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Reclaiming Our Right To Eat, with Founder of Wholesome Chick Nutrition Kate Regan

Speaking with a non-diet, weight-inclusive Registered Dietitian felt healing in itself.

Reclaiming Our Right To Eat, with Founder of Wholesome Chick Nutrition Kate Regan

So much of the gift of being human is all the different flavors we get to indulge in. Moist banana bread with sprouted walnuts and melted chocolate chips, creamy fettuccine alfredo, fresh gelato decorated with candies and decadent toppings. From sweet to savory, food can nourish both the body and the soul, serving as a community anchor and cultural signifier. 

And yet, so many women are robbed from the heavenly joys of good food, because they are imprisoned by a false rhetoric—a claim that they are their weight, that they must restrict in order to be worthy, that counting calories is their inescapable fate. Eating disorders have the second highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness behind opiate addiction, an insidious pandemic that many suffer from, with no awareness at all. Disordered eating can also have a detrimental impact on a woman’s menstrual cycle, leaving many malnourished with amenorrhea.

The war on body image seems to have worsened with the rise of social media, though no generation escaped unscathed. Skinny, eurocentric body standards have been plastered across all forms of media, from tabloids to cinema, for decades, leaving many of our mothers and grandmothers poisoned with self-hatred. Their own negative self-talk can easily seduce their daughters, a cycle that seems to get stronger with each generation.

Going viral on TikTok for her non-diet content, Kate Regan is a registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of Wholesome Chick Nutrition. Beyond the validity of her work, what has resonated most with her growing audience is the permission she gives to indulge in life’s simplicities—a birthright through and through. We’ve learned guilt around ordering dessert, finishing our entire meals, and punishing ourselves with a rigorous workout after a dinner night with friends. Regan’s content platforms unlearning; a return home to our humanity the way most of our male counterparts have already had the pleasure of living.

Hoping to wake us up to the freedom in accepting the natural state of our bodies and the truth that health looks different on everyone, O Positiv Health sat down with Kate Regan to learn more about how women can mend their relationship with food and live unrestricted.

OP: What was your personal journey with food that led you to the work you do?

Kate Regan: Growing up, I had a wonderful relationship with food! When I was around 16, I began to feel societal pressure to lose weight so I started counting calories, cutting out any foods I deemed unhealthy, and hyper-fixating on my body shape and size. I quickly fell into a pattern of disordered eating for several years until I decided to pursue recovery and heal my relationship with food and my body. Now, as a non-diet, weight-inclusive Registered Dietitian, I am so passionate about helping people prevent and heal from disordered eating and chronic dieting so that they can be the healthiest, happiest and most authentic version of themselves.

Do you find that ‘intuitive eating’ can become its own kind of disordered eating?

KR: If you are supported by an Intuitive Eating professional, it’s not likely. However “intuitive eating” (lowercase) can be misrepresented on social media, which can lead people to turn it into another set of strict rules to follow. Intuitive Eating promotes a trusting connection with your body to guide you on what, when and how much to eat by listening to your hunger and fullness cues. It may feel like you are doing something “wrong” if you don’t always listen to your hunger and fullness perfectly, which no one can because there is no such thing as perfect eating, so it has the potential to create a sense of guilt and desire to “get it right.” It can also be an excuse to avoid certain foods by claiming those foods don’t make you feel good, therefore you are eating intuitively, when really you might be avoiding them because they still create fear and judgment.   

What's your take on orthorexia or other forms of disordered eating that are masked by being ‘healthy’?

KR: Many behaviors that are promoted as “healthy” in our society are normalized, but are actually not normal, nor healthy. For example, religiously tracking calories, exercising intense “willpower” when it comes to food, or refusing any foods that are considered unhealthy are behaviors that are praised, when really they could be signs that someone is struggling with disordered eating. Orthorexia is essentially an obsession with eating only healthy food and is on the rise because of this external praise. From an outside perspective, it may seem like someone struggling with orthorexia is prioritizing their health and focusing on eating nutritious foods, but on the inside this disorder has severe physical and psychological consequences. If food has become an obsession or is causing you a high level of stress—even if you still look “healthy” from the outside—you are deserving of support and healing. 

