In this episode of Holistic Health Radio, host Sarah Liz King interviews Korey Baruta, an accredited practicing dietitian and credentialed eating disorder clinician. Korey shares their personal journey with an eating disorder and how it shaped their career. They discuss the importance of weight-neutral and trauma-informed approaches to healthcare, as well as the intersectionality of eating disorders with LGBTQIA+ and neurodivergent identities. They also explore the challenges and considerations when working with neurodivergent individuals in eating disorder treatment. Sarah and Korey emphasise the need for individualised approaches and the importance of including diverse populations in research and treatment.
Sarah Liz King (00:00:00) – Hi everyone. Welcome back to Holistic Health Radio. I’m your host, Sarah Louise King. I’m an accredited exercise physiologist and health coach, empowering women to find their healthy balance with food, fitness and their bodies through my 1 to 1 and group coaching programs, both myself and my team help women regain their periods, find food freedom, and have a healthier relationship with exercise, all while gaining body confidence. Now, today on the podcast, I’m so excited to be joined by Corey. Corey is an accredited practicing dietitian and credentialed eating disorder clinician. They gained a passion for helping people with eating disorders and disordered eating through their own lived experience and recovery journey. They now run their own business nutrition for every body dedicated to providing weight neutral nutrition counseling where they strongly believe that every body deserves access to safe and respectful health care, regardless of weight, body, shape or size. Corey identifies as queer and neurodivergent and is a strong advocate for Lgbtqia plus and neurodivergent affirming health care. They are committed to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for clients to enhance their relationship with food and themselves.
Sarah Liz King (00:01:19) – So I’m so excited to say a very warm welcome to Corey. How are you today? Hi Sarah.
Korey (00:01:27) – I’m good, thanks. That was a beautiful intro.
Sarah Liz King (00:01:30) – I know. And look and even more beautiful conversation to come. I’m so excited for our listeners to hear your story, your ethos and so much more. But everyone that listens to this podcast knows that. I always ask my guests some very fun. Get to know you questions first. And the the first one is always the most important one, which is what is your coffee order?
Korey (00:01:54) – Oh, okay. Well, because I am situated in Melbourne, we do have some of the best coffee in Australia. Not to be a bit of a snob, but I. I love my oat lattes. I’m a bit of a alternative milk fan. Um, and yeah, I will have multiple throughout the day to kind of keep me going through work.
Sarah Liz King (00:02:17) – Yeah. I often joke with my friends, I’m like, Are you really an online or a self solopreneur? If you don’t have multiple warm drinks around you at all times?
Korey (00:02:29) – 100%.
Korey (00:02:30) – It’s much needed.
Sarah Liz King (00:02:31) – Much, much needed. And it’s interesting. I’m an alternative milk gal as well. I like dairy in pretty much like everything else. But for coffee, I don’t know. I just really like the taste of like almond or oat.
Korey (00:02:44) – Yeah, no fair. And I feel like oat tastes probably mean some people might come for me and saying this, but I feel it like it tastes the most sort of similar to like your dairy product. Milk. Yeah.
Sarah Liz King (00:02:55) – Very creamy.
Korey (00:02:56) – Yeah, exactly. I just find if I have multiple dairy throughout the day, my gut sometimes is not too happy about that.
Sarah Liz King (00:03:03) – Got to listen to your body. Um. What are you grateful for today?
Korey (00:03:08) – Oh, um. I would say at this moment, um, something I’ve been going through is finding out more about myself and specifically along the lines of my own neurodivergent journey. So I would say I’m really grateful for this. The knowledge about myself and the capacity to be able to explore and unravel layers of myself that I’ve never been able to before.
Sarah Liz King (00:03:38) – So cool, so cool. Self discovery is so empowering as well for sure.
Korey (00:03:43) – And look, it can be a scary process. I mean, there’s certainly days where I feel like I’m having a bit of an identity crisis and I, I don’t really know who I am, but, you know, I’m trying to lead into the process. And, um, yeah, I guess find out more about who I truly am.
Sarah Liz King (00:04:06) – I love that. My next question is, what is the best gift that you’ve ever bought for someone else or received yourself?
Korey (00:04:15) – Oh, that is a really good question. Look, I guess it’s I’m probably going to say this one because it’s on my mind at the moment. But this week I actually received a very beautiful handmade gift from one of my clients. She she does cross stitching as one of her main hobbies, and she cross stitch this beautiful, beautiful piece which she framed that says everybody is a good body. And it’s sitting in my office space and it’s just the perfect fit for, you know, the type of work I do in my values.
Korey (00:04:57) – And it’s just it means the absolute world.
Sarah Liz King (00:05:01) – That’s so touching and such a beautiful little element to look at every day that’s so meaningful.
Korey (00:05:07) – Oh, for sure. I mean, as a clinician, I mean, the reason I went into this is because I love to be able to, you know, help people and give back. And I guess, yeah, obviously, you know, not that it needs to be displayed through gifts, but you know, receiving something like that, like it’s it’s so touching to know that I’ve touched other people.
Sarah Liz King (00:05:29) – 100% Now as a dietitian. I mean, I asked everyone this question just because I think it’s really interesting and shows us, I guess, the things that we love and always have is what can we always find in your fridge?
Korey (00:05:42) – Oh, okay. So this might be a little bit niche, but some people will probably understand. So I love my cheese. And the specific cheese which is always in my fridge is Meredith Goat’s feta.
Sarah Liz King (00:06:03) – I do know the one.
Korey (00:06:04) – Yeah, yeah. Um, one of my absolute faves. It goes on like everything. In fact, at the moment, it’s like it’s part of my typical breakfasts. Like, I will have Meredith Feta on my toast with, like, some sliced tomato, maybe some basil, balsamic vinegar. Beautiful.
Sarah Liz King (00:06:24) – So delicious. So amazing. And my last get to know your question is what are your daily non-negotiables that make you feel your absolute best?
Korey (00:06:34) – Um. I think. Yeah, good question. Again, this kind of aligns with sort of me being on my own sort of self discovery journey and realizing, you know, being able to identify what my needs are and then going, okay, now let’s implement some boundaries to actually make sure I’m honoring those. Um, I would say one of my non-negotiables I’m trying to implement right now is always giving myself the space in a day, even if that’s at the very end of the day to be on my own and completely unwind and unmask.
Sarah Liz King (00:07:13) – I love that.
Korey (00:07:14) – Yeah. Even, you know, whether I’m working from home or from the office and, you know, I even subconsciously kind of am holding up this facade of being this put together version of myself that I kind of want to portray. And I think we all do it to an extent. Um, but I’m only now realizing how exhausting that can actually be and the toll it can take on me if I actually don’t get the space to just take that mask off during the day.
Sarah Liz King (00:07:41) – So yeah, I can really, I can really agree with you there. I have. Been recently paying attention to. How I’m feeling when I’m doing certain things and how important it is to actually recognize, like even though we have this huge, I guess, expectation of like doing and achieving and putting up this facade, it’s also more important to be like, are those actually the things that make me feel good? And if not, why not? But also what am I doing to prioritize the things that make me feel good? Because I’ve often found that I’m like.
Sarah Liz King (00:08:23) – I like to be a positive, upbeat version of myself, but I also really need time to be a complete recluse and like be in my PJs and my track pants and snuggle with my dog and have cups of tea and like, it might seem really like kitsch. To some people, but those parts of my life that I like prioritize and even like romanticize that feels so good to me. I recognize how incredibly important they are in my own well-being.
Korey (00:08:52) – Yeah, 100%. I mean, look, we all can’t be going at 100% all the time. You know, it’s not sustainable. And I think, yeah, even in the last year, sort of like my practice, I’ve been pushed. Well, let’s be honest. I pushed myself sort of to, you know, almost like that burnout are, and it’s really made me reflect and be like, damn, like I guess if I’m wanting to give the best version of myself to clients, I have to be showing up for myself and really looking after myself.
Korey (00:09:25) – And to be honest, on some days, yeah, love romanticizing some time on my own. Let’s be honest. All the days self-care sucks.
Sarah Liz King (00:09:36) – Yeah.
Korey (00:09:37) – Be honest. Yeah. You know, sometimes doing things because I know it’s what I need, but, you know, it’s. Yeah, it’s not always super enjoyable, but we know what we need to do to make sure that we can. Yeah. Be looking after our well-being.
Sarah Liz King (00:09:55) – Yeah, I know there’s that resistance sometimes. And sometimes when you lean into it because you’ve been avoiding it. And the flip side is, you know how important. The payoff will be it doesn’t make the getting started any easier. So I think it just makes you but it makes you more human. I think sometimes people look to those who those of us who are in the recovery space and work to support people who are on a recovery journey as like. This gold star, perfect, perfect human. And we’re not that. We’re not that at all.
Korey (00:10:32) – Exactly.
Korey (00:10:33) – And that’s why I think, you know, like I say to clients to like, it’s you know, just because we get to this point of like, quote unquote, recovery doesn’t mean that we’re not going to struggle in our life ongoing. You know, we’re all human. We’re all just trying to figure ourselves out. And life is an endless journey. Sure. You know, eating disorder recovery can be a phase of that. But I guess things are going to continue to come up throughout life. And that’s something I’m sort of now realizing, you know, even on sort of where I’m at in my current stage of my life journey.
Sarah Liz King (00:11:07) – Yeah. And I feel like that kind of leads me nicely into the next question that I have for you, which is, can you share a little bit about your personal journey and how your own experiences with an eating disorder or disordered eating shaped your career path, the one that you have now as a dietitian for sure.
Korey (00:11:29) – And I guess feel free. Sara Guess because I can I have a tendency to kind of just go down a path and get kind of, you know, I can talk a lot, so feel free to pull me back and rein in if need be.
