For decades, we’ve been told that you have to lose weight to be healthy. This mindset gave birth to the diet culture that many have suffered from. In this episode, get ready to take your life back as clinical nutritionist, speaker, podcast host, and the Founder of the Going Beyond The Food Academy, Stephanie Dodier shares her personal journey of healing from food and body image struggles. At the peak of her first career, Stephanie’s body gave out on her. Diagnosed with multiple chronic conditions, she realized she needed a solution, not the next diet. That began her healing journey to being where she is today with a health beyond diet.
Listen to the podcast here:
Health Beyond Diet With Stephanie Dodier
What True Recovery From Food And Body Image Issues Looks Like
My special guest is Stephanie Dodier. I have a lot of great questions for you, Stephanie. Can you talk a little bit about your journey and how that led you beyond the food and all the work that you’re doing now?
First of all, thank you for having me on the show. The starting point is twelve years old. I was brought to Weight Watcher to lose weight. When I dial back and look back at that time in my life, I had begun my journey of emotional eating. My family had moved from one town to the other and this new area has no kids around and no houses. It’s just us in that new area. That got me to be very lonely. As a way of distracting myself, I started cooking cookies and cakes. I started to use food to keep myself busy. As with anything, I gained weight and being in an abnormal body that was bigger, my mother and my family decided that it was best for me to lose weight out of love for me.
Many families do that out of love.
It’s weight stigma. When you look at the reason why people do that, my mother thought because she had body image issues that the best way for me was to lose weight and never have to have the pain that she had because of her body. That kickstarted a 25-year journey in dieting. I had a career in dieting. I did them all, low-calorie, high-calorie, exercise. Twenty-five years later at 37, at the peak of my career in the corporate world, I was on stage speaking and I collapse. My body couldn’t take it anymore. The combination of 25 years of deprivation, starvation, gaining, losing and the stress of the work. I ended up in hospital at 37 being diagnosed with five chronic conditions and being served with what is normal five prescriptions for high blood pressure, cholesterol, anxiety, depression and so forth. I have a background in medical study and I knew what those prescriptions were. I knew the side effect and the consequence of this. I made a decision that day. I still remember walking down the hallway from the doctor’s office and crumbling the prescription and saying, “There’s got to be another solution to this.” That propelled me into the world of natural health. In seeking to heal myself, I discovered a passion and I quit my job and went back to school. Here I am helping other women going through that same journey.
Are you a certified nutritionist?
Yes, a holistic nutrition training. From there, a whole bunch of other training that led me to see the body and food beyond just calories, macro and input into the body, but also input emotionally, spiritually and mentally.
I love the title of the work that you do, which is Going Beyond the Food because it isn’t about the food.
We think it is. I thought it was for 25 years. I didn’t realize that it could be anything else. When I went into healing myself, I discovered that it could be something else and there could be another reason why I was eating beyond nourishment, which honestly, I never connected for 25 years because that’s not how we’re taught about food. Even when we need to lose weight, diet culture never talks about that aspect of it.
It keeps people stuck in the vicious cycle of thinking, “All I have to do is lose weight and then my blood pressure will be better. My heart disease will be better if I can only lose weight.” I think it’s a very valid question to ask yourself, is weight the cause of your health problems? What did you discover when you started that journey and started to realize it wasn’t about the food but you still had these health problems?
There’s been an evolution. When I crumpled that prescription and went out to the world and said, “Is there another solution?” I went through acupuncture and hypnotherapy. I went into the world of naturopathic medicine, which then still focused on food as medicine. That propelled me into the world of clinical nutrition, which believed that the solution to our health problem wasn’t food. Never looking beyond the food and always focusing on a certain ratio of macros and supplement offset the nutrients that I was depleting. That shifted my thinking of saying it’s not about just the calorie, there’s more to it.
When you say macro, it’s like you eat this percentage of protein and carbohydrates.
Yes, paleo, keto and all that stuff. When you go and study the world of actual nutrition, you start discovering that there are all kinds of dietary protocols out there. We think of the GAPS diet. We think of the pure ketogenic diet that are known to have benefit health effect.
That’s just for high blood pressure, for example.
