Episode 45: Empowering Body Confidence With Summer Innanen

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Thanks for joining us for episode 45 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!

BRIDGE_LAUGH_EDITED-2Today we are interviewing Summer Innanen, the empowering woman changing the relationship women have with their bodies to inspire self-love and kick negative body image to the curb once and for all.

Summer Innanen is a Body Image Coach specializing in helping women all over the world to ditch their diet demons, amp up their confidence, and break free of deprivation and guilt through her private and group coaching at summerinnanen.com.

It’s time to defy the conventional standards and redefine beauty.  Listen to today’s podcast to jump on the path to realizing that the perfect body really is the one you have.

Here are some of the questions we discussed with Summer:

  1. Summer’s story: You used to be a Paleo nutrition consultant, and now you’re a body image coach who teaches women how to eat whatever they want and love their bodies regardless of their appearance. How did you get to this point?
  2. Your story is a great example of healthy behaviors gone wrong. Do you think it’s possible for women to approach health and fitness from a place of self-love while still pursuing a weight loss goal? Or do you believe weight loss is a worthless goal in the first place?
  3. Since you have a nutrition background, you obviously know more about nutrition than the average person. When you’re choosing what to eat, does nutrition cross your mind at all these days? Are there things you eat simply for the health value, or is that something you stopped doing after you liberated yourself from the dieting mindset?
  4. I’m sure a lot of women listening to this podcast think that eating whatever they want sounds fantastic, but that this way of eating can’t apply to them because they have a health condition like an autoimmune disease or digestive disorder. How does what you teach apply to women who have serious illnesses that are being managed by a more restrictive diet than the type you encourage?
  5. I love how you approach the topic of the inner critic, or as you call it the “evil doppelgänger.” Tell us about who the inner critic is and how she affects our decisions about what to eat, how to exercise, and how we feel about ourselves.
  6. You run a group program called Rock Your Body where you teach women how to escape the negative body image that controls their thoughts and behaviors, and start living in a way that is free of body shame, obsessive dieting and exercise, and self-doubt. Tell us a little about that program and what big changes you’ve seen in past participants lives after going through it?

Links Discussed:


Laura: Hi everyone. Welcome to Episode 45 of the Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Laura Schoenfeld, and with me as always is Kelsey Marksteiner.

Kelsey: Hey everybody.

Laura: So Kelsey, I know I was mentioning to you on the call before, you didn’t watch the Oscars last night, right?

Kelsey: I did not. I’ve heard some of the winners. We were talking about this before, but yay Leo! Good for him!

Laura: I know. I have this undying love for him that… I don’t know if he could ever be in a movie that I would not want to see.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I haven’t seen the Revenant yet. It looks a little scary, but I might wait until it comes out on DVD or whatever to watch at home so I’m not totally freaked out.

Kelsey: Yeah. I think the only movie I haven’t seen with him in it is The Great Gatsby just because I heard it was terrible. Did you see that one?

Laura: Oh, no. I liked it.

Kelsey: You did?

Laura: It’s not great. I don’t know how to describe it. I love Baz Luhrmann, he’s the director and he did Moulin Rouge, which was one of my favorite movies in high school.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I don’t know. I really liked it. I feel like you have to go into thinking there’s no expectations for it to be amazing and then you can actually enjoy it, which I think is what normally happens with movies. And I just love Leonardo DiCaprio so much that he can do no wrong. I thought he actually did a good job. The movie’s a little silly sometimes.

Kelsey: Right. It’s probably more of a movie issue than a Leonardo DiCaprio issue.

Laura: Right. I mean I enjoyed it. So whatever you want to say about it being not a cinematic masterpiece. I didn’t think it was amazing, but I enjoyed it.

Kelsey: Not everything has to be a cinematic masterpiece.

Laura: But I stayed up to watch to see if he would win, of course. So another day of staying up too late to watch something. But luckily I’ve been not watching TV so much lately so generally my sleep has been more attended to.

But I thought the Oscars was kind of interesting. I was mentioning to you earlier before we got on the call today that there was this really bizarre situation with the music that they were giving an Oscar to as far as the best original song. And the only reason why I’m bringing this up is because I feel like it’s kind of an interesting cultural phenomena that happens. And we’re going to talk a lot about culture, and women’s body image, and women being able to treat themselves with respect, and treat themselves with self-love.

But I thought that this was a really interesting thing that happened with the song because one of the songs that was nominated was the song from Fifty Shades of Grey by The Weekend. I forget what the song is called. Butbasically the whole performance was a bunch of women strutting around in these kind of dominatrix type outfits, and for anyone whose seen the movie obviously you would understand why that would be the theme of the performance. So kind of typical women being paraded around type of performance. And then I guess it was probably an half an hour or hour later, Lady Gaga performed her song. I think it’s called Until it Happens to You or something like that, and it’s about sexual assault. And it was really somber and all these women came out with things written on their arms that said like it’s not your fault. I thought it was a really powerful performance. I just thought it was so interesting to see how you have on the one hand, this super hyper-sexualized fantasy performance of something that essentially condoning sexual assault more or less, and then on the other hand you have this song that’s really telling a true story of these women’s experiences. I just thought it was a really bizarre. I’m sure other people noticed it, but it just felt like the Oscar people, whoever was putting this show on, didn’t necessarily appreciate how weird that was to have those two things kind of next to each other.

So anyway, kind of long story short, I just thought it was really bizarre cultural commentary on how on one hand we have our culture kind of promoting women being used as objects and kind of seeing themselves as only being valued in their appearance, or this whole anti-feminism kind of situation. And then on the other hand, you have this empowered women’s movement where women are really taking control over their lives and standing up for themselves and speaking out against violence against women.

Neither song won the Oscar in case anyone cares. One of the James Bond songs won with Sam Smith. He wrote the song. But it was odd. I was watching with my parents and my dad was like, it’s kind of ironic that one of the songs is talking all about sexual assault and then you have a song performance thirty minutes ago with women walking around basically in their underwear on stage.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I just that was sort of interesting. And I know you didn’t see it, so you’re probably just sitting there like, what is she talking about? But for anyone who did see it, I don’t’ know if anyone else noticed that. But I think it kind of ties into what we’re going to talk about today because there are so many conflicting messages that we get from the media as women. And I get a little angry when I see the whole objectification of women in pop culture that was happening with the…I keep wanting to say Grey’s Anatomy…the Fifty Shades of Grey performance. Anyway, that was my little rant for today about culture being ridiculous in America.

Kelsey: It fits right in because you’re absolutely right. There are so many different messages that we get as women just from the media, and it gets confusing, and no wonder our brains are a little bit confused and not sure of what to think or are overly critical. And now of course this whole body positivity and self-compassion movement is becoming more of a thing, which is awesome. But it’s going to take a while I think for the majority of women to kind of automatically think that way versus automatically thinking in a critical manner.

Laura: Well there’s a lot of cultural influence you have to kind of battle against if you’re going to be body positive just because I think as much as people like to say everyone’s beautiful and everyone is worthy of love and all that stuff, in the media you get a lot of messages that are showing a woman’s value is her appearance.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Whether that’s this kind of objectification of women in a music performance, or I was remarking to my parents as I was watching it, I saw this commercial, I forget which company it was. It was sort of like a Dove type commercial where they were talking about how all women are beautiful and blah, blah, blah. And I just noticed that every single woman that they used as an example for…oh, the question was what makes a women beautiful? in the commercial. And they were talking about all these things that make women beautiful, which as a theory was nice. But then if you actually watch the commercial, all of the women that they show are like slender, pretty, conventionally attractive. Even if there’s a black girl, and there is a girl with a hijab on so she’s Muslim, or whatever the “diversity” that they’re showing was, still fell in the norm of this woman as tall, and slender, and pretty. And it’s funny because it’s like they make this statement about body positivity and that every women is beautiful, but then they only show beautiful women. So then if a women is not conventionally beautiful, is she not beautiful?