Korey (00:11:42) – Um, I think this is something I’ve been reflecting on. A lot, sort of more recently, purely because I’ve now been given in recent weeks sort of additional pieces to the puzzle that is me and my life journey to date, which I guess if some people don’t specifically know, is related to sort of my own diagnosis of neuro divergence. So a few weeks ago, I finally was diagnosed with ADHD and not formally diagnosed with autism, but it was pretty heavily inferred from the assessment. So I guess if I kind of looked back through my life growing up, I was always a super anxious child. In fact, I mean, my brain was always riddled with intrusive thoughts and really sort of dark things from a really young age. I was always really scared about being left alone or without my family, specifically my mom. Yeah, I was constantly in a state of arousal because I was worried about my surroundings. And I think as I got older into sort of my teenage years and I a lot of this anxiety kind of fed into insecurity about myself as a kid.
Korey (00:13:10) – I was kind of a little bit of an oddball, a little bit different. I wasn’t super good at making friends, but to be honest, I didn’t really mind not having that many friends. I’ve been saying that, you know, like, everyone kind of wants to feel, quote unquote normal when you’re a kid and growing up and sort of like that, you fit in somewhere. And when I became a teenager, a lot of it kind of centered around, I guess, my appearance and my body, which was sort of fueled also by the fact that I was a dancer. So I started dancing. I was three and continued for 15 years. Yeah. It became a very special interest of mine. I loved to dance. I love to perform and, you know, put on a persona and be someone else. Um, but unfortunately, the dance world. It can have some toxic traits, especially when we go back to sort of its roots in a lot of, I guess, you know, white thin privilege sort of body expectations which were imposed on everyone.
Korey (00:14:32) – Um, especially, yeah, in my ballet classes, there was really high standards around sort of how people were portrayed and how they held themselves, but also their physique. Um, and I think over the years it really started to the messaging that I was different and I appeared different to others really started to sort of set in. So I think, um, pressures of kind of feeling like I didn’t quite fit in socially, paired with feeling a sense of inadequacy around my body sort of led me to become very, very self conscious in my body. A lot of insecurity around my appearance and, you know, even photos of me as a teenager like I was always covered in sort of baggy clothes, a bit of a tomboy as well. Um, so, you know, yeah, I did not like to have my body on display. Um, it wasn’t until sort of the final years of high school where things were getting more intense or I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to do incredibly well in terms of my grades because I wanted to get into a specific course and X, Y, and Z, and I’d always been a very high achiever, imposed incredibly high standards on myself, very perfectionistic.
Korey (00:15:55) – And this pressure and this sense of chaos in my life around. Shit, am I going to get into the course that I want to get into? What life is my? What direction is my life heading? Um, paired with this body image stuff, I turned to food to provide a sense of control amongst all the uncertainty. Um. Which led me down the path of developing my eating disorder. Um, which, you know, it’s so interesting to reflect on now because, you know, you can’t help but wonder how life could have been if it didn’t ever sort of manifest. But yes, such is life, right? I mean, I, I developed a lot of restrictive behaviors. It all came around sort of, you know, my focus around sort of weight and numbers for a sense of certainty was really sort of gratifying. And and I eventually became so unwell that I could no longer dance, which was really upsetting. Um, but at that time, you know, priorities sort of weighed out.
Korey (00:17:11) – And I felt like that sense of control was, was more important at that stage of my life.
Sarah Liz King (00:17:18) – Um, yeah. And I think it’s so interesting. That kind of picture that you painted from a very young age and how some of these, I guess, characteristics of ourselves can often. Set us up to be more at risk of developing disordered eating or an eating disorder. And there’s nothing to say like, you know, like what if what if something was different? And wouldn’t it be nice to know what that other life might have looked like? But. I’m often the same. When you were in this space of obviously the eating disorder had. Taken more of your life and even some of your loves away. Was there a point where you recognized that you needed help or assistance, or were you in denial for a significant period of time?
Korey (00:18:19) – Yeah, it’s an interesting question. I guess I look back and initially my whole mindset going into it was I want to lose some weight to feel better about myself.
Korey (00:18:33) – Which, you know, again, in the dense setting, it was, you know, losing weight wasn’t necessarily seen as a bad thing. In fact, it was somewhat encouraged. Right. So I didn’t think initially that I was doing anything wrong or that could be bad for me. Right. Because of the types of messaging. And I did lose weight. And I think because I was then met with a lot of positive reinforcement and be that from sort of the dancing environment, but then also social settings like school, because as I was saying, I never sort of felt like I fitted in socially. I struggled with making friends. And then once I had had lost some weight, people who had never spoken to me before started speaking to me and I suddenly felt like, Wow, I’m actually becoming noticeable. I’m actually becoming valuable. So I think these messages made it really challenging for me at this time to recognize that there was any issue in what was going on. It was when I started to realize that.
