Ep. 17 - Not Just for Athletes? Nutrition, Fuel, and mental health with Elizabeth Gunner
May 25th, 2022
This post includes the transcript from an episode of the Weight Loss with Hypnosis podcast. You can find the full episode here.
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Elizabeth: If you are dealing with any diet culture, thoughts. So like for example, body checking all the time, looking at the number on the scale and that defining your value in that setting up your day to like either have a good day or a bad day.
Looking at food as black and white and good and bad and beating yourself up and over eating probably when you eat like a cookie. And then feeling okay about yourself, but also deprived when you’re eating a salad.
Like these are all textbook signs of diet culture in just trying to obtain an unattainable beauty standard that the media has sort of presented to us as well.
So you can’t blame people for that. I think everyone’s done it. I’ve done it. And so, like, it’s not something that’s like should be coming from a place of shame.
Welcome back to the weight loss with hypnosis podcast. My name is Doug Sands, and this week I am joined by Elizabeth Gunner. And this was a really interesting conversation that covered a lot of ground. Elizabeth is a food [00:04:00] advocate and dietician. In this conversation, we talked a little bit about food justice and sustainability, as well as Elisabeth’s background with food scarcity, food sustainability and food justice. Through this interview, we also talked about Elizabeth’s work with sports nutrition, specifically talking about how to fuel your body for the best results. We also talked a bit about weight loss and we even talked about food for mental health.
Elizabeth actually works with a mental health startup, and so this was a really interesting point that we touched on quite a bit in this conversation. Also, there was a really interesting point in this conversation where Elizabeth turned the mic on me and started asking me questions about my philosophy and my practice.
And if you want to know a bit more about how I approach some of the problems that my clients come to me with, this is a fantastic interview to listen in. I had a really great time talking with Elizabeth today, and I know that you’re going to have an awesome time listening in. So with that, let’s dive right into the interview.
Doug: Welcome back to the podcast, everyone. My name is Doug Sands, and I’m the host of the show. And today I’m joined by Elizabeth Gunner. Elizabeth, thank you so much for joining us. I’d love to have you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about yourself.
Elizabeth: Yeah, of course.
Thank you for having me by the way. Yeah, so my name’s Elizabeth gunner. I am a dietician. I’m located in New York city region. I focus my dietetics stuff on a few different areas, but mainly media and intuitive eating, social, like mindful eating and sports nutrition. So helping athletes fuel their bodies, things like that. So that’s kind of what I do, and yeah.
Doug: May I ask how you got into this field?
Elizabeth: Yeah. Everybody always asks us actually. And it’s like, it’s so convoluted. I feel how you go about making decisions. So it’s hard to answer, even though it should just be a straightforward answer. But I think it was a multitude of things.
I think, first, I was an athlete in high school and so not that I was like, you know, [00:06:00] over competitive, but I ran track and so I’d hear from my coaches, like eat a banana for cramps or carb load before track me and things like that. And so it got me interested, like, why are my coaches telling me this? And it doesn’t actually work.
And then I noticed, when I started eating a little bit healthier that my performance levels increased in like, we’re better and I could run faster and recovery was easier and things like that. And I was like, that’s interesting. Didn’t really think much of it though. Just kind of was like, all right, cool, nice benefit.
And growing up too, I should say my mom was vegan vegetarian, my dad’s like meat and potatoes kind of guy. So sort of a stark contrast in the household as far as like food life goes. And when my sister and I were younger, we experienced a little bit of hunger slash like, food insecurity type deal. And so like that sort of contributed to it too.
So yeah, a ton of different things kind of convoluted. And then I went to college, had no idea what I wanted to do. And took it into the nutrition course, took it into the bio, anatomy, physiology, all that. And I was like, oh, I really like this like, human body stuff. [00:07:00] And little by little kind of hacked away at all of those sort of pre-med requirements and decided, Hey, I don’t really want to do PA, I don’t really want to do MD.
What else could I do that’s semi medical and that deals with the human body, but isn’t that. And that I could work outside of a clinical setting. And so that ended up being a dietician. So, um, did that, did my dietetic internship, did the board exam, did the whole thing. So, that’s kinda how it happened, but yeah, it wasn’t just one thing. It was definitely a multitude and there’s probably even more that I haven’t even mentioned, but a multitude of factors that contributed to the decision for sure.
Doug: That’s fantastic. Thank you for sharing that. Looking at, you know, working with sports, nutrition and your early realizations with sports, what’s kind of the basis of sports nutrition, like, you know, talking about fueling our body and recovery?
I’d love to learn a little bit more of the foundational level of that.
Elizabeth: Yeah. it depends per sport. There’s a little bit of variation like wrestling for example. They have to lose weight and gain weight kind of quickly. And basketball, it have to be pretty agile. Football, a [00:08:00] little bit more stocky. Baseball, they’re not as active. And so their nutritional stuff for each is so different, honestly so that’s one thing, but there are some foundationals like, what are you having pre-workout? What are you having inter workout if you’re working out for long periods of time? What’s post-workout nutrition looking like? How you hydrating, what’s your electrolyte intake, things like that. And then, as far as like actual food components, it’s all of the things that you hear. It’s just going to be different proportions per person. So whole grains, whole foods, some people they don’t eat meat, so you have to work your way around, you know, how are we going to incorporate proteins into your diet that aren’t going to leave you super stuffed and full so getting enough calories to fuel your workouts, which is doable for sure. Some people do Ramadan and fasting, so what does that look like when they’re, you know, playing a basketball game in their fasted? How do you go about that? So everyone’s a little bit different. But overall it’s the foundational stuff that you typically hear, whole grains, protein, fruits and vegetables, carbohydrate fat, but just different proportions per person. And then looking at different [00:09:00] macro and exercises per athlete.
Doug: That was a very fascinating answer. And for a lot of listeners, they might not be, you know, in a team sport, but they might be getting back into their health. Maybe to go into the weight gym for the first time in 20 years. Would you give us some tips or some guidelines perhaps on getting started with feeling your body and perhaps recovering after a workout.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Again, every single person is just so different, so this is gonna vary per person. And that’s why it’s important to go see a dietician or a doctor, someone that you trust that has some sort of credential to really talk about it. Because we’re all kind of puzzle pieces and putting together the puzzle can be difficult sometimes. So It’s really nice to get guidance. But for most people, they need enough carbohydrates before workout. And if they can be a little bit more simple actually, If you’re not going to do that extreme of workout, maybe having like an apple and some nuts or something, or you know, a little protein shake or something like that a little bit before your workout, maybe 30 minutes or an hour, it depends on the person.
Again, like for me, for example, I can’t eat too [00:10:00] close to the gym or otherwise I get nauseous, I get bloated, I don’t feel well. So my body doesn’t respond that well when I’m eating like 30 minutes before a workout. So everyone’s a little different in that some people need to eat right before a workout, so kind of feeling out your body with that.
And then post-workout is really where you want to focus on proteins. Definitely carbohydrates again to replenish any of the glycogen that was lost during the workout. And then a little bit of fat. If you’re having a meal, I would say no fat, if you’re having a post-workout snack, just because it’s going to decrease the amount that’s absorbed, the rate that it’s absorbed, the micronutrients that you’re eating and the macronutrients that you’re eating. So again, everyone’s a little bit different, but I think most people could benefit from either a pre-workout meal or snack and a post-workout meal or snack, and then focusing on hydration throughout.
Yeah, that’s excellent. Thank you for those guidelines. And for many people, they’re ready to begin working with a health expert, but some are maybe just trying it out, exploring and exploring the field a little bit. What would you say to someone who is considering a dietician and who is not quite sure that it’s the right time or that [00:11:00] they actually need help feeding themselves?
I’ve never gotten that question before, but that’s actually a really fantastic question. I would say, you know your own health and wellness expert really, like, you’re the one living in your body. I always say this to my clients. Like, you’re the expert on your body.
Elizabeth: I’m here to guide you and to give you some advice and to tell you, yeah, like that might be the root cause of this. How can we fix that and give you the evidence-based, you know, stuff, but you’re the person living in it. So even if you know, all the labs come back normal and this and that and you’re still not feeling well like, that’s a sign that something’s wrong.
So I think you need to know your body enough to know when to reach out for help. A lot of people that come to me are way past due. So I would say maybe the majority of people don’t typically see a dietician. Don’t typically look at their nutrient profiles and don’t typically think of seeing a dietician when they have like chronic fatigue and things like that, when really your hydration, your nutrition, your sleep, your exercise, all that stuff can really help with a multitude of things. Whether you’re looking at anti-aging or [00:12:00] increasing your energy levels or preventing chronic disease, it’s all in the same thing. Even mental health stuff too.
So I think just having those basics is good, but I think as far as like seeing a nutritional professional and hopefully it’s a dietician, although there are some health coaches out there that are not like, I think that they have good advice, but that’s not as regulated. So a dietician is a safe bet to go.
That being said, there might be a health coach near you that like, it’s fine. I just, I don’t know for sure. So overall I would say, see a dietician over like a health coach or a nutritionist if you can. And I would say if you’re experiencing some sort of symptom that’s long-term and it hasn’t resolved and you don’t know, how to get down to the root, you don’t know what’s causing it and you don’t know how to fix it.
So if you’re kind of stuck in that rut, I would say, definitely seek help. And then other than that, I would say anyone, that’s just kind of trying to optimize their lives. So they feel good, for the most part, they’re working out, they’re living a healthy life, but they just kind of want help optimizing it, taking it to a little bit of the next level, I think [00:13:00] that’s also a good spot to sort of seek help in a dieticians help could definitely benefit you if you’re kind of looking to optimize all of your aspects of your life, which I feel like is trending now.
Doug: Yeah, that’s excellent. And what you said about the clients being past due.
Like people should’ve come in, you know, ages ago it seems sometimes. I see that all the time for my practice as well. It’s almost like they we’re waiting for something to break before we actually go in and fix it.
Doug: And it sounds like the nutrition and your practice is a lot about, I don’t want to say preventative, but it’s building up that foundation before you actually need it.
