"I think one of the things that people don't necessarily think about, and I don't blame them, but they don't necessarily think about the fact that diets are restriction... the typical American diet is a diet of starvation." - Dr. Kim Daniels
Shireen: Dr. Kim Daniels is a clinical psychologist and an online emotional eating coach, using intuitive eating and Health at Every Size approaches, she helps women exit diet culture, and change their relationship with food and their bodies. Welcome, Dr. Daniels.
Dr. Daniels: It's so nice to be here. Thanks for having me
Shireen: A pleasure having you on. So Dr. Daniels, I want to start out by asking, really what led you to pursue a career in clinical psychology? And what led you to really become this coach in this space?
Dr. Daniels: Well, you know, I think like so many people in this field, I wanted to help people. So that like, that's the kind of the blanket answer, but I just find people fascinating. Like, they're to me, there's just nothing more interesting. And why do people do what they do? So it just seemed like the right career to be able to really look into that. And then, you know, over the years, I've been a psychologist for 20 years, and for the most part, I've been working with women, on eating issues, and I, I'm sort of moving into the coaching because so many of my clients have said, Oh, my gosh, it took me so long to find you. there's so few people out there who work with this. You know, a lot of times, there are boys who specialize in eating disorders really just work with anorexia and bulimia, they don't tend to work with binge eating, or emotional eating, you know, or we consider overeating and I'm using air quotes on that. So it just seems like an, unfortunately, therapists can't practice outside of state lines. So you know, you can, you know, I'm in Connecticut. And if you're in Utah, forget it, you know, I can't work with you. So coaching is, you know, kind of the best way to be able to reach as many people as possible. And I feel so incredibly passionate about this that, that I just wanted to expand, you know, how I can help.
Shireen: So let's dive in. You know, Can you shed some light on what is this anti-diet approach?
Dr. Daniels: I think that's a great question. Because I think there's a lot of misconceptions about what anti-diet means. I think a lot of people think it means it's just a free for all, eat whatever you want, whenever you want, no one cares. And, you know, it's against weight loss, and it doesn't care about your health, I think there's just a lot of misinformation out there. But anti-diet is, is really just what it sounds like it means being against dieting itself, because diets don't work. You know, we know, we've it, there's a 60 plus year pattern in the research that shows that diets only work two to 5% of the time, which means 95 to 98% of people who tried to lose weight by dieting and regaining their weight and often more weight after five years, so they just don't work, right. And they can lead to eating disorders, disordered eating, a really tumultuous relationship with food, they can lead to mental health issues, depression, anxiety, really negative body image. So very often dieting is not just sort of this benign experience that you know, doesn't have an impact on people, it really can have a very negative impact on people. And of course, it just continues this idea that especially for women, your body weight is one of the most important things that you should be focusing on, which takes a lot of time, energy and money away from other more valuable things. So anti-diet really just means being against dieting, it doesn't mean again, it doesn't mean you can eat whatever you want. And no one cares about that. And it doesn't mean if you happen to really develop a healthy relationship with food and you end up losing weight that oh my gosh, we're against that. Not at all. It's just really against the practice of dieting.
Shireen: Can you speak to intuitive eating first, just tell us what that is?
Dr. Daniels: Sure. So intuitive eating was, is a, is just sort of an overall approach to food that was developed by two dietitians Evelyn Tripoli and Elise rash. And it actually they wrote their first book back in the 90s. I think it was 1995. So it's been around for a while. It's, it's gotten… I don't know why but it's gotten a lot more press these days. They just came out with the fourth edition of the book in July. And you can kind of see that so many people were co opting the word intuitive, which, you know, I think, again, it just goes to show that it's getting more and more popular and it's gaining more ground. But they basically had noticed they were sort of working in the same way that many dietitians are trained to work in you know what low calorie diets and let's focus on weight loss. And they were noticing that their clients would do well for a while and then they would call them back a few months later feeling really ashamed of the fact that they had regained their weight. So you know, they really sort of went to the research and said, This isn't working. So like let's really put together an approach that does work. So they created intuitive eating which has 10 principles that really help people change their relationship with food in learning Learn how to tune into their bodies and really focus on what are my hunger cues, what are my fullness cues, what is my body hungry for, and it really just helps create a much healthier relationship with food, there's no, there's no good or bad foods, there's no healthy versus unhealthy. You know, there's nothing that's off limits, but it really is teaching you how to tune into your body and understand what your body really likes in terms of food. And what you're, you know, again, like what your fullness cues are. So it's just kind of an overall and it doesn't at all focus on weight loss. So when you see these intuitive eating for weight loss programs, you know, they're, they're not the real deal. Because, you know, they literally say we need to put weight loss kind of on the back burner, when we're really trying to develop an intuitive eating mindset. So, yeah.
Shireen: Can you explain a little bit about Healthy at Every Size and how you use this approach in your practice?
Dr. Daniels: Sure, I need help, it resizes is more of a, like almost a social justice movement more than anything else. And it really does support size diversity. And it believes that people can be healthy at any size, again, we still sort of live in a world where weight equals health. And there's a lot of research out there that says that that's not true. I mean, unfortunately, I think our medical community still believes very strongly in that, it will probably argue with me about the fact that it's not really supported by the research. But holiday resize really doesn't focus on weight loss at all. And it really focuses on what are behaviors that people can engage in that really promote, promote health, you know, be that it even sort of, again, in terms of social justice, like how can we give more people access to, you know, healthier foods, you know, we all know that they're, you know, there's many communities that live in food deserts, where you can't find healthy options. So you know, really working to even promote that giving everybody access to, you know, healthy foods and promoting, you know, any kind of movement that feels good for you. And, you know, healthy sleep habits. And you know, what, like, all of those things, you know, mental health, all of those things contribute to physical health. So it's looking at the whole person, and how can they be healthy. And again, it's not at all focused on what size they are. So it's really just, again, really promoting this idea that anybody can be healthy. It's about behaviors. It's not about weight. So when people come to me, it's, you know, I really explained to them I'm not, I'm not here to help you lose weight. So I really, you know, this is sort of the standpoint that I take and we're going to work on against sort of behaviors that we know promote health. But that and that does not include weight loss.
Shireen: It's interesting that you're talking about this, we did an episode of, actually a few episodes ago with Virgie Tovar, she's an…
Dr. Daniels: Yeah, she's great.
Shireen: She is and so she did in that episode was certainly direct, you know, a directed to this Health at Every Size, you know, topic, and when we're talking specifically about Health at Every Size, it and I love that you talk about weight not being the center and weight not being the focus, it can be the outcome of it, it can be unintended, all right. But you can still be healthy at a size, you know, at a double digit size, God forbid. But you can still be that. Yeah, absolutely. Yes. And I want to make a call to what you mentioned earlier about dieting and this, this anti-diet approach, because we know not only our diets not effective, but they also lead to eating disorders. And I'd love to learn more about you on that.
Dr. Daniels: Sure, sure. So, you know, I mean, I think one of the things that people don't necessarily think about, and I don't blame them, but they don't necessarily think about the fact that diets are restriction, you know, diets, the typical American diet is a diet of starvation. You know, I mean, so many women are put on 1200 calorie diets, and that puts your body no matter what size you are, you know how tall you are into starvation mode. And, you know, the typical diet for men too, is like, I don't know, 15 or 1800 calories, which again, is a starvation diet. And so if they die, it's really you know, mimic the, the the behaviors that would qualify for a diagnosis of anorexia, you know, being you know, diets often lead to an obsession with food and being totally preoccupied with food. That's a criteria of, of a diagnosis of anorexia, you know, focusing on weight loss, that's part of, you know, a diagnosis of anorexia. So, it's kind of easy to see how dieting can lead into that type of eating disorder. But I think what happens very frequently is that dieting can also lead to binge eating and you know, binge eating is now considered To a psychiatric diagnosis binge eating disorder. And so what happens is that people, you know, most people can only restrict for so long, you know, most people's, we know diets don't work because they're completely, they're just not sustainable at all. And part of that is because physically, again, you're starving and, and your body is going to fight against that every step of the way. And eventually, it's going to win out and force you to eat, right. But it's also emotionally depriving, you know, so people feel like, Oh, my gosh, I'm cutting out all my favorite foods. And you know, all I'm eating is the same stuff day in and day out. And after a while, you sort of say, forget it, I can't do this anymore. And that's all often sort of followed by like, almost like this backlash against dieting, and people can end up, you know, eating in ways that feel really out of control, you know, they're eating really quickly, they're eating much larger amounts than they're used to. And they, and then after that, they feel horrible, because oh, my gosh, see, I can't even control myself around food. So they really double down with the dieting then and restrict even more, which again, will lead to a backlash at some point. So it's the you know, we call that the binge cycle, which starts with dieting. So you know, dieting, not only again, can look like or lead to anorexia, but can also lead to binge eating. And so you know, I work with a lot of people who experiencing, who experienced binge eating, and the first thing that we talked about is the need to stop dieting, because that is very often the things that leads to binge eating. And again, his preoccupation with body, you know, I mean, that's always a big piece of eating disorders. And that's what diets are all about is changing your body, your body's not good enough, got to change it, got to change it, got to change it.
Shireen: And so then you're in this constant cycle of gotta change, failure got to change again, failure again. And so this is continuous.
Dr. Daniels: Yeah, yes. Absolutely. Absolutely.
Shireen: I want to now talk about specifically for people who have chronic illness, right. So weight loss tends to be this this one frequent recommendation that's given to people with chronic illness, there's a lot to show that obesity, for instance, being a risk factor for diabetes for for cardiovascular disease, how do you work with clients who are being told continuously to lose weight in order to improve their health?
Dr. Daniels: Sure, I this is a, this is always a tough situation. And it happens all the time. Because, you know, I always tell people, I'm not a physician, didn't go to med school. In fact, I was just talking to a colleague of mine last night, who is a, like an intuitive eating dietitian. And, you know, she was sort of joking about the fact that, you know, that, you know, don't I mean, still physicians take like, one course in nutrition. Right? One course, you know, and she said, like, there's a reason this is a major, it's a that takes a lot more than one course to understand nutrition. And so I think a lot of people, I mean, obviously, we put physicians on pedestals, and we think that they know all and that isn't possible. But they, you know, they, they don't have the training that obviously dietitians and nutritionists have, and there's still seems to be a lot of, again, a lot of this idea that weight equals health in our medical community. So, you know, I certainly tell my clients, like I'm not a physician, I didn't go to med school. But you know, I've read a lot of books that cite a lot of research on how the on how weight, you know, doesn't equal health, and there are many, many, many factors, obviously, that contribute to health and, and one of those factors that can really negatively impact your health is weight stigma, you know, just being treated poorly and being bullied by your weight. And being that you know, that being a constant thing that's brought to your attention that you need to change like that has a negative health outcome. You know, so for some folks who are constantly being told by their doctor, like, I'm just thinking of one client, I had, like, you know, in the span of a week, she saw her, her, her primary care physician for her physical and she saw her gynecologist for her yearly, you know, for her yearly physical, and both of them said, You know what, you really need to focus on your weight. And this is somebody who struggled with her weight her whole life. And you know, she's in her late 40s, she's heard this for her entire life. It has never led to long term weight loss. So it's like, why is this still being brought up every single time she goes? And she said, Well, you know, I'm sure they mean, well, and I said, Yeah, but how did that impact your mental health on your way out of the office? How did you feel on your way home? You know, she's like, I feel terrible. I felt defeated. I felt like they don't get it. So. So I mean, it really, it really is an issue. So yeah, I mean, I tell people again, I'm not a physician, and I'm not gonna argue, I'm not gonna argue with your physician. But let's really focus on the fact that you know, they are promoting weight loss, they are promoting dieting and how has that worked for you in the past and for most people, again, it's not sustainable. It has… Doesn't work, it hasn't been an enjoyable experience. You know, dieting, for a lot of people is miserable. You know, in the beginning, it feels good because you feel like you're in control, you might lose a few pounds and you feel a little more energetic. But after a while, again, you're like obsessed about calories, or points or whatever, you're tired of doing the meal prep for three hours on Sunday, like all that stuff in and you know, the weight loss itself doesn't lead to that great self esteem that you think it does. So, you know, we really look at how does dieting really impact you. And, again, really working towards what are other health promoting behaviors that we can focus on, again, better sleep schedule, focusing on your mental health, engaging, you know, when we can in sort of social activities, that sort of thing. So how can we focus on those things, and then also really encouraging people to be an advocate for themselves with their physicians, and really try to have a conversation with them about this is how I feel when you bring this up, you know, and I don't really find it helpful. And, you know, I'm really trying to work towards an intuitive eating or a Health at Every Size approach. Have you ever heard of that? Are you open to learning about the hat? You know, I mean, it's really, you know, helping them to sort of advocate for themselves, which can be really difficult. I mean, some clients are never going to do that. And I completely understand that, but some clients and their doctor knows don't bring it up or not discussing it. And that's that, and they respect that. So, but it really is, you know, your, if you constantly feel like you're fighting the system, it's really difficult. It's really difficult. So…
Shireen: And then having that conversation in the three minutes that you have with the, with the doctor to begin with, right, like…
Dr. Daniels: Exactly. It's not gonna go far.