Korey (00:19:45) – I was forgoing things that I enjoyed to maintain the the rigidity of the eating disorder, that I started to have a bit of an inkling that things were not good. And to be honest, my mom picked up on it as well. She’s like, Hang on. Like we’re not going and doing these things like what’s going on. And at this sort of time I was able to identify that maybe I have a bit of a problem in terms of the white thing. You know, Mum took me to the GP and the GP was very much like, well, you know, a lot of teenage girls can be at a lower body weight. And it was really sort of dismissing if the fact that, you know, I’d lost significant weight. So from the weight side of things, it wasn’t necessarily a radar at this stage, but I was starting to recognise that my passions were being sacrificed. Um, unfortunately, because I guess nothing was able to be implemented at that time. And I guess upon reflection that would have been the optimal time for someone to come in and I guess get me the help and support I needed.
Korey (00:21:08) – But unfortunately, because it wasn’t, um, I continued to deteriorate and the, the more malnourished I became, the more rigid my thoughts became. And I became unable to identify that I actually had a problem at all. And getting to that stage meant that, yeah, I, I was very resistant to actually receiving any help for what I’d gotten myself into.
Sarah Liz King (00:21:40) – Yeah. And we see that so commonly throughout some of the research where there’s that correlation between how malnourished the brain becomes and the intrusive thoughts, which is such a difficult place to be because you’re caught between this rock and this hard place where. The healthy voice doesn’t even have a place. It’s like very quiet in the corner of your brain. And the disordered voice is so strong that you don’t even know, you know, you lose a sense of self within it all. And it can be so confronting because oftentimes that’s when you push people away and that’s when you become more controlling and it’s so much more difficult to be open to the opportunities of help that may be offered to you.
Korey (00:22:36) – Yes, such a challenging time. And it’s unfortunate because I can to some extent identify when that and that sort of line is being crossed with some clients as well. And that’s when, you know, unfortunately, you know, working, I guess, in a private setting, you know, sometimes it’s just no longer appropriate when someone’s unable to actually think outside of the rigidity of their disorder.
Sarah Liz King (00:23:06) – Yeah. And similarly, you know, when treatment becomes ineffective, it is it’s so heartbreaking because obviously you want to provide so much care and support for the people that are within your care, but obviously it helps nobody to facilitate ineffective treatment.
Korey (00:23:28) – Yeah, it’s it’s one of those hardest things because, I mean, at that moment in time, what is needed to actually, I guess, get to a place where the brain can start to explore more, more abstract concepts and think outside of the box. Is that nutrition? Yeah. And that’s where I think, you know, at that stage, like the dietitians role is really significant.
Korey (00:23:55) – Um, but again, it’s getting over that the mental rigidity, um, to actually allow that nutrition rehabilitation to actually occur. So it’s really, really tough situation to be in.
Sarah Liz King (00:24:11) – Yeah. From your own personal experience, what were the main things that were most helpful for you to get to what you considered recovered?
Korey (00:24:22) – Mhm. Yeah. Well, look, I will be honest and I’m generally always sort of upfront about sort of what my, my treatment did involve. And for me it involved a pretty significant inpatient stay. Um, because as I said, I got to a space where I could no longer identify what the reality of my situation was. And as a result, I mean, my mental health became so poor that I did get to a stage where I didn’t even know if I wanted to keep on living. So I did really need that sort of psychiatric, that acute psychiatric intervention, which was really tough. Like, I’m not gonna lie, probably one of the hardest stages of my entire life.
Korey (00:25:08) – Um, but without it, I, I honestly wouldn’t be here today, you know? And I’m forever grateful for the fact that I was able to access that type of care. Um, whilst acknowledging that part of the reason I was eligible for that back care was because of, I guess, my body weight, which, you know, this is one of the really unfortunate aspects of eating disorder care at the moment in this country is that a lot of parameters around I guess, being able to access certain things are based on sort of weight and BMI and weight loss, which we we really know is not, um, not the only indicator of severity when it comes to someone’s illness or physical health. Um, so yeah, I had a significant stay there, which is what I needed. I needed the, the strict approach to start to actually re nourish my brain. I basically need to, I need to learn how to feed myself again and which was really painful. Um, but after that I engaged with an outpatient team, a team of, you know, psychiatrists, psychologists, dietitian, and so pretty much weekly.
Korey (00:26:38) – You know, it was my, my full time job became recovery or I guess, you know, at that time, I don’t know if I necessarily, um, aligned with the term, quote unquote recovery, but I guess working on myself. Yeah. So, yeah, seeing clinicians very regularly and honestly, it took me several years of that. For things to start actually moving in the direction that was preferable for me. Yeah.
Sarah Liz King (00:27:15) – And I think that is a quite a common experience for so many people. Is that. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re moving towards. The clarity really isn’t there. But you know that the existence of what you were like, you know, the previous existence is pretty painful. So you can feel motivated sometimes to move away from that painful experience, even if there’s not any clarity around what the future might hold. Because I know that was the same for me. I didn’t really start to feel how good recovery could be until years and years and years down the track where I was like, Oh.
