Allison Mosso is a Soulful Health Coach, Intuitive Eating Counselor, and a Personal Trainer who’s passionate about helping people feel at home in their bodies. In this episode we cover what intuitive eating is, how it works, and how changing your relationship with food can impact your life and the lives of those around you.
Our classes explore different topics around holistic health to help you understand the options you have, because we believe that YOU should be centered and empowered in your health.
Episode 46 – Allison Mosso | Intuitive Eating + Body Peace
Allison Mosso is a Soulful Health Coach, Intuitive Eating Counselor, and Personal Trainer. You can connect with her at mossonutritionandfitness.com
[00:01:25] Lilly: Well, I am here with Alison Mosso, a health coach and intuitive eating specialist. Welcome to the show. I am so excited to have this conversation with you. I’ve been a big fan of yours for so long, and I just love everything that you are about in terms of preaching a healthier relationship with food, anti diet culture, all the things.
[00:01:49] I just feel like you have a really healthy perspective on nutrition, eating, and movement. And so I’m really excited to just dive into who you are, what you do, why you do what you do. And we’re going to talk a little bit about diet culture too, for anyone who’s not really familiar with that term or what that entails.
[00:02:13] And we’ll talk about, you know, some of our pet peeves with diet culture today. How does that sound?
[00:02:18] Allison: That sounds right up my alley and I am so excited to be here, Lilly, thank you so much for having me on.
[00:02:25] Lilly: Yes, I’m so happy you’re here. So let’s get started with your story because I think that’s just such a nice way to kind of paint the picture of why you do what you do.
[00:02:38] How did you get into the work that you’re doing right now, and maybe start with exactly what you do too.
[00:02:45] Allison: Yes. So as a professional, I work as a certified intuitive eating counselor. So really that’s a nutrition counselor and coach. I also work as a certified personal trainer and a corporate health and wellness speaker.
[00:03:02] So those are all three of my hats. And then from time to time, I’ll do community-based events such as with Athleta and other organizations that align with my values. How I got started in this work is. I’m not going to go into, you know, way back in childhood, but it really helps right? To go back to our or child to rediscover inner child.
[00:03:29] But ever since I was younger, I was just very acknowledgeable of what my body looked like. And I remember growing up and hearing other women around me of all different ages, state. Comments about their body and mostly negative comments. And so that never, I don’t think it truly ever affected me in the grade school years.
[00:03:58] And then I hit high school and I started becoming fascinated with the world of nutrition and fitness. I started working out on my own at the hometown gym by myself, instead of just doing sports. I also worked out on my own. I started reading nutrition labels, memorizing them, reading up on any articles I could find on the world of nutrition and body composition and fitness.
[00:04:27] And…fast forward…I go to the university of Minnesota and I’m studying nutrition, dietetics, and this innocent hobby for wanting to understand food and human body escalated into disordered eating, and then eventually an eating disorder and binge eating disorder to be exact was what I experienced. And so, although I…
[00:04:52] Lessen the bingeing, my eating disorder floated along into orthorexia, which is a, it’s not an official diagnosis eating disorder, but it’s becoming more and more mainstream and popular. And it’s the obsession with clean eating and what’s going into the body and how much movement you’re getting in and calorie counting or food tracking to some degree.
[00:05:16] So it floated along like that for a while. And then I came across. This concept of intuitive eating and funny enough, I found the hashtag or I came across the hashtag in two debating on Instagram. Bless the graph back in 20. I think it was 13.
[00:05:37] Allison: It’s good for something. Yes. And so I was like, whoa, there’s an actual book on intuitive eating.
[00:05:44] It sounds straightforward, but I’m curious to see what it’s all about. So I picked up the book at my local Barnes and Noble, and this was like way before I discovered what Amazon was, and I read the book within two days, I was just fascinated. And really for the first time in my life felt like, whoa, maybe I’m not a failure at keeping a smaller shape than where my body wants to be at.
[00:06:12] Maybe diets are failing me and maybe there’s nothing wrong with my body or other women’s bodies that don’t look the way the media represents, an approachable and appeasable body and so I just, I felt like I was reading my diary. I felt like, oh my gosh, no wonder. I experienced such a degree of binge eating disorder.
