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Event: Womentum March Onward, March 7, 2024

Womentum March Onward 2024!

The evening before International Women’s Day and during Women’s History Month, join Womentum as four local healthcare professionals share their stories that highlight the need for a paradigm shift in our approach to women’s wellbeing: separating wellness and our worth from weight, food, and our bodies.

Thursday, March 7, 6:30-8 pm (doors open at 6), The National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole

$40, purchase here. Scholarships available, complete request form here.

The pursuit of health and wellness for women in our society too often leads to diminished personal power in the form of negative body image and a preoccupation with food, exercise, and weight.

This event will arm attendees with the knowledge to make educated choices for how we spend our time, attention, and money on our physical appearance and health. We envision a shift towards celebrating what our bodies can do in the world and also developing our potential beyond our physical self!

About Dr. Kelly Baxter, Family Medicine Physician

Dr. Kelly Baxter is deeply passionate about improving healthcare for those who are at greatest risk of experiencing medical and societal bias based on age, body type, sexual preference, gender identity, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, and other forms of discrimination that contribute to worse health outcomes.

Kelly has a special interest in women’s health at all ages. She follows the evolving science of hormone replacement therapy and strives to support women through the menopausal transition. Kelly recognizes the harms of diet culture on mental and physical health. After 15 years in premedical, medical, and residency training, Kelly was shocked to find a complete lack of education around eating disorders and a general lack of understanding and compassion around body image and weight. She has independently pursued training and mentorship in these areas, but she has found the most meaningful education has come from her patients directly. Kelly is humbled and honored to share the sacred space of the patient-provider relationship and feels that all people deserve unbiased and individualized care.

Dr. Kelly Baxter is board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. She is certified in Integrative Medicine through the University of Arizona. She earned her bachelor’s degree from University of Wyoming and her medical degree from the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, Washington. She completed her family medicine residency at Saint Anthony North Hospital in Denver, Colorado.

About Mary Ryan, Licensed Clinical Social Worker & Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Mary Ryan’s practice, Beyond Broccoli LLC, welcomes adults and adolescents struggling with a wide range of issues, with a special focus on problems with food, eating, exercise, and body image. She began her professional journey as a dietitian more than two decades ago. Her interest in the many links between nutrition and mental health, and her passion for empowering clients to improve their relationship with food and their bodies, led her to pursue additional education, training, and licensure as a psychotherapist to help clients move beyond the “what” and towards the “why” of eating and other struggles. Integrating nutrition and psychotherapy is particularly important when there are issues such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, or difficult childhood experiences that impact every aspect of how we function later in life.

About Tanya Mark, National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach

With over 20 years of experience in the field of wellness, Tanya Mark, started her career as a massage therapist and shifted to fitness coaching (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) and then became a Nutrition Therapy Practitioner (NTP). After witnessing client frustration from failed diets and body dissatisfaction Tanya pursued additional education as a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor and a Licensed Be Body Positive Facilitator to support her clients in disentangling from diet culture and the false belief that there’s a “right” way to have a body.

Recently, Tanya completed her studies as a Master Level II Health Coach (PN2-MHC) and Certified Sleep, Stress Management & Recovery Coach (SSR). She coaches clients on whole health, beyond nutrition, including physical activity, sleep, stress resilience skills, and help them gain clarity on their personal values, priorities and what they really want out of life — what matters most. Tanya works with clients virtually, 1-1 or in her group Intuitive Eating and Be Body Positive coaching programs.

About Eden Morris, Registered Dietitian & Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor

Eden Morris is a former collegiate softball player turned mountain biker and skier who loves pocket snacks, tacos, playing outside, hanging with her Australian cattle dog, and camping in new places. Eden internalized so many of diet culture’s messages when she was a young girl. She didn’t understand that dieting would damage her body and hinder her performance in sports until she was diagnosed with Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport at age 22. 3 stress fractures in her left foot, osteopenia, and an absent menstrual cycle for 3+ years were the wakeup calls that showed her that health had to be about more than eating “clean” and weighing as little as possible.

Eden has spent the last 12 years immersing herself in the Intuitive Eating framework, making peace with food, her body, and movement. Healing her relationship with food was the healthiest thing she’s ever done for her physical and mental health. She’s a huge fan of mantras and affirmations–she often states, “A well-fed body is a resilient body.” Eden aims to live a life to show you that a fueled body performs better. No matter what phase of life we’re in, no matter what kind of movement we enjoy, our bodies deserve nourishment from foods that give us energy and bring us joy!

Eden works with active individuals of all ages who are looking to learn how to fuel their bodies without restriction, who are ready to appreciate their body for what it does for them vs how it looks, and who want to find a peaceful, accepting relationship toward themselves in order to live a life of empowerment.

Join us for Womentum March Onward 2024!

Normalize bodies to obtain overall health

There’s no “right” way to have a human body.

Yet “we’ve reached a point in history where nearly every person is in some way affected by society’s heightened focus on beauty, health and weight,” says co-founder of The Body Positive, Connie Sobczak.

The “emphasis on how we look and what we weigh has influenced the way most people perceive and care for their bodies.”

Girls as young as 3 years old report body dissatisfaction, thin-ideal internalization and self-objectification. Teens worry about the natural body weight increases during puberty while parents struggle to feed them in a “healthy” way.

Body image experts and authors of More Than a Body, Lindsay Kite and Lexie Kite gave up competitive swimming, a beloved piece of their childhood identity when they observed their bodies didn’t fit a swimmer’s body “ideal.”

Consider how many women prior to their weddings stress over every morsel of food and exercise obsessively to fit into a dress size smaller than their actual body. Or maybe you’re attending a 25-year high school reunion and you’re worried about how others will judge you. And how about the pressure that post-partum women feel to get their pre-baby body back or men being mocked for having “dad bods.”

A changing body is only a problem if we believe that our bodies aren’t supposed to change.

There's no right way to have a body

Many of us believe that self-care means engaging in the latest food plan or exercise craze. Yet what’s perceived as normal “health” behaviors, may be disordered and lead to dangerous eating disorders that affect people of all sizes, ages and genders. Women “diet” or “eat clean” while men “bio-hack,” diet culture’s masculine equivalent.

