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Harder To Kill Radio 197 How To Break-up With Diets & Regain Your Power w/ Dana Monsees

Break Up With Diets & Regain Your Power

Our society has a keen knack for creating stigmas that make us feel less than. Diet culture and this restrictive mentality around food are wreaking havoc with our bodies natural rhythm, and that is what Dana Monsees is dedicated to helping correct.

Entrepreneur, nutritionist, and founder of Real Food with Dana, Dana is passionate about helping people realize that smaller is not necessarily better.

Harder To Kill Radio 197 How To Break-up With Diets & Regain Your Power w/ Dana Monsees

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How To Break-up With Diets & Regain Your Power

This episode is all about healing your relationship with food, finding a nutritional path that works for you, and dismissing what society thinks of your size and being content with who you are. Dana is here to create a space to think about how you approach food, explain why restriction diets are not always better, and share ways that you can motivate yourself to make the changes you want to make.

Dana believes that by understanding diet culture and what it subconsciously forces us to do, we can break free of these limitations and find our bliss.

When you are able to find the middle ground between crash diets and falling off the wagon, you can find a place of true body acceptance. Dana encourages you to ditch the diet cycle, break down your fearful or anxious relationship with food and exercise, and start removing those triggers to trust your body.

By focusing on an abundance mindset you can stop relying on controlling your diet and exercise to give your life sanity, and instead enjoy the freeness of the human experience.

Dana has a wealth of nutrition knowledge and strong opinions to help you make sustainable lifestyle changes and improve how you interact with food and your body. It is time to break free of the diets and beliefs that have kept you hating your body and start embracing the beauty you hold inside.

How do you relate to Dana’s story of disordered eating and regaining your strength? Share with us in the comments section below!

On Today’s Episode

  • Thinking critically about the things we do as a society and how it impacts our body image
  • How to identify a shame spiral and get out of it without destroying yourself
  • Identifying where your nutrition overload is coming from how to remove those influences
  • Practical ways to pull back on the way you restrict yourself in all walks of life
  • What it is like to navigate the Olympic weight lifting space without becoming body obsessed

Resources Mentioned In This Show


“Food and sustainable lifestyle changes can make a big difference in peoples health without doing any therapy type nutrition or medical intervention.” (11:24)

“A lot of the clinical manifestations that I see in my practice are because people are overstressed, overworked, under eating and over exercising because they don’t feel worthy enough in their bodies to take up space.” (15:37)

“List the millions of diets out there that have all worked for someone, and that still doesn’t necessarily mean it is going to work for you.” (45:24)

“It is because I have finally come to a place where I care about nourishing my body instead of trying to make myself take up less space.” (1:04:37)

Thanks for Listening!

Break Up With Diets and Regain Your Power – Full Transcript

Steph Gaudreau  

This is Harder to Kill Radio, a weekly podcast where we explore what it takes to build unbreakable humans through fitness, nutrition and mindset. I’m your host, Steph Gaudreau. My mission in life is to help women build stronger bodies and resilient minds so that they begin to embrace and really own their inner power. The vision I have is that one day, girls will grow up into strong women who appreciate their bodies know their worth, take up space, and live bigger, without the pressure of impossible to fulfill bullshit societal standards. That is what it means to be harder to kill.

This podcast is one way to explore these issues. And you may not always agree with the viewpoints presented here, but I can guarantee one thing, it will make you think I’m here to lead a community of women and men we need you to who are ready to define what it is they truly want from their lives on their terms.

If a particular guest or episode resonates with you, let us know. Leave us a review on iTunes Apple podcasts, and hit subscribe on your podcast app. And also be sure to tune in to my weekly companion show Fierce Love Friday, every Friday.

On that note, let’s do this. Hello, and welcome to another episode of Harder to Kill Radio. This is episode 193. And I’m your host, Steph Gaudreau. Super pleased you’re joining me for another Tuesday, expert guest interview and hanging out with me, I know that you have a lot on your plate. And it means very much that you would take time out of your day or while you’re doing other things. Multitasking, washing the dishes working out, taking a walk, driving whatever it is that you’re up to right now, I really, really deeply appreciate truly, that you would take time to tune into the show.

And it’s Episode 193, which is blowing my mind right now. Because almost 200 episodes is huge. I’m trying to think of what I should do to celebrate 200. So if you have ideas, I don’t know, send them my way, send me a direct message on Instagram. And let me know what you’d like to hear from the 200th episode.

Creating Space for Nutrition

Today on the show, I’m welcoming Dana Monsees of Real Food with Dana. And Dana is a really amazing person, she has a lot of very strong opinions, which I can appreciate. And I hope that she’s going to create some space for you to think about food, nutrition, how you approach food, the idea of perfection and so many things that my listeners are asking me about and continue to work through in their own way.

And you know, sometimes I have guests that talk about similar topics. But there’s always something so unique and interesting about how people approach these things in their own practices in their own lives and what their voice is. And it’s always my hope that there will be someone that I bring to the show that deeply resonates with you and the things that you’re going through and it strikes a chord and allows you to move forward in some way.

My call to action today is to please check out the pre order bonuses for my upcoming book, The Core Four is coming this summer and preorder bonuses are now available. If you haven’t had a chance to yet go preorder your copy, I would super duper love you to do that. You can even hit pause and come back to this show. But I’m giving you some bonuses that will help you use the book better when it comes out.

Get the most out of it in the most out of your experience with the four pillars. I’m really, really excited about this. And when you preorder. It helps on a lot of different levels. It helps to let my publisher know that there’s an engaged and excited community behind the book makes it more likely that we’re going to cook up an amazing book tour or some kinds of speaking engagements.

It helps the book to be more visible on marketplaces like Amazon, which, frankly, puts new eyes on the book that haven’t yet heard about me or this really important message that I’m sharing about embracing your body and owning your power.

And the other thing is that we don’t have corporate sponsors here on harder to kill radio, so two episodes a week and lots of amazing free content for you 99% of what I do is free and there’s just that 1% That It is something you can invest in and support. So you can go and get the preorder bonuses after you preorder The Core Four at corefourthebook.com.

Strength Training and Nutrition for Women

Alright, with that in mind, let’s jump into Episode 193 with Dana Monsees. Welcome back to Harder to Kill Radio really excited that you’re here with me today. Thanks for tuning in to this Tuesday, expert guest interview. That’s the companion to the Friday show, which is just me getting on the mic and blabbering about things that I am noticing, to want to talk about, etc.

So it’s always a joy to bring people on the show who are doing really important things in their own communities and helping to change the conversation in the vastness of fitness, nutrition mindset, etc. And today’s guest is no exception to that. She is known for having strong opinions. And I respect that about her. She also introduces a little bit of sarcasm into what she does, which, as east coaster is right just hits me right in the heart. I’m like, yes, these are my people. And so I’m really excited to bring on Dana Monsees to the podcast today. Let’s go. Hey!

Dana Monsees  

Thanks for having me. Yeah, I mean, sometimes that’s just my jersey coming out. Both of my parents are from New Jersey. I’m not actually from there, but I definitely picked up a lot of stuff from them.

Steph Gaudreau  

Well, I mean, it’s just, it’s interesting, because I live on the West Coast. I live in San Diego, which I always tell people are like, it’s so chill there is so relaxed. I’m like, You know what, it’s fake chill. First of all, it is, it’s like everyone has that like outer veneer of chill. But on the inside is like not chill whatsoever. I mean, I feel like if you go if you travel, you’ve probably been to places where it’s like real chill. Here is not that but the East Coast. I mean, having spent the first dec- or a quarter century of my life there. You know, you just it’s just a different twist a different beast.

Dana Monsees  

Yeah, and I live right outside of DC, which has many ramifications. Like I mean, everyone knows that shitshow that is like the political sphere these days, like around the world, let alone in the US. And just like not being involved in it, because I did actually used to work in political consulting and on campaigns, but like being, let’s see, five years removed from that now and like not being a part of the political space at all, but even just being near it like in proximity, you can literally feel that stress coming off of everyone and in which is exactly why I chose not to live in DC anymore. Now I live in the suburbs of Maryland.

Transitioning from Politics to Nutrition

Steph Gaudreau  

Well, why did you Okay, so let’s talk about why you why you left? I mean, that’s a pretty big jump, at least topically, right, from political consulting, to working with people on body image and ditching dieting and all that stuff.

Dana Monsees  

Yeah, they’re kind of polar opposites of the spectrum there. Um, so my undergraduate degree is in politics and French and I actually lived in France in college, studying international politics. And I, I really enjoyed the study of politics and political science and international relations and everything like that. And my whole plan, probably from when I was in like sixth grade until I was maybe 24. Yeah, 24, 25 was I was going to say politics in high school and college, and then I was going to do internships.

And then I was going to work maybe on some campaigns or something, and then I was going to go to law school, and that was going to be my whole trajectory. And I realized, after during college that I started to develop this interest in nutrition and healing with food because of an eating disorder that I had.

And I was really involved in athletics. I competed in swimming my whole life and volleyball through high school, and I never really made the connection between like food and energy and sports and everything like that. And in college, I started to get so sick, partially from the eating disorder, but partially from very inexplicable symptoms, which I’m sure a lot of your listeners can relate to, which is why we turned to you know, naturopathic medicine.

No one could figure out what was wrong with me. I was nauseous all the time I was having all these digestive issues, I had no energy. Later turned out I had celiac disease and all of the ramifications that go along with that in an eating disorder. So my sports performance started to decline and that I became more interested in nutrition, but it was still kind of on the backburner. Like, I thought it would be cool to start a blog and I started following some, but it never really came to fruition until a couple of years later.

Finding Passion in Nutrition

So I worked in the field on campaigns and then I worked in consulting for a couple different companies for a few years. And I realized that I enjoyed working on campaigns not because I enjoyed the politics of it, but because I enjoyed organizing events and working with people one on one and having those face to face conversations. Because when I got into the corporate space, and was sitting in an office in no with no windows, which was the most ironic thing, because I worked in one of the most beautiful waterfront buildings in DC, and yet I was in a cubicle in the middle of the office with no windows, it was just depressing.

I didn’t care about what I was doing. And I found myself then spending my days doing nutrition research and delving into the science and looking up healing with food and how to start a blog and everything like that. So while I was still working in politics, I decided to go back to school, at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, just to kind of like, I didn’t even really know if I wanted to do anything with it, but I just kind of used my Christmas bonus that year, like putting towards my tuition and was like, perfect, we’re just gonna do this and see if I like it. I don’t know what’s gonna come from it.

And then I started working with people like in school, and seeing that, wow, you can really make a difference, to help people heal with food and like, make doing food and sustainable lifestyle, lifestyle changes can make a big difference in people’s health without even doing any, like therapy type nutrition, or medical interventions or anything like that. And it really just opened my eyes to I mean, it’s kind of like when you’re a practitioner, the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know.

It was kind of that opening my eyes of like, wow, what have I been learning my entire life because I know nothing about food, even though I had been very much restricting my food for probably not quite 10 years at that point. But I had always had a messed up relationship with food in my body, at least ever since I was a little kid, probably since I was like eight years old. And then after doing integrate, or while I was doing Integrative Nutrition, I got really, really sick while I was still working downtown in DC.

And for three weeks, I had to take off work because I was so sick that I couldn’t eat anything. And it was just crazy to me that no one could figure this out. So it ended up that I had to quit my job moved back in with my parents. And then I was like, What am I going to do? I don’t like I’m too sick to work. Eventually it just kind of like miraculously started to go away. And I could start eating again. I was like, ah, was it a parasite? Was it bacteria? Who knows? I still don’t actually know to this day.

Healing Through Nutrition

But I can tell you that the day that I started feeling better was the day that I was just like, You know what, I’m just gonna go to this cupcake shop down the road and eat free cupcakes and see what happens. Because if I can’t eat even broth and bananas and rice, I might as well eat cupcakes and see what happens. And then I just started feeling better. So who knows?

That was the year that I also started my blog because I started to get really invested in my own health and healing and recovery and trying to figure out like, Why do I hate myself so much? Why have I been treating myself like shit? Why have I been restricting my food and over exercising and everything for so long. So I kind of got into the space of oh, let’s try all of these different healing diets. But it was still from and I can say this now hindsight is 20/20.

It was still from a restriction and diet culture mentality. Right? It was kind of like elimination diets and healing diets, saying I wanted to do them to like heal with real food. But I was really like, Ooh, this is another excuse to restrict my food, but it’s more socially acceptable now. So it was just very messed up mentality. But then that fall was in 2014, was also when I decided that sure Integrative Nutrition was a really great start to my practice.

But it wasn’t far enough for me, I wanted to go more into the science. I wanted to be a licensed nutritionist, so I could actually practice in Maryland and in the DC area and everything. Because there’s very strict scope of practice laws here. So I decided what both my parents are lawyers as well. And so they’re like, there’s no way that you’re just going to practice without a license. If you’re not a nutritionist or a dietitian, I was like, Okay, that sounds good.

Diving Into Nutrition Science

So I went back to grad school to get my Master’s in nutrition. And I did my I guess it was two and a half years there. And then it took me about six or eight more months to do all of my 1000 clinical supervised hours and take my board exam and pass everything. And then I was a full blown nutritionist. And when I had been building my blog and my social media and everything through all this time, and I had been doing the healing with real food and helping people through that.

And I started to realize that the patterns that I had used like using elimination diets and therapeutic protocols really just as an excuse to restrict my food more, read diet culture basically, was what a lot of people that were coming to me to work with me. It wasn’t like they were saying that outright, but I could read more into it. And it was like, Okay, why are we having all of these health issues? Because yeah, sure, there are health issues that develop from, you know, autoimmune disease or bacterial overgrowth, or from parasites or something like that.

But a lot of the clinical manifestations that I see in my practice, are because people are overstressed, overworked, under eating and over exercising, because they don’t feel worthy enough in their bodies to take up space. So that’s kind of the direction that I’ve been going in for the past, I would say a year and a half to almost two years now is really focusing on Yes, helping people clinically heal with food and lifestyle changes and stuff.

But really with a focus on trying to help people break free of dieting and hating their bodies and feeling the need to restrict and control their food for their entire lives. Because that’s, that’s no way to live. And it’s unfortunate, because we were briefly talking about this before we started recording. But this is the way that we’ve been taught that we should think about ourselves, and that we should think about food.

It’s either the dichotomy of I’m on a diet, and I’m doing really good. And I feel really good about myself, or I’m totally out of control. And I have no willpower, and I have no discipline. And therefore I need a diet and exercise plan to be healthy, quote, unquote, heavy air quotes and feel better about myself.

And no one teaches you that there’s this middle ground that you don’t have to be dieting, and exercising yourself into the ground forever, or totally off the wagon and out of control, there is a middle ground, that is a beautiful place to live in, where you don’t have to be on diets, and you don’t have to feel out of control. But it does take a lot of work to get there. And that’s kind of become my niche. Now.

Diet Culture is Planted Early in Life

Steph Gaudreau  

I love that. Also, just side note, I love interviewing podcasters because it’s just because you have a podcast, and it’s just always really nice to, to let you go and just, see, see where you take it if you if you’re a podcast, or you get it. So that’s really awesome.

There’s so much in there that I want to unpack. But I do want to start with diet culture, just just a small topic. But you’ve you’ve mentioned it a couple times already. We have talked about it on the show in the past, it shows up in my community. And so if this notion of diet culture is new to someone, I mean, how would you sum up? What diet culture is and what it causes us to do?

Dana Monsees  

Yeah, wow, that’s like a loaded question.

Steph Gaudreau  

It’s gonna go right in just yet.

Dana Monsees  

Do you have like, a six hour long lecture that I can do? Um, so diet culture is what we have been conditioned to believe, from a very young age. It’s what we experience. I mean, in the past couple of years, it’s easy to see on social media before it was in magazines, in print ads in the way that you talk to yourself in the way that you hear. I’m speaking as a woman. So as the way you hear other women talk about themselves.

It’s the way that our medical profession talks about the obesity epidemic and BMI and the way that we should be weighing and measuring everything. But it’s basically a very good example of this is January New Year’s resolutions. The diet culture industry, has, I think, tripled its gross annual income in the last 20 years to 70 billion a year or something crazy like that in the US alone in the US alone, so that doesn’t even include the rest of the world.

And it’s this fascination that our culture has with smaller equals better, smaller equals prettier and you can insert the BS over the years in the 90s it was the stick thin supermodels now it’s the waist trainers and like try to look like a Kardashian without getting butt injections. And like using a waist trainer basically, right?

Evolution of Diet Culture

I mean, you can see the evolution of the terms in the literature, for example, like as in the 90s, before it was I want to be skinny and I want to be thin and everything. And now it’s I want to be lean and I want to be strong. And it’s interesting because even 10 years ago, maybe 20 years ago, it used to be very much more overt if you look at like Muscle and Fitness magazine, and you are if you even looked at Shape magazine or eating lighter, any of these things.

It was like, here’s your 1200 calorie meal plan, which I always tell people like 1200 calories is literally the nutritional recommendation for someone if you’re three years old, if you’re over three years old, which like you probably are, if you’re listening to this podcast, to be eating more than that, right. And so it’s everything from, here’s how much you should eat or eat this not that or like good and bad foods.

Or if you just think about the way that like diets have gripped our country in, like, since 3000 years ago, I mean, there’s this great video on Buzzfeed that shows women’s beauty standards throughout the years. And it goes from ancient Egypt all the way to today, highly recommend that video if anybody wants to check it out. But it’s how women especially have been associated with morality equals appearance equals value. And the way that you get there is by dieting and trying to make yourself smaller.

And it’s come to the point where everyone is afraid of not dieting, and not exercising to the extreme, because everyone is afraid of gaining weight and getting fat because they view that as morally inferior. And they view the weight stigma that is rampant in our country. Like, for example, if you go on, if you go to an amusement park, you’re not allowed to go on rollercoasters, if you’re X amount of pounds over this, and the way that people just look at people in larger bodies, they’re immediately judging them and saying, Oh, you must eat like shit, and you must not exercise and you must not take care of yourself because you’re in a larger body.

Restrictions of Dieting

And it’s just Whoa, man, like you can tell I get really heated about this stuff. But that’s just like a very broad, very general overview of like the different influences of diet culture now, and it’s so easy to see with social media, because a big part of diet culture is like the social media comparison trap. And one of the things that I really like to do with clients, and this is kind of jumping away or ahead here, but is doing a social media detox.

And identifying things that are triggering for you and making you feel inferior or less than or making you feel like you should be doing something that you’re not say you’ve been following, you know, X influencer for a couple of years. And one year they’re doing like paleo. One year, they’re doing keto. One year, they’re doing intermittent fasting. And it’s like, Oh, if they’re doing that, I should do that.

Because they got great results, quote, unquote, results, meaning they lost weight, which means they heavy air quotes, they look great. You know, that’s, that’s the other example of how ingrained this is. We automatically think if we see someone we haven’t seen in a long time, and they lose weight, you’re like, oh, my gosh, what are you doing? You look great.

And that’s a very societally acceptable response. And what people don’t realize they’re like, Wait, why is that problematic? Because for all you know, that person could have an eating disorder, and that’s the reason that they lost weight, or that person could be oh, gosh, I’m sorry, that was my dog.

Steph Gaudreau  

To edit this out, five minutes, sorry.

Dana Monsees  

Okay. Um, so for all we know, that person could be terminally ill, or they could be going through a flare in their autoimmune disease. And that’s the reason that they lost weight, and we’re unknowingly complementing that. And that can be extremely damaging, especially if you’re talking about the case of an eating disorder, you’re unknowingly complimenting someone for having an eating disorder, which is then fueling the eating disorder.

Dietary Distractions

Steph Gaudreau  

Hmm. Yeah, diet culture is such a huge topic. So thank you for just kind of giving us that in a nutshell, definition, because I feel like this is one of the things that until you stop to question or think critically about the things that we quote, just do as a society, right? We’re like, oh, that’s just what people do. You’re not looking at the situation from different angles.

And I say in the intro to this show, I mean, you may not agree with everything that is said on this show, but I hope it makes you think, and to diet culture is a big one that we’re, you know, kind of attacking from multiple different angles. I will say that, it’s, it’s tough because, again, are, you know, can we even be aware of those things that we’re doing that feed into it.

And I see this a lot, as you mentioned, where people will, they’re like, I’m just over here doing my thing. Like maybe I’m intuitive eating like, I’ve found a really good, I’ve just, I’m like in that neutral place that you kind of mentioned earlier, and stuffs going really well. And then I see my sister, I see my trainer at the gym, I see my husband, I see whoever it is in my life or that influencer that I follow, who’s jumped on like the latest thing, and that person starts to question themselves.

And they’re like, is what I’m doing wrong? Should I should I be doing this thing? Should I jump on this thing over here? And I don’t know. Like, is there a point at which experiment question is okay, but in trying new things, but where, where is that coming from? And I think that’s where people oftentimes get stuck is that they’re in a good spot. And they’re like, Yeah, life’s good. Like I’ve got a good handle on things. And then something pops up and makes them start questioning if what they’re doing is the right thing.

When Should I Experiment with my Diet?

Dana Monsees  

Or yeah, and I don’t think experimentation is wrong or bad. I think that what’s important to think about here is, what is the motivation behind the change that you want to make? So for example, if you think about like January’s a really good example of diet culture, because it’s strange, if someone tells you like, oh, like, what are you doing for New Year’s resolutions? And you’re like, Oh, well, I’m not doing a diet this January.

