Episode Transcription by Fayelle Ewuakye. Find her on Twitter at @FayelleEwuakye.
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– Welcome to Fat and Faithful , an ongoing conversation about faith, politics and culture, as they relate to fatness.
Amanda – Hey everyone, Amanda here. Nicole is not with us today, I am interviewing a guest, Julie Duffy Dillon. She and I talk about intuitive eating, what it means to find food peace, and how that connects to being a person of faith. I’m really excited to share this with you guys. So once you’re finished, or right now, if you can go, rate and review this podcast on iTunes, that would be really helpful to us, because the more people that rate and review, the more people see when they’re searching for things about fatness and faith. Thanks so much! And here’s today’s episode.
Amanda – Welcome to this episode of Fat and Faithful, I’m here with Julie Duffy Dillon, of the Love Food podcast, one of my absolute favorite shows to help me in my journey towards food peace.
Julie is a registered dietitian who discovered that diets didn’t work for her clients. She set out to find a better way. That brought her to intuitive eating and Health at Every Size, also called HAES, Mindful Eating and Joyful Movement. And she uses her wisdom and insight, not only in her practice but also on her podcast, which has an epistolary format, which I love. It’s written as a letter, a listener writes a letter to food, with a questioner’s struggle, and then Julie and usually a guest discuss the letter and then we hear food’s response.
Here on Fat and Faithful, it’s our mission to encourage our listeners and ourselves, to love God incarnate and to love our neighbor’s body as our own. Finding peace with food is an integral part of loving one’s own body, so that we’re more available for relationship, which doesn’t happen with restriction.
Nicole and I wanted to give our listeners and ourselves a better understanding of food peace through intuitive eating, and that is why we invited Julie to the table.
Julie I’m so glad to have you on the show today, welcome to Fat and Faithful!
Julie – Thank you Amanda, you know it was so great to hear that introduction, that was so lovely, so I appreciate the kind words. And I am honored to be here and I’m so glad to know about your podcast because I think it’s filling a really important need.
Amanda – Well thank you, we’re excited to be able to talk about faith in relationship to bodies but we know that, not all our listeners are people of faith so wherever you’re at in your journey, I hope that you can learn from what Julie’s gonna teach us on intuitive eating. So let’s talk about, in your experience as a dietitian, why is dieting harmful?
Julie – Well, what I’ve come to appreciate from research and also clinical observation, you know, sitting next to people who are trying to make peace with food and also trying to find ways to promote health that’s long term, is, I basically came to this conclusions, that, diets don’t work. And not only do they not work, there’s risk with dieting, you know it’s not just this kind of decision that has little meaning to it, and as a Health At Every Size informed practitioner, something that appreciate is that, a person’s size is not something that’s necessarily going to determine how healthy they are. And as a Health At Every Size practitioner, I also appreciate that, when someone’s at the statistical, which is always a hard word for me to say, statistical extremes of the weight spectrum, we are pretty sure that weight is something that can be harmful. Yet when someone is at those extremes, you know, those extremes, I try to be like sound in my research, but I can’t say the words. When someone is at those extremes, we still don’t have an option for a person to lose weight in a way that’s gonna help most people and promote health long term. And what I always tell people, especially dietitians, who are struggling with this conversation, is even if someone comes to you and wants to lose weight just because they want to look differently or because maybe they’re at a very high weight, and you have to let them know, like they need to have informed consent before they start a diet, because it is something that we know is harmful. So like, starting a diet, you basically need to tell them, well it’s probably not going to work, it’s probably gonna lower your resting metabolic rate, so basically, the amount of food that you eat to maintain your weight at whatever weight your body wants to be at, is gonna be lower than it was if you had never tried a diet. And also it’s gonna increase your risk for things like high cholesterol, high triglycerides, depression, you’re pretty much gonna have a lower self concept as per the research, you know there’s like all these things that we’ve been able to connect with dieting. And also like, dieting predicts weight gain. So like, there’s so much to just be aware of, so yeah, it’s harmful, and they don’t work, so we need to find another way. That’s where intuitive eating helped me in my career and also how I relate to food, it helped me to have a language to do that. And it’s, I think there’s 85+ studies now on intuitive eating and how it helps promote health and how it’s being established and the research as an option, so um, and more being done everyday. So it’s an option that I think is really important and, I don’t know as I’m saying all this stuff, there’s often things that people will say to me whenever I talk about intuitive eating, like well, if I do intuitive eating, does that mean that I’m just letting myself go? And I always think about how, intuitive eating is really this, it’s not a passive process, it’s a really active process to stay engaged with one’s body and also to be aware of messages of like, shame, and judgement and to try to move away from that type of paradigm. So it’s not letting yourself go, and it’s really something that you have to work towards and acceptance is not being a gluttonous kind of couch potato, it’s actually the opposite, you know.
