Inspiring Women: Sarah Atchison

Inspiring Women & Their Relationship With Food

Disclaimer:The information provided by these women is for information purposes only and is not advice given directly from me. Eating lifestyles that work for them may not work the same way for you. If you have, or ever have had issues with food, these answers may be triggering. This is a space for women to bravely share their story. If this is in any way triggering to you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me for support.

In this blog series, I ask women from my life questions pertaining to their relationship with food and how it affects their eating lifestyle. They share their individual dietary struggles and how to overcome them. They also give their honest opinion about diet culture, Health At Every Size (HAES) movement, and how to practice intuitive eating. Each of these women are inspiring to me and I hope that you can also be inspired by their stories and ways of practicing mindful eating habits.

Sarah is a therapist that is passionate about helping patients overcome eating disorders. I worked with Sarah at an eating disorder clinic and I got the privilege of knowing her beautiful soul and hilarious sense of humor (yes, she is as weird as I am :)). I have been  inspired by Sarah’s compassionate and hardworking values as a therapist. She has helped multiple patients on the way to recovery from their eating disorder and she is a great person to interview for this blog series. Sarah has a lot of insight on this topic and I hope you enjoy learning about her relationship with food as much as I do. Also, Sarah is a proud mama to Ranger (pictured below) who is one of the cutest dogs I have ever met. 

“I tell myself that it doesn’t matter if I am going out or staying in, I am going to eat what I want and or what my body needs in that moment.” – Sarah Atchison

What has been you biggest dietary struggle and how have you overcome it?

 The biggest dietary struggle has been the what and how much. At a very early age others shamed and labeled me for eating the portions and foods that I liked. It didn’t take long before I took the messages to heart. A piece of cake or ice cream had “fat… gluten.. bad” written all over it. If I ate the chocolate cake I would not stop thinking about how I had no will power to turn it down and how I needed to get rid of it or I would be fat. I would cringe if I caught myself eating more than others around me, I would wait for the comments about my seconds or cleaning my plate. Sometimes remarks were made and sometimes they wouldn’t, either way I would shame myself and hope to God no one saw me overeat.

There are a few behavior changes that have helped me. One thing that really helped me was realizing that I could have a piece of cake and would not turn into fat balloon and pop like Betty Boop did when she ate one piece of chocolate. Yes I am talking about the kids show that wonderfully displayed how easy a girl could get fat from eating even small portions of sweets. As far as over eating I have learned to stop and breathe while I eat, and to not skip meals so that I do not go into the next meal starving. The getting rid of food, my means being exercise, is not a piece I have been able to conquer yet and the volume of my shaming eating disorder voice has gone down, but I can still hear it. One step at a time.

Explain your current eating patterns. How have they influenced your overall quality of life?

Eating foods with high nutritional value has given me the ability feel good on the inside out. It is a part of my self care, that directly effects my mental health. If I am not taking care of what I put in my body than I can feel it effect my mood. This often times means eating food that is fresh and being mindful about eating a variety of food groups. Also, since I have allowed myself to eat all foods I am not freaked out about social events or work ordering pizza for everyone.  I can partake and know that I am allowed to enjoy the time with others. Eating disorders take away your community and gaining that back has given me a better quality of life.

Do you believe that restrictive dieting at an early age leads to disordered eating? How so?

In my case it did. My family labeled certain foods as “bad” and my parents were always on supposed diets that restricted certain foods and amounts. When I went down the road in my eating disorder I first started cutting out certain foods and the quantity that I ate. This spiraled out of control to where I couldn’t eat a donut without having a visceral reaction.

What is your opinion on the diet culture and how do you think it has influenced society?

I believe that the diet industry perpetuates the dominate discourse that women only have value based on their measurement within the male gaze. In other words, women only have relevance based on how sexy and appealing they can be to men. Diets are sold to women to promise them value, and worthiness of love and belonging. When no diet can give out value and worth. In fact, in my honest belief diets are torture, time consuming, and a letdown. Also, lets be real… I am not going to be able to avoid bread the rest of my life.

What does intuitive eating mean to you and how do you practice it daily?

For me it means reconnecting to my body. In the past I would disconnect from my body whenever I would eat or think about eating. This lead to multiple issues, over eating or not eating at all. So now I do my best to breathe while I am eating and eat what I think tastes good, which means I am focusing on taste and smells of the food and how it is satisfying me.

What is your opinion on the “Health at Every Size” (HAES) movement? How has this changed your view on health, beauty and nutrition?

 I think it is an awesome concept. It never made sense that some people who were very thin, “healthy” BMI, could have more health problems than someone who had an “unhealthy” BMI. What you put in your body and how you treat it seems to be a more substantial way to measure if your body is at its best.

This is a very hard concept for people to swallow. We have been sold that “skinny equals healthy” and that is hard to argue against, especially when our medical professionals do not agree. No one questions a doctor. Clients that I work with become reactive when I introduce this concept. They cannot grasp that they can be healthy without being a size 4. Even when you can wrap your head around it, there are family members, friends, and doctors that preach “skinny” is best.

Explain how your current eating patterns have changed your overall health and well being.

My change in diet has allowed me to lower my anxiety and realize how my body feels when I give it what it really wants. I was anxious about any possible situation that would include food that I deemed

Share some tips on what you do when eating out at a restaurant.

I tell myself that it doesn’t matter if I am going out or staying in, I am going to eat what I want and or what my body needs in that moment. For example, when I feel my emotional and mental state is weak, I will be very contentious about getting my vegetables, protein, fiber in. Getting a salad or side of vegetables with my burger or pizza or making a salad with my steak. I believe that part of self-care includes how and what I eat. Self-care can be a burger and fries or my mom’s enchiladas and Spanish rice because I am craving it or getting a soup because my stomach needs to settle.

What advice would you give to someone dealing with similar health/food issues?

I would tell them to look at food as one way to connect with others and one way it can add to a lifestyle of self-care. Eating disorders strip you away from loved ones and by doing so deteriorate your quality of life. Stepping back and looking at this destruction can provide strength to fight against an eating disorder because you are fighting for relationships. We are made to connect with others and going through life isolated increases mental health concerns such as depression.

What is your “food philosophy” that you strongly believe in?

Food can be fun, and it doesn’t have to be “bad.”

What is your favorite food/recipe that you enjoy making?

That’s hard, I enjoy trying new recipes. Cooking food that my loved ones would enjoy eating, hearing them enjoy it. However, I have been making enchiladas my whole life, so I like making that and trying to make Spanish rice like my mom. She makes it better than ANYONE else.


One thought on “Inspiring Women: Sarah Atchison

  1. I agree with your diet philosophy so much! Intuitive eating is definitely a struggle for me coming from a restrictive eating disorder. It is really hard to overcome all the negatives to food surrounding diet culture that we are faced with every day. Nourishing your body means more than just vegetables. Sometimes skipping the gym and eating a cupcake is exactly what we need. Best, Carly xx

    Liked by 1 person

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