We know it works. It should only be temporary while we work on the root issue. That’s the missing component that is now known as the wellness diet. We have the typical diet culture that says control food and control exercise to lose weight. Now we’re evolving diet culture to what is called wellness diet. That says, “We know it’s not about the quantity of food, it’s about quality.” I got trapped into this for three years of obsessing about quality ratio of macro detoxes supplement, all of that stuff.[bctt tweet=”Learning that you have a choice not to chase the thin ideal can change your life.” username=”CarolynCRossMD”]
There’s a new term for that. It’s called healthyism. Lose weight to be healthy and so the focus is still on losing weight, but by eating clean and all those other things.
I went for 25 years of pure dieting, like calorie in, calorie out, exercising to healthyism, fixing my body so that I can release the unhealthy weight. That’s the new trend. It’s releasing your unhealthy weight. The problem with that, which I didn’t know, is that the body has accumulated a lot of stress from losing and gaining.
That yo-yo dieting is super stressful.
That’s called set point. What happens is I was presented with a book called Health at Every Size from Dr. Linda Bacon. Back then, I was one of those early adopter of the ketogenic diet. That triggered in me binge eating behavior and I was at the core of that. One of my friends sent me that book. I read the first chapter, closed it and I denied it completely. I thought she was crazy. Because when you’re triggered by something, it means you have to learn. I was refusing to learn. It took a second and a third time for somebody to give me that book and read it and to finally understand that there was a side effect in my body that was called set point. That my seeking to get into a thin body perhaps will never happen. It may happen or it may not, but that’s not important. That’s when I started to work on body image for my journey.
You were trapped by the numbers, the number on the scale or the number of your blood pressure and so on and so forth.
Here’s a funny thing that happened. As I started to embrace Health at Every Size and research to satisfy my intellectual brain on if it is true or not, I started to let go of keto, the food rules, the detoxes and all of that, my body got better.
When you say your body got better, what do you mean exactly?
I’m a health professional. One of the things that I do from time to time, not as much anymore, but back then I would do hormone testing. For the last few years, I had a cortisol pattern that was completely out of the norm. For people that don’t know, cortisol is the stress hormone. I would have very high cortisol or abruptly low cortisol, which is known as HPA dysregulation or a common term people may have heard is adrenal fatigue, which is not a condition in itself. I was dysregulated because I was too stressed. My body was all over the place. As I started to let go of the food rules and I started to release the hardcore effort of me regulating and getting my body healthy, my cortisol pattern started to become normal. I started to have eight hours of sleep every night. I’m no longer waking up at 2:00 AM wide awake or being able to sleep past 5:00 in the morning, which I hadn’t been able to do in years. Because when my cortisol started and my body was so dysregulated that it was like shooting cortisol, I would wake up at 5:00 with an anxiety attack.
The mind is racing and heart racing. I was talking to someone about that. They had the same scenario you had. They were given a couple of diagnoses. They didn’t understand the full ramifications, but went into fear about it, “This is going to happen” or “That’s going to happen.” It was waking them up at night and keeping them up.
That’s how my body got better. The other thing that happened is I was on a parallel journey of mindfulness. When you have a lot of anxiety and your stress system is dysregulated, it’s extremely hard for you to go in meditation. It’s biologically and spiritually explainable because you don’t want to go to what the real issue is because you’re not equipped to deal with it. As I started the journey of releasing all those healthyism tactics, I started to be able to meditate deeply for the first time in my life, which I’ve never been able before.
Isn’t that amazing how all those things are so connected? We don’t think that a journey to “lose weight” or even when you call it to get healthy would take you to this place where suddenly you’re able to meditate. You’re able to sleep through the night and you realize how stressful your life has been centered around dieting, even healthy dieting.
When you peel back all the layers and you do the “work” as it needs to be done on four planes of human beings’ mental, spiritual, emotional and physical, you discovered that it’s not about dieting. The root feeling that I was chasing was enough. That’s what got reprogrammed for me at the age of probably around between ten and twelve when I started being bullied at school, when my parents started to make comments about my body, and finally, when I landed at Weight Watcher at twelve. That “You’re broken and we need to fix you” got embedded deeply in my brain at an age where my subconscious mind is being programmed.
We’ve talked about this before, that’s what I see so much in the people that I work with. It would be “I’m not enough or I’m not worthy or no one will love me if, fill in the blank.” These beliefs then become so unconscious that you don’t remember that this happened until you go back. It’s a shock to the system. For me, it’s a shock to think about it. It’s having children and knowing what a twelve-year-old little girl is like, how fragile we were at twelve and to have something so harsh put on them in that way.