What kind of ‘eating style’ do you promote?

KR: I always say that the best diet for you probably has no name! Nutrition and eating patterns are completely different from person to person, based on lifestyle, preferences, medical conditions, personal goals, food access, socioeconomic status and so much more. I strive to help my clients find a style of eating that works for their individual needs, while also promoting physical and mental health. I encourage my clients to stay connected to their body’s cues through Intuitive Eating, prioritize nutrition by adding nourishing foods versus restricting and embracing a positive relationship with food that doesn’t create stress or shame.  

What role has social media played in straining women’s relationship with food? 

KR: Social media has created a space that lends itself to constant comparison, whether it be related to someone’s eating patterns or their body. We are constantly bombarded by What I Eat In A Day videos and clips of people (oftentimes with no credentials) creating fear around food by labeling certain products as “toxic” or “junk.” I find that the women I work with are confused about what they “should” or “shouldn’t” be eating in order to be healthy, and are feeling very guilty if they aren’t eating the “perfect” diet like they see shared on social media platforms. Women are feeling more pressure than ever to lose weight, be the thinnest version of themselves and eat healthy 24/7 and it’s negatively impacting mental health in a significant way. Eating disorders and body image issues are on the rise and social media plays a large part in that. 

What does a healthy relationship with food look like?

KR: A healthy relationship with food is based around compassion, peace and trust. There is an absence of guilt, shame and judgment around food choices and you are free to eat whatever food sounds and feels good to you. If you have a healthy relationship with food, you are able to balance inner wisdom with outer wisdom—meaning you are able to listen to what your body wants and needs and also use tools to help you make food choices that support long-term health. You make food choices that align with your preferences and goals without stress or overwhelm and you trust yourself to engage with food in a pleasant way, without restricting or binging. You are likely only thinking about food for a small percentage of the day and the thoughts are mostly neutral or positive.  

What are the signs of an unhealthy relationship with food?

KR: Some signs to look out for that may indicate you have an unhealthy relationship with food include thinking about food or your body for a large percentage of the day, feeling any level of shame or guilt around your food choices, feeling stressed about food when traveling or out of your normal routine, continuously jumping from diet to diet, and obsessing about your weight or the way that your body looks. Additionally, you may be engaging with behaviors such as intentionally restricting overall food intake or specific food groups, binging or eating in secret, overexercising and exercising through illness or injury, avoiding social events that include food and constantly comparing what you are eating to others. 

As someone who has fallen on and off the healed horse time and time again, what are some beginner tips and tricks you'd share for someone seeking peace of mind with their body?

KR: Spend less time on social media and curate your feed to be a place that doesn’t make you feel bad about your body or your food choices. Get rid of clothes that no longer fit you and gradually build a wardrobe of clothes you feel comfortable and confident in, even if you need to size up! Work with a therapist or dietitian regularly if possible (even if it’s not extremely frequent) to have support to navigate the ups and downs of a lifelong healing journey. Be a friend to your body and speak to yourself like you would to someone that you love. Treat your mind like a garden and focus on planting seeds (positive thoughts) versus letting weeds (negative thoughts) take over. 

What's the main narrative we have to unlearn in order to find peace with food and our body image?

KR: Oh my goodness, there are so many! I would say the main narrative to unlearn is the belief that self-worth is dependent on body size. For generations, our society has inherited the message that your smallest possible body is your best, healthiest and most attractive body. Weight stigma and fatphobia perpetuate systemic oppression, biased healthcare and harmful mistreatment of people in larger bodies. In addition to ending weight stigma, I believe it is so important to separate your value as a human, which is inherent and unwavering, from your physical appearance. Your weight will fluctuate but your worth will not. 

For more from Kate Regan, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist & Founder of Wholesome Chick Nutrition: Visit her site, or follow @wholesomechicknutrition on Instagram and Tiktok.

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