[Get Started Series] A Non-Diet Approach To Health Coaching with Stephanie Dodier

Michelle’s Get Started Series is for coaches who are brand new to the field, or maybe just need some perspective from industry experts to start fresh! In this episode, Stephanie Dodier joins Michelle to discuss her non-diet, feminist approach to food and body.

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Michelle Leotta:
Hello, health coaches. Thank you for joining me today. We are doing something special that I really haven't done before. In addition to our weekly Q and A's that we do every Tuesday, I've got a bunch of experts lined up to talk about this idea of getting started. And that could mean you are a brand new health coach and you are literally just getting started or maybe even still in school. It could also mean like, for so many of you, I hear you've been in and out of health coaching through the years. Haven't really committed, but maybe right now you are ready to sink your teeth in and get down to business. Good for you. Or maybe you've been coaching for a while, but something just isn't clicking and you want to get started in a new direction.

Michelle Leotta:
So, anyway, look for this, get started series over the next few weeks with special episodes designed to kind of open your eyes to new ways of thinking about business, not the usual stuff that you hear about in health coaching school. And, to that effect today I've invited Stephanie Dodier from the Going Behind the Food Podcast to talk about her non diet, feminist approach to food and body and how as health coaches. This could really be a new way of thinking about our work. There's a lot of different ways to health coach a lot of different approaches, a lot of tools, a lot of dietary theories. This is rather new on the scene and I think worth talking about, so thank you for joining us today, Stephanie

Stephanie Dodier:
It's a pleasure to be with you and your audience today.

Michelle Leotta:
I'm very excited to have this conversation because this has been coming up a little bit here and a little bit there, but before we talk about the non-diet approach, could you introduce yourself to everyone and just tell our listeners, tell our viewers how you got into the health and wellness space in the first place?

Stephanie Dodier:
Absolutely. So I'm a, by title, a clinical nutritionist and a certified, intuitive eating counselor. And I'm in my second phase of my life. By that I mean, it's my second career. I spent 15 years in the corporate world doing some sales and business, but my health, like many of us took a toll. And at the age of 38, I crumbled to pieces. And that's when I found the world of wellness and nutrition. And I deep dive into it at first to heal myself. And then it became a passion and a message that I wanted to carry to the world. So I ended up leaving my corporate job and opening a traditional nutrition clinic with patients back and forth one after the other. And I was going through my own struggle with my relationship to food so much so that I ended up having some bingeing episodes and I had to look for solutions for myself. And that's how I tripped over health at every size and the non-diet approach. And it changed my relationship to food and finally address what I thought was a problem, which was my complicated body, how I couldn't eat like everyone else. But in fact was due to my 25 years of dieting that I have behind me. And that really ruined my relationship to food and body. And the non-data approach was able to solve that, then propel me with this message of going beyond the food.

Michelle Leotta:
Wow. So talk about a smack in the face, right? When you are a nutritionist yourself and you are giving out nutrition plans and diet plans all day to then turn around and go, actually I have to do the exact opposite.

Stephanie Dodier:
Yes, it was a revelation, but it was like lifting literally a thousand pounds of my shoulder, because for me to stick to my diet plan on my dietary profile was a lot of effort. And a lot of my life had to be centered around food, leaving very little space for everything else. So, when that happened and I realized it was another way of looking at food that didn't require all this energy, huge relief.

Michelle Leotta:
I imagine. This should also be good news for health coaches that are like, I don't have enough certifications. I'm not a registered dietician. I can't talk to people about food. Well, maybe there's a lot to be said for not talking to people so much about their diet in the first place.

Stephanie Dodier:
Jumping on my chair right now. I think we have nutr.... I was just talking about that with someone else. I think honestly, we are not talking about nutrition in the right way. We skip all the basic and we jumped at the tail end process, which is what gets us into trouble. Like, talking about the type of food you should eat and why, and when, when you don't even have the basic, like hunger fullness and satisfaction on your plate first.

Michelle Leotta:
Okay. That's a really interesting point. And this is the next question I had for you. Like what, just at it's very, at the very core, what do you think health coaches need to understand about a more non diet approach? So for starters, maybe we're talking about the wrong things first. What else?

Stephanie Dodier:
Yeah. That we're not hitting the basic, like hunger, fullness, satisfaction. Two, that as humans, we have the innate ability to feed ourselves and to take care of ourselves. We have things in the way that tripped us, and that provides us an environment where we can't do it. That's our work as health coaches is helping coach the behavior. What I call the why not the what? So currently in nutrition, we're hyperly focused on the what. What to eat and what time to eat it and like that. But we're not, we're not equipped to talk about the behavior, which is in my eyes. And in my nine years now in this field, the number one issue is the behavior.

Michelle Leotta:
It is, I, I have said this before on the show, You guys, right? Like the dirty little secret of health coaching is you talk about food. Like maybe this much. And the rest of it is all about like their marriage and their job and their childhood. And there's so much juicy stuff. And it's very little about like how many calories that's so boring.

Stephanie Dodier:
Well, when we think about the title, health coaching, coaching health, the thing is what is helped, right? When you look at the definition of how, which is the most agreed upon as the world health organization, while health is not simply, the absence of disease is a complete state of mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. So what creates health? When we look at the determinant of health? Well, food and exercise is only 15% of the plate. Hmm. Right? What if as health coaches, we looked at everything else and coach the behavior on everything else that's globally. When you want to think about the non-diet approach, that's what it is.

Michelle Leotta:
Nice. And that's going to resonate with all of our graduates from IIN who are familiar with the circle of life. But yet everybody comes out of school saying, I need to be able to build a meal plan for my client and give her recipes and 15%. Okay.

Stephanie Dodier:
And that's shocking when we hear that for the first time. You mean what? Like all this year's training for 15%, then what else? Right.

Michelle Leotta:
Yeah.

Stephanie Dodier:
And the other piece I want to think, talk about, then you said, you mentioned that the feminist approach to food right. And body, the reality is that's asked the El coaches and what you see, what 90% of our clients are female. And what, what's the percentage of health coaches that are female? I don't want to say a hundred percent, but it's like a good 98%. Am I correct?

Michelle Leotta:
Absolutely.

Stephanie Dodier:
Right. Yet we don't think about how our identity plays into our relationship to health, to food. And also what we don't talk about is our body image, because the truth is when I speak to health coaches and nutrition, I say, what is the number one reason why clients, mainly female, come to you while they want to lose weight. Right? How many people truly come to you and say, I just want to be healthy.

Michelle Leotta:
Sometimes they say it, but what they're really meaning is I want to lose weight. Sometimes they don't want to say it cause it's not as cool to say anymore. And they want to be body positive, but they kind of go, and then I want to lose weight,

Stephanie Dodier:
Or you go through three or four session. And then all of a sudden the unpack, well, I'm not losing weight.

Michelle Leotta:
Yes! I'm mad because I'm not losing weight.

Stephanie Dodier:
Because that wasn't the goal you put on paper, right?

Michelle Leotta:
Yeah. So I want to talk a little bit like how this looks in practical terms, but I just remembered that maybe last week inside of our Healthy Profit University group, Joe, if you're listening, Joe, I had tagged him and someone else had asked about like, why aren't there more male health coaches and more male clients. And one of the things that came to mind was that as women, we have always been expected to fix ourselves. Like, that's literally a term, like I'm going to go fix myself up, meaning my hair, my makeup and my clothes. And like men don't necessarily have that. And it's like, oh my God, like, how are, how are we playing into that? This is like, you have to fix yourself thing. And I think is really something to be aware of. So, okay. Let's say that I'm doing an initial session with a new client. If I were using a non-diet approach, like I assume I would not be asking the client, how much they weigh, what else would I do differently?

Stephanie Dodier:
I would evaluate their relationship to food. There's actually a grid, a process it's called the intuitive eating assessment, which is part of the packet you have for your crew. So there should be a link somewhere around here. I've given people access to three, different intake form that we use. And as a non-diet practitioner. So what do we do first? We evaluate the relationship to food. So we evaluate our client's ability to feel their hunger, to feel their fullness, the satisfaction, their beliefs, around what is healthy and not healthy, their relationship to their body image. So, we evaluate against the grid. And then we come up with three different areas where their relationship to food mostly needs improvement. So, is it with their eating cues? Is it with their satisfaction? Is it their emotional relationship to food? So, we're guided to say okay, where do we need to focus? So, it shifts like often health coaches will do a food journal, right? They'll have the journal come in and then let's say, you don't eat enough of that too much of this, reduce this. Now we'll flip it on its head. We go ahead of the funnel and say, how do we engage with food? Then let's talk about this. And then after we can talk about individual food.