At the same time and this is where we can bring the conversation to a higher level, society doesn’t teach these things to the average people. The way we have our society built and the education system that we have or even in most cases, the religious aspect of our life is not centered around teaching that to us as humans in the first world. My parents were never taught that a twelve-year-old little girl is fragile.
Nobody gives parenting classes. We have to take a big test to drive, but we don’t have to take a test to have kids. Everybody’s just doing the best they can. There’s no blame to be placed like you said, we want to take it to the higher level. Let me shift a little bit. You’re talking about education and I’ve had a couple of things told to me about the medical profession. I’ve found myself feeling like I need to apologize for my medical colleagues who are saying these things. One woman said that she was having an ultrasound or some x-ray and the doctor said to her, “There’s a thin woman waiting to get out of you.” In other words, you know what I’m saying. Someone else went to a very famous medical clinic here and she had good cholesterol. All of her metabolic factors were normal. Her blood pressure was normal and all of that. The doctor said, “We think you should have gastric bypass.” She said, “I thought you had to be very obese to do that.” He said, “No, we’ve changed the measures now and now we’re doing it in people who aren’t as heavy.” That that made me gasp, knowing that patients have died from that surgery, that they’ve had extreme complications, that there’s a huge failure rate. It’s so frustrating.
We will be looking at this 100 years from now and think, “What were we thinking?” It’s like 100 years ago we used to do electric shock therapy on people with mental illness.
We still do that, Stephanie. One hundred years ago we still used leeches. I’m sorry to inform you that doctors are still doing ECP. That’s a thing.
My point is we’ll be looking back at that and saying how crazy we were.
To cut someone’s stomach in half and think that’s okay.
It’s barbaric. I saw a meme on Instagram saying that people that are having liposuction, think of the concept of liposuction. We go in with a device. We suck the fat out of people from a purely aesthetic point of view, yet people are as sick as they were before. People going in with liposuction, it’s not going to drop their blood pressure. It’s not going to help their cholesterol level, yet we prescribe to another group of people to go on a diet to lose fat in the hope that it’s going to drop their blood pressure and help their cholesterol. We have proven through liposuction that it doesn’t work.
It does not work. That’s the hard truth. The other truth, the fake news is so deeply embedded in our culture, I face it every day and it’s really difficult to overcome. It’s rocking people’s world to tell them that weight is not the solution to their problems. That makes me wonder from a feminist point of view. I’ve never had this mindset before, but seeing and hearing what I’ve been seeing and hearing makes me look at how women are treated in our society. If this is just another way to keep women from achieving all the things they can achieve, from being happy, powerful, etc.
Let’s unpack that question. We talked about it from a medical perspective and that’s both gendered. I want to move from there and dial back to the day or the time when diets were created. The word diet the in 1880s. Pretty much assuming from that, before that, the concept of dieting didn’t exist or we didn’t have any trace of it because there was no word called diet. The 1880s is when diet was created and it was a low-carb diet, the very first one to come out. It was mainly about removing white sugar out of people’s diet and mainly out of the rich population class.
Because people that were average classes didn’t have the money to eat food that were high in calories. They were just on survival mode because that’s how the classes were in society. Then came the evolution or the attempt anyway from women to evolve and get the power of equality in society. That came in through the movement of the right to vote, the suffragette movement. The society into which we live in, which by the way is called patriarchal society, which is a society dominated by men. Men were in power up to the mid-1950s. Before that, there was a society of men and women were considered less.
They’re in the kitchen and having babies, etc.
This small group suffragettes came out and won the right to vote. We get the right to vote and then the war happened at the same time. We start invading the workforce. Not only do we have the vote, but we have money and financial power. The men in the patriarchal society feel threatened by women no longer being in their spot where they can control them. That’s when slowly and gradually diet culture started to rise. Men came back from the war, women went back home and there was a shift in society that was called the feminine mystique around the ‘40s. You had to look pretty and put your makeup on and take care of your husband. A whole society financial came in which the home appliances were created and how to decorate your house and a lot of money were placed on being this perfect feminine wife. The feminine mystique and then we rise up again and wanted to go back to work. There’s this whole segment of the economy that no longer is sustained by women being at home. Their shift gradually happened in which now it was about being beautiful. That’s called the beauty myth if you read on feminism.