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Or is it like she’s just supposed to assume they’re also talking about her even though they’re not showing non attractive conventionally women. I hate to say that because it sounds really rude. But I think we all understand that there’s conventional beauty standards and then there’s women that fall outside of that. And not showing the spectrum of women as far as their appearance is concerned, I just don’t think the message was really effective.

Kelsey: Yeah. We’ll see if that ever changes. It’s such a weird thing and it’s so hard to overcome. I think that, I mean my hope at least is that eventually the things we are seeing will actually be diverse, and actually show women who maybe fall outside of that conventional beauty standard, and say that of course they are worthy of love and everything like that. But right now how it stands, they’re making baby steps towards that, which I appreciate and I think that’s good.  But it does get a little frustrating when you see stuff like what you’re describing.  It’s like, ugh we still have so far to go.

Laura: Yeah.  It was kind of funny when we were watching, the guy that won the best director, I forget what his name is. It’s some kind of difficult to pronounce name, but he was the guy that directed The Revenant and also he directed Birdman last year.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura:  He was giving his acceptance speech and I was just noticing that his hair was like all over the place, like crazy kind of didn’t look like it had been washed in a couple days, or brushed in the last month or something. And I was just like, it’s interesting how in our society a man can go up on stage at the Oscars and he looks like he didn’t even wash his hair before going there, and everyone is like, oh he’s amazing, he’s an artist, blah, blah, blah.  But if a woman walked up on stage wearing jeans, I shouldn’t say wearing jeans, he was wearing a tuxedo so he was appropriately dressed. But say her hair is kind of gross looking, or her dress is not that nice. Nobody would give her the same respect that they gave this guy who clearly didn’t put…well I say clearly, maybe it’s a style to look like you don’t care.

Kelsey:  To have messy hair.

Laura: Right. I was just remarking to my mom. I was like, imagine how much more effective women could be in the world if they didn’t have to also look attractive while they’re trying to be a business person, or an artist, or whatever.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: It’s like you can’t just be valued for your artistic ability, or your intelligence, or something. It’s like you have to also be put together and beautiful.

Kelsey: Mm-hmm.

Laura:  I mean it’s again just kind of one of those, I don’t know if it’s ever going to change.  But I almost have a little bit of jealousy for men because I’m like…I guess I should say envy, jealousy isn’t the right word. But I have envy that men can…like Mark Zuckerberg who has ten different grey tee shirts that he wears.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: And he wears the exact same clothes every day. I think I remember seeing a story where a meteorologists on TV, this woman wore a dress for the second time in like two weeks or something and everyone just got angry. They were like, why is she wearing the same clothes? It’s just funny because men could potentially wear the same clothes every single day and nobody thinks that’s weird.

Kelsey: Right. Literally the same clothes every single day.

Laura: Yeah. And they’re like, oh this is forward thinking and he’s such a business man to think about that. And it’s like, dude, if I wore a grey tee shirt every single day, people would think I completely just didn’t care at all about myself. This is a rabbit hole I’ll try to not go into, but I just think it’s so funny. It’s like we have all these discussions about equality and women being acknowledged and respected for their contributions, and their intelligence, and their personalities, and that kind of stuff. And yet, even while we’re saying this, we’re still showing that you still have to be conventionally beautiful to really make it as a woman.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura:  And I don’t necessarily believe that, but I feel like that’s a big cultural message that we as women get.

Kelsey: Totally.

Laura: And like we’re saying, this is going to come really into play with our interview today, but it makes it hard to separate women’s appearance from their success and their enjoyment of life because of these messages that we all get.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Just some food for thought. I don’t have a solution to it other than maybe not worrying about being successful in the eyes of society.

Kelsey: Right. Work on yourself first and spread that message just through the way you are being so that hopefully other women can feel like they can act the same way and be compassionate towards themselves in the same way you are. And eventually, society itself will change. We’ll see.

Laura:  We’ll change. I don’t know about that.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Maybe those of us who remove ourselves from culture will be able to change for other people. But, culture as a whole, I don’t know if we’ll ever see that happen. But who knows? Maybe stay positively hopeful that it could happen.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: But anyway, that’s a great segue into our topic for today because body image, and women’s health, and ability to love themselves despite what they look like, or including what they look like, is really important.  But before we get into this interview, let’s hear a word from our sponsor.

Alright. I am so excited to introduce our guest for today.  Summer Innanen is a Body Image Coach specializing in helping women all over the world to ditch their diet demons, amp up their confidence, and break free of deprivation and guilt through her private and group coaching at SummerInnanen.com.

Welcome to the show, Summer! I can’t believe this is the first time we’ve had you on here.

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

Laura: I love listening to your podcast and reading your blogs. They’re always so fun and I just love the voice that you contribute to…I mean I say the Paleo community, do you still consider yourself part of the Paleo community? Or is that kind of like been there, done that.

Summer: I mean I’m friends with a lot of the people in the Paleo community still. But I don’t preach any particular way of eating anymore.  And so I’m not really part of any community, per se, as it relates to a food movement.  I’m certainly more aligned to the body positivity movement now, but I’m still friends with a lot of people, like yourselves.

Laura: You haven’t said anything so offensive that you’ve alienated yourself.

Summer: Not yet.

Laura: Working up to that.

Summer:  I do truly believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion and their voice, and that the Paleo diet can really help people. I personally know a lot of people who have overcome chronic illness with it. So it’s not something like Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers where I have stronger ill feelings towards. But I think it’s all in your state of mind going into making health and food changes.

Laura: Yeah, definitely. And I think it’s really important to have a variety of voices in a so-called community. I mean the word community is really odd because if you think about it, it’s really just a bunch of blogs, and Facebook commentary, and that kind of stuff.  I mean there’s occasional times where people come in and see each other in person. But for the most part, it’s this online community that if you wanted to extricate yourself from it you pretty much could. I mean it’s not like these are people you live with and you have to maintain relationships.

But I do think that having your voice and other people’s voices in the community that are sharing this message of body positivity, and self-acceptance, and that kind of thing, is really important. So I hope you stay with us and don’t get too angry at the shenanigans that happen in the Paleo community to leave us without your voice.

Summer: Well I think it needed a lot of ways. I do attract a lot of clients from that area who have kind of been down the same road that I went down with it, which I’m sure we’ll talk about.

Laura:   Oh yes. Actually that’s a great segue to our first question.  I’ve heard your story before. I’ve listened to your podcast. I’ve watched your adorable little videos on your website.  But for our listeners who don’t know who you are, or why we’re even talking about your involvement in the Paleo community, tell us about your story.

Just as a very quick recap, you used to be a Paleo nutrition consultant. Didn’t you used to be part of The Whole 30 Canada group?

Summer: Yeah, I was. So yeah, I mean I’ve kind of been heavily involved and invested in that community at one point and time.

Laura: Yeah, and so now you’re a Body Image Coach who teaches women how to eat whatever they want and love their bodies regardless of their appearance. So how did you get to this point where on one hand you were so deep into the Paleo nutrition and fitness world, and then now you’re it seems… I don’t want to say on the other end of the spectrum, because obviously you’re not preaching binging on donuts for every meal…but you’re pretty far from the Paleo community as far as what you recommend. So tell us about how you got to this point and what made you change your philosophy about not only your own health approach, but then the women that you work with.

