Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 78 – Sarah Schlichter – INTUITIVE EATING

Sarah: [00:00] I’ve always kind of had a bucket list and most recently it’s revolved around food and running places and coffee, joints, just things that I really enjoy. And I was finishing my dietetic internship out in Portland, Oregon, which if anyone has ever been, or has not been, it’s just a [inaudible] for food and fun and running and coffee and breweries, just everything.

It’s beautiful. And I was there for three months. I was actually working on the Nike campus, doing their nutrition stuff. And I was like, “well, I’m only here for three months, I need a bucket list.” So, I just had this long list of things I wanted to do.

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Jesse: [01:25] Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I’m your host, Jesse funk. My guest today is a registered dietician. She has her master’s in public health, and currently she’s in the woods in the weeds working on her board certified specialist in sports dietetics certification.

She’s the co-host of the [inaudible] nutrition podcast, it’s a show about endurance fueling from a non-diet perspective, which is interesting. We’ll definitely get into that. She develops recipes. She’s a mom to girls and lives in Maryland, just outside of DC. Welcome to the show, Sarah Schlichter.

Sarah: [01:59] Hey Jesse. Thank you so much for having me. I am so excited to be here.

Jesse: [02:03] Thanks for coming on. Thanks for making all the adjustments. For you listening, you got to miss all the excitement as Sarah and I tried to debug computers and make audio work and all the fun things about recording a podcast over the internet versus being able to be in person, which is obviously not a great option right now, or feasible in many cases. So, thanks for sticking with me as we figured that all out. So, we can actually get together and chat a little bit.

Sarah: [02:32] Yeah, mostly my fault over here. And I should know this stuff hosting a podcast, but I’ve been on maternity leave and had a little bit of time off, but something I need to look into.

Jesse: [02:42] Well, it’s like I said, it’s no big deal. It’s one of the things that we all deal with. And I think especially now as everybody’s kind of been sequestered to their houses and more people are working from home and they have technical issues. I think it’s easier for people to understand that stuff just goes sometimes. Instead of people not being familiar with it, so no big deal.

I do want to ask you right off the bat and give you a little bit of a hard time. So, I’ll say the blog, but maybe it’s the company itself, I don’t know how you kind of brand yourself, but bucket list tummy, I want to ask you, what do you think is our cultural obsession with our stomachs? And I’ll be the first to admit that like, my stomach is kind of my barometer of like my overall body fat.

Like, how am I doing? You know, how does it look, that I know about roughly what I’m doing the rest of the way? Because I’m too lazy to actually get Calipers out and I don’t trust my not so accurate scale. So, thoughts on that.

Sarah: [03:45] Definitely. You know what? no one has ever asked me that question, which is kind of surprising given the name of my blog and brand. But let me tell you how it started because it actually has nothing to do with the aesthetic look of the stomach.

So I’ve always kind of had a bucket list and most recently it’s revolved around food and running places and coffee, joints, just things that I really enjoy. And I was finishing my dietetic internship out in Portland, Oregon, which if anyone has ever been, or has not been, it’s just a [inaudible] for food and fun and running and coffee and breweries, just everything. It’s beautiful.

And I was there for three months. I was actually working on the Nike campus, doing their nutrition stuff. And I was like, “well, I’m only here for three months, I need a bucket list.” So, I just had this long list of things I wanted to do, and I had wanted to start a blog for the longest time, I’ve always enjoyed writing and I sort of wanted a way to Chronicle it.

So, I knew I kind of wanted the blog to be bucket list something, but I wanted it to do with food and I wanted it to do with eating, but I was like, “how can I make that work? It would be cool if it was like BLT” like the BLT sandwich, if I could think of a way to line that up, and my now husband was like, “Tummy, that works, it’s like a bucket list of everything you want to eat.” And I was like, “Oh yeah, that makes sense.”

[05:09] So, that’s how it started. And now that I’m a dietician, I’m talking about food, obviously, but also just more general wellness and nutrition topics. And it’s evolved a lot. I’ve thought about kind of changing the name, but so many people know it that way and that’s just how it started. So that’s how I got the name and that’s the story behind it, but ironically enough, it has nothing to do with kind of stomachs or the obsession of stomachs in our culture.

Jesse: [05:39] Right. Well, I think that would probably more telling about where my head space is than the brand itself, right? It’s just like, when you say something or you see something like my own brain interprets it in a certain way and in my brain goes, “Oh, okay. We want to eat well so we could have a six pack.” Like that’s where my brain goes with that brand. Except that wasn’t your intention at all. So, it’s just like I said, it’s more of an indictment of where my head is then what you actually do.

So, I’ve seen this kind of in a number of places, books, blogs, dieticians talking about intuitive eating. You mentioned that you come from a non-diet perspective. What is intuitive eating? How do we not already eat intuitively? can you give me a little background on that?

Sarah: [06:42] Absolutely. This is my favorite thing to talk about. so thank you for giving me a platform to discuss it. And I will kind of go off the cuffs here and say, intuitive eating is pretty trendy right now. I mean, people are talking about it, and it’s a good opportunity for me to clarify kind of what it is and what it isn’t because I think a lot of people are talking about it without fully understanding what it is.

