Healing Our Relationships With Our Bodies
In this episode, I talk with Katherine Metzelaar, a registered dietician and nutrition therapist, and founder of Brave Space Nutrition and the Body Image Badass Group based in Seattle, Washington.
She began her career as a Health Coach working to help people achieve a variety of health goals, translating complex data into actionable steps to improve health. She works with clients, many of them burnt out women entrepreneurs who sacrifice themselves and their health for their businesses. She helps them to understand that they are complex beings, with needs and wants and desires, with unique relationships with food and their bodies – there is no “one size fits all” prescriptive answer to a healthier body.
In this episode
We talk about:
- ditching the diet mentality and unlearning years of unhealthy eating habits from childhood and messages in the media
- what intuitive eating is and why it’s so important
- decreasing the stress and anxiety around our food choices
- how healing our relationships with our bodies starts with no longer using weight as a parameter for defining success or failure
This conversation is very personal and important to me – like so many women generally, and women entrepreneurs specifically, I spent years abusing myself for the sake of my business success, and then loathing myself for the results. This is an important conversation that I’m glad to share.
Connect with Katherine
- Brave Space Nutrition
- Body Image Badass Group in Seattle
- Brave Space Nutrition on Instagram
- Brave Space Nutrition on Facebook
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JM: Hi, Katherine. How are you?
KM: I’m doing great. Thank you for asking.
JM: Yeah, I am really looking forward to our conversation today because as you and I talked about before, this is really timely conversation, not just for me personally but I think for a lot of women entrepreneurs because we burn the candle at both ends and we don’t take great care of ourselves mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually like it runs the gamut. Tell me a little bit about what you do.
KM: Yeah, I love that analogy of burning the candle at both ends especially for a business entrepreneur because it seems to be so common and particular for women. A bit about what I do, I am the Owner and Founder of Bravespace Nutrition which is a private nutrition practice in Downtown Seattle and I’m a registered dietitian and nutrition therapist. I work with women to heal their relationship with food and their relationship with their body.
JM: That’s really cool. I have heard of people who are nutritionists, what is a nutrition therapist?
KM: It’s such a great question. We often hear about registered dietitian and nutritionist. I am a registered dietitian. That means that I am nationally certified and I have to adhere to the rules by which the United States place [inaudible 00:01:20] etc, etc. But a nutrition therapist, there are some differences and what that means is that I care less about the minutiae of the food that you eat. What I really want to know and understand and what I do with my clients is all the things that have influenced your relationship with food and your relationship with your body. What that means is what was food like growing up in your family of origin? What is your dieting history? What are your food rules, fears, likes, and desires and [of the two 00:01:54] I think there’s an important distinction because oftentimes, in the medical system in general and in particular, when you go to see a registered dietitian or a nutritionist, it’s very top-down, you come in and someone says, “I am the expert and I’m going to tell you what to do,” and as a nutrition therapist, that’s really me coming alongside someone and empowering them to find information that is already within them and then it’s just about me sort of guiding them along the way. It’s more client-centered and less about me being the expert and giving someone information in the top-down fashion.
JM: I wish more medicine was that way. It’s interesting because I have a great general physician now and I love her because it does feel like more of that relationship rather than you, very prescriptive like, “I am the expert and here’s what you need.” I think that so much of the problem today is that we lose that communication with ourselves whether it’s our inner guidance or our physical presence. We lose that connection overtime. What are some of the presenting symptoms when you are talking with a prospect before they become a client? What are some of the things that you might hear or see and you think, “Yes, this is a good candidate for nutrition therapy?”