Amanda – Right well it’s interesting, you use the word gluttonous because that gets thrown around in faith communities when it comes to bodies and we did an episode a couple weeks ago on what is gluttony? In looking at the scriptural backing towards gluttony, it’s actually connected towards consumption that harms your neighbor instead of just eating a lot. So, listeners if you wanna check that episode out, it’s actually 2 part episode because we talked a long time about it. Please do that. So Julie what I’m hearing you say is, dieting doesn’t bring about the desired results and intuitive eating helps people get to a place of listening to their bodies.
Julie – Yeah, I think the assumption is, is if I just do the diet correctly, and keep doing it, then it’ll work. And what we know from our research so far is that, even if someone does the diet correctly and continues on it forever, they’re still gonna regain the weight and one third to two thirds of people will regain more, so, so yeah, I feel like intuitive eating is this kind of, I don’t know, a gently kind of in your face like, hey it’s not you that’s failing, it’s the diet that doesn’t work so don’t think you’re doing it wrong, like you got the wrong tool.
Amanda – And on your website you have a saying that you alluded to earlier, that intuitive eating is not letting yourself go, it’s letting yourself be. I love that so much.
Julie – Yeah it’s an important one because I think there’s a lot of shame with addressing, where’s the source of this judgement and shame coming from and saying, you know what? It really isn’t my fault. And I think a lot of people hear from maybe family or in their community that they should really be working hard on their health, and that if you’re not working hard on it then you’re letting yourself go. And that’s why I feel like intuitive eating is often just thrown out there like, well you’re just letting yourself go and when we let ourselves be, I think, what I connect to personally and from a lot of my clients too is, when you let yourself be, I think you can help quiet the noise. And I often picture, like if we live in a, I live in a pretty small southern town, but if I even went further out in the country, and there were no like, city lights, you know I could see all the stars in the sky, in the nighttime sky. But then if I went to like New York City, or Hong Kong, all the lights and everything, I wouldn’t see as many stars, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. I just can’t, there’s all these things blocking it. And I picture dieting and body hate and this misuse of things like you said, gluttony, I think that’s basically the smog and the city lights keeping us from what is already there. And so when we can just be, I think we can connect with our faith, we can connect with our body’s wisdom and the answers are there. And I don’t think we, we shouldn’t have to have dietitians, I feel like, we have our own in there that’s letting us know what we need. So yeah, when you just let yourself be, I think it connects to all of our strengths which for many of us will be our faith, and also the like, innate kind of processes in our body, like our physiology that just lets us know, hey, this is what we need to eat right now, and this is what we need to be satisfied. We really can rely on that.
Amanda – I love it. It makes me think of when Moses is on the mountain and he hears, or he sees this bush that’s not burning up, it’s like so weird and out of his comfort zone, and he hears the bush inviting him to come closer, and it’s God in the bush. And when he asks what his name is, God answers, I am who I am. Like, he’s so comfortable being himself, and I think that you’re saying of it’s not letting yourself go it’s letting yourself be, puts us, puts me at least in a place of being in touch like, I can be me, and I’m a fat woman, and I use the word fat as a descriptive, neutral, rather than an epithet, and I can walk into a room and not worry about what other people are thinking about my size, because I’ve just come to this place of, I am who I am. I am the person that is in front of you, and that’s enough.
Julie – And you know, one of the most beautiful experiences in my office, is when I’m sitting across from someone who has that moment where you can see it, you can feel it in the room, where there’s a touch of acceptance. And they’re feeling acceptance, I’m getting tingles just thinking about it. And it’s a very, to me it’s always been a religious experience in a sense because I know I’m a religious person and I feel like it’s how God is, in the room. And I can tell in that moment how it’s happening, it’s always wonderful and I never thought about connecting it to Moses like you just said. That is really awesome, thanks.