Would you agree with that?
Elizabeth: Yeah. I mean, I see a lot of, right now, an influx of athletes, but also people that are seeking weight loss because I’m working for a mental host startup and they just got new prescriptions and stuff. And so, I have my own private practice, but then I also work for this startup as well so I’ve been seeing a lot of people, you know, in that kind of state of mind.
And I would say they are either looking for prevention because he don’t have anything yet. And they, it runs in their family like diabetes, hypertension, cancer, [00:14:00] things like that. Or they’re coming to me with, you know, wanting to lose X amount of pounds that they weighed or their weight in high school, but they’re 50 or 60. And it took years for them to get to that point and they kind of want to fix that in a month or two. And so I think also just being realistic with yourself is really important. Knowing that things take time like this symptom that you’re having, or weight or whatever it is that if it’s a negative thought pattern that’s influencing you, body image, having a difficult relationship with food, anything that you’re dealing with.
I think it’s been a pattern for a while. And so you need to break that cycle and sometimes you need help. I think most of the time you need help to break that. Whether it’s someone like you, who’s doing like hypnotic stuff or you see a therapist, I think they’re preserves crucial and like any sort of treatment to be honest, a dietician, see your doctor, you know, and kind of get a care team together to help you, because I think that that’s important to get other points of view too. Like don’t just come to one person and be like, yep, that’s everything. Because, maybe I’m missing something that somebody else is going to get. So, also [00:15:00] just being your own health advocate, I think in today’s day and age is really important.
Doug: Thank you for sharing that part about having a team. That’s something that we really often overlook. We think when we find one expert, they’re going to solve all of our problems, but oftentimes it’s the people working together to help you with other areas. I think that can be so powerful. And looking at someone who may be past due for making this change, when they come in, perhaps they’re feeling a little bit defeated. How do you help them to get those quick wins with nutrition, so they can see they’re actually making changes?
And how long does it take to see some of those changes?
Elizabeth: I always end my calls, setting what I call smart goals, which I’m sure you’ve heard of a lot of practitioners use them. But they’re just small, measurable, achievable goals that I make with the client or patient that I’m working with. And I individualize them so it’s suited to fit their needs and meet them where they’re at. So for some people, this is walking 10 minutes a day, two days a week for four weeks or two weeks, whenever they’re going to see me next. For others, it’s eating three [00:16:00] balanced meals a day, seven days a week for four weeks. So it’s kind of individualized again, per person.
And I try to make it as feasible as possible. So these small little tiny micro changes is what I focus on. And then we also, during the initials usually set like a longterm vision, I like to say. So if I always say, if I was a fairy godmother and I could give you anything in the world, you know, how would you feel? How would you look? How would you present to the world in eight months or a year down the line? And then we set them micro goals, I guess you could call them, to achieve that overall long-term vision longterm though. So it’s having that in the back of the mind and sometimes that long-term vision changes depending on the person.
Like sometimes they realize like weight loss, for example, sometimes they realize, oh, wow, I just wanted to lose weight because I wanted to feel loved and valued and accepted. And I was binge-eating and I was having this unhealthy relationship with food because I was, like almost suffocating my emotions and all these different things.
A lot of therapy that I would put into that, or I guess you could call it, is nutrition counseling. So motivational interviewing, getting down to the root, intuitive eating, mindful eating, putting all these tools [00:17:00] in, I do that a lot actually for clients. So kind of just, yeah, getting the tools in the toolbox and then just giving it to them and teaching them how to use them, I think is also important.
Doug: Yeah. And what you mentioned about emotions behind our eating. I think that’s such an important point to bring up. So many times we are eating not because we’re actually hungry, but because we’re bored or lonely or because we’re trying to avoid something that isn’t actually in our life anymore.
And sometimes working with my clients, I find that people are a little averse to take on that label of emotional eating. They think that it means that they were traumatized or that they have something wrong with them. How do you help someone to see that it might be caused by an emotion, that might not be, you know, them losing control or something like this, that it might be some deeper issue that you’d have to work with?
Elizabeth: That’s a good question too. I think someone’s willingness to change and sort of readiness to change is important. And so if they aren’t fully aware if they’re not able to sort of change their opinion, which I talked to Clancy Harrison, this dietician, [00:18:00] couple of weeks back and she brought up a good point.
She was like, we all say we’re open-minded, but none of us ever changed our mind. And so it’s kind of one of those things where it’s like, you have to come at things willing to change your opinion, but not that you have to change your opinion, but come into conversations willing. And I feel like if people aren’t coming into those conversations willing, then it’s going to be really difficult for you to point out things and to guide them to the causes of why they’re feeling X, Y, and Z ways about themselves or in their body or whatever.
So I think first is willingness and readiness to change willingness to have that open mind and accept some advice potentially. And then I would say, the second kind of thing that you could look at is guiding them to find it on their own. So a lot of people that I work with, I try, even if I find the root causes of things, like if I’m like, okay, yep. Like that, could be it, or this could be it.