[00:06:36] And I just always felt like I was going to be fixated on food, body and fitness. And this is just how it was. It’s just, it was just normal. So that’s what I got motivated by was to eventually become a certified, intuitive eating counselor. Once I found out you could become one. So I left my job at this corporate gym in which I was doing nutrition, coaching and decided, you know what, I’m going to go all into intuitive eating, and I’m going to combine it with the world of fitness, which was not very sexy at the time.
[00:07:09] There’s not a lot of people who promote their personal training without weight loss. So it wasn’t the very popular thing to do, but it is what I still do today, years later. And it is something I’m very proud of.
[00:07:28] Lilly: So do you want to tell us more about what intuitive eating is?
[00:07:32] Allison: Yes, of course. So it’s fun because intuitive eating, I think is becoming more mainstream from when I first, you know, read the book over six to seven years ago.
[00:07:45] So intuitive eating is a framework in which you are the master of your own body and everything. It’s coming from a place of self autonomy, meaning that you, you’re not listening to an external diet telling you what you quote need to cut out or what times of day you need to eat or what exact foods you need to eat.
[00:08:08] Instead, you’re really developing body trust on how much you want to eat, what you want to eat and, you know, and making that fit within the reality of your. And along the way you are learning to. Separate the diet culture, myths from what your body truly wants and craves and needs. So for example, they’re in the process of intuitive eating.
[00:08:37] We learn to not moralized food, you don’t label food as good food or bad food. You normalize all food. You learn to have a respectful body image. You learn how to develop body image, neutrality and body image peace. Because if you’re at war with your body image, it’s going to be really hard to eat normal.
[00:09:05] And within all of this, there’s so much nuance. Intuitive eating looks so different for everyone. I mean, I’ve had clients who are vegan that are intuitive eaters. I’ve had clients that have Celiac’s disease that are intuitive eaters, so it can be done with medical conditions or moral preferences on how you choose to eat.
[00:09:27] But what it’s not, and this I think is important when defining it is it’s not a weight loss program. It doesn’t mean that weight loss can’t naturally happen. And it also means that weight gain can happen. And so can weight maintenance, so it’s not centered on a scale or a number and that’s to help people really.
[00:09:51] Be able to tap into their own cues versus relying on the external world of diet culture to tell them how to eat, which can end up more oftentimes than not stressing out people and causing them to fixate on food.
[00:10:05] Lilly: Yeah, that makes sense. So. For people who, uh, have a history of disordered ed. And what is the transition look like to go from that to try and intuitive eating?
[00:10:21] Allison: Yeah, it’s such, it’s rarely, is it a linear path? Let me just do that. I mean, I work. So I usually work with women who fall between the age range of, um, you know, mid thirties to early sixties. And I mean, I also work with like an 18 year old right now, too. So there’s no discrimination in age, but, usually these women have spent 20 plus years…
[00:10:48] …in the diet mentality, whether that is, they were put on Weight Watchers when they were eight years old or in high school at one of their parents or a well-meaning physician or caregiver told them to lose weight. And they have spent so much of their life in this mindset. So it takes a big paradigm shift and a lot, a lot of self-compassion and patients to rework their mind to understand that.
[00:11:18] Every body is going to look different and health and weight is not dependent of each other. So first it’s usually working with the, the understanding that what society and predominantly the media has fed this individual growing up. Isn’t always true and there’s so much nuance to it. So it’s understanding that all different bodies exist and understanding the oppressive systems that diet culture can create, especially for folks in fat, larger in marginalized bodies.
[00:11:58] So it’s really understanding the society problem of it. And then it’s also understanding the individual challenges and barriers. So you’ll notice on my website, I point out that I work with individuals who experienced perfectionism individuals who like to have a sense of control, who are, are kind and nice.
[00:12:24] And they can tip into the arena of people pleasing often, or they put themselves not at the center of their life. So there’s also that going forward as well, where perhaps in order to feel control, they have used dieting for most of their life to feel in control or to cope with anxiety and stress. So that’s where we start is really the societal issues.
[00:12:47] And then the, what is personal to them in their journey in needing to. Create a better relationship with their body and food.