I think there’s this blanket thought that intuitive eating means eat what you want anytime any day and it’s all good. It has no respect, it doesn’t think about health, it’s just kind of do what you want whenever, when in reality that’s kind of the furthest thing from what intuitive eating is. It really does take into account your health, it does take into account what you’re feeling in the moment, but it also takes into account your mental space too.

So, there’s three core components when we talk about mind, body, and health. So, it’s kind of how they come together. And a simple way to say it is— I mean, it’s not a diet, but it’s learning to listen and trust your body to make decisions that are best for you. And sometimes that means eating a cookie, but sometimes that means eating a salad full of colorful vegetables and fiber, because your digesting is a little bit slow or it’s hot out and you want the crispy, watery, vegetables, or whatever it may be.

[08:02] There’s really no right or wrong with intuitive eating there’s. We talk about in the intuitive eating world as nuanced. So, there’s a lot of gray, it’s not black and white. So, simply put— There’s 10 principles that kind of describe intuitive eating, and when one comes to intuitive eating, my job as a practitioner is to kind of guide them through those principles, but it’s not sequential. They don’t have to go, “well, first you do this and then this, and then this.”

Because again, looking at it that way it’s much like a diet, and we’re trying to kind of get away from the strict rigorous structure that diets impose on people, and instead learn to live in the gray and learn to trust your body, which in the culture we live in, it kind of tells you not to do that. It tells you, “you should eat this many carbs a day and you shouldn’t eat between this time and this time, even if you’re hungry and if you already ate this and you’re still hungry, you shouldn’t eat because you already ate lunch and stay under this many grams of fat and sugar.”

[09:06] There’s just so much information out there and it’s very rigorous that it’s taking us away from our bodies. And in my practice, I’ve actually seen it causing more harm than good because people become overly obsessed with this, and they become too focused on health where it leads down the road of disordered eating or under eating. And, of course, I’m dealing with athletes and that’s very problematic. So, that’s kind of a long about way of saying intuitive eating is really the non-diet approach and just helping people learn to trust themselves and enjoy food again.

Jesse: [09:41] I think the tough part in— I think I even have trouble with this. I kind of resonate with the idea of intuitively just because I come from a place of— When I talk about run training or if you are on the YouTube channel, then I do another show called Runner’s High where we talk all about running, I talk a lot about a rate of perceived exertion and using that as a barometer for avoiding injury, for training rates, for all these kinds of things.
But it’s entirely based on how do I feel today, you know? So, I resonate with it because of that, because it is more of an internal guide, right? And correct me at any point, please. It seems like it’s more of an internal guide of like, “Hey, I’m eating half a pizza, I know that’s probably not a good idea.”

You know, like it tastes good in a sense, but I also know that if I’m eating, I don’t know— So, it’s like we had this kind of Korean restaurant last night, it’s like a dish full of vegetables and mine has purple rice in it a little bit chicken, like that’s probably going to make me feel better for the rest of the evening, and then into tomorrow as well.

[11:03] I know that although an affinity for intuitive eating, I also know that sometimes I personally feel like there’s a disconnect in sinking those things up where it’s like, “I’m just going to eat some more pizza.” And then I’m like, “no, I feel terrible afterwards.” And I’m like, I already know logically that I’m going to feel terrible, but haven’t quite got them all lined up where it’s like, “no, we’ll have a piece of pizza and now we’ll have a salad.” Like matching all those things up.

So, I guess for somebody like me or somebody who is even farther off the deep end, how do you pull them back or get them started on the road where things are more intuitive and it makes more sense without all these rules?

Sarah: [11:54] Right. That’s a great Question. And it does seem like there’s a big disconnect between those because intuitive eating, those can certainly go together. right? We do take health into account. Gentle nutrition is we often say it’s the last principle of intuitive eating, because if people are focused too much on nutrition throughout the process, they may be choosing only a salad when their body really needs more calories or more volume or whatever it is. So, we don’t only want to focus on that.

But that being said, they do co-exist. So, I would look at that scenario in a few ways. So, first of all it doesn’t have to be either or. So you kind of said, “well, how do I know how to stop at one piece of pizza and then have a salad?” Or maybe your body wants two pieces of pizza that night, maybe even three, maybe you had a hard workout that day or that week, and your body really just needs to catch up, maybe you need the sodium, maybe you have a long run tomorrow.

[12:46] You know, there’s so many scenarios that it’s hard to kind of “plan” for this stuff, which is why the intuitive eating is great. But when I have clients coming to me saying, “Oh, I ate a whole piece of pizza and I feel horrible.” I usually say, “okay, so what did you learn from that experience?” And maybe what they learned is that “I really like pizza and I do crave it.”

So, you want to be able to honor that craving, but maybe you realize, “Hey, I feel great after two pieces of pizza, rather than four, if I have that fourth piece of pizza, I know I’m going to be sluggish, I know I might not sleep as well, maybe I’ll have some acid reflux.”

