I’m so exited to share this week’s interview with Steph Gadreau! Steph is a mindful eating mentor who helps purpose-driven women develop body trust. (You can check out her podcast, Listen to Your Body, which I recently did an interview for as well!) She’s on a mission to help women stop obsession over food choices and thigh gaps. There are so many other amazing things to invest our energy and time into! In this interview, Steph shares about how intuitive eating impacted her life.
How Steph Got Started
Steph’s been working for herself for about 7 years. Before that, she was a high-school science teacher! She transitioned into the entrepreneurial world with her blog (which had been a hobby), and has since grown her own business. This includes coaching, a podcast, and more!
At the beginning of her coaching career, Steph got started by teaching Paleo. In her own life, this was actually a helpful stepping stone away from calorie counting. Eventually, however, she realized that she was still in the dieting mindset. At that point, she found herself learning more about intuitive eating! If you’ve done Whole 30 or Keto, you might have had (or currently are having) a similar experience. Now, Steph is fully invested in intuitive eating and personal food freedom, and those are core components of her coaching work.
Looking back, Steph remembers being teased at school for being a chubby kid. She always had a bigger body than her classmates, and she also entered puberty really early. (At age 10, she got her period.) After experiencing a ton of sickness that was keeping her out of school and making her miserable, her mom took her to the doctor. The report? She was “fine” and would grow out of it.
Being told that what she was experiencing “wasn’t that bad” was really hard. It also set the stage for Steph to distrust her body and its signals. After all, when she had thought that something was really wrong and had felt really sick, an authority figure was telling her that there wasn’t actually a problem. Those sorts of messages made it hard for Steph to trust her body (and be willing to listen to it) very early on.
As she grew up, Steph spiraled into a dieting trap. She tried all the plans, including calorie counting and points. She had a pervasive sense that something was wrong with her body, and constantly felt she needed to be thinner or smaller.
Eventually she got into endurance sports. They served as the perfect way to hide the level of intense exercise she was undertaking, in addition to the reality that she wasn’t eating enough to fuel her body.
In her mind, Steph had a number that was going to change everything. She believed that when she weighed “that number”, things were going to be different. One day she stepped on the scale and saw her magic number…and nothing changed. All that pressure and work, and in the end decreasing her body size didn’t change her life or her problems.
With her marriage on the rocks and her body exhausted, she knew she needed to do something different. Enter, Paleo.
At first, it was amazing. (And at the time, it was a stepping stone that helped her ease back from the intense calorie counting and low fat fixations she was used to.) Years later, however, Steph started to realize that a lot of her disordered eating, built on years of dieting, came into Paleo with her. Although she was feeling better in many ways and experiencing a lot more energy, and was also focusing on enjoying physical activity rather than weighing a certain number, there was still a dieting mindset that impacted her life and way of being.
Starting Intuitive Eating
When her passion took her into the field of nutrition, Steph discovered bio-diversity. This opened the gates to learning to listen to her own unique body. It also led her towards becoming an intuitive eater, and resulted in Steph ultimately becoming a trained intuitive eating coach.
She was finally able to release her restrictions and hang ups around food like bread, which she hadn’t allowed herself for so long.
Moving into intuitive eating also helped her start to deal with other aspects of her life that weren’t serving her. Judging herself all of the time for not being “perfect” or “enough” was a thread that ran through Steph’s whole life. She found she had to do a lot of inner work and exploration to really start to sort through all of those ways of thinking.
Intuitive eating encouraged her to be kinder to her body, and also to her whole self. Learning that she could listen to herself, and trust herself, was life changing. She also realized that her own internal, usually judgmental, narrative was something that was fueled by a dieting mentality. She also recognized that the way we eat can exacerbate other things about ourselves.
Now, she sees that food is only one small slice of the equation when we are considering someone’s allover health and wellbeing.
Outside the Guidelines
We all have a personal framework we’ve developed for understanding food and our relationship to it. The food we eat might be about our budget, our regional location, our lifestyle, our family, and our religions.
Want to try intuitive eating? You don’t have to throw everything out the window to become an intuitive eater! Instead, Steph encourages you to think about: what happens when you break your own rules?
For instance, if you currently follow the Paleo or Keto way of eating, what happens if you “slip up”? If you were to eat differently for a meal, or a day, or a week, would you go into a negative emotional space? Do you go into a spiral of blame and shame if you “fall off the wagon”?
Leaning into the way you would react if you were to NOT follow a way of eating can help you understand what sort of emotion connection (and baggage) might be attached to that way of eating. So if you happen to enjoy eating Paleo or Keto-styled meals, great! But be honest with yourself if guilt and shame are playing a part in that choice.
When we berate ourselves for “failing”, or try to restrict even more to “fix” a mistake, that’s a sign that you’re in an unhealthy dieting mindset.
Our Bodies CAN Be Trusted
If you’ve used a calorie counting app, you know you put in your details, and the app tells you many calories you get to eat. That might mean you eat more than feels comfortable, or it might mean you’re so hungry at the end of the day that you would eat a shoe! (I remember using dieting apps and eating extra calories just because they were “available”….even when I wasn’t even hungry!)
If you’re used to following plans or using dieting to tell you what you get to eat (or not eat), your basically learning to tune out your body so you can follow a plan. That’s often signals a problem in your mindset!
When we rely too heavily on external rules, we can lose the ability to listen to ourselves and our bodies. Intuitive eating is a reminder that our bodies can be trusted. They do tell us what we need, and we can listen to what they’re telling us.
Steph shares that learning to listen to her body was a process, and she had to make peace with some of her old ways of thinking. For her, that included moving from Paleo to intuitive eating one step at a time. She opened up to learning more about her body and its needs, and she learned to balance that with the physical activities that mattered to her.