful practice. And that’s ok
Once I have a fairly holistic picture of an individual’s health history, (as well as their current lifestyle habits; I never want to assume!), I love to encourage people to consider whether their eating and movement patterns are rooted in/motivated by self-care -- opposed to external “shoulds”. Shaming or “shoulding” ourselves to make lifestyle changes ultimately won’t work in the long run, and certainly won’t be sustainable. On that note, I like to gently prompt people to consider exploring what might realistically be sustainable for them in regards to food and movement patterns. In my experience, many people living in our current diet culture tend to gravitate towards “all-or-nothing” approaches with diet & exercise; that yo-yo cycle really takes a toll on one’s mind, body & spirit.
Most of all, I hope to support, remind, and reassure folks to know that their health status doesn’t dictate their worth as human beings.
I think it’s super important to note self-care means different things to different people, and certainly looks different for everyone. The things that help me best care for myself might not necessarily be helpful for others. That being said, I personally find it extremely beneficial to try and get some fresh air each day. Sometimes this involves going for a walk outdoors, and if that’s not an option, I try to simply crack open a window…and I have to regularly remind myself to inhale & exhale! For those who this applies to, which I suspect is a LOT of us, I 5/5 recommend not being so hard on yourself. Folks might be pleasantly surprised to learn that being gentler with oneself, speaking more kindly to oneself, can really be quite revolutionary.