[00:12:57] Lilly: what do people experience like through this transition? And maybe I don’t want to say on the other side, cause it doesn’t feel like it’s like, you know, here to there kind of thing, but, what, what does it feel like for someone to go from.
[00:13:15] Having this really stressful relationship with food or something, that’s kind of like taking over their lives or representing a big chunk of their life. And then to, you know, improve that relationship. What changes for them in their life and how does it, do you have any like anecdotes or stories of, of how people have felt on, after going through, you know, some time with this and working.
[00:13:43] Allison: Oh, totally. So this is really one of those and situations. They feel liberated, they feel free and it can be very uncomfortable because if you are used to using dieting and some sort of food restriction or food rules, or having a rigid exercise program that has defined where your mind goes and how you spend your time, it’s going to feel uncomfortable
[00:14:10] to shift that, that mindset and your behaviors. So it’s, it’s liberating and it can feel scary because what people think. And this was myself included that if I’m, so for example, the last type of dieting I did before I transitioned into. On intuitive eating is I tracked macros for two years. I thought I was going to be set out to become a bikini competitor.
[00:14:38] I tracked my macros like one and I worked out like one and there’s, you know, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the people who choose to do that. That’s just not in my arena anymore. And it was really a Bandaid for my eating disorder. So anyway, it felt uncomfortable to shift that and people think, well, if I’m not doing something that I’m just giving up on myself, right.
[00:15:02] And that’s how sad it can be to understand how much diet culture has influenced us. That if we’re not dieting, then we’re not taking care of ourselves. When in reality it can be the complete opposite. I was just talking to a, um, a wonderful woman today. Who’s going to be one of my clients for the next six months.
[00:15:21] And. We’re talking about this concept of you feel like you’re letting go, but really you’re allowing yourself to live your life and move on to just more fulfilling things. Whether that be a career, a side hustle, your family, or just enjoying life and not feeling so overwhelmed. So examples, specific examples of what happens is, well, one of the most notable things that happens is the woman I work with.
[00:15:52] They lessen their consistent overeating, bingeing and emotional eating behavior. Because first off, they’re making peace with all foods. So there’s not this rushed guilt of compulsiveness around foods to eat it as a coping mechanism, nor are nor are their bodies restricted. From foods. So therefore there’s not this heightened emotional awareness around the foods.
[00:16:19] An example of this. And I use this quite often, one of my first clients ever, almost, uh, five years ago, she came to me with this. What she said was a problem. She said, Alison, when my partner and my kids go upstairs to bed, I will open up a box of thin mint cookies from the Girl Scouts. And I will eat an entire sleeve and then some, so clearly I need to get rid of the thin mint cookies.
[00:16:48] Right? And I said, no, the situation, the challenge we’re going to work through is how to make you feel normal around the thin mint cookies versus just getting rid of them. Because then it’s always going to be about the thin mint cookies for the rest of your life versus your behavior and your relationship with food.
[00:17:09] So over time I had her do what I call the food habituation experimentation. You can also find that in the intuitive eating book described. And I had her regularly expose herself to thin mint cookies. So therefore they just felt normal. And then pretty soon over time, she was like, oh my gosh, I forget that.
[00:17:29] Sometimes they’re on top of the microwave and they’re just in there in the house and I feel comfortable eating them in front of my family. And I also just forget about them now. So that’s something very noticeable where it may seem silly to some, but if you’ve ever experienced that fixation and compulsive.
[00:17:48] Compulsive emotion around food. You get how big and liberating that is other noticeable things. My clients will take note of as they start seeing the world around them differently. And the way that women identify and women in particular are viewed and how we are treated and talked to in marketing and media, in the workplace and so forth.
[00:18:11] So they start to. I, I call it kind of the, um, time where you almost start to just get angry because you’re in this it’s part of grief, right? You’re letting go literally of perhaps an ideal body image that you’ve been chasing for 20 years and has only left you feeling disheartened. So you’re letting go of it.
[00:18:31] And you’re in this grief stage of anger where you’re starting to realize. My body isn’t inherently a problem. Like my body’s not wrong. My body has just wanted to be friendly my entire life. And here I’ve been trying to manipulate it. So a lot of times they’ll enter this stage where they just, they, they love then viewing and I have them do this view.
