Episode 117: Overcoming Toxic Nutritional Beliefs With Tessie Tracy

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Thanks for joining us for episode 117 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show.


Today we are very happy to be interviewing Tessie Tracy!

Tessie Tracy is a Wellness Coach who has been an athlete since the age of four when she started gymnastics. This came with a unique set of challenges keeping up with her peers as she was born with a rare heart condition that makes intense exercise challenging.

After defying the odds all the way through a collegiate cheerleading career, she was tempted into continuing her competitive career with bodybuilding but discovered that the restrictive eating and being judged solely on her appearance was not her true definition of health.

Her path as an athlete propelled her into her profession as now an Eating Psychology and Mind Body Nutrition Coach as well as a Level 2 CrossFit Instructor. Tessie is a global ambassador for the body image movement. She has worked with everyone from teens to celebrities and continues to develop tools for men and women to discover their true health instead of letting media, old science, and fad diets define it for us. You can find Tessie’s work at TessieTracy.com.

Calories in, calories out has become a catch phrase concept ingrained in our minds as being the key to sustainable weight loss. Tessie Tracy is here today to unravel prevalent toxic nutritional beliefs such as this and uncover their effects on our lives.

As we discuss toxic beliefs related to calories, weight loss, and macronutrients, you’ll learn tips and techniques to overcome toxic negative beliefs around food and body image.

Tessie also opens our eyes to how the goal of weight loss is rooted in basic human needs and challenges us to dig deep to think about the underlying reasons that give rise to our desire and attempts to lose weight.

Here is some of what Laura and Kelsey discussed with Tessie:

  • [00:04:13]  How Tessie got into the field of wellness and body image coaching
  • [00:16:36]  Why the goal to lose wight is rooted in basic human needs and how uncovering the reason that gives rise to the desire to lose weight effects the weight loss process.
  • [00:22:10]  Why the concept of decreasing food and increasing exercise to lose weight is a toxic nutritional belief
  • [00:27:05]  The toxic belief that calories in, calories out equals weight control and the caveat that comes with it
  • [00:33:08]  Disproving the toxic belief that fat contained in food causes a gain in body fat
  • [00:37:20]  Techniques Tessie uses to address mindset, diet, and exercise when working toward sustainable weight loss and body confidence with clients who have toxic negative beliefs around food and their body


Links Discussed:


Laura: Hi everyone! Welcome to Episode 117 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Laura Schoenfeld and with me as always is my co-host Kelsey Kinney.

Kelsey: Hey guys!

Laura: We’re Registered Dietitians with a passion for ancestral health, real food nutrition, and sharing evidence based guidance that combines science with common sense. You can find me, Laura, at LauraSchoenfeldRD.com, and Kelsey over at KelseyKinney.com.

We have a great guest on our show today who’s going to share her perspective on what she calls toxic nutritional beliefs including myths around calories, macronutrients, and weight loss as well as problematic beliefs around what most women consider to be the ultimate goal of eating and exercising. We’re excited to be covering this important topic today!

Kelsey: If you’re enjoying the show, subscribe on iTunes so that you never miss an episode. While you’re there, leave us a positive review so that others can discover the show as well!

And remember, we want to answer your question, so head over to TheAncestralRDs.com to submit a health related question that we can answer or suggest a guest you’d love for us to interview on an upcoming show.

Laura: Before we get into our interview for today, here is a quick word from our sponsor.

This episode is brought to you by Paleo Rehab, a five week online program designed to help you recover from HPA axis dysfunction, also known as adrenal fatigue. Is your perfect Paleo diet and lifestyle leaving you exhausted? Now is the time to start feeling the health and wellness you know you deserve. If you’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, and are ready to take back your health, then head over to MyPaleoRehab.com to get your free 28 page e-book on the 3 step plan for healing from adrenal fatigue. That’s www.MyPaleoRehab.com.

Laura: Welcome back everyone! Today on our show we’re interviewing Wellness Coach Tessie Tracy. Tessie has been an athlete since the age of four when she started gymnastics. This came with a unique set of challenges keeping up with her peers as she was born with a rare heart condition that makes intense exercise challenging. After defying the odds all the way through a collegiate cheerleading career, she was tempted into continuing her competitive career with bodybuilding but discovered that the restrictive eating and being judged solely on her appearance was not her true definition of health. Her path as an athlete propelled her into her profession as now an Eating Psychology and Mind Body Nutrition Coach as well as a Level 2 CrossFit Instructor. Tessie is a global ambassador for the body image movement. She has worked with everyone from teens to celebrities and continues to develop tools for men and women to discover their true health instead of letting media, old science, and fad diets define it for us. You can find Tessie’s work at TessieTracy.com.

Welcome to the show Tessie! It’s really great to have you here.

Tessie:  Thank you, Laura! Happy to be here.

Laura: You and I met through a mastermind business thing that one of our mutual friends set up. I know that you weren’t participating in it for super long, but I remember just getting exposed to your work when we were communicating through that business mastermind. I was like she’s got a cool message, we should have her on the show. Thanks for being with us.

What I want to start with is, just because a lot of our listeners may not know who you are, I’d love to hear your story. We talked a little bit about where you came from in the intro, but I want to hear a little bit more about how you got into the field of wellness and body image coaching from being an athlete, and doing the cheerleading and the gymnastics and dealing with the heart condition. Do you want to tell us a little bit about what got you on the path that you’re on now?

Tessie: Yeah, absolutely. I’d love to share more about that. The intro was a beautiful, succinct overview of some parts of how I got into what I am. I grew up in Colorado. I did gymnastics when I was little, healthy, mom and dad cooked homemade meals, and wouldn’t define myself as someone who necessarily grew up with body image issues or felt like I had eating issues. It almost wasn’t until I had some things happen in my life, started doing some personal development work, and reflecting back I realized some things that actually were present in my life.

A huge factor and possibly something that I experienced…it happened in high school.  I, again, was an athlete, a cheerleader. After my junior year of high school my best friend and boyfriend passed away. He was in a car accident. I was there. It was a super traumatic event at that age, being 17, like first huge experience of this person that he was literally the one person I felt at that time that like accepted me for my imperfections.

Having the heart condition, I remember I was an athlete, but I was the slowest runner. I never ran a mile under like nine minutes and everyone in high school was running like seven minute miles and all this. So he would run with me. It was just it was very traumatic. I remember for the first time after he passed feeling like, who am I? It was really scary and I didn’t necessarily ask for the help I probably needed. But there were.

About a few years later, some of my cheerleading friends actually talked to me and they said yeah, after that happened you would like go in the bathroom for periods of time in cheerleading practice and no one knew where you were. I don’t even remember doing that.

One thing I do remember is I would late at night after everyone went to sleep, I would go in the kitchen and my mom had bought these like little Bon-Bon ice cream treats and I would binge on them. I didn’t even know what bingeing was. But bingeing is basically not just where you are emotionally eating, but you’re literally out of your body, you kind of don’t even realize how much you’re eating. I would eat like a carton and try and like hide the wrappers, all this. So again, like didn’t talk to anyone about it necessarily, but just kind of filed that away as, oh okay, that was an issue and it had to do with food.

And later again, still an athlete, cheered in college. After college, I had always been told that you have a perfect figure to do body building and you have the V-shape, and broad shoulders, and whatever, whatever. Kind of let it go in one ear, out the other. After college, had a huge like athlete withdrawal, like oh my gosh, I’ve had a coach since the age of 4, like now what do I do with myself? I’m not competing.

Right at the quarter life crisis of age of 25, I decided to do a bodybuilding competition. I hired coaches, started training, still living in Colorado. And it’s so funny, I was listening to your podcast and hearing Sarah Vance, I believe that it was, and her telling her story, I was like oh my goodness! Like that’s my story! So I started training, started changing my diet again.

I went into it with this mentality of hey, I’ve got a good head on my shoulders. I can change my diet and not let it get to my head. I had a really close friend who I knew her whole entire story who had suffered from bulimia and anorexia and been to treatment. The moment I told her I was doing this, she didn’t talk to me for the entire time that I was training.  I understood why later.

As I was training, my diet just got more restrictive and I found myself getting to that point where I was about three to four weeks out from the show, I was 9 percent body fat, had lost my period, was crying every day. I was also coaching cheerleading so I had to spot girls doing like flips and stuff and I felt like I was almost going to pass out because I was just so weak.

The day of the show came.  I had gotten to that place where I was completely mental about everything. I had my warmups on… I started at a point where I was still athletic. I was maybe 140 to 145, maybe 18 to 20 percent body fat. And then the day of the show, I had lost 20 pounds of just fat and I only lost two pounds of muscle.

Laura: Wow!

Tessie: Yeah, and my trainer was like, oh I’m so proud of you! You’re like my poster child!  I was like I feel awful! I remember not wanting to take my warm ups off, like I felt fat. I felt bigger than everyone, like comparing myself to all the other girls. I did the figure category. It’s where you still get judged on having like a feminine physique, but you’re judged on like your muscle symmetry and all this stuff. I was like maybe 120 the day of the show and I won the entire show. I won out of the novice category, I won out of all the other competitors that have been competing for years. I got all these trophies and I was like wow.

Then after my show, I had no education how to get off my very restrictive diet of chicken, spinach, and that’s it basically. Maybe a sweet potato here and there. No education how to get off of it. My coaches immediately after the show, all the guidance they gave me was like eat whatever you want the night of the show and then you actually want to like pretty much get back on your diet. It was just really emotional for me. They had a family crisis, so they actually had to then leave town and they didn’t offer a lot of support. I didn’t know exactly what to look up or how to do it.

My body being in a physiological starvation mode freaked out. I started bingeing on peanut butter and cookie dough. I got sick. I didn’t try to make myself throw up, but my body got sick from eating stuff I hadn’t been eating. It was really scary. I got depressed, I gained water weight, 10 to 15 pounds in the first couple weeks, I saw a therapist. I started Googling, does this happen anybody else? There were multiple stories that it’s very common, exactly what I was going through.

The thing that was so difficult is that I had literally after being an athlete my entire life and I had a heart condition, I had always struggled to keep up, I felt like I had to work three times as hard as everyone to keep up, and the one thing for the first time in my life I had won. I said whoa, l this is something I’m good at. It was a really hard mental decision. I remember the therapist asked me do you think you’ll do another show? Because it’s addicting, it’s addicting to be rewarded based on how you can change your body. It’s like achieving any goal, you’ll get a result and you’re mentally like hey look, I can do this! I had to wrestle with the fact and really look at it like yeah, but is this what I’m going to define as healthy for me? And it wasn’t, so never did another show.

I still had some trickle effect where I had then moved to Los Angeles. I moved here for hip hop dancing, acting, modeling, still interested in doing fitness modeling. I had settled back into like a fairly normal weight. I had little things still popping up like I had a modeling agent ask me if I had ever done plus size modeling. I was like ugh. And again, like super normal weight, still have muscle tone. I’m so happy to see that the modeling industry is slowly transforming, but it is definitely still very prevalent and the agents say that right to your face.

I was like, okay, that’s maybe just the industry or whatever. It was like every time I went to an audition, my mind just went to oh I didn’t get it because I’m too big. I had an athletic modeling agent where I could do CrossFit, I could do push ups, I could do pull ups, I could do skills. And there would be skinny girls there who couldn’t do one push up who got the athletic modeling job. Some skinny girls can do push ups or whatever, but to me it just felt unfair because it was only representing one body type.

Things like that happened. I had another acting coach tell me that I needed to either lose 10 pounds or gain 20 to either have the character roll of like the bigger girl or I could never be cast as the pretty girl unless I lost at least 10 pounds. So a lot of that. Being an impressionable age, so early 20s, I was listening to all of this and battling with it.

Eventually I got into personal training. I fell in love with the fitness industry and realized how many people out there, they didn’t have my background of working out their entire life. It felt really good to support people with those basics. And then I further realized that people don’t just need the physical side, they need the mental side of habit change, they need the nutritional side, they need this body image side that I’ve been wrestling with. That’s when I also did a lot of emotional intelligence training and did the eating psychology coaching. That’s where I’m at now. It’s really shaped my practice and how I help people.

Laura: Yeah, definitely. You’ve been through the experience of being at what a panel of judges said was the ideal physique obviously if you won the show, and yet you just to get there had done so many I’m sure what you would consider disordered eating and exercise behaviors. You’ve been at that point where a lot of women will say I just want to have abs or I just want to lose 20 pounds. It’s like being able to come from that place and say hey, I’ve been there and it’s not that amazing to go through what it takes to get to that point, so I’m sure that that helps. You’re working with clients to kind of show them what the realities of that goal is. Do you have a lot of clients that come to you wanting to lose weight?