Sarah Liz King (00:28:01) – I, like laugh again. And it’s actually. That like, joyful soul fulfilling laugh. Not like a forced laugh.
Korey (00:28:09) – Mhm. Yeah.
Sarah Liz King (00:28:10) – Or yeah, like a genuinely loved being around my friends versus finding it a laborious experience. And that takes time sometimes.
Korey (00:28:22) – For sure. It really can. Yeah. Yeah. And I think, you know, you touched on that point there you don’t and I did as well. You don’t really know where you’re going. And I often say to clients, I mean you don’t have to have your main goal of treatment of being here and receiving support to be quote unquote recovery. Like if that doesn’t sit well with you, if that feels too overwhelming, that is okay. You know, sometimes breaking down goals to just, you know, smaller sort of goal posts and focusing on sort of, Yeah, more sort of immediate sort of goals can feel a lot more manageable then sort of this idea of reaching recovered, which is such a subjective term anyway, um, when people aren’t necessarily ready and can be struggling and battling with that idea of, you know, parting with their illness, sometimes the focus is rather just around identifying well, where I’m at right now is not good.
Korey (00:29:31) – Things are not good for me. What do I need to be doing to maybe make life a little bit more manageable and maybe even a little bit more enjoyable for me right now? Yeah.
Sarah Liz King (00:29:42) – And I love this analogy and I often use it with clients is like, are we focusing on the whole staircase instead of just the step in front of us? Because the whole staircase is overwhelming and it’s big and tall and sometimes feels too tough to climb. But if you just focus on the one step in front of you, like you said, it’s so much more manageable.
Korey (00:30:02) – That’s it. And I think, yeah, coming back to again, sort of building that confidence, you know, each step is a significant part of the overall journey. And I guess, you know, once you take that first step and sort of experience the the benefits of being in a slightly, slightly better place, you know, we actually we can feel that we’re heading in the right direction and that can be a sense of reassurance.
Korey (00:30:35) – You know, if I kind of just, you know, it’s like being told, yeah, recovery is good, like it’s going to make you feel better, but not actually knowing that for yourself. Sometimes it can be like, well, how do I trust this? How do I know that that’s right for me? Um, so I think sometimes getting a taste of actually feeling better in your body and your experience of your life in the world, um, can help sort of push you and propel you forwards too.
Sarah Liz King (00:31:04) – Yeah, I agree with that 100%. I would love to kind of ask you a little bit about your approaches within how you work, because you’re quite passionate about like a weight neutral approach to nutrition. Can you explain a little bit about what a weight neutral approach is and how it differs from more traditional approaches, especially within, I guess, that disordered eating, eating disorder, recovery space for sure.
Korey (00:31:35) – Yeah. So as you said, I do practice through what is sort of called like a like a weight neutral approach, a weight neutral lens.
Korey (00:31:44) – Now basically what that means is that instead of centering weight and or BMI as the main sort of indicator of health and health status, um, we’re rather focusing more on things like health behaviors. Now, I guess this is the way I generally explain it to clients. Um, there are many factors which contribute to our state of health at any moment in our life. Um, there are factors which are within our control and factors which are outside of our control Now. Factors that are outside of our control include things like our genetic predisposition, you know, our culture. Um, you know, I guess to some extent, like our upbringing, right? These are things that we, we, we can’t actually change where we are in this time in our life. Um, but things that we do have some control over are our health related behaviors. And when it falls inside of my domain, that’s looking at things like our relationship with food, how we eat and fuel our body and. How we move our body.
Korey (00:33:05) – Our relationship with movement. Right now, let’s call this common idea that weight is something that we can control. Mean, you know, if we look at diet culture, for example, the whole industry is built upon this idea that, hey, you can you can go in a diet and change your body and lose weight and be thinner and be happier, healthier, whatever, etcetera. Um, but really, weight is not a behavior right now. Mean you can’t like do weight like you can you can change your eating, you can move your body. I mean weight is actually and this is something, you know, in sort of more recent decades of research, we’re realizing is that weight is actually part of our genetic code. And in fact, we’re sort of, um, you know, predisposition to have a certain build shape size, um, based on, again, genetics and I guess other family members and their sorts of builds, um, which falls into the factors we can’t control category. Um, so really with my approach, instead of trying to micromanage our body and control weight, which we now have evidence to support, is actually not sustainable.
Korey (00:34:34) – Um, again, 95% of diets fail. And in fact we know that people generally regain back the same, if not more weight from any sort of intentional efforts to actually lose weight. Um. Instead of focusing on something we can’t control. And really, if we do try to control it more often or not, it can lead to things such as disordered eating and body image struggles and or weight cycling, which we know. Are harmful things. Yeah. You know, weight can lead to disordered eating and mental health struggles. So why why should that be an approach that we’re implementing in health care, which we’re where we’re attempting to actually improve overall health status?
