• Dharma Nemani

Meet Michaela Putala, RDN, intuitive eating coach

I’m thrilled to introduce you to the resplendent Michaela Putala - registered dietician, intuitive eating coach and my Pure Barre instructor. I follow Michaela’s coaching page and her messages have made a significant impact on the way I eat and think about my body...and I continue to work at breaking old habits and unhealthy ideas because I know Mishka is always watching and learning from me. Several of my mom friends are similarly tough on themselves and their bodies. I’m hoping Michaela’s messages inspire you to let go of ideas of the “ideal body,” and other ridiculous notions we are fed daily. 🕊️

Can you tell us a little bit about your story?

I’ve been on both ends of the dieting spectrum; as a young dancer, I struggled with maintaining a healthy relationship with food and my body, and today, I use the very tools I learned to overcome these struggles to guide lifelong dieters in their journeys to make peace with food and their bodies.

Throughout my own journey, I discovered the lack of access to support from professionals dedicated to repairing my food-body relationship. Inspired to turn the healthcare narrative away from dieting, I went on to earn my Bachelors of Science in Nutrition & Dietetics from the University of North Florida. Now, I work with clients to find “food freedom.” My motto is: “You can change your world when you change your relationship with food and your body.”

What does “intuitive eating” mean?

Intuitive eating is trusting your inner wisdom to make choices around food that feel good to your body, without the influence of external voices and rules.

Until I met you and learned from your messages, I refrained from buying things like Oreos or chocolate covered pretzels (both my true loves ;)) because I had convinced myself that if I had “junk” accessible I would binge… and I would binge when they were in my pantry. Can you speak to this vicious cycle?

Ah yes, the restrict/binge cycle is a vicious one! However, it’s a cycle that shows us just how smart our bodies truly are. When we don’t allow ourselves to have a “bad” food OR restrict our daily quantity of food, our body fights back! Giving us the uncontrollable urge to binge because our body simply needs more. The more we give ourselves unconditional permission to eat all foods, the less the urge to binge is.

But what if I truly begin eating intuitively, and I can’t stop? And I gain a ton of weight?

The fear you will be out of control with food and your weight will skyrocket is so normal and 100% valid. We have been raised in a society that teaches us we can’t trust our body. That our body is wrong. So when we start dieting and restricting in order to control ourselves, our body feels as if it’s in a famine. Causing us to binge and overeat the second we let our guard down. When you eat and let your body know another famine is not coming, that’s when you become a normal eater. When you have the right tools and support you are able to find that natural moderation and balance with food that you were looking for when dieting.

I've always associated restricting what you eat and being “in shape” to being disciplined. And I feel guilty or like I’m lacking restraint when I eat pizza or ice cream. Can you speak to such thinking / how to offset it?

This is another rule diet culture has implanted into our brains. That willpower and discipline are a sign of strength. But here’s the thing, willpower is impossible! When you tell yourself “I can’t have that” it will almost always backfire. So when you inevitably give in, it’s a food free for all accompanied with overwhelming guilt. The only way to get rid of the guilt is by making up for it through food restriction or exercise the next day. This is another vicious cycle. The only way to stop it is by allowing yourself to eat these foods and enjoy them. When the guilt starts to bubble up, that’s when you say an affirmation that is true to you to offset the guilt. For example: “I will see food equally, there is no such thing as “good” or “bad” food.” With time it will get easier and become more natural.

Moms are perpetually feeling guilty about something or the other. And I think it’s sad when we feel guilty for eating something. We should be able to eat whatever we want, when we want… Can you speak to this?

YES. It’s natural to feel guilty when breaking a rule. This is why we feel guilty when eating foods we deem as “bad” or “off limits”. We are essentially breaking one of our own rules. My #1 tip to stop the guilt is to break your food rules and give yourself unconditional permission to eat all foods. Give yourself grace and compassion to eat the foods you love.

You’re always preaching that diets are not sustainable - and I completely agree from personal experience. Can you speak to this?

Research has shown that 95% of diets fail and most of the people who lose weight gain it back plus more. It’s the diet culture marketing and ads that convince us, “if you just try hard enough, it will eventually work.” If it worked, we would be done and life would be glamorous. But it doesn’t, it just makes everything worse. For example: Bingeing, food obsession, food guilt, stress, hair loss, low libido, etc. All symptoms of eating less than your body needs.

Instead of dieting, the key is to focus on how you FEEL. Which will actually help you eat in a way that is best for you. It also helps you find a weight that you can maintain effortlessly in order to live a stable and healthful life free of food and body obsession.

Ever since we moved to LA, I have developed such a strong, negative reaction to bread, because NOBODY eats it here. Which is so sad because bread (if you’re not celiac) is amazing. And I read what you had written about how people say, “I don’t eat bread because it makes me feel bloated afterwards…” and that such physical reactions can be the result of abstaining so strictly from certain foods. Can you speak to this?

Here’s the scoop on bread, it’s essential! Grains are essential. Carbs are essential. They are the primary source of fuel for our bodies. It’s only diet culture that says it’s “bad” and will cause weight gain, but that just isn’t true. When you cut out any primary food group your body adapts and will stop creating certain enzymes to break down that food (our bodies are genius’s right?!). The moment you introduce that food back, your body is like “what the heck!” and has to readapt. So yes, you may feel a bit of bloating during this reintroduction phase, but your body will adapt. At the end of the day our body needs ALL food groups to function optimally.

As moms, our bodies change SO much during and after pregnancy. I find myself making the mistake of comparing my body to how it was pre-Mishka. Which is ridiculous because I birthed a whole dm child! Can you speak to finding peace with a little pudge, or a little more weight because it means balance, stability, health and peace?

Finding peace with your body is all about changing the way you think about your body and how you talk to your body. So simple yet so complex, I know! Start with baby steps, maybe instead of saying “ugh, I wish my stomach looked like it used to.” Say, “this is my stomach now, I don’t have to love it but I can respect it. It helped me bring a human into this world and I am thankful for that.” Those little mindset shifts help to bring peace to your mind so you don’t go down the rabbit hole.

How can those who are interested in learning more about your coaching reach out to you?

You can either email me at mrp.nutriton@gmail.com or hop on over to my insta @food.peace.nutritionist and direct message me there.

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