Tessie:  Yeah, I think that’s it’s actually probably the most common client is that they want to lose a little bit of weight. Some of them have some other physical issues, maybe it’s energy or whatever. But there’s definitely this that I think we all have, and I always say it stems from a healthy human I think traditional need or desire to feel attractive.

Laura: Right.

Tessie: I don’t think that’s wrong. I think there are things, there’s clothes that we wear that we just feel our best, we feel ourselves, we’re expressing ourselves. There’s being active and when we’re eating good, there’s something that can be happening in our body where it helps us actually exude an inner energy and inner glowing to where we’re attracting a mate or you know whatever that is. There’s studies that show how a heterosexual woman, there’s like things about the physique of a man and how his muscles are shaped, they send off our pleasure receptors and are a physiological scientific attraction to one another.

To me, that’s where it’s kind of rooted, is like I think it’s very human and not wrong for us to be like…and of course that’s underneath a desire to want to live a long, healthy life. But we’re then told that it’s has to look a certain way. So where that message gets blurry is like well if you want to actually live a long life, if you want to be attractive to attract that mate, or if you want to be sexy, the magazines, the media, pop culture, you need to look like this and that’s where it gets kind of toxic.

With my clients, I try and root them into they can get down to those deeper reasons of maybe why they want to lose weight.  I always go with the sentence like if you could say once I lose 10 pounds, then I’ll be what?  And I have them really get grounded on that what. Then I’ll be…? That’s where the root comes in. Then I’ll be sexy, then I’ll be confident, then I’ll be whole, then I’ll be successful.

Then you get to the answers of what else is going on in their life, what else is missing, what’s their reason. Maybe they don’t feel enough and it actually has nothing to do with what they look like, or what they’re eating, or what they’re doing for exercise. It has to do with, we all have our insecurities, something we want to be better or something where we need to feel attractive because we don’t think we’ll find love unless we do it. We don’t think we’ll get the job unless we look a certain way.

What I have my clients do is… and it’s a practice… is practice stepping into the once I lose X pounds, then I’ll be this. I have them step into the this. We’re going to practice your sexiness just as you look right now. We’re going to practice your confidence just how you look right now. We’re going to practice feeling good in your body exactly how you look right now. And it’s 100 percent the biggest challenge.

By doing that, what we can end up doing is we contribute to creating the environment for our body to, if it has weight to lose, relax into its settled the weight. Instead of if we’re on a daily basis freaked out that we weigh what we weigh, that’s just adding to stress and that’s not contributing to weight loss if our body needs to lose weight.

Laura: I feel like what you were saying before about getting into the why is so important because you can say that I want to lose weight because if I lose 10 pounds I’ll be more attractive to the opposite sex. Maybe that’s a place somebody could get stuck. But then if you asked what do you get from being attractive to the opposite sex? I know obviously that’s a general human desire, but I think the deeper desire there is to have a relationship with another person. It’s like maybe it’s that they’re not happy with their relationship status and they feel like they can control the way their body looks and that’s a way to then get at that relationship status.

I find that in a lot of my clients too where they’re kind of hung up on the weight thing. It’s not that they shouldn’t lose weight from a health perspective or that they’d be causing problems if they lost weight because a lot of times they do have like 10 20 pounds that if they lost they’d still be within a healthy weight range. But I feel like what you’re saying before about that that anxiety about the weight, and stressing about it, and doing things with their diet and exercise that might actually be counterproductive because they think that’s the way you lose weight, that’s where the problem ends up not only becoming something that is distracting you from the real issue but then also like maybe not even working to help you lose that weight.

I think this is probably a good segue to talk about some of the things that you write about on your blog. One of the things you had mentioned before we got on the call was that you have some ideas about prevalent toxic nutritional beliefs that are taken as common knowledge but aren’t actually scientifically true. Let’s talk about those because I think that’s a really important thing to cover in this episode because I want to know what you think is some of these prevalent toxic beliefs and then what the evidence actually shows about those beliefs.

Tessie: One of them came to mind as you were talking which is that the typical weight loss client, want to lose weight because I want to feel attractive, I want to be loved, they’re given this equation of increase your exercise and decrease your calories equals weight loss. So increase exercise plus decrease food intake equals weight loss.

Why I claim this is a toxic belief…and this is again something I learned from Marc David who’s the founder of the Institute For The Psychology Of Eating and my teacher in eating psychology…is short term, yes, if any person goes from sort of moderately to sedative lifestyle, they start moving their body, they start working on a healthier diet maybe the macronutrient balance, the getting more whole foods, might they lose weight and might it stay off when they stick with those habits? Absolutely. That is what I would still consider a sustainable weight loss and a sustainable change that whatever happened within them, that inner shift….and this statistic I’m sure has been said on your show to where 95 to 98 percent of diets fail within a year and people gain it back. So when you look at that 2, 3, 4 percent or whatever of people that they actually have that story of like hey, yeah, I lost 20 pounds, and it’s been 3 years, and I’ve kept it off, they have some sort of inner shift that happened. They have a life event that happened, they have a change of heart that happened, they have something in their mindset that happened to support them through that too. It’s habit change and that’s hard when we’ve had 20 to 30 to 40 to 50 years of one habit, and belief, and thought process and then we are trying to switch it.

The decrease food, increase exercise might be short term. It might be sustainable for a small percentage of people. Going down the road, if someone’s doing that in a in an unsustainable way really restricting and they’re getting below where our body of course has that set point, has that point at which it’s happy…. I’ll always get a sense of a client what they’ve weighed, what they weighed when they were younger, what they weighed when they were a teenager, any fluctuations to try and get a sense of…like we have no idea how much any one human body should weigh. Science, we can come up with some great guidelines and that sort of thing, but just saying because someone weighs 160 and is 5’5” or something…and of course it depends on her body composition, but they could have a little more fat on their body, they could be heavier, and they could feel great, and they could have all their bloodwork come back normal.

The weight itself just depends on the body. If someone is restricting to the point where it’s out of whack with what their body wants to be and they become underweight for where their body wants to be, the longer they do that they might just become malnutritious, they could lose hair, they could have immunity issues, they could have hormonal issues. Actually what they thought they were doing to become “more healthy” they’re destroying their health. It stresses out the body. Sometimes they’ll hit a plateau and be like this diet worked for years. I’ve been eating 1,500 calories and I always could lose weight and control my weight, and now it’s not working.

That’s one toxic belief is that just across the board always increasing exercise and decreasing food equals weight loss. That kind of leads into and connects to another equation which is my calories in versus calories out equal weight control. Anyone can go online and Google their daily caloric needs, their basal metabolic rate there, get a sense of how much to be eating.

For a client who maybe has, they really have no idea, maybe they have no nutritional knowledge of like okay, what do I eat? I will go through that with them and be like hey here’s what these meals for throughout the day would look like for caloric needs that your body needs just to survive and function, not even to do exercise or this and that. That can at least give people the picture.

Why I say calories in versus calories out equal weight control is a toxic belief, that’s not always necessarily true… and all these come with a caveat, like is having a general guideline for my caloric needs bad and wrong? No. Can it lead to me thinking that’s the only way I control my weight and that’s bad? Yes.

Because there’s such thing as non-caloric weight gain, non-caloric weight gain. Something can be out of whack with my hormones and it causes me to gain belly fat, my cortisol could go up, and there could be environmental toxins that are causing weight gain in my body. As we all get older we have metabolic changes that when our metabolism changes, it doesn’t matter maybe how much I change my calories, my body is just changing. And even different health conditions where I might not even change what I’m eating and all of a sudden I have unexplained weight gain. That’s why that general equation of calories in versus calories out equals weight control is not always necessarily true.

The other thing is a lot of foods and this this idea of calories is that we all burn calories differently.  And this gets into the stress stuff too. So say you and I are sitting side by side and we’re having a salad, a healthy salad. It’s got maybe some nuts on, it maybe some hard boiled egg, and mixed greens, some carrots, some tomatoes, like all this stuff it’s within our diet that we like, and it’s “healthy.”

As we’re eating the salad, you are sitting there, you’re breathing, you’re enjoying the view. We’re out to lunch, it’s a beautiful day. You’re eating slow, you’re just like savoring every bite. You’re so grateful for this food and this healthy salad. Meanwhile I’m sitting right next to you. I’m so stressed out, I’m scarfing down the salad. I’m thinking oh my gosh, this is this is 400 calories! I shouldn’t be eating this 400 calories! Oh my gosh, what if this makes me fat? Is this too much egg? Oh my gosh! I’m eating really fast and I’m in this stressed state. I’m completely mindlessly eating.

After that meal you would probably feel, like maybe 20 minutes later, that’s about the time that it takes the brain in our belly and the brain in our head to communicate that we’re full, or satiated, or we’ve had enough…most of us do not take that 20 minutes…you would feel satiated, you’d feel energized from your meal, you would feel full enough to go about your day. I potentially would still feel hungry because I never even allowed my mind and my body to taken that I was eating because I was so stressed out that I was eating.

Being in that stressed state, even if it’s a low level, those negative thoughts that we have can literally just create a low level of fight or flight response in our body, especially when we say you can rest and digest, meaning you digest when you’re relaxed. So if I’m the opposite of that, especially when I’m eating in a non-relaxed state, stressed state, even if it’s just stress because of my thoughts, but my body is reacting as if it’s in fight or flight, literally kind of acting as if I’m getting chased by a tiger. The blood is going away from my digestive system. The nutrients I just assimilated, that is not my body’s priority because my body thinks that I’m in some sort of panic, life threatening state on some level, so I might not even assimilate the nutrients that I just had from a healthy meal. I would excrete more of those nutrients. My cortisol would go up, my adrenals would be going.  I would metabolize those calories differently than you would metabolize those same amount of calories from the same meal.

That’s the toxic belief of just saying that every body is the same or there’s one diet for everyone. No. Your emotions are connected to how you’re digesting and metabolizing. Your beliefs, your life story, everything else that’s going on in your life, it’s part of the picture.

A few of the other ones, and one I think is going by the wayside because there’s just prevalent information on healthy fats, but some people believe the fat in food equals fat on my body. There’s still zero fat, low fat like yogurt and sour cream, so I get that occasionally. I still have a hard time finding full fat sour cream or full fat yogurt. It’s like you have to search for it because there’s zero fat everything. It’s not as close to the whole food state. It is more processed. Our body will metabolize healthy fats and even more natural fats than dairy like avocados, and nuts, and olive oils when someone who’s very calorie restrictive will often be cutting the fats with that fear of eating this fat means fat on my body. That’s just not how it’s first and foremost metabolized in our body.

Laura: Right. I feel like what you were saying before about that tide is shifting, something that Kelsey and I talk a lot about on our show is kind of the unanticipated consequences of that tide shifting seem to be more of the carbs equals fat on my body belief. We work with people who say they’re afraid to eat more than half a banana in a day because they’re worried they’re going to get fat from eating too much fruit.

It’s either end of that spectrum of too much fat…or I shouldn’t say too much because obviously if you’re over eating, it’s going to probably lead to weight gain for most people. But just in general, eating fat or eating carbs does not by nature lead to gaining body fat. I think both of those ends of the spectrum… I have yet to see somebody argue that eating protein, or actually I feel like there are people that argue that eating protein makes you fat. So I think any nutrient, you could find somebody out there is saying that’s what makes people fat. Definitely the X macronutrient equals fat gain is probably not ever going to be accurate from any angle that you’re looking at it.

Tessie: Yeah absolutely. I totally believe in the bio individuality and there’s definitely no one diet for everyone. If there were some things I’d agree with, scientifically like we need macronutrient balance. That’s why we call it balance because we need all of them in balance. And the other guideline given what I do with my clients when we do get into working on the diet and the food stuff is working with macronutrient balance, working with meal timing, and also food quality.

Again I’m kind of working with the mindset stuff first and they’re coming to me, I won’t touch on the diet stuff. That’s what they’re going to…like write me a meal plan, tell me what to eat. It’s obvious they need to work on the body image first. But I’ll still give them little practices. Like if they’re emotionally eating and they’re like I always go get this one chocolate cake, I’m like okay, well how about this? Still have a piece of chocolate cake, of course I tell them to start to eat it slow and enjoy it. They will actually metabolize it differently. They will naturally eat less of it and they’ll be conscious and aware while they’re eating it. But I say go get go get that piece of chocolate cake from Whole Foods or a health food store and look at the ingredients. Get that that chocolate cake that it’s organic chocolate cake. So even just increasing our food quality as a first step, it can have a profound effect on our metabolism, our weight, and our body.