In the New York Time’s opinion piece, “Welcome to the bro-y world of extreme dieting. Or is it disordered eating?” author Thomas Stackpole describes how he ate almost nothing but lean ground turkey and broccoli over greens for two months as part of a YouTube bodybuilder’s plan and cycled through wellness trends like ingesting metabolism-boosting mushrooms.

And midlife women, be aware. Diet culture is taking advantage of the “lucrative menopause market” targeting perimenopausal and menopausal women for any and all signs of aging such as weight gain and body fat redistribution. Of course, “diets” are the solution.

The belief that there’s a “right” way to have a body may burden us for a lifetime. Grandma refuses a homemade brownie from her granddaughter choosing a pleasureless low-fat, sugar-free, 100-calorie Weight Watchers bar instead.

Those human experiences not only break my heart, but they’re also not making us mentally nor physically healthier.

We must come together, in community, as teachers, coaches, peers, parents, and healthcare professionals to change the conversation around bodies, weight, health and self-worth.

We weren’t born hating our bodies. It’s learned. Those three-year-old girls observed their mother’s body dissatisfaction. And if you’re a parent struggling to feed your kids “healthfully,” author, Virginia Sole-Smith shares advice in her book, “Fat Talk: Parenting in the Age of Diet Culture.”

“We’re programming kids to grow up and turn to diets. They need to learn how to trust themselves, intuitively” shared Sole-Smith on Dan Harris’s Ten Percent Happier podcast episode “How to Stop Obsessing Over Your Body and Eat Sanely in a Toxic Culture.”

One way to start untangling from diet culture says Sole-Smith is to explore Intuitive Eating, a self-care eating framework developed by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. We’re recognizing the critical need to redevelop eating as a skill. We were born knowing how to eat, but over time, we lose it, living in our “there’s a right way to have a body” culture.

Dan Harris fell prey to the male version of diet culture like Stackpole. He entered calories and macros into MyFitnessPal, wore the ring to track his sleep and ate no carbs or sugars. But he “dropped all that other stuff” after a life-changing interview with Tribole about Intuitive Eating.

“Why are you torturing yourself trying to get a body you had in your thirties or for some aesthetic ideal? There’s no correlation between the ideal body and actual underlying health and why are you giving these messages to your son about some foods being sinful like carbs and sugar,” says Tribole.

“And I was like, yeah. Yes. I was a hard core, idiot” says Harris.

Yet, initially, Harris was skeptical about Tribole’s non-diet approach to nutrition and health. Harris describes himself as judgmental and dismissive, something he says as a mindfulness practitioner, he’s working on. If this perspective on nutrition seems radical, I recommend listening to “The Anti-Diet” episode.

More than four years later, Harris admits he’s still a work in progress. Freeing ourselves from culture’s harmful messages about food and our bodies takes time and commitment. It takes far more than reading the Intuitive Eating book and briefly exploring the exercises. It requires examining deeply ingrained beliefs with critical thinking.

I suggest reading “Anti-Diet” by Registered Dietitian, Christy Harrison. Harrison unpacks the history of the BMI (body mass index) and diet culture, which she calls “the life thief,” and explains why obsessing over what you eat is bad for your health.

And if you’ve ever been told “You Just Need To Lose Weight,” consider reading Aubrey Gordon’s book with this same title. Gordon tackles, with in-depth research, 19 ingrained myths about weight. Or for something lighter (and funnier), listen to her podcast, Maintenance Phase, where she and co-host Michael Hobbes debunk the junk science behind health and wellness fads.

Liberate yourself from the false and disempowering belief that there’s a right way to have a body.

Explore your relationship with food and your body and take a gentle approach to nutrition.

Shift from striving to achieve an aesthetic or “normal” BMI to moving your body because it feels good, supports your mental and metabolic health and your functionality.

Value your sleep, social connections, and mental fitness skills as equally important.

Explore who you are, what you want, your values and priorities, and what makes life meaningful to you.

Be a part of an empowered generation that speaks kind and loving things about your body in front of your three-year-old and that one day, happily accepts the homemade brownie from your grandchild.

For however long we’re on this planet, our bodies are where we live. Feeling connected to and at peace with them is crucial to your health, happiness, and wellbeing.

(This article was originally published in Hole Health, a special section of the Jackson Hole News and Guide, February 21, 2024).

How can I eat healthier without dieting?

You want to eat healthier without dieting, so you search for a solution.

You scroll through your social media feed and see a sponsored ad for a trending diet or eating plan. It promises to “fix” your body and make you feel better quickly and this sounds appealing. Because right now, you’re feeling burnt out, like your to-do list is never-ending, there’s just no time for yourself, you just want guidance and a place to start.

But you’re also thinking, “How can I feel and eat better without dieting?” Isn’t there another way?

Yes.

NEWS FLASH:

"How can I eat healthier without dieting?" Good nutrition is a set of skills to learn and practice.
Good nutrition is a set of skills to learn and practice, not a diet.

Eating better is a skill

The great news is that good nutrition is a skill that you learn, just like speaking Spanish or playing the piano. So you can stop searching for diets and eating plans.

And how do you learn anything new?

You break the skill down into bite size chunks, just like you did with Spanish and the piano.

You didn’t learn to do it in 21 days or learn everything all at once, did you? Heck no! Diets force you to overhaul your eating behaviors on day 1 and don’t create long-term sustainable shifts in your eating habits.

So what specific nutrition skills do you need?

Nutrition skill domains

Skill # 1: Eat enough nutrients.

This is a key domain to building balanced meals which balances your blood sugar (glucose, A1c) and prevents diabetes, increases your energy and reduces mood swings and cravings!

So what are the specific practices under this domain?

  • Eat enough protein.
  • Eat enough vegetables.
  • Eat enough quality carbohydrates.
  • Eat enough healthy fats.
  • Drink enough water.

Practices are what you can do to build and improve the skill of eating enough nutrients.