KM: Yeah, oftentimes what I find is when I hear the idea of getting it right. I think what happens a lot for women is there’s this pursuit of perfection and so that can show up in regards to food and the other parts of their body, and what I often hear is, “I feel stuck. I feel like no matter what I do, I can’t get it right. I’ve tried X, I’ve tried Y, I’ve tried Z. I’m weight-cycled which essentially just means that I’ve gained weight and I’ve lost weight.” They just feel tired of being on what we might call a food and body roller coaster and want to get off of it. There’s a lot of frustration when I’m speaking to a prospective client, a lot of pain as well. I think there’s so much that is put onto women in regards to the expectations. We are told how we should move for this world, what we should be eating, how we should be running our businesses. I listened for some of those in the conversation that we have to figure out essentially if we might be a good fit.
JM: It’s so funny that you make that point about all the pressure that’s honest and how you should look and what you should eat. It’s very funny because it all changes based on what somebody is telling you, which was a big wake-up call for me when I was just like, “Oh, wait a minute, there’s all these points and counterpoints out there,” and then pretty soon I know for me it’s like I started to lose what is true, what is true nutrition, what is really good food. I can completely relate and then there are all those emotions that come with all of that pressure in hating food and hating your body and it is a lot of pressure. You talk about intuitive eating which I think sounds super interesting, tell me a little bit more about what that means.
KM: Yeah. I am also an intuitive eating health practitioner. An intuitive eating is an evidence-based mind-body health approach and it’s comprised of ten different principles and it was actually created by two dietitians in 1995. Their names are Evelyn Tribole, RD, and Elyse Resch, RDN. It’s a weight neutral model. Weight neutrality means essentially that we just take the focus off our weight as a parameter for health. It has a validated assessment scale and interestingly as well, it’s got over ninety scientific studies to support its efficacy at this point.
As we sort of break it down, it’s a dynamic integration between mind and body. The principles work towards either cultivating or removing your own body’s obstacles and bringing in an awareness. It’s really a personal process of honoring your own health by listening and responding to the messages of your body essentially. We might define an intuitive eater as a person who makes food choices without experiencing guilt or an ethical dilemma that they honor their hunger, respect their fullness, and really enjoy the pleasures of eating. I think also too, I’m starting to see this more and more that the word intuitive eating started showing up in different spaces. I always want to be clear that it’s not a diet or a food plan. There is no passing or failing, there’s no blowing it. It’s really about a journey of self-discovery and a connection to the needs of both your mind and your body and integration of both.
JM: That’s really cool. I really imagine that it allows clients to have so much more freedom because there is that sort of, I know for me I began working with a nutritionist several months ago and it has been an interesting process for me to start to get rid of some of the emotion around it, sort of the guilt and the shame and, “Oh, my God, I ate this and it’s so horrible,” and then sometimes it’s like, “Well, screw it. I’m just going to keep going,” or now I have to withhold or I have to like not indulge in other things. I think there must be so much freedom for your clients in just saying weight is no longer this indicator of your health. I think it also sounds like just becoming very aware and very conscious of what you are eating.
What are some of the outcomes that, everybody in our society the goal is like, “Get the weight down. Get the weight down,” if we are not looking at weight as the indicator for success, what are some of those indicators that you look at instead?
KM: It varies per person. Each person that comes in will have slightly different goals. It doesn’t mean that within the framework of intuitive eating, one can’t have goals towards improving their cardiovascular health or improving their blood sugar labs, but what I see more often than not is about decreasing the stress and anxiety that exists around their relationship with food.
One might say on the surface, “That sounds quite simple,” but if we zoom out, we see how that affects how we show up in all areas of our life. So if food is consuming the majority of our thoughts and moods throughout our day, think about how little space that leaves for all the other things that are important to us in our life whether that’s spending more time with our children, spending more time in our business, or other things that we feel really passionately about. We measure it in regards to “success.” We measure it based on what the person’s goals are and improvement as we work together towards those goals.
JM: I love that because I do relate to their being a lot of that stress and anxiety around the food that we eat. We’re going to get super personal here, the thing for me that was so interesting, I think we kind of come at life as if we have our baseline like we have the sum total of our experiences and how we were raised and the things that people tell us about ourselves that we take is true and it justice your world view like it is just your baseline, and after like many years of therapy for this and other things and working with a nutritionist and a personal trainer and really looking at working on that relationship with my body, it’s funny because it is and it isn’t about your body, it is sometimes how you’re feeling about yourself. For me it was like I kind of was manifesting that through my health and my body and a lot of self-loathing.
