My guest, Rachael Hartley and I will discuss how to change your relationship with food from one of eating only to lose weight to do what she calls “gentle eating.”  She discusses her approach to gentle nutrition and intuitive eating.  Rachael also talks about how trauma can impact intuitive eating and what to do about that. 

On this show you will learn:

1. What are some of the psychological effects of dieting?

2. What is intuitive eating?

3. What is the difference between the pursuit of health and the pursuit of thinness?


Mentioned in the podcast:

If you’re interested in learning more about food addictionenter the book sweepstakes to win a copy of The Food Addiction Recovery Workbook.

Schedule a free consult to discuss your food and body image issues:

To learn more about The Anchor Program a 12-week non-diet program offering ONLINE group and individual sessions for the treatment of binge eating, emotional eating, food addiction and compulsive overeating.  Want to learn more about the Anchor Program?


Information on Today’s Guest:

Rachael Hartley, RD, LD

Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, is a Columbia, SC-based nutrition therapist, certified intuitive eating counselor and nationally-recognized food and nutrition expert who is passionate about helping others rediscover the joy of eating and foster a healthier relationship with food. She is the founder of Rachael Hartley Nutrition, a weight-inclusive practice where she specializes in disordered eating and healing from chronic dieting, IBS and other digestive disorders, and women’s health. She also runs the popular blog The Joy of Eating, where she shares practical intuitive eating advice and non-diet recipes, and is featured regularly in national media outlets. In 2021, Rachael’s first book, Gentle Nutrition: A Non-Diet Approach to Healthy Eating was released.  

Please put hyperlink to Rachel’s book which is here above in title of book:


Hi everybody, Dr. Carolyn here with episode number 86, and I have a special guest with me. Her name is Rachael Hartley, and she’s a dietician in South Carolina soon to move to Boston. And she’s going to be talking about intuitive eating and how that can help you to get off the diet treadmill and make peace with food and your body. She’s also going to talk a little bit about her new book, which just came out this year. Stay tuned.

Welcome to the Dr. Carolyn Coker Ross show. I’m Dr. Carolyn and I’m a medical doctor who specializes in treating eating disorders and addictions. I’ve been working with individuals with binge eating disorder, compulsive over eating, food addiction, and emotional eating for over 20 years. I’m also the founder of the anchor program and international online non-diet coaching program for people with food and body image issues that you can access from the comfort of your own home. Please check out my books, The Emotional Eating Workbook, The Binge Eating and Compulsive Over Eating Workbook and my latest book, The Food Addiction Recovery Workbook. I’m on a mission to help individuals just like you transform your relationship with food and with your body.

Hi, everyone. Welcome to the show. And today I have a special guest, which is unusual. That’s why she’s so special. And her name is Rachael Hartley. She’s a dietician in Columbia, South Carolina. Well, I should say she’s a nutrition therapist and a certified intuitive eating counselor and a nationally recognized food and nutrition expert who is passionate about helping others rediscover the joy of eating and foster healthy relationship with food. She is the founder of Rachael Hardly Nutrition Await Inclusive Practice, or she specializes in disordered eating and healing from chronic dieting, irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive disorders and women’s health. She also has a popular blog called The Joy of Eating sounds like fun, where she shares practical, intuitive eating advice and non diet recipes. And she has a new book that just came out called Gentle Nutrition, a non diet approach to healthy eating. Welcome to the show Rachael

Rachael: Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here today.

Dr. Ross: Yeah. Well, can you say a little bit more about when you say weight inclusive? What do you mean by that?

Rachael: Right. So we have inclusive practice really my practice is health at every size aligned. And so with that, that means when I’m working with clients, you know, my focus is really on behaviors around food and one’s relationship with food rather than the number on the scale being the outcome. So weight inclusive, meaning, you know, all clients, all bodies, they are all, you know, welcome and my office and, and I don’t view the body as a problem that needs to be fixed. But really a place for people to, um, to come and say our,

Dr. Ross: So I know that you like me were taught in your training, that obesity is a disease and we need to kind of fix it or fight it or help people lose weight and that’s the only way they’re going to be healthy. So what prompted the change that you’ve made for yourself and your practice?

