My Journey to Becoming a Non-Diet Nutritionist and Intuitive Eating Coach

 

Are you curious about how I became a Non-Diet Nutritionist and Intuitive Eating Coach?

As you read on, you’ll see how my career journey is also a self-discovery journey. Funny how that works, eh? You’ll also see that that carbs play a big role. 😂

I want to share my journey with you so you can get to know me better.

If you’ve ever felt behind or lost, then this post is for you.

This is why I’m not a food purist.

As a kid, I lived on Dunk-a-roos (icing only), bagels with Cheez Whiz, and half-frozen Michelina's microwave dinners. Didn’t the 80s and 90s have the best food?!

I also had a tab at the arena canteen for French fries and “swamp juice.” 😄 If you know, you know.

Everything I ate growing was white: pasta, bread, mashed potatoes, and pierogies. Boring!

The original Salt Bae. 👌

But sometimes I’d make meals more creative. I’d add Italian herbs and red pepper flakes to marinara sauce. 👩‍🍳 Hey, it was something. Right?

My experimentation has evolved and cooking continues to be a creative outlet for me. I like the resourcefulness of turning raw ingredients into a meal. Y’know?

My Easy-Bake Oven was a game-changer

My Easy-Bake Oven was a game-changer

Was I really a picky eater?

I gravitated toward a vegetarian diet as a kid. People called me a “picky eater.” But what can I say? Pork chops weren’t to my taste. 🤷

Now I recognize that kids do a great job of eating intuitively.

As an adult, I love almost every type of cuisine, and I can’t think of a vegetable I don’t like! BTW I still don’t eat pork chops.

While I grew up in a house of dieters (and accompanied my mom to weigh-ins), I didn’t experience any disordered eating behaviours.

Food as fuel.

From a young age food was fuel. No guilt involved. It was something I scarfed down before rushing off to do what I love: figure skating.

My “easy” relationship with food growing up was also likely due to my thin body shape. You can read more about thin privilege in this post.

No one ever critiqued my body size at skating practice, dance class, or school. Unlike what I saw happen to peers and classmates.

Overcoming body shame.

While I wasn’t self-conscious about my size, I did experience feelings of shame, worthlessness, and self-hatred for other reasons.

As Dr. Brené Brown teaches us, compassion is the antidote to shame.

Learning how to use self-compassion to heal from these painful experiences has made me a more well-resourced, caring, and supportive coach. 💛

Embracing the social element of food.

When I moved away from my small hometown to attend university, I enjoyed the freedom to eat what I wanted. The food court at my alma mater has more restaurants than my entire hometown (and five times the population).

Shout-out to The Great Canadian Bagel French toast-flavoured bagels and Second Cup cappuccinos (🥯 + ☕ = best combo). Saké deserves an honourable mention. 😳

Aside from the options, I loved that each meal was an opportunity to connect with new friends. My family and I didn’t eat at the dining room table or dine out, so I’d never really experienced the social element of food.

Food as a community-building tool.

After learning about problems with the “white saviour complex,” my focus shifted from international development (what I was studying), to supporting local initiatives.

I started volunteering at The Stop Community Food Centre, a community food centre model that’s being replicated across Canada.

The Stop’s programming opened my eyes to food as a community-building tool. I worked in community gardens, food banks, markets, and with the after-school program. I even made chicken nuggets with Jamie Oliver during one of his visits. #weirdflexbutokay

These experiences inspired me to enroll in a Master in Environmental Studies program.

3 year-old me harvesting a potato in Georgetown, Ontario

3 year-old me harvesting a potato in Georgetown, Ontario

23 year-old me harvesting a potato at the Maloca Community Garden at York University

23 year-old me harvesting a potato at the Maloca Community Garden at York University

Exploring the social and political sides of food.

Over the next two years, my graduate studies focused on:

  • The impact of colonialism in Canada;

  • Racial injustices in Canada’s local food movement;

  • Indigenous food sovereignty;

  • Inequality and accessibility issues; and

  • Food as a community-building tool.

HMU if you ever want to chat about any of these topics. 😉

What happened next? The short version is that in my second year of the program I developed full-blown imposter syndrome. Yeah, that beast.

Instead of synthesizing my research, I turned to blogs as a distraction. Anxiety-related procrastination anyone? I’ve got you!

My blog tastes ranged from political satire, to Mormon mommy bloggers (legit fascination), to natural skin care. Yes, I have diverse interests. 😄

A skin care blog actually turned me on to nutrition. I started sharing recipes, tips, and product recommendations with my friends. I felt like I was onto something!

A grad school dropout.

Feeling unsupported and under-resourced to deal with the demands of grad school, I dropped out in 2012. (It took me a long time to stop feeling like a failure. Like 2018 long.)

I took a job at an environmental charity for a year. Anyone else think “WTF?!” when they started their first 9-5? Office environments are weird. 😅

While the scope of my job involved community gardens, something I love, I couldn’t stop thinking about nutrition school.

Exploring my interest in nutrition.

In 2013, I started freelancing for other nutritionists and enrolled in part-time, night classes at The Institute of Holistic Nutrition. I was on my way to becoming a Certified Nutritional Practitioner (CNP), aka Holistic Nutritionist! Baby steps.

During this time I also trained as a Life Coach to enhance my coaching skills (…and because I have a habit of taking on too many things at once).