So, it’s taking that into account too, because being intuitive, while it is listening to your body, like I mentioned earlier, there is a mental piece too and that mental piece is usually revolving around self-care. So, it’s if like, “well, it’s okay, I don’t mind exploring the reflux, I’m out with my friends, It’s totally worth it right now.”

That’s a great reason to eat another piece if that’s what you want in the moment. But maybe you have a big presentation or a big workout the next day and you don’t want that reflux, or you really need to get a good night’s sleep and whatnot. You might say, “you know what? My body wants another piece of pizza, but I know in this situation I might not feel great, so I’m going to go with a salad instead, or maybe just have a piece of bread or something a little bit lighter on my stomach instead.”

[14:12] And when you’re doing that, you’re not coming from a mindset of deprivation, instead you’re coming from a mindset of self-care because you’re not telling yourself “I’m not allowed to eat that pizza”, the pizza is there, you can eat it if you want it. But instead it’s like, “I might not feel good, and I have a big workout that’s really important to me tomorrow. So, I’m going to honor how I know will make me feel best in this scenario.”

Jesse: [14:38] A couple things you said. You come from a place of self-care, but also that there’s that mental component of kind of being able to enjoy yourself or enjoy something, it reminds me of— So, for season one of this show, I have a question that I ask everybody at the end of the show, and it’s different this year than it was last year.

But the first season I asked everybody, “if you could only choose one food for recovery for the restaurant life, what do you choose?” Because food— struggle is too much of a word, but I would say I’d struggled with food over time. Never to the point of having disordered eating, but just knowing, trying to be intuitive.

So, that was a kind of pointed question for me. And what I found out most interestingly to me was that almost everybody, I would say 90% of people answered, pro athletes, amateur athletes, didn’t matter, with something that was like an indulgence. I want to have ice cream, I want to have pizza, I want to have a beer”, whatever it was. And it was like, if I could only pick one thing and they cannot do anything else, they’re going to pick something that after they’ve totally empty the tank, refills some of their fuel, but more so their mental state after that kind of punishing experience.

[16:00] So, it’s interesting that that’s one of the components of what you see as intuitive eating. I also think about what you mentioned about thinking forward of, “Yeah, I know from my past experiences that two pieces of pizza is the limit, if I eat four I’m going to feel terrible and I’ve got to be presentation tomorrow.” It makes me think about it’s non compartmentalize thinking. So, it’s thinking about your life and your days more holistically versus like a Yolo mentality where it’s just, “I’m going to do it right now and to hell with the consequences later on.”

Sarah: [16:49] Right. Totally. And that’s kind of I think what people, first off, when they hear intuitive eating it’s like loosey goosey, you know, there’s no rules, and no rules means I can just eat whatever I want whenever I want. And that’s scary to some people, because most people are transitioning to intuitive eating from a rigorous diet plan, whether it be eating a certain amount of calories per day, or back to your previous example of looking at specific instances, I can only eat X, Y, Z, and I’m hungry I have to wait until the next meal.

So, it’s very structured. It’s very compartmentalized. It’s very they liked the rules, but at the same time they feel restricted. And usually there’s some sort of rebellion that happened and then people find their way to Intuitive eating. But usually when I’m guiding people we’re working slowly and trying to remind them that it doesn’t have to be compartmentalized, everything can go together. We are listening to your body, but we’re also listening to your, so we want you to feel good when you’re making these choices.

[17:52] Like you may think once you eat a piece of pizza you’re never going to stop, like “I’ve restricted pizza and I crave it and I’ll just eat it every night.” And what I tell clients is, “okay, what if you did? what if you allowed yourself to have a piece of pizza every night? I bet eventually you wouldn’t want it anymore.” yYour body craves variety and our body does, despite what some of us may think, it does like healthy foods, it likes fiber, it likes colorful fruits and vegetables, it likes protein to keep us full.

But the culture that we live in, there’s so many rules and so many different things to follow that we’ve just, we’ve become confused. So, intuitive eating is part, I think you mentioned this earlier, aren’t we all intuitive eaters at some point? We are, we’re born intuitive eaters because we don’t know any differently.

But then as we grow up in this culture, maybe our parents dieted, or maybe the other runners on your high school cross-country team are fitting in a certain body size and they’re eating this way or this way, so you should eat this way. And there’s just so many influences that we’ve really lose that innate connection that biologically we’re meant to have.

Jesse: [19:04] That reminds me of my college roommate, his daughter, she’s got to be getting close to one now. He says like that he doesn’t have to worry about her trying to like find candy somewhere, things like that. They have to hide tomatoes from her because she like craves tomatoes. And it makes me think about that, you know, starting from that very beginning of our lives, being intuitive eaters is like, that’s the thing that she wants, that tastes good to her, tomatoes.

Not the thing that we think of as big problematic like eating candy and eating Doritos and all this junk food, is like, no, her taste buds are zoned in on tomatoes. Which to most of us, if we’re stuck in that kind of junk food paradigm we’re like, “Oh, why would you want that many tomatoes?” But she has a question, it just is. She’s doesn’t have language acquisition enough to even know the rules, it’s simply doing what she does.