[00:18:53] Other body neutral body positivity, body peace, body respect accounts, start listening to podcasts or reading books that really hone in on this concept of your body is not the most interesting thing about you and sorry society has told you that. So, yeah. And then other phenomenon, since it is summer, right now, as we’re talking, they’ll go on vacation and they’ll notice that they don’t feel this desire to, you know, go on a bingefest on vacation because they know that when they come home, no food is restricted to them.
[00:19:28] I had one client and I posted this on my Instagram. It’s not going to be the exact quote because I don’t have it in front of me, but it was beautiful. She said she was outside with her twin daughters at a cabin and she was swimming around the lake. And for the first time she didn’t think who’s looking at me or I wonder what people think of what I look like.
[00:19:50] Instead she’s like, I was just enjoying the water with my daughters and I could’ve cried. I was like, oh my goodness. So those are some, some tangible examples.
[00:20:03] Lilly: Oh, so powerful. Well, you got into this a little bit, but let’s talk about diet culture a little bit more and kind of what our biggest pet peeves about it are.
[00:20:17] So I was born in the eighties, grew up in the nineties, my junior high and high school years were in the mid to late nineties and it was all about fat-free everything. Right. I think Snackwells was the big cookie, but fat was basically like evil and we were all trying to just, you know, not eat fat for awhile.
[00:20:42] And then it kind of changed and, and those, The high protein diets came out. So it was like Atkins, I think was the big one around college. So everyone was like reducing carbs and sugar was kind of evil. But what else has been vilified and diet culture? I know you have a lot, a lot to say around this
[00:21:05] You are correct. There has been so many things that have been vilified and every, every year, every 10 years, it’s going to change. There’s going to be an attack on something. And I have a post about this on my Instagram and Facebook, how, you know, even the word clean eating, which routes from diet culture.
[00:21:24] Is so subjective to who’s talking, you know, a Keto person would say clean eating is really high fat, coconut oil, bacon, steak, eggs, you know, and anything along those lines we’re then you’ll talk to a person who’s strictly plant-based and maybe it’s not out of moral values, but rather they just think it’s healthier.
[00:21:45] And they’re going to say no. No eggs. No. And then you’ll talk to another person who was like, well, you got to lower that saturated fat. So no coconut oil. Meanwhile, the keto person saying yes, coconut oil. And so it’s just, it’s just, can I, can I swear on here? Okay. It’s, it’s just a shit show and no wonder as a consumer, it can feel so overwhelming and confusing and that’s diet culture in a nutshell is it’s constantly trying to.
[00:22:19] Put its foot in front of you and say, this is how it should be this. And I don’t want you to have self autonomy or self-advocacy for yourself. Otherwise follow my lead. Even if it doesn’t feel right, or it doesn’t align with your own values or your cultural values or whatever it might be. One thing I’ve also noticed with diet culture in the past five to 10 years is how it co-ops movements.
[00:22:48] So for example, the body positivity movement was meant for folks in marginalized bodies to give them a place to feel celebrated and represented. And when diet culture started taking notice of that, it was like, oh, So we don’t want to promote people hating their bodies anymore. So let’s like, co-op is body love thing or body positivity thing and let’s spin it.
[00:23:15] And really the subliminal message is love your body, but also not like that. Let’s just make sure you love your body within like a certain means. And you’ll see this with, you know, you can see this anywhere from companies to influencers who. You know, whether it was intentional or not have co-opted something such as body positivity or body love.
[00:23:38] When I worked at this giant commercial gym, we had a 60 day challenge and I was, I put in my two weeks by that time. So I wasn’t taking part of it. Thank goodness. But it was, it really was a weight loss challenge. And the tagline for it was love your body. Well, it’s, it sends so many mixed messages and Hey, I am wanting to say that people are allowed to do whatever they want to their bodies.
[00:24:09] You know, that’s not my place to control. And don’t confuse people either. You know, if you, if you love yourself, then you got to lose weight. That’s not the message we should be sending. So that’s another big pet peeve of mine with diet culture. Yeah.
[00:24:25] Lilly: What else? What about like super foods?
[00:24:29] Allison: Super foods.
