Memoirs of a Dietetic Intern: Understanding My Chaotic Eating


We’re happy to post a blog today by Elizabeth Carrera, a masters level student studying nutrition and dietetics at the University of Vermont. Elizabeth spent time with us this summer observing our approach to health and weight management. Her story is a great one for A Weight Lifted because it shows that even those who have spent a lot of time and effort studying nutrition don’t always do it “right”.  And that’s okay. The key is awareness so you can set it “right” if it becomes a pattern rather than an occasional occurrence.

Learning About My Own Relationship with Food

Entering my recent internship at Green Mountain, I expected to learn all there was to know about the non-diet approach to wellness and self-care: how to teach clients about intuitive eating, behavior-change theories, healthy recipe building, etc.  I anticipated learning a new skill set for my future nutritional counseling profession, while assuming the past five years of my dietetic education had me “set” in the meal pattern department of things.

mindful-eating-bookBefore arriving on-site, Marsha and Erin suggested I read Intuitive Eating a Revolutionary Program That Works, by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, both registered dietitians.  Doing so made me realize that though my education has promoted the focus on balanced eating, energy intake/output, and various forms of physical activity, my own relationship with food was still not considered “healthy”.

Was I A “Chaotic Unconscious Eater”?

How I came to realize my lack of “practicing what I preach”, per se, was when I read the description of a “Chaotic Unconscious Eater” in chapter two. Initially, the line “often lives an over-scheduled life” caught my graduate-student eyes, along with “whatever’s available will be grabbed”. This description really resonated with me, though as a RD in training, there was no way I was guilty of having an issue with food (right?!).

As I continued to read I came to the phrase, “Nutrition and diet are often important to this person — just not in the critical moment of the chaos.” I was shocked. This was me!

The Importance of Being Mindful

eating mindfullyBy the time I began my time at Green Mountain, I had accepted the fact that I may not be the prime example of an “intuitive eater” myself, fostering apprehension about my own behaviors surrounding food. Yes, when I had time, access, and the capacity to focus, I was a thoughtful eater. Though, when I was in the library for 8-10 hours on a given day, not having brought food with me, I would survive off of hospital gift shop goodies and vending machine mysteries. I would be studying about how poor lifestyle choices may lead to various chronic diseases while eating a Snickers bar on an empty stomach (hello, red flag!).

The purpose of telling you my story is that when I entered this internship, I hoped to learn teaching techniques and tips for future clients, as well as methods for advising a healthy weight loss. Though I did glean some of these skills during my time here, what I really learned was how to mindfully engage in a meal myself, and that there is a wider horizon to health than simply addressing a sole outcome.

I feel as though these lessons have enhanced my future counseling skill set because I now understand the importance of mindful eating for one’s overall happiness, self-care, and for the ENJOYMENT of food! This is something I am more than happy to pass along to future clients, while also starting myself, to practice what I preach!

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3 responses to “Memoirs of a Dietetic Intern: Understanding My Chaotic Eating”

  1. This is a great, honest example of how anyone –even those who have all the right training and information–can neglect everyday needs around food and nutrition. It brings home to me that mindfulness is actually presence of mind, in the actual moments of choosing food, eating food and enjoying it. Thank you, Elizabeth, for reminding me to stay awake!

  2. AmberLynn Pappas says:

    I think a lot of people in the health and fitness industry can find themselves to be chaotic unconscious eaters from time to time while still preaching the basics of healthy eating. It is hard for me when I’m traveling for work to find healthy food that won’t spoil while in transit from state to state or isn’t already prepared. It takes a lot more effort to seek out the nutritious options than it does to just grab a sandwich somewhere and worry about the amount of sodium I’ve ingested later. Thank you Elizabeth for showing that everyone has some bit of disordered eating, and being brave enough to admit it!

  3. Lisa Pharris says:

    I was fortunate to sit in Erin’s & Marsha’s classes with Elizabeth, she is a charming young woman. Elizabeth was present when we shared intimate secrets during discussions. She was there when tears were shed. She was there when we laughed as a group. She was there when we had our mindful lunch. It warms my heart to know, Elizabeth ghad her ahha moment and learned something about her eating style while at Green Mountain. It says something about the GM philosophy doesn’t it? Thank you GM for teaching mindfulness to women alike.

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About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

Marsha has been a guiding force at Green Mountain at Fox Run since 1986. In addition to overseeing a professional program that helps women establish sustainable approaches to healthy living, she is a respected thought leader when it comes to managing eating, emotions and weight. She has been a voice of reason for the last three decades in helping people move away from diets, an area in which she is personally as well as professionally versed. An accomplished writer and speaker, Marsha is the author of six books, including the online course Disordered Eating in Active and Sedentary Individuals (co-authored by Karin Kratina, PhD, RD, Human Kinetics), What You Need to Know about Carbohydrates (Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics [The Academy]), What You Need to Know about Vitamin and Mineral Supplements (The Academy), and The Pregnancy Cookbook (co-authored by Donna Shields, RD, Berkeley Publishing). She has worked extensively on a national basis to educate the public about nutrition and the impact of dieting on eating behaviors, including binge eating and emotional eating. Active in many organizations helping to further the cause of health and wellness, Marsha currently serves as vice chair of the Binge Eating Disorder Association and vice president of The Center for Mindful Eating and has been active in the Association for Size Diversity and Health in support of Health at Every Size(R) principles.

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