#gamechangers // Kate Foley

It's (finally) time for a new blogpost. Sorry that things have been a bit quiet here lately, I am knee-deep in dissertation writing mode and am juggling a whole lot of things that are requiring more time and attention than normal. It's times like this where I am grateful to have met some amazing people through the weird and wonderful world of social media, whose stories I can share with each of you to hopefully inspire and encourage you. This month's #gamechanger is Kate Foley, a lovely RD-to-be who I met through the Killing it at HAES Facebook group for nutrition students and new nutrition professionals. I thoroughly enjoyed reading through her answers to each of these questions, and have been very inspired by her story! I hope you are too.


So, can you tell us a bit about who you are?

Hey! My name is Kate Foley and I am a graduate student, nutrition educator, advocate, bookworm, fiancé and lover of all cats. I also aspire to become an author, speaker and blogger! I enjoy trying new foods, going to explore new restaurants, finding great music, and spending time with friends and family. 

 

What was the catalyst for your personal journey with food, health, and nutrition?

My love of “nutrition” and “health” started when I was a freshman in high school. I put those things in quotation marks now because I had a very warped view and definition of those words back then.  I had always been pretty active growing up; dabbling in a few different sports here and there, no Olympian in training here. Like many girls my age, dieting and trying to be pretty was of utmost importance for some reason. 

During this time, I learned that my intake had the power to greatly manipulate the way my body was shaped, and exercise could make all of that happen even faster. So, I got hooked on dieting. This first diet set me up for YEARS of dieting and regaining. It changed its form, its style and its tactics, but I struggled with an eating disorder for a long time. I thought if I went to school for nutrition, I could beat this cycle of short-term dieting and get lasting results. I graduated with my Bachelor’s in Community Health Education in 2016 but then advanced into getting my Master’s in Nutrition, but also am taking the necessary undergraduate DPD coursework so I can become a dietitian.

In this time, I started therapy and started seeing a “non-diet” dietitian, who changed my views of nutrition from the inside out. I learned about intuitive eating and Health At Every Size, and not only fell in love with the research and validity of it all, but also applied these concepts to my own life, and was forever changed. I stopped dieting and got a life. 

 

How have you got to where you are today in your career?

Well, changing my mind a lot helped me get here! I first went into college with a pre-law track, majoring in political science. Then, I changed my major to counselling, and then to community health education. And then, after all of that, still decided to go back to school for something else, nutrition! I am currently finishing my Masters and undergraduate coursework and will graduate in December 2018. Then, in July 2019, I will begin my dietetic internship. 

As briefly mentioned above, I went back to school for nutrition to help others become healthy and happy (aka to get smaller). That view changed very quickly upon working with this dietitian. I found myself challenging the information I was being taught in my nutrition classes because since learning about intuitive eating, and how dieting DOES NOT work, I found it hard to sit there and listen. I thought hard about dropping out and not becoming a dietitian. But, because I want to be an advocate for change, and change the way nutrition is taught, I decided to stay and work hard to become a dietitian. I want to work from an ethical, patient-centered, non-diet approach with every single client in the future. I believe it’s the only way we can “do no harm” in our work.

 

Has your journey to where you are today inspired you to do anything you thought you’d never be brave enough to do?

So many things! Choosing recovery and rejecting diet culture itself are two things that I thought I’d never do. My eating disorder, exercising, and being “fit” were my only identity. Choosing to leave that identity behind and find out who I really am has been the most challenging, but rewarding thing I have ever done. Choosing recovery and rejecting diet culture is BRAVE, especially the way our society praises thinness and dieting, and forever shames larger bodies and their choices. It makes me incredibly angry. If I could be the catalyst for change for someone like my dietitian and therapist were for me, I would be incredibly happy. I think this is my life’s purpose. 

I recently told my eating disorder story in public, for the first time. I got up to the podium at an eating disorder awareness night and told the room my story. I never thought I would be brave enough to share something that personal in person. I can write, and kind of hide behind my screen, but talking and having the room feel my emotion was so empowering. I’d love to do more public speaking on advocating for eating disorders in the future!

 

How do you approach to nutrition and wellness, and how has that approach changed over time?

Prior to the summer of 2016, my view of nutrition and wellness was much like our culture’s: militant and rigid. I was living in the gym because I thought muscles and abs could bring me happiness- our culture tells us this fake notion all the time. I only ate “clean” “approved” foods, and rarely ate out with friends. I would binge from all the restriction, and when I did, I would have to be guilty, and shamed myself into working even harder, every time. It was a horrible time. My relationship with food, exercise and my body were absolutely horrible, yet was praised for being “dedicated” almost daily.

I still struggle with balance, but my relationship with food and my body has greatly improved since finding IE and HAES. I no longer have any food guilt, which I thought would never happen! I eat vegetables, but I also eat fries. It’s no longer an “all or nothing” mentality for me. Exercise, because my ED was heavily focused on over-exercising, has been more challenging for me to find a balance with. My identity was the fitness girl, so slowly getting back into moving my body because I actually WANT to, has been very hard. I am finding the solace in the unknown though, I realize now I don’t NEED to move my body if I don’t want to. And that notion is incredibly comforting. 

