(A lot of people ask me how I started my business, and why I got into the field of eating disorders. While I do usually tell whomever asks, I have put-off writing this for a while. Maybe because I haven't felt that I have really "made-it" yet, maybe because I don't want to get that personal. Anyway, here's how I came to be "Not Your Average Nutritionist."
When I first passed my Registered Dietitian exam, I was about to get married, and was looking for a local job in my field.
That was going to be a lot harder than I first realized.
I spent about a year and a half (!!!) applying for, interviewing (several rounds), and networking for various jobs in any position as a dietitian. Unfortunately, there was always someone with 10 years of experience, or bilingual speaking, that would swoop in and get the job. (Eventually I did end up with a temp job with County Public Health after that year and a half).
While I was looking for my first "real job," an email had come through our local dietetic association from a young woman who was starting college locally, and was relapsing into anorexia nervosa (for which she had previously had some outpatient treatment). She was looking for a female, Christian, dietitian to work with her. I sent an email back asking if she wanted to give me a try (being new and all).
Now to give a little more background on the eating disorder part of this, in school/internship we spend very little time on eating disorders as undergraduate nutrition majors. Of course we had to learn some about it, but it just does not go very deep at that level of education (which is also why I went back for my Master's). So why did I think I could do it?
#1, I was desperate; and #2, I had struggled with restrictive eating during my early college years, and understood her mindset. She agreed, and I met with her and her mom to see if we would be a good fit. This was the start of my entrepreneurial journey.
Fast forward a few months and I had read countless books on eating disorders and sought out a mentor in (who I didn't realize at the time was a founding expert in the field, and whom many others call "a rock-star!") a local RD, Francie White, who allowed me to come watch her work, and help with the IOP/PHP treatment center in Santa Barbara, CA. Since I (still) didn't have another job (other than teaching some group fitness classes), I set my mind towards making a legal business.
With the help of a local non-profit organization, SCORE, I figured out what I needed to do to get a business license, and set up bank accounts. My first business name was "Libby's Fit Nutrition." I thought I would focus more on helping stay-at-home moms with weight loss and fitness. I did have a handful of those clients (whom I met in their homes), but pretty quickly I was finding that a lot of people who desired "weight loss" really had disordered eating or bad dieting practices, and I found myself doing more education around that. The more I worked with these clients and learned about EDs, the more passionate I became. I took some more psychology classes through community college, and contemplated what to get a Master's degree in.
Fast forward another 2 years or so, I was working as a teacher (Allan Hancock College) and in Corporate Wellness (Provant/PG&E). My online presence had generated a lot of interest from college students who were having issues with disordered eating. I was seeing so many students from Cal Poly (the local college), that I was talking on the phone almost every week with one of the school's nurse practitioners (the amazing, June Stanley) about shared clients. One night as we were talking about how many students she was seeing with eating disorders, she (I thought, jokingly) said "we should just have you on campus." Little did I know that conversation would lead to BIG things for me.
A few months later, I turned on my phone to see a voice mail from Dr. David Harris, Cal Poly's Executive Director of Campus Health and Well-Being. His message asked me to call back and set up a time to meet. He heard I was THE person to go to for eating disorders, and wanted to hire me to be on campus to work with the students at no cost to them. (Fun fact: when I walked into that first meeting after saying hello, his first words were, "when can you start?")
I started working at Cal Poly in Spring of 2016, as the first Registered Dietitian (as far as we know) to be specifically hired at a CSU to work with students with eating disorders!
I love my job! It is so nice to have co-workers who respect me and my opinion, since starting we have developed a multi-disciplinary treatment team, getting involved with athletic trainers and coaches for more open communication about the college athletes health and eating disorders, and I have been able to provide some in-service trainings to the medical staff.
This past year I changed my business name to "Not Your Average Nutritionist," to better represent what I was doing (not many RDs are competent in the area of eating disorders, and even less seem to focus more on the person and coping skills than the food piece), and I was no longer focusing on the fitness aspect. I also changed the legal structure from a sole-proprietorship to a LLC, for more legal support and the ability to hire staff in the future. I have a lot of lofty goals for my business in the next 10 years or so, but for right now I want to slow-down and savor the process.
So, where am I with my business now?
- Still working part-time at Cal Poly (over-booked, but feeling competent)
- Seeing some private clients.
- Almost done with my M.S. in Nutrition Science (emphasis in EDs).
- Working with a supervisor (Cynthia Saffell, MS, RD, LCSW, CEDS) for an advanced credential in EDs (IAEDP - CEDRD).
- Teaching at Allan Hancock
- Feeling better about my own body image than ever.
- ...and getting ready to launch a new phase of my business in 2018! Stay tuned for online nutrition courses!
Moral of the story:
Do great work.
The rest will fall into place.
You got this!
So exciting! This is now my third "Top Nutrition Blog" list to be included on:
"Top 21 Nutrition Blogs You Should Know About"
I have previously been listed on "Top 100 Nutrition Blogs" (2016), " 100 Leading Sites for Holistic Nutrition Consulting & Therapy" (2014), and " Best 150 Health and Nutrition Blogs" (2017).
Thank you to all my readers! You are the reason I do this.
How I experienced “To The Bone” as an eating disorder expert & Why you need to carefully consider if you should watch it
There was a lot of buzz leading up to the release of Netflix’s “To The Bone” on July 14, 2017. As a Registered Dietitian who specializes in eating disorders I was intrigued. In this film, actress Lily Collins played Ellen, a young woman with anorexia nervosa who goes into a couple of different treatment centers and bounces back out to home or hospitals. Collins has been very forthcoming that she previously struggled with anorexia nervosa, which made me more nervous about her losing weight for the role.
When I first heard that there was going to be a film made about eating disorders, I thought this would be a great opportunity to raise awareness of what eating disorders are like. And hopefully get people talking in a productive way about the different types of eating disorders and how it is not a good thing to get one...but as the trailer and initial interviews came out in the weeks leading up to the release, I instead became worried that it would not only depict the stereotypical white emaciated anorexic girl (which it did), and be triggering to those dealing with body image issues (it probably will), or teach new bad habits (for some it will - that scares me most of all!). Here is my take on the film as I watched it and took notes, the good, the bad, and the triggering (spoiler alert).
OPENING: I must commend Mockingbird Productions for starting the film with the statement, “The film was created by and with individuals who have struggles with eating disorders, and it includes realistic depictions that may be challenging for some viewers.” I hope they don’t consider that their liability statement, but they tried. In the opening scene we see “Ellen” at a residential treatment center in art therapy class. She looks visibly bony, and it only gets worse through the film (not sure if it changes due to eating less, make-up tricks, or what, they did claim the use of some prosthetic bones, though). In articles that came out prior to the film release, it was said that Collins lost weight under supervision of a “nutritionist.” I don’t know who this “nutritionist” was, but there is no way in a true health professional that knows a thing about eating disorders would allow someone to lose that much weight, ethically, especially since she has a history of anorexia and might suffer physical and mental complications of going through the trauma of extreme weight loss again. I also use “nutritionist” because that is the word I found for the unnamed person who guided her weight loss, and if it was actually a Registered Dietitian or other licensed health professional they would (or should) have their license revoked for unethical behavior.
Weight cycling (large fluctuations up or down) is very hard on the body, which likes to maintain homeostasis (or “same-ness”). Every time we lose weight our metabolism (calorie needs) goes down. When we gain weight back our metabolism does not go all the way back to “normal,” this is why it gets harder and harder to lose weight if you have been on many diets. In addition to lowered metabolism, as was briefly mentioned in the film, the body has to rely on energy (calories) from muscle and organ tissue to survive, which can cause irreversible damage. Having Collins go through extreme weight loss again could have done real damage to her body (organs, bone density, fertility, cardiovascular system) that she might not know about until years later.
CALORIE TALK: In the following scenes there are definite strengths and weaknesses apparent to anyone who is in the field of eating disorders. As seen in the trailer, there is a scene where Ellen is quickly counting calories on a dinner plate. This is a strength in that it is very realistic to how a person with anorexia’s mind typically works, but any time calories are brought up (in a few scenes) it is a potential trigger for some viewers. It also glamorizes the “ability” of knowing what is in your food. With so many people on diets that require calorie counting, I am sure many think it would be “easier” to have anorexia to be able to not only count fast, but to abstain from eating. If you are one of those people reading this - IT IS NOT WORTH IT! (Contact me personally, I will walk you through the why nots, I don’t have the space in this article). By the way, eating disorders (ED) are not a choice. They have genetic and environmental components and are a person’s way of coping with a perceived problem or trauma, similar to the way an alcoholic turns to alcohol to numbs themself from emotion.
BEHAVIORS: Continuing on, maybe it is because I live in a part of California where cigarettes are banned in public spaces, but smoking is not nearly as common among ED/weight loss as it was 10+ years ago. Ellen is seen smoking throughout most of the film, and I hope people don’t continue that stereotype along with most EDs being anorexia nervosa (they’re not - binge eating disorder and “other specified feeding and eating disorders” are much more prevalent).
Other behaviors throughout the film that the director/actors got right are body checking (Ellen keeps checking her arm circumference with her hand, and her roommate calls her out on it), flushing meds down the toilet due to fear of weight gain (don’t go off meds without Dr approval), the roommates “barf bag” and laxatives, cutting breading off of chicken, passing out when she stood up fast (this is caused by low blood pressure when not eating enough), stair running to “burn” calories, and the doctor noticing the bruises on the bones of the spine and calls her out on doing sit-ups.
WEIGHT: More triggering, but truthful scenes, include Collins taking off her shirt to get weighed, and at the end of the film you see her naked (artfully laid on the ground to cover private areas). She is truly emaciated. This took my breath away- as you can only do so much with makeup, she had to lose a lot of weight for this role. It makes me so sad. Near the end of the film (spoiler) she has a “dream” where she is healthy and happy, and she has some weight on (probably shot first before she lost the weight), and she is gorgeous. There are no bones protruding, she is on the slim side of normal weight.
The treatment facility where most of the film takes place did a good job of having a range of body types and disorders. Most people with ED are not underweight. There was a larger binge-eater, some average-size people with bulimia and anorexia, a male, a pregnant woman, and different races (though still overwhelmingly white). While the other behaviors of binge eating and bulimia were touched on, the film was primarily about anorexia. I wish they had shown more of the other disorders, to make a point that EDs are not just thin white girls.
PROFESSIONALS: I thought the doctor, therapist, and nurse were all very well written and played. Any of their interactions were probably my favorite part of the film. In group therapy, the therapist was great at getting the participants back on topic in a realistic way, and concluded a talk with “there is never thin enough.” The nurse and doctor being more upfront and brazen with their speech is likewise true to life. They all easily call out Ellen on her behaviors and things happening to her body (ex: lanugo hair, body burning muscle and organs when not eating) in very realistic ways.
TREATMENT: The treatment facility that most of the film takes place in is a good depiction (though a bit cleaner/newer than most) of a residential treatment center. They call it inpatient in the film, which is incorrect, it is residential. Something that seemed off to me, but maybe some places do this, is that the patients were allowed to eat what and how much they wanted for every meal with no real consequences, and most of the time no professionals ate with them. From my visits to and talks with treatment centers, there is always at least one staff member present, and if they do not finish their meal, typically a liquid supplement like Ensure or Boost would be required. I did like that the anorexic man said he gets a “crazy burst of energy” when he eats. I have heard that from a lot of my clients when they start eating again.
It was realistic for the nurse to go through Ellen’s bags when she arrived at the facility. They check for any diet or self-harm tools as depicted in the film. It might give viewers ideas about how to hide things when not in treatment, though, so that worries me. The bedrooms rooms not having doors is not necessarily typical, but there would not be locks on the rooms or bathroom.
When the families are talking about treatment modalities in the waiting room I did not like that they were putting down methods like “Maudsley” (family therapy for children with anorexia), and family therapy was depicted in a bad light. Both of these can be very helpful in real life.
RELATIONSHIPS: Ellens relationship with her family, though realistic, is not necessarily typical. Though many have tumultuous relationships with family members, they are not usually so blatant (but this is a movie - so it had to be interesting). Families are also typically not the “cause” of an ED, though relationships get harder as someone sinks deeper into their ED. ED is a relationship, and it makes it very hard to get close to, or let others into, your life. It was notable that Ellen was never hugged (except by sister) until the end of the film. Unfortunately, lack of touch (whether by choice, or because family is not affectionate) is a common thing I see in clients.
Something I think was unrealistic or glamorized was the relationship that developed between Ellen and the man in treatment. I have never heard of a relationship coming out of treatment, and if it did it would probably not be a healthy one. Also, can I just say that it was weird that right after she told him about her trauma of men and touch that he kisses her and climbs on top of her without permission? That seemed wrong and was uncomfortable to watch.
CONCLUSION: This film got a lot of things right about EDs and treatment, and the acting was very realistic. So realistic, that I had to process this for a day before I could write this article. Though I have had a healthy relationship with food and my body for years (after restricting in college), and treat people with all of these issues and symptoms every day, I had flash-backs to my personal struggles, and had to go look at myself in a mirror to remind myself I am not scary-skinny. The fact that that happened concerns me for how others who are not as strong in their recovery will handle seeing this. My recommendation is that if you struggle with body image or disordered behaviors (whether or not a diagnosable ED) you should not watch it, or be ready to process it with a therapist or trusted friend. This film has a great potential to trigger people who have these propensities, and to teach bad habits that help them “get away” with disordered behaviors. That being said, viewers could find those behaviors other places online, so it is not necessarily the fault of the filmmakers.
I do think this would be a good film to watch for those who have a loved-one dealing with an ED, especially anorexia. It is a realistic depiction of high-acuity anorexia nervosa, and discusses symptoms other consumer media leaves out.
*Article is re-printable with permission. Please contact Libby for permission to put it on your site.
Registered Dietitian, Libby Parker, is the owner of Not Your Average Nutritionist, LLC - a private practice on the central coast of California. Libby offers nutrition counseling for teen-young adult, specializing in people with eating disorders. Additionally, Libby teaches nutrition courses at a local college, and works to educate on topics of eating disorder recovery with her online training site. Find out more about Libby at: www.notyouraveragenutritionist.com (check out the "online courses").
I have had several people that know me ask why I changed my business name, and more specifically - why "nutritionist" instead of "dietitian" in the name?
First the overall change: "Libby's Fit Nutrition" was the name I set up when I started my practice and I had a very different clientele. I was working with mostly stay-at-home-moms and middle-aged women on getting fit and healthy and losing weight. I was/am a personal trainer and was incorporating fitness into my sessions.
As my business and passions evolved into exclusively working with disordered eating that name didn't fit, and worse, was triggering to some people. A new name was needed, but I didn't want to pigeonhole myself into one niche, nor did I want to make people ashamed of talking about my services by blatantly stating "EATING DISORDERS!"
My wonderful husband actually came up with "Not Your Average Nutritionist" and we played with Dietitian and Nutritionist for a while. Although I am a "Registered Dietitian" and proudly state that that is a far more valid and necessary credential, many people still call dietitians "nutritionists," and search for that when they are actually seeking a dietitian.
(Also, a lot of people spell dietitian wrong - it is NOT dietiCian!)
So, I am a Registered Dietitian, but all dietitians are "nutritionists." It is important to note that not all nutritionists are dietitians, so do watch for that. If you want more of an explanation why the difference is important check out my other post -HERE.
What do you think of the new name?
(originally posted 10/18/2016. libbysfitnutrition.com)
I am honored to have been chosen one of the
"Top 100 Nutrition Blogs You Must Follow to Live A Healthy Life" at http://blog.feedspot.com/nutrition_blogs/
Thank you so much, my readers!
(originally posted 9/19/2016. libbysfitnutrition.com)
I danced from age 3-13 in ballet, tap, jazz, and lyrical before taking a break to pursue my equestrian passions. But at age 16 I had a gnawing feeling that something was missing, and asked to re-enroll in dance lessons. At 16 I had no interest in ballet, leotards on my pudgy adolescent body, or the slow piano music; so I signed up for hip hop and break dancing. That lasted all of 3 months, when I found even with the technical steps in place, I didn't look the part.
