Women In Wellness: Nutritionist Rachel Naar On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Stop comparing yourself to others: There is no competition. It is not you vs. anyone, it’s just you vs. you. You are the only one that you are stuck with for the rest of your life, everyone else can come and go. So, stop wasting time comparing yourself to other people. It doesn’t matter. Work on loving yourself FOR yourself. I think one of the best ways to do this is to practice positive self-talk and affirmations. I also recommend filtering your social media (mute, unfollow) intake to align with your values and morals.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Naar.
Rachel Naar MS, RD, CDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and founder of Rachel Naar Nutrition, who works with clients to unravel their relationship between food and mood, challenge black and white thinking, and focus on stress management and mental health with a body-positive Intuitive Eating approach. Rachel received her Bachelor’s degree with honors in Theater at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts with a focus in Applied Psychology specifically focusing in Drama Therapy, as well as a Master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition from NYU’s Steinhardt School of Continuing Education. Rachel previously covered the psychiatric and neuroscience units in-patient at Mount Sinai West and Anastasia Health in New York City. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, IFEDD (International Federation of Eating Disorder Dietitians) as well as IAEDP New York (International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
From a young age I was pursuing a career in theater, film and TV. I was pushing my body to the limit physically, had a horrific relationship to food and body, and had a list a mile long of fear foods. To say I was uncomfortable in my skin would be an understatement. Casting directors and agents would freely comment on weight and appearance, and as a result my mental health was in the toilet. Anxious, judging of myself, and unsure- not the kind of vibe you’d like to go into an audition!
I knew for myself that the industry and the way I was operating wasn’t sustainable for me and there had to be another way. In going back to school for my Master’s in Clinical Nutrition my goal was simple: help individuals make peace with food, body, and mind while allowing food to be an ally in this process.
Today in my private practice I work to help you challenge your black and white thinking, break free of demonizing foods, and focus on stress management with a body-positive, intuitive-eating approach that allows you to reinvent your relationship with food.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
I think the most interesting bit was the reality that COVID-19 and the work from home circumstances changed the way I ran my business. I was completely virtual, which I had doubts about if it would work, and I could see clients in the middle of the day on their lunch breaks. You make an assumption that private practice goes late into the evening, but I’ve set boundaries for myself to be done most nights at 6pm. I think there was also a brighter spotlight on mental health and overall wellness, with nutrition taking a front seat to that conversation.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Only one!? I think I let imposter syndrome get the better of me. I was more timid about social media (getting in my head about others judging me), feeling uncomfortable to charge my worth as a clinician, and took on clients that didn’t really fall within my ethos. I saw a lot of people for a small fee which allowed me to get much better at counseling and motivational interviewing, which was amazing, but I think once I finished through that lot, I was able to take a step back and decide what I really wanted to focus in on and close a few doors.
Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
Navigating diet culture is a HUGE undertaking. Teaching people to unlearn some of the nutrition information that they have been taught is a difficult task. AKA: “carbs are bad, fruit has too much sugar, you only need 1200 calories” etc. etc. etc. The false information out there goes on and on and on.
In my 1:1 counseling sessions I am working to help heal people’s relationship with food. I think that the more people stand up against diet culture, the more steps we can take towards creating a new culture: food freedom and health at every size.
I want to empower people to be confident in the bodies they are in, eat to nourish and energize themselves, and not spend their lives fighting against the skin they live in.
While I and many other anti-diet dietitians know this is a very difficult task, I really do believe that the more clients that we help heal their relationship to food and body, the closer we are to a more accepting culture and changing the future for our children.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
- Morning routine: Establishing a morning routine is a great way to jumpstart your day. Some examples of healthy morning habits could be joyful movement, eating a balanced meal, practicing mindfulness, breathing, and journaling. I believe the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day, so with a morning routine that makes you happy, I think that is a huge step towards a better wellbeing.
- Intuitive eating: Practice honoring your hunger cues. When we were little we ate when we were hungry and stopped when we were full. Watching a toddler is glorious, sometimes stooping is throwing food on the ground. It was as simple as could be. I think the closer we get to honoring that little kid within us, the easier our relationship with food gets. With a better relationship to food, we can stop wasting our time overanalyzing every morsel of food. With this new found space in our brain, we can embark on a journey towards a better wellbeing.