Summer: I mean I think it all came from my own story and experience with it.  I never felt comfortable in my body as a child. I always wanted to lose weight. I was teased a lot for my body growing up, and so the only way that I kind of knew how to fix that and to make the emotional pain go away was to lose weight. And the only way that I sort of knew how to fix this feeling of always feeling uncomfortable in my skin and self-conscious was to lose weight.

I was obsessed with weight loss from an early age I guess you could say.  All through high school I started dieting and exercising. And any time my body would change a little bit, I would get that short term hit of validation that would make me feel amazing. People would notice. They would be like, oh you look good. Or, have you lost weight? And that would make me feel so good, and so I’d want more of that feeling because it’s really short lived and fleeting once you receive that. I mean external validation is kind of just like this little short term high. And that progressed into my twenties.

And I think when I got into Cross Fit, that was like almost ten years ago now, which is really crazy to think about, and that was when I was introduced to this concept of the Paleo diet. So I started to eat Paleo and that was the one kind of way of eating that really sort of changed the way my body looked.  And so I was like immediately bought in, like all in. Right?

That would kind of set me on this path that led to a lot of disordered eating behaviors.  It wasn’t so bad before that.  It was in hindsight, like I seriously had an exercise addiction, but in terms of my behaviors around food, they truly became a lot more disordered after I had sort of been in the Paleo scene for a little while. And that was all because of this sort of quest for me to lose weight once and for all, and I really pushed restriction to the max. At my worst, I was really under eating, I was working out seven times a week, so sometimes like twice a day, and I wasn’t eating any carbohydrates at all. I wouldn’t even eat a carrot because that scared me.  Fruit was just something that I would never eat. Fruit was like a treat. That was like, okay, on the weekend I can have a banana.

Kelsey: Right.

Summer: It got to the point where it was like really, really insane. But the problem is that I really thought I was healthy. I thought I was just following what a lot of the blogs were saying.  And I’ll say that when your diet brain…which I have and seriously had at the time, a diet brain…you just interpret things the way you want to interpret them. So you ignore any of the sane practitioners, or any of the recommendations that are like, no you guys, carbs are okay. And this was at the time when Paleo was really new so low carb was really popular.  That kind of just fed into my food fears and my obsession.

I was spending all my time listening to Paleo podcasts and stuff. And so what better way to celebrate my love of Paleo than to go back and start a whole new career that’s based in Paleo? So I became a nutritionist and went back to school for that. And again, I thought everything I was doing was really healthy. But in hindsight looking back on it, my behaviors were pretty disordered.  I would go through these periods where I would eat like super, super strict for like four weeks or eight weeks, and then I would just eat everything, like everything! Whatever that wasn’t locked up or away from me, I would eat.  And so my body weight was constantly kind of, it would go down a little bit, and then it would go up and up a little bit more. And I was just continually frustrated, like why can’t I get this under control? Why can’t I lose the weight once and for all?  And that just further drove me into more obsessive behaviors, like trying to find a supplement that would fix me, working with different practitioners. All along, it never hit me that what I was doing was actually really messed up.

Laura:  It kind of amazes me that, if you’re working with a practitioner, that they didn’t…unless maybe they did realize it and you just didn’t want to hear it?  I don’t know what your experience was.

Summer: No, and I don’t want to put blame on anyone, but there were certainly people who were encouraging what I was doing.  There were people who I worked with, and I mean it’s not like I worked with a ton of people, but there were a couple practitioners that I did work with that were like, no keep doing what you’re doing. Like arugula and turkey, if that’s all you’re eating, that’s good. You should lose weight.  That was another issue, was that I had other people who just thought everything I was doing was healthy. I thought what I was doing was healthy.

And so it wasn’t until everything kind of fell apart on me, like my weight started to creep back up, I had lost my period,  I was feeling really tired all the time, and that’s when I went to see a naturopath.  And I initially went to see her because I wasn’t losing weight. And that’s when she told me that my hormones were not working properly, and I had hormone levels of a post-menopausal woman, and my thyroid was down-regulated, and my adrenals were out of whack. And she actually said to me, I’m surprised you’re functioning, I’m surprised you’re alive.  And she was the first person who looked at my food and exercise and was like, uh, what are you doing?

Kelsey: Yeah. I feel like that’s sort of where a lot of people start to realize that there’s something very wrong, when those hormones get way out of whack, when your thyroid isn’t functioning just because you’re simply not eating enough usually among the other restrictions and everything. And it kind of takes someone to look at those hormones and say, wow, there’s something going on here.

I think the issue with working with some of these Paleo minded practitioners is that I think a lot of times they don’t consider the overall caloric intake.  That has been part of that Paleo conversation that calories don’t totally matter, and it’s really just the quality of food you’re eating, the types of food you’re eating.  So it’s very easy to just put that out of your mind entirely. And for a lot of people that probably is okay because maybe they were overeating to begin with and this just kind of normalizes things. But for a lot of people, I think you do start to get into that under eating category very, very easily.

Summer: Yeah. I think another issue is that a lot of practitioners, if they see a woman who is “binging,” or who says to them I can’t control myself if there’s cupcakes around, their answer is: Well you need to control yourself more.

Kelsey: Right.

Summer: Whereas that’s like a huge red flag that you’re under eating, and under eating carbohydrates in particular. That went away for me really quickly as soon as I started eating enough and as soon as I started giving myself allowance of foods, and specially carbohydrates.  I really don’t crave sugar at all anymore. I think there’s just like these red flags for disordered eating behaviors that a lot of practitioners don’t look for and don’t realize.  I think that’s a conversation that needs to be had.

I think a lot of people go into health and fitness with a disordered frame of mind. I think a lot of people make these career changes, like I did myself, to almost fuel their obsessive nature.

Kelsey: Right.

Summer: So for me, I mean it was kind of like when that moment happened to me a few years ago, that was when I really realized I needed to make this radical change, and start really looking at what was going on inside my head, and that I had this dysfunctional relationship with food. And all of that stemmed from my poor self-image, and that if I could accept my body and just realize the perfect body is the one I’m, then I would free myself from these issues with food and really just get the freedom that I always wanted. Ultimately, all I ever wanted was to feel comfortable in my skin, to feel confident, to be able to wear a bikini to the beach, to wear shorts the gym, to not really care what other people think. None of that comes from changing your body.  That really all comes from changing your state of mind and working on your psychological well-being. So that’s what set me on that path to do that work and then that’s how I help women today.

Laura: That’s so cool. And mentioning before how a lot of practitioners don’t even notice these disordered eating behaviors in their clients, I feel like I try to attract people with some level of awareness that their eating is disordered. But it’s really, really hard to get someone who doesn’t think what they’re doing is a problem, or is so obsessed with the idea of having their ideal body, or losing weight, or making sure they don’t gain weight, that it doesn’t even matter to them if their health is going down the toilet.

I’ve actually had some clients recently, one in particular that I’m thinking of, and I don’t know where this is going because we’re still working together. But basically I had to point blank tell her, you need to choose between having your weight stay stable or fixing all these health issues that you’ve come to me for. There’s no solution that’s going to allow you to keep eating this way and also get the health improvements that you’re looking for.

It’s one of those kind of tough love approaches that can be really uncomfortable. I mean I feel like I work with a lot of these kind of people and I’ve gotten better at it, but there’s still that level of discomfort that comes from calling someone out on their bullshit. Excuse my French.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura:  But if somebody is like I’m here to fix X Y Z symptoms, I lost my period, and I’m exhausted all the time, and I have really bad acne, and blah, blah, blah. And you’re telling them, well your eight hundred calorie a day diet and seven days a week of exercise is the cause. That’s not really what they want to hear.