They’re like, what what? What do you mean, you’re not making dietary changes in January, because you need to make up for what you did in December and during the holidays, you know, and it’s interesting, because in nutrition, you learned about the concept of bio individual individuality, which is something different works for everyone.

So if you never experiment with different things, you might not ever get to that place where you feel that you’re in the right place of like, wow, eating these kinds of foods feels really good for me, or if I change, or, you know, if I do these kinds of workouts, then this kind of food feels really good for me. Or if I’m, you know, doing whatever X activity is, or you’re at a different life stage in your life, it’s worth playing around and toying with different things, to see what’s going to work best for you not only right now, but at different stages in your life, because that’s also going to change.

I think there’s a really interesting kind of divide here too, because on the one hand, and I think this is where people get stuck with the whole, like, intuitive eating thing and body positivity movement is they’re like, oh, my gosh, I could never get to intuitive eating. And that is actually rooted in diet culture. And the belief that restriction is always better. Because they’re afraid that if they took away all of their rules, that they would just eat all of the things, and they would never be able to stop.

Intuitive Eating to Reduce Fear Around Food

And the example that I like to give here is, if you think back to when you were in high school, and you had a friend that was working in an ice cream shop, let’s say, at the beginning of the summer, they probably went into that ice cream shop and ate ice cream every single day. But then after a little while, it wears off, because they know that they’re going to be there for at least a couple of months, if not longer. And they can have ice cream whenever they want to. So it kind of loses appeal.

Now you on the other hand, if you go in there, and you visited them, you’re like, oh my gosh, I could never work in here because I would just eat everything. And I would get fat and all these things. And your friend is like, well, I can have it whenever I want. So I just it’s not even really tempting anymore. Hmm, that’s a great place to get to with food. Because food is no longer scary.

There’s no longer fear around food because you start to realize that you can have that thing whenever you want to. But you may choose not to eat it all the time. Because it might not make you feel great if we look at the different physical symptoms of health instead of just equating weight with health or body size with health like how’s your digestion? How’s your energy? How’s your sleep? How are you if going to the gym is important to you? How’s your performance in the gym?

Do you have enough energy to play with your kids after they come home from school? Or do any of the other activities that you love? You know, spend time with your family? Those are the other markers of health that I care more about and people should care more about, in addition to things like how are your blood markers, you know. How is your poop? How are these other things? Right? So I talked about poop every single day for my job if anyone’s worried about that, I’m sorry.

Steph Gaudreau  

No, we’re big fans of talking about poop on the show.

Diet Culture and Eating Disorders

Dana Monsees  

Yeah, um, but then I think the other problem is there’s a big like crevasse, massive divide between on the one side like diet culture, and macros, and January resolutions and all this other stuff. And then the kind of eating disorder, recovery and disordered eating, recovery and body positivity side is and on the on that side.

There’s a lot of therapists and stuff who are working specifically with eating disorder patients who are trying to get them away from all of the food rules and so they’re trying to have them challenge all these different foods that they’ve created rules around for a lot and so they’re encouraging them to eat more of, say one person’s fear food is like burgers and french fries or one is like General Tso’s chicken or Chinese food or whatever it is.

And the only problem with that is those recommendations are not for the entire general population because we know like if you’re coming from a clinical nutrition route, if you go from eating either like macros and super controlled and everything, or eating almost nothing on the eating disorder side, and you go to eating like standard American diet, and like McDonald’s and all this kind of stuff, you’re not going to feel good from the inside out or be healthy from the inside out.

So it’s like, we need to find the middle ground between putting all of these restrictions on everything and saying these foods are going to good or bad or inflammatory or not inflammatory, because that’s like the big buzzword these days for all the elimination diets and everything, and find the middle ground of that of like, okay, so we don’t want to have all these restrictions, we don’t want to create all these rules, because it just entrenches us in diet culture and makes us feel inferior.

And like if we’re not following all these rules, and controlling everything, because we feel out of control. But at the same time, we don’t want to be eating McDonald’s and fast food three times a day, every day, because on a clinical level, that’s when you’re actually going to show signs of inflammation and disease and everything.

And that’s what’s actually causing all of the rampant disease in our country, not obesity itself, because just being in a larger body doesn’t predispose you to having all these health conditions. It’s the lifestyle choices that you make, that are actually causing the health conditions. It’s not just the fact that you’re being in a larger body.

Body Size Doesn’t Determine Health

Steph Gaudreau  

Right? Because I mean, there are people who eat, I mean, to use the extreme example, eating fast food, have, you know, every day, multiple times a day, or just poor quality, nutrient density, etc. that are in thin bodies, and don’t feel good.

Dana Monsees  

Yeah. And there are people in larger bodies that eat diets that if they like, would be conducive to a smaller body, I guess that’s not really a great way to say it. But there are plenty of people in larger bodies that have great blood markers that have great functional medicine markers that eat pretty generally healthy diets, that doctors are perplexed as to why they’re in a larger body. And they it’s crazy that the behaviors that doctors prescribe to people in larger bodies, if they were in a smaller body, that prescription would be for basically an eating disorder. It’s insane.

Steph Gaudreau  

Talk about BMI for a little bit women.

Dana Monsees  

Oh, girl. You bullshit measuring index.

Steph Gaudreau  

Yeah, exactly. So we are recording this show in early March. Yesterday, on the show, we had beauty redefined. Lexi Kate was on the show where we touched on a little bit of these things, but more from a from sort of like a body image perspective, but I would love to have sort of like the nutrition perspective, because what happens to a lot of people is they go to the doctor, they they may ask to not be weighed, but in some cases, that’s not the case, or the doctor insists and whatnot, and or whoever the practitioner is, it’s not just doctors who are doing this, but they get weighed, and it’s like, oh, you’re overweight, or Oh, you’re obese. And now we need to jump into fixing mode.

BMI is Just a Measurement

Dana Monsees  

Yep. Yeah. So BMI, is a measure that doctors and most practitioners are required to take for insurance purposes. It is not a measure of health. If you want an example of that, well, okay, backing up. So BMI is a measure of your height to your weight. And whether you’re you’re a female or a male or anywhere in between whatever you identify as, and it is not a good measure of health, because there are people who are in smaller bodies.

I mean, I think of myself as coming from kind of a thin, privileged perspective. And my BMI is technically in the overweight category. And it’s like, I’m okay. So for example, if you have a lot of muscle on your body, if you’re like a quadzilla kind of female, like me and stuff, then you’re probably going to be in the, quote, overweight category. But the problem is, that doesn’t tell you anything about that person’s health. Right?

So for example, bodybuilders who have zero fat on their bodies are going to be in the overweight or quote, obese clinical categories, even though a lot of people, if they looked at them Be like, wow, they have 0% body fat, like they must be really healthy when, from a clinical standpoint, we know that that is probably not true, because of all the restriction and crazy things that it takes to get there.

But kind of like the scale. BMI is just a measurement and it doesn’t tell you anything about what’s going on the inside of that person. So from a clinical perspective, it tells me nothing about this person. Because if I just get a piece of paper for someone and it tells to me, their height, their weight and their BMI. I don’t know anything about them.

