Hi, I’m Melissa! My love of food – whether it’s a home-cooked meal, or as part of the experience of dining out at a restaurant – might be just as powerful as the love I have for my husband, son and two pugs.
I also have a passion for exploring new places, working up a sweat teaching or practicing yoga, and enjoying concerts with friends. A long-time Duran Duran fan girl, my love of music has followed me from New York to my adopted hometown of Los Angeles.
In many ways, these joys are what led me to become a dietitian in the first place.
Diet Culture Has Convinced You That You’ll Never Be Enough
You know what I’m talking about even if you don’t know the term “diet culture”.
Every commercial, every billboard, every magazine and nearly all of social media reinforces the message that a woman’s value is tied to what and how much she eats and how her body looks.
We’re encouraged to feel good for eating the “right” food, and shamed for eating what is deemed “wrong.”
We’re encouraged to exercise to the point of exhaustion, always chasing the body ideal of the moment.
We put in effort towards living a healthy life. We get health and wellness advice from Dr. Google and Nurse Instagram. We make mental lists of good foods and bad ones. We implement food rules. We restrict our calories. We jokingly talk about cheat days and lament the days when we were bad.
We diet. Over and over again, each time feeling like more of a failure because we’re not good enough to make it stick.
We spend thousands of dollars in pursuit of an unattainable goal forced upon us by the diet and weight loss industry in the name of health and wellness.
And what do we get for it? Nothing but self-loathing.
Diet Culture Nearly Ruined My Life
As a woman, I’ve felt the effects of diet culture my whole life.
In my teen and early adult years, I was heavily influenced by all of the messages of the health, fitness and wellness industry as well as the horrible visual and mental stereotypes forced on young women.
I battled so many of the same demons women encounter in the name of health and fitness. I Implemented personal food rules, losing myself to binge eating and calorie restriction as I became preoccupied with exercise and body image.
I wanted to look good and feel good. I shaped my world around what I was – or wasn’t – eating and my exercise schedule.
As my marketing career took off after college, I became skilled at crafting consumer messaging based on the psychology of how and why people spend money. The days were long and stressful as I sought to become everything I thought I wanted and needed to be.
Achieve and maintain that ideal weight (yes, there was a specific number), keep my body in shape, rise up the corporate ladder … those were the goals.
The relentless pursuit of those goals didn’t give me my dream life. Instead, it left me exhausted and depressed. Despite reaching my goal weight, working out regularly (including completing my first marathon!) and achieving a high profile position within the company where I worked, I was burned out and miserable. In an effort to positively change my life, I quit my soul sucking job and then proceeded to eat my feelings for 6 months.
My “Lightbulb Moment”
At the 6 month mark of dwelling in burnout, I signed up for a recreational healthy cooking class. Aside from getting me off the couch, the class helped me to rediscover the connections that exist among food, health, and happiness.
I began to embrace the fact that food serves a purpose beyond sustaining our bodies physiologically – it feeds our soul. Shifting my mindset to the concept of food as physically and emotionally nourishing changed my life.
Health and wellness was still a priority to me. However, once my outlook on food and exercise was no longer an obligation to prevent shame or create self worth, what was considered “ideal” in my mind was no longer dictated by the standards of diet culture.
After recognizing and diminishing the powerful influence of diet culture on what I believed would make me feel healthy and happy, I wanted to share my epiphany with the world. I knew that other women would be able to use this knowledge as a way to wrest power back from the diet companies and media conglomerates that fed off their fears and dreams.
I knew I wanted to help others discover the concept that health was more than what diet culture dictated.
So at the tender age of 30, I did what I swore I’d never do – I went back to college to become a nutrition expert, as a Registered Dietitian.
“Healthy” means more than diet and weight.
My education in dietetics allowed my personal philosophy about healthy eating to develop in a scientific way. At the same time, I began to see how it tied into the emotional, physical and mental benefits of yoga.
I began to work for a well-known weight-loss program and quickly saw that helping women improve their relationship with food, feelings and body image would never be the goal of Corporate America. Determined to find a better way, I completed my educational and practical requirements to become a Registered Dietitian and later became certified in adult weight-loss management from the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. Using the insights I’d gained, I began working with clients privately and in different areas of clinical practice to empower them to live healthier lives.
Throughout the years, I’ve remained passionate about marketing, psychology and the effect messaging has on the relationship that people (especially women) have with food. I continued to educate myself on the latest news and trends in nutrition and well-being, and began to speak with my clients and friends about the influence and effects of what is now becoming known as diet culture.
I stopped focusing on weight for myself and my clients. I realized how a number on a scale could have the power to make me judge myself. I stopped weighing myself at the gym, threw out my bathroom scale and when I became pregnant, I told my OB/GYN to discuss weight gain in general terms regarding the health of my pregnancy – adequate, too much or not enough – rather than on specific numbers. I began to move away from weight as the best measure of health and began promoting multilayered health education that focuses on the whole person—mind, body and soul.
Now I spend my time raising awareness about diet culture and showing women the importance of changing their thoughts, words and behaviors when it comes to food and their bodies. I empower women to discover that they can achieve (and maintain!) true health and happiness without falling victim to the fear, uncertainty and doubt that gives diet culture its power.