 

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What are your top tips for staying healthy? Physically, emotionally and mentally? 

Health can mean so many things. And just a reminder that you being healthy is not a prerequisite for having respect. You don’t need to be “healthy” to be happy either. But, most of us feel our best when we feel healthy! We do have to remember that health, inside and out, isn’t given to everyone, so being grateful for the health we do have is a great place to start. 

  1. Gratitude for food and our bodies. I work with low-income families at my job as a nutrition educator. I have seen the hardships first hand of families who cannot afford to feed themselves. Since taking that job, I have developed such gratitude for the food I do have access to and eat. I also stopped being “elitist” when it came to the types of food I was eating. Shifting my mindset from something like “I can ONLY have fresh fruits and vegetables” to, “Canned and frozen fruits and veggies are often cheaper and still as nutritious!” really helped me develop gratitude, and saved me some money! Talking to our bodies the way we talk to our friends is super helpful. Instead of picking apart your arms and legs for not looking the way you want, try being kind to those parts of you, “thank you legs, for allowing me to walk every day!”

  2. Self-care and education. I’m not talking about bubble baths or face masks, but do those because they are super relaxing! I am talking about digging deep, doing the work, and truly working on ourselves. I do this with therapy and working with my dietitian. I know not everyone has access to these kinds of resources, but I hope to one-day change that! So stay tuned! There are a lot of online resources that can help us reject diet culture!

  3. Surround yourself with people who lift you up. I cannot stress this one enough. When we have toxic friends or family in our lives, it’s hard for us to grow. Friends who don’t support you, don’t check up on you or value you as a person, get rid of them. I’m serious! I spent a lot of my life trapped in these toxic friendships because I was too scared to stand up to them. Once I did, my self-confidence and self-worth skyrocketed. I try to only surround myself with people who appreciate me, who are interested in me, and who put effort into our friendships. It makes a world of difference.

  4. Gentle nutrition.This a term from the Intuitive Eating book and workbook. Gentle nutrition allows us to eat the nutrient-dense foods when we want and allows us to eat whatever play foods we like as well. The unconditional permission to eat is really vital to developing a good relationship with food. I personally love vegetables, but not all the time. If I don’t want to eat a vegetable, I won’t. If I don’t want a slice of cake at a party, I won’t. But I know I can have those two things whenever I want. No food is off limits for me. I enjoy my nutritious foods, but also foods that bring me joy. Food isn’t always “fuel”, it’s a way we communicate, celebrate and share with others. To me, our relationship with food is way more important than the “healthfulness” of our intake.

  5. Find exercise that you like to do (if you like to do any that is!). If you’re dreading going to the gym or forcing yourself to go for a run, chances are you don’t really want to be doing those things. Our culture tells us we NEED to exercise for x amount of minutes per week, this and that intensity, whatever. If we’re not enjoying what we’re doing, it’s causing us more stress than endorphins, so let that go. Find things you enjoy doing, and watch how much of a better mood it will put you in! I feel the endorphins when I go for a brisk walk with my fiancé because I am out in nature, my heart rate is up, and I am truly enjoying spending time with him. I don’t feel the endorphins on a treadmill, ever, so I really don’t engage in that, and THAT’S OK. Exercise doesn’t have to be this crazy, sweat-fest all the time. Unless you’re into that! But, moral of the story, ya gotta like what ya do!!

 

What is your favourite go-to meal to make after a busy day?

Definitely something quick and filling! My recent quick favorite is a pasta, at least two types of vegetables chopped up for variety, and chicken sausage. I cook the pasta, heat up the sausage, and cook the vegetables in a pan (usually onions and peppers). Throw it all together with a little pesto and cheese, YUM.

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What is your favourite thing to do to wind down and relax?

Curling up with a good book, a freshly shook martini, with my fiancé and cat by my side. If it’s been a really hard day and I don’t want to use my brain, I’ll take a long bath with tons of bubbles, and I watch a funny show on Netflix. 

 

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

SO MUCH! My mind is constantly torn between starting my own online presence now, or waiting until I am an actual dietitian. I have been working on my blog and building my brand. It’s funny, and if anyone has some advice on this, slide into my DMs on Instagram…I have been hesitant about starting my online presence because I am changing my last name next May!! Do I wait until then? Or should I choose something without my name involved at all. Let a girl know.

You will definitely see the name “Kate Conklin, MS, RDN, CHES” in the future somewhere awesome, like on the cover of a book, a keynote speaker at a conference, or being featured on a news segment. I am working hard on those credentials after my name, so you bet I’m gonna use them everywhere. I really want to write a book and become a speaker, so stay tuned. I have a fire inside me to spread this message that you CAN be happy with your body, you CAN give up dieting, and you CAN have a great, healthy, lasting relationship with your body and food. I believe in you!


Stay in touch with Kate to find out what she is up to: