Inspiring Women: Talia Follador, RDN

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.

Talia Follador is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a passion for holistic health and intuitive eating. She obtained her B.S. in Nutritional Sciences from Penn State University and underwent her dietetic internship at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She currently works as a Retail Dietitian at a ShopRite grocery store in Burlington, NJ. While studying nutritional science in her undergraduate education, she quickly realized that science could only provide so much insight into the impact of behaviors on health. As she builds her career as an RDN, Talia continues to explore the psychological, spiritual, and emotional aspects of health and apply these to her professional practice. In addition to nutrition, Talia loves cooking, reading, baseball, coffee, playing the piano, tap dancing, and eating yummy food. Connect with her on Instagram , Twitter, and by following her blog, Peace & Pancakes.

“From personal experience, dieting only sucks up precious time and brain power that you could be using to go do useful things like building meaningful relationships, enjoying hobbies, and learning and growing as a human.” Talia Follador, RDN

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

The biggest dietary struggle for me was the cognitive dissonance that I experienced with nutrition in college. I fell into the trap of believing that being skinny/losing weight was the most important measure of my success and thus would result in love and acceptance. On top of this, I also I felt that I had to live up to a certain standard as someone who chose a career in nutrition — that I always had to be a “perfect eater,” exercise harder than everyone else, and never give in to food cravings. As a result, I became hyper-focused on healthy eating and exercise. I felt extreme guilt for eating or even desiring foods like candy, French fries, ice cream, etc. I was afraid I would be shamed because “I should know better” due to my career choice. To be sure, many of these standards were ones that I set for myself, but not entirely of my own doing. I did (and still do) often receive comments from people along the lines of “You’re eating that?!” or “Oh you must be a perfect eater.” (The funny thing is, I never receive these comments from fellow dietitians!).

Thankfully, I’ve realized the falsehood of this belief system and no longer live under its control. This took years of hard work which included cognitive behavioral therapy, reading up on intuitive eating and Health at Every Size, and surrounding myself with a positive support system. Note: I still have bad days and think those thoughts sometimes — I just don’t let them control me anymore.

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

I love trying new foods and recipes ! Nowadays, I lean more towards a plant-based diet, but I’m not a strict vegetarian or vegan. I’ve always loved fruits and vegetables and eaten them in abundance; I recently shifted towards eating mostly plant-based proteins, like nuts and beans, simply because I truly love their texture and flavor. I don’t typically eat red meat or poultry only because I don’t prefer the taste, however I do occasionally still eat these when I am in the mood. I can’t say that eating this way has particularly influenced my overall quality of life. I put in the work to change my relationship with food so that I now think about food as only one part of my life, rather than the key determinant of my happiness.

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

Restrictive dieting definitely sets people up for disordered eating, but it doesn’t necessarily guarantee it. A large body of research shows that restricting food intake leads to disordered eating behaviors, and this makes total sense from a biological/physiological standpoint. The body doesn’t want to starve, so it has mechanisms in place to prevent that from happening! Research also shows that even just restrictive food messages (“You shouldn’t eat x, it’s bad!”) are associated with disordered eating in adulthood. However, this is not the case for everyone, so I think a lot of factors are at play. Those factors include the messages you get from family and friends and how much you are exposed to media messages about dieting (like magazines, television, and social media).

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

First and foremost, I find it interesting that just as diet culture was becoming more popular in America in the 1950’s and 1960’s, obesity rates also started to rise and have only kept increasing since then. Diet culture has clearly done us no good at fighting off the obesity and ill health that it promises to be the perfect antidote for.

Diet culture is incredibly dangerous because it’s not just about losing weight; it has taught us to believe that dieting will make our life all around better. We are told that if we follow a diet, it will bring us more than just weight loss — it will bring us vibrant health, social acceptance, love, career success, [insert goal/achievement you have always wanted but never thought you could achieve]. Additionally, we are sold the idea that to be healthy we must be skinny, which is simply not true.

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

When I was wrapped up in diet culture, I always ate based on external factors. I ignored hunger and skipped meals because I wanted to be skinny so that people would like me. I ignored fullness and ate handfuls of M&M’s to distract myself from emotions because I thought they made me weak. I ignored my craving for a burger at a restaurant and instead ordered a salad because I was scared people would judge me if I ordered the burger.