I think what you’ve just told us about really comes down to the fact that someone has to be ready, and willing, and acknowledging their own demons to be able to change. No matter how good the practitioner that you see is, they’re not going to be able to make that change for you. That’s an internal change that has to come from your own motivation.

Summer: Yeah. You’re so right. At the time, even if those practitioners said you’re hurting yourself, I wouldn’t have cared because all I cared about was changing my body.  That was my number one goal in life.  It sounds so superficial kind of repeating this back.  But that’s all I wanted. I was like, I just want my body to look a certain way.  That was what occupied all of my time, and so I wasn’t ready to hear that either. So you’re right. I mean the onus is really on the person.  And I don’t think you have to be one hundred percent ready, but I think your toe has to be in the door. You have to be like alright, I’m sick of this other stuff, like I’m really sick of it, and I’m open to what you’re saying.  And then we can really pull you through the door.

Laura: Right. Or get a nice shove.

Summer: Yeah. Exactly.

Laura: Your story is a great example of “healthy” behaviors gone wrong. We talk about healthy behaviors like eating good food and exercising.  There’s a fine line between following a healthy lifestyle and getting into that kind of disordered behavior that you experienced.  And I say fine line because I think it’s easy to kind of get into that disordered type behavior without even realizing it, and with no one else really realizing it, because like you said, oh you look really good, you’re fit, you have good muscle definition. People tend to give compliments to people that are in that first stage of kind of disordered behaviors.

But, as far as people who want to get healthy and to make changes, to feel better, to look better, to do whatever their goals are, do you think it’s possible for women to approach health and fitness from a place of self-love while still pursuing a weight loss goal?  Or, do you believe that weight loss is just a totally worthless goal the first place and trying to approach that from a self-love perspective is, I guess,  not possible?

Summer: Yeah.  It’s such a good question because like a lot of people would come to my website and be like, you’re so anti weight loss. First of all, I think anyone’s entitled to do what they want to do.  So I’m not going to judge anyone for their decisions. But I do think that we have to really ask ourselves why. So anytime a person wants to lose weight, I’ll just ask them why.  Because I think there’s a lot of myths around weight loss, in particular around health, in particular around confidence.  And those are two of the main reasons why people often do want to lose weight. So they’ll say, I want to lose weight to be healthy. And that’s where some education needs to come into play around how the fact that health can exist at many different sizes, and that health is really about our behaviors not our body size, and that we also have to consider mental health and psychological well-being when we talk about health.

If someone says, well I want to lose weight to be confident.  Well that’s where a lot of the body image stuff comes in because feeling confident is really about a state of mind.  It’s not about your body size. I mean, yes, we live in a world where fatness is discriminated against, and certainly if you are fat you may be discriminated against, which is horrible and awful in and of itself. But in terms of living a happy, fulfilling life, you deserve that and you can have at it at any size

I think I always come back to why.  Why do you want to do that? And just providing some education that you can generally have those things regardless of weight, because weight loss is more of a side effect than a guarantee. There’s a lot of evidence that suggests that long term weight loss is rare. And I think a lot of times with women, we have to look at what your body was like when you were a kid. Look at all your relatives. Are you trying to put your body size into something that’s probably not genetically possible for you? In my case, if you look at all of the women on my side of the family, they’ve all got bodies like the one I have, like big hips, big thighs, big butts. That’s my body shape. The body shape I have is very similar to what I had when I was a kid. And so if you’re trying to force it into this other size that it’s not really meant to have, you’re just going to be chronically disappointed.

So I think if you are approaching it from this attitude of, alright, well maybe I do want to just pursue an aesthetic goal, but I’ll be okay if it doesn’t happen. That, to me, is a very sane way of approaching it.  I just rarely see that happening. Maybe that’s because of the world that I’m in, and the women that I attract, and by world I mean like just that the community that I attract.  But I have seen it happen. I have seen somebody who needed to lose some weight for an athletic purpose, and they did it sanely. And then their body went back. It was like a short term thing, and they didn’t go crazy, and everything was fine.

I mean, is it possible? Yeah, of course it is. But I think you just have to be really honest with yourself and ask yourself, is your desire to lose weight because you’re afraid of being fat or being perceived as fat? Would you be angry if your weight didn’t change? Is this goal actually hurting your psychological well-being? I think that if you can just be honest with those answers, and if you’re like, no I’ll be cool if my weight doesn’t change, that’s cool. I’m not afraid of gaining weight, or losing weight. It’s just it is what it is and I feel good in my body regardless. Cool! That seems like a very sane place to be, but I just I don’t see that very much.

Laura: Yeah. Especially with women who have a history of weight cycling.  Even if they’re doing everything “right” as far as their diet, and their exercise, and their sleep, and their stress. They’re doing everything that objectively should cause a person to be healthy and to be their ideal weight.  Sometimes women who have gone through these weight loss and weight regain cycles over the course of ten, twenty years, their ability to lose weight or their bodies’ just propensity to lose weight even if they’re doing everything right, is not necessarily going to happen. That gets people into trouble because they assume, oh if I’m eating really well, if I’m exercising regularly, if I’m sleeping, and I’m doing all these X Y Z things, then that means I should lose weight. And it doesn’t always happen.

Like you said, if somebody is okay with that, then they will be able to continue those healthy behaviors without it getting discouraging or without them saying, screw this. I’m not losing weight so I’m just going to give up. Because that’s not the indicator of success, if their weight changes. So sure, if weight loss happens, that’s awesome. And it’s awesome if it comes from a place of self-care where you’re really, actually, truly caring for your body. And yeah, weight loss can happen in that situation.

But I’ve worked with a lot of women that, unfortunately I think, their bodies have just been through such a damaging cycle that getting to a weight that they consider to be normal without doing any sort of drastic weight loss approach just probably won’t happen, which is upsetting for a lot of people.  But I think it can also be liberating if you realize this isn’t my fault, and I don’t have control over this, and I don’t have to berate myself every day for not accomplishing this goal.

Summer: Yeah. I think that’s the biggest thing, and that was for me. Really just being like I don’t have control of my weight. My body is really just going to do what it’s going to do. And as soon as I did that, my body hasn’t really changed. It just stays where it is. It would actually be very hard for me to gain weight. I think it would. I’d have to focus on it, like with the same level of focus that I used to put towards losing weight.  Your body really does have this kind of healthy “set point.”  It stays within this range. And when it find it, it’s actually pretty cool how your body is able to kind of self-regulate, and keep you in there, and regulate your hunger, and your energy intake, and input, and output. I mean our bodies like homeostasis. So when we try to mess around with that homeostasis, that’s when things get in trouble.

Laura: You obviously have a nutrition background.  As you were saying before, you started a whole other career on nutrition.  That would mean I expect you know more about nutrition than the average person. I think you definitely do. And even if you’re moving away from the whole super deep functional nutrition side of things, I know that you know what the recommendations are and what the average person should be eating.  When you’re choosing to eat for yourself, or if you’re talking to other people about what you eat, does nutrition cross your mind at all these days? Are there things that you eat simply for the health value? Or is that something that you stopped doing after you’ve liberated yourself from this dieting mindset? Is it just like, I don’t think about nutrition.  I don’t worry about it. I don’t plan to eat in a way that is taking care of X Y Z nutrients, that kind of thing. Where are you at, at this point?