- Finding passion: I know that “passion” is a really intense word. In reality, finding your passion just means honoring what you actually enjoy doing. Make space for activities that bring you joy, prioritize those activities. If you love to paint or sing or dance but you just haven’t prioritized it in your life, do that NOW. Finding passion is a pivotal part of feeling genuinely fulfilled, which is yet another piece to our overall well being. I’m passionate about my work, but I also have a passion for the arts, so I take improv classes Thursday nights.
- Stop comparing yourself to others: There is no competition. It is not you vs. anyone, it’s just you vs. you. You are the only one that you are stuck with for the rest of your life, everyone else can come and go. So, stop wasting time comparing yourself to other people. It doesn’t matter. Work on loving yourself FOR yourself. I think one of the best ways to do this is to practice positive self-talk and affirmations. I also recommend filtering your social media (mute, unfollow) intake to align with your values and morals.
- Be honest & vulnerable with family & friends: For example, if someone in your life continuously makes comments on your body and it is completely unhelpful for you, tell them. Tell them kindly that you would really appreciate it if they refrained from commenting on your body/ appetite etc. as it is preventing you from progress. Being honest about your boundaries is a huge step towards a better wellbeing.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Health at every size! While it is already a started movement, if I could grow any movement, it would be this one.
I desperately want people to understand that diet culture idealizes thinness and puts shape and size above general health and wellness- this includes mental health. I think what people don’t realize is that eating disorders are a huge indication of poor mental health. Our society is so consumed with fatphobia that we don’t understand that weight and health are simply not correlated. It’s hard because doctors, dietitians and the general media put a lot of content out there to make us think otherwise.
It is possible to be healthy at every size. If everyone knew that their shape/size wasn’t the real indicator of health and that the way they felt, thought, moved, etc. WAS a true indicator of health, I think a huge amount of people would feel a lot more comfortable in their skin.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- You are not going to be the dietitian for every single client, there are some clients that are genuinely not a great fit for you and you both would be better off if you refer them to someone else. I personally do not work with clients trying to lose weight as that does not align with my morals. I like to stay true to my values and I have learned that with time.
- SUPERBILLS are your friend! Your range of clientele will be larger if you work hard to make sure people’s sessions can be covered with insurance.
- Collaboration with therapists and psychiatrists is KEY. It makes for a better picture of overall health and allows for more effective patient care. It is also a great referral network.
- Be REAL on social media. It is not helpful to paint yourself as a perfect human. No one is perfect and no one wants to see someone who pretends to be. Being real and authentic on your platforms will naturally generate a following that aligns with you. Authenticity will attract the right clientele.
- It doesn’t always need to be THAT serious. I think before I started my private practice, I thought that most sessions would be formal/intense/serious. I quickly learned that I am building real relationships with people and some of my most effective/growth-inducing sessions with clients are ones where we reach realizations while cracking up.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Sustainability and the environment are very dear causes to me. However, when it comes to what I do, and how I can be most influential in people’s lives, I would have to choose mental health. The way we eat, move, talk to ourselves, look at ourselves, etc. all influences our mental health. Food has the power to energize us but it can also cause feelings of guilt/shame when someone has a toxic relationship with it. By healing our relationship with food, or getting to the route of any GI symptoms causing distress, we can in turn work on improving our mental health.
Food is often a coping mechanism associated with poor mental health. Whether it be stress-related overeating or undereating, emotional eating, anxiety-induced nausea, etc. mental well-being, or food aversions, mental health needs to be part of that conversation. In my initial assessments I ask about mental health history, family mental health history. I also will screen labs looking at B vitamins, Vitamin D, and omega 3 intake and supplement as needed.
Additionally, I always try to collaborate with a client’s therapist/psychiatrist because I really do believe that it will help me provide more effective care. Ultimately, I think because mental health plays such a huge role in whatever I am working on with every single client.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights!
Thanks for the great questions!