Rachael: Absolutely, you know, you’re absolutely right. You know, the traditional dietetics training is, is quite weight centric. Um, you know, it really views weight as, um, you know, the primary, um, your quick problem to be fixed and really looks at health through very much a, a weight centered lens, you know, weight loss, weight management are sort of taught to be the, the main route of, you know, getting healthier, whatever that means. Yeah. How that change was actually, you know, through my practice. I, and I think I always had a little bit of, I think a little bit of discomfort with the weight centric paradigm, but I was by no means a, um, a health at every size provider when I first started, but there was that, that little inkling of, of discomfort. And, and there that when I started practicing, um, as an outpatient dietician, um, one of my first jobs was at our local VA hospital where I was the, um, outpatient dietician. And that was really, really where I first started seeing clients, you know, one-on-one having them come back for follow-ups and seeing the, you know, the outcomes of the work that I was doing with them. And I was really seeing how the things I was taught were not actually helping people, um, improve their, their overall health and wellbeing. And frankly, it wasn’t really helping them achieve this, like mythical, permanent weight loss.

Dr. Ross: I love that you say mythical because it really is a fantasy world that we’ve created and that we foist foisted. I don’t know if that’s the right word, but put onto our, our clients that, you know, if you’re not thin, then you’re just never going to be healthy or happy even.

Rachael: Right. Right. Absolutely. And you know, and that I really saw where that, um, that, that myth, that, you know, this assumption that we have about weight and health was frankly a huge barrier to people actually engaging in behaviors that, that improved their health and wellbeing. You know, the focus became manipulating the number on the scale and not necessarily, you know, what actually helps me feel good. What helps me, you know, thrive in my day to day life. Like, yeah, absolutely.

Dr. Ross: So basically when health at every size came out, cause I’ve been a big proponent for, well, I think since 2008, when the book was published or maybe it was published a little bit for, but anyway, I had Linda Bacon on my podcasts back then, way back in the day. And well, he is no longer Linda Bacon, he’s Lindo bacon, but, um, the conversations in that book really helped to open my eyes because what I think most of us in the healthcare field don’t want to do harm. And we are taught that, you know, to help people get healthy, you have to get them to lose weight. And so if you just ignore the weight, are you doing them harm? And just like you, I began to see in my clients and particularly after the fin fin disaster where phentermine and the other fin, uh, were the cause of a lot of harm to patients, including some who died. And that really was a wakeup call to me, which was, you know, is it really worth it to follow the party line to the point that people might die from it or have serious long term consequences? So it’s really nice to talk to you because I think I wonder didn’t you get any pushback from patients, physicians and their, you know, their families when they weren’t quote-unquote getting healthy.

Rachael: Right. So yeah, when I was in that outpatient setting, not necessarily because I think I was still figuring it out. I was still very much in that learning process, but certainly once I moved to an outpatient when I started my practice, that was really when I was first, you know, I think I first learned about mindful eating and that introduced me to intuitive eating. And then at that introduced me to health at every size. And certainly I think there was a lot more acceptance of, of health at every size approaches than I anticipated. Um, but I, I think, and I believe this is really the experience for most providers when you’re first, um, you know, making that transition from a weight centric to a weight inclusive paradigm. You’re like figuring out the language, figuring out how to communicate these things, figuring out how to meet clients where they’re at and, and do that in an ethical way. And so certainly I, I think there’s always those cases where I look back and I’m like, Ooh, I wish I did that a little bit differently.

Dr. Ross: It’s really interesting. You mentioned the language, but just in the past, I don’t know, few years, less than five years, language has changed in so many areas of our lives, you know, with the new cis-gender and the pronouns, and all of that being at the forefront. And then certainly the language around weight has changed with, you know, the O words, obesity and overweight becoming very, having a very, very negative connotation. Was that hard for you to make that shift in the language?

Rachael: Yeah. You know, not necessarily, I think more with, um, you know, I find for words and phrases, it’s one of those things where like, once you kind of learn, oh, okay. That’s, that’s not, you know, using the O word. Like I understand why I used it in the past, but like, oh, that once you kind of learn and get corrected, I find that hasn’t been quite so challenging as, you know, figuring out more, you know, really communicating like the principles and paradigms and, and, you know, finding the right analogy is that really connect with clients.