Now, the patriarchy society leader and the economy started to focus on women wanting and needing to be beautiful. That’s the ‘70s and the ‘80s. I remember my mom wouldn’t leave the house without her makeup. Up to this day, if somebody comes in the house and she doesn’t have her makeup on, she will run to the bathroom. That was ingrained into her in the ‘80s and the ‘70s. I didn’t live through that. I’m in the other generation where I never wear makeup. You can count the days I wear makeup in a year. It created is this thin ideal. Not only did you need to look good and buy makeup and buy clothes, but you also needed to be thin and that created the weight-loss industry. There’s a sharp increase in the weight-loss industry around the ‘80s, which is now a $67 billion industry.
That evolution also applies to women of color who were distinguished from white upper-class women because their bodies were different. That became a marker or if you were a white upper-middle-class, you had to be thin or else you were considered lower class. That’s part of it too. What do you do with all this information though? We’ve talked about your journey and now looking at the social factors here that affect women. For me, I’m very much into encouraging women to be as powerful as they can be and recognize how much time and energy we put into having to look good, having to be thin and being on diets. It’s so much time and energy in a person’s life. It’s almost impossible to find time to achieve anything. What do you do with this?
For me, this formation is part of my empowerment process. Because not wanting to participate in the thin ideal body journey is a choice, which for 25 years, I didn’t know I had a choice. It’s a choice to participate in diet culture in the thin ideal. That’s what this information about feminism about how that culture function created and gave me. It’s like, “I have a choice.” This whole system was created so I am subdued and disempowered. I had a career in the corporate world and if you were to ask people who worked with me, one of the descriptive of my career was glass breaking. The ceiling for women, I broke every step of the way in my company. For that same amount of time, I was chasing being in a thinner body and suffering in my personal life because I was buying into a system that wanted to take power away from me. What could I have achieved in my career if I wasn’t chasing this thin ideal? To me, to answer your question, this information is fueling my empowerment to be in a position of choice instead of being in a state of victimhood and saying I have no choice.[bctt tweet=”It would take 50 years before we can move to a place where the diet culture, body shaming, and the thin ideal doesn’t exist.” username=”CarolynCRossMD”]
We’re living in a state of fear that if you don’t lose weight, you cannot be healthy and you cannot be happy even more. I interviewed Linda Bacon on my first podcast in 2010 and now here we are and we still have to have this conversation with so many people.
I believe we will need to have this conversation for another 50 years. If you look back on the evolution, in particular in the context of feminism, it took us probably 50 years from the late 1910s, early 1920s to the ‘70s to be comfortable as a society with women being able to vote and have political power. I was reading The Beauty Myth, the book that I’m referring to and it was written in the early 1990s and she was quoting an incident that was happening around her of women being sexually harassed at work. That is in the early 1990s. That’s not my generation. That’s my mom’s generation. I didn’t live through this. Even to fathom having somebody sexually harass me at work, it was unacceptable to the point where when I got into the workforce, but it took 30 to 40 years to get to that place.
We also have seen the #MeToo Movement because sexual harassment is still occurring in the workplace. It isn’t over. It’s not gone.
For us to move to a place where diet culture, body shaming and thin ideal doesn’t exist, I believe we have 50 years of work. We’re just starting right now.
You’re young enough to live through those next 50 years.
I’m considered an outcast for the way I think, the way I practice and the way I do things. I’m not even considered a marginal person. This body acceptance movement and this health at every size movement is so minimal, that people can’t even comprehend it. We have a lot of work to do.
I love talking to you all the time. Can you give us a wrap up with what you feel good about what you’ve accomplished on your personal journey and where you still feel that there’s room to grow?
For me, probably my most achievement or my highest achievement is gaining weight and being able to accept my body as is. It’s gaining weight personally, but it’s also gaining weight from the context of a public figure and a context of a professional. That’s a whole other layer. It is being able to stand in front of a room of colleagues, or other professionals in an “abnormal” body and being in the space of confidence and being able to do my work.
Because people do judge you by how you look and then it’s like, “What can she tell us about body image? Because she’s not thin.”