I’m thinking in my head and writing in my notes that that could be a potential cause. I still want them, I guide them in a way that we speak, in the way that I asked them questions for them to come up with it on their own. And I think that’s so much more [00:19:00] powerful when you’re able to say, oh, maybe it could be this. What do you think? And I’m like, yep. Like I think that’s a good idea. Or I think that that could be a root cause of that. So I’m also guiding people to have them come up with it on their own, I think can be helpful as a practitioner, for sure.
Doug: Yeah. I absolutely agree with that as a hypnotist, because I believe that all people, you know, we really want that agency.
We want to be the director of our own lines. And the other point just alluded me about that. But anyway, shifting gears a little bit, I’d love to explore, the intuitive eating that you mentioned. You know, a lot of us have heard it kind of as a buzzword and we might kind of understand it, but would you give us like a foundational understanding or explanation of what intuitive eating actually is.
Elizabeth: Yeah. And full disclosure, I’m still learning every day myself. And so it’s one of those things that, it’s not something that you learn and then you’re done with. You kind of are always on this journey of learning. But I would say overall, intuitive eating has a few pillars. There’s a book out there. Forget who it’s by, I should know, but for some reason, my brain is fogged up. And so that book is really helpful though. It brings you through some [00:20:00] pillars. Some of the pillars and like foundations of intuitive eating is like, I think it’s called cutting back diet culture, like figuring out where that sort of narratives coming from.
So whether the narrative is, fat’s bad for me or whether the narrative is, you know, I have the clean food versus dirty food. Whatever it is, I think that that’s one of the pillars of intuitive eating is figuring out where those narratives are coming from and dismantling them. And then it kind of walks you through each one.
It kind of walks you through until you hit a gentle nutrition, I believe it’s called. And so that’s where you get into the, okay, how can I nourish my body and come from this place of nourishment and love and abundance for my body versus fear and lack and all of that kind of stuff.
So it’s one of those sort of things where it’s like you’re walking through. And if you get the book, you can kind of walk yourself through until the end. But essentially what intuitive eating is, is being able to eat any food, whatever you want and not having anything off limits and having it nourish you physically, mentally, emotionally.
And so that means having an ice cream sometimes with your friends. But then that also means eating a [00:21:00] salad sometimes at lunch, if that’s what you choose to do.
Doug: Yeah, that’s fantastic.
Looking at that very first part, you mentioned about breaking up the ideas of diet culture. So many of us are, you know, we have this idea that really the only thing that we measure for our health is our weight. And whether that scale is going up or down. And when we’re in that culture, oftentimes it’s hard to see that we’re actually in that issue. It’s like, you know, the matrix, if you will. How do you help break up that idea that this diet culture is not the only way. That they might be living something, I don’t want to say that’s a lie, but that’s not actually serving them.
Elizabeth: I think again, like having them Identify their own narratives.
So, and also seeing a therapist who to, you know, work on the thought process of it, because I mean, and I don’t mean that in like, oh, everyone that is dieting and have done chronic yo-yo dieting has something wrong with them mentally. Like, no, I think even if you’re mentally okay, you should be seeing a therapist.
Like, I think it’s just good to maintain our brain health and our mental health. And so like, I’m a big advocate of therapy, but I think, if you are dealing with any diet culture thoughts. So like for example, body checking [00:22:00] all the time, looking at the number on the scale and that defining your value in that setting up your day to like either have a good day or a bad day.
Looking at food as black and white and good and bad and beating yourself up and over eating probably when you eat like a cookie. And then feeling okay about yourself, but also deprived when you’re eating a salad. Like these are all textbook signs of diet culture, in just trying to obtain an unattainable beauty standard that the media has sort of presented to us as well. So you can’t blame people for that. I think everyone’s done it. I’ve done it. And so, like, it’s not something that’s like should be coming from a place of shame.
And if a practitioner is making you feel bad about your weight or making you feel bad about any of your choices, then like other than obviously, if it’s like a really bad choice. And they’re like, Hey, you shouldn’t do that. And that I mean, not even like nutrition wise, like I’m thinking like drinking too much, or, you know, if your doctor’s like, Hey, your liver enzymes are like, kind of out of control, then maybe, you know, you should just think about it. But, if a practitioner is judging you essentially, like, I don’t think that’s helpful either.
So I just come from a place of like, Hey, you can probably teach me something. I can probably teach you [00:23:00] something. And If you are dealing with these thoughts, something to be ashamed of and it’s reversible, so that’s good. And so then you can work on, so I don’t think it’s something that you have to, you know, be ashamed of at all.
Doug: Yeah. And looking at that point, you said about being able to eat anything that you actually want to eat. So many times, people who come to work with me, whether it’s for disordered eating or just emotional eating, or just this rigidness that they have around their weights, their health.
And they have this idea of good foods and bad foods, and they worry about losing control. How do you perhaps walk them into this ability to eat whatever you want, without having them explode into a binge or to, as they say, lose control?
Elizabeth: I think, I try to walk them through the pillars as much as I can if we’re taking intuitive eating approach.