Sarah Liz King (00:35:29) – Yeah. I often talk about this concept of weight suppression with clients and how we look at quote unquote weight loss, But actually a lot of the time we are. Sometimes suppressing our weight below where it genetically will want to be. Yeah. So it’s not that we’ve failed in our attempts to kind of change our bodies because maybe that had been, you know, something we’ve been told that we should be doing or need to do by diet, culture or the people around us or whatever.
Sarah Liz King (00:36:02) – But actually we have just attempted to suppress or weight. That is not where our body prefers to be to optimally function mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, all of those kinds of things. And it’s important to note that like. Obviously. People have bodily autonomy. You’re welcome to do with your body what you want to. But if the striving. Has significant impacts on your wellbeing. Is it worth it?
Korey (00:36:37) – Yeah. And I think this is you know, that’s something that a lot of people, I think, are starting to actually ask themselves, you know, and hence why people are seeking out alternative approaches to health care, such as weight neutral care. Right? Yeah. Really, it’s also a trauma informed approach, right? I mean, it’s there’s evidence that it’s there’s potential for it to do much less harm than a weight centric approach. Um, I guess, yeah. In sort of like the health care setting and the treatment setting, I think it’s taking a little bit longer for systems to actually acknowledge this and recognize that sort of centering weight can be harmful.
Korey (00:37:20) – And look, I mean, coincidentally, unfortunately, we still see sometimes weight centric measures within eating disorder care. Um, which book Ryan’s McGee is. But you know, it’s something which. Is still quite ingrained in our culture, and I think it takes a lot of unlearning as an individual, but also a society to start to, I guess, question the way we’ve always been doing things and, you know, start to consider how we can actually do less harm. Yeah.
Sarah Liz King (00:38:04) – And, you know, I think that’s predominantly what I hope for in the future, is that as we. No more. We do better. You can only hope for that.
Korey (00:38:15) – This is it. And I mean, I think there’s plenty of individuals out there, such as myself and yourself, who are advocating for that change. You know, and and then specifically sort of in the eating disorder treatment setting to. Yeah.
Sarah Liz King (00:38:32) – Now, you mentioned being an advocate for the lgbtqia+ and Neurodivergent kind of affirming health care. How do these identities intersect with eating disorders and what unique challenges or considerations should be addressed in treatment and support?
Korey (00:38:57) – For sure.
Korey (00:38:58) – So I think before I dig into those two, which are kind of, you know, two of my specific sort of, you know, flavors, I guess, you know, it’s really important to recognize that. I mean, eating disorders is an intersectional topic. You know, we we can’t consider just one area, one sort of type of population within, you know, those who are experiencing experience eating disorders because it’s exclusionary and there’s so many. Yeah. Intersecting areas such as, you know, race, religion, culture and sexual and gender identity sort of, you know, disability, socioeconomic status that all really play a part in how eating disorders manifest and who they affect. Um, so I mean, when it comes to sort of members of the Lgbtqia+ community, we know that they’re at higher risk of eating disorders compared to, I guess, sort of the general population outside of that community. Um, and there’s many factors that can come into play there. But I guess the main one is really, you know, this this sense of otherness, otherness.
Korey (00:40:25) – And really, I think that’s something that is seen through all sort of marginalized groups who experience eating disorders is that they are there’s an exclusionary sort of thing about their identity that makes them different. And I guess in a way, eating disorders or, you know, focusing on body and image can be a way to cope with that and deal. And maybe whether it’s trying to conform or trying to just deal with the pressure of existing in the heteronormative white, um, you know, white supremacist society that we live in. Um, so, yeah, I mean, there is a significant crossover between sort of Lgbtqia Plus and Neurodivergent too, which is it’s super interesting. We’re finding out a lot of sort of new research that, you know, there are higher rates of neurodivergent within the queer community and vice versa. Um, I think when it comes to neurodivergent, it’s the discussion about neurodivergent is more up and coming, I think, which is great to see. And you know, I think a big thanks does come to social media to, you know, I’m sure almost anyone has scrolled through TikTok or Instagram and seeing videos talking about things like ADHD or autism and dyslexia and all these sorts of different forms of neurodivergent.
Korey (00:42:04) – And it’s great that it’s becoming there’s there’s more building awareness, but I think there’s still very little awareness around the intersection between Neurodivergent and eating disorders. Um, in fact it’s, you know, it’s something I see is that within the eating disorder treatment setting, there’s very little clinicians who are also trained in neurodivergent affirming care. Um, yeah.
Sarah Liz King (00:42:33) – And I would say similarly, I did an episode for you or would have been earlier this year, um, on ADHD and eating disorders and how. There is more to think about when providing nutrition, care, recovery, care, psychological care, all of those kinds of things, because oftentimes clinicians and practitioners learn to work. One way, maybe the traditional way. Whatever that kind of looks like. But we don’t take into consideration how people take on care and whether it’s going to be effective in their own treatment. So. In that kind of in terms of that those kinds of considerations, what are you thinking about as a clinician when someone is coming to you who identifies as being neurodivergent?
Korey (00:43:36) – Mhm.
