"My Journey to Intuitive Eating": From Dieting, to Health Obsessed, to Finding Freedom & Healing

Updated: Dec 17, 2021



Intuitive Eating Counselor in Ann Arbor

I recently had the opportunity reflect on how long it actually took me to embrace Intuitive Eating after being a guest on a recent podcast show, The Non-Diet Mom Show with Jolyn Martin.


It was really eye opening because now that I have been an Intuitive Eater for a while, and now I'm helping others on their own journey, I sometimes forget what it took to get here. I don't often take the time to reflect back on my own experiences.


I had another opportunity to share my story again on a recent Instagram LIVE stream with Ardelle Viau, a fellow Holistic Nutritionist and trained Intuitive Eating Coach. You can actually catch the episode here. So with that, I wanted to expand a little to share my story, because the truth is, many people considering Intuitive Eating, may be exactly where I was 10 years ago:


  • Resistant to the message

  • Hesitant to learn more

  • Down-right threatened...


And look at me now!!


So how did I get here?


I had first heard of Intuitive Eating about 10 years ago. This was back when I was entrenched in dieting and really struggling with my relationship with food and my body image. I had actually come across an Instagram post (this was actually back when Instagram first gained popularity) and it was about how restricting food actually has the opposite effect- that we needed to have permission to "eat all the foods"...and I was an absolute skeptic! In fact, I remember feeling appalled that someone would condone eating "junk food"- they obviously didn't know a thing about health! So of course, I ignored the rest of the post, (and most likely unfollowed the account) and moved on with my day.


This was a time when I was deep into diet culture. I was really obsessed with changing my body- so much so that I even trained and I competed in a bikini fitness competition!! I 100% believe my worth and value was based on my appearance. It also didn't help that I was also fresh out of an abusive long term relationship...it was almost like I swapped from one toxic relationship (with my ex), to another (with dieting)...


So it makes absolutely sense that when I had first heard of Intuitive Eating, I couldn’t believe people were encouraging others to eat what they wanted. I had spent years restricting and binging, so in MY mind, the evidence showed that I had zero control around food- specifically around food I had forbidden. I thought, "If I ate whatever I wanted, I would be out of control all of the time!" My diet brain felt so threatened!


After putting my body through months of severe restriction and over exercising to prepare for competition, once it was over I was in a pretty dark place. I was still trying to force my body to maintain this unrealistic and unsustainable goal but- this is no exaggeration- I was starting over with my diet every single day, because I was binging every single night.


I can look back on that experience now and recognize my body was just trying to survive.

I had hit the proverbial rock bottom...in Intuitive Eating, this is known as "hitting diet bottom".

  • I became painfully aware that what I was doing isn’t working.

  • I was tired of stepping on the scale every single morning to determine if I was going to have a good day or not.

  • I realized I had no mental space to think about anything else, but food and my body.

  • and I was tired...


I recognized this behavior was NOT healthy physically and certainly not mentally. I started experiencing health issues from chronic dieting:

  • Low Energy

  • Digestive Issues

  • Blood Sugars Issues

So I knew it was time to make a change.


From Weight Obsessed, to Health Obsessed


After realizing my obsession with weight was starting to negatively impact my health and well-being, I was hungry (pun intended) for a new way to look at food and my body. My choices became less about "how many calories are in this?", and more about the "health benefits" of certain foods and ingredients. I had started working with a Naturopathic Doctor who helped me with some of the health issues I began experiencing; started a regimen of about a million supplements, and became fascinated with the idea that "food should be healing". So I did what any normal, food and health obsessed person would do...I enrolled in a 2 year Holistic Nutrition Program. While I value everything I learned, it only added fuel to my already extremely rigid way of eating...once again.


I thought since my focus was on my HEALTH, having extreme food rules, and pouring over ingredients lists on the back of the package was okay!


But I still found myself preoccupied with thoughts about food and obsessing over any decisions that impacted my health. I believed it was something I had ABSOLUTE control over. So I started seeing clients in my own practice, and sharing what I learned, but I realized after a short time that both myself AND my clients still continued to struggle...


No matter how much I tried to instill that these changes were about "lifestyle and healthy habits" NOT perfection, I still noticed a lot of guilt or shame around any setback. You see, Diet Culture relies that "all or nothing" mindset.


So I had another realization...


It's not that people don’t know WHAT to eat, or what healthy behaviors are…but what they don’t understand is WHY they eat.

When we obsess about food, either for weight loss or health, we get stuck in this perfectionist mindset that doesn’t serve us. When we have no understanding of our relationship with food, it can complicates things. Not only that, but it completely detaches us from body attunement, a key skill we are all born with, but tend to lose over time when we rely on external sources to tell us when, what and how much to eat...we lose trust in our own innate ability to recognize our needs.


I knew I had to make some changes, not only for me, but for my clients. I had been noticing more and more practitioners talking about Intuitive Eating, even Holistic Nutrition Professionals I had already been following on social media, and decided I needed to give it another look. I really became intrigued by the psychology of eating behavior, disordered eating recovery, the restrict-binge cycle, and of course, the history of Diet Culture as a form of oppression.


It was like I was reawakened.


I started by reading the book, Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. I began to practice and embody the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating myself. I couldn't believe the difference once I became a more attuned eater. Working through my own Intuitive Eating journey allowed me to continue exploring my relationship with my body image, as well as recognizing the harm with many weight loss and diet messaging.


I sought additional training on Body Image Work through The Body Positive Organization. I discovered that Body Image plays a HUGE role in how we take care of ourselves. From there I was introduced to Health at Every Size® and the amazing research by Dr. Lindo Bacon. I was shocked when I learned the many myths about weight and health constantly perpetuated by Diet Culture!


So I decided to shift my practice. I completed an amazing 6 month professional mentorship program for non-diet professionals, and am currently (as of September 2021) finishing my certification to become an Intuitive Eating Counselor!


Since incorporating Intuitive Eating into my practice, I have never felt more passionate or proud or genuinely authentic in the work that I do.

I cannot fully express how meaningful this journey has been to me. Now that I am becoming a mother to a daughter- even more so. I have created healing in myself so that I don't have to pass down the food and body obsession to her. I get the opportunity to break the cycle.


My goal as a practitioner to help facilitate and guide you on your own food and body healing journey. I also want you to know that of you are still resistant to the idea of Intuitive Eating, I completely understand. It took me YEARS to get to a place where I was open to receiving the message and doing the work. My hope is that my messaging and work can save you bit of time to get there. So if you are curious, I am here to help!


If you want to learn more about Intuitive Eating, please be sure check out my other recent blog posts.



 

Katie Valley is a Holistic Nutritionist and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor whose goal is to dispel the myths of diet culture and reinforce a holistic, health-focused approach to wellness. After her own experience with disordered eating and poor body image, Katie found true healing by practicing Intuitive Eating and Body Acceptance.


Now she has her own practice, Katie Valley Wellness, where she helps women who feel out of control around food learn to eat intuitively, pursue TRUE health, & feel confident in their own body.