Meet the Influencer: IIN Health Coach Carey Niekrash On How to Ditch the Diet and Eat Intuitively
Carey Niekrash, certified integrative health coach and founder of Over it! Ditch the diet, smash the scale and find food freedom hosted an intimate event with us on March 26th where spoke about how to create and maintain healthy food habit. For those who were unable to attend, we interviewed Casey to share more about her work, and what she believes we should all focus on: Intuitive Eating and ditching the “diet” mentality. Read on!
Carey graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in Biology. Shortly after, she furthered her education at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition where she received her Holistic Health Coach certification. A DHHS grad and long time surf club-er, she currently lives in Mystic with her husband and 6 month old son where she practices as a Health Coach. Her passion is in Intuitive Eating and body acceptance. She helps women get over it - ditch the diet, smash the scale and find food freedom.
Can you talk us through your general wellness philosophy?
If you're anything like me (which 90% of women are) you spent years on the diet roller coaster always starting the next great promise of a diet only to find yourself on the couch multiple spoonfuls deep in the peanut butter jar wondering how you let this happen again.
Well I have some good news for you...you never failed a diet. Diets failed you. Restricting food while dieting will ALWAYS lead to binging. Our bodies are super smart and they don't want to starve! Our biology quite literally fights dieting restriction. Diets just don't work - period. Luckily we were all born with bodies that tell us when to eat and how much to eat through the use of hunger signals - this is called intuitive eating!
My philosophy and belief is that we are all capable of returning to our natural state of intuitive eating by learning how to ditch the diets for good, honor our bodies and ultimately find food freedom. It’s radical work in this day and age of the billion dollar diet industry but I’m a little radical ;) and this work I do truly changes lives!
What prompted you to become a holistic health coach & what exactly is that?
Basically I used to do weird sh*t with food. I have an extensive history of yo-yo dieting, counting and tracking, binging and restricting, beating myself up with guilt, eating in secret, up and down the same x number of pounds, over exercising and under-living. I was literally in food prison and I was so fed up with myself. I was either worrying about what to eat or what not to eat or omg when will I work out today…ahhhh!!
I eventually hit my rock bottom. So I began working with a wonderful coach myself and she inspired me to begin studying holistic health and nutrition. Through years of studying and experimenting, I was able to find a healthy and happy balance through intuitive eating and along the way I found I had a knack for coaching others as well to get out of their own “food jail” and find food freedom and body acceptance!
As a holistic coach, I take a “whole body/life” approach with my clients meaning we don’t only focus on the food, we dive deeper into what I refer to as PRIMARY Food (relationships, career, mindful and joyful movement, spirituality, body image). The whole pie of life. In order make lasting change, a balance in all those areas is crucial. Often when one is out of whack, we turn to food/alcohol/shopping/exercise/something to fill that void.
What is your educational background?
I received my Bachelors degree in Biology from the College of Charleston in South Carolina. I have always had an interest in health and decided after college to attend the Institute of Integrative Nutrition where I received my Health Coach certification. I am also a Certified Personal Trainer and I am currently in the process of completing the requirements to be an official Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor.
Keto, Whole30, Vegan, Plant-based- there are so many different diet methods out there these days- which is the best/healthiest?
The best and healthiest way to eat is EXACTLY as your body requests and desires. I am a firm believer that no diet works (and the science backs me up) and the only reason these diets even exist is because the diet industry makes a ton of money (over $60 billion annually) preying on people’s insecurities with their bodies. If you really think about it...the root of dieting is our culture’s dissatisfaction with weight and body size. If we didn’t worry about our body size, we would never diet or worry about food! The first thing I do with my clients is have them declare to forever ditch dieting and relearn how to tune into their own unique bodies needs. If we can get past the diet mentality and really listen and trust ourselves, then no diet is ever needed (except for the very small true medical reasons someone may need to avoid a food like with a peanut allergy for instance).
What exactly is intuitive eating / bio individuality?
Intuitive Eating is essentially “normal eating” and what I mean by that is it’s a process unique to each individual of honoring health by listening and responding to the body’s direct messages in order to meet your physical and mental needs. There is no more “should”/’shouldn’t”, “can”/”can’t” or “good”/”bad” when it comes to eating. There is no more counting macros, points, calories, carbs, etc and definitely no more weighing. It is going back to the way we were born to eat! If you have ever watched a baby eat then you have seen intuitive eating in action. They let us know when they are hungry and they stop when they are satisfied. It’s very hard to force feed a baby when they are full! We just forget how to do that along the way thanks to the media and diet culture. Intuitive eating is a process or a journey of discovering yourself again and becoming normal around food while learning to trust your own body.