So I’ll have them by the book, we talk about it. But I meet people where they’re at too. But I think the narratives have a huge role to play. So the narratives that you’re telling yourself. So whether that’s, I eat this cookie and now I’m going to give up because it was bad for me. And now who cares or if it’s, you know, I hate my [00:24:00] arms because they look big in this dress or whatever. Whatever the narrative is, you can change that narrative.
So if it’s the arm thing, maybe you focus on how your arms can help you pick up your kids or, you know, cleaning the house. And if it’s a cookie thing, maybe you say, Hey, this cookie is really good. Like, let me sit here and be mindful and appreciate how good it taste, rather than beating myself up for it.
And I know some people, it’s really hard because it’s like they have one piece of something and they’ve been restricting for so long that their body is almost like, oh my gosh, like, I need more of this. It’s almost like I say, if I said, Hey, don’t think about it. Purple elephant, then you’re going to probably think about a purple elephant.
So if you’re telling your body, you can’t have this, you can’t have this, you can’t have this, then your body’s going to be like, why not? Like it tastes good. I love sugar, salt, fat. Like our bodies are just wired to like that stuff. So, yeah. First, I try to just guide them through the narratives.
I meet them where they’re at, wherever that is in the cycle. We try to break those. We try to either neutralize them or swing them to the positive. And we practice that a few times a week. So, you know, whenever that thought gets into your mind, that’s really discouraging you and setting you up for a [00:25:00] bad day. Then either remove those triggers like the scale, for example, it could be a really big trigger for some people or combat the narrative somehow. So that can be helpful, I think. And definitely helpful place to start. And then we kind of move forward from there.
Doug: I really appreciate what you said about changing those thoughts. For so much of my life and for my clients, I hear it all the time that people think our thoughts are set in stone, or our thoughts are just happening to us. And we have no control over that. And you mentioned, mindfulness and mindful eating. I’d love to know, when someone is first getting into questioning, thoughts and perhaps choosing their own thoughts.
How does someone, first get into that?
Elizabeth: Mindfulness and mindful eating is really about slowing down and appreciating everything to do with your meal or your drink. So if you’re cooking, that means slowing down when you’re going and buying the food, looking at the colors, really recognizing the textures and you’re picking them up.
The aroma and the groceries, like everything. When you’re chopping it really being mindful about that, how does that feel? How does that taste? What are you thinking? Just kind of getting in the moment and if anyone practices [00:26:00] meditation, they know it’s like focusing on one thing. So focusing on your breathing, focusing on how your stomach feels, whatever it is, your toes, it’s sorta like that.
So focusing on, you know the food. And then when you’re eating, focusing on the taste obviously, the aroma, the texture, how does it change when you chew? How does it feel when you swallow the food? Just really slowing down and appreciating every single thing and being grateful that you have the opportunity to eat and, you know, really thinking about where that food came from, and having gratitude for it, is all part of mindful eating.
Intuitive eating goes along with mindful eating, but intuitive eating is more the thoughts around and, what you can do to dismantle those thoughts and work through them, including having gentle nutrition in mindful eating. But they’re two separate things, but they go hand in hand.
Doug: That’s excellent. And looking at your own practice when working with clients, what is your process look like?
Elizabeth: It’s different per person. Depending on what the person is coming in for, why they reach out to me. If it’s an athlete, it’s tends to look a lot different than if it’s somebody who wants to do intuitive eating or mindful eating.
A lot of people come to me [00:27:00] with grocery shopping. They don’t really know how to grocery shop, how to prep for the week, how do I buy things? So it doesn’t go to waste. So sometimes they do things like that. So it kind of depends, you know, every person’s a little bit different. Mental health is another one, like people coming in with anxiety and depression. And so that’s gonna look a lot different than an athlete, for example. So everyone’s so different, but the process like in general looks like obviously doing the intake, figuring out why they’re here? What’s going on? What’s the background?
Maybe that’ll take a session or two. And then from there on the goals, You know, setting those goals, achieving them, or not achieving them. And if you don’t then why not? What are the barriers in place that you’re facing? And then giving them some individualized advice. Maybe we order some labs sometimes.
Again, like for everyone’s a little bit different. But in the metrics change, like for an athlete, it might be, how they’re sleeping, their performance, their stats, things like that. Their strength, how they feel, energy. For weight loss or somebody who’s coming in with intuitive eating that has had chronic diet culture, you know, ingrained in their brain, their whole life.
It may look like [00:28:00] non-scale wins, like better sleep, improved mood, more energy, happier, things like that. So everyone’s goal in level of success kind of varies. But my job is just to kind of guide them to the best solutions to that point. And so really knowing my patients and clients is important, like knowing where they’re at, what they do, their background, what would be the best recommendation for them.
And that takes a little bit of time. So it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight, but it’s a process. But it’s worth it in my opinion to just live a life afterwards that you feel confident in, you feel satisfied, you feel good, you feel energized and you’re enjoying your food and what you eat and you enjoy your body in the skin that you’re in.
I think that that’s kind of the goal.
Doug: And talking about clients and their background, who do you work with most often? I know you’d mentioned sports, nutrition and the athletes. Who else do you work with with your practice?
Elizabeth: My practice, I typically get like a lot of athletes for some reason, which I still don’t understand why. That’s just kinda how it started was athletes just started coming in and then I’m like, okay, like, guess I’m doing this.
