I am honoured to interview the beautiful Kelly Boaz for this week’s Sexy Scoop. She is an eating disorder survivor and currently on her way being a Nutritionist. Her experience and lends her to be the greatest expert I’ve heard on the topic and she recently shared her insight as a speaker for TEDx. I’m thrilled to have Kelly share her wisdom and encourage you to read and share this article as many people suffering from an eating disorder are living in silence.
You are such a strong and fierce woman after what you’ve gone through and how far you’ve come. What made you decide to study Nutrition after struggling for years with your relationship to food?
When I began recovering from my eating disorder, I realized I knew NOTHING about real food. I knew about low-calorie, fat-free Frankenfoods, but I had very limited experience with real, whole, unprocessed foods. I was fascinated by what food could actually do for me, and wanted to learn all I could. At that time, I couldn’t find anyone who worked in holistic nutrition who also had an understanding about how to treat eating disorders, so I decided that I wanted to become that person.
What is the number one important thing that you’ve learned about your relationship to food and yourself?
I think the most important thing I’ve learned is that my relationship to food, and my relationship with myself are mutually exclusive. For so long, how I felt about myself dictated how and what and if I ate. Learning that my emotions didn’t have to control my meal plan was key in learning to recover.
What do you feel is the biggest misconception about eating disorders that you’d like to clear up?
I think one of the biggest mistakes people make, in regards to eating disorders, is forgetting that they are, in fact, mental illnesses. It’s easy to get frustrated with a person, and fall into the “Why can’t you just eat?” trap. It’s not a diet, it’s not about willpower, and it’s not really even about being thin. There are so many underlying issues which contribute to an eating disorder, that to dismiss them as a cry for attention, or stubbornness is almost insulting.
What aspects of the health industry do you love and what about it do you find destructive to someone suffering from an eating disorder?
I love the fact that people are starting to wake up and make health a priority. When your body isn’t well, for whatever reason, it’s really difficult to get the most out of life. I love that there are lots of really smart people out there, with many different perspectives on health, so there’s always something new to learn.
What I take issue with, in the industry, is the trend of shaming people into health. It used to be “this food isn’t good for you”, but more and more often it has become “you aren’t a good person if you eat this food.” The culture of “cheat days” and “guilt-free desserts” tells people that they need to feel bad about themselves, based on their food choices. Shame leads to one of two reactions: either the person becomes angry at the person wagging their finger, and rejects the good advice along with the bad, or the person turns that shame inwards, and begins to self-destruct. Either way, shame doesn’t lead to good health – mental or physical.
What piece of advice would you give to a friend or family member looking to help someone through an eating disorder? What should they do and not do?
It’s difficult to break this down into a few points, because every eating disorder is different. Remember that. Just because you read that an approach worked for someone else doesn’t mean it will work for your loved one. Listen to them. Make sure you get professional help, so you don’t have to be the food police. They need you there to love them, not to watch their every move. Also, remember that what someone looks like is not always an indication of how well they’re doing. Some of my hardest days in recovery came after my weight was restored. (Check out my “For Friends and Family” series for more info)
What has been your therapy through your recovery? What has been your medicine?
I went the conventional treatment route a few times, going through hospital and residential treatment programs, but they weren’t a good fit for me. I’m just a little bit stubborn, so I ended up fighting more against the doctors and nurses than I did against my eating disorder. What worked best for me was finding a good therapist that I could trust, who wouldn’t take any bullshit, and would challenge me to fight for myself. Luckily for me, she also knew quite a bit about nutrition, so she started me on the path of learning that food was about more than calories and grams of fat. I also knew a Western medicinal approach didn’t work for me, so I worked a lot with a naturopath who helped me get the physical aftermath of starvation under control. It was trial and error, figuring out what was best for me, but the important thing was that I kept trying.
Now let’s talk about food! What is your current eating regime and what about it works for you?
I think what best describes my “regime” is that I reject having a regime. With my eating disorder, my food was so regulated that I’d have to throw out a cucumber if I cut it into the wrong number of pieces; the disorder wouldn’t let me eat it. Nowadays, I try to avoid restricting myself. I suppose I fall under the label of “vegetarian”, since I don’t like meat. I eat mostly whole, unprocessed foods, because they make me feel best, but I make sure to include some “mental health foods” every now and again. (Check out my mental health food “cheat” blog post for more info)
What are your ‘non-negotiables’ when it comes to your diet?
My one non-negotiable when it comes to what I eat is never feeling bad about what I put in my body. Food is not something to feel ashamed about. It’s something I have to keep reminding myself, for sure, but the more I enforce this rule, the easier it becomes.
If you could make food for someone (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
I’m new to this whole world of cooking, so probably not someone I like TOO much, but I’m learning. In all seriousness, though, nothing feels better than making food for someone who has struggled with an eating disorder, and having them enjoy it, no guilt attached. I may have cried (happy tears) over my first “real” grilled cheese – no plastic, fat-free cheese-like slices need apply!
These cookies may just be tear-worthy, as well. I tried to make them as accessible to all ways of eating as possible, because everyone deserves to have a cookie in their life!
Coconut Mint Cookies
- 1 cup Almond Flour/Blanched Ground Almonds
- 3 tbsp Coconut Flour
- 1/4 tsp Baking Soda
- 1/4 tsp Fine Sea Salt
- 1/4 cup Coconut Oil
- 1/4 cup Raw Honey, Agave Nectar, or Coconut Nectar
- 1 tsp Peppermint Extract
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1/2 cup Shredded Coconut
Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, stir together your sweetener of choice, peppermint, vanilla, and coconut oil. Mix the liquid ingredients into the dry. Form the dough into 1 inch balls, and press onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for 5-10 minutes.
Makes approx. one dozen cookies.
*You’ll know they’re done when the edges start to brown slightly. The cookies will still be gooey when you take them out of the oven, but they will settle as they cool. Never fear: they will still be chewy and wonderful.
If you could provide three words that would describe your relationship to now, what would they be?
Never say never. Just because something isn’t in my food rotation now, doesn’t mean I’ll never have it. If someday I decide that bacon smells really good, I may just include it in my life – and I won’t feel bad about it at all.