I don’t know that I even realized consciously that I was doing that for so much of my adult life and really it is very amazing how changing that relationship with food and with your body changes your mental state and emotional state. It does open you up for so much more enjoyment of other things in your life.
Talk to me a little bit about why it is so important to heal the relationship with your body. What does it look like when you don’t have a great relationship with your body? Because I assume maybe it’s a little bit different for different people. Why is that so important to work through that?
KM: There’s a great quote that I love by Dr. Lindsay Kite who is the co-owner of Beauty Redefined which is a wonderful organization, I’d recommend that your listeners check them out. She says that women are taught to be bodies first and people second. What that means is that if we think about that, what I consider to be a very powerful statement, that if we’re hyper focused on our body than as almost like an observer from the outside in, then we are not able to be inside our body. This is sort of where the relationship with food and relationship with body crosses over. If we are not embodied, if we’re not working for the inside out, then it’s very hard, and I would say in some ways impossible, to connect to things like hunger, fullness, and honoring when we’re tired and taking rest and connecting to pleasure and all the things that help us to be our most whole human. If we are focused on our body as an observer from the outside in, then we aren’t able to get to that place of healing with our relationship with food and body.
What’s interesting thing too, and you were sort of alluding to this when you were talking about some of your own journey, is that often when we’re noticing that we’re focusing on our body, then that can often be an indication that something else is going on that needs our attention because we are often not taught how to attend to our needs. Too oftentimes, the body ends up being sort of a receiver or a vessel for that so the thought might be, “Oh, I’m really not liking this today,” or “I don’t like how that creases,” or “I don’t like what’s going on,” but if we take a couple of steps back and sort of step into the body and touch-base with ourselves, oftentimes if we keep digging, we’ll come to an answer which might be, “I’m afraid I’m not going to find love, I’m afraid I’m not going to find connection, I’m afraid I’m not going to say the right thing on the podcast today.” Oftentimes, it can be almost like a yellow flag that comes up and says that we need more tending to something else that is happening that has nothing to do with our body.
JM: That is so profound. You are totally right on. I feel like you’ve just articulated something that I have been learning and working through for a very long time. It’s so true, it’s almost like it is sort of the physical manifestation of whatever kind of gross thing is happening too emotionally at that point in your life, whether it’s like the fear of failure or even the fear of success or like you say like any of those insecurities that come up if I don’t say the right thing, do the right thing, or having issues within your relationships.
It’s so hard because a lot of times, we do take that out on our bodies and almost sort of fixate on that as the issue. I think for me maybe it was like avoidance of some things for a long time. It’s like, “Well, if I fix it on this over here, I’m not having to kind of deal with this gross stuff over here.” It’s a very interesting conversation.
KM: Absolutely. I think it’s important that we not negate the kinds of pressures that are put on women, the messages that were told via social media and via media about what a woman’s body is supposed to look like. There is the emotional part but there’s also the fact that we are inundated with messages about really what we call the [inaudible 00:14:30] so adhering to the [inaudible 00:14:33] which is problematic.
JM: How do you help a client to deal with that? Because we are bombarded with that message every day, thousands and thousands of marketing messages and even if it’s not something that is health and beauty related or a food product, we still see a very specific stereotype of women in advertising even when it’s completely unrelated to our food and our health and nutrition, how do you help people to deal with that when it’s a constant presence in your life?
KM: It’s a great question. One of the first things that I work with my clients on doing is tackling the things that we have control over. What that means is taking a look at your social media feed, what are the kinds of things that you’re choosing to expose yourself to, and that means the kinds of people that you’re following, the kinds of bodies that you’re following. What I recommend is to diversify your, for example, Instagram or Facebook feeds. What that means is having different people in different size bodies, having people with different abilities, people of different colors so that we are not seeing the same image over and over and over again.