When I started practicing intuitive eating, it completely changed my life because it not only normalized my eating behaviors, but it also made me realize how much I care about what other people think of me. Now, I practice intuitive eating daily by not caring what other people think of my food decisions and body. With every bite, I choose to eat with my body’s best interest in mind.

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

I love the HAES movement! I read the book Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon during my senior year of college when I was still struggling with diet culture. It was one of the vital pieces of my break-up with diet culture. It completely changed my perspective on health and nutrition by forcing me to think about health more holistically, as opposed to just considering nutrition, exercise, and weight. Reading Health at Every Size also opened my eyes to weight bias and its influence on not only societal norms but also healthcare, which completely changed how I approach my practice as a dietitian. I now notice every day the ways in which weight bias influences healthcare, media messages, and research. I feel better prepared to help people no matter their health conditions or goals because I consider a variety of factors that may be influencing their health, motivation, and goals.

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

During my dieting days, I had no energy, was anxious all the time, had trouble sleeping, and stopped menstruating. Of course, I still have days where my energy levels are shot, I’m anxious, or I can’t sleep, but these are not due to food deprivation. Now that I’m working with my body and giving it the fuel it needs, I all around feel more connected to my body and my life.

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

First and foremost, I make sure I’m fueling my body throughout the day so that I’m not famished at the restaurant. I typically try to order a balanced meal that includes a protein, starch, and vegetables because I know that this will make me the most satisfied. I’ll check out the menu and see what looks good and then pick out two or three dishes that I think I’ll like. Then, I’ll ask the server which of those dishes they would recommend — this is fun and forces me to try new things! I try to eat slowly and savor my meal (this is why not being famished is important! Eating slowly is not a thing when you’re starving.). I try to stop when I start to feel comfortably full, but if the dish is really good sometimes I eat the whole thing — no guilt.

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

Most importantly, I would tell people that if they are struggling at all with food or health issues, don’t wait to get help. You don’t need to have a full-blown eating disorder to deserve help. If it feels bad to you, then it is bad.

If you have the resources, try finding a dietitian and a therapist who specialize in disordered eating/eating disorders. From personal experience, getting professional help makes such a difference!

If you don’t have the resources to get professional help, reach out to people who care about you, and tell them that you are struggling. Even if they don’t totally understand your struggles, simply opening up to people can be such a relief. There are also a lot of great podcasts and blogs you can check out that offer great advice and will make you feel less alone in your struggles:

*Note: these are not a replacement for professional help*

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

 Food is not our enemy. Food is not good or bad. Food is fuel, love, and connection. Food gives us energy, comforts us, connects us, helps us celebrate, and helps us survive.

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

My favorite dinner recipe as of late is this Veggie Fajita Bowl:https://peaceandpancakes.com/2018/04/06/quick-easy-veggie-fajita-bowls/

Inspiring Women: Kristina Thiel

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.

The first woman I’m featuring is my friend, Kristina Thiel, author of the Fruitfulink blog series — in which you can read about her life and improved health through a plant-based diet. Kristina is a type 1 diabetic with a recent onset of Hashimotos Hypothyroid, and Auto Immune Epilepsy which led her to a plant-based diet. Kristina says, “I have been desperate to find a way to heal my body. After a ton of research and trial and error of many different ways of eating [sic], becoming fully plant-based has had the most positive impact on my overall well-being and energy levels!” Read more to see how Kristina uses plant-based nutrition to improve her health. Connect with Kristina on Instagram and Facebook !

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“I do my best to try and distinguish the difference between intuitive eating and mindless eating every day by checking in and not judging myself when I have made a poor food choice.”  – Kristina Thiel

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

My biggest dietary struggle is my relationship with food and my use of food as comfort. When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I saw food as my only means of survival, so I would hoard food and eat way more than intended. I felt I “needed” it for the diabetes or I would die. Around the same time, my sister started suffering with her own disordered eating and began binging and purging. As a sister who cared, I couldn’t confront her about the issue because I knew she would react poorly or deny it completely, so instead I began overeating to supplement the food she was lacking. Over the years I have battled on and off with this relationship with food but recently have grown to see food as my friend, used for means of healing and fueling my body, instead of a crutch. Being present  with food, has allowed me to have a healthier view on what it is I’m eating, why I’m eating it, and how much I truly need to function.