Can you describe what a session would be like - how do you help people? What is the process?
After a free discovery call where we talk all about your diet history, sessions with me are 50 minutes long and occur twice a month (every two weeks) and occur remotely over the phone/skype so you can be comfortable in your own home. We work through past diet history/trauma and I teach my clients how to recover physically from years of dieting but also how to work through emotional eating, binging/restricting and most importantly the guilt, shame and judgement surrounding their food history and body. Body acceptance is a large part of the work we do together. In addition to the two sessions per month, my clients enjoy unlimited text and email support with me. Once we decide to work together, you have me as your coach and cheerleader from day one! As long as I am not sleeping, I am responding to my client’s emails and texts and offering support, knowledge and encouragement. That’s what really makes my coaching unique!
Can you touch a little bit on emotional eating / EDs? Tips to overcoming “food drama”
Emotional eating gets a bad rap. One of the first things I like to work on with my clients is understanding that emotional eating is a normal part of life. It’s a coping mechanism we all turn to from time to time and no big deal. It’s not a “bad” thing to occasionally want a donut for no reason other than it makes you happy. It only becomes a “problem” for people when it’s their only coping mechanism for feeling anything and when they are not honoring their body’s physical and mental needs. For instance, if you are on a diet and therefore restricting (calories, carbs, fat, whatever) you will absolutely rebound eat/binge/emotional eat at some point because you’re physically not able to maintain the restriction (this is why diets NEVER work long term). But if you start to listen to your body and eat intuitively (meaning you allow all foods into your diet and eat when you’re hungry), you will be satisfying your physical hunger. This alone may take care of those binges/emotional eating sessions because you’re no longer restricting food you enjoy and desire. If you still find yourself eating for reasons other than hunger, that’s when working with a coach is crucial so we can work to build up your coping mechanism toolbox and dig into what is keeping you stuck emotionally.
What if my schedule is already jam packed and I feel like I have no time to focus on this?
I’d encourage you to do a time audit for a day...how much time are you spending stressing about what to eat or not eat next? Planning your next diet to start on Monday? Worrying about how to fit in a workout to “burn off” the damage you think you did binging last night or over the weekend? How much time are you looking at social media or reading about the next diet or workout trend? The work we do together absolutely requires time and effort but the payoff is sooooo much more free time and headspace to focus on the things that really matter in life...family, passions, hobbies, etc instead of diets and body shame. If it’s important to you to find this freedom than the time is always there ;)
What is the biggest diet myth debunked that you hear all the time?
That ditching dieting for good and honoring your true physical hunger (i.e. eating intuitively) means that you are giving up on health. Health and weight loss are not synonymous! In fact, science shows us that the real health risk comes from weight cycling (ie yo-yo dieting) so the longer you are on the diet roller coaster, the more damage you’re doing to your body and metabolism regardless of what you weigh. Intuitive eating doesn’t mean you’re giving up on your health and sitting around eating bonbons all day...quite the contrary! Our bodies are so so smart and ask for food that make us FEEL good and energized. We just have to TRUST our bodies and listen to what makes them feel their best and not ONLY listen with our minds which are full of diet culture propaganda.
What is your take on cleanses?
Silliness! Our bodies are designed to cleanse themselves each and everyday. A cleanse is just another diet in disguise. If you do a juice cleanse or some other cleanse, you are simply setting yourself up to rebound eat (binge/emotional eat) as soon as it is over which then sets up the cycle of body shame and guilt. No fun if you ask me!
What does it mean to be healthy, to you?
Imagine going out to dinner and ordering a burger and fries without a second thought or any guilt. Imagine freeing up hours of time previously spent dieting, stressing about food or exercising to actually pursue a passion or take up a new hobby. Imagine sitting down to bake Christmas cookies with your kids and actually enjoying the milk and cookies with them afterward with no guilt attached. Imagine never going on another diet again. This is what being healthy means to me. It means living life on my terms without any of the diet and body shame mumbo jumbo creeping in and sucking the life out of me.
Rapid Round with Carey:
5 kitchen staples: Hmmm...currently it’s the Nutribullet, Coffee & coffee machine, Alllll the fruit, Seltzer, Beaba baby food maker!
3 snacks in your purse or bag: Trail mix (monster mix with the little M&Ms), bananas and RXbars
First thing you drink in the morning (after water): Coffee w/ half & half!
Go-to workout: Right now it’s doing 25 pound baby curls :-) and running when I can
Favorite place to eat out in CT: Tough one! But I would have to say Olio in Groton, CT