I don’t know if they’re healthy. I don’t know if they have a history of health conditions. I don’t know if they display any of the markers of health that we were talking about before. How about their mental emotional health. And I know that’s coming from more of a like holistic naturopathic perspective, which is what I come from. But just because someone is in the overweight or obese category of BMI does not mean they’re unhealthy.

Focusing on BMI Alone Caused More Problems

And the crazy thing is, like, I’ve worked with many clients at this point, who had eating disorders, and they were in the quote, unquote, normal weight category for BMI. And so it’s not a manifestation of health. And it doesn’t tell you whether someone’s sick, or someone’s happy or someone’s healthy or anything like that.

And from from like a body positivity perspective, or from a body image standpoint, it can be extremely damaging, like you were saying before, because I know if I was five years ago, and I didn’t step on the scale, but I went to the doctor, and they told me my BMI, if it was anything outside of the you know, quote, normal range, that would have been a really big trigger for me of probably binging and purging, and over exercising and throwing me back into my eating disorder.

And a lot of doctors aren’t really trained in that. And it’s really unfortunate, because, I mean, it’s what sucks is like in the Western medical system, we don’t get enough time with our doctors to actually like for them to get to know us and for that, them to, like, invest their time in us, because there’s just no time. Like, it’s really great for acute care and saving lives and everything like that.

But the way that the system is set up, it’s just, there’s just no time for us to get to know our doctors, which is why a lot of people are turning to more naturopathic doctors and stuff. But even then you have to go get weighed, and they take your BMI and everything like that. So honestly, I don’t see BMI as good for anything. And it’s extremely problematic.

Energy Balance

Steph Gaudreau  

Thanks for summing all that up. And it’s no I mean, it’s, it’s just good to hear that perspective. And to remind people, because you’re right, there will be there will be people who are they do get weighed, they hear that BMI. And yes, I am in the overweight category. And I like you walk around in a basically thin, privileged body. So you can only imagine what it’s like for people who are not living in thin bodies to have to deal with that all the time.

But it is something where I just feel like people can just trigger you know, it triggers something in them that was perhaps a little bit late and or they thought they had no kind of a good handle on and it’s just so it can have it can be so impactful in a negative way, when people hear that, you know, and then they get recommendations on top of it of what to do, which is generally to reduce your caloric intake and increase your exercise, you increase your exercise, which always boggles people’s brains a little bit, because it’s just such a common retort, right, eat less, move more.

There are so many articles online explaining energy balance, and why you know, justifying it from, you know, a nutrient density standpoint, and like a hormonal, we’re moving hormonal machinery and expression standpoint. And yet, I always try to remind people that there are already a lot of people who are eating less and moving. They’re trying to move more.

And it’s just not, they’re not, it’s not working for them. And so then we’re just continuing to refrain, it’ll just be even less than what you’re already eating, which is already very little, and add another add two more workouts a week or, you know, increase your intensity or, you know, all these things that we know. So it’s just, it’s complicated.

Ditch the Diet Cycle

Dana Monsees  

Yeah, and I mean, the other crazy thing about BMI and doctors offices and stuff is I, for some reason, have a lot of friends who in the past year or two have gotten pregnant and had babies, and when they go to the doctor, you get weighed every time you get your BMI taken.

And one of my close friends when she was pregnant. It was I think, between the first and second trimester, somewhere around there, and she went to the doctor and they said, you’re now in the overweight category, and you need to eat less. And I’m like, I wanted to scream. It’s like, of course, she has gained weight. She’s growing a child like what are you talking about? Oh my gosh, it trips me nuts.

Steph Gaudreau  

Absolutely. So one of the things that you talk a lot about is to ditch the diet cycle for good. And I know that there are so many people listening to this show who are caught in that spin cycle right of it. We’re being good. And then something happened. Again, heavy air quotes were being good, and we’re on the diet, and then life happens because it always does. Right?

Life is always going to happen. You can’t be strict forever. And then you fall off the wagon again, heavy air quotes, and then you’re like, oh, shit, the only way to fix this is to like, right. And I think a lot of people realize that they’re in that cycle. And they’re like, this isn’t good for me. But I don’t know how to, I just don’t know how to stop. I don’t know what my other options are.

And I don’t know how to find another way. And so I’m wondering if you can start teasing apart, how you recommend people approach that, because it is kind of a big transition to make in your life, when you would have had this history of kind of the on again, off again, dieting, and you’re like, I just need to get away, but I don’t know how.

Releasing Restrictions on the Weekends

Dana Monsees  

Yeah, um, so a lot of pieces to unpack here. So one of the things that I want to make sure that I talk about is identifying where the signals are coming from that are telling you to do certain things, and then slowly removing those triggers and the restrictions over time. So the cycle that you’re talking about is what I like to call the shame spiral, which is very common in diet, culture, and dieting.

And without giving it a name. This is probably something that almost every single person has experienced at some point in their life. And if we think about it from a dieting perspective, so you start a new plan on Monday, and you’re like, Yeah, I’m ready to go. And I feel really good. And, you know, it’s Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, you’re following your macros plan, or your keto plan, or whatever it is, and you’re starting to feel really good.

And then the weekend hits, and you’re like, Oh, it’s my friend’s birthday. Like, I really shouldn’t, I’m afraid to go to her party, because I know there’s going to be alcohol, and I know there’s going to be cake and I really don’t want to eat those. So first of all, you have this, like anticipatory anxiety and fear around the food, because you’re no, you’re not supposed to be eating those because you’ve been so good all week, right? Heavy air quotes and all this stuff.

And then you’re just so stressed, at the end of the week, you’ve had all these deadlines and everything, you’re like, fine, fine, I’m just gonna have some of the chocolate cake, it’ll make me feel better. And then you finally eat some. And then you go into the might as well where like, I already had some chocolate cake, I might as well have the cheese, the rice, the fill in all of the things that were your no foods for that week, because you already had some stuff.

So you might as well eat all of it and get it out of your system. Right? Because you know, you’re going to start the restriction again on Monday. So then on Sunday, you wake up with like a shame hangover, basically. And Brene Brown talks about this a lot. The difference between guilt and shame, which a lot of people conflate is guilt is I did something bad and shame is I am bad. And the reason I call this the shame spiral is because first there’s guilt over eating the foods.

Shame Hangover

But this spiral doesn’t just happen once and then stop, it happens over and over and over again. And once this has happened more than quite a few times to everyone, it changes from oh my gosh, I can’t believe I ate that chocolate cake. That was bad, too. I’m such a bad person, I can’t believe I did that. Again, I have no willpower, I have no discipline. And these is when we start to internalize the messaging that diet culture has been telling us that we’re not good enough.

So we need to follow a diet so we can be smaller and more worthy and prettier. And, like better to society and find a mate or whatever it is. And this is when it turns into shame. Because then you truly start to believe that you’re not good enough. Like, this is why I now need another diet. So on Monday, when you start again, you’re like fine, I just I just need to get it all out of my system. And then I’m gonna start again on Monday, I’m going to go to the gym, I’m going to skip breakfast, I’m going to intermittent fast.

I’m going to ruffle a lot of feathers here. But that’s like why why are we calling it in a minute fasting, what it’s basically just going to stop. It’s basically just skipping meals. Anyways, I know there are a lot of therapeutic benefits, this is outside of their nutritional therapy and stuff like that. But then the problem is when we start again on Monday, you don’t just go back to the same set of rules, you kind of renew the restriction.