Korey (00:43:37) – Mhm. For sure. And I think you know, catching on what you said there. Right. Like we have to recognize the world we live in has been built for the neurotypical brain. Right. So then of course the eating disorder treatment models have been designed with neurotypicals in mind. So of course there, there needs to be consideration of how we adapt that to peoples whose brains work slightly differently. Um, and to be honest, you know, I do weave neurodivergent affirming care into, you know, clients and care where they may not perhaps have a formal diagnosis, but perhaps the traditional approaches we’ve potentially tried have just sort of not aligned with them. So I think it’s really important to actually, you know, even taking a step back from Neurodivergent for a second and asking yourself as a clinician, like, am I just using the stock standard sort of, you know, gold standard approach here? And, you know, if it’s not working for the individual, like perhaps it’s not actually the individual, maybe it’s the the approach I’m using that’s maybe not tailoring to them.
Korey (00:44:55) – But anyway, I digress. Um, when it comes to considerations that I’m generally on my mind if, you know, I’m working with an autistic person and or ADHD, um, it’s generally around sort of sensory processing. So something which is very common to the autistic experience is having either a hypo or hyper sensitivities to sensory stimuli. Right now we have this kind of two main systems in our body around how we sort of interpret, um, you know, sort of sensory feedback, right? Um, first off, I guess we have an exterior perception right now. Exterior ception encompasses the senses in our external environment. How do, how do we sense the sensory input from our external environment? And that includes our five general senses. Um, hearing sight, sound, taste. What have I forgotten? Touch. Good one. Thanks, Sarah. Um. Yeah. You know, our basic senses. Um, now, when we kind of look through the lens of, like, autism, for example, and we kind of consider hypersensitivity, I think it’s somewhat commonly known that, you know, autistic folk can struggle with sort of being really sensitive to lights sounds, you know, needing either earplugs or needing to kind of tone down lighting because it can become super overwhelming.
Korey (00:46:41) – And I guess in the context of even an eating scenario, right, depending on the setting that someone’s eating in. Sensory stimuli can be so overwhelming that it can make the eating experience incredibly difficult. And another aspect of exterior perception, which is really important to consider is, I guess when it comes to things like taste and touch texture, really right now, something that’s really common in autistic folk around. Yeah, to be honest, I think it’s around 70% of autistic folk actually have some form of eating issues like issues with food itself, which a lot of the time is around sort of these sensory sort of aversions, whether it’s textural, whether it’s the way of food, looks like sight, whether it’s smells. You know, I’ve worked with clients who, you know, smells of foods which are either really rich or significant, can be really offputting and make it incredibly challenging to actually go through the eating experience. So those external those those five senses in how we externally interpret food and our environment are really important considerations.
Korey (00:48:03) – But then I guess it also comes into intersection. Now intersection is something that’s been more talked about, which is great. Um, it basically describes how we interpret sensory experiences within our body. And really, when it comes to interception, autistic folk are more likely to be hypo sensitive to these types of sensors. Now, things that we talk about, I guess, you know, what does that look like? What are you talking about, Corey? That can be many types of body cues. Now, things that fall into that, like hunger and fullness, thirst and pain. Emotions at body temperature, right? So all these things that, you know, sensations which we receive from our body about what our body’s needs are going to the toilet as well, that’s that’s another really common one, right? Like whether we have to pee or go to a number two. Right. And a lot of autistic folk can really struggle to actually identify one if there is a sensation in their body or two, I’m feeling a sensation, but I actually can’t tell what my body is needing.
Korey (00:49:27) – Right. And in a lot of cases, you know, if that sense is dulled or again, like the autistic person can’t quite identify what aware that signals coming from it can lead them to go without, whether that’s going without food. And I guess compounded with other neurodivergent like ADHD, it can be so easy to forget to eat as well, right? Um, it can mean that people are not acting on their body signals until it’s at that very pointy point where they’re about to burst because they have to pee or they’ve got a huge headache because they’re so dehydrated, or perhaps they overeat or even engage in some form of binge eating because they haven’t actually eaten all day. So I think an awareness for the fact that both external and internal senses within the body can be very different to how perhaps a neurotypical person experiences their body in the world is super, super important to consider. When we’re then going, Well, how do I implement this sort of stock standard, um, eating disorder approaches and sort of adapt them for these considerations?
Sarah Liz King (00:50:48) – Yeah.
Sarah Liz King (00:50:49) – And I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. I think it’s very common within disordered eating and eating disorders for. Interception to be dulled down or disconnected from because it’s very much a practice and we can very much decide to not pay attention to those signals for a long period of time. So when we are working on reconnecting, it’s so important to be really sensitive to how a person is actually taking on that information if they are, and if not, the different ways in which we can be curious about how a person might feel something, interpret something, make behavioral changes around that information. Because. That is essentially so much more important than like, here’s a meal plan or Really?
Korey (00:51:45) – Yeah. Yeah. And look mean. Hey, I think meal plans have their place. Sure. But, you know, I think this is where the conversation, you know, I often then lead it down the path of well you know, I love intuitive eating and I think it’s a great sort of approach and all that.