Sarah: [20:11] Right. It’s a beautiful thing to be naive from diet culture. As a mom myself we’re trying to promote that. I mean, we don’t label foods as good or bad, we don’t say “you have to eat all of your broccoli to get a cookie” because that’s kind of placing the cookie on a pedestal and reward. And it’s hard as a parent, but we’re trying to kind of cultivate that narrative too for my daughters both to understand food’s not good or bad, some foods you’re going to notice on your own what feels better in your stomach.

My daughter had, I think she had two cookies the other day and she said, “mommy, my belly hurts.” And I said, “well, that’s a really good thing for you to tune into.” So, maybe next time if she’s going for a cookie, she might remember, “Oh, my belly hurt last time, maybe I’ll just stick to one.” And these are like bigger concepts, but I think kids, they pick up on a lot more than we give them credit for. So, it’s again, kind of keeping that foundation as neutral as possible.

Jesse: [21:10] You know, I wonder— I get back to this sometimes when this kind of paradigm exists, where if people feel like they need these rigid rules, sometimes I wonder how much of that is an effect of our education system, at least in the US. I don’t know if you have international clients or if you’ve had clients that went to like Montessori school or things like that.

But I wonder, I have no evidence to say this is the case, but I just wonder, because you know, we grow up at least for 12 years and college will vary, but you know, 12 years in this system where it’s like, “go here and listen, do what you’re told, remember the thing that you were told, here’s the set of rules, follow them.” And we do that for that a very large portion of the beginning of our lives, which sets up later on.

So, I wonder if education, at least in part, could come from a system of trying to learn things that are more intuitive, trying to think about creative thinking, self-Driven learning, something like that, where you’re more in tune with your own self instead of just, “sit down and shut up, listen to what’s going on.”

Sarah: [22:40] Sorry, I was talking about my daughter.

Jesse: You’re fine.

Sarah: [22:46] Yeah, I think that’s, I think to your point, it’s societal and kind of like you said, we do grow through school and this, this education program where things are black and white, or there are rules to follow. And maybe if education, or maybe just society as a whole was more like, “Oh, what do you feel like learning about today?” or “you’re at this level”. Why are we treating everyone the same when you’re more interested in this, or you’re more advanced in this area.

And it’s kind of like food, why should we all eat the same thing or the same amount of calories, or you know, I’m athlete and someone’s not, we definitely have different needs. Or even if someone else is an athlete, there’s still so many other factors we can’t control that really blanket recommendations just don’t work for people.

Jesse: [23:36] Right. I think that’s the tough part, right? Also I think that’s why fat diets are what they are, we’re looking for a set of rules and then people try something and it doesn’t work for them so they’re like, “okay, I must try something else and maybe that will work for me.” You know what I mean?

So, it’s like this constant jumping from this to that, to the next thing, to something else, “maybe this works, that worked for Karen and maybe it’ll work for me” and then “no, it didn’t work for me, and now I’ll try something else.”

It seems like that’s the reason those things continue to exist and we continue to see new ones, I’ll say year after year, it’s usually a little bit longer cycle than that, but in subsequent kind of time periods.

Sarah: [24:23] Yeah. You’ve hit the nail on the bullet right there. Usually one of my questionnaire questions for new clients is what diet taboo followed. And a lot of people think of dieting as negative because they’re like, it’s a lifestyle. But in reality, I just want to know like, what restrictive forms of eating have you tried? Has it been low carb? Has it been low fat? Has it been intermittent fasting? You know, the trendy thing right now.
There’s a reason you’re coming to me, it’s because those haven’t worked for you and that’s not the individual’s fault, they’re meant to fail. They’re just really, really— The success rate of dieting, and when I say success rate it’s meaning that people don’t regain the weight that they lost plus more, it’s slim, it’s like less than 1%. I mean, we’re not meant to stay on things like that that are unsustainable for our lifestyle.
But it’s the marketing that’s very powerful and people say, “well, this one will work for me.”

And like you said, it used to be [inaudible], and now we’re kind of, again, in that low carb era with Keto and everything, and yeah. So, hopefully this message can get out or are people just, I want them to realize that it’s more powerful for them to learn to trust their body than to learn to fit in a body that maybe they’re not supposed to be in and enjoy what they’re eating.

[25:48] So, many diets people hate the food, it tastes like cardboard, or they really want a birthday piece of birthday cake and they’re out with their family but they won’t let themselves have it because it doesn’t fit in their diet plan. And that’s just, to me, that’s really sad.

Jesse: [26:02] Yeah. Well, I talk about this with my coach from time to time, and it’s like “carbs really have been demonized by various diets”. And especially for us as runners, if I’m going out for 12, 13 mile run, I’m going to be using glycogen. Like, I’m going to be burning predominantly fat because it’s a long run, but I’m still going to be using some of those glycogen source, and there is a point where you run out, and if you’re not eating carbs it’s going to be much more difficult to restore that then you’re going to end up in over-training and it’s just going to be this downward spiral where you’ve injured yourself. You feel like you’re following all the rules, you work harder and it just becomes worse and worse.

