Monica: Thanks so much for taking the time to share your journey with us, Robyn! We’d love to know, how did you first become interested in women’s health and wellness?
Robyn: I walked my own path of experiencing disordered eating and female hormonal issues – for 10 years, I had hypothalamic amenorrhea, meaning I didn’t get a natural, regular period for a decade. I was continually told by doctor’s that I was “fine”, and they didn’t know why I wasn’t getting my period.
In high school, I dieted to lose weight, which continued into college where I obsessed over my physical appearance. In my early twenties I took up “clean eating” and “plant based eating” and became more involved in long-distance running. Looking back, I had many healthy motivations for eating well and running, but enmeshed in those healthy motivations was an acute awareness of the calories I was burning and the ingredients in my food.
As I entered into a career as a dietitian, I became frustrated with doctor’s telling me I was “fine”. So I took matters into my own hands, researching as much as I possibly could about hypothalamic amenorrhea and women’s reproductive health. In the midst of that process, I had an honest conversation with myself about my relationship with food and exercise. Soon after, I was exposed to Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size. From there, I really started to apply those concepts not only to my personal life, but my professional career.
Monica: It’s so commendable to be willing to open up to yourself, and be that honest and transparent with what’s truly going on in your life. How did it influence the way you wanted to pursue your career?
Robyn: In many ways, my own story became the catalyst to the work I do now. I became passionate and determined to get to the bottom of the health issues I was experiencing, and while doing that, I came to realize that women were heavily undereducated by the medical field.
I also recognized that “wellness” culture was doing more harm to women’s health than good.
While eating healthy, exercising, and being productive might appear healthy to the outside world, I had found in my own life and many of the women I worked with that these seemingly “healthy” habits were doing more harm to women’s physical, mental and emotional health. These realizations were a large part of why I went back to school to expand upon my RD career and become a nurse practitioner – I wanted to help women so they didn’t have to walk through what I had.
Monica: That’s such a great reminder that the pursuit of physical health may actually be harmful to mental health if we’re not careful. How do you want to help others recognize that health and happiness can coexist in their lives?
Robyn: Health and happiness is going to mean different things to different people. To me, health goes far beyond your plate or exercise routine – it includes a person’s mental and emotional wellbeing, as well as cultural, social and economic factors. Health and happiness to me means moving, eating, and living in a way that enhances your physical and mental wellbeing.
It allows you to live in line with your values – and that leads to a meaningful and rich life.
I practice through an Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size framework with my clients and patients, which has allowed me to help others find this same meaning of health and happiness so they too can live a full, purposeful life. It’s about helping others find physical healing and a peaceful relationship with food, their body, and ultimately themselves. Although I’m doing this work to help others, I often have to remind others and myself that I’m human, and am on this journey too.
It’s a journey that never ends, and we never arrive. Life is always shifting and changing; therefore, how we care for ourselves will always evolve in different seasons of life. Doing this work with patients and clients every day helps me to remember to do the work myself. While I’m by no means perfect at it, it reminds me to care for myself so I can care for others.
Monica: I couldn’t agree more, we definitely need to care for ourselves before we can help others in a more meaningful way. How has that realization helped drive your purpose through the work that you do?
Robyn: Through my women’s health clinic and the content I share on my blog, I knew I wanted to help others live a meaningful life in line with their values. When women heal from eating disorders and other conditions linked to unhealthy relationships with food, exercise, and their body, it can open up a whole new way of living for them. It’s incredibly rewarding to walk alongside a client or patient as they learn to tap into their own intuition, and take control of their lives instead of living it to please others. They begin to live a life that they choose – a life that is aligned with what they value most.
In many ways, this parallels my own realizations in how to live my life. I learned to accept that life is hard, and there will inevitably be suffering and pain…and that’s okay. Not everyone is going to agree with you, you will not be for everyone, and that is OKAY. Accepting those realities was healing for my mind, and allowed me to truly live my life purposefully and care for myself in all realms.
Monica: You bring up a great point: that it’s human nature to want to avoid discomfort and hardships. What do you want others to know that will truly help them thrive in life?
Robyn: We all need to learn to sit with uncomfortable feelings, thoughts and emotions. We move through life wanting to escape discomfort, and so we chase all these things thinking there will be a solution – things we think will make us happy.
But in the end, we end up exhausted, unhappy, and therefore unhealthy. When we learn to accept pain and discomfort as a normal part of our lives, and use tools to actually help us cope with those things, we stop chasing things that will never satisfy us. We instead free up the energy we once wasted trying to escape, and channel it towards our ability to do the things that truly matter to us.
Learn more about Robyn at www.thereallife-rd.com.