Interestingly enough, there’s a lot of research around this in regards to social comparison theory. What we know is that not only as we expose ourselves to different bodies, we become much, much calmer and used to seeing different types of bodies, but we actually start to prefer other kinds of bodies which I think is quite interesting if we sort of think about.
JM: I love that. That is so cool. I won’t get on my soapbox as I often do on this topic on this podcast but I have a background in social media media and that is one thing that is so difficult for so many people is how frequently we compare ourselves to what we see on social media. I think it is just human nature, we are attracted to like people and so we often are kind of filling our feed with sort of this homogeneous kind of generic lifestyle leader or somebody who is just full of pictures of themselves on wonderful vacations and everything is perfect. We forget that the things that we see are just what somebody wants to share and so we do start to make those comparisons to what looks on the outside like somebody has a very perfect life. It is so difficult for so many of us.
I love what you say about really consciously choosing to follow different kinds of people. I think it really does help us to get in touch with more of the authenticity of other people versus kind of just that Photoshopped image that somebody wants to share of themselves and their lives so that’s a great point. Thank you for making that point.
Let’s talk a little bit about you building your business because you have shared some really great points around trying to explain what it is that you do both with prospective clients and practitioners, what are some of the challenges that you have experienced in helping people to understand what you do?
KM: That’s a great question. I think what it really is is me getting caught up with my own self. When I first started, I felt this need and expectation to convince people, whether with a health practitioner or prospective client, why they should be coming to see me. I realized overtime—it took some time in paying attention to my interactions with folks—that wasn’t the most effective way to communicate what I do. When I started to shift and sort of reassess how can I clearly communicate what I do without over educating and using sort of what mean we might call the fancy lingo of healthcare, and it was really speaking to what I might consider my ideal client in language that’s understandable and also bringing parts of myself into the conversation, showing up more as a human and less as a health professional because what I’ve learned is people care less about what I can offer in the beginning and more about who I am. That shows up when I’m speaking to prospective clients but also when I’m speaking to a healthcare practitioner as well.
I started to really focus on how can I be more of myself, how can I connect to this person in front of me as a human and ask them questions about themselves and how can we begin to get to know each other rather than it being business first and let me try to convince this person and define exactly what I do because that comes naturally with time as we get to know someone else.
JM: I think that is so spot on because in my experience, I think it’s why people struggle with things like going to networking events where you feel like you have to perfect your thirty-second elevator pitch, I’m like, “I can’t tell somebody what I do in thirty seconds or sixty seconds, probably like two or three visit,” like I don’t know, it is such a difficult thing. I think when we get into that rush, it really becomes more about the sales pitch. I really get from you and what you do that there has to be such a deep personal connection for you to be able to dig in and get to the root symptoms of some of the issues that you’re working on.
I really do think that so many women entrepreneurs would be better served by first, let’s just make a personal connection and also I think sometimes we forget every prospect isn’t the right client for me, like every single person out there. I’m not trying to sell to every person, there has to be some chemistry there, there has to be some collaborative relationship, there has to be some openness to getting the support that somebody needs. If that’s not there, there’s no point in running around and doing the sales pitch and you really want to take the time to make that personal connection first.
What has it been like for you trying to find your ideal client? What was it like for you getting into a place where you can say like, “Yes, this is the ideal client?”
KM: Yeah. It’s so interesting that you bring up the point of just kind of knowing. I think I have gotten to a place where I could start speaking to someone whether it be on the phone or in person and then just start to pick up on the thing. I think what was important if I take a couple of steps back in sort of distilling down what my ideal client was imagining what I wanted her to be like.
I started with creating avatars and I would suggest it for anyone for those starting their own business. In my case, because I work with women, for me it was, what age is she? What is she interested in? What are her challenges and problems? What lights her up? What makes her sad? It requires—it can be quite fun—an element of creativity sort of imagine her as she moves through this world. I did that for a couple different scenarios, a couple of different avatars, if you will. That really helped me when I showed up and when I was speaking to different kinds of people.