Amanda – And even to connect it further to Moses, Moses is really insecure. Like, he says, a lot of people say he has a speech impediment or he’s just unfamiliar with the Egyptian language because it’s been 40 years. And I just see God being like, you know what? It’s okay, you can be who you are and do the things I have for you. Like, I’m so empowered by that because in the church a lot I hear, you need to be fit, you need to be healthy so that you can do what God has for you. And I think that, that is a limited view of who God is and who he has inherently made us to be.
Julie – Yeah yeah, I love the, how you said that, for two different reasons. One is, the fit and healthy, like are tools that we think are supposed to do that, don’t actually promote that, they promote the opposite. From most research, suggestions, what we’re finding right now is that really in the end, diets make us more sick. But then the other side of it is, health isn’t a moral issue either, you know? That doesn’t provide favor as whether someone’s healthy or not. Because there are people I feel like, they shouldn’t have to choose to be healthy, there’s so many, there’s such a dynamic type of experience and access to health is not equal, so it’s a very complex kind of situation so I’m like, yeah, health isn’t a moral issue either. So, that’s an interesting point to me.
Amanda – Not even, listeners I did not tell her to say that health was not a moral issue, you’ve heard us say that here before.
Julie – Oh that’s funny!
Amanda – Which is amazing because it’s true, and the truth makes itself known. But, especially as a thoughtful Christian, to look at the kingdom of heaving as being, turning the expectations of the world upside down, where might is right in our world, and whoever has the strength and the ability is celebrated and given wealth and honor. And that in the kingdom of heaven, it turns that on its head in the weak and broken and the sick are to be cared for with a special tenderness and so to recognize that our worth is not in our ability and is not in our weight, it’s not in our health, but it’s in the goodness of our bodies as created by God, so. I love, we did not plan to talk about all that, it just kinda came out, it’s awesome.
So when we talk about intuitive eating, can you tell us how we can eat intuitively? What are the practices we can set up in our lives?
Julie – So intuitive eating has three main areas to it. And when, I’ll describe em, but I feel like it’s important to just acknowledge that it’s pretty non linear. It’s kinda, it’s messy and complicated. And it takes time. I remember Evelyn Tribole, one of the authors of Intuitive Eating, when I first did a training with her in 2006, I believe, she mentioned that when a person comes to her and they’re in a place where they’re not restricting their eating anymore, but their relationship with food still doesn’t feel safe, it still may be chaotic, but yet they’re not, malnourished. It can take, typically about a year, to go through a lot of the processes. And I’ve seen a lot of people experience that and also people take a longer, oftentimes just depending on how they’re experiencing their body, like you, we were talking about earlier about body size. My clients at higher weights, they have to live in a world where their body’s not accepted all the time, and still reject diets. I think that’s harder than for someone who’s at a lower weight. And so I, those are clients that often take longer. So I just want to put that out there. But one of the foundations that I think is important for people to know about is the unconditional permission to eat, and when I sit with clients who are working to make peace with food, that’s the first thing. I think it’s the default always the most important one, the important part of intuitive eating and you know we have to have unconditional permission to eat whatever we need and whatever we want. And that’s the part that gets really messy and is uncomfortable, especially if someone is new to intuitive eating they’re like, wait, so I would just eat cake all day? And in the end it ends up being a much smaller part of the process time wise than a lot of the other stuff, but it still is the most important to me as I, when I work with clients and often times we have to go back to it. Because if we don’t have permission to eat certain foods, certain amounts, or certain times of the day, or for, measuring our weight in the process, which messes that all up, it’s not healing. It’s kind of staying with the paradigm that’s still dieting. But then the other parts of intuitive eating are eating according to hunger, fullness, and satiety cues, so like, using our body as a way to know how much to eat. Like our body’s tools that it was just born with, through our physiology, and relying on those. And then when we’re not relying on those, whether it’s not eating or eating past a fullness or satiety level, often times, I feel like, we don’t all eat intuitively all the time, because we’re not robots, and we all emotionally eat. But if it’s something that’s happening frequently as a way to cope, it’s eventually finding ways to cope outside of food, for more of the times. So those are kinda the core things that people go through, and as I’m saying all this, I can’t remember your original question. But, hopefully I answered it.
Amanda – I think you did! So the question was, how do we intuitively eat? And so, number one is, giving yourself unconditional, full permission to eat. And then number two you said –
Julie – Relying on your hunger and fullness cues and satiety cues.
Amanda – So the good body that God gave you, to trust that it knows what it needs. And then three?
Julie – And then when, that’s not happening, to find another way to cope with tough experiences, tough emotions, basically building a toolbox that’s gonna allow coping without food as the only option.
