The Interviews: The Non-Diet RD2B with Shannon Western
November 29, 2020
Hey! I’m Shannon – I’m a Registered Associate nutritionist & an RD2B. I graduated recently with an MSc in nutrition and currently live in Aberdeen with my partner and our newly adopted cat! As well as studying and keeping up with the currents in nutrition as an ANutr, I’m also building a business (very slowly….) in non-diet nutrition, using the principles of intuitive eating to help people recover their relationship to food and their bodies. Which is fancy talk for: be as cool as a cucumber with eating whatever you feel like and enjoy, breaking food rules, and reject diet culture and diet talk. I love this sort of work because it pulls together so much i’m passionate about: non-diet nutrition is about food and health (not in a diety way, though!) but it’s also about food systems, food availability, and dismantling the patriarchy (because diet culture is a partial system… yup).
What first inspired you to study nutrition?
I decided nutrition was for me during my BSc (which was in Biology) as i only ever really liked the parts that were specific to humans & food, and I was also going through my own weirder phase with food- like a wellness phase which i now know was orthorexic behaviours. Once I researched more about careers in nutrition, I also liked the wide-range of jobs nutritionists can do.
Has your own journey inspired your interest into non diet and intuitive eating?
I found out about non-diet nutrition before I started my MSc in nutrition (I had a year between my BSc and MSc) so I was already pretty in the know about weight stigma, disordered eating etc before I even started on my way to become a nutritionist, which i think is different to most people, as they usually find out about non-diet after they’re qualified.
My own relationship to food & my body was never good, and deciding to become a nutritionist was definitely linked to my “obsession” with food, just like for many people whether they realise it or not. I found once I became more knowledgeable in Intuitive Eating (specifically how to counsel someone through intuitive eating) my relationship to food became the best it’s ever been- for a few years i’ve just been chill about food and i see it completely different from how i ever have (and i guess, also completely different from how i’m “supposed” to view food as a nutritionist and RD2B)
How do you feel the media currently portrays non diet nutrition?
I’ve got a lot of thoughts on this, so hopefully I convey them well…. So i think the media (which would be social media in general, online news articles etc) talking about non-diet is pretty positive as it increases awareness & i hope that for people who need help with disordered eating behaviours would seek out good sources of help e.g. dietitians and Rnutritionists who specialise in IE or eating disorders. But I’m very aware that’s not what’s happening; people are co-opting non-diet and making it diety, by promoting “balance” and encouraging people to “listen to their bodies” which isn’t dealing with all the steps in IE, and i do think it’s making non-diet nutrition like a joke, to be honest. I think it’s super important to make sure people know that non-diet nutrition is still only for qualified health professionals to talk about, and more regulation is needed!
Where would you like to be in five years time?
So in five years I will be a dietitian (yay!) & hopefully working in the NHS.. I would love to specialise (this might change as i haven’t even done placements yet) in paediatrics or eating disorders. I also hope that my freelance practice can be a part-time gig and I can be working with people recovering from disordered eating using IE, and hopefully by then I will be able to afford & have the time to do the real deal Intuitive Eating counsellor qualification! In five years I also hope I will go from an associate nutritionist to a registered nutritionist, and maybe start offering mentoring to newbies in non-diet nutrition. Would also love to start a PhD and eventually work in a uni….
What are your top tips for individuals wishing to move away from diet culture?
Okay top tips would be….. There are also like 20 more!
1) Check out (the best resource!) @laurathomasphd Instagram & her book Just Eat It. Laura gives the best practical tips in a really accessible, down to earth, and entertaining way. Her company @intuitiveeatinglondon (London Centre for Intuitive Eating) is a go-to source for non-diet, but also is inclusive and intersectional too.
2) Read Chrissy Harrison’s book Anti Diet, which gives a great rundown of diet culture and it’s roots- how it’s a system of oppression based on racism, sexism, ableism & this also gives a great rundown on the nuances of intuitive eating.
3) Have an unfollow (then a follow) party…. Go through your social media feeds- are all the people thin, white, rich? Unfollow anyone who makes you feel a little bit down, even if it feels overly picky…. When you’re breaking up with diet culture a complete social media break might be a good idea, because social media (sometimes even people who are promoting “non-diet”) is a hotbed for diet culture. A good rule of thumb when you’re starting to pick out what’s diet culture and what’s not, is to only follow accounts who aren’t thin, white people posting loads of photos of themselves (even if they’re “non-diet”)
4) Buy the Intuitive Eating (by Tribole and Resch) available on Amazon. I recommend the workbook too- it’s fantastic. Or if you can, start intuitive eating sessions with a non-diet nutritionist or dietitian.
5) Go into intuitive eating with a clear mind- if you’ve been reading about it on the internet, or have seen you can lose weight by doing it, try to forget about that. Social media is trying it’s hardest to turn intuitive eating into another diet, so aim to only take advice from people like those above until you’re feeling more confident in noticing even the sneakiest of diet talk!
–> I realise 3/5 of my top tips include buying books, but just following the authors on Instagram or listening to their podcasts will be great for you! And the books (especially Just Eat It) will take you through intuitive eating like a practitioner would.
Thanks so much for your amazing words, Shannon. Can’t wait to see big things from you in the future!