[00:24:30] Yes. Oh, that’s a fun one. Super foods is one of those terms where I truly think it was meant to be innocent, but really what these superfoods are, are they, if they are foods that have been shown to have high levels of antioxidants, um, they have micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and fibers.
[00:24:52] So it is a catchy term that really catches consumers eyes, but it doesn’t mean anything so astronomically more amazing than, you know, something you could get at a standard grocery store for a cheaper cost. Some other fun things to realize with, you know, just marketing and labels in general is you’ll see.
[00:25:19] For example, I read this peanut butter the other day that was like no cholesterol and cholesterol only comes from animal products. So it’s like, no, duh, there is no cholesterol. So that’s another fun thing to be aware of. Um, one of the other pet peeves that this audience might find interesting too, is that GMOs, they were created to help communities who didn’t have access to as many variety of foods as we do.
[00:25:51] So for example, one of the first GMO products was GMO rice and it was infused with more vitamin A to help people in third world countries not go blind. So it was something that was started out of pure, helpfulness and science, and then diet culture in these wellness gurus on Instagram decided, you know, This isn’t natural.
[00:26:18] So let’s knock it without ever looking into the food science behind it, which by the way, if there’s anyone listening who is interested in learning more about food science, @foodsciencebabe on Instagram is a great resource. I just want to throw that out there. I’ll link that
[00:26:38] Lilly: in our show notes. Thank you.
[00:26:40] Allison: Of course.
[00:26:41] Lilly: So, you know, you talk about how diet culture is this thing, but like, what is it really? Cause it’s not like, you know, one group of people, it’s not like, you know, one mastermind person behind the scenes. But it feels like what it comes down to is the fact that companies are trying to sell you something.
[00:27:04] To me, that’s what it feels like. It’s, it comes out of this need to simplify a problem and provide a solution for people. And then it just kind of like, you know, affects everyone, whether they’re part of the company or not, you know, they’re within that ecosystem of diet culture. But I’m curious, how would you define it?
[00:27:29] Allison: Yeah, Lilly, what you said is a really great definition. And of course, I don’t want anyone to think that my definition is definitive. You know, it’s, it is what it is. This is my own definition, but diet culture is really anything that makes folks believe that they are the problem and tries to sell them on a solution that hasn’t been.
[00:27:52] Backed up or fully claimed by science or observation. So for example, you’ll see a lot of folks in the, in the intuitive eating community state that rarely do you find research studies that look at sustained weight loss past the two year mark, because. There has been so many studies and observational studies that show that most folks gain back the weight and then some, so the fact that programs and even the medical field prescribed weight loss is essentially questionable.
[00:28:33] Because if we can’t prove it, if we can’t show that it’s actually sustainable, then what are we doing? Um, diet culture can also be looked at as a privilege. So for example, if a company, you know, or a program is saying, you can only eat these foods and stay away from these pre-packaged processed foods.
[00:28:57] Well, that can give a lot of people starving because that is one of their only options or. It’s their most accessible option. I mentioned cereal quite a bit in my social media because I love cereal. And I will oftentimes write about how cereal is one of those foods, where it can be highly demonized, you know, it’s processed.
[00:29:19] It’s not wholesome. It’s not pure produce. Well, of course it’s not. And it is one of those cereal or one of the foods where it’s been fortified with a lot of vitamins and minerals, which is great for, you know, families with little picky eaters or. Communities who need food with a longer shelf life that isn’t going to expire.
[00:29:41] That still includes the main food groups, such as carbs, some fats and protein. And then once again, being fortified with vitamins and minerals, which might be out of reach for these communities. So diet culture can also, you can hint or you can sense when something is rooted in diet culture, when it has a very.
[00:30:02] Privileged tone to it. And doesn’t take into account accessibility. Diet culture can also be anything that profits off of a certain look or body type or demonizing a certain look and body type. So this is where it becomes very oppressive and, very actually a harmful, I mean, I think of this big corporate gym I worked at before I started my own business where it was mainly.
[00:30:30] Thin binary, cis, Caucasian influenced models. And that was the marketing. It was like, look like this, or you’re not welcomed here. And that’s very exclusive, right? So that’s another way we could look at diet culture. Diet culture is also a, and sometimes it’s not just a company, it’s just these sayings and these mantras that have been imbedded into the minds of many.