Around that same time I got really into east-coast swing dance, and my real love emerged. I started taking ballroom, then teaching my peers. I went off to college, and started the first swing dance club on campus where I taught, performed, and lived out my dream. Then I transferred schools to a major university known for dance. I knew I was going to be a small fish in a big pond, but I joined their swing and salsa clubs, and let the music take me away. Dance became my stress reliever, my social crutch, and the way to make my science degree have a creative side. By the end of college I was known as a dancer at my school, and was president of the salsa club.
photo of my tattoo from last year: a reminder that I need to dance
During college, I had taken a break from acting. A musical theatre geek in high school, college was too demanding to allow for more rehearsals especially with dance taking up my evenings.
When I left to move to California for an internship, the first group I sought out besides a church community was a dance community. My people.
Fast forward a year, and I was getting married, he had dislocated his knee and was not up for dance, and the clubs started too late for this early-bird. Slowly social dance became almost non-existent in my life, let alone studio dance or lessons that I had not touched in 10 years. I was becoming clinically depressed, but had not idea why.
Then I got cast in our community production of "A Chorus Line." Rehearsals were rigorous. 8 hour dance rehearsals on Sundays, 3-5 hours several other days each week. My body had changed from when I had last danced. I did not know where my balance was, I had no idea of the terminology I had long forgotten, and my body struggled with the complicated combinations. But I was so alive!
That show did so much for me. Though I was "only" a swing that never got to go on for any of my overstudies, I had made friends, and re-ignited my passion for dance!
Now three years have passed, and I have been back in the studio taking dance lessons (yes, even ballet) and appreciating every moment in a way I hadn't when I was a kid. Now my struggles are a place to grow from, my hour of class a time of pure freedom and meditation, separate from "real life." I have gone on to act in more shows, dance in more classes, and I am not letting dance out of my life again.
This article was first posted on "OnStage.com" as part of national dance week.
(originally posted 12/25/2015. libbysfitnutrition.com)
Have you been looking at my (or other RD's) websites and brochures and not sure what to expect? Nutrition counseling is a very individualized service just like with traditional psychotherapy. Some dietitians create specific meal plans, analyze intake with nutrient analysis software, help you manage diabetes medications, learn what food do in your body, and so much more.
Make sure whoever you choose to go to for nutrition services has a "R.D." or "R.D.N." credential. This is a indicator of education level and national standards of practice. As with any profession, we hope everyone is ethical in their business practice, but trust your gut, and never be afraid of getting 2nd opinions.
What do I do, specifically?
"The primary goal of nutrition counseling is behavior change."
Herrin & Larkin, Nutrition Counseling in the Treatment of Eating Disorders, 2013.
Here is a list of services that one may experience when working with me.
-Diet "check-ups": I go over your food journals to see what you are eating on a regular basis and what is working for you or areas that need improvement.
-Medical Nutrition Therapy (or "MNT): This is what separates dietitians from "nutritionists" "health coaches" and "health educators." Medical nutrition therapy is something only RDs are legally allowed to do (and medical doctors, but they don't have our training) going over complex medical diagnoses that have nutrition related care and intervention. This goes beyond "eat vegetables" that nutritionists can cover. This is also why RDs are only licensed in specific states like MDs are.
-Nutrition education: What does food do in the human body? This is the R.D.'s expertise. We study anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, metabolism, nutrition for specif diseases, and many other sciences involving the human body and food. This is what I studied in college for 7 years, plus a year of internship, and continue to learn about. I love helping people understand how proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and micro-nutrients interact in the body and keep it healthy.
-Individual needs: How many calories do you need? How does your exercise affect how much you need to eat? What proportion of carbohydrates/ protein/ fat do you need? What about supplements?
-Have an eating disorder?: This is my specialty area, figuring out what someone needs to be eating to recover. By working on slowly changing unhealthy habits, I strive to create a safe space using positive body-image talk, intuitive eating principles, and a mindset of health at every size, while educating on what is occurring in the body and mind while in the disordered behavioral mind-set.