Oh, did I mention I was working another full-time job too? Oops!

My approach to coaching and teaching.

I’ve always gravitated toward coaching and teaching, from roles at the skating rink to the university classroom. I’m proud of my distinct about to education that’s rooted in personal empowerment.

And since I can remember, I’ve always had people tell me: “I’ve never told anyone this, but…” so I like to think I’m a good listener.

This informs my gentle, non-judgmental approach to coaching.

The thing is, change is intimidating and overwhelming. It usually means overhauling your life.

Not when you work with me.

Instead, I support you with step-by-step strategies to make more effective and long-lasting shifts by tapping into the inner wisdom that you already have.

The Good Yolk non-diet approach.

I don’t believe it’s my job to tell you how to live your life. In fact, you should stay away from anyone who does. This includes eating.

Here’s how I see it: you’ve got a lot going on. The last thing you need is to feel overwhelmed or shamed by a nutritionist.

My goal is to take you from anxious and confused, to supported and confident. This is how The Good Yolk non-diet approach was born. 🐣

Let me break it down for you…

1️⃣ No all-or-nothing approaches or restrictive labels.

My non-diet approach comes from witnessing other nutritionists promote restrictive diets, “clean eating,” and “real food,” and feeling icky about it.

Frankly, I think there’s a lot of elitism in the health and wellness space. I’m over it.

I want you to feel nourished, not punished. An important part of nourishment is eating foods you enjoy, not what’s on some meal plan.

In fact, giving your body love and pursuing pleasure are radical acts of self-care and self-love.

2️⃣ You’re the expert on you.

There’s no outside authority that knows you better than you. Do you believe that?

I’ve observed that traditional “student-teacher” or “expert” coaching models go against the best practices in adult education, motivational interviewing, and positive psychology that I’ve learned.

It’s not my job to fix you. You’re the expert on you.

This is also a central belief of intuitive eating, which I why it was an instant 💡 moment when I started my in certification 2018. No one knows your body—what feels good, what doesn’t—better than you do. Match made in heaven!

3️⃣ Health and well-being should be available to everyone.

Accessibility and affordability play a major role in my approach too.

It’s important to recognize the privilege that comes along with being able to afford so-called superfoods, trendy supplements (I’m looking at you collagen 👀), and organics.

This is another one of the reasons why I don’t create prescriptive plans.

Learning to embrace all parts of myself.

After completing my nutrition studies, I spent five years working for government organizations. I needed stability…and to pay my student loans!

While not nutrition-related, I did learn a lot about strategic planning and relationship management.

During this time, I kept my “side hustle” a secret. In part because I didn’t want my co-workers to think I was the food police. But also because I was afraid to fail at it (like how I thought I failed at grad school).

What I’ve learned since then: don’t let the fear of what people think of you (or your journey) hold you back.

You can start late.

You can fail.

You can start over.

You can change your mind.

Turning to food to cope with stress.

Because I felt behind, lost, and unfulfilled, life felt like a daily emotional roller coaster. “How much more of this?!”

I turned to food for comfort.

I was so ashamed of how out of control I felt around food. I hid my eating from my family and friends (more hiding). After all, I was a nutritionist. Shouldn’t I know better?! Why couldn’t I stop?!

This feeling eventually shifted when I started to look at my emotional eating as something to understand, instead of something to overcome.

Because I was using food as my only coping mechanism, it eventually stopped feeling comforting, and started feeling chaotic.

One day, I made a list of other coping strategies and posted them on the fridge. I slowly started experimenting with different things until I found something that felt as comforting as a bag of chips.

It turns out that the best stress-busting strategy for me was watching House Hunters International while walking on the treadmill before commuting home. 🤷 Whatever works, works.

Helping others with emotional eating.

Because of my experience using food to cope with stress and numb my anxiety, I’m able to connect with people like you.

I get the chaos. I get the disgust. I get the shame.

I’m not “cured” from emotional eating. I still use food to cope with difficult emotions sometimes, and that’s fine. Here’s why I don’t think that emotional eating is a bad thing.

When I’m craving something, I don’t attach any labels or judgment to it. I just eat it. It’s just food. The more I follow this inner voice, the better my relationship with food becomes.

Your journey isn’t going to be linear either.

Small, manageable, baby steps were an important part of my career journey toward becoming a Non-Diet Nutritionist and Intuitive Eating Coach. From volunteering, to studying part-time, to freelancing gigs.

I think this is how you can meet your goals too, whatever they are.

Instead of focusing on how far you have to go, remember how far you’ve come. Remind yourself that you’re doing a great job. One step at a time.

We need to stop feeling bad for not doing things a certain way.

Health is a journey, not a destination. The same goes for self-acceptance and self-love. It’s not an end state you reach with one mantra or affirmation.

It’s a lifelong journey of coming home to yourself.

If you want to learn more about how my unique non-diet approach might help you, book a free 30-minute Discovery Session to see if we’re a good fit.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Meet Ellen Kaross (she/her), the Non-Diet Nutritionist and Intuitive Eating Coach behind The Good Yolk.

Ellen helps women-identifying folks uncover what their emotional eating can teach them and find joy and balance in their relationship with food.

Her passion for advocacy informs her compassionate, non-judgmental approach.