Laura: What do you do when you have somebody who you’re working with that really wants to lose weight, and they just want you to tell them what to eat to lose weight, and then you see that they have all these other areas in their life that are probably contributing to these negative toxic beliefs? Do you just ignore the food and just totally approach it from a more emotional and kind of deeper life needs perspective? Or do you balance it with some changes in the diet and some changes in the emotions at the same time?

Because I feel like for me being a Dietitian, most of the work that I do centers around helping people find an appropriate diet that works for them, and is sustainable, and makes them feel their best. The mindset stuff is a part of it, but it’s not like we just talk about mindset. Do you ever go into this type of client situation and just do mindset first? Or do you combine it with the other aspects of eating and exercise? What’s your general approach with these types of clients?

Tessie: I would say the general approach is definitely a combination. In the first few sessions of course I’m trying to get as big of a picture as I can about what their biggest challenge is, where it potentially comes from, and what their ideal is; how they want to feel, where they want to be.

I have a recent client who she said she has had weight issues her entire life, she’s had an injury where she was kind of sedentary for a while and gained weight in the past few years to more than she ever has. She has a mom who has in some ways influenced the beliefs where mom was basically anorexic or always making some sort of comment about not liking her body. From eating psychology I also learned there’s a metaphoric mirror between a woman’s relationship with food and a woman’s relationship with her mother. We can all think of our habits, beliefs, and tendencies, and our relationship to mom, and our relationship to food that will kind of give us some breakthrough, give us some insight of like oh, that’s why I do that.

Knowing the whole picture with someone, by doing both….I’ll keep with this client as an example. She wasn’t eating breakfast, she wasn’t eating dinner. She was like really, really eating very, very little. She was overweight and had even from my perspective had some weight to lose. I believed that based on what she shared, her body had some weight that it could lose. She felt out of balance. She had just started working with a personal trainer. I was like, great, that’s good. We came up with some goals around how many times she was going to be active.  She had a treadmill at home that she wasn’t using, so I gave her some workouts to do on the treadmill to hold her accountable for that, two workouts a week additional walking.

How I approach it with clients that I can tell are in the mindset and the emotional belief of the last thing they want to be told is to eat more, I frame it as an experiment. I say will you try something for me? For the next four weeks, let’s just practice adding in breakfast. Super baby step. And I say tell me what you like to eat for breakfast. I don’t tell them what to eat. I say tell me the things that you like. Let’s make a list of foods that you would potentially eat for breakfast.

She gave me her list of foods that she liked, and of the healthiest, most whole foods, we came up with a designed breakfast. The first few weeks…and it’s great when the clients are honest, she said I didn’t do it, Tessie, I couldn’t, and I feel skinnier when I don’t eat breakfast or whatever was behind that. And then as she started to practice it, it became she noticed she had more energy. She was less hungry in the afternoons, of course she would tend to sometimes like binge or overeat at dinner.

I don’t want to say I’m tricky with clients, but in a sense sometimes I’ll go along with what they want to hear because it’s true and because it’s also helping them work towards their highest health ideal potential. For example, her eating breakfast: Hey, you know what? If you eat breakfast, this might mean, yes, you’ll have more energy. You also might eat less at night. It might help balance out your weight. Although I’m the coach who’s saying like love your body as it is, it’s still framing it to the client.

While we’re working on the mindset, I’ll also give them mirror work, so working in front of the mirror with as little clothing as they feel possible and just looking at their body. It starts just for five minutes a day. It can be very uncomfortable. They’re just supposed to look at every part and then they can get to the point where they’re just noticing the thoughts.  So maybe they don’t have the thought come up like I hate my belly and that like ruins their day that they did the mirror work. But the goal with that practice is to get to the point where it’s like a game of, oh, I’m having that interesting…it’s just an awareness, like an outside perspective awareness. That’s like the emotional intelligence stuff is I’m just starting to instead of experience and letting my emotions take over, I’m just noticing. Like, oh weird, that’s the thought that comes up every time. Like when did that start? Weird, it’s always with my belly.

Then it transitions into, alright, we don’t have to love our bodies 100 percent, 100 percent of the time. Right? We’re human. We’re going to have our little insecurities. We’re going to have our days when we don’t feel as good. But it’s a practice. If you’re at 40 percent of the time, let’s work you up to 80 percent of the time.

