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.

Being A Chaotic Eater – Learning About My 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.

intuitive-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 mindfully quoteBy 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!

Learn More About The Benefits of Mindfulness

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

If you’re looking for an embodiment of dedication disguised as obsession, look no further. Marsha is a registered dietitian who has spent the last four decades working to help women give up dieting rules and understand how to truly take care of themselves. Her mission in life is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about their weight. She encourages women to embrace their love of food, which you might call being a foodie. If so, it’s appropriate because being a foodie means you pay attention when you eat. That’s a recipe made in heaven for eating well. Marsha is the President and Co-Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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