Korey (00:52:03) – But I guess it’s really important for us to recognize that for Neurodivergent people, intuitive eating may not actually be an appropriate goal. Yeah. I mean, you know, if we’re holding neurodivergent people to this standard that like, yes, you have body cues and let’s like learn like they, you know, we can purely rely on our body cues to know when to feed ourselves. Um, really, that assumption is a little bit ableist because, you know, people who are neurodivergent have different experiences of those sort of interception in our body and. To be honest, relying purely on a sense of hunger and fullness to know how to feed our body may actually not be the most. Appropriate way to ensure we’re fueling our body in the way that it needs.
Sarah Liz King (00:52:58) – Yeah, I would agree with you on many aspects of intuitive eating that is quite beneficial in what it’s hoping to achieve.
Korey (00:53:07) – Mm hmm.
Sarah Liz King (00:53:08) – But I think there are definitely instances where it it doesn’t provide enough information on how we can feed ourselves and the different occasions where we may need to eat, where hunger and fullness don’t occur.
Sarah Liz King (00:53:26) – I can think of so many examples. For instance, you know, you feel. Anxious or stressed, and that kind of ends up dulling down your your appetite or you are an athlete and you cannot rely on those signals because your energy needs are so much higher. And being someone that does a bigger volume of exercise might also mean that your body has dealt down those signals so much more.
Korey (00:53:56) – On your wrist. That’s yeah, I agree completely. Um, and I think it’s all about, yeah, I guess gaining the knowledge around sort of how our senses of hunger and fullness can be influenced by Yeah. Us as an individual, what’s going on for us, our, our, our neuro type, our, you know, our capacity to understand our body and yeah, I guess learning ways. And this is why I think seeing a dietitian is so valuable because the dietitian will tailor treatment generally, right? I mean, it’s a general blanket statement. But mean a dietitian is designed to come up with and work with you to develop a specific approach that is applicable for you.
Sarah Liz King (00:54:49) – Yeah, no cookie cutter approaches here.
Korey (00:54:52) – No, no. I mean, yeah, I think, look, there’s probably clinicians out there who do use that. And again, it’s unfortunate in some eating disorder settings, it does fall into that sort of cookie cutter approach. And whether that’s intentional or, you know, again, related to like staffing issues and like, you know, not having the time and resources to actually individualize care for each person in a sort of inpatient facility. Um, yeah, I think it’s got to be individualized if it’s going to potentially work for the individual long term.
Sarah Liz King (00:55:30) – Yeah. And I think one of the biggest takeaways I’ve had from what you’ve said today is you don’t necessarily need to change the goal sometimes, but we need to change the way we get there based on the individual.
Korey (00:55:44) – Definitely, definitely. And really like again, whilst we have guidelines and standards and, you know, evidence, I mean, if we take a moment to actually look at the evidence backing sort of traditional treatment models, majority of the populations that are used in research are a very, very narrow population group.
Korey (00:56:10) – Um, you know, a lot of the standards and approaches we use, eating disorder treatment today is still based on evidence which was, you know, collected, um, looking purely at sort of like anorexia presentations and sort of thin white able bodied middle upper class, sort of young women, which again, we have to recognize like that is one. Yes. You know, valid and important population that experience eating disorders, but is definitely not the only population. And you know, if that’s the evidence that is backing the treatment approaches that we are using and outlying to. People of eating disorders in all presentations. Of course, it’s not going to work.
Sarah Liz King (00:57:03) – No, not at all.
Korey (00:57:04) – Yeah.
Sarah Liz King (00:57:06) – So many more factors to consider, which is why having these conversations is so important. And I wanted to say thank you so much for taking the time not only to share your own journey, but also give us an insight into how a more diverse range of people experience eating disorders and what treatment might look like for those individuals and folk.
Sarah Liz King (00:57:31) – For those who really enjoyed this episode and are wanting to connect with you further, where can they find you online?
Korey (00:57:38) – For sure. So I’m pretty active on Instagram. If you’re an Instagram fan, you can find me at nutrition .4. every dot body. Um, alternatively, you can go to my website, which is dot nutrition for everybody.com. And I’ll just throw out there as well. At the moment my books are currently open to new clients. If you are looking for a dietitian and to sort of help support you on your journey through whether it’s an eating disorder or a sort of healing your relationship with food, um, feel free to hit me up.
Sarah Liz King (00:58:20) – Amazing. And I will make sure to put those links in the show notes so that you can easily find and connect with Corey. But for those out there who loved and enjoyed this episode, be sure to let us know by taking a screenshot of wherever you are listening. You can tag myself at Sarah Liz King or you can tag Corey at nutrition .4. every dot body and we will be sure to reshare those on our stories.
Sarah Liz King (00:58:46) – But until next time, keep looking after yourselves and I will be back next week with a fresh new episode you can wrap your ears around.
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