Eat healthier without dieting

Let’s say that you want to practice eating enough protein.

We’ll collaborate on a specific action you are ready, willing and able to do reliably and consistently. Then, we’ll discuss potential challenges and obstacles that may come up for you in boosting your protein intake.

An example of a specific action could be adding an egg to your avocado toast.

But what if somedays you’re just not in the mood for eggs, then what? Or, what if you woke up late, you’re rushing around to make your kids breakfast and pack their lunches and no there’s just no time for your own breakfast?

Together, we will come up with a plan B and C so that you are more likely to make progress.

Success isn’t perfection.

It’s not all or nothing, pass or fail.

Success is progress and it’s on a spectrum.

Maybe one day all hell broke loose and nope, despite backups plans, you ate no protein, no breakfast. It’s ok. You are human. It’s how you are taking care of yourself for the most part and a key tenet of Intuitive Eating.

This is how the deep health coaching process works.

We identify where you’re currently at with your nutrition and self-care skills. Then, you practice, practice practice.

So this is how you eat, feel and live better without dieting.

Non diet nutrition coaching focuses on adding more nutrient dense foods (rather than taking them away) and supporting you in making it happen it within the context of your real life.

Rate your healthy eating skills

Remember, just knowing about the nutrition skills below is not the same as doing and taking action. And just like skill # 1, there are many practices to build under each skill domain.

Skill # 1: Eat enough nutrients.

Skill # 2: Choose better quality foods.

Skill # 3: Eat well consistently.

Skill #4: Eat well intuitively.

This is the process that I’ll take you through to improve your health, whether it’s practicing a specific nutrition skill, adding movement back into your life, creating a nightly routine to sleep better, or adding 5 minutes of breathing into your day to manage stress. These are all health skills and they can be learned with practice.

Diets don’t teach you skills, nor do they give you the time necessary to create true and sustainable change. Instead they promote tons of weird stuff like bananas are “bad,” eating tons of bacon, and limiting your veggies. Ugh.

Eating better is a skill. I’ll say it over and over again.

Kick diet culture to the curb.

So if you want to eat healthier without dieting, immerse yourself in learning, practicing and taking specific actions to gain these four critical nutrition skills.

Eating healthier doesn't require dieting.

Free Assessment

Take my deep health ASSESSMENT to receive your complimentary 30-minute coaching session.

Get started now and move from feeling burnt out and overwhelmed to 💪 feeling empowered, knowing you get expert support and guidance to feel, eat and live healthier — for good!

Does mindful eating work?

To answer the question “does mindful eating work,” let’s first define it.

Mindful eating:

  • gets you back inside your body, instead of following outside advice on the internet telling you what’s best for your body.
  • teaches you to slow down and notice the taste, texture and aroma of food. Why is this important? Because bringing attention to your eating experiences is a key piece to feeling satisfied.
  • guides you to sense which foods make you feel your best, as every body is different.
  • supports you in enjoying and savoring your food, versus eating tasteless “diet” foods.
  • teaches you to honor your unique hunger (energy) needs, which change every day. Your body thrives on rhythmically being nourished throughout the day. So trying to ignore physical hunger or skip meals is stressful on your body.
  • encourages you to bring relaxation and presence to your plate to support your digestive health.
  • supports a healthier relationship with food and your body.

How mindful eating works

You can practice mindful eating, by following the BASICS created by Lynn Rossey, author of Savor Every Bite.

B: Breathe and belly check before you eat.
A: Assess your food.
S: Slow down.
I: Investigate your hunger throughout the meal.
C: Chew your food thoroughly.
S: Savor your food.

But does mindful eating really work?

You have to be clear on what “work” means.

Carrie Dennett, registered dietitian, warns us in a Seattle Times article that mindful eating has been co-opted by diet culture for weight loss. Mindful eating isn’t about restriction, controlling yourself, being hyper-vigilant about your eating, or feeling ashamed of making certain food choices.

It’s about getting back inside your body.

It’s a practice of deep listening.

The actual intended benefit of practicing mindful eating is to be in touch with your body’s unique needs.

So does mindful eating work?

Yes, if you’re practicing mindful eating as another layer of your mindfulness practice. ♡ Tanya

Curious about the difference between mindful eating and Intuitive Eating?

Read The Ten Benefits of Intuitive Eating on my blog.

Get healthier, no diet culture BS required

“Get healthier and feel better in your body,” might sound like the same ‘ole, same ‘ole approach to your health. But to be clear, it’s not.

It’s about reclaiming the word “wellness” from diet culture which takes an all-or-nothing approach to your eating and defines “success” as only one number on the scale that must never waiver. (Spoiler alert: humans are NOT robots so numbers on the scale WILL fluctuate).

The diet culture ask is:

get healthier, feel better in your body, no diet culture BS required
get healthier, feel better in your body, no diet culture BS required

As a nutrition and master health coach, that frustrates the heck out of me because getting healthier involves building skills with your nutrition, as well as your whole self-care routine, i.e. your movement, sleep and how well you cope with stress (as you will always have some 🤪).

In addition, diet culture, which has been around forever (hey I’m talking to you Weight Watchers), says that you’re only “healthy” if you fit into one jean size or BMI category.

But this is far too simplistic of a definition and can actually harm you. How? Because it makes you feel like something is wrong with you if you don’t have a “perfect” body or don’t eat “perfectly.” Yikes. There’s nothing wrong with you. And to make matters worse, feeling this way may lead you to try yet another diet or meal plan to “feel good about yourself.” Sigh.

So how can you get healthier and feel better in your body?

Practice good nutrition and self-care, not the diet culture BS.

It’s time to put it to bed 🛌 forever (good night and good riddance!)

Learn and build nutrition skills + a self-care routine = feeling better in your body.

Practice these three critical nutrition coaching tips:

1. Slow down. 🐢

I’m sure you’ve heard of the fable “The Tortoise and the Hare.” Yup, slow and steady wins the “race.” This is the opposite of completing 21-days of “clean” (aka perfect) eating or a month long detox.