And then I started learning more [00:29:00] and more about it. And then as an athlete myself, and I did a rotation at my internship. So, that’s the kind of the people that kind of come in. And then intuitive eating, a lot of women and men, but mostly women, with toxic diet, culture, thoughts, and just like not liking themselves and they want to improve their self esteem.
Then I get people who are like sustainability oriented and they want to like decrease food waste and find food and recipes and things like that. And sometimes they mix us together. Like sometimes I get an athlete who also is dealing with body image issues, who also wants to be more sustainable. So sometimes it’s all in one.
But it really kind of varies per person, but yeah, as of right now, I’m more intuitive eating slash athletes in my practice. And then for the mental health startup, I have a lot of people with depression, anxiety, ADHD, all those mental health issues. People who live in like low SES areas that can’t access nutrition advice, people that are dealing with food insecurity or issues accessing food, however food swamps, food deserts.
And a lot of times that goes hand in hand with a lot of mental health issues because they’re stigmatized and they’re struggling. So, those are [00:30:00] kinda my clients with the mental start-up as well as some weight loss clients here and there so kind of varies honestly. It’s an array of people, but what about you?
Who do you mostly see? I’m assuming weight loss?
Doug: A lot of people for weight loss, but also people for compulsive eating, disordered eating and body image.
Oh, okay. Nice. Nice. Nice. So what is your process look like when you’re like, let’s say somebody comes in with like a disordered eating thought. How does your process look like? My process first looks like, identifying that foundational issue, whatever is at the roots, that I personally believe that the eating disorder or the body image issue is just a coping mechanism. Is a way that the body and the brain are protecting itself, perhaps from an earlier trauma or perhaps from something that’s currently happening to them. And the reason that we’re holding onto this negative coping mechanism is because the brain does not believe it’s safe to reach out for a different coping mechanism. And so part of my process is first helping a person’s unconscious mind to realize that it is safe to release that thing that’s no longer serving them quite as effectively as it might have in the [00:31:00] past. And then it’s about giving them a choice, you know, remember that agency that we all want. We all want some choice at some level. So giving some options for the brain for better tools that it can use to solve that option. A lot of people will come in and they’ll say, can you make me never drink soda again? Or never binge eat again? And theoretically, yes. But that’s kind of like removing the pressure release valve on an air tank or something. That pressure is going to build and build and build until something explodes, unless you give someone a better tool, a better release valve to deal with that issue, whatever it is.
And then after that, the process is about actually working with that issue. So that’s, you know, the coping mechanism might be retaining extra weight or it might be binge-eating so that once you deal with that underlying issue through a couple of hypnosis sessions via the weights or the eating just kind of crumbles because your body no longer needs that coping mechanism, and it realizes that.
Elizabeth: Do you find with an eating disorder or you know, disordered eating, even though they’re much different, but you know, whatever. Do you find that it’s helping that person in some way? Because I [00:32:00] find that sometimes the disorder is helpful for them. It helped them get through something and there’s a reason why it’s still there.
Do you find that in your practice at all?
Doug: Yes, I absolutely do. And I think that’s such a really great point to bring up that emotional eating and disordered eating is not about food. It’s about the emotions. It’s about our brain trying to keep itself safe. Our brain at its lowest level is built to help us survive.
And especially when we have trauma in our early life, whether that’s big T trauma, like a death in the family or abuse or something like this, or it’s small T trauma. Things that just kind of build up, maybe it’s nitpicky comments or a family home where you felt just kind of on edge all the time, small T traumas can build up into those things as well.
And what I find is that’s the eating disorder is it’s kind of like the brain grabbing at straws. The brain often develops these things when we feel like we have no other options. And so eating disorders often in my view, they developed because food is readily available and it’s something that our brain realizes that we can change our [00:33:00] emotions regularly with.
And that’s kind of the way that I approach it. And I find that that’s a really helpful way to kind of break down the idea for clients.
Elizabeth: Yeah, that makes sense to me. Yeah. It can be definitely difficult too, because it’s like, everyone’s so different in what their trauma was or what had triggered something or, you know, if it’s a sense of control, which I feel like a lot of them are that like lack of control.
And so like how can I control my life kind of thing when I’m feeling chaotic and out of control, which is just a common narrative that I feel like I hear, but, yeah, that’s super interesting. And it’s weird because I’ve never really thought of hypnosis or like, you know, any sort of, I guess, that kind of realm of things like being something that could be super great to supplement with.
Doug: For a lot of people, myself included, I never realized hypnosis was, you know, like a therapy. I didn’t realize that it was more than just a stage show thing. And so after I started researching it, I was just blown away by the amount of science, the amount of studies that have been done on it and hypnosis is actually kind of expanding right now.
It’s kind of experiencing a Renaissance as people realize that, Hey, it’s actually a [00:34:00] really effective way to work with habits and unlike, you know, therapy, it’s not about unboxing those habits and reliving them. Hypnosis, like anything, it’s not a cure all, it’s not going to fix every single issue, but it’s a really effective way to change those unconscious patterns, especially in, you know, with your work with nutrition, if there’s something that you just, for some reason, cannot stop eating.