Michelle Leotta:
Interesting. Okay. So, I just put a link into the comments and, for those of you listening later, you can go to health coach power.com/nondietintake. And that is the intake form that you're talking about. Yes, absolutely. Okay, cool. And you can just, anybody can just download that and start using it. That's cool to do?

Stephanie Dodier:
Absolutely. Well, I would say the first place to start with yourself, this is where it gets really interesting is when you evaluate your own relationship to food and you're like, wow, like I have some work to do on me first because I can only take my clients as far as I've gone myself. So when I put that in front of health coaches and we do it globally together, the results are interesting.

Michelle Leotta:
I bet they are. In fact, I will take that challenge and I want to encourage everyone. Just, you know, you don't have to change your whole practice tomorrow, but download the intake form and just do it for yourself. See what comes up, if nothing else, you know, you're going to learn about your own relationship with food.

Stephanie Dodier:
That's it, that's all I'm asking. And then the second place we do what is called a dieting impact inventory. So that's another intake form that you have in your little packet, because a lot of our clients complaints we think could be linked to not drinking enough water or certain food where in fact what's causing the problem is the dieting pattern. It's the restriction, it's the mindset. So this grid will help you identify some of the symptoms that could be showing up in their life, that's you to dieting. And that's a real eye opening for your client to realize that what they're struggling with is not because they're doing anything wrong. It's because they're putting themselves through this restriction pattern that's called dieting.

Michelle Leotta:
Got it. And we have some viewers here with us live, Melissa's saying intuitive eating is key and diet culture teaches us to ignore our body's signals. She's on board with this whole idea.

Stephanie Dodier:
She's my sister.

Michelle Leotta:
That's right. Steven's here saying about that comment about male health coaches is that I think that's one of the answers to why attracting male clients strikes me as tricky. Women like to diet men like fitness. How do you attract both to pay for coaching, to improve their health, Stephanie, with this approach, do you find that you're also working with male clients?

Stephanie Dodier:
Absolutely. There's nondistinctive group, there's other professionals that actually are only working for men. And I want to say to Steven, there is a huge need for male practitioners working with men. Huge need. Because to say, I heard the comment, somebody send the comment like people or women likes dieting women. Don't like dieting men. Don't like dieting. Nobody likes restricting food. We just think we have to do it. That's the thing. And so when we can lift that thought that says, we have to do it. We open up to a whole new world of intuitive eating, right? So engaging with food with our hunger fullness satisfaction, but also from a place of self-care instead of self-control. Because dieting that's what it is, right? We're trying to control ourselves. When we go into the world of non-diet was saying, how can we take care of ourselves?

Michelle Leotta:
How can we take care of ourselves? Okay. So there's, what's the right thing and the good thing and what people need. And then there's a question of what will they pay for Stephanie? Can we talk about this? Because I have had health coaches who were very anti-diet, totally like soul sisters for you and wanting to market themselves and finding it incredibly difficult to sell this approach. So what are some of the challenges, but maybe also opportunities in marketing?

Stephanie Dodier:
I would say that the number one opportunity is to find people who are ready to do this work. So, people who have suffered enough diet cycle, I call them the people who know diets don't work. Like they've come to that, come to Jesus moment, but they don't know what else is out there. So, marketing a non-diet approach is somewhat different than marketing a traditional health coaching business. We call that emotional marketing as opposed to the traditional fear-based marketing, right? Triggering people on their fear point. The other one will go in and pull people from their heart and talking about how their life currently is from a place of disempowerment to a place of power. So, claiming back our power. So it's a different marketing narrative, but it's also putting the right message out there. What I see from health coaches that is giving them trouble is that they're putting the weight loss message. People come in or want to work with them, but then they're faced with, well, I'm not going to help you lose weight. I'm going to teach you intuitive eating, or you've tricked people coming into your business. You just have to be upfront with people of what you're doing in your practice.