And, most importantly, it’s simply not enough time to build nutrition and other wellness skills. Many of my clients work with me for at least 3 months, with most choosing support for a year or more. Why? Because…

Change is a process. And, I’ll be with you every step to support you (instead of being a dictator telling you what you “should do).” So give yourself the space to learn and practice, at your pace.

2. Ditch striving for perfection. 🅱

Stop putting so much dang pressure on yourself to never eat a “bad” food or only eat “clean” foods or beat yourself up because you skipped the gym because you had a terrible night’s sleep. You are human dang it.

What if you could average a grade B throughout the year with your nutrition, sleep, movement and stress coping skills? How would that feel? (I imagine pretty dang good).

The best way to start getting healthier is to meet yourself where you’re at. You’ll start your journey by completing a nutrition and deep health assessment and then together, we’ll create a plan to reach your goals by having you practice and build ONE skill, every two weeks. Over time, all these skills add up to one big change.

FYI: Diets force you to make a bunch of changes with your nutrition in a short amount of time period, so no wonder they’re not sustainable.

3. Be nice 😀 to yourself.

Instead of forcing yourself to eat better or get to the gym, relying on willpower, and white knuckling it to “be good,what if you could build self-care skills that you are truly ready, willing and able to do, within the context of your unique life?

How does that sound?
For example: maybe you’re ready to learn which and how much healthy fats to eat more of, some of and less of, but you’re not willing or able to practice mindful eating right now. No problem.

When you give yourself plenty of time to change, ditch perfection and build nutrition and self-care skills that are “doable,” overtime, that’s when the magic ✨ happens!

(Share this blog post with a friend: “.”)

Hope you found these three non-diet nutrition tips helpful! Ready to get started? Complete your self-care assessment and receive a 30-minute coaching session!

To your happiness and health, ♡ Tanya

P.S. Want a little more support with feeling better in your body? Read my latest article: Positive role models shape a healthy body image

3 Reasons to Set Your Scale Aside (and get healthier)

Do you love the idea of ditching your scale, but you’re worried about your weight?

If so, you’re not alone. You’ve been taught to focus on your weight (like all of us) – with your BMI number labeling your supposed health status.

And holy moly, as a culture, we spend enormous amounts of time, energy and money focused on weight and worried about what we see in the mirror.

So first, let’s honor that it’s freakin’ hard to live in this perfectionist body culture.♡

Next, I know that you wouldn’t be a part of my community if you didn’t care deeply about your health. Yet you may not know how to take care of your health without focusing on the scale.

Perhaps…

✔️ You’ve been focused on weight loss for a long time and maybe you’ve had some “success” but then you worried about gaining it back. And sure enough, when the diet or food plan ended or you found being hypervigilant with food and/or exercise just got plain exhausting, or life got in the way (because you are an actual human being) – you, like most people, gained it back and maybe more. This is not your fault, my lovely friend. Diets are not designed to be sustainable long term.

OR

✔️ You’re stressed about maintaining your current weight – berating yourself anytime there’s a scale fluctuation. And you too, my friend, it’s not your fault either because weight has been a proxy for health and no body talks about how weight fluctuations are normal. So no wonder you worry.

If not scale focused, what can you do to take care of your health?

You can take the approach I took with my current client, Maureen (and all my clients).

Mo Living Her Best Life

Here’s a shout out to Mo – who is always smiling!

“Mo” was dissatisfied with pandemic weight gain when she started her coaching journey with me. I deeply respect body autonomy. So only Mo gets to decide what’s best for her body. I never dismiss her (or anyones) desire to lose weight.

Instead, I shared with her my reasons for not focusing on her weight and how this approach would make her healthier and yes, much happier 😊 along her well-being journey. You can read Mo’s full story, in her words below in the P.S.

What’s the approach?

It’s taking care of yourself.

“Uh duh, Tanya. That’s what I’ve been trying to do!”

But has your self-care been focused on the number on the scale?

♡ What if your self-care wasn’t about self-control or “shoulds?”

♡ What if you didn’t have to use willpower to white-knuckle it to “be good” and restrict your favorite foods?

♡ What if you put the scale aside and practiced self-care from a place of self-love (instead of body hate or fear)?

TRUTH BOMB: Focusing on your weight can get in the way of you taking care of your whole self, in your unique body.

3 Reasons To Set Your Scale Aside & Get Healthier

#1 Your weight and BMI are not the best indicators of your health.

♡ Consider a woman in the “normal” BMI range and looks “fit” yet she struggles to eat well and move her body because of lack of time, money. She smokes to “deal with” stress and isolates herself. A doctor could miss helping her improve her health if she isn’t asked about her behaviors and life circumstances.

♡ Consider a young man in the “o” BMI category. His behaviors with food and movement are terrific, as are his health labs, yet he’s considered unhealthy by BMI numbers.

♡ Consider a woman in her sixties who falls in the “underweight” category who might be praised by friends and family for “being good” with food and exercise, yet her behaviors are disordered.

It’s kind of a mess, right?!

We know that people can be healthy across the size spectrum. I have patients that are ‘normal BMI’ that have Type 2 diabetes. And I have patients that are well above ‘normal BMI’ that don’t have any health problems. If you hide their weight, if you just compared their labs to each other, you’d think the person with the poorer labs was the heavier person. It’s not always true. – Dr. Gregory Dodell, Central Park Endocrinology, New York City – January 3, 2022, USA TODAY article – Everything you miss when you think weight is about willpower.

So numbers don’t mean what you think they mean.

You could be healthier at a lower or higher weight or maybe you’re already at your healthiest weight range (even though you, diet culture or your BMI label says otherwise).

Want to read more about BMI? The Myths of BMI Can Hurt Your Health

And by the way, weight fluctuations are normal. If the number on the scale goes in a direction you don’t like, it can unnecessarily make you feel crappy about yourself and send you spiraling back into “diety” behaviors – restricting, controlling, “shoulding” on ourselves. No bueno (good)!

That’s why an important part of learning Intuitive Eating (one of my favorite non-diet nutrition tools) calls for setting the scale aside because it gets in the way of you being able to listen to your own body’s signals with hunger, fullness, satisfaction and more!

Ok, let’s move on to the next important reason why you should take the focus off your weight.

#2 Weight is not a behavior

Research shows that it’s your self-care behaviors that impact your health and longevity not your weight class (BMI). This makes a lot of sense especially after reading the above real life stories.

Weight is not a behavior

So how are your self-care behaviors?

Are you taking care of yourself from a place of self-love? If so, great! ✰✰✰✰✰ (5 stars for you)!

But maybe, like all of us, you get in self-care ruts. (Yes, this includes yours truly 🤚). So first, please, please be kind and compassionate with yourself.

Maybe you didn’t sleep well and you’re exhausted, but you feel like you “should” get up early before work to exercise. (FYI, it’s better for your body to get rest than force a workout, yes, really

Then because you’re tired, so you crave carbs, sweets (check out: Why Am I Craving Carbs, Sugar) and then you beat yourself up over it. And when you get home, you order takeout because making dinner just takes waaaaay too much bandwidth.

Or maybe you just started a new job; you’re going through a divorce; you’re caring for an elderly parent or pet or you have to shuttle your kids to a zillion different activities; or you’re injured or ill; or you’re struggling with a mental health challenge and the list goes on……..

Often, your self-care rut is caused by a **combination** of things!

The best part of taking a self-love approach to self-care is that it’s flexible and you!!! get to choose what feels “doable” because you know yourself best. Period. I can’t stress enough how critical personal autonomy is to your success. Nobody likes to be told what to do – even if you think that’s what you need. I promise that you are full of wisdom. My job is to help you bring it forward.

Maybe you start with a gentle improvement to your eating habits, or moving your body in ways that you enjoy, or going to bed earlier, or having the wine a few nights instead of every night, or winding down with hot tea instead, or learning stress management techniques to calm your nervous system, or carving out time to connect with others, or making time for fun, or maybe learning to separate your self-worth from a scale number?

Focusing on the scale can be such an unnecessary strain on your health (which may already be super stressed – so let’s not add to it)!

#3 Your health is complex

Let me tell you two stories to illustrate the many factors that influence your health:

♡ Consider a woman with a higher weight (BMI) who lived healthfully into her hundreds. She drank a couple cocktails and ate fried food daily, smoked, did little to no exercise. But…she slept great, was super social, had little stress, had tons of friends, and a lovely family that adored her and she adored them.

♡ Now let’s consider a man who had a “ideal” body weight (BMI) and lived the life of health as a personal trainer and was “perfect” with his food. Yet he was a stressed about lots of things including maintaining his physique. He ate “healthfully” – but out of fear of getting a disease or gaining weight; he declined social invitations to workout or avoid the “unclean” food at the dinner party. Sadly, he died from a heart attack in his thirties. (His “health” background sounds similar to mine).

Why did one out live the other?

There are waaaay too many factors to consider, but the main point I’m making here is that weight isn’t one of them.

To summarize, the 3 reasons to set the scale aside are:

  • weight (and BMI) are not the best indicators of your health
  • behaviors are far more impactful
  • and your health is full of complexities.

So together, we (like I did with Mo!) will focus on your self-care behaviors and all the factors that influence your health and well-being,  while allowing you to live your best life (and not feel guilty for simply enjoying an ice cream cone). And ultimately, trusting your body weight to settle where it’s healthiest for you. (And don’t worry, if you struggle with body image, I’m here to support you with this too)!

♡ How does that sound dear reader? Reach out and let me know! T

P.S.🤩 Here’s what the lovely “Mo” has to say about her well-being journey:

Mo Winter Biking

“I am fortunate to have found Tanya’s coaching services.

After 20+ years in a fast paced and high-pressure career it took the pandemic to “wake me up” to the fact that my version of wellness was not effective nor sustainable.

After two years in a toxic work environment, I found myself burned out, stressed, anxious, irritable, experiencing weight gain, relying on prescription meds and just an overall lack of joy in life. This overall sense of fragility led me to research and engage with a well-being coach.

I chose Tanya over other providers because I wasn’t looking for traditional therapy or psychology nor was I uneducated about health and wellness. Tanya provided a holistic all-encompassing approach that leveraged the tools I already had at my disposal. I felt Tanya was able to customize her coaching based on my life stage.

♡ There were no rigid rules but a journey that felt organic and customized to my needs.♡

Each week Tanya listened to my needs and empowered me with digestible knowledge based on current science in a range of fields. It was with that information I could adventure out in life experimenting with what worked best for me. Tanya supported me with accountability and creative solutions along the way.

No matter what your well-being goal is, feel confident that Tanya is proven, licensed and offers versatile programs for a wide range of client needs.

After just a short time partnering with with Tanya for weekly coaching, I have benefited from the following results in seven months: improved strength and mobility, reduced aches / pains, improved body composition, menstrual cycle and elimination of PMS symptoms, stabilized mood, reduced anxiety, minimized stress and improved sleep and my nervous system, improved work life balance resulting in a fulfilled life — eventually eliminating previously prescribed meds.

Having Tanya as a virtual coach was easier and more rewarding than I expected and has led me to truly embrace flexible self-care and overall life satisfaction! Thank you Tanya – I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t met you!” – Mo Lang

♡♡♡ Thank you, thank you, thank you Mo, for these kind words! (It’s such a JOY! to be working with Mo by the way).

And if you’re curious about coaching and how we can work together to reach your goals, click here to discuss long term deep health coaching and/or book your first session. ♡ Tanya

Don’t let diet madness ruin the new year

“When I was little, someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up and I said, ‘Small.’

By the time I was 16, I had already experienced being clinically overweight, underweight, and obese. As a child, fat was the first word people used to describe me, which didn’t offend me until I found out it was supposed to” says Blythe Baird in her spoken word poem video When the Fat Girl Gets Skinny which has received over 4 million views.

She describes a teenaged life filled with eating “skinny-pop,” complimenting each other’s thigh gaps, trying diets she and her friends found on the internet, “Googling the calories in the glue of a US stamp” and “hunching naked over a bathroom scale, trying; crying into an empty bowl of Cocoa Puffs because I only feel pretty when I’m hungry.”

When Baird lost weight, her dad was so proud that he carried her before and after photo in his wallet, relieved that he could stop worrying about her getting diabetes and finally see her taking care of herself.

“If you develop an eating disorder when you are already thin to begin with, you go to the hospital. If you develop an eating disorder when you are not thin to begin with, you are a success story” says Baird.

“So when I evaporated, of course everyone congratulated me on getting healthy. Girls at school who never spoke to me before stopped me in the hallway to ask how I did it. I say, “I am sick.” They say, “No, you’re an inspiration.

How could I not fall in love with my illness? With becoming the kind of silhouette people are supposed to fall in love with? Why would I ever want to stop being hungry when anorexia was the most interesting thing about me?”

I share Baird’s story with you with urgency, before the new year, to stress the harms of continually reinforcing the societal norms that we’ve been socialized to accept such as dieting before any major life event, “swimsuit season,” beginning every January or actually just dieting in general.

Think of someone you know whose time, energy, money, physical and emotional health and self-worth – whose life is being stolen by the constant pursuit of maintaining or attaining an “ideal” body shape or size, that is, according to diet culture.

Maybe this person is your best friend, your mother, or you.

Nobody diets for fun

Like Baird, we try to control our bodies to belong, to be accepted as “healthy.” We believe we must “look good to feel good” about ourselves, the diet industry marketing messages promise.

Diet culture equates thinness, muscularity, and particular body shapes with health and moral virtue, according to author of Anti-Diet, Christy Harrison. You can spend your whole life thinking you’re irreparably broken just because you don’t look like this ‘ideal” she says.

And even if you have a small body, you may live with fear of weight gain.

I want you to know that you have a choice. Your only option for love and a content life isn’t to be a slave to the scale and other people’s opinions.

Ditch diet culture

You can choose to opt-out of harmful dieting and diet culture.

Dieting is disordered eating and is one of the strongest predictors for the development of an eating disorder, which can occur across the weight spectrum according to the National Eating Disorders Collaboration.

And you don’t have to be actively “on a diet” to be swept up by the culture of dieting.

Disordered eating habits also include preoccupation with food and your weight, feeling stressed about food and whether you’re eating the “right” or “wrong” foods and rigid food rules. It’s fasting, cleansing, detoxing, skipping meals to save calories, avoiding a type of food or food group, drinking laxative teas.

We can take “healthy” eating too far. There’s a term for this, orthorexia, also disordered eating, which is an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy foods.

The risks associated with disordered eating and dieting include developing a clinical eating disorder, osteoporosis or osteopenia, fatigue and poor sleep quality, gastrointestinal problems, headaches, muscle cramps, feelings of shame, guilt, low self-esteem, depressive or anxious symptoms and behaviors, and nutritional and metabolic problems according to National Eating Disorder Collaboration.

And because diet culture is deeply embedded in Western culture masquerading as health, wellness and fitness, disordered eating habits have become an alarmingly “normal” way to “take care of ourselves.”

Nearly 75% of women reported engaging in disordered eating behaviors in a 2008 survey of over 4,000 women done by UNC and SELF magazine.

“Ideal” weight as myth

But you have another option. You can separate “taking care of yourself” and your “health” from some “ideal” number on the scale.

Think about how we determine a “healthy” weight. It’s measured by BMI (body mass index) – just your height to weight ratio. That’s it. It doesn’t consider your eating or movement habits, muscle mass. It doesn’t factor in a long list of behaviors that impact your health such as smoking. It doesn’t consider your genetics, nor the complexities of health. BMI is a poor determinant of health.

Furthermore, ingrained beliefs that fat poses significant mortality risk are not fact.

Research reported in Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift shows that except at statistical extremes, BMI only weakly predicts longevity. People who are “overweight” or “obese” live at least as long as normal weight people, and often longer.

You can’t determine somebody’s health status just by looking at their body size. A small body may be healthy or not and the same is true for a larger body.

Honor Body Differences

With this knowledge, you can choose to honor that your body, other bodies may want to be different than what you and our culture think they should be.

Baird lamented that her “small’ body was the “most interesting about her,” but now as part of her healing “how lucky it is now to be boring,” says Baird.

“My story may not be as exciting as it used to but at least there is nothing left to count. The calculator in my head finally stopped. Now, I am proud I have stopped seeking revenge on this body.”

As the new year approaches and yet another wave of dieting madness tries to steal your self-worth, I want you to know that you have another option: you can ditch the false belief that there’s only one size that’s “healthy,” worthy of love and belonging and make peace with food and your body.

To your happiness and health,

  • Tanya

Ready to transform your relationship to food and your body? Get started!

P.S. (You can watch Blythe Baird deliver her powerful poem, here).

(This article was originally published in the December 8, 2021 issue of Jackson Hole News and Guide.)

Ditch the weight-based resolutions

What if you didn’t start a new “diet” every January?

No restriction. No elimination. No guilt. No shame. No “shoulds.” No “failure.”

And what if you actually became healthier? No scale necessary.

Sounds great, right? Got it, you say. I’ve got one in mind that says it’s “not a diet.” Such “non-diets” fill our inboxes or social media feeds, promising to rid us of the “Quarantine15,” pandemic weight gain that I wrote about back in April (“As you shelter in place, forget about your weight”).

So first, a quick PSA: Don’t be fooled. Diets have rebranded by co-opting terms from eating psychology, Intuitive Eating and the anti-diet movement, claiming they’re not “fad diets.” Ultimately, if you have to restrict or eliminate specific foods — to limit when you’re allowed to eat or how many calories you can consume — yup, it’s a diet. Ultimately, if you’re promised weight loss, it’s a diet.

You might be thinking, “But what’s wrong with wanting to lose weight?” Nothing. Nothing is wrong with you or me (as I’ve been there too) — or anybody. Instead, what needs questioning are deeply ingrained cultural beliefs such as: It’s weight loss itself that makes you healthier; it’s fat itself that makes you unhealthy; health is entirely your personal responsibility and mainly is about what you eat and how you move, ignoring environment and systemic issues.

“Our stories and bodies are too complex and too varied to fit into the oversimplified narratives peddled by dominant culture,” says the website BeNourished.org. “You may not love the body you occupy, but will you respect it? Try to listen to it? Get curious about it?”

The desire to “diet” may just be a protective coping mechanism for living in a weight-obsessed, size-stigmatizing culture. We all want and deserve to belong, to feel good about ourselves. It’s a basic human need. When it comes to our approach to whole health, I believe we can do better.

Try healthy behaviors

Shifting to weight-neutral self-care can feel scary or impossible, or can bring up resistance. It’s natural. I felt this way, too. Separating weight from wellness took me years. This approach might not be for you, right now, or ever. And that’s OK, too. Body autonomy is yours, and yours only, to choose.

So with kindness and compassion I offer four health behaviors to try with the intention of planting a seed to awaken curiosity to learn more about how you can honor your body and yourself without restriction, elimination, guilt, shame or “shoulds.”

Ditch the scale

First, take one baby step and maybe put the scale away. You know how “that number” can either make or break your day, which is hard on mental health, which is often neglected in our pursuit of physical “health.”

Consider if you’ve ever given up on healthy behaviors because you didn’t reach your “ideal” number or couldn’t maintain it. When you practice healthy behaviors your body may prefer to weigh more, less or stay the same. Your body is meant to change as you age and move through stages of life. There is no “ideal” weight you should be forever (as I’ve learned as 51-year-old, postmenopausal woman).

Furthermore, having “a number” interferes with your ability to listen for your body’s physical cues: hunger, fullness, satisfaction, how certain foods make you feel, how movement makes you feel.

So skip the scale and the mental mind game. Keep going. Practice self-care, not self-control. If you want more inspiration to ditch “that number,” read my Nov. 13, 2019, column, titled, “Say ‘no weigh’ to the scale.”

Feel good in your body now

Feeling uncomfortable or unattractive in your clothes sucks. Consider buying a few outfits that make you feel good now. If you’re on a budget, check out online thrift stores and consider consignment or trading with friends. I used to believe that holding onto clothes for if and when was “motivating.” It’s not. It just created guilt, shame and stress.

You deserve to feel good about yourself at any body size. Clothes are supposed to fit you, not the other way around.

Shift your “why”

Detach healthy eating and exercise “success” from a scale number. Focus on the long list of health benefits instead, such as improved health markers, energy, mood and the function of your physical, mental, emotional body. If your primary motivation to eat better or exercise is dependent on and focused solely on counting or burning calories, you may give up if your body doesn’t change (or change enough), thinking, “It’s not working so why bother.”

Keep going, and enjoy how eating and exercise make you feel.

Be more than a body

Finally, embrace body diversity and rebel against messages suggesting your self-worth or value as a human being is tied to your appearance.

‘Aim higher, friends’

In a recent Instagram post, dietitian Anna Sweeney discussed a tough conversation with a client who desired above all else to be thin, young and pretty. It unexpectedly made Sweeney cry “to think about this human’s existence being boiled down to her earth suit. Or any of yours, for that matter. You are not on this planet for the sake of being visually appealing. Period.

“Aim higher, friends,” she says. “We are given one body. That’s it. And truly, taking care of yours has nothing to do with what it looks like.”

A local client concurs: “I’ve spent basically my entire life dieting, then gaining back the weight and more. I felt guilty every time I ate ice cream, even just a spoonful. I’m making peace with food and my body now. Shifting to self-care behaviors without the scale determining my health has given me the courage to like my body for how it is, not what some diet will promise me. I nourish it properly for my active lifestyle. My new personal tag line is, ‘The elimination of the stress of eating is so much better than the elimination and restriction of food.’”

Consider practicing self-care from a weight-neutral place. No restrictions. No elimination. No guilt. No shame. No “shoulds.” No “failure.” No scale.

And get healthier.

Enough with the War on our Bodies

We’re suffering from another health crisis.

“Few of us are at peace with our bodies, whether because we’re fat or because we fear becoming fat,” says Lindo Bacon, author, researcher, and professor, Ph.D., MA, MA.

So what’s driving this war on our bodies?

It’s diet culture’s weight-centric portrayal of wellness — thin equals healthy and it’s solution… dieting.

The Body Hate/Diet Cycle

It begins when you compare your body to health and fitness culture’s perfectionist and unrealistic body ideals. You “feel” unhealthy, dislike your body, and/or feel “fat.”

Then, when you most likely don’t measure up (because only 5% of women naturally possess the body type diet culture models as healthy), you fall prey to diet culture’s solution to fix it: the latest fad eating plan to “fix” your body.

You choose a diet that restricts what, when, or how much to eat.

At first you “feel better” – lose weight. It’s “working!”

Until it’s not.

Eventually, you feel deprived and struggle.

Then, the “diet backlash” kicks in and you crave – the “bad” and “forbidden” foods or you just feel hungry.

You “fall off the wagon” and “cheat.”

You feel guilt, shame, frustration for not having enough willpower judging yourself as the failure, not the restrictive approach.

The months pass and you regain some, all, or even more weight than when you began.

Then, back in body hate, you repeat – hoping the newest plan will work and you’ll be one of the 5% of dieters (the unicorns) that can change your body size permanently — sustain it.

Thus, you remain stuck in the body hate/diet cycle, year after year, passing it down, generation after generation — leading to a lifetime of feeling like you and your body are not enough, unhealthy.

It’s a helluva business plan. By 2025, the worldwide weight management market profits are expected to reach $442.3 billion according to Grandviewresearch.com.

The good news is there’s an antidote to this body hate/diet madness.

We stop believing thin is always healthy and fat is always bad and explore new health paradigms.

Re-examine weight science

In Body of Truth: How Science, History and Culture Drive Our Obsession with Weight – and What We Can Do About It by Harriet Brown, we are encouraged to think critically about the scientific research on weight science as “some of the contradictory findings on weight reflect our incomplete understanding of highly complex mechanisms and systems.”

The “complexity doesn’t come across very well in headlines or sound bites,” thus the “nuances of the research on weight and health often get lost in the rhetoric,” says Brown.

In her book, Brown breaks downs the “Four Big Fat Lies About Weight and Health” – Americans are getting fatter and fatter; Obesity can take a decade or more off your life; Being fat causes heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and other serious illnesses; and Dieting makes us thinner and healthier.

Dr. Bacon concurs, “the misconceptions around weight science are astounding.”

In Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift, Bacon and Lucy Aphramor, PhD, RD detail how our current weight-centric model of health is ineffective at producing healthier bodies. And it may have unintended consequences “contributing to food and body preoccupation, repeated cycles of weight loss and regain, distractions from other personal health goals and wider health determinants, reduced self-esteem, eating disorders, other health decrements, and weight stigmatization and discrimination.”

If you think your body is the problem and that diets are the solution, I ask you to think critically and remember that it’s diet culture that is driving and profiting off of these assumptions, and to explore alternative approaches to wellness.

A New Wellness Approach to Consider

“What If Doctors Stopped Prescribing Weight Loss” by Virginia Sole-Smith, also breaks down how focusing on body size isn’t making people healthier.

Because “research has shown that it is the behaviors people practice—not the size of their bodies—that have the biggest impact on mortality,” some clinicians are trying a weight-neutral approach called Health at Every Size (HAES).

Health at Every Size, trademarked and founded by the Association of Size Diversity and Health, is an anti-diet approach to healthcare. It’s known as the “new peace movement” because it strives to end the war on bodies and defines health in a more inclusive way.

It eliminates weight stigma, respects diversity and focuses on compassionate self-care such as “finding the joy in one’s body and being physically active and eating in a flexible and attuned manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite, while respecting the social conditions that frame eating options,” says Bacon and Aphramor in Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Leave out, Get Wrong and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight.

Sole-Smith describes the impact of having a doctor who removes weight from health care as “literally life-changing.”

You can heal from this health crisis.

You don’t have to be at war with your body — stuck in the body hate/restriction cycle to take care of your health.

You deserve peace and food and body freedom.

Be critical of weight science.

Be open to new health paradigms.

Be a rebel.

Escape from the body hate diet cycle

Do you or someone you love struggle with healthy eating and/or suffer from body dissatisfaction?

If you said yes, it’s absolutely not your fault. It’s diet culture’s.

Let’s break down two major drivers of these challenges:

  1. You compare your body to health and fitness culture’s perfectionist and unrealistic body ideals.
  2. You’re stuck in “diet culture” (which created these body ideals) that profits off selling you the latest greatest eating plan, shakes, programs to maintain or “fix” your body, under the guise of wellness.


This can lead you to a lifetime of feeling like you and your body are not enough – regardless of your size or shape.

And it all seems perfectly normal, and is considered the way to take care of your “health.”

It’s a helluva business plan – keeping you coming back for another “hit of success” (= pounds lost) despite research showing you it’s temporary (unsustainable) for 95% of us. In fact, by 2023, the worldwide weight loss industry profits are expected to reach $278 billion.

Again, I repeat, it’s not your fault. It’s the culture we live, eat, move and breathe in and we’ve been passing these messages down for generations, thus keeping us stuck in:

The Vicious Body Hate/“Diet” Restrictive Eating Cycle:


START:
 You “feel” unhealthy, dislike your body, feel “fat”, and/or you’re told to lose weight for a variety of reasons.

RESTRICT: You choose one of the restrictive eating plans du jour. During this time, you may experience “feeling better” and/or losing weight but at some point either during, at the end of the 21 or 30 days, or months later when you’re trying to “sustain” it, you experience…

DEPRIVATION: the “diet/restriction” fatigue, backlash. This is when cravings kick in for certain types of foods (such as carbohydrates), “forbidden” foods (your favorite dessert) or you just feel hungry and simply want more food. Which leads to…

GUILT: You feel like you’ve “cheated,” “given in,” “fallen off the wagon” “don’t have the willpower” – you judge yourself as the failure, not the approach. You may regain weight, or for many of you who’ve been stuck in this cycle for years and years, even more weight than when you began. (Studies show that up two-thirds of us will regain more weight than lost).

💣TRUTH BOMB: Did you know that “diets” and restrictive eating can actually be the cause of perceived eating challenges such over-eating, intense cravings, bingeing and emotional eating? (Ironic, huh – as we often go to these plans to “fix” these “problems.”)

REPEAT: At some point (next year, next month) you begin again with another round of your “favorite” eating plan or you try a new one that promises you that you will be part of the 5% of people (the 🦄 unicorns) that can change your body size permanently – sustain it. Remember, we’re not all supposed to be the same size and that health and body weight are a complex subject (see my article ⬇️ to learn more).


The good news is that there’s a way out of this madness.

But I’ll be honest with you, it’s not a quick fix. But worth it – if you finally want to have a healthy relationship with food and feel good in your body.

What you can do instead:

  1. Re-educate yourself and learn more about how health can come in different sizes and shapes and how your health is impacted by many factors. ​That’s why I take a “deep health” coaching approach – when all dimensions of your wellbeing are in sync (physical, mental, emotional, relational, environmental and existential).To learn more, come on over to my blog and read: Size or shape doesn’t define your health
  2. Practice “true” self-care from this new space.

What if you could allow your body to be the size and shape it where its healthiest – when you’re nourishing it by listening to your hunger and fullness cues, being aware of which foods make you feel your best, moving in ways that bring you joy and living your best life? Don’t allow “diet culture” to be the life thief that it is – taking away your precious time, energy, health and happiness. Want to learn more about how you can learn to eat intuitively and take care of your health? Check out: Intuitive Eating: Do you need to relearn how to eat?

What to learn more about how “deep health” coaching can help you feel and be your best self? [](https://www.tanyamark.com/get-started)[Schedule a 20 minute consult](https://form.jotform.com/93306600537150) to chat with me.

I’d love to support you, Tanya