Dr. Ross: And I think that the health and every size is really is a paradigm shift because it’s going from that weight centric approach to saying, take your, you know, like throw the scale away, even our, take your attention off the number on the scale, because that’s not, what’s going to tell you whether you’re healthy or not, which I think is really important to know. So you talk about in your book that there are some myths that you’re breaking down. What are some of the myths besides the one that we just have been talking about that weight is the key to health that you discuss it in your new book

Rachael: Right, do you mean myths about weight or myths about nutrition? Because I certainly do quite a bit of myth-busting in the book.

Dr. Ross: Oh, okay. Okay. Well, let’s do, let’s start with myths about nutrition.

Rachael: Right? So there’s definitely, I think one of my goals in writing the book was to help, um, simplify nutrition for people and let them zoom out and look at nutrition in a much more flexible by, and there are so many myths and, and, um, and misunderstandings and, uh, you know, about food and eating and nutrition that get just so, yeah, so I would say the big, one of the big ones I talk about is the idea, the fear around carbs that carbs are bad. That carbs are unhealthy, that carbs are inherently bad for you. You know, as I share in the book, carbs are just one of the sources of energy that our body absolutely needs

Dr. Ross: Don’t you think that carbs, um, are used to include, you know, a whole host of foods that probably aren’t real carbs. So how can you help people distinguish that?

Rachael: Yeah. Cause you know, carbs get used as a shorthand for like specific foods when really like it’s just a nutrient, like a macronutrient that is found in many foods. So yeah. So I think helping people distinguish like, you know, carbs are a piece, a sort of, uh, a block that is found within a wide range of foods. And some, some that might contain more nutrition and others that might contain less nutrients, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that like carbs and of themselves are a bad thing or unhealthy thing.

Dr. Ross: So in carbs you’re including grains. Is that correct? Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And I know that’s a big bugaboo in the diet world. People are afraid to eat bread, they’re upgrading pancakes or, you know, any kind of oatmeal, even, um, any kind of brain. So how do you get around that fear? What’s your finance?

Rachael: Yep. I oftentimes I do a lot of education about the role of carbohydrates in the body. You know, they’re the brain’s main source of fuel. And when we don’t eat carbohydrates from food, um, obviously we don’t go brain dead. Like we’re still able to get fuel, but that’s at the sacrifice of our health. Our body is not just breaking down fat to create its own glucose. It’s breaking down muscle too. So, you know, when we talk about the role of carbs and frankly, a lot of times, the only thing you have to do is point to people’s past experience doing a low carb diet. You know, they know how awful they felt miserable

Dr. Ross: But despite that though diets like the keto diet are still really, really popular, surprisingly popular. And that’s an example of a low carb diet and people, you know, I was interviewed on a podcast by someone who unbeknownst to me promotes the keto diet because I don’t promote any diets. I’m like you I’m a non-diet person. And it was just a mistake. And anyway, but he was promoting that diet, even though he himself was still struggling with, you know, his health and all of that other stuff that we put into health, like energy, physical activity, all of that. And yet he would not give up the keto focus.

Rachael: Not incredible how people can have that experience. And, and I think there’s so much hope in these, um, in these diets and, you know, especially when they’re ones that have the testimonials and you hear someone else’s like lovely, you know, health, recovery story, whatever we want to call it. And gosh, there’s just so much hope in that. And, and it’s hard to, to let go, even when our experiences, find the face of what.

Dr. Ross: It’s one of the big lies. You know, the biggest lie is that diets work and that’s part of that big lie. And it’s a big lie that just never seems to go away, unfortunately. And I think that’s, you know, it’s harm to so many people. So one thing I was thinking about, cause you, you talked about recipes and so on, and I know a lot of young people and even older people, uh, never learned to cook for themselves. And I just wondered how important being able to cook your own food is in your approach.