And if you were doing let’s say paleo last week, and you fell off this week, now we’re doing paleo with no sugar and no fruit because we need to go lower carbohydrate because you need to make up for what you did the past weekend. And then of course, you’re going to fall off the proverbial wagon again, whether it’s you make it all the way to the next weekend, or you only make it two or three days because it’s harder this time, and you’re continually making it harder on yourself.

Identify Nutrition Information Overload

And this is a really hard cycle to get out of. Because on the one hand, you’re making a lot of restrictions on yourself. But then you’re also receiving all of these messages and so much nutrition overload information that you don’t know what’s right. Like, how are you supposed to figure out what’s right for you, when you have one person saying, oh, intermittent fasting works really well for me and one person says, oh, whole 30, or paleo or keto or vegan or vegetarian or like list the millions of diets that are out there that have all worked for someone, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work for you.

And this is why people get so confused, and they don’t know what to do is because how are you supposed to know what’s working for you. And a lot of people don’t try one thing for long enough to see if it is working, and you keep jumping from thing to thing to thing, and then you start to believe nothing works for me and you’re like, Fine, I’m just gonna go online and hire a macro coach, and they’ll fix all my problems. You know, and it’s, it’s really hard to get out of it.

But one of one of the first things that I tell people to do is to identify where the nutrition information overload is coming from, right, like the nutrition jungle, is what some of my colleagues will call it, and start to remove those influences and not only remove those influences, but remove, whether it’s on social media or at your gym, or the conversations that you’re having with people of talking negatively about yourself, saying you’re fat, and you need to diet and you just want to lose three pounds, like Regina, George, and all these other things.

And like removing those influences as much as you can from your life so that when you scroll through Instagram, you’re not like, oh my god, that girl has such nice abs, like if I just has had more willpower, I would be able to look like her and then you scroll to the next person. And they’re saying like intermittent fasting is the best thing. You’re like, oh, maybe if I do intermittent fasting, I’ll look like that last girl who had six pack abs, and then you go to the next one.

We’ve Been Taught Not to Trust Our Bodies

And it’s like, no, you need to eat six meals a day. It’s like, Wait, how am I supposed to know the difference between what’s going to work of intermittent fasting or eating every three hours. So we need to remove the whole, like, storm clouds of nutrition information that’s confusing you as to what you should be doing. Because that’s the first step in learning to listen to your body.

Because if you have all of these outside signals, there’s no way that you’re going to be able to turn into your body signals on the one hand, because there’s so much of this information going on, how are you supposed to listen to yourself if you have like a million things yelling at you.

And then going back to diet culture, we’ve been taught not to trust our bodies, because we are all born with the innate ability to eat when we’re hungry and stop when we’re satiated. If you look at babies, when they’re breastfeeding, they turn towards the breast when they’re hungry, and they turn away when they’re not hungry anymore. And that’s like a very primitive example of how we’re all born with this, right? Medical exceptions aside.

And then what happens is, we’re taught over the years that our bodies can’t be trusted. Because if we listen to our bodies, and we trust our bodies, then we’re just going to be eating chocolate cake all the time. And that makes us fat. And that’s bad, and society has a stigma against weight. So then we become afraid of trusting our cravings, of seeing our intuition of trusting our hunger.

And we start to think which is really messed up that if we’re hungry all the time, we’re doing a good job, because we must be losing weight if we’re hungry. So this is why we can’t listen to our bodies. And the first step to that is turning off those signals, and starting to learn where those signals are coming from, and the signals that are telling you like you’re not good enough, or I should be doing this or shouldn’t be doing that.

Stuck in thee Shame Spiral

It’s like learning where the shoulds are coming from, and trying to turn those off. Also knowing that you can’t turn them off everywhere. So it’s learning how to manage them when you encounter them. And this all seems like super abstract when we’re talking about like getting out of the cycle and everything. But it’s a massive first step when you start to notice that with your group of friends, when you go to the gym, all you talk about is the RPE template that you’re on right now and like how you’re so hungry because you’re only eating 20 grams of fat and like you can’t believe that your performance is bonking in the gym.

Well of course it is because you’re not eating anything. You know, it’s just very hard. Like I completely sympathize with this because I was exactly in those shoes. That’s where I was like, I skipped meals. I was bulimic, I was Orthorexic I had exercise bulimia I did a million diets until the cows came home until I finally found myself crying on my bathroom floor one day like why am I doing this? I can’t do this anymore. Until I started to seek out help from like looking for body positivity and looking for examples of people that had recovered from this kind of stuff.

And I think that is so important to while we’re on the topic of like shame, the shame spiral and everything. The reason that this like hidden culture Are thrives is because shame thrives when it’s not talked about. And people who are in this situation, whether it’s disordered eating or controlling your food under eating over exercising, eating disorders, whatever it is, we all think that we’re alone in this and we’re ashamed to talk about it, which makes it so hard to come out on the other side.

Because if you think you’re the only person who’s going through this, you don’t know who to reach out to for help. Or on the other hand of things, if it’s since it’s so normalized in diet culture, you think that it’s normal that everyone’s going through this, and there is no other way out of it. So I would start seeking out people, whether it’s on social media, or in person who do have good relationships with food, or at least seem like it, and start to have those conversations.

And this can also be very hard, because we’re all very masochistic in our culture, and we all want to seem like we’re Superwoman, and have our shit together and everything. So it’s hard to admit to someone that you’re struggling with this, because it’s admitting that something is wrong. And we never want to admit that something is wrong with us. Don’t forget that it’s supposed to look like it’s easy, right? It’s supposed to be all natural, and everything like that. So this is why it’s so hard. This is how you can start to get out of it.

More Information is Not Always Better

Steph Gaudreau  

Yeah, definitely. The signal like decreasing it to decrease the noise, right. And in social media, and just the internet have done anything, it’s to amplify this, the noise amplify the messages coming in, create more information, right, we used to have to go to look it up in an encyclopedia and a library. And now you can just, you have the internet in your pocket, literally. And it’s just, I just think, more than ever is so easy to overwhelm yourself with info.

And that’s one of the things I recommend to people as well as like stop listening to all ever like if you’re a podcast junkie and airy. And the fact that we’re on a podcast right now is ironic that I’m saying this, but one example because I don’t, I don’t feel like people are binging on blogs anymore. To try to get their information this either from social media or podcasts, and they’re just, you know, if you have a heavy, heavy, heavy rotation of podcasts, and you’re doing it to try to find the best way of eating or find the best, you know, fill in the blank. You know, there is there does come a point where more information is not better.

Dana Monsees  

Yeah, and that that’s also what fuels the restrictions that we were talking about before. And I didn’t even get to talking about that yet. But you one of the reasons that we continue to create these rules is because we’re looking for a semblance of control in our lives, and a lot of disordered eating and eating disorders is fueled by a lack of control in other aspects of your life. So you’re in this was the case for me, like I felt completely out of control.

I didn’t know how to like go through life as a college student and I just was looking for in like a life of chaos, I was looking for something that I could grasp onto to control because I believe that if I controlled my food, if I controlled my exercise that I would control my appearance. And then by default, I would like control what other people thought of me.