Summer: I can’t un-know what I know. It would be cool if I could take out a portion of my brain. I do, obviously I know what I know.  But I think that a lot of what I knew wasn’t really…

Kelsey: Accurate.

Summer: Yeah. It’s not really accurate. I mean you can go online and prove to yourself that anything is unhealthy. Let’s be honest here.  You can go online and prove that kale is unhealthy. And so I think for me, and what I teach my clients, is it’s really about understanding what feels best for you.  So I do eat certain things for their health value. But I always give myself the option of not eating them, and that is the key.  When I talk about eating what you want, people automatically assume that that’s like pizza and cupcakes. It’s like, no, you’re actually just giving yourself full permission and you’re really listening to your body. Your body is pretty good at telling you what feels good and what works for you. When you can detach that emotional connection away from it and just really pay attention to the physical reactions that foods are giving you, you can become much more empowered as to what actually works for you.

So for me, it’s all about having the permission. So the permission to do what I want versus feeling like I “should.”  Back in the day, everything I did was because I thought I should do it. It was a very disempowered frame of mind.  Now it’s about how does this feel for me? Whereas before it was like is this going to help me lose weight? And that was the most important thing. So when the decision is like is this going to help me lose weight? I didn’t care about how it me feel. Now I’m really connected to how things make me feel.

I probably actually eat a much more “balanced” way of eating than I did before. I’ve got a much wider spectrum of foods, macronutrients, especially in the carb department. I think that sometimes I will consciously do things, like I will buy salmon because I’m like alright, I want to get some omega 3s so ’ll eat salmon.  But most of the time I crave stuff. My body is really good at steering me towards it.  I will crave vegetables. I will crave fish.  And I’m really in tune with how those foods make me feel.  If I don’t eat protein, I don’t feel so great. So I’m conscious about that. I’m conscious about what proteins I buy because I do have an investment in the ethical treatment of animals and in our environment.  So things like are still important to me.  But there’s no judgment or guilt, and I always give myself permission to divert. I don’t have to eat anything. I can have what it is that I want. So it’s really more about a frame of mind.

And I also know the value of psychological well-being, and I think that in my case that needed to be a priority for me. You can have like the “healthiest” diet in the world, but if it’s making you anxious, or obsessive, or you’re not actually eating enough, that’s not really going to make you a healthier person. I think that when we use the word health, we really have to look at it from a much broader perspective as well instead of just like food and exercise, and look at like how’s this actually working for you mentally and emotionally. And how are the other pieces of your life working for you mentally and emotionally, like your relationships, and your career, and all that other stuff, because that all plays into our overall well-being.

Laura: Oh yeah, definitely.  In some ways, I think it can play more into well-being than the diet and exercise piece can, which sounds weird coming from a dietitian. But the relationships, and the fulfillment as far as career, or family life, or whatever you’re doing with your life that makes you feel fulfilled, all of that I think can have a much bigger impact on long term health outcomes than whether or not you had enough vegetables or that kind of thing.

Kelsey: Yeah. Exercise and diet are the easy things that people gravitate towards because they are more easily changeable usually then something like your job is too stressful, or you need to make more social relationships. Those are things that typically for most people feel much bigger, much scarier to make big changes than even doing a very strict sort of diet.  That tends to feel easier to people.

Summer: Yeah. I know there’s this amazing TED talk by this guy, I think his name’s actually Guy.  I can’t remember his last name.

Laura: Are you sure it’s not just a Canadian thing to call a guy. Hey, Guy!

Summer: No! I think it’s called Emotional Hygiene.  He talks about how like loneliness is just as dangerous as smoking for cardiovascular health, and how loneliness is actually this major contributor to poor health. But no one talks about that.

Kelsey: Right.

Summer: I just I think we need to really open our eyes and look at it from this much broader perspective.  And sometimes just fixing food just is really just a fraction of the larger health equation.

Laura: The scary part is if somebody is too obsessed about their diet and exercise that it actually can create loneliness because they are not eating out with their friends or they’re at the gym instead of going to social events.

Summer: Yeah.

Laura: It’s almost like going in the opposite direction if you’re choosing your diet or your exercise preferences over having relationships. Obviously if you’re feeling like your friends aren’t supporting your particular health approach, depending on if it is actually a health approach or if it’s a disordered eating approach, than that can make a big difference in whether or not you want to spend time with them. But  I think people tend to make too big of a deal out of it and isolate themselves because they don’t feel like they have control when they’re around other people.  Again, it just comes down to this needing to be in control all the time, and if they’re not in control, they feel like they’re causing harm.

Summer: Yeah.

Laura: So when you’re in a group of people, there is less control over your experience than if you’re by yourself. But like you said, could be even worse to be by yourself than eating the “wrong” food with your best friends and having a great time.

Summer: Yeah, totally. I just think it’s so subjective too. For me, being able to spontaneously go out with friends or have a bottle of wine, like that to me just gives me more fulfillment in life then saying no to those things because I’m trying to be “perfect.”   Yeah, I think you always have to look at the big picture in that case for sure.

The other thing I’ll say is that size discrimination is also a core contributor to health. That’s another reason why we really need body acceptance, and equality, and respect for all bodies because there are studies that show that that is a detriment to people’s health. Discrimination is a detriment to people’s health. So I’ll just I’ll just throw that one in there as well because I think that’s also worth mentioning.

Laura:  Yeah, definitely. What you were saying before about how the dieting mindset actually causes you to do behaviors that could actually lead to weight gain. So if you’re trying to avoid sugar all the time, or just avoiding carbs, and then whenever your body takes over you go out and eat a pint of ice cream or something because you just can’t do it anymore. That’s actually more likely to cause weight gain than what you’re doing right now, which is eating intuitively, eating the foods that you feel like make you feel good.  If you have this person who is trying so hard to be so restrictive and then losing control, because there’s only so much control that we have over our diet and over our bodies, it could actually cause them to gain more weight, and then the weight could actually become a health problem as opposed to just being a little heavier naturally but still being healthy. That binge and restrict cycle, I think, causes a lot more harm than just eating the amount of food that is appropriate and eating foods that make you feel your best.

Summer: Yeah, totally.

Laura: Now, you were just talking about how eating less restrictively and being able to go out and have some wine with your friends, or maybe going out and having some pizza or something, is something that you value.  I’m sure a lot of the women listening to this podcast think that eating whatever they want sounds fantastic, but that this way of eating can’t apply to them because maybe they have a health condition like an auto immune disease, celiac disease, maybe a digestive disorder.  How does what you teach apply to the women who have a serious illness, that the illness is being managed by more of a restrictive diet than the type that you typically encourage? Like someone’s on an Autoimmune Paleo diet because they have rheumatoid arthritis and it’s keeping their arthritis under control. But then they’re like, I can’t go have pizza with my friends because I don’t eat gluten or dairy.

Summer: Yeah, for sure.  Yeah, I do or I have worked with women with conditions who have a lot of food intolerances. I think that again, it’s really more of a state of mind than an absolute way of eating. Eating what you want is really just this attitude of like I have full permission. So if you have a particular health condition that limits the foods that you can eat for physical reasons, then you would just do that within the confines of what you can. So for example, eating more carbohydrates if that’s what you’re feeling, or sweeter things. You can still eat kind of the stuff that your body craves, and wants, or desires within the confines of what works for you.

And I think this clearly depends on the person and this would not apply to someone who has celiac or a real food intolerance or allergy. But a lot of times, I’ll work with women who have mild food intolerances. I think that sometimes they have to go through a little bit of physical discomfort to heal that emotional, mental side of things to really build up this trust that they do have full permission to eat the things they want, when they want them.  Sometimes they’ll go through a little bit of physical discomfort in order to really heal that emotional thing, and then we can talk about consciously making decisions that honor their physical well-being.  Because really what it’s about is it’s about detaching physical responses to foods from emotional responses to foods. So I think those two tend to get muddled.