Maybe there’s a reason behind that. Maybe your unconscious is holding onto that for some reason. And hypnosis is a great way to work with that when consciously, you realize you probably shouldn’t be doing this, but you’re still doing it anyways.
Elizabeth: Yeah, that makes sense to me. That’s crazy. I want to do a hypnosis session now.
Doug: It’s a really interesting experience. And looking at your own practice and, you know, your own experience, what do you think the most important piece of foundational knowledge is? Or maybe some guidelines? What are some really important guidelines and takeaways that you always want, you know, a client to walk away with from that very first session?
Elizabeth: I know I keep saying this, but it seriously does vary per person. If we’re talking on the subject of [00:35:00] disordered eating disorders, body image issues, then I would want them to know that they’re safe. They’re okay. That they don’t have to discuss anything that they don’t want to get discussed.
I’d want to know from them what their triggers are, so that I know not to go there or to really move carefully around certain subjects. But yeah, it really varies per person, but I would say for eating disorder patients, that there’s help out there and that whatever they’re saying or whatever we’re working with together, it’s confidential.
It stays between us, and that they should be giving themselves some grace and a pat on the back for even reaching out for help. Because the thing with like disordered eating is that, it’s one of those things that kind of goes under the radar, and like, people don’t want to, because again, it’s fulfilling them in some way.
It’s filling some sort of void or helping them in some sort of way in coping or whatever. And so kind of flipping the switch on that. And reaching out to get help is a huge step that I don’t know if, how many people take it actually.
So if I’m dealing with somebody like that, I definitely want them to know that and just take things really slowly, and ease into things [00:36:00] and make it feasible and not move things around too quick. That’s kind of my approach with those types of people. And again, I’m generalizing. Everyone’s so different, like I said, but, I think in general, that’s a good foundation, I guess, just knowing that it’s okay.
You can change things, and giving yourself a little grace, not being so hard on yourself.
Doug: And what you mentioned about that first step, that’s such an important thing to realize that. It’s hard and it’s also not nearly as bad as people think it might be when working with disordered eating or as you said, anxiety and depression. Having experienced some of these things in my own life, we kind of think that, you know, admitting that the problem makes it real. Admitting the problem brings the demon out into the room rather than in the closet or whatever it may be. And we might think that others are going to judge us or that our life is going to fall apart. Whereas in reality, yes, it is. It’s very brave to take that step and people also need to realize that taking that step is one of the best things that you can do.
It’s not actually as hard as your brain is telling you because your brain essentially loves the status quo. And I’m sure you see this all the time with changing habits with [00:37:00] nutrition. Our brain wants to keep things as stable as possible because you know, it’s survived to this point and it’s got a track record.
And so your brain might try to convince you that taking that first step is going to be much more dangerous or much more difficult than it actually is.
And looking at mental health and your work with a startup, I’d love to know just a little bit for listeners. How does our nutrition impact our mental health?
Elizabeth: Yeah, that’s a great question. And for each mental health disorder, it’s a little different, um, I’ll get into it, but I also wanted to add that I think, and this is something that I learned during therapy was that, when you talk about it, when you do bring it up and when you bring it to reality, I guess you could say, it actually does the opposite. It makes it better.
So the more you talk through something and the more you bring it to the forefront and admit it and talk about it, the better and the less shame you have around it typically, per my therapist. So I’m just going to go with it. And the other question was, okay, mental health and nutrition.
So, yeah, so mental health and nutrition has a lot to correlate and I encourage listeners to look up nutritional psychiatry [00:38:00] or, yeah, I think that’s the field that it is called. And essentially it’s just looking at a few nutrients, macro, micro nutrients that can affect somebodies brain health. And so with depression, for example, maybe they’re having a lot of inflammation, so they want to have some omega three fatty acids and some more leafy greens.
And it’s what you hear, you know, generally, as far as like whole foods go, but maybe a little bit different supplement wise, if you were going to supplement. Anxiety is again another inflammatory thing, maybe decreasing caffeine too for that one. ADHD, there’s a ton of research in that, in OCD.
But yeah, everything is a little bit different depending on what you’re dealing with. And if it’s a combination, it’s a combination, but the foundations are really focusing on decreasing inflammation, giving your body more nutrients, like more B vitamins, vitamin D is a huge one, with nutritional psychiatry, and supporting your body and allowing it to sort of do its thing, detoxifying the way that it’s supposed to.
Because I feel like a lot of times people that are dealing with some sort of mental health issue. Like depression, let’s take depression, are either not eating because of their depression. And so therefore they’re [00:39:00] getting deprived and it’s making it worse or they’re eating a ton of sugar and processed foods, which can cause more inflammation.
Not saying that those are bad, but I’m just saying that, it can cause it to be more of a vicious cycle when you’re kind of, your mind is already playing tricks on you and now you’re sort of repleting your body and not drinking and not sleeping well and not exercising. And it’s hard for you to brush your teeth and, you know, so it’s just as vicious, downward spiral, with depression especially.