Shireen: But you bring up some interesting points. So when, when a physician is saying to lose weight, I guess, the way I'm understanding this then would be weight loss can be an ultimate thing from a, from a more medical standpoint, right? Like we need to see weight loss so that you know, you're at lower risk for diabetes, for instance. But that shouldn't be the conversation starter is what I'm seeing this as, right away. Sure. Sure. And then I think that's where the intuitive eating being Healthy at Every Size, I think there's there's that conversation in the middle that the providers are missing out on is is sort of taking their more positive approach that rather than saying everything you can't do, we have, even through young English, we've heard you know, patients talk about, oh my, you know, you know, my doctors telling me, I can't eat rice anymore. Oh, good. Gosh.
Dr. Daniels: Oh, my God, that's terrible. That's terrible. Right? Right. I mean, we should be able to eat all the foods that we enjoy, all the foods that are important to, you know, our culture, like our family, all of that kind of stuff. Absolutely. And I think unfortunately, physicians make assumptions about how people are eating and how their mood I had a client years ago, who she had literally, she was seeing a brand new primary care physician, and she is a woman in a large body, extremely active. And her, she, you know, she said to her, the physician, she said, Well, I actually just ran a 5k last weekend. And she said, No, you didn't. I mean, how horrific is that? So it's like, there's a lot of assumptions being made, there are plenty of people and large bodies that eat incredibly, you know, in very nourishing ways. And they're extremely active, they just have a large body, you know, but they're, every time they walk into a physician's office, there's assumptions being made. And, you know, to, to really, instead of just jump, like you said, instead of just jumping to weight loss, let's actually back up and say, Tell me, you know, tell me what a day is food wise, tell me kind of what your approach is, and about movement and things like that. Let's talk about overall health and see where you're at instead of just assuming this person is binge eating and sitting on the couch all day,
Shireen: Just so many biases is there, right?
Dr. Daniels: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah.
Shireen: So, so with that Dr. Daniels. So toward the end of the episode, I feel like this, this could have been, this could have been a much, much longer conversation, but loving, loving this conversation that we're having, but would love to continue this especially for a listener. So can you tell us? How can they connect with you and learn more about your work after this episode?
Dr. Daniels: Sure. Absolutely. So my website is called your weight is not your worth dot com. And pretty much everything that I have kind of going on is on there. You can find it on there, I have a free ecourse on how to stop dieting. I have a, there's an intuitive eating workbook that was written by the creators intuitive eating and I have a group where we work through that together to get additional support and information from other people going through the same thing that you are. And then I have a much, sort of more in depth five month group program where we really work on exiting diet, culture and working on emotional eating. And you know, like improving your relationship with your body, all that kind of stuff. But that, all of that's on my website. So you can certainly look there for all of that. And I am on Instagram. I'm not super active on Instagram, but my handle is Kim Daniels psyd on Instagram. So I am on there at least a couple times a week, but not a whole lot.
Shireen: We'll get that all that linked up in the show notes for our listeners to get over and connected over to you. So with that, Dr. Daniels, thank you so very much for your time. Really appreciate you coming on.
Dr. Daniels: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me.