Rachael: So I oftentimes tell my clients that cooking is one, one tool that can be incredibly helpful for healing, your relationship with food. It’s not a tool that necessarily everybody has to utilize because some people just really don’t enjoy cooking. But if it is a tool that someone wants to utilize, like I want there to be resources out there for learning how to cook in a sort of non-diet way. Like how can you learn how to, um, you know, cook recipes, but then emphasis on pleasure and convenience and satisfaction rather than how do you create “healthier version of whatever recipe it is that”

Dr. Ross: Yeah. I mean, during the pandemic, I like many people started cooking again. I used to, you know, I raised three boys and I cooked all the time and then when they were gone, I was like, oh, I’m just so sick of cooking. You know, and it’s hard to cook for one, or I should say it’s different to cook for one person. But during the pandemic, I got really got into cooking for myself again and trying new recipes. Some were an unmitigated disaster and I had to go for takeout. But some were really good. And then a whole host of others were absolutely decent enough that they were edible at least. So I think people also have a lot of perfectionism around cooking where, you know, if it’s not, you know, some gourmet chef kind of meal, then you’re a failure. And you know, I, I went back to cooking a lot of the kinds of foods I cooked a long time ago, beef stroganoff, you know, haven’t had that in 20 years, but it came up pretty decent and it was, it was fun to cook. So some of the things that I remembered, you know, cooking from a long ago really brought me a lot of pleasure to cook again.

Rachael: Right. There’s something to say about comfort foods and how I think of all the sourdough baking that people were doing early on in the pandemic. And, you know, it is food and cooking can be such when we’re gentle with ourselves and not letting that perfectionism, you know, creep in and ruin that experience. You know, cooking can be just a really lovely act of self-care and crafting something that satisfying and nourishing and that, you know, connects with our culture, our history, like it is just such a lovely thing. And, um, and again, it’s not something there’s no shame because there’s some people out there who just really just like cooking and like, you know, that is okay.

Dr. Ross: And also if you’ve never had the basics of learning, cooking, it’s, it’s hard, you know, you have to really start from scratch. Like what’s the appropriate way to measure flour and she’s used shifted, but what I find even more fun is that almost all the answers to cooking questions are now online. Yes. How be in my kitchen and then I’ll be thinking, should I sift the flour before I add it? Or should I, I mean, before I measure it or measure it first and then sift it, I mean, these are the thoughts that go through my mind as I’m making peanut butter cookies and I can just go on my phone and look, and it tells you everything.

Rachael: Right? In fact, I remind my husband of often because, uh, he’s one of those people who gets very anxious. He’s human Xanax. He is the most calm person, except one here cooks like Google that just look online.

Dr. Ross: Well, I know that you are practicing your certified, intuitive eating practitioner. And I was wondering, you know, what is the first step to transitioning from out of control, eating or binge eating compulsive overeating to intuitive eating.

Rachael: Right? So actually the first thing that I really work with my clients on most of the time is teaching them how to feed their body adequately and appropriately throughout the day. So when I say that, I mean like, what does it look like to eat enough? Most people who come into my office, they are eating in a very chaotic eating pattern. They’re skipping meals. They’re, you know, either just overall not eating enough food, eating is just kind of all over the place. And when eating is really chaotic, it’s hard to connect with our body. It’s hard to connect with these other principles of intuitive eating. So actually oftentimes it’s helping people get up a flexible structure for eating adequately throughout the day. That is very often the first step of intuitive eating for my clients. Yeah.

Dr. Ross:  I agree with you. I think that’s really important. And I, to see people who are eating, you know, maybe one meal a day and it’s pretty, you know, I don’t know how you can run your body with so little energy, you know, so, you know, I do a lot of work with my clients on healing trauma from their past and including, uh, adverse childhood experiences kind of trauma. How does working on trauma? How have you seen it affect a person’s ability to engage in intuitive eating?

Rachael: Oh my goodness. Yeah. It’s such an important piece. Yes. Just such an important thing. Um, you know, when, when someone has experienced trauma, oftentimes they’re quite disconnected from their body’s cues and a big part of intuitive eating is reconnecting with those cues, whether it’s hunger or fullness or your taste preferences, or how food makes you feel, um, intuitive eating is essentially turning inwards. And if trauma and the side effects of that trauma have blocked your ability to sense that, um, that’s not to say that there aren’t aspects of intuitive eating that, that you can utilize. That doesn’t mean that, you know, intuitive eating is something that is off limits for you. But, um, it is this, this thing that serves as a barrier to those internal cues. So, um, you know, yes, uh, the, the trauma component of, of, um, you know, healing from trauma or, you know, start working on healing from trauma that can, can open up, um, such a world of possibility with food.