And I could determine how other people thought of me because I was smaller because I was restricting my food and over exercising and killing myself in the gym, and being this like morally superior person because I could do all of this. Yeah, when really my life was falling apart from the inside. But the answer is never more restriction or another diet.

Focus on an Abundance Mindset

So to get out of this cycle, we have to gradually start pulling back on the restrictions. And one practical way to do this is let’s say you go on vacation, or you go on a trip or something. And this is a really common example because everyone thinks like who Oh my god, like I’m going on vacation, I was eating all these things that I don’t normally eat that I shouldn’t eat. And then we start a reset or a diet the day we get back. What if, instead of focusing on the restriction, you focus on an abundance mindset.

So sure, we all know that we feel better if we eat more fruits and vegetables if you eat more healthy fats and starchy carbohydrates around your workouts, and drink more water and get more sleep and all this kind of stuff. So instead of creating rules, saying I’m only going to eat these things, and I have to go to the gym, and I have to do this and like you know, add to your laundry list, why don’t you I’m going to do yoga, I’m gonna meditate. I’m gonna go do CrossFit. I’m going to do all these things.

And then we start to get stressed and we feel bad when we can’t do all of them. How about you just start focusing on Okay, tomorrow I get back from vacation. Tomorrow I’m going to add in some vegetables and I’m going to make sure I drink again glass of water when I wake up in the morning, and then if you feel good doing that build on it the next day and focus on instead of I’m not allowed to eat those peanut m&ms anymore. I’m not allowed to eat off, okay, I’m not allowed to eat dessert.

Because as soon as you tell your brain, you can’t have some, what do you think it’s going to fixate on all the time. I mean, we’ve all been on diets, when all you can think about is food, because all you’re doing is restricting. When you’re starving all the time, all you can think of is food. And another example of this is like, if you’re an athlete, and you get injured, all you want to do is go back and play your sport, because that’s the one thing you can’t do, because your leg is broken, or your ankles broken, or whatever it is, whatever your restriction is, but it’s the same thing with food.

If you restrict from something, that’s all you want. So I love to come from a perspective of abundance or a crowding out, right, adding in more of the things that make you feel really good, instead of focusing on the things that you’re restricting, because once you start to allow yourself the cupcakes, or the macaroni and cheese, or whatever it is, but you’re still trying to focus on eating more fruits and vegetables, or whatever the foods are, that make you feel really good, that food is less of a forbidden fruit, and it doesn’t have as much of a pull on you. And then you can start to lessen the pull of this shame spiral and the restriction cycle as well. Hmm.

Body Acceptance

Steph Gaudreau  

Absolutely. And I definitely see that and support that message. The more the more off limits it is, the more you want it. I mean, we’ve had, we’ve all had that experience, like you said, you know, you can’t have the food, because can’t see, you know, prohibited on your diet or you know, it’s you’re trying to be good. And you start having dreams about that food or you need all you can do is fixate and like, think about when the next time you can eat it is so just not a great place to be.

And I also want to mention this as an aside, and I should have said this earlier, but just for people listening if they don’t know the difference between because you talked about body positivity, like the body positivity movement is is actually not for people in thin passing bodies. So if you’re like, oh, you know, I’ve got like, you know, a thin passing body. But like here, I’m going to talk about how much I love my cellulite like that might be positive body image, but it’s not body positivity.

Dana Monsees  

Yeah, I like to come at it more of a body acceptance kind of way. And this is actually one of the things that can make a body positivity or body acceptance, or improving your body image or improving your relationship with food a little less scary is let’s go for working towards neutrality instead of super positivity about everything, right? Because it’s not realistic for anyone to say, yeah, like, I have a vegan body. And I feel this way all the time. Like, no one really does that. You know.

So if you’re thinking of, okay, with my body, and with food, I want to work towards being more like Switzerland, like, I’m just going to be neutral. That’s a lot more accommodating and realistic for people than saying like, Yeah, I’m going to be able to intuitively eat all the time. And I’m going to feel great about my body and everything like that. So go towards neutrality,

Steph Gaudreau  

right. So brands like, Oh, that’s really funny. Not knocking, like, Is that even possible for me when you’ve written in such a bad place?

Dana Monsees  

Yeah. And that can be a roadblock that prevents people from pursuing eating more intuitively and listening to their body and body acceptance.

Weight Class Competition Challenges

Steph Gaudreau  

For sure. So just switching gears just a little bit. You were talking before we started recording about doing an Olympic lifting meet when the show comes out, it will have just happened. And you sort of talked about the challenges of, you know, for people who don’t know Olympic weightlifting has weight classes when you compete.

Unless it’s just like a mock meet or something like that, where and I will say me just because and putting yourself in a meat situation is hard, you know, challenging takes a lot of courage to get out there. But most Olympic weightlifting meets like powerlifting meets. You have a weight class and you were talking about before we recorded why that was challenging for you last year and how you’re approaching it this year. And I’m wondering if you can share that?

Dana Monsees  

Yeah, definitely. So definitely a change of gears this kind of funny because we go from talking about like body image dieting and everything. And then we go to talk about like, well, how can you be body accepting in Olympic weightlifting when you’re talking about weight classes, which the first thing I want to say is like, my whole journey of recovery, even though I have loved weightlifting ever since I started doing it in 2011.

I refuse to compete in any weight class specific sport until a year ago, because I was afraid of what it would do to me, too. weigh myself if I had to count macros if I had to, you know, compare myself to other people in like Olympic lifting basically like body concerts, which was nothing new to me because growing up as a swimmer, like you see bodies all the time, but that doesn’t mean that it creates a positive environment in your own brain or in the atmosphere.

So I finally got to a place about two years ago, where I was like, yeah, it would be really cool to compete with a caveat like, as long as I didn’t have to cut weight, because I still didn’t think that I could do it. So last year, like I’m another caveat, like, I don’t think that I would enjoy competing as much. If I did have to cut for a weight class, like, I’m fortunate enough to be right at my weight class.

Not Falling for the Comparison Trap

So I don’t have to do the macros or the like, god forbid you have to do the spitting are the saunas are a lot of the tricks that like wrestlers will use to fit into their weight class. If I had to do any of that, I either think I wouldn’t compete or I just like, would not care what weight class that I fell into. But so last year, I was like, You know what, I’m gonna challenge myself and see if I can do this because I I’ve loved competing my entire life, whether it was in swimming all the way through college, or volleyball.

I played multiple sports as a kid, I’ve done half marathons like all this stuff, I love competing, I’m just a kind of competition junkie, which is why I was initially drawn to CrossFit. But the problem with that is you also compete with yourself, which then can lead to the comparison trap. But back to lifting is, so I did two meets last year. And I had, I think the biggest things that helped me was I had no expectations going in for my first meet.

My coach who was like, very understanding knows my background, and everything was like, you don’t need to do a weight class or anything. You just go in, you weigh in, and you just lift. And that’s all you do. And it was nice, because the first meet that I did, there was like a novice division. And there were no weight classes, as far as I knew. Or if there were, I did not pay attention to them. And like, also, if we’re being honest, I’m not winning any meets here. So like, I don’t care how I place, right.