I think the biggest subject is health. How can you talk about health? For me, because as a teacher, you’re not perfect. You’re a couple of steps ahead of your student. That’s what enables you to teach, is to be a couple of steps ahead and being able to share your experience. My biggest achievement professionally is being able to now share my story and share my journey to inspire other women of what is possible for them. I’m able to touch women that are where I was. Would I be in a smaller body? Would I be able to impact those women? I don’t know because I am not relatable to those women where I was. To me it’s a gift being in a larger body and being educated around the topic of health, mindset and body image, to be able to formulate my message and being able to reach women’s hearts.
I feel the same way. For me, it’s about health as well and being able to speak as a doctor to the truth to what the facts show that medicine often ignores. There are so many facts in medicine that people overlook where they don’t want to pay attention to. They want just to keep doing things the same old way. I think the facts are starting to pile up in our favor. The research is beginning too.
Let me ask you this. I have my own opinion on this question, but what do you think is holding back the medical core from accepting the facts that health is something we can strive in at any size?
You could ask about so many things in medicine. For example, the coronary artery bypass surgery is still being done despite the fact that the research does not show it’s successful in preventing future episodes of heart problems. Despite the fact that Dean Ornish has proven that changing your lifestyle can alter all of those facts. He has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. I’m not a fan of being a vegan. I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work for me, but he has shown by showing that veganism, the most extreme way of eating, definitely turns back heart disease, that maybe changing lifestyle more moderately could do the same. That’s his approach. I don’t know. It could be money. There’s always that. I think doctors have been so ingrained with “You’ve got to get them to lose weight” to the point that we’ve had drugs come out that have killed people. The fen-phen debacle, I was in practice at that time. It was horrific to see that so many women lost their lives trying to get thin.
It’s the same thing with gastric bypass. Perhaps there’s some value there. I don’t see it personally. I can’t recommend it to people. It says over 30% failure rate. How could that ever be a good thing? I don’t know. I’m not sure what the cause of this but the educational process is certainly a huge part of it because it does hammer doctors with, “You’re not doing your job if your patients aren’t losing weight.” They’re not talking much about the studies that show you don’t have to lose weight to be healthy or happy. It’s a problem. Medicine is one of the slowest changing professions. They say it’s over seventeen years for any medical practice, procedure or anything to change.
I can’t comment on the traditional medical world, which you just did, but I can comment on the natural health industry. I can tell you that we have the same issue as the traditional medical world is representing around weight and needing to lose weight. Most naturopathic doctor or functional medicine doctor will tell you you’ve got to lose weight. I’m inside this industry and I can tell you that the driving motivation behind that, the primary motivation is unfortunately financial.
In my heart of hearts, I know that to be true. I hate to think that it is, but I think you’re right. $67 billion says it all, and that’s the weight-loss industry. That’s women’s hard-earned dollars that they’re not able to help their kids in college or whatever because they’ve spent thousands and thousands of dollars trying to be thin.
When I look at my industry, it’s the books that the doctor writes. The natural doctor will write on weight loss as a supplement they prescribe and it’s the test. That’s what’s holding us back even in the natural world from moving forward with the evidence that weight is not the centric issue because if we remove that, then we remove a huge portion of our revenue.
That’s a sad note to leave things on. Do you see any light at the end of the tunnel?
It’s funny because I do business coaching as well. I was preparing a document for the people to whom I work within the industry and I was looking at Google Trends. For those of you who may know, you can go on Google and see the trend of the search for a certain period of years. I did a search on intuitive eating, which is a model of eating that I teach in my practice. When I looked at the last few years, the search trend had doubled. It’s on the peak of an incline. I did the same thing for health at every size and body positivity, and it’s showing the same trend. I believe that’s what’s in front of us.
We still have our work cut out for us. Thanks again.
Thank you for having me.
- Stephanie Dodier
- Weight Watcher
- Going Beyond the Food
- Health at Every Size
- The Beauty Myth
About Stephanie Dodier
Stephanie Dodier is a clinical nutritionist, speaker, podcast host and founder of the Going Beyond The Food Academy, a global coaching and online training platform focused on helping women make peace with food and their body so that they can live a fulfilling life… right now!
Stephanie has been recognized as a leading emotional eating & intuitive eating expert and her weekly podcast Host of The Beyond the Food Show has been ranked a top 25 wellness Itunes podcast with an audience in over 79 countries with over 400,000 downloads.
Stephanie created The Going Beyond The Food Method™ an integrative and comprehensive approach focus on helping women change eating habits, free themselves from diets and negative body image thoughts and finally engage with food and their body from a place of compassion and absolute confidence.