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

My current eating patterns and dietary preference is a whole food plant-based diet. I eat mainly fruits and veggies and try my best to stay away from any processed foods, refined sugars, and grains.

Switching to a whole food plant-based lifestyle made a huge impact on my life. I have been dealing with a few auto immune health issues (type 1 diabetes, and a recent onset of hashimotos Hypothyroid, and Auto Immune Epilepsy) for the past few years and have been desperate to find a way to heal my body. After a ton of research and trial and error of many different ways of eating, becoming fully plant-based has had the most positive impact on my overall well-being and energy levels.

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

I think restrictive dieting at an early age could definitely have a negative effect on someone’s relationship to food but it also depends on what is being restricted and how it is being portrayed. If a child is told not to eat any sugar because it’ll only make them fat then that relationship to sugar could definitely lead to disordered eating. On the other hand, if the child is being told not to eat sugar because of the harm it causes the body and them to eat fruits to cure that sweet tooth craving instead then it may have less of an effect. I think it all depends on how the certain foods are being restricted.

As a child, my mom always had concerns about me and my sisters well-being and from the earliest I can remember I have always loved food… because of her concern, she would tell me not to eat too much bread, or not too much pasta because it’s bad for you and makes you fat… that unfortunately lead me to want to eat more food, secretively or behind her back. I’m still in the process of healing my relationship with food but like I explained previously, if adults want to try and “restrict” foods from children for health purposes, as long as they give a clear explanation as to why they shouldn’t eat it without adding any guilt, it would lead to less of a possibility of disordered eating.

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

The diet culture now a days is so over-flooded with misinformation that many people are just following trends, instead of listening to their own bodies when it comes to what they should and shouldn’t be eating. There are so many “experts” in the field that you don’t know who to believe anymore, it’s exhausting. In my opinion, the one food people should 100% stay clear from is processed and refined foods and try and consume more whole fruits and vegetables, that’s where all the good stuff is!

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

Intuitive eating to me means eating when my body truly feels hungry, not when I’m bored or anxious. Eating one serving, drinking some water, then waiting a few minutes to see if I’m still hungry then eating some more if hunger is still present. This strategy helps me avoid stuffing my face continuously. I do my best try and distinguish the difference between intuitive eating and mindless eating every day by checking in with myself and not judging myself when I have made a poor food choice.

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

To my understanding, HAES is a really beautiful movement that is impacting the lives of those that may not have access, a proper understanding or the means to living a healthy life. It doesn’t focus on size, or race, or social standing. It focuses on what each particular person needs to live a healthy life without any negative judgments of how they look or what they can achieve.

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

Before I began eating plant-based, I used to eat anything and everything…I have always been a healthy eater but being someone who loves to cook I was always in the kitchen creating new dishes and trying new things without really knowing what I was putting in my body. Once I made the switch, my whole life drastically changed, not only because I had to be more conscious of what I was fueling my body with, but also because I could see and feel the impact food had on my body and its functions. Before, I used to feel sluggish and tired after meals, I would gain weight super easily, my skin was grey and tired, and I had horrible sleep. Now that I’m plant-based, I feel light and energetic, never sluggish after a meal, my skin is glowing, and my sleep is restored.

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

Eating out is always a fun one… when you’re the only person following a particular eating lifestyle it can get tricky finding places to eat out. I’ve learned to try my best to plan ahead! I look at the menu ahead of time so I know whether or not I’ll have food options. I always ask the servers if they can make exceptions to the dishes, even if it says otherwise, or worst case scenario I bring some sort of fruit with me so I never go hungry! Salads are always my safest bet and if you’re looking to get sautéed veggies just make sure they don’t cook them in butter.

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

If you’re looking to heal your body from a variety of health issues, live a cleaner healthier lifestyle, or just try out the herbivore lifestyle, my recommendation would be to take it one step at a time. When I decided to make the transition it took me an entire month to fully switch over and completely remove all animal products form my diet. I know if I try and make changes too quickly the likelihood of failure is much higher then if I take it little by little. I started out by first removing dairy. I followed by eating one meat-free meal 3 days a week and once I was completely meat and dairy free the last thing I removed from my diet was eggs.

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

My food philosophy is “food is my medicine”

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

My favorite recipe is my super easy vegan mushroom and asparagus alfredo sauce. I LOOOVEE to put it on a bed of spaghetti squash for a meal full of veggies with the delicious taste of a creamy garlic alfredo! Here’s a link to the recipe if you’re up to trying it out yourself: https://www.fruitfulink.com/blog/2018/3/2/simple-vegan-mushroom-and-asparagus-garlic-alfredo

Explain what a typical day of eating is like for you.

I start my days intermittent fasting (16hr fast), which means I eat my first meal around 11:30-12pm. This meal is normally small and consists of fruit like a banana, apples, and/or dates, or a smoothie with blueberries, bananas, coconut water, spirulina & cilantro. After that, I eat my lunch at around 1:30 which consists of a salad and some left overs from my dinner from the night before. This meal normally consists of leafy greens, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, steamed sweet potatoes, quinoa, cilantro, and lemon juice. For dinner I like to steam up veggies, sauté mushrooms, cook mung beans, or make my favorite dairy-free pasta sauce on a bed of spaghetti squash. I’m also just on a huge salad kick at the moment having just moved into a new place and it being the easiest and most refreshing thing to make.

What The Kale is Going On?

Given my blog name: “The Kale Cookie”, it only seems fit to write a post about the amazing benefits of this leafy green vegetable. If you don’t like kale, this may not be the post for you, but I encourage you to keep reading because I am going to suggest 6 different ways you can add kale into your daily diet plan which may also encourage all those opposed, to try a bite of this beneficial leafy green! The various colors of vegetables indicate different nutritional benefits, so always remember to eat the rainbow! Green leafy vegetables, in particular, are packed with nutrients that will help the body thrive and prevent metabolic diseases.

Continue reading “What The Kale is Going On?”

Juice Detoxes: To Try Or Not To Try

This post is part of the “To Try or Not to Try” blog series started by registered dietitian (RD), Talia Follador, author of Peace & Pancakes. Each post in this series was written by a registered dietitian or dietetic intern to explore the claims and science surrounding a different dietary pattern or trend.  I volunteered to participate in Talia’s blog series and chose to complete research on popular, juice detoxes. Each of these dietary trends was given a grade: A = good! go for it! — F= No! don’t try. Keep reading to discover the grade I appointed to juice detoxes and the research to support it.

Juice Detoxes

 

Continue reading “Juice Detoxes: To Try Or Not To Try”

Becoming a Registered Dietitian

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I love saying the words: “I am a registered dietitian.” These words don’t just give me two cool credentials after my name (RD), but it reminds me that, with the help of God’s sovereignty and grace,  I am able to accomplish whatever I put my mind to. Looking back 6 years ago when I started my undergrad, being a dietitian seemed so far fetched and I’ll be honest, I there were times I didn’t think I could do it. Well here I am, “Theresa Gionta, RD” willing to help you develop a healthy relationship with food.

I grew up in an Italian family, where food is the main focus of every gathering. I have always had an interest in food, exercise and nutrition. I knew I wanted to be a dietitian because of my strong passion to learn and help others develop a healthy lifestyle with eating. Now, I am a strong advocate for eating both vegetables (kale) and sweets (cookies: because I love cookies), making healthy eating a lifestyle that establishes a balanced diet. Hence, my blog name ! Getting to this point of my career has been a dream come true, especially when I look back on all the hard work it took to get here. I praise God for His hand in all of it! 

Continue reading “Becoming a Registered Dietitian”

Pumpkin Smoothie

I wanted to start my blog off with this new smoothie recipe I tried. This is a perfect fall treat just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday! This smoothie option is a great way to honor your sweet tooth because it tastes sweet with only 100-300 calories/serving depending on the type of sweetener you use. I love the whole cacao nibs once they mix into the smoothie because it gives the smoothie an extra crunch. If you try to eat the cacao nibs on their own they taste bitter, but on the smoothie, they are fantastic! 

Fun fact: If you compare this smoothie (100-300 calories) to a slice of pumpkin pie with whipped cream (570 calories), you save 270 calories per serving! I don’t like to focus too much on calories, but it’s a great alternative for those looking for a lighter take on a Thanksgiving treat.

What kinds of smoothies do you like making? If you have tried this one, let me know what you think!

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