At the beginning of each new year, many individuals find themselves bombarded with messages of “New Year, New Me,” often revolving around weight loss and fitness goals. In a society that tends to emphasize appearance, these resolutions can inadvertently contribute to feelings of inadequacy and body shaming. To shed light on a more holistic approach to health and well-being, we spoke with Erin Everett, NP-C, AAHIVS, a passionate advocate for body positivity and one of the many top providers at AvitaCare Atlanta who focuses on creating a safe space for all patients.
Navigating the “New Year, New Me” mindset
The new year, with its more frequent gatherings and family dynamics, can often be a challenging time for those sensitive to discussions about weight and appearance.
Erin highlights the importance of setting boundaries with family and friends, making it clear that certain topics, especially related to food and weight, are off-limits. She suggests communicating these boundaries in advance and, if needed, limiting exposure to situations that may trigger discomfort that could linger for several months.
“Sometimes saying something as simple as, ‘I know you’re saying this because you care, but I didn’t ask for your feedback’ when it comes to body conversations can re-direct the conversation a bit,” says Erin. “It’s important to let your family and friends know that, if you aren’t comfortable talking about your body, it shouldn’t be a point of conversation. Letting people know that before a gathering through a text or a phone call can set the tone for how you want and need to be treated.”
Health Beyond Weight
One of the key aspects Erin emphasizes is shifting the conversation from weight-centric discussions to a more holistic approach to health.
During each appointment, “One of the first things I ask patients is what are their health goals?” says Erin. “Weight isn’t everything, it is not a ‘catch-all’ for understanding a patient’s health. Instead, things like if their labs are normal or blood pressure is normal are much better indicators of health in many ways. That’s what I focus on with patients coming into care.”
Instead of fixating on the number on the scale, Erin encourages patients to focus on overall well-being. “One of the keys is shifting the conversation from weight-centric discussions to a more holistic approach to health. We should focus on overall well-being, mental health, and intuitive eating,” says Erin.
Mental health is directly tied to a healthier life. “Moving your body is good for mental health. And reducing certain things from your diet may be good for you. Like refined sugars, especially if you have diabetes or at risk of diabetes. It’s not weight loss, it’s going to improve your health outcomes. It’s movement and dietary changes that make a difference. If you’re focused purely on dieting, you might lose weight, but it doesn’t make you healthy.”
By exploring individual health goals and promoting movement for mental well-being, Erin helps patients build healthier relationships with their bodies.
Intuitive eating is defined as making peace with all types of food. Unlike traditional diets that restrict or ban certain foods, intuitive eating doesn’t look at foods as inherently “good” or “bad.” Instead, intuitive eating is focused on how foods make each individual feel after or during consumption.
Erin advocates for intuitive eating as a powerful tool for achieving a healthier relationship with food. Intuitive eating involves paying attention to how different foods make you feel and listening to your body’s cues.
Erin recommends starting small, perhaps by keeping a food journal to track how certain foods impact energy levels and mood. This self-awareness can guide individuals toward making informed, health-focused choices.
“Intuitive eating is about paying attention to how different foods make you feel and listening to your body’s cues. It’s a powerful tool for developing a healthier relationship with food,” says Erin. An important aspect of intuitive eating is taking note of how you feel after you eat something. Erin mentions, “Some people, when they eat something like pasta, might feel tired or lethargic after it. I personally do not, so it isn’t on my list of foods to avoid. But, for someone who does experience this effect after eating pasta, perhaps they should avoid it. Think about using a food journal, not for counting calories or being restrictive. But instead to note how certain foods make you feel so you can be the best version of yourself every day.”
Creating a Safe Space for Patients
Erin’s approach is rooted in creating a safe and judgment-free environment for patients. She recognizes that weight does not define a person’s health and aims to destigmatize the conversation around body size. She also allows her patients to decline being weighed in the clinic if they don’t feel comfortable doing so.
Erin says, “A lot of my patients have food trauma or a history of disordered eating. I am never going to prescribe a diet to a patient. Instead, I focus on practices like listening to your body and making sure you’re not too distracted when you eat so that you can tell when you’re full or still hungry or thirsty. Or eating more natural, less processed foods which will make you feel less tired and is better for not having to excrete excess insulin. Those types of practices are more sustainable to long-term health instead of short-term weight loss.”
By incorporating intuitive eating practices, Erin empowers her patients to make choices based on their unique needs, fostering a positive and sustainable approach to health.
Challenging Outdated Metrics
In a healthcare system where Body Mass Index (BMI) is often used as a standard metric for health, Erin acknowledges its limitations. BMI is based on the height and weight of a person. However, more and more often, research suggests that this measure is inaccurate. It does not consider muscle mass, bone density, overall body composition, and racial and gender differences.
While recognizing the necessity of using BMI for insurance purposes, Erin emphasizes personalized conversations with patients that go beyond this numerical measure. She advocates for a more comprehensive understanding of health that considers various factors, including mental well-being, stress reduction, and individual health goals.
“While BMI is necessary for insurance purposes, it has limitations. Personalized conversations that go beyond numerical measures are essential. We need a more comprehensive understanding of health,” says Erin.
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By prioritizing holistic well-being, setting boundaries, and challenging outdated metrics, you can embark on a journey towards a healthier, more positive relationship with your body. The key, as suggested by Nurse Practitioner Erin Everett, NC-P, AAHIVS, is to listen to your body, honor its needs, and celebrate the uniqueness that makes you beautifully different.