Oh how excited I am to share my news today. It’s the first in a long series of expert interviews on one my favourite topics.
A few weeks ago I discussed what is known as the Non-Diet Approach to Health. At that time I announced I wanted to talk with some key health professionals and personalities. They all have a common attribute. In one way or another they all encourage or advocate for a Non-Diet Approach to Health and Life. So I put the call out to people I admire and who I think have a message everyone should hear.
I am very excited because I have had some absolutely fantastic responses and support from some top-notch experts and inspirational folk. I am not going to reveal everyone today. I’ll let every post be a little surprise. Although I do find it hard to keep a secret so we’ll see how long I can keep my mouth shut ;)
Well today is day 1 of this little Non-Diet Approach project and it is with great pleasure that I introduce my first special guest – Kerry Beake. Kerry is a nutritionist, coach and speaker. She is also in the process of completing a Masters Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. Kerry runs HAES® Health Services in Western Australia offering flexible choices and strategies within a coaching or counselling framework using a Health at Every Size ® Approach.
Now, if you are already interested in the mindful eating or the Non-Diet Approach you might have already connected with Kerry on Facebook? (she does great content!). If you haven’t heard of Kerry before, head to her website HAES Health Services HERE to learn more about her work.
So let’s get started….
What moment did you decide you wanted to work in the nutrition field – and more importantly start using the ‘Health at Every Size’ ® Approach ?
I have had an interest in nutrition from the time I was about 16/17. I had been diagnosed with hypertension, like ridiculously high by accident. I had no symptoms. I was given the then standard advice to reduce salt. This confused me because we didn’t add salt to food, the majority was prepared fresh so I petitioned that I didn’t have salt. I was a very active teen, participating in sports both in school and outside of school, walked or rode my bike everywhere. I was very thin. So I began to think about the link between food and health. I got very curious and would read lots of books and attend talks over the next few years. In high school I wasn’t sure of what I wanted to do and didn’t get a lot of guidance or help and I didn’t even know what I liked. But by 21 I had decided I wanted to be a dietitian. However due to being easily distracted I didn’t quite complete that process.
Health at Every Size ® came into my awareness when I was a little bit older and had come back to the idea of study and nutrition. I was in the process of completing my undergraduate degree, it was about 2006 and I had developed an interest in insulin resistance that I tried to focus on for as many assignments as I could.
It was while I was researching insulin resistance and diabetes for an assignment that I happened to stumble upon Health at Every Size®. The information just resonated with me and it made so much sense in light of the reading I had been doing on insulin resistance. The early researchers often noted that the signs of insulin resistance began before weight gain rather than the other way around. I began to read more, anything, contact people who were researching, using, teaching in this new concept and I haven’t stopped.
Why is it that diets don’t work for many people long term?
Most researchers have ideas about why diets fail but the exact reason and mechanism is still largely elusive and definitive.
The body is incredibly complex – genetics, biochemistry, physiology and hormones interacting with our environment and personality with the variety of moods and stresses. Because the body is very adept at maintaining homeostasis and it is also very good at keeping us alive and avoiding starvation (for the majority), it is also generally very good at keeping us relatively healthy despite the environment we live in, the choices we make and the fat on our bodies may play a role in that.
So my feeling is that diets fail to consider the complexity of the body, it’s systems, it’s underlying physiology, genetics and the complex interactions between it and it’s environment. Diets instead assumes that because people fail to fit narrow ideals that the body is somehow wrong or broken and needs to be fixed.
A big part of mindfulness and avoiding a dieting mentality is self-love and nurturing.
Can you tell our SOL friends your favourite way to nurture yourself?
Nurturing myself is something I confess I have had to learn and am still learning. Most of what I have found are things that require no special equipment or cost. I now live near the water and so have made more of an effort to enjoy that luxury often. This summer I have rediscovered my love for swimming in the ocean and went most evenings. I love being out in nature and I love gardening. I value my friends and while it can be hard to catch up, being able to meet for coffee by the foreshore and watching the dolphins in the morning is a pleasure. Reading novels is another favourite, when time allows I will head to the library and grab three random books off the shelf and take them home to read. It’s such fun and I’m yet to find a book I didn’t enjoy. I love essential oils and use them everywhere. And massages as often as I can.
I love your Facebook posts and I’m sure many Aussie Dietitians who have been working for sometime would be learning A LOT from you. Who inspires you from the Non-Diet approach to health field?
When I first came across Health at Every Size ®, it was the work of Jon Robinson PhD, and I am forever grateful for his insights and research that were available on the internet. Other early works I read were Linda Bacon, Lily O’Hara, Marilyn Wann and from there came across ASDAH (Association of Size, Diversity and Health) and am now a member. The amazing people I have met, the incredible wealth of knowledge but the amazing generosity. So many of those who have strong research and academic backgrounds who share their insights, their work with the rest of the group. The tireless advocates. There are too many to name. So the generosity of people in this field is what inspires me.
Now this question is a bit icky…I have asked this same question to some other health professionals from the non-diet approach field and are really keen to get your thoughts. Weight Stigma Bias is still an issue amongst Dietitians here in Australia (and probably overseas). There are many health practitioners who embrace a ‘Health at Every Size’ ® or Non-Diet Approach to Health but are often surrounded by other professionals who don’t. Do you have any tips to help health practitioners combat weight stigma in their work?
Weight stigma is a very tough thing to identify and tackle. I find that the language and expectations of health professionals to weigh, monitor and mention weight as part of their core duties the biggest obstacle to stigma. This is especially high in the training aspect of dietetics and probably most health careers. Is it important that we know how to weigh and measure people correctly – absolutely and it can be important to do so in some cases. What isn’t taught is how to do it well, when it’s necessary and how to discuss it. The main message is that health professionals need to remember to treat all patients equally and the same for each condition. Pursue the same treatment for all patients regardless of weight.
What’s one thing we don’t know about you?
I once wanted to be an airline pilot because that would allow me to travel the world and have the best seat on the plane. When I found out how long and expensive it would be to do, I gave that idea up. Now I’m just happy to catch a ride on one every now and then.
Last one….What are you focusing on in 2015 – what exciting things should we look out for?
As a single gal, there can be many challenges to being healthy and so with that in mind, I’m taking more time to be mindful about my own behaviours. One of my motto’s that I use is “Have fun, be curious and keep playing with your food” and that is something I am using in my own life this year. My aim is to share those insights and tips that I find especially those that save time and or money. I want people to see that it’s ok to try new things, to have fun doing so, keep what works, discard what doesn’t and move on.
Big thanks to Kerry Beake for taking time out to answer these questions. Once again, if you want to learn more about Kerry, head to HAES Health Services here and if you want to learn more about the Health at Every Size Movement, head to their website here.
Thanks so much for reading and stay tuned in a couple of weeks for my next interview. The Non-Diet Approach to Health is an exciting part of nutrition and I’m happy to be able to share this info with you