So yeah, it would kind of suck if I had, like, if I didn’t cut weight, and I like didn’t make my weight class or anything. And I had to compete with girls that are like, you know, 15 or 20 pounds heavier than me. Because the more weight that you have on your body, like presumably the more muscle you can have on your body, and then you can lift a lot more weight. So like, that kind of sucks, because I would feel very intimidated going against those girls.

But when I started thinking about it was like, I don’t really care how they do because like, I just want to do better for myself. So that helped a lot. And then I haven’t competed since last April. So it would be a year. And I was kind of hesitant about it this year because I was like, I really don’t want to have to, you know, do the whole thing again. But I do enjoy the competition. And I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t look at other people’s bodies and be like, Oh my God, I wish I looked like her or I wish my singlet fit better like hers does, or you know any of this stuff. It’s just when I get out there like it’s just me and the barbell.

And I think one of the reasons that I like competing so much is getting involved with barbell sports. So like CrossFit, and lifting and stuff was a really important part in my recovery from my eating disorder because I started to focus more on the weight on the barbell versus the weight that was on my body. And that was a really powerful tool for me, because I started to realize like, I couldn’t be malnourished anymore if I wanted to lift weights.

Nourish Your Body and Take Up Space

Like I was looking at pictures the other day because it was National Eating Disorder Awareness Week of me when I first started lifting, and I look like a toothpick, Gumby kind of like malnourished child. And then I look at me now I’m like, wow, I can squat like 100 pounds more now than I could then. And I can deadlift like 150 pounds more now than I could then. And it’s because I’ve finally come to a place where I care about nourishing my body instead of trying to make myself take up less space.

And lifting has been a really powerful I guess, tool to help me get through that. But I mean, I completely understand that. There are a lot of people who I think would do better to either one not compete because they’re not in a place where they have this stable relationship with food and their bodies because I do know a lot of people who compete and competing in a weight specific sport or a weight class sport or a body conscious sport, like dance or swimming causes a lot of eating disorders and causes a lot of problems with disordered eating.

Because for a lot of people, they do resort to the macro counting and everything like that, which can be really useful if you need to cut weight for a competition. But then the problem is like, instead of just using that for two weeks, or whatever it is before the meet, people then turn that into their entire lives. And then you end up in metabolic adaptation and adaptive thermogenesis where your body slows down your metabolism because you’ve been eating so little, and it wants you to survive.

And, I mean, that’s like a clinical standpoint and and a health standpoint, but then it’s also the mental emotional standpoint, like, are you ready? Can you do this competition? Can you deal because competing is very stressful, too, you know, aside from the, like, body concerns and food concerns, like the physical stress on your body of the anticipation of a competition of being like, it’s only you out there on the platform, and everyone’s staring at you, are you going to make this lift? Or are you not going to make this lift? Right? It’s a very dichotomous thing.

Compete as You Are

It’s like, yes, you made it. No, you didn’t make it. And then it’s like, who lifted the most weight. And that’s it, that’s who wins. But if you’re not in a place, where you think that you can come out of this and be okay, it’s not going to mess up your relationship with food, it’s not going to make you want to go back to counting, or it’s not going to make you want to do calories, or macros, or start restricting or whatever it is, then if you really want to compete still, I would just recommend, like, don’t compete in a weight class, or don’t cut for a weight class, like just compete as you are.

Because honestly, if you’re concerned about the competition, like you’re gonna be able to lift more weight if you’re not malnourished, have you raise. So yeah, I mean, there’s, I could probably talk about this for hours. But I mean, it’s honestly still something that I’m like, figuring out and continuing to explore, because this will only be my third meet.

I mean, once you start to work on this, like non dieting journey, and being more neutral with your body and food, like you still continue to learn a lot about yourself every day, and with every situation that comes up. And that’s why last year, I was really iffy about competing, because I was like, wow, this really good place. But I don’t know if this is going to kind of push me back into a territory where I don’t want to go.

Now that I’ve competed, I know that I’m okay with it. But I will say like, it’s taken me a long time to get here. And I don’t know that. Everyone I know who competes is really in a good spot to be competing and to be cutting for weight classes.

Connecting with Dana

Steph Gaudreau  

Absolutely, yeah, definitely is an individual thing. And there’s a lot that goes into it. So I really appreciate you sharing everything you did on the show today, there are so many layers to you know, uncover, there are so many different possibilities to consider. And I feel like for I mean, I feel like in some ways, my listeners won’t be shocked by anything they heard. But there are some things that may challenge what they think right and, and or what they’re currently doing.

And so I think it’s just important to provide those different possibilities and perspectives. And I’m really grateful for you for doing that for us today. Yeah, thank you. I really appreciate you having me on. Yeah. And let us know where can people keep in touch with you? Where can they find out more about you and the things that you’re up to and keep tabs?

Dana Monsees  

Yeah, so you can find me anywhere at realfoodwithdana.com is my website. Real Food with Dana on Instagram, I’m on Twitter, so don’t bother to find me there. Doesn’t do anything for me. But where I am, most of the time is on my podcast. It’s called Real Talk with Dana. And then the only other thing I have going on, you know, besides being an entrepreneur, a swim coach and a Crossfit coach and competing, which is like all the things.

I recently started working with a group of women with one of my colleagues from grad school, her name is Christina Hoyt. And we started running this group called break the diet cycle, which is an eight week online course that focuses on healing our relationship with food and our bodies and learning how to stop dieting for good.

So we’re gonna we’re hoping to run that course a couple of times a year. There’s a group running right now enrollments closed. But if you’re interested in learning more about me or any of that, you can email me it’s RealFoodwithDana at Gmail, or you can message me on Instagram or come hang out on my podcast or all the places I’m around.

Female Athlete Nutritional Needs

Steph Gaudreau  

Awesome. Well, thank you for sharing that. It’s going to be a great resource for so many people and they can also get those things linked in the show notes if it’s there. Like I add all the things I just want to go out all the places. Check out the show notes from this episode and it will all be listed for you there Dana Monsees, thank you so much for being a part of Harder to Kill Radio. Thanks Steph

All right, there we go. That’s a wrap on episode 193 with Dana Monsees. Hope you found some tidbits, some nuggets in there that will help you on your journey to understanding and viewing, nutrition and how you approach it in your own life. And these topics can be so complex and complicated, but I’m really hoping that you were able to take some clear action steps away or at least look at your situation with fresh eyes.

Of course, you can get the show notes for this episode, and links to everything that Dana is up to including her own podcast, her website and all the work that she’s doing in the world over at my website, StephGaudreau.com. And while you’re there, please take a moment and hop in on the pre order bonuses for The Core Four, which is my new book coming out in July.

You can pre order now and you can snag all of the incredible bonuses that I created for you so that you can use the book and really get the most out of your experience. You can do that through my website, StephGaudreau.com Or just hop on over to corefourthebook.com All right, until Friday when I’m back for an episode of Fierce Love Friday. I hope you stay healthy, you feel happy and you’re harder to kill

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Steph Gaudreau

Hi, I'm Steph Gaudreau (CISSN, NASM-CPT)!

Nutrition and fitness coach for women, Lord of the Rings nerd, and depending on who you ask, crazy cat lady. My mission is to help you fuel for more: bigger muscles, strength, energy, and possibilities. We’ll do it with my signature blend of science, strategy…and a little bit of sass.


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