09 Jan “Anti-Diet: A New Way of Getting Healthy” || Carla Bredin Interviewed by Joyce Fegan for the Irish Examiner
Carla was interviewed by Joyce Fegan for the Irish Examiner for a feature entitled “Our New Lives: Major Cultural Shifts to Our Lives Ushered in by Pandemic Unknowns”. The full piece can be read here
‘The anti-diet: A new way of getting healthy’ by Joyce Fegan
With gyms closed and boredom rife, people were forced to physically slow down.
While some people joked about their ‘Covid stone’ and weight gain, hard statistics emerged from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) that people, women in particular, were eating more ‘junk food’ and exercising less, because of the pandemic.
However, when our new norm settled, things in the diet space did not go back to business as usual, with people restricting food intake and punishing themselves with strict exercise regimes.
The opposite happened.
Carla Bredin, a registered associate nutritionist (ANutr) and certified intuitive eating counsellor, was at the forefront of Ireland’s new anti-diet culture.
Last summer she appeared on 2FM, talking to Louise McSharry about her work.
She says: “The timing of my interview with Louise Mc Sharry on 2FM was fantastic. I was invited onto her show this July to discuss fatphobia, weight stigma, health at every size, and intuitive eating, even though I had stopped taking on clients at the start of the year.
“The reason I had closed off my diary was because I was focusing 2020 on my other business, Echelon, an indoor cycling studio in Dublin city centre that I launched last year — I just didn’t feel I had the bandwidth to do both at the same time.
“The response from that one conversation, however, made me completely re-organise and re-prioritise my work. Many people reached out after the interview to say they’d never ever thought about the things we were discussing. We used language that was completely new to them and they were excited to learn more,” says Carla.
Louise’s lived experience and my clinical experience created a conversation that helped a lot of people grasp the concepts for themselves in very real terms.
“I had a surge of enquiries after that conversation and so, with Echelon closed during Level 3, I reopened my diary to take on new clients. It’s been incredible to welcome so many people to my clinic and start this journey with them,” she says.
Carla works with clients who are eager to repair their relationship with food and their body. The work she does is often described as a non-diet or anti-diet approach, as it rejects the old tools of nutrition and dietetics such as restricting foods/food groups, creating meal plans, or using scales or tapes to measure results.
Instead, the clients she works with examine their relationship to their own bodies and their beliefs about food, as well as reviewing their complete history of how they have used food in restrictive or punishing ways.
Carla says: “They often attend following years and years of dieting and have arrived at a place where they are ready to reject dieting and diet culture in all its forms. Intuitive eating is the framework we use in the clinic. There are 10 principles that we engage with as a jumping-off point for repairing someone’s relationship with food and their body.
“The principles include making peace with all foods, honouring your hunger, exploring fullness and satisfaction in eating, rejecting dieting and the myriad voices we have internalised about what’s good/bad/healthy/unhealthy, and finding additional tools to cope with our emotional needs.”
The concept of intuitive eating is gaining major traction online, with personal trainers and celebrities embracing an anti-diet approach to life, including Roz Purcell, who talks about it to her 455,000 Instagram followers.
Aside from the radio interview, did Carla notice a demand for her anti-diet/intuitive eating work this year?
“My clinic is definitely getting busier month by month. People are more aware of intuitive eating as a concept. Many have spoken to me about wanting to embrace it for themselves in a practical way, with support from a professional, while others talk about tip-toeing into it on their own to see how they get on.
“It’s gaining popularity for sure and there are still only a handful of practitioners in Ireland who are certified in intuitive eating and aligned with the anti-diet and health at every size message within their nutrition practice,” says Carla.
She also believes that the uptake in intuitive eating is connected to much deeper cultural change.
“I think 2020 has seen a collective surge in how intensely we’ve been examining systems of oppression in all its forms. Diet culture has such an oppressive history and I’ve definitely welcomed people into my clinic who are reckoning with global conversations surrounding racism, the patriarchy, and ableism and how diet culture sits at the intersection of a lot of this,” says Carla.
The global picture aside, at home in our own sitting rooms, people have been forced to confront patterns and habits that no longer work for them.
“The pandemic has forced a lot of us to reckon with how we’ve designed our lives or how we’ve fallen into patterns. And many people have said ‘no more’ when it comes to punishing exercise regimes, restrictive eating patterns, and unrealistic beauty and well-being standards.
“The headspace required to shrink ourselves, augment ourselves, or micro-manage every bit of ourselves has taken a hit, and I think that’s an important cultural shift,” says Carla.