So, I think what’s hard for people is, anything, not just food, but moderation, like finding a balance where it’s not simply this or that, it is in that gray area where you have to take personal responsibility to navigate your situation, your life, your personal challenges, instead of just saying, “master, tell me what to do. Okay, I’ll follow that.”

Sarah: [27:27] Yeah. And that is, I think that’s the goal of most people. “I want to just be able to enjoy a birthday cake when I want it and not crave it” or “I want to be able to enjoy a salad too.” And I think in order to get there we have to kind of release ourselves from the diet constraints. So, the first principle of intuitive eating is reject the diet mentality.

So, it’s kind of unlearning all of these things we’ve come to learn to come to think that certain foods are good and certain foods are bad. And my body, I have no control over how much I’m going to eat of something. When in reality, that’s usually just a restrictive thought once your body gets adequate food or it knows it has access to those foods all the time.

[28:12] So, to think back to your post race or post run favorite question, mine would be chocolate milk. And while I love cake and cookies and all of that stuff, in my mind I know I can have that anytime of day when I want it. So, it doesn’t have to be something I earned through a long run. But I’ve been working on this way of thinking for a long time. So, for people who are new, I get why this is a scary thought.

And we usually start with a lot of handholding and really learning what constructs they’ve learned to believe and what foods they think are good or bad, what foods they actually enjoy. A lot of people don’t even know anymore because they’ve just been following so many rules. So, letting them enjoy those foods and thinking like, how does it taste? How does it taste after five bites? What does fullness feel like for you? What does hunger feel like for you?

[29:09] So, really getting in tune with the basics. And once we have that down, it does become easier to kind of feel like, “well, I can have a piece of cake and a salad because I’m checking in with myself and I know what fullness feels like.” And going back to our earlier example of pizza, I know if I eat more than this, I’m not really going to feel good, and I want to play with my kids later, I don’t want to have a stomach ache.

You know, you’re kind of thinking ahead because part of intuitive eating is that mental capacity where either you’re utilizing some self-care and some forethought, but also kind of thinking, “what does my body need right now? Maybe my blood sugar is really low and that’s why a cupcake sounds really intriguing right now.”

Jesse: [29:54] So this question may be, as I thought about it I realized it may be the exact opposite of what it should be, but I’ll ask it anyway. So, I’m thinking about, obviously there’s a mental shift here where we go from the diet mentality to the non-diet mentality, or intuitive eating, where it’s like, you go from the strict rules to I’ll say a trust-based system where you’re trying to trust your own body to help tell you, “Yes, this is good” or “No, that may not be as good.”

I know from experience in other fields thinking about finances, which is a whole other conversation, changing your mental attitudes about something is very difficult and it is a war of attrition in some aspects, it takes a while. So, how do you get somebody started, and then how do you keep them on the track of getting away from that diet strict rules based mentality to fully getting to a place of “I’m now comfortable, I can walk away from Sarah’s help and eat intuitively without somebody to kind of check up with.”

Sarah: [31:14] Yeah. That’s a great question. And I think just to speak to what you’re talking about is that this is a long process. It’s not going to happen overnight, and it does take a lot of self-compassion, and a lot of us we just don’t have that self-compassion because we’re hard on ourselves because diet culture says this is either right or wrong. So, that’s kind of what we’ve internalized.

So, a lot of this is actually just learning to give ourselves grace and be patient, and have some self-compassion, and that looks different for a lot of people, but usually it’s learning to talk to ourselves nicer. If you have a voice, like “why did you just eat that?” or “You’re such a bad person”, these negative thoughts that come up, I always remind my clients, would you say that to your best friend? Would you say that to your husband? You probably wouldn’t talk in that, in that tone or anything like that. So, why are we doing that to ourselves?

[32:10] Oftentimes I’m also working with clients who are seeing a therapist too, and that really helps with some of these behavioral changes, but usually we’ll start by I want to know your past, I want to know everything you’ve been through, what diets have you followed, what foods do you think are bad, what foods do you like. And we’re going to really talk about those and also talk about what diet culture has taken away from you.

So, for example, do miss out on a lot of get togethers or happy hours because the foods there didn’t fit your macros or didn’t fit in your food plan? or did you miss your niece’s birthday party because you couldn’t eat a cupcake and it was too scary to go and not eat that cupcake and be around people? Or how are your workouts? Are you sluggish? Are you tired all the time? How’s your sleep? How’s your energy levels? Things like that. How much are you thinking about food? What percentage of the day are you spending, thinking about food? Things like that.

[33:10] And when we really get it all on paper, it’s usually like, “okay, wow, there’s a lot I’ve either missed out on or I’m spending a lot of time focusing on food that I don’t like.” Or whatever it may be, I think that’s usually a big eye-opener for people. And then we’re really working on how they talk about food. So, again, trying to see more food in a neutral light rather than good or bad, we use other adjectives. Is it satiating? Is that food going to keep you full for a few hours? How do you feel after you have it? Are you tired? Are you energized? Do you want more, do you want less? Are you eating in a pleasant environment?