Amanda – That’s awesome. So I get this question all the time and I wonder if you do, but, people ask me, but what about health, how can I be healthy if I’m not counting calories in and out?
Julie – And that’s the really important part of the intuitive eating research or the non-diet, or mindful eating research, is that they basically were asking that question, because that’s always, that is the first question. I remember talking to a friend of mine’s father just a couple months ago and I hadn’t seen him since I graduated from college which was 20 years ago, and at that point I was a pretty typical dietitian, and working in weight loss and things like that. And so, he said something about like, oh could you give me a diet, and I was like, well actually… this is what I do now. And he was like, what? So I mean, you wanna promote like, cirrhosis and heart disease and like, what? Wait! And so one of the key things to keep in mind about society is that we tend to think in extremes and black and white, especially in the US, it’s just kinda how our brains are used to thinking about concepts and it stinks because the world is so beautifully gray and complicated, and diverse in so many ways, right? And so when we think about not dieting, like we said earlier, well that just means I’m letting myself go, it’s the same kinda thing. Just because we’re not dieting, does not mean we’re not pursuing or promoting health. ‘Cause there is, like, if you had a continuum and had, not like super diet-y and I don’t know, maybe doing that to promote health and then someone who’s just sitting on the couch all day and not doing anything, like, that’s just not the only options, there’s like a gazillion spots in between there. And so it’s just really moving away from dieting that as long as you keep yourself from going to the all or nothing, kind of calling it out when it happens, I think is really awesome. That it’s just not an all or nothing event. And what the research is showing us, like I said, there’s like 85+ studies now on intuitive eating that it does promote health, is that people who score as high in the intuitive eating scale that they have developed, they are people who have lower triglycerides, lower insulin levels, they have lower blood sugar, lower blood pressure, their markers for health are better. And the other part of it is, it’s more sustainable, that’s what research has been able to show too, this is something we can do forever, unlike dieting. And especially if we lived in a community that supported it, which a faith based community would be amazing to have the support to help people in their community to continue to make peace with their food and are just not think that diets are the only way to do it.
Amanda – I think, two things that stuck out to me as you were talking and one is, food peace is a part of health. Because health is not just your indicators, right, not even like your blood sugar and all those things. Health is for your body, your mind, your soul, and it’s an incarnated thing. I think that the line that I like to use when I’m talking about, what about health, is, do what brings you peace. The scriptural analog to that would be, seek peace and pursue it. From the Psalms. That we have the opportunity to find peace that works for all parts of us. We are one whole person. And if I am over emphasizing “health” which is usually slang for thinness or lack of fatness, then that can be very damaging to my mind and my heart. And then therefore I am not actually healthier.
Julie – Wow, yeah, that’s a wonderful scripture, what did you say?
Amanda – Seek peace.
Julie – Seeking peace
Amanda – And pursue it.
Julie – Yeah I love that.
Amanda – And so that means, I have people ask me, well then should I just eat junk food? And I’m like, that escalated quickly.
Julie – That’s that all or nothing, yep!
Amanda – All or nothing. Which, I have a very all or nothing personality and I’ve had to learn to let that be challenged by things that I’m learning.
Julie – Yeah, I think too, we live in a world that’s all or nothing, and some of us will have personalities that are very detail oriented so we can easily kind of, that can be our default, plus culturally we learn it, but the really neat thing that intuitive eating can teach us to do with our brain, is to acknowledge that the first thought is what we’ve learned, and then, or part of our brain wiring, but the second thought can be more in line with what our heart knows to be true, or what we’re trying to promote. So if we’re trying to promote the peace like you said, you can have that as your second thought, it’s kind of like the unlearning, I like to call that.
Amanda – Yeah, absolutely. It’s an unlearning and that’s what we are trying to do through our podcast is unlearning what we’ve been taught about bodies and starting with, for me, part of my faith journey was learning that my body wasn’t bad because I grew up thinking that everything spiritual was good, but my body and all my appetites were bad. And that is actually a heresy addressed by the early church, called gnosticism. And I talk about it in my book, but basically when we see Jesus as the incarnated God, he is reaffirming that the human body is good because he is uniting himself to humanity forever. And so we can’t say, all these spiritual things that I do are great and all the things I do in my body don’t matter, no we’re integrated wholes, we are, just like Jesus is fully God, fully man, we are spiritual beings with good bodies. And so changing that script of my body is bad to my body is good has let me pursue peace in a more holistic way. That, I think, gives a great berth in my life, b-e-r-t-h, for intuitive eating, so I’m excited to learn more about it.