I’ll give you an example for myself because I do have foods that don’t make me feel great.  So if I eat a lot of a lot of sugar, per se. Let’s say I eat standard crunchy caramel chocolate bar, or something like that, which has tons of sugar in it. I’m not going to feel well afterwards. I know my stomach is going to be like in knots. In the past, I would have felt so much guilt and shame over it.  Now if I do that, I’m like okay, physically I don’t feel well, but it’s okay. I move on. The next meal is a different meal. It’s not a big deal.

I think it’s really about detaching that emotional and the physical response.  And it’s really about moving to an empowered frame of mind and disassociating your self-worth from your food choices. So it’s really about the difference between saying, I can eat that and I’m choosing not to because of the way it makes me feel, versus I can’t that. I shouldn’t eat that. I can’t have that. That’s a very disempowered frame of mind. If you have a lot of food intolerances, yeah, you can still eat those foods but you choose not to because of the way they make you feel. So I think it’s still about just the way you’re thinking about food and then obviously giving yourself that full permission within the confines of what feels good for you.  And if it is more of just a mild intolerance, sometimes it’s about going through a little bit of physical discomfort to really heal that emotional side, if you need that help. Otherwise, if you don’t need to, then you don’t need to. I’m not saying you should do that by any means.

Kelsey: Summer, when you say that people have to go through a little physical discomfort, so I’m imagining kind of what you were talking about where someone just getting some mild-ish kind of stomach digestive discomfort that comes from eating something. But would you also recommend this for people who maybe have sensitivities to a degree where say that eat something and they get a little bit of acne, or something like that?  Or they get a little rash, or anything like that, but it’s not a true allergy. Where’s that cut off point, I guess, is what I’m asking.

Summer: I mean I don’t think there’s a line. I think it really depends on the individual and I think if you’re listening to this and you’re thinking, wow, I maybe do have a disordered relationship with food and I need help with it, and I also have these food intolerances. I would really work with a practitioner, to be honest, because I think it’s really about having somebody guide you and really help you with the mental side of it. I would never tell someone to go out there and make themselves feel physically unwell.  I just know in my experience that sometimes there is a little bit of that to really overcome that initial permission and to give yourself that full allowance.  I rarely see, rarely if ever, I don’t even know if I have ever seen a woman who would doing that and be in a constant state of physical discomfort.  I think it’s more just kind of this momentary like, oh I felt some bloating today. So I’m going to keep that in mind for next time. Now I now really understand it this food makes me feel this way.

Kelsey: Right.

Summer: But I’m not feeling guilty or shameful about it anymore. That’s kind of the turning point.

Kelsey: Got it.

Summer:  But it’s really individual. I don’t think there’s a line.

Kelsey: Yeah. And even from my perspective, working with clients who usually have kind of gone through that restrictive phase, like they’ve maybe done Paleo or GAPS diet, something like that where it’s really restrictive. And then they get scared. They get scared of fruit, like you were talking about before. They get scared of these healthy foods that even though they maybe get a little bit of bloating or something like that from them, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they shouldn’t eat them either. I think there has to be some education about that, too. Just because you have a little bit of bloating or something minor happens to you physiologically when you eat a food does not mean that it’s something you should never eat, that it’s not healthy for you regardless.

People do need to sort of understand that too, that there’s not this perfect state of being and perfect state of digestion that’s going to stay static, even if you’re eating perfectly all the time. Your digestive system is always doing different things and some days you may have a little bit of bloating if you eat a banana. Other days you might not. And just because you experienced it once doesn’t mean that you can never eat that food again. I think people kind of get scared if something happens in that phase where they’re adding things back into their diet, and they get scared off of a food forever because of one experience.

I try to tell my clients at least that that should be reproducible. If something is actually causing problems for them, they need to be able to reproduce that symptom. Because just because it happened once, it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen every single time, too.

Summer: That’s such a good point.  Yeah.  I’m glad you brought that up because I’ve experienced that with a client before and I think that’s a really good point.

Laura:  I wonder how much of it is psychosomatic.

Summer: Yes!

Laura:  I mean if you think about the fact that if somebody has one bad experience with a food, I mean that’s something that’s in the research.  If somebody gets ill after eating something, like nauseous or throws up or something, that they’ll have an aversion to that food basically for the rest of their life, which in nature is a defense mechanism against eating foods that make you sick.  But if there is somebody that had one day where they ate something that caused them to get bloated, they may associate that symptom with that food and then they’ll be avoiding it.  So the question is are you avoiding it because it actually causes the problems? Or did you just have one bad experience? And then the psychosomatic piece is if you’re expecting something to make you sick or make you feel bad when you eat it, it probably will make you feel bad.

And I’m not saying you should just expect that all foods are going to make you feel good and have this positivity mindset that I can eat anything I want and nothing’s going to make me ever feel bad, and you can just never have any sort of reaction to any food.  But I think feeling like, okay I’m just going to have this and whatever happens, happens. And if I don’t feel well afterwards, then okay, maybe I don’t want to eat that, or maybe next time this comes up I’ll know that it’s not worth it. But I think just having this fear about your broad classes of food because of the reaction that someone has had in the past is a little, its unfortunately common. And I think it can really turn into something where people just start to avoid way more foods than is really necessary to have good health.

I like your example of the skin stuff, Kelsey. Because for me, I’ve noticed I tend to break out if I’ve had too much gluten or wheat products or whatever, either in a single day or if I’ve had it a couple days in a row.  So for me, I don’t eat a lot of gluten because of that, but I don’t avoid it because I don’t think a little bit of acne here and there isn’t going to kill me.  But I do know if I was going to have an event coming up, or if I was going to have photos done or something, that I probably would choose to avoid gluten for a couple weeks just to make sure that I’m minimizing the chance of getting a skin issue.

I think having some level of knowledge about how your body reacts to foods and being able to explore different types of foods and say, okay, do I feel good eating this? Does it bother me? How much of it can I eat before it causes a problem? How much of a problem is it so that I need to avoid it all the time versus if I just want to avoid it most of the time and then have it on special occasions?  I think having that really deep understanding of how your body reacts to foods can actually be empowering because then you can make decisions when they come up that are giving yourself permission to either eat or not eat something that are really based in self-love and self-care as opposed to just having this Paleo guru voice in your head being like, no! You’re not allowed to have sugar because sugar is evil, and you going to get cancer, and blah, blah, blah, whatever you want to say about it.

Summer: Yes.

Laura: Whereas saying, I know if I have too much wheat ‘m going to have a stomachache. Like for me, for example, pasta always gives me a stomachache, regular pasta. So I never eat it. I don’t even care to eat it. And I don’t look at pasta and say, oh it’s gluten. It’s going to kill me. It’s more, ugh, I never feel good when I need pasta, so why would I want to eat it?  And then there’s no morality associated with it. It’s just making the best decision for yourself at the time, and then you don’t have to be in this restrictive mindset all the time.

Summer: Yeah, totally. You said it so well.  The way you were saying it is exactly how I would describe an empowering frame of mind around food, which is exactly what people would hopefully want to have.

Laura: I love how you approach the topic of that inner critic.  I know you call it the evil doppelgänger.

Summer: I took away the evil. But yes, it’s the doppelgänger.

Laura: Oh, you took away the evil. It’s just your doppelgänger that’s criticizing.

Summer: I can say why I took away the evil.