And so like figuring out ways that you can increase those whole foods and to nourish your body. And again, come from a place of like, I love my body, so that’s why I’m giving myself this. Or I love my body. That’s why I’m going to go exercise cause I know it’s going to decrease my stress and make me help me to sleep.
So really doing those paradigm shifts in your head, is kind of what it’s about too.
Doug: That’s excellent. And thank you for sharing that. And looking at the time, I just have a couple other questions.
I really wanted to touch on something that you spoke about before this podcast was, sustainability and food justice.
And I know this is very important for you and I’d love to hear just the foundation of it and perhaps, how you got into it?
Elizabeth: How I got into is a huge, long [00:40:00] story. But I guess I can try to sum it up to just say, I did some traveling overseas back in like 2014 or something in Panama. Saw a ton of people that were, you know, going without, and then I mentioned, you know, my childhood, my sister, and I would go kind of hungry, but it was like a weird situation, which again, total tangent and could go on forever about that story. But, um, so kind of had experienced a little bit of it myself, but not anything to that extreme that I saw overseas. And came back to the US, had always been interested in it and have always liked hiking and liked to nature and really felt connected with the earth myself.
And so, you know, they kind of go hand in hand because when you’re decreasing food waste and when you’re helping support the planet, you’re also helping to support those resources that go to others. And on top of that, I think I was kind of born more philanthropic and empathetic as just a human being.
And so I think that my sensitivity to things is kind of high. Like I just have a lot of empathy and sensitive towards situations and people. And so I think, you know, combination of all these things, lived [00:41:00] experiences and you know, just me as a person led me to think more about sustainability. And also sustainability has become really cool and trendy.
And so I’m sure that that played role in it within the past couple of years, too. And all my friends, most of my friends, at least do their part some way with sustainability too. So I think my social group probably played an influence. So a ton of things, just like the nutrition. But food justice is really about giving and helping to lower the barriers for people accessing healthy food and having enough food for them.
So that’s kind of like the food justice movement is let’s give food because we have enough of it. It’s really distribution. It’s not production, like it’s not like we don’t have enough and that we’re going to go hungry in the process. No, it’s that we’re not distributing it in a more effective way.
And so food justice is like, okay, why don’t we find out ways that we can do that so that people don’t go hungry? Because if you really think about it, like what makes me, I was born, you know, in New York and I’ve seen New York. If I was born overseas in a really impoverished community that didn’t have [00:42:00] enough and that most children unfortunately pass away from hunger.
I’m not any different from that person. And so why do I have the privilege of being fed and getting opportunity and that person doesn’t? And so like kind of thinking about that, like getting existential with it and getting kind of nitty gritty with it, like what makes us different?
And so the food justice movement kind of believes that food’s a fundamental right for people just like, you know, shelter. And so just kind of making that more accessible to people. And then the sustainability thing is just lowering food waste, you know, thinking about what’s a sustainable seafood, for example. How the plant-based proteins play a role in that? How can I be more sustainable and support the biodiversity of the planet through what I’m doing every day, which is eating. And so that’s why I have an Instagram page called the biodiversity diet, that’s all about. Okay. What does that mean? what does that look like?
And really what it is, is just decreasing food race in recycling your food, making sure that you’re not buying surplus of it and then throwing that away. How do you do that? And so that it just gives you tips on ways to do that.
Doug: That’s fantastic. And I highly encourage listeners to check this out. It sounds like you’re doing some great work.
So Elizabeth, where can listeners [00:43:00] find out more about you?
Elizabeth: Yeah. Um, really, if you go to my website, I think that should have everything there. So www.elizabethgunner.com and you can browse through that site. I just redid it, so she’ll look aesthetically nice. But yeah, you can find everything there.
And first I want to thank you so much for coming on the podcast. And finally, I want to ask you, do you have any words of wisdom or advice that you’d like to leave listeners with?
Elizabeth: Oh my gosh. I always just like to say, like, come from a place of love. Um, and so whether that’s with what you’re eating, or how you’re treating others or whatever it is, that’s kind of my mantra is like, okay, how can I come from a place of love today?
So I guess that’s my advice.
Doug: Excellent. Well, thank you so much for joining us on the show, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: Yeah, of course. Thank you for having me.
Doug: What a fantastic conversation. Thank you again, Elizabeth, for coming on the show. And if you gained a nugget of wisdom from this conversation, I really do encourage you to subscribe. Elizabeth and I put in our time to get this valuable resource, this valuable information out to you. And so we ask you [00:44:00] to take just a moment or two of your time to help us out.
Help us out by clicking that subscribe button on your podcasting app or on YouTube, if you’re watching us there. And while you’re there, I encourage you to leave a review. Leave a review on apple podcasts especially, if that’s your podcast app of choice. Because that really helps to boost our ratings and help get this information to people who really need it.
People just like you who want to improve their lives and take control of their eating, their health, and all of this nutritional value.
So my name is Doug Sands, and I help compulsive and emotional eaters, to end the obsession with food and make peace with it. Often in as little as two sessions.
Thank you for joining me for this episode. And I look forward to seeing you in the next one.