Then also that helped me in regards to my marketing. As I started to create content for Instagram and as I was creating things, and continued too for my website, and as I am writing blog, I’m always keeping that woman or those women, those ideal clients in my mind and so I continue to offer, offer, offer, offer, and with the knowing that my ideal client is going to be the one that’s going to read it, I’m not trying to appeal to everyone, in fact, that sounds exhausting even imagining it. I think it’s a common mistake. One that I felt really overwhelmed by in the beginning in starting my business which was, “How can I capture everyone?” But really realizing that I don’t want to, one and two, I want to work with the kind of person that would be my ideal client, that where there is that synergy and that energy and where they’re interested and they want to do the work. I found the creation of avatars, I mean I still have it, I have it on a Google Docs and I’m always sort of reading through then referencing it before I create any content so I can be sure that I’m speaking to her specifically and not sort of everyone.
JM: That’s a really, really good point. It’s interesting too because Heather Dominick who is a business consultant for Highly Sensitive Entrepreneurs, I went through one of her programs. One of the things she talks about is how our ideal client is a version of us so they might have different experiences and different points of views. Obviously we are all different, but there’s something that you relate to in that person. I think that has always been so helpful for me, it’s like when you start to talk to somebody, you do start to get a feel for, “Yes, is there a synergy? Is there some connection there? Could I see this person as this version of myself?”
It’s really great advice to go back to thinking about your avatars. I actually think that’s something that women entrepreneurs should be doing on a fairly regular basis because once you have created that, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t change. I think it’s so helpful especially if your services or your offers change overtime to keep revisiting who is that ideal client. For me when I’m thinking about that ideal client, she’s someone that I can fall in love with, she’s somebody who I really desperately want to work with because we will just have a great outcome. Terrific advice. I love that.
Talk to me a little bit about some of the tips that you would offer to women entrepreneurs because we’re all kind of crazy like behind the scenes, many of us are evolving and we are enlightened. I meditate and I do all these things that are so much better for me now than I did ever in the past but still have some work to do and a ways to go. We get busy and we have these competing priorities, talk to me a little bit about how we can take care of ourselves in the process of building our businesses.
KM: You are right that we can get caught up and I think in particular for women because we are expected to be doing so much. So very rarely have I ever met a woman that says, “Well, I just had my business and that is it,” there’s really a lot of other priorities that come up.
JM: “It’s great, everything’s under control.”
KM: Right, right. We are stretched very thin. One of the things that I often find myself repeating to many of my clients and even friends and to myself in my own work, which is really at the foundation of the work that I do, which is that we can only love ourselves as much as we love others. The work really begins with us and also too, that health isn’t determined by a size and to be aware as we’re doing our business and as we’re caring for people that we love of the kinds of messages that we’re inundated with about how we’re supposed to run our businesses, what we’re supposed to look like, and how we’re supposed to be spending our time and energy and really working towards getting back in touch with what is most sustainable for you. There’s so much that’s demonized in our culture in regards to resting and caring for ourselves first and yet if you don’t do that, then it makes it very hard and challenging to show up for all the things that are most important to us in particular for our business.
JM: Absolutely. You talk too about that challenge of trying to control and manage your body while you’re trying to control and manage a business and how difficult that is for so many of us and then really ditching that diet mentality. Tell me a little bit more about how we can do that because I think for a lot of us, it is so hard like we’re pulled in so many directions. I know for me, it’s like even in my sleep, I wake up in the night and I’m immediately drawn to these thoughts of like, “Oh, I have this stuff to do and all these things that are happening,” how do you ditch that diet mentality when you’re trying to control so many things in your life?
KM: Yeah, it’s so interesting you say waking up in the middle of the night and having thoughts, that happened to me last night.