[00:31:00] So some diet culture sayings we can think of are I wrote about this in my newsletter, actually this morning that if you’re not, you may not be hungry, you may be thirsty. Rarely is that the case? I mean, you think. A day, like we’re having in Minnesota or a week, like we’re having a Minnesota where it’s been almost a hundred degrees, humidity is thick and you know what it’s like to be thirsty versus hungry.
[00:31:27] So that’s one that is, has this subliminal message of keep trying to eat less. Just try drinking water. instead, other diet culture mantras could be, um, if you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, you’re not hungry. I heard that one quite a few times in magazines and tabloids growing up, nothing tastes better than being skinny feels.
[00:31:53] That’s another diet culture mantra that I think a lot of women now in. Thirties to sixties grew up hearing. I’m trying to think of what else, easy on the carbs, you know, just things like that. That’s all rooted from diet culture and it has no backing on being healthier for us. These sayings, these mantras, these programs, et cetera.
[00:32:16] Lilly: Yeah. That makes sense.
[00:32:18] Do you feel hopeful about the future? When you think about where we’ve been with diet culture and how kind of things may be changing or groups might be, getting more interested in things like intuitive eating and kind of waking up to the influence of diet culture. How do you feel when you think about the future in this realm?
[00:32:39] Allison: So I want to say two different things here. First one is yes, I do feel hopeful. I read the book Intuitive Eating almost seven years ago. And back then, it wasn’t as known or widespread as it was, is today. I can tell somebody I’m an intuitive eater and they’ll, we’ll have a sense of what I mean, where back then, if I told them about intuitive eating, they would say, what, what is that?
[00:33:07] You know, it’s something where it’s so funny. My search engine optimization. It includes so much about intuitive eating and I haven’t changed my website in almost two years, which is something I need to do anyway, just this past year, like January sense up until now, July. I have gotten so many Google searches about intuitive eating counselor, Minneapolis, or intuitive eating personal trainer.
[00:33:34] And I asked these folks like, you know, what did you Google? And it’s, it’s the words intuitive and eating. So it’s that in itself just tells me that people are now becoming more aware and looking for. The this lifestyle and how to live out its values. So I am very hopeful. I’m hopeful. Even seeing companies such as my, my near and dear company that I work with at the mall of America, Athleta, you know, including sizes up to 3X being one of the few stores in the mall of America to have their sizes up to 3X.
[00:34:08] And it’s not that they have a separate line. It’s that their entire clothing is extra small to 3X. So that’s just amazing in itself. And you’ll see this with other companies that are starting to do it as well. I think, you know, Aerie is one of those companies that a lot of my clients will mention that they enjoy looking at their marketing because they’ve been committed to showing real bodies and.
[00:34:33] And here’s the “and” situation. And I also realized that I’m living in a little bit of a bubble with what I choose to consume on social media and who I choose to surround myself with. And this is really something that I’m passionate about in my corporate health and wellness work, because that is one of the places where.
[00:34:53] I’m going into a group of individuals who don’t fully know what intuitive eating is, or they’re not sure what body respect and body peace means. And so I it’s, one of my passions is to spread that out in the corporate arena, since that is a place where a lot of diet culture can live. So I am hopeful and I realized there’s still a lot of progress to be done.
[00:35:20] Lilly: Well, thank you so much for joining me. Is there anything else that you want our listeners to know about or any parting words for our audience?
[00:35:29] Allison: Yeah. Yes. So last words I would love to leave with the listeners is that if you’re on your intuitive eating journey and you feel like an odd ball sometimes because Sally across the street is posting her 30 day beach body challenge journey on Facebook, or, you know, Kelly your coworker. All she ever talks about is what she can eat.
[00:35:56] And you feel a little out of the loop, or you start to question it. I just want you to think about that little eight year old you and what you would like to say to them now and how you would want them to perceive their bodies and what relationship you want them to have with food and pretend you’re talking to that eight year old.
[00:36:18] Anytime you start to get hard on yourself. And I want you to really realize that you are changing the lineage for so many others like you, that just by you having a healthier relationship with your food and your body is going to really affect those around you. And so just know that you’re changing the lineage and that’s super impactful.
[00:36:44] So keep going.