So, we’re usually talking about things also outside of food, which is surprising to people. And then when it comes to kind of learning to trust themselves, we’re repetitive. So, I might have a client eat their food, fear food, or a food that they think that they might overeat a few times just to develop that trust because kind of like you mentioned, it’s not going to happen overnight, and we’ve spent so long thinking about food in another way, or living within strict rules that it’s just going to take a little bit of time to get outside of that way of thinking and learn to trust ourselves.

[34:33] And usually I’m working with clients for six to 12 months, sometimes longer. The thing with intuitive eating is that we never get there, it’s not a start and finish. So, it’s kind of just there’s bumps along the way, some days are great, some days you may feel like you don’t feel great or your food choices are kind of robotic, or maybe you just feel like you didn’t make the right food choices. We like to just look at everything is through a lens of curiosity. So, “okay, that’s interesting, I feel really full right now. Maybe next time I won’t eat as much or maybe I’ll eat a snack before that meal so I won’t eat so quickly, or I won’t need to eat as much.”

So, it’s really just a constant process of checking in with yourself, and the more you do that, the easier it gets. Just to kind of say, look at each eating opportunity through a lens of curiosity rather than judgment, and really just say, “okay, how am I feeling after this? What should I do differently next time? What could I do differently next time? How can I plan in advance to better take care of my body?”

Jesse: [35:45] You know, the way you talk about it makes me think about like skill acquisition in general. And the biggest tool in my tool bag for acquiring a new skill is knowing that “failure”, and I say that with the rabbit ears, the quotes, failure is feedback, not a state of being.

Where if you make a mistake, and in this case maybe you eat too much of something and you don’t feel well, it’s like, okay, well that was a “failure” but it’s feedback that maybe that didn’t work quite well and it’s okay to make a mistake, it’s okay to fail, so to speak. It is feedback. It’s just in this case your body’s saying, “yeah, maybe you should have had that other thing instead of the thing you ate. So, next time let’s do that.”

[36:42] And I feel like whatever the skill is, in this case intuitive eating or learning to play an instrument or whatever it is. If you look at it from the lens of, “Hey, this thing didn’t work, I noted it and let’s make an adjustment next time.” Like, that’s a much healthier perspective than ending up, as you mentioned, in that kind of negative self-talk like, “Oh, I’m such a dummy, why did I eat that extra cookie? I’m terrible at this.”
That’s not helpful, that’s not helping you get to a better place or the place that you want to be.

Just to shift that one perspective a little bit where, “yeah, I enjoyed the cookie, I enjoyed the extra cookie, but I didn’t feel very good afterwards. So, let’s try not to eat the cookie next time and see how that goes.”

Sarah: [37:35] Yeah. And you’re body’s always changing, every day is different. So, that’s why it’s really interesting. And I think I heard this on our podcast, we interviewed a sports dietician and we were talking about intuitive eating, and the way she put it really resonated with me.

She said in an ideal world and to beating is just normal eating, we don’t have to overthink it, it’s just kind of naturally what we do. We just, when we grab a snack we know to pair a protein and a carb because that’s going to keep us full. So, if we want a car based thing, maybe it’s like, “okay, well, if I want to stay full for a couple hours, maybe I should add these nuts” or whatever it may be.

But it takes a lot of the mental load off of it, and I think eventually maybe that’s the longer term goal where you’re not spending as much mental energy thinking about food, because that can be really stressful, that can be really tiring, and that can take away, take you away from a lot of other situations, whether it’s family life, a relationship with your partner, other interests you may have, other stress outlets, things like that. So, I would say just normal eating would be the goal to where you’re spending less time over analyzing things, and things do become more “intuitive” over time. Yeah.

Jesse: [39:02] I do want to ask you about fueling for performance versus weight loss, because you know, a lot of diet culture is focused on “I want to lose weight”, but for you and I, yeah, maybe I want to trim down a little bit, I’ve gotten back to running versus triathlon, so I need to lose a little weight, kind of, it’s a complicated situation and very nuanced. But I’m obviously not like, “Hey, I want to lose a hundred pounds”, that’s not it at all.

And I have to meet the demands of what my coach schedules me to do. Like I went for a seven mile run this morning and I had strength training afterwards. I can’t just not eat and continue to do those things. So, I originally kind of brought this up as we were talking about before we got going with Nancy Clark way back, I can’t remember, it’s a very early episode of the show. So, I kind of want to get your thoughts on fueling for performance versus kind of classic weight loss thinking.

Sarah: [40:03] Yeah. And I think I just want to get it out there that I’m not anti weight loss and most dieticians aren’t anti weight loss, I think. Yeah, I think there can be like some really strong camps and opinions surrounding that, and some people do lose weight with intuitive eating when they get back to a more regular rhythm of eating and maybe kind of eating more consistently, maybe eating enough or feeling their body better. Sometimes that happens.

When I’m counseling athletes, usually they’re training for a race or they have a goal, like you said, maybe it’s to gain more muscle or maybe it’s just to kind of stay fit, or maybe it’s to, maybe it is to lose weight and that’s okay, that’s okay to come with that goal and it might happen. But when we’re focusing on our nutrition sessions, I’m not consciously giving them advice to restrict or anything that will purposefully lead to that weight loss.