Julie – I would wanna add something too to what you were saying about, when someone is saying, does that mean I’m gonna be eating, I don’t know what you said, like junk food or candy or something like that. And one of the areas I specialize in is working with women who have poly cystic ovarian syndrome, which is a condition that has lots of nutrition recommendations, often diet focused, and they have, I think it’s like 40% of women with PCOS get prediabetes or diabetes by the time they’re 40, so if someone maybe has maybe diabetes, has this PCOS, and they’re seeking food peace, eating the “junk food”, or candy or whatever, may actually be the healthiest thing to do, and this is why. If someone has a relationship with food that’s super chaotic and has no permission, seeking permission, and you have to think long term, you know, in the long term, it’s gonna allow for the variety which variety in food like, choices and access to a variety of food, and I wouldn’t say just in a day process but more of like a week or month. That variety to me is what healthy eating is. I mean, if I had to like, describe it, if I was forced to describe what’s healthy eating, then like, eating a variety of foods and a variety of pleasurable foods and it’s, and you’re nourished enough, that to me is healthy eating. So seeking permission and sometimes having then to work through permission of certain foods that are labeled as not health promoting, is what is the healthiest step. And so I often will kinda chuckle, because I’m like, when they gave me my license to be a dietitian I bet they weren’t thinking of me eating cookies with clients, but that’s what I do with some people!
Amanda – I love it.
Julie – We eat foods that have a scary connotation because we need to find a way to live alongside all the food that we have. And I also want people to be able to go to like a birthday party or some kind of celebration and be able to be a part of it and not avoid it or have food be the focus. Like, relationships are what’s the most important in life, not the food, food does not deserve that power. So seeking that food peace, like if you just examine one slice of it, it may be like, whoa that doesn’t seem right, that’s not healthy. But when you look at the big picture, it makes sense, and that’s, really I’m about long term, lets long term help people find that peace and promote whatever they’re able to do for their health.
Amanda – I love it. That is so helpful. Julie, this has been an amazing conversation. Before we finish, I would love to ask you a question that I learned from listening to your podcast, which is, do you have a resource that you would like to encourage our listeners to access, it can be your own or something that you’re reading, we’d love to know what has helped you and your clients.
Julie – Well one thing that I would recommend is my podcast, you know it’s something that if someone is experiencing some kind of complicated relationship with food, they’d find it helpful, and you can get to it by juliedillonrd.com, and the other one is the blog Body Beloved, which is a blog that’s written by dietitians of faith. And it’s from a Christian perspective, so it’s specifically Christian faith, and they’re really dissecting all of the topics that you also seem to be going through, so if you would like to read things instead of just listening, that may be a resource. When I get questions from people of the Christian faith who are feeling stuck in intuitive eating because of things like gluttony that we were talking about earlier, that’s a resource that I, many people have found helps with that peace process. Because they’re like, oh, so that’s a really good one.
Amanda – Thank you so much! And again listeners, Julie Duffy Dillon, her website is juliedillonrd.com, and the name of her podcast is Love, Food. The comma is actually the sign, not the word. So, and it’s available anywhere podcasts are downloaded. And you’ll really, it’s a treat to listen. I’m, I’ve only recently discovered it and have been listening like every day. I listen to multiple episodes a day and it’s really great.
Julie – Aw, thank you.
Amanda – Where can our listeners follow you on social media?
Julie – So I’m probably most active on Instagram. And it’s at foodpeacedietitian.
Amanda – Perfect. And anything, any words of wisdom you’d like to close us out with today?
Julie – Oh wow, well I believe that everyone can trust their bodies, so you can too.
Amanda – I love it. Thank you so much, this has been so helpful.
Julie – Thank you so much for inviting me, it was so nice to talk about this and I really look forward to listening to it.
Amanda – Thanks for joining us for episode 9 of Fat and Faithful, season 2. We hope that this discussion with Julie Duffy Dillon on food peace and intuitive eating gave you some insight on how to live at peace with food. We have one more episode coming to you before we take a break, and prepare for season three. And as always, we would love to hear your input. You can email us at email@example.com or reach out on social media. Search for us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, with the handle fatandfaithful. May God bless y’all and have a great week as you deepen in love for God incarnate and your neighbor’s body as your own.