Bitterroot Nutrition was founded on the premise of helping people cultivate a positive relationship with food. For me, the Eureka moment came at a time of personal reflection and self-scrutiny regarding my rapport to food and body image. Being constantly inundated with anecdotal nutrition information and suffocated by unattainable beauty standards, I felt plagued by shame and constant vitriol over my food choices and body image. This obsession was the driving force that led me to pursue a degree in Dietetics, nutrition, and food science.
Furthermore, my schooling only fueled my obsession with food and body stipulations, conf
irming a perception that, “weight was indicative of health.” During this time, I worked for a popular diet company under the guise of a “health coach. As such, my responsibility involved trying to support clients navigating through (what I now know is unsustainable) calorie deficit meal plans and weight “plateaus.”
Through hands-on personal experience and the struggles of loved ones attempting to manipulate their bodies, I started realizing that weight is not the driving factor that creates health issues. Rather, attempting weight loss is the real culprit. Not only is it unsustainable, but it results in creating lives full of emotional distress and physical health issues. Weight prejudice, and body image biases only lead to cycles of binge eating and restriction.This puts the body on a roller coaster between binging and starvation, leaving it on edge and unable to trust the person who inhabits it.
That was it. I decided to dedicate my life to those struggling with their own misconceptions and biases around food, nutrition, and body image. After gaining experience working for an agency specializing in intensive outpatient eating disorder treatment and intuitive eating, I decided to launch Bitterroot Nutrition LLC, named after the Montana State flower meaning revival and rebirth.
Nutrition is extremely individualized, so when it comes to experimenting with different foods, it’s important that I always take my client's experiences into consideration. Many people have preconceived notions about food that have been suffused over time through extensive dieting attempts. That being said, a lot of my work is based on exposure therapy. If one feels a specific food is “bad” and attaches morality to said food, I will bring up that food into multiple sessions. I will help the client process through the experience to eventually reach the understanding that all food has value, whether that be nutritional or emotional. Repeated exposure to that food will break the taboo and lead to a conducive relationship with that food.
I also cook with some of my clients. Many of them struggle with nutrition because they have no cooking skills. They often choose a recipe that sounds palatable and exciting, and we work on different cooking techniques to produce the dish. For those with busy schedules, meal delivery services are a viable option that ensures they eat balanced meals that include protein, carbohydrates and fat.
Intuitive eating is based on the premise of “coming back to your body” in regards to eating and disengaging from “external rules.” External eating rules are anything from calorie counting, measuring portion sizes, restriction, or viewing foods as “good” and “bad”, even “terrible.” When we approach eating experiences from a neutral lens, without the learned shame, guilt, and morality attached to eating, we start to understand our bodies' cues and find value in food and the relentless desires, likes and dislikes of our bodies. As an intuitive eating counselor, I always focus on neutrality; this is the lens that guides my approaches to eating.
Currently, I am working with other healthcare practitioners in the intuitive eating space to spread awareness about the importance of weight neutral care. Research has proven that attempts to lose weight (weight cycling) are harmful on many levels. Likewise, weight stigma and prejudice in the medical community are very real concerns that often lead to physical and mental health issues and increased disordered eating behaviors.
The most important notion that has helped me in my entrepreneurial journey is my own life experience. It’s easy to look back and say, “I wish I hadn’t wasted so many years letting my negative body image take over my social life.” Or, “I shouldn’t have spent so much time on that calorie-counting app, ugh!”
However, that experience was absolutely integral to finding my passion and devotion to this field of work. I always thought that the word “entrepreneur” was intimidating and would always tell myself, “It seemed too difficult to build a business, there are too many moving parts and surely, I just need another degree, more credentials!”
I now know that my own intrusive thoughts, (we all have them!) were blocking me. My advice to anyone would be: ” If you’re passionate about something, go for it. There are so many people who are willing to help you along the way, it just takes stepping a bit outside your own comfort zone.
Food is so much more than just “fuel.” If you let it, food can be an absolutely wonderful addition to your life, contributing to relationships, culture, identity, and love. It’s really easy to fall victim to the latest diet trend or weight loss plan. But there is a reason why the diet industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, it’s insidious.
When considering seeking support for our relationship with food and body image, we might think we are not sick enough. We haven’t yet reached the threshold of disorder to the extreme. We do not meet the parameters of bulimia, anorexia or obesity portrayed in the media. We do not identify with Hollywood stars, the likes of Marilyn Monroe, a gorgeous woman who felt she wasn’t pretty (perfect) enough.
In reality, when a majority of our daily thoughts are about food and body image, we could use support. And healing from the shackles of seeing oneself from without might just be the most wonderful thing we can do for ourselves.