Laura: Yeah. Well tell us about who the inner critic is and how she affects our decisions about what we eat, how we exercise, and how we feel about ourselves, and why you’ve moved away from the term evil.

Summer: I think everybody is sort of familiar with this concept of the inner critic, and if you’re not it’s really just like that negative voice in your head. There’s a lot of different names for it like our inner mean girl, the trolls, I don’t know. Everyone has their own name for it so my name for it is doppelgänger. Really that voice is just a manifestation of our inner safety mechanism. So t’s there to protect us.  And often it’s really this manifestation of this innocent piece of ourselves that is trying to protect us from emotional discomfort and harm.  So that voice that’s telling you that you’re not good enough, or that you’re gross, or that you’re never going to be worthy, or whatever it’s saying to you, has no interest in your joy or self-actualization.  All it wants to do is protect you.  So even though it’s saying these cruel things to you, the motivation is really to protect you.  And so what I mean by that is it might be protecting you from judgment, from rejection, from shame, from vulnerability. So in the case of a woman who is struggling to feel good in her body and that voice is telling her that she’s gross, and it’s telling her oh you shouldn’t eat that, you need to exercise more. Probably it’s protecting you from judgment, or rejection, or shame driven from your body.

I dropped the evil because I prefer to look at it like an innocent piece of ourselves because I think if we look at this voice as evil, we have a greater tendency to tell it to shut up or to get angry at it.  And so the way I kind of explain this is like think about yourself as a child and maybe a time in your life where you got bullied or somebody made you feel not so good about yourself.  Would you go back to that child and tell it to shut up?

Laura: That’s so awful when you say it.

Summer: Yeah. No, you wouldn’t. Right? So that voice is a manifestation of those events that happened to us.  Like when you were a kid and you got bullied, that little piece of you never wants you to feel that shame and discomfort again so it’s going to say whatever it can say to you to protect you from ever feeling that way.  So it’s going to want to keep you trapped in this comfort zone, like trapped in your bubble, trapped in your bubble of trying to lose weight and control your food.  You wouldn’t tell that piece of you to shut up. You really want to look at it and respond to it with compassion. That’s how we start to work with and overcome that negative voice.  It’s never going to go away completely because any time we step out of our comfort zone, it’s going to get fired up because it’s like, oh my God, don’t do that! That’s scary. That’s vulnerable.  Especially in doing body image work, a lot of body image work is about putting yourself out there and building up confidence by just doing the things you want to do.  It actually often can make the negative voice a little worse before it gets better.

Kelsey: Right.

Summer: So a lot of the work I do with women is around managing this voice, and understanding this voice for you, and why it’s actually showing up, and learning how to compassionately respond to it.  A lot of the stuff that I really learned about this came from one of the women that I learned so much from that was one of my mentors, who is Tara Mohr who wrote this book called Playing Big.

Laura: I was just going to ask you about that.

Summer:  Yeah. So if you’re curious to this kind of concept, she talks about it a lot in her book Playing Big.  I do recommend that. It’s such an important piece because in order for us to really move forward, we have to be able to respond to it and really create the separation to know that it’s not our voice and that we can respond back to it. It’s always going to be kind of this part of ourselves that we need to just carry along, and manage, and respond to. And it will get quieter. It certainly will. For me, it doesn’t really attack my body at all anymore. But it will attack other areas of my life, like in particular my work. There’s tons of self-doubt around there because I’m always pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. So I’m like, oh here we go again. You’re showing up trying to protect me. I’ve got to really flex those compassion muscles, as I call them.

Laura: Yeah.  And I love what…is it Tara? Is that how you pronounce her name?

Summer: Yeah, it’s Tara.

Laura: I love what Tara talks about in the book where instead of trying to ignore the voice, or like you said tell it to shut up, which really isn’t an effective approach in the long run, you really dive into what the voice is trying to protect you from.  So like you said, if your voice is telling you to not eat something because you’re going to gain weight and then you think, okay, well what would happen if I gained weight? What am I afraid of losing if I gain weight? Because most people use the health excuse to make the weight loss goal seem reasonable.  But I think when you really get deep into it, there is fear of rejection, or fear of people making fun, or losing a relationship that’s important to you. Or if somebody is married they might say, well if I gain weight, my husband won’t be attracted to me anymore. There’s usually some kind of fear that the voice is protecting you against.

Summer: Yes.

Laura: Being able to recognize what that fear is and be able to maybe do some journaling about it, or really explore why am I afraid of this? What happened in my past that made me afraid of this?  What is the likelihood that me gaining weight would actually cause this negative outcome to happen? Is my weight really the one thing that affects this?  So if it’s like I’m afraid my husband’s not going be attracted to me anymore, is it that he would not be attracted to your weight? Or there are other things that you guys have problems in your relationship that you’re not dealing with that are making your relationship more rocky and you tend to look at the weight as the issue?

I think it gives an avenue for people to really explore the deeper motivations behind this kind of thing. The other thing she talks about that you just brought up about your career is the whole idea of doing things that you are afraid of, and to try to live in a state of never being afraid of anything means that you really have to avoid vulnerability, which for most people isn’t going to work very well. And especially for people like us who are entrepreneurs running our own business trying to inspire people, you basically have to accept being vulnerable, and that always is scary no matter how advanced you get.  Being able to kind of embrace that fear as being a sign that you’re doing something really big and awesome as opposed to having it shut you down, I think is another really great topic that she talks about.

I didn’t mean to go off on a tangent on that. But, I love that book. I feel like she wrote it to me.  I was reading it and I was like, this is my book! She wrote it to me.

Summer: Yeah. It’s so good.

Laura: It’s awesome how you incorporate that stuff into your work because I think people really don’t get it, that it is that deeper fear of rejection, or loss, or death, or whatever the deep fear is that they’re trying to avoid. Once they have the knowledge about that, then they can be more empowered to make decisions that aren’t just driven by fear all the time.

Summer: Yeah, absolutely.

Kelsey: It’s like finding the root cause.  We talk about that in functional medicine. You need to find the root cause of what’s causing the symptoms that you’re experiencing, and not treating the symptoms. And I think that really applies here as well.  Don’t attack that inner critic because it’s trying to protect you.  That’s just a symptom of the underlying fear. And once you find that underlying fear and you can address that directly, it’s going to be a whole lot easier to kind of give that self-love, that self-compassion a bit more easily.

Summer: Yeah.  And once you sort of know that it’s going to show up any time you step outside your comfort zone, you can kind of expect it. I’m just like…

Laura: There it is!

Summer: Here we go again! Of course!  You become better equipped to manage it, and take care of it, and really know how to get through it.

Laura: And you can almost flip it to a positive where it’s like, oh there’s that fear again. I guess I’m doing something really exciting and big.  So it can almost get you excited about it as opposed to scared or backing down from the challenge.

Summer: Exactly. Yeah.  You can lean into it.

Laura: Cool. You run a group program called Rock Your Body where you teach women how to escape the negative body image that controls their thoughts and behaviors, which is just what we’re talking about here with all this fear based decision making, and start living in a way that’s free of body shame, obsessive dieting and exercise, and self-doubt. So tell us a little bit about this program, and what kind of big changes have you seen in past participants lives after going through it?

