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Looking at food differently

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There are many diets, exercise and fad programs for people to follow when it comes to losing weight, but now there’s a shift happening that focuses more on body positivity and healthy eating. Katie Kroeker has taken her experience and education as a Registered Dietitian and started the Rural Dietitian, a private
practice to help individuals focus on their health.
“I graduated from the University of Manitoba in 2018 with a Bachelor of Sciences in Human Nutritional Sciences,” said Kroeker. “Then I completed my Dietetic Internship in 2019, passed my Canadian Dietetic
Registration Exam and became fully registered as a Registered Dietitian in January 2020.
“When I first began my university education, I didn’t really know what being a dietician was all about. I just knew I liked to cook and I wanted to learn about healthy eating. After five years of university and
internship, I found out that being a dietitian is all about listening to people, sitting with them in their struggles, and helping them. Food and nutrition is a very personal topic and I’m so honoured that people
entrust me with their stories and struggles.”
Kroeker’s move to the Valley didn’t coincide with any openings for her to work as a dietitian in a hospital setting, so this prompted her to explore a private practice. “Marrying my husband in 2019, brought me to the Valley, and limited dietitian jobs in the area helped me decide to start my own private practice,” said
Kroeker. “I was also very motivated to start my own practice using a health at every size and weight inclusive approach.
“This approach means that your weight doesn’t tell me how healthy you are, and your health can be improved at any weight, without focusing on weight loss. This approach is about focusing on health behaviours that support your complete health including physical, mental, spiritual, and social health.
“Often the focus in healthcare is weight loss for health, however the pursuit of weight loss is often unhealthy and has negative health side effects such as experiencing weight stigma, weight cycling, chronic stress on the body, unhealthy preoccupation with food, and eating disorders,” continued Kroeker. “Starting my own business was a way to ensure I could practice in a way that I believe is more
compassionate, without guilt or shame about weight.”
There are a lot of diet regimes on the market that can lead to people spending hundreds of dollars a month to achieve a weight loss goal that sometimes can be only temporary. The diet culture is impacting
people at a younger age, focusing on childrens’ body types and projecting ideas of what that should be before they are grown up.
“There has been a growing interest in health and nutrition in recent years, which is fantastic, however the
complete focus on weight has taken over and replaced health,” said Kroeker. “Our culture has become obsessed with losing weight for health, and health and weight are often used as synonyms. When someone says they want to get healthy, they mean they want to lose weight. This pursuit of weight loss has led us to a hyper fixation on macronutrients, calories and eating only what we’re allowed. Eating,
something that should be so simple has now become so complicated and confusing.
“No one is immune from believing that their body isn’t ok, and this is all thanks to diet culture.
Children, who are as young as eight years old, believe that they need to lose weight. The weight loss and diet industry is a multi-billion dollar industry in Canada, and these companies make money off of exploiting people’s insecurities.
The reason the industry does so well is that diets don’t work.
“Intentional weight loss doesn’t work in the long run,” she continued, noting 95 percent of people that lose weight regain the weight within five years, and around 67 percent of those people gain more weight than they lost. “Diet companies know this and build their businesses on the premise that they will get repeat customers. 
The reason for such a high failure rate is because our bodies have mechanisms that protect against weight loss. We have a natural weight range, which behaves like a thermostat.
“A thermostat notices when the temperature gets too warm or too cool and it does all it can to bring the temperature back to the original setting.
In the same way, when our brain senses that we’re losing weight below its set range, it thinks ‘danger’ and kicks off a series of changes in the body that helps you regain weight and prevent weight loss in the future. This is a protective mechanism so that we can survive when food is scarce. This is the same  reason that eating too much at a Thanksgiving meal doesn’t cause weight gain instantly. Even if weight loss was beneficial for your health, there isn’t a safe, sustainable and healthy method to accomplish it.”
There’s an emotional and psychological impact that can occur when people fall prey to the diet culture mentality.
It not only takes one’s money but also can rob people of their self-esteem.
“Diet culture steals time, brainpower, money and health from people,” said Kroeker. “It makes you believe
you have to take the time to calculate and log all the calories you ate today, and spend hundreds of dollars on meal replacements and supplements.
It can also make you believe that if you can’t stick to this rigid plan, that you are a failure.
“This leads to a belief that if you aren’t thin, you aren’t healthy, good, or worthy of love. The pursuit of weight loss affects your physical health by increasing chronic stress in your body, which can lead to
chronic disease, pushing you to try unhealthy practices to lose weight at all costs, decreased muscle and bone mass, and decreased immune function. The pursuit of weight loss affects your mental health by increasing your body dissatisfaction, decreasing your self-esteem, increasing food fixation and increased risk for developing an eating disorder”.
Body positivity is being focused on more and the concept is growing. More clothing companies are being more conscious that peoples’ bodies are all different and the focus is no longer ‘thin is in’ but rather ‘love the skin your in’.
“Body Image work is tough but so incredibly rewarding,” said Kroeker. “Improving your body image can actually also improve your physical health. Having a positive body image is actually a stronger predictor
of health than body size. A person with a small body with a lot of weight-based shame may actually be at a greater risk for poor health outcomes, than someone in a large body that has learned to accept their
size. Bodies naturally change throughout life, and focusing on self-care and body image instead of weight loss will ensure that you can feel neutral about your body no matter its size or shape.
“Bodies were created to be diverse. You aren’t a failure if you’ve never in your entire life, been a size two. Genetics play a large role in determining bone structure, body shape, size, and weight. One of my favourite analogies is to describe bodies like plants. Plants require all the same ingredients to grow and be healthy, sunlight, good soil, and water, however, if you have a ledge full of different plants that receive
all the same sunlight, soil and water, they will grow and look differently than one another.
Some will be tall and gangly; others will be short and wide. There’s nothing wrong with them, that’s their genetic makeup. In the same way, if people all ate the same foods and exercised in the same way, their
bodies would still all look different from each other.”
Through the Rural Dietician, Kroeker can help individuals make healthier choices and learn to love their body. She helps to minimize the struggle in daily eating habits and change peoples’ thought processes
when it comes to consuming food.
“We were all born as intuitive eaters,” said Kroeker. “Babies know when they’re hungry and how much they need to eat. Our bodies still have that intuition, however, most adults have ignored it for so long they can’t quite feel it anymore.
Listening to external sources such as diets or different lifestyles has drowned out the body’s hunger and fullness cues.
“I work with my clients to bring back that intuition. Your body is incredibly smart, it knows when you need food, when you’re satisfied when you need to move and when you need to rest. It also naturally
craves a variety of foods when it is being fed enough. Intense cravings for junk food are generally
only because you see those foods as bad. When foods become neutral and not a big deal they lose their power.
“I offer virtual, video chat or phone, one on one nutrition coaching. I also have a brand new upcoming online course called From Restriction to Satisfaction: Your comprehensive guide to being comfortable, confident and satisfied with your food choices. This course is launching Sept 10, and if people register
before that date, they can receive 25 percent off.” For more information on programs of services the Rural Dietitian has to offer, check out the website at www.theruraldietitian.net, or on Facebook www.facebook.
com/theruraldietitian or Instagram www.instagram.com/therural.rd.