-Contact with your other medical professionals: If allowed, I will work with your other health professionals to create a united team approach for your best health.
-Go over lab values: Bring lab results from your doctor and we can look at what might be going on and if there is nutritional deficiencies or medical dietary interventions (note: only RD/RDNs are qualified to make medical diet plans - "MNT").
-Meal outings/ snack challenges: Optional, but helpful for normalizing eating socially for those with restrictive eating.
-Referrals: To appropriate therapists, doctors, websites, apps, books, etc.
-Exercise planning: Though I don't actively train anymore, I use my experience as a personal trainer, fitness instructor, distance runner, and dancer to help you come up with an exercise plan, check form on moves, discern how much exercise you should be doing, and optimal nutrition for your sport.
-Weighing: Need to keep up with weights for your doctor or therapist? Need someone to keep track of weights (blind weighing) or keep you accountable?
-Safe plan for weight loss or gain as needed: Fad diets don't work! Safe rate of weight loss is up to 2#/week, and safe rate of gain is up to 4#/week. (Note: this is NOT a "weight loss" business, I take a weight neutral approach to letting your body figure out healthy weight based on appropriate eating and exercise.)
-Confidentiality: I use secure electronic medical records to keep your information confidential, and as with therapy, nothing you say will be shared unless you are going to harm others or yourself, or you give a release of information.
-Contact with family members: If under 18, or given release; I give parents piece-of-mind when students are away at college by giving updates on progress and health.
-I have a good relationship with local therapists, Cal Poly's Health Center, and other practitioners.
-Eating disorder training: I am working with a credentialed supervisor to get my "certified eating disorder registered dietitian" credential (iaedp.com), and continue to take opportunities for continuing education.
-Constant contact: I am available between sessions by e-mail/text to keep you on the path to success.
-Counseling skills: Motivational Interviewing, cognitive behavioral therapy, intuitive eating, and behavioral interventions.
Still have questions? Contact me!
(originally posted 9/2/2015. libbysfitnutrition.com)
I have this photo of myself in tap shoes
at the age of one.
My mother was a dancer, and I am so thankful she put me in dance lessons at an early age (I love you, Mom!). Though I had my "dance is boring" periods where
I would take time off (age 13-16, 19- basically 26),
after a while I would find myself depressed and yearning to move my body. As a child I took the usual combo classes (tap, Jazz, ballet, lyrical), as a teen
I attempted hip hop and break dance, and as a young adult I found ballroom, swing, and social salsa.
In college I taught beginning ballroom, competed in swing, and was eventually known for my dance ability at the University of Minnesota (never thought that would happen when I first got there!). After college, between working, starting a married life, and not having the funds, I fell out of dance. I don't have to tell the dancers out there that I felt something missing - not expressing myself through music fueled my depression. I wish I had figured that out quicker.
Pulling me back up, re-awakening my love of dance, was musical theatre. My first show since moving to CA, "A Chorus Line" kicked my butt with rehearsals from our amazing, but challenging, choreographer. I was hooked once again.
Getting back to studio dance as an adult was far harder than I expected it to be. I had once moved with ease, carrying myself proudly. Now I had an extra 30 lbs, and couldn't find my balance. It stung to think I had once been as good as the little teens literally pirouetting circles around me. Maybe ballet was not a good idea after all...
I am not ready to give up! My body has re-awakened, and I have found contemporary - my new love, allowing me to feel emotion in the music as I do in acting - and tap which I now have a real drive to excel at.
My message is for adults, and those who have stopped doing what they love: It is never too late to get back into doing what you are passionate about. Whether it is dance, sports, art, writing, or other passions, don't let age or time stop you!
I'm pulling for you!
"Dancer's dream with their feet."
P.S. I offer nutrition counseling for dancers!
Libby is a non-diet Registered Dietitian focusing on eating disorder treatment and prevention. She approaches health from the inclusive standpoint that any "body" can focus on health regardless of size. She is a ally in diversity.
Not Your Average Nutritionist, LLC
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Disclaimer: This website is for educational & informational purposes only,
it is not a substitute for medical or mental health advice or treatment.