JM: Right, it’s not impossible.
KM: As I imagine many of your listeners can relate to.
JM: The thoughts are going to bubble up no matter what I do.
KM: It’s always shocking to think like, “Why? [There’s now all of this we’re here.” 00:27:44] Your question about ditching the diet mentality, I think it’s really important to note as well that there’s an expectation on what a woman is supposed to look like, a woman entrepreneur specifically, so a businesswoman, what kind of body she’s supposed to have or what kind of food she’s supposed to be eating and yet that’s not the reality of most of our lives. What happens is we get stuck in the shame and cycle of restriction, which leads to binging, which then we feel more shame about and then we start to diet again, we feel exhausted by that process. I understand that because I’ve personally been there and I also see this in all my clients that it shows up over and over and over again.
The first step would be to really take a look, an honest look at what your relationship is like with food and if you’re feeling challenged by it, if you feel stuck in trying to perfect it, if you feel like you get stuck in that cycle of restriction and maybe starting a new diet or starting a new lifestyle change, which is often covert for a new kind of diet, and then feeling exhausted by that is usually an indication that you might need more help and support.
Oftentimes I think we think we can do it all on our own and while that may be true for most things, we also deserve help, we also deserve someone from the outside sort of guiding us along which is really what I’m doing with my clients, to help them ditch the diet mentality and learn how to connect and nourish their body in a new way. It’s something that is taken away from us from a very young age and it usually comes from [inaudible 00:29:34] intentions of parents sort of asking kids to finish their meals or eat when they’re not hungry, maybe we’re put on a diet at a way too young of an age which I hear with the majority of my clients that sometimes as young as five years old and so it’s more about unlearning, as I say this, than it is about learning.
Most of us just don’t understand at a foundational level how to nourish your bodies and I think part of that in addition to the intuitive eater within us being taken away at a young age, it’s all that we are inundated with messages about food and one day, a study comes out that we’re supposed to eat something and the next day we’re not and so I think that’s why it can be so helpful to have a registered dietitian and nutrition therapist to sort of clear out all that junk, to sort of get some clarity in regards to what do we know about nutrition and nutrition science and what is just nonsense that is taken from studies and purported and reported as being true when really there’s a lot of falsehoods that show up in media and make it all very confusing, the process of understanding what your body might need. We are healing our relationships with our bodies by learning better.
JM: You’re absolutely right. I know that was so much of my experience was it really wasn’t learning, it’s a really great point that you make because there is all of this crazy conflicting information out there both from our experiences and our upbringing and then the things that are around us. I do wholeheartedly agree that support is so key and this is such an important conversation. Speaking of, if somebody listening, and I’m sure many of them will want to contact you, how can they reach you? How can they find you?
KM: They can reach me on my website which is bravespacenutrition.com. I have an Instagram as well which I’m very active on and that’s @bravespacenutrition. There’s also my Facebook page which is Bravespace Nutrition. Any of those avenues you can use to contact me via messaging, I respond to DMs all the time. Then also there’s many ways on my website for folks to reach out. I offer a free fifteen-minute discovery calls so if anyone’s interested, I always offer that as a way to connect to see if we might be a good fit. Any of the above are great ways to reach me.
JM: That’s perfect. Do you work with women just in your geographic area or do work with women nationally?
KM: No, I work with women nationally. I have women from all over the United States and so I have sort of a mix of folks in Seattle and in the state of Washington but also in many states throughout the US.
JM: Perfect, we’ll make sure that information is in our show notes including your free fifteen-minute discovery call offer.
Katherine, thank you so much for your time. This is such an important discussion. I really appreciate it.
KM: You’re welcome. Thank you so much for having me.
JM: My pleasure. If you are looking for the show notes or if you’d like to reach out and contact me, as always, you can visit brandwithcatalyst.com. Thanks Katherine.
KM: Thank you.
Looking for more? Check out my recent interview with Amanda Tress of Faster Way to Fat Loss.