Guest Author: Ashley Voeller

Hi everyone! My name is Ashley Voeller, and I am Miss St. Charles County 2020. I am a student at the University of Missouri studying to be a registered dietitian. I am extremely passionate about food and am so excited to be collaborating with my fellow sister-queen Amanda on this blog! After reading this one, head over to my page at www.astrongergeneration.com to check out the blog Amanda wrote for me! 
I will be answering some great questions Amanda asked me about my future career path and how that relates to NEDA week. Let’s get started! 

Q: Why is NEDA week important to you?

A: When I landed on nutrition as my major, I had no idea where I wanted to go with it in the future. I began listening to podcasts, watching YouTube videos, and doing some reading to figure out a little more about the field of dietetics and where I could go upon graduation. I have always been interested in helping people and learned that there was a need for dietitians who could work with eating disorders specifically. I ended up taking a class on eating disorders as my professional elective last semester, and that’s what solidified my desire to work with eating disorders specifically when I graduate. 

Q: Why is diet culture so toxic, and why is dieting so dangerous?

A: This question is so important to talk about! Many people don’t understand just how much our current culture of dieting affects us mentally and physically. Diet culture is toxic because it feeds people the idea that they aren’t good enough unless they are restricting themselves from what our body needs desperately-food! This is SO UNTRUE! Because of this, many people find themselves severely undereating, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies that can cause serious long-term consequences. To counter toxic diet culture, I want to leave you with this; dieting is dangerous because it puts you in an endless cycle of unease around food. You start the latest diet trend just to fall off of it in a month, which leaves you feeling even more hopeless and stuck than when you started. Rather than wasting our energy restricting our bodies from having essential nutrients like carbohydrates and fat, we should be spending that energy finding out what foods fuel our bodies best and make us feel amazing both physically and emotionally. 

Q: For someone who has never heard of it, how would you describe intuitive eating and why it’s important?

A: Intuitive eating is essentially defined as this: eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. But it’s so much more than that! I actually wrote an entire post on this for my blog, which I highly encourage you to check out if you have an interest in learning about intuitive eating. This is a way of eating that has no “food rules” and strives to help you develop a healthy relationship with food and your body. I practice intuitive eating daily, and I believe it is important because it can completely transform your mindset around food and what your body really needs to keep itself going throughout the day. Here’s a little hint- it’s probably more food than many of you may think! 

Q: What would you recommend as a first step to finding food freedom?

A: Speaking from experience, I truly believe the first step to finding food freedom is letting go of all self-expectations. We are taught by society that we have to be the most productive, most “healthy” (which, by the way, does not have a specific look), or most accomplished person out there to be worthy of happiness, affection, and love. But what really traps us is letting these false ideals become expectations for ourselves. Once you decide you want freedom from food anxiety, you must release your white-knuckled grip on all of your mind’s ideas of what you have to do to make yourself “enough”. Reaching this point may take extensive help from others and utilizing many different resources, but you will not find food freedom until you find self-freedom in knowing you are enough just the way you are. 

Q: What would you say to someone struggling with an eating disorder who is scared of seeing a dietitian?

A: THEY ARE ON YOUR SIDE!!! It is perfectly understandable to be nervous about seeing a healthcare provider to aid in recovery from your eating disorder, especially a dietitian whose entire job is to look at your food intake and make suggestions to change it. But contrary to popular thought, dietitians want to help you not just with the food you are physically eating but with your attitude concerning it. If you are beginning recovery from an eating disorder and are on the fence about seeing a dietitian, please consider making an appointment with someone who has a history working with eating disorders and giving them a chance. You might be surprised! 

Q: What stereotype about dietitians do you want to break?

A: Oh my goodness, there are so many! But if I had to pick just one, it would be that they eat a “perfect” diet everyday. First off, it is so important to realize that there is no one way of eating that is “optimal”.  It’s different for everyone based on what foods they enjoy, caloric/nutrient needs, and what is available to them! I have spoken with many dietitians about what their daily food intake looks like, and I can say confidently that it varies tremendously depending on personal preference and convenience. As a current dietetics student, many times I eat what is most convenient to get me out the door and to class quickly. Sometimes that looks like a chicken salad, and other times it’s pizza! A common misconception is that dietitians are the food police, when in actuality they are just normal people who love food and chose to make it their career!

Q: Where do you see yourself after graduation?

A: I LOVE this question! I am on track to graduate with my Master’s degree in dietetics in May of 2024, and plan to move somewhere like Colorado, Chicago, or St. Louis to work at an inpatient eating disorder treatment facility. Although I love studying food and nutrition, I am definitely chomping at the bit to dive headfirst into my career and help change lives by teaching what I am passionate about! 

I hope you have enjoyed this blog and learned something beneficial and thought-provoking. I love food and want as many people as possibly to embrace the idea that you can be released from food anxiety and find freedom in nourishing your body! You can find me on Instagram @missstcharlescounty2020 or on Facebook: Miss St. Charles County 2020. Thanks Amanda for letting me write for your page, I love having you as a sister-queen and fellow intuitive eating friend! 

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