[40:59] We might change some food options around and maybe they’re saying, “well, I just snack so much at night and that’s why I’m gaining XYZ pounds.” And maybe I look at their food recall from the day and wow, they are very much under eating throughout the day, no wonder they’re starving at night. So, maybe we move some things around, they feel better, maybe weight loss happens, but again, that’s not our main objective. When we usually get down to it, when someone says they want to lose weight, it’s because X, Y, Z. So, maybe it’s they wanted to have more energy or they want it to feel better, and hose things happen too.

So, my goal is to get to a place where people can achieve their natural point where they feel energetic, and if they’re fueling for workouts, their workouts aren’t suffering, they’re not over-training, as you mentioned earlier. And also, I want to make sure they’re getting all of the essential nutrients they need, because when we’re dealing with the athletic population, it’s different than the regular population out there. And I do think a little bit more mental planning comes in with the athletic population.

Obviously they still can be intuitive, but if you’re fueling before a race you might not want to eat just what you’re craving right now, because that might not sit well in your stomach and you’re going to feel horrible, or maybe you won’t have enough carbohydrates and you really need to feel your glycogen stores for your marathon tomorrow.

So, even though you really, really want something, let’s use an example, maybe you want like a burger without a bun, or I don’t know, something silly where you’re not getting ample carbohydrates, the rational part of your mind that plays a role in intuitive eating is saying, “well, okay, I have a race tomorrow. What is something easy that sits well in my stomach, even if it’s not what I want right now, I like it enough to eat it and it’s going to make me feel good and race well tomorrow?”

[42:56 So, I would say that’s one of the key differences with the athletes, is just using that rational mind a little bit more, especially around workouts. And again, in the post-workout period even if you’re not hungry one of the principles of intuitive eating is like honoring your hunger, and a lot of people say, “well, if I’m not hungry, I shouldn’t eat.” Well, learning that there are some situations where you may not feel hunger, but you still should eat. So, after a hard workout, or if you’re dehydrated, hunger signals maybe blunted a little bit in those situations and your body still needs to eat.

So when we’re taking all of this into consideration, to bring it back to your original question about weight loss, sometimes we’re just changing some habits and people are feeling better, their workouts are more efficient, maybe it’s easier for them to gain muscle. So, maybe muscle growth or weight loss does happen, but it’s not because we’re restricting in order for that to happen, it’s because maybe once our body is getting what it needs or it’s getting enough rest, or it’s eating a right distribution of the macronutrients, maybe it’s at a place where it should happen at that point in time.

Jesse: [44:07] Yeah, I think about it, I guess personally from the sense that like, if you need to lose weight, like weight loss is kind of as you mentioned, a side effect of that, I’ll say proper eating for lack of a better term, not necessarily a goal. I guess I come from like a psychology perspective, that was one of my undergraduate degrees, and I know within the running community there is kind of a high degree of disordered eating.

And as we talked about, Alison, who is also a registered dietician I interviewed maybe 10, 15 episodes ago. You know, we talked about a lot of her clients are often not eating enough, not overeating, but under eating, and she’s got to get them to eat more. So, I think when I come at it from like— Because I come up from a performance background, I want to be fast, but I know that I also have gotten to the point where I probably weigh a little over what I should. And I did a video on this recently talking about there’s this idea, and it’s still pervasive, that there’s this ideal weight for each person to perform as a runner, right?

[45:22] Just figure out your height, your age and your gender, and then here’s this perfect number for you. And not to be too crass about it, but I think that’s bullshit. You know, I don’t think that that’s accurate, and it puts too fine a point on a more nuanced situation. And we’ve seen, I wish I could remember their names right now.

I mean, I’m an example of this, but we’ve seen people gain weight, look much larger than their running competitors and end up destroying those people because the very, very thin people often, not always, but often end up being underfed, underweight, versus the person that is looks bigger than more muscly, they have the power and they have eaten, their body is fueled. And so, the standpoint of, because so many people end up in this kind of disordered eating land trying to be a better runner and then end up kind of cutting their own legs out from under them, trying to tackle it from that perspective.

[46:27] So, when I talk about weight loss, I am personally in a place where I know I could probably stand to lose like five pounds. But it’s hard to give that nuance without giving my entire history and saying I weigh this much now and I’ve done this and all this kind of stuff. So, it’s a personal interest, but also it comes with so many caveats in my own kind of personal mission, I guess, to try to combat that culture of under eating and really thin people I talk about Ryan Hall from time to time because he was so thin. Do you know his story?

Sarah: I do.

Jesse: [47:10] He was ridiculously— I mean, he’s my height, he’s 5’10 if I remember right, and he was at the height of his running career running a hundred plus mile weeks, he was like 135 pounds, and he’s now up to like 165, he doesn’t run near as much anymore, but he is in a much healthier place. So, it’s like even at the top end of the sport you find that that mentality still exists. So, I guess, whereas I think your mission is a little bit to try to help people just eat normally. And maybe your mission is, and I don’t want to put words in your mouth, to make it so that you’re not needed, you know what I mean?

Sarah: [47:58] Yeah, I think I definitely understand what you’re saying. I mean, of course I always want to have a job, but totally. I mean, we want people to just be able to trust themselves and be able to go with it. When the narrative that you were describing of just losing those last five pounds, that’s really common. That’s probably the last way, the last train of thought to go with in intuitive eating because people hold on to it. And I think part of that is more of a societal issue.

Like, what athletes are we seeing? We’re normally seeing thin athletes, maybe with six pack abs, and those are the ones who are successful, and we’re not seeing the ones who maybe their body looks a different way or it’s a less ideal standard in our view, but we’re not seeing those bodies who are also succeeding. So, that’s part of it, and hat’s more of a societal thing that hopefully will change.

But when people come to me saying, “well, I need to be this number on the scale.” I just want to remind them, what will it take for you to get to that number? And then, can you maintain it? Will that means turning down happy hour with your friends and [inaudible] every Tuesday? Will that mean not going to your niece or nephew’s birthday party or not being able to enjoy ice cream sundaes with your kids on Saturday nights? What does it take to stay there and is it worth it to you?

[49:23] Because part of why diets fail is that they’re just too strict, they don’t go with our lifestyle, and although people think they don’t have willpower, I like to say there is no willpower with food, it’s the diet that’s failing us. But when people really put it in perspective and say like, what is most important to them? And maybe for them, it really is getting to that certain number, and maybe that will work for them.

But for the majority of people, when it comes down to it, to realize what is it going to take to stay at this number day in and day out when we are not robots and so much fluctuates in our daily life, they realize that it’s not as important as they originally thought it was, they can still do the things they want to do, people aren’t looking at them differently But again I don’t want to simplify this in any means. It’s hard to get to this point and it does takes time, and like I said before, a lot of self-compassion.

Jesse: [50:19] Right. And I should clarify from my personal situation, for me it’s mostly a matter of not having like a treat or dessert every single night, like having it a couple times a week. And just doing small tweaks where the number I have in mind is based on my performance history over the last 20 years, basically, and also being intuitive with how do I feel now? You know, how much body fat am I carrying versus where I think I was? I’ve never had a six pack for reference, so I’ve never been that thin, and that’s not my goal either.

So, like I said, that’s the tough part because I know that I’m feeling for performance, and I personally have to make certain tweaks to get the most performance out of myself while still feeling good. And some weight loss is a part of that, but I also don’t want to continue to feel that mentality, you know what I mean?

Sarah: [51:17] Yeah. If you’re only— Because performance will likely suffer if you’re strategically or consciously focusing on the weight loss, because to lose weight there’s usually has to be a lesser amount of calories consumed than expended. But if you’re trying to perform, you’re usually expending a lot, so there is a mismatch, it’s really hard to focus on both at the same time consciously.

Jesse: [51:42] Right. So, what I do is basically a focus of let’s eat more vegetables, let’s eat more protein. Because I know I’m going to get plenty of carbs, that’s never a problem, I’m getting plenty of fat, that’s never a problem personally. And I don’t count calories because I’m focused on performance first, right? And again, I have a belief, right or wrong, that weight loss would be a side effect of eating well and continuing to train, so that’s not even an issue.

It’s just knowing this is probably something that if I want to get back to a place of running the fastest times I’ve ever run, that most likely that’ll have to happen along the way.
Sarah, we’re starting to run out of time, and unfortunately we had to miss some of the things I wanted to get into. The question I’m asking everybody this year that I’ll ask you is, I’d like to know what you think the purpose of sport is.

Sarah: [52:46] Oh, the purpose of sport, that’s a deep one. So, the first thing that comes to mind is community, but I feel like that’s probably something that a lot of people say. And I do think there are a lot of ways you can exercise and enjoy sport by yourself too.

I’m going to say to push yourself and relieve stress. So, whether it’s trying to run your first 5k or half marathon, whatever it is, when you have those goals and you achieve them, it’s like a high unlike no out there, and they’re going to be different for all of us. But I truly think sport in and of itself teaches us so many lessons along the way and just gives us something to kind of reach towards when there’s so much in the world out of our control.

Jesse: [53:31] Right. Sarah, if people want to get in touch with you, learn more about intuitive eating, listen to your podcast, any of that kind of stuff, where can they find you?

Sarah: [53:44] Yeah. So, you can find me on my website, which is www.bucketlisttummy.com. I’m most active on Instagram, and I’m bucketlisttummy_RD, for registered dietician. And then as Jesse mentioned, we have our Nail Your Nutrition podcast. We completed our first season, finished up this summer, and then we took some time off, I just had my second baby. So, we’re about to start season two, but it’s mostly focused on fueling for endurance athletes.

So, Merita, who is my co-host and she’s a sports dietician, we are both very passionate about making sure athletes are getting enough fuel, so we interview athletes or researchers in the field and we’re talking about a lot of trendy sports nutrition topics. So, if you have any questions about that, you can find us on I think all of the major podcast networks.

Jesse: [54:37] Usually that’s how it works, you upload it all to one and then it pushes them out on every direction. So, Sarah, thanks for hanging out with me today.

Sarah: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me, Jesse. This was a lot of fun.

Jesse: Take care.

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