Dr. Ross: Yeah. So what if someone is eating intuitively, but they still want to lose weight? You know, a lot of people feel uncomfortable when they travel because of their size or they feel uncomfortable at work, et cetera, et cetera. And that maybe they’ve gone through, you know, therapy and work and they embrace the health at every size and they still feel that they aren’t, you know, where they want to be. How do you address that?

Rachael: Right. Oh my goodness. Well, that’s a validation at first. You know, this world is really not only is there a sort of aesthetic thin ideal, there is, you know, just, um, not logistically, but just in terms of the world and moving throughout the world, when you think about like the size of chairs or being on an airplane or, you know, just the way our world has been engineered, it is excluding larger bodies. And so, um, of course that desire to lose weight and feel more comfortable navigating this world just feels like such a, an incredibly natural desire. You know, I always say like my job as a dietician is not to tell anyone what they can or can’t do with their body. I’m a huge believer in bodily autonomy. I just hope that people can have like the information and a place that they can kind of sort things through and make, you know, make their decisions about what they want to do with their body. So, you know, unfortunately the facts are that, you know, we do not have any way to, there is no diet, there is no program. There is no research that shows, um, sustained weight loss for more than a very small number of people.

Dr. Ross: And the very small amount of weight, 5-10% of your weight.

Rachael: Right, right, right. Exactly. Exactly. And, and what we do know is that it’s not something that’s going to take a large person and turn them into a small person, you know? So yeah. So, so knowing that, like how, how can we, you know, what do you want to do with your body? And also too, can I help you find tools that make it more comfortable for you navigating the world?

Dr. Ross: Right. Yeah. I agree. I know I’ve, I’ve had patients who’ve gone through my online program for binge eating and emotional eating and, uh, some of them have decided to go and get gastric bypass surgery. And like you, I want to be supportive of my patients. I have frank conversations with them and then I support it when they make a decision. But inevitably, you know, it’s very rare that someone who has gastric bypass surgery, I think over time actually keeps the weight off. They eventually the behaviors come back and even beyond the weight, it’s the behaviors that come back or they, you know, they’ve never been able to stop bingeing. They’ve never been able to stop eating in response to their emotions and they just haven’t learned those skills yet. And so it makes it difficult for them to, you know, they feel successful and then they feel desperate because they are not able to reach their goals.

Rachael: It’s heartbreaking, really working with clients who’ve had, um, who’ve had bariatric surgery and have, you know, it is oftentimes sold as this kind of cure all. Yeah. The cure all. And certainly I know there are people out there who really feel like they’ve benefited tremendously from that. And you know, if that is, is many peoples, you know, that’s an experience that some people have, but my goodness, how heartbreaking and just also I, how, um, like the false advertising of, of bariatric surgery. I mean, if, if it was honest about what potential side effects are about long-term success, whatever someone can make up their mind using that information. But I find the marketing is extremely misleading.

Dr. Ross: Yeah. I agree. Well, is there anything else that you’d like to say, or that comes to your mind about this topic before we end the show?

Rachael: Oh my goodness. I feel like we’ve had such a, so many wide ranging topics and I love, um, yeah, I love that we’ve touched on so many different things.

Dr. Ross: Well, it’s been a pleasure having you on the show, Rachael, hardly, and I wish you all the best. I know you’re moving from South Carolina to Boston, which is huge. So I wish you all the best with your big move.

Rachael: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Very excited to join the Boston community up there and sad to leave behind, uh, my friends here in Columbia. But I appreciate that.

Thanks for listening everyone. And I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Rachael Hartley and that you’ll check out her new book, which you can get on Amazon. It’s called Gentle Nutrition, a non-diet approach to healthy eating. Now I’ve put a link to her book in the show notes. I also want to remind you that there is ongoingly a book sweepstakes for a copy of my book, The Food Addiction Recovery Workbook and I’ve put that link in the show notes as, and finally just remember that the anchor program is a non diet approach to treating food addiction, binge eating and compulsive overeating, and emotional eating. We have a program starting in two weeks. So I’ve also put in the show notes, a link to schedule a free consult to discuss your individual food and body image issues. Stay tuned for our next podcast, which we’ll be talking about binge eating disorder. What’s new in the field and what you need to know to end binge-eating now. See you next time, Dr. Carolyn signing off.