Michelle Leotta:
Really interesting. And I mean, for, again, those of us who went to IIN and for anyone who is a health nerd and has studied every single dietary theory out there, I just feel like this is, this is the book that's being written now, right? There's Ayurveda, and there's like the blood type diet. There's all these different, you know, approaches to health. But this is really cool. And I'm so glad you're doing this. One, I think concern that I might have, um, as a health coach is going, well, what kind of results am I going to be able to get for our client? If I'm not helping them make better food choices, if we're taking this non-diet approach. So what sort of results would be typical?

Stephanie Dodier:
The number one result would be what people will call as freedom, right? Freedom from having to spend so much time obsessing about food. So much time, grocery shopping and meal planning, and like doing all the rigidity around food. But what in the, behind the scene, I will call claiming back your power. So, when women or people in general will go with men and women. When people go through this process, what they find is that they no longer seek to fix themselves. And there's a huge relief, right? Because as you say, most women we've been taught to trying to fix ourselves when truly nothing is wrong with us. It's all the messages working with society that's telling us that we're broken and we need fixing when that veil is lifted off, people literally have transformation. You know, when we talk about transformation. But it's not transformation from a weight perspective or transformation from whatever health issue, it's a transformation of life. Life transformation, people get new jobs. People get new careers. People change very toxic relationships in their life, whatever format that is, right? True life transformation because people claim back their power from within. A lot has to do also with body image. Like, I don't know who's live right now, but how many people live are struggling with body image, right? How many of us health coaches? When I do, when I talk to my audience, it's typically like in the high 80 to 90%.

Michelle Leotta:
We are a self-selected group of people who are very in this world and paradoxically can become over concerned.

Stephanie Dodier:
We are triggering ourselves by being so focused. And we think we have to hold a certain image, right? Because we sell what we think is an image. When in fact it's, it's an inner job, but we all know that, right. It's the work we have to do within ourselves. So when women and men, but a lot women when women can free themselves from having to think, they need to look a certain way, that they can actually do what they want today without having to wait, they can wear what they want. They can claim the job at work that they want. They can claim the partner that they want irrelevant of their body. Talk about power and freedom. That's what people, that's what we sell. If you want air quote or that's what we provide our client with.

Michelle Leotta:
Oh, you're getting thumbs up. We're getting comments. We get lots of viewers. Cassie's saying, Oh my God, I just wrote this week's blog about non-dieting approach. I posted it on social media today. What timing? I mean, this is very timely. And as we wrap up, I just want you to share with everyone what you've been working on and helping practitioners actually bring more of this into their practice.

Stephanie Dodier:
Absolutely. So we have a program that's called the non-diet professional mentorship program. So we pulled in both professional and specific non-diet business training. So, how do we transition our health coaching business into this world? There's two big components. We need to get some professional skills. We need to learn about intuitive eating about body neutrality and some mindset tools to change the behavior. And then we need to learn about doing marketing in the non-diet way so we can actually get clients. So that's a six month program that we offer. It opens twice a year, January and July 1st, you can, right now, there should be a link somewhere to that, around your posts or your show notes, you can get on the wait list. And then we have an entire funnel, which you guys should be familiar with, like educational information. That's going to come to you in the meantime.

Michelle Leotta:
Terrific. So again, um, if you are interested in what it would look like to actually work with clients from a non-diet approach, I see Patty-Jo here is looking for the intake form, go to healthcoachpower.com/nondietintake. And if you're interested in actually checking out this mentorship program that Stephanie's speaking of, you can go directly to healthcoachpower.com/nondietprogram to see what she's offering there. And as we're recording this in February, the next time that it would be opening is, July 1st, you said, right?

Stephanie Dodier:
Yeah, absolutely.

Michelle Leotta:
Okay. That is terrific. Thank you so much for joining us today. Stephanie, I think this is a really important topic. Maybe we can have you back again sometime because a lot of coaches are showing interest even during this very quick episode.

Stephanie Dodier:
Thank you. I'll be here when you need me.

Michelle Leotta:
Terrific. And thank you for joining us, everybody, especially since we just did this on the fly and you just came and watched and listened. I will be back with our regular Q&A episode soon, but just keep your eyes open for more in this getting started series to help you guys out with the whole panel of experts that I've pulled together. And if this show has been helpful, please leave a rating and written review on Apple podcasts. I read every single one of them and I appreciate you and I'll see you soon. Take care everybody.