Summer:  My Rock Your Body program starts with three free training videos that anyone can access. I’m really excited about those. They’re brand new this year and really just focused around body image and looking at like what does it actually even mean to love your body? Because I think that’s a real important discussion that needs to happen before you start doing this work and some of the important steps to take in order to kick start that journey. And then if you enjoy the free training videos, you are welcome to come and participate in the twelve week group program, which is really for the woman who has a lot to be proud of in her life, but it doesn’t seem to matter because she can’t get over the persistent negative chatter in her head telling her that she is not good enough, which I think a lot of women can relate to. They’ve got these amazing careers, and relationships, and maybe they have kids, and all these great things. But none of it seems to matter because they’ve just got this constant, you’re not good enough, you’re gross, just dominating their thoughts. The twelve weeks is really looking at all the different facets of body image to help that kind of woman stop fretting over her stomach, and stop comparing herself to other women, and just start feeling good when they see a picture of themselves, and detach their body from their self-worth and their happiness.

It’s amazing to me what changes can happen in a short period of time.  Body image work is a long, long process, but you can still see big changes in a short period of time. That can really kind of kick start you and be the catalyst for even more major changes down the road. I think one of the coolest things for me is when I hear from clients like a year later, or people have done the program like a year later, and things are just dramatically better for them. Maybe it’s that they’ve freed up all this mental space that they’re able to go after a new career and really do something bold and daring that they that they didn’t even think about doing before because they were so busy obsessing over their body.  Or it could be something really simple, like they just like went to the beach in a bathing suit for the first time. A lot of times it just can really help heal their relationship with food so they will tell me that they just will have food that will go stale. They’ll forget about chocolate in their cupboard or something, which they never thought they would be able to do.  And then it can just be bigger kind of themes, like they don’t really care about what other people think, or they don’t let their fear of judgment hold them back from following their dreams or doing what they want to do.  They’re more willing to stand up for themselves. They have a better intimate life. Their relationships are stronger because they aren’t so distracted.  I think a lot of times we become distracted because we’re just constantly sort of inside our own head, and picking ourselves apart, and worrying about what other people are thinking of us instead of being really connected to the people in our lives and focusing more of our of our attention on them and being in the moment with that. Ultimately it’s about them getting their lives back.

Certainly another thing that I always hear is that they put more time and attention on self-care and they’re able to make the changes from a more empowered frame of mind. Whether it’s they are getting back into exercise or movement for the first time, and it actually feels really intuitive, and it feels really good instead of feeling like it’s something they “should” do and it feels like punishment like it did before.  It’s pretty amazing what healing this one area of your life can…how that can ripple to all these other facets of your life.

Laura:  Yeah.

Summer:  The twelve week program really looks at all of that different stuff, like certainly dealing with the negative voice in the head, re-framing weight. I think we have so many myths and beliefs about fatness and thinness that keep us stuck. Looking at self-care, looking at self-worth, building up self-worth outside of appearance, and food, and fitness and all that stuff. So I’m really excited about it. I mean, I love it. It’s basically my heart and soul and everything that I preach put into this one program.

Laura: Love it.  I’m sitting here like drooling. All this sounds so nice.  And it’s so funny that you say that  thing about relationships. I’ve been there before. I think I still struggle with this, but in the past definitely was a huge part of my experience in college and high school where I was constantly comparing myself to other women. And I have two girlfriends that I go to church with that are some of the nicest girls I’ve ever met in my life. We get along so good and we have really deep conversations and that kind of thing. I actually had to be vulnerable with one of them in particular. I just point blank told her that I felt uncomfortable around her because she was so pretty and it made me feel bad about myself.  And then she opened up and said that she felt the same way. I know this sounds really dumb and it just sounds like some stupid Oprah moment or something.

Summer: No.

Laura: But I just feel like being able to break through that barrier of feeling so self-conscious around the other person really allowed our relationship to get really strong because now we know how the other person feels and we know that it’s okay to let go of that.  For me, I think this kind of work has really impacted my relationships the most.  And I’m able to be vulnerable and I’m able to develop close relationships with girlfriends because I don’t have this  constant self-aware, like o my gosh she looks so good, and I’m like my jeans are tight, and I don’t look like her. It’s just it’s so destructive of a relationship.  It’s just been so helpful for me to have this kind of process in my own life where I can actually engage in a conversation with a beautiful woman and not be thinking the whole time, oh my God, I don’t look like her, she’s so much prettier than me, all those negative inner critic noise that comes up when that kind of stuff happens.

Summer: Yeah. I think that’s such a big one.

Laura:  I can vouch for the importance of this in my own life. So that’s why I’m like, oh this program sounds so good!

Summer: Thank you, thank you. Yeah.  In my own life, just being able to be comfortable in who I am, it’s crazy how it just has affected it. There was so much fear around it at first. I was like, oh my God, I’m going to gain a ton of weight. Not that that matters, but in my head that was like the worst possible thing ever at that time.  I’m never going to stop eating pizza.  I’ll just binge on banana cake all day long. I’ll feel even more shame. I’ll feel like a failure. People will judge me. People won’t like me.  None of that happened! It was the total opposite. I feel so much more comfortable. I’ve had banana cake that’s gone stale in my fridge, which I never thought would happen. People actually respond to me better. My friends have said you seem so much more calm. You used to be such a control freak. You had all these rules about everything, and now you’re just like you go with the flow, and you’re so much more relaxed.  My intimate relationship with my husband isso much better.  I’m just such a more content human being.

So I think all those fears that people have around during this work…like I’ll just tell you, none of it will happen, and it’s so worth it, and that fear is really normal to feel in the beginning, and that slowly as you prove yourself wrong, it’ll go away.

Laura: What I love is that by you living this way, you’re giving other women permission and inspiration to live this way, too. Which I think especially in the online health, and nutrition, and fitness community,  you don’t get a lot of role models for self-love.

Summer: Yeah.

Laura: Because it’s always like the person is eating perfectly, and has abs, and you know they work out all the time and stuff. I love that your work really allows women to make these changes and feel good about them and not feel like they’re doing something that’s not good enough. I don’t know. I just feel like having a role model for this type of behavior is so important, and I love that you’ve done such a good job with that.

Summer: Well, thank you. Thank you so much.

Laura: You’re welcome. Well, I could talk about this forever.

Summer: Me too.

Laura: Well obviously, it’s your career. I hope you don’t get bored of it. We’ve loved having you on, Summer. You’re awesome.  We’d love to have you back in the future.  And for our listeners that don’t know you, or haven’t heard of you before today, where can they find you online so if they’re interested in getting these…and we’ll link to your free video series for sure. But if they’re interested in learning more about you and the work that you do, where can they find you?

Summer: I’m at SummerInnenen.com. If you don’t want to spell that, just go to TheBodyImageCoach.com and that will just redirect you to my site. My book Body Image Remix is on Amazon. And my podcast Fearless Rebelle Radio, you can find a link to that on my website, but also that’s on iTunes and Stitcher. And then I’m all over social media. Those are probably the best places to find my work and to reach me. And everything else I do is really situated on my website.  So if you just go to SummerInnenen.com or TheBodyImageCoach.com, you’ll find it there. And then Rock Your Body lives on its own site, so I think you’re going to link to that in the show notes for this episode, right?

Laura: Yeah. We’ll link to your main websites, and your free video series, as well as your social media stuff. So if people want to find more about Summer, they can go to episode forty five on TheAncestralRds.com.

Thank you so much for coming and hanging out with us, Summer!

Summer: Thank you for having me. It was so fun.

Laura: I don’t want to end the call.  Anyway, loved having you.  Really excited to see the work that you’re doing and hopefully we’ll have you back on the show the near future.

Summer: Thank you so much.

Laura: Alright. Take care, Summer.

Kelsey: Bye.


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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.

I help nutrition entrepreneurs grow their income and their impact by packaging their brilliance into transformative coaching and consulting programs, and get crystal clear on their marketing strategy.

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