So start then doing the mirror work, and looking in the mirror and giving your body some love. Hold that belly and be like, you know what? Thank you, belly, just thank you for being there. Thank you for keeping me alive. Thank you for giving me a body that’s here on this earth and capable of what it’s capable for doing That practice alone, it’s super uncomfortable and super challenging, but just committing to that practice can then turn into almost a daily affirmation that that supports the whole process.

So framing it as an experiment of course, and then they get to see the result. They get to see like, oh, I do feel better in my body. Or my body might not be changing, but I’m proud of what I’ve been doing so far.

Laura: Right.

Tessie: This approach of sustainable weight loss, it is baby steps and if your body is going to change, it’s going to change slowly and over time and you still have to celebrate the things that you are doing along the way.

The other thing I’ll switch up is meal timing. I have some people who are super busy, they skip lunch. I say for a lot of us, for most of us, we have bio circadian rhythm which is similar to like our circadian rhythm where we have a sleep/wake cycle. As the general human body feels a little bit sleepy and a little bit more energized at certain points the day, our metabolism can work the same way where it’s building up in the morning, that’s why it’s good to fuel the machine in the morning, and it can peak at kind of midday.

Between 12 and 1:30, I usually give my clients that time frame, like try to not only eat lunch, but try and make that a big meal. Make that a bigger meal.

Again, it’s an experiment. It might not be something that lands for everybody. But a few clients I’ve had recently that have done that, they’re again noticing a difference in their afternoon energy, they’re noticing a difference in not eating as much at night when the metabolism is slowing down. Generally, it works for them.

So food quality, not skipping meals, working on food timing, and then going into also macronutrient balance. Depending on their challenge, I will also sometimes ask a client to not weigh themselves. That will also be an experiment, like hey, let’s just step away from the scale for a month. You’re weighing yourself every day. It’s not your actual weight when you’re seeing yourself fluctuate a pound a day or whatever. So let’s just go by how you feel. Again, the mirror work helps with that because you can kind of see differences in your body, you can feel in your clothes if your body is changing. Even if it’s not, you can learn to step into owning your body.

Even if someone, they have these weight loss goals, they’re working on the mindset, their body doesn’t actually change, but they learn to love their body, that is a success. That is a win. They’re stepping into what I call stepping into their queen where they can be like Queen Latifah, and Ellen, and Oprah. They walk into a room and they own the room. They might have different body shapes and sizes, but they have a glow about them, they have a presence about them, they have an attraction about them. That’s what we’re all seeking no matter what we weigh.

Laura: These are all really great, sounds like not too challenging. I mean as far as the actual implementation, yeah, the mirror thing I’m sure is pretty challenging. But it’s not like running a marathon or something. Standing in front of the mirror just looking at your body for five minutes, it’s definitely doable. Sounds like there’s a lot of these somewhat simple techniques that people can start implementing for changing some of these toxic beliefs about their bodies, about nutrition.

Do you have any other ways that people can get more information from you either on your website, or do you have any books or anything? How can people get more of this information?

Tessie: Yeah, absolutely. You can get more information on my blog and I have a stress reduction checklist on TessieTracy.com. You can also follow me on social media. Instagram that’s @TessieTracy and I’m on Facebook as well. I do have a book and I can share this link with you. I give away a free e-book that’s Sustainable Fitness Goal Setting. It walks you through steps if you’re someone who feels like you are really on and off about your fitness habits. I have an e-book that helps walk you through that, get an accountability partner, and start to make it a sustainable practice. That’s TessieTracy.com/workbook.

Laura: Awesome! We’ll put those links in the show notes for this episode if people want to check that out. But otherwise, it was really great to have you on, Tessie. I feel like we could have talked about this for a long time. There’s a lot of different things that come up when you’re a health and body image coach just because it is such a part and parcel with wellness where you have the actual physical needs that your body has, but then there’s also that mental and emotional component that plays a role too. So it’s really cool to see people doing the work to help others really look at the whole picture and not just think about calories in/calories out equals weight control and those kind of maybe not so accurate beliefs. Thanks so much for joining us and we hope to have you on in the future.

Like I said, if anyone wants to check out Tessie’s work, we will have the links in the show notes. But thanks for joining us, Tessie.

Tessie: Amazing! Thanks so much, Laura!


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I'm a women's health expert and a registered dietitian (RD) with a passion for helping goal-oriented people fuel their purpose.

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