132. Recovering From Binge Eating with Toni Rudd; @the.binge.dietitian

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Ryann Nicole


Connect with Toni

📲 Instagram: @the.binge.dietitian

🖥 Website: www.thebingedietitian.com

Episode Transcript

Ryann

Hi, everybody. Welcome back. I’m so excited to have another guest for you. And this one has been a long time coming. So I have Toni with us today. And she reached out to me about sharing her story, I want to say like six months ago. And then life happened. And then I got pregnant. And the podcast took a little bit of a dip, but I’m so excited to have her here with us today to share her story. So, Toni, thank you so much for taking the time to be here.

Toni

No, thank you so much for having me. I have been a follower of yours even before I started my own practice, so it seems crazy that I’m talking with you. 

Ryann

Well, I am just so happy to have you here and also feel so grateful to have the opportunity to know more about you and your story. Like I’ve heard snippets and I know little pieces and I want to know everything. So why don’t you start from the beginning and start with how things were like growing up for you and then maybe when you started to think about food or your body.

Toni

Mm-hmm. In my experience, I started to notice things about my body when I was at school really and it was when we go in England, it’s high school, and you’re around about 11, 12 and I think that’s when I started noticing like my thighs were kind of quite funny, like comparing my thighs to other girls’ thighs. That was really the starting point. But really, it’s only since I’ve been doing this work with other people as a dietician that actually it started way before that. My mom was a Weight Watchers coach and I grew up kind of going to meetings with her more for childcare reasons, but it definitely contributed to me being more aware of my body and having lower body image later in life. So I think it really started around then. 

Ryann

You say, you know, lower body image started later in life. What contributed to that?

Toni

Definitely like being around the Weight Watchers meetings with my mom. Her being a coach meant that she was kind of in the Weight Watchers world as they are and I actually watched her lose quite a lot of weight and she maintained it while she was doing the coaching but then when she finished Weight Watchers and she decided to leave I watched her pull that weight back on. Plus more to be honest and I think witnessing that, my mum was also when she was a weight loss coach, she was in a magazine and she was in like a transformation thing where they showed a picture of her on a wedding day compared to where she was now and the weight loss difference. So that was a big contribution as well as I grew up as a dancer. At 18 I went to dance college and I experienced kind of really negative things said to 16 to 18 year old women and there were some men there about what we look like, that we should look a certain way, being told to lose weight, don’t get your belly out. Hearing all those things being said to you at such a young age definitely contributed to kind of a dieting cycle. 

Ryann

When mom was doing Weight Watchers and doing all of that and coaching, did she ever try to control your food or was it more so like, this is just me, you do whatever you want?

Toni

No, she never really brought me into it until just before I went to professional dance college. I went to another dance college when I was about 16. And around about then, I remember telling her I was counting points, but it was only until I asked for it.

Ryann

So you started counting points and then what?

Toni

Then after that I went to dance college for about six months and then I decided it wasn’t for me. I really didn’t like the pressure. I remember telling my mum they’re making me want to be a certain way that I didn’t want to be. And I watched friends around me kind of turn away from food, really pull back on their relationship with food. I witnessed that from a friend’s side and then that’s when I looked at being a dietitian after that. So that’s how I kind of got into dietetics. But while I was training to be a dietitian and I would say like when I was working in the NHS in England, I was stuck in a dieting kind of diet and binge eating cycle that was like constant probably for about 10 years from when I was like 16 to last few years I’ve kind of moved away from it so I would say about 15 years.

Ryann

Wow okay and throughout that time did you have binge episodes or was it more just restrictive?

Toni

I definitely experienced binge eating. I remember feeling like so alone in my binge eating like being alone was such a trigger for me to binge eat. Like if I knew that I was going to be alone for the evening, I would kind of plan that, go to the shop, buy what I wanted to buy and kind of then hide all the evidence. Or in my car, coming home from work, I might suck up a McDonald’s and eat it in the car on the way. And so I think the restriction was definitely influenced my kind of binge eating behaviours as well, especially when there was stress involved with working in the NHS, and as life does, very stressful. So, yeah.

Ryann

What were the binges like for you?

Toni

I just remember how bad I felt after, and my now husband would come home later, I would kind of tell him, oh, I’m not eating dinner, I don’t feel very well, and it was because I binged. And then I would skip that next meal because I just felt so uncomfortably full. And then it’s just what you’re saying to yourself, you’re kind of in your head about it aren’t you, you’re kind of in a cycle of feeling really rubbish about yourself and I think anyone feels like that, you’re not alone in that. I just remember feeling quite alone when I was going through it.

Ryann

And at that time did you realize what you were doing was binging or did you blame something else as a problem?

Toni

I don’t think I realized at the time. I never really thought it was a problem. I always thought I mustn’t be that bad. That kind of thing to get help or to sort it out but I would say it got to a point where I was doing it maybe three times a week for a little while. So yeah it was quite frequent. Did anybody know? No, since I’ve started the binge dietitian when I’ve been more talking about it and being a bit open about it. Even the experience with my mum as a child, I’ve never really spoken about anything like that. So yeah, it’s just been something that I think has been really important to share. Like you said, sharing experiences is really important in helping people feel less alone in all this. 

Ryann

And this binge period lasted for 15 years?

Toni

The dieting, definitely. I would say the binge was probably about six years.

Ryann

And throughout that time, did you have periods where you were trying to go back to Weight Watchers and then binge and then trying to go back to Weight Watchers or did you ditch it at all?

Toni

No, I just kept trying different diets. So I mean, I did the counting points thing at Weight Watchers when I was around about 16, but when I was in my 20s, it was probably mainly low-carb. That was always the one that I went back to, like trying to not have bread with my breakfast and just eat eggs and then lunch was kind of just carrots and hummus as a meal and I just think when I look back it’s like no wonder I was kind of driving home wanting to get in and go around in McDonald’s and eat a burger before I went home and had my dinner because that food is not so preferable especially when you’re at work 9 to 5 and you’re busy and you’ve got a stressful job I think it’s they have snacks, not me.

Ryann

I know a lot of people share about the binging being a response to restriction, but you have brought up stress a lot. And I think that’s super important to talk about. How did emotions play a role in your binging?

Toni

It definitely played a role because I think that was one way I dealt with my emotions was with binging. Being alone kind of was like a stress relief, have space for me to binge, if that makes sense. So I would then compensate a lot of exercise as well. But yeah, learning to deal with my emotions was a big help. And learning to be in my own company was really important as well for me because being alone was such a trigger. I don’t really like saying that word, but it was. It often meant I would sit at home and just binge.

Ryann

It was the same for me. It was like this opportunity where no one is gonna judge me, no one is gonna see, and the high. Did you get the high?

Toni

Yeah, definitely. And then you kind of crash after, don’t you? And that’s when the spiral comes down. But yeah, you definitely get a high from it. And you feel like you just can’t stop eating. For me, it was crisps. Crisps were kind of a go-to. And Pringles