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EP.35 Jennifer McGurk-Pursuing recovery from an eating disorder, diet culture and now Private Practice!
Jennifer has been a dietitian for 14 years and passionately helps her clients develop a healthy relationship with food. She manages a group practice and also helps other dieticians work towards building a successful practice in the dietetics field. Jennifer is a futuristic person which helps propel her business forward, but sometimes holds her back because she is always thinking about the next step. She believes it is important to be in the present and enjoy what you have. Don’t compare the beginning or middle of your journey to someone else’s end.
Jennifer had an eating disorder in high school and decided to become a dietitian to discover the healthiest way to eat. She didn’t get help for her eating disorder until she was 23 and wants anyone struggling to be aware that help is out there. She is very thankful for her experience because otherwise she wouldn’t have entered into the dietetics field. At her first job, she was asked to run a weight loss group. At this time, Jennifer had stumbled upon intuitive eating, which wasn’t as popular as it is now. She used the principles of intuitive eating throughout her eating disorder recovery process. When she realized that not focusing on weight loss was really improving her relationship with food, she wondered if she could apply intuitive eating to her clients as well. Going from traditional dietetics to intuitive eating was a 2-3 year progression. Diet culture was all around her; food blogs were popular and everyone around her was talking about losing weight. She felt like everytime she jumped over a hurdle, there was another hurdle in the way. Jennifer explains that when you have these hurdles, you can achieve mini victories. Of course you will have ups and downs and times when you slip back, but it’s important to push forward.
Before Jennifer made the switch to intuitive eating, she experienced feelings of cognitive dissonance. This was the first time she was experiencing a healthy relationship with food and it changed her life. She aspired to open her own practice but she was afraid to put herself out there. When she started her business, she didn’t know what she was doing but through trial and error she slowly learned. She made many mistakes which inspired her to begin helping dieticians who wanted to start their own businesses. Slowly she built up her practice, taking it one client at a time. She started working one day a week which slowly turned into working full time. Jennifer’s program “Pursuing Private Practice” started out as a book series as a simple guide for professionals on how to build a dietetics practice. The books turned into a DIY course, which turned into a group program and it now functions as a membership. This entire process took four years to achieve. Jennifer admits that there were many bumps along the way including mistakes in email marketing, customer service, and numerous tech issues. Jennifer’s program “Dietitian business school” is a product of trying many different things and ending up with what felt right to her. People come to her and get lessons and community support until they feel that they’re ready to leave. Jennifer advises to use your audience for feedback no matter how big that audience is. Get started and see what feels good for them and for you. See what questions they have. When you go out, see what questions people ask you as a dietician because this is what people want to know.
Intuitive eating is becoming more mainstream but we’re still fighting against diet culture. Many people are becoming aware of how harmful dieting can be. When you start intuitive eating you either gain weight, lose weight or stay the same. There’s no way for a dietician to predict what will happen with your body. The process is about building trust with your body while a dietician supports you throughout the process. When a client recovers in an unconventional body, it can be hard for him to accept. The client will learn that if they want that smaller body it may be at the expense of ruining their lives. It’s a lot healthier for them to work through the body image stuff and maintain a healthy relationship with food. If you could accept the fact that you’re in a larger body, but now you have more time for yourself and your family, this is transformative. Not everyone likes to accept this, but sometimes it just takes time. When we try to cover up that negative emotion, this isn’t healthy either. Many of us use food to suppress our emotions, which is blocking out the real issues in our lives.
Jennifer loves the different components that food brings into our lives. If a client is ready to incorporate gentle nutrition into their sessions, Jennifer is more than happy to comply. Jennifer loves to discuss how to balance a plate and which foods can add fuel to your day. What are your cravings? What’s satisfying to you? Jennifer understands that sometimes diet culture robs people from learning about gentle nutrition in a healthy way without feeling diet-y. First, a client must heal his relationship with food and then he may be ready for the gentle nutrition approach.
Dieticians help clients recover from a world with an eating disorder. When a client recovers, he will probably be exposed to diet culture right away. Whether it’s from a magazine, or someone discussing a diet plan, diet culture is all around us. People that recover have a huge job ahead of them in not letting diet culture mess with them anymore. This is when you need to figure out how to take care of yourself in the real world. Stick up for your own boundaries because no one else will stick up for them on your behalf.
Gila Glassberg is a Master's level registered dietitian and a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. As a teenager, she was faced with constant diet talk, body shaming and obsessive guilt around food. She struggled with disordered eating. This is what propelled her into the field of nutrition. She uses a non-diet, weight-neutral approach called Intuitive Eating. She helps growth oriented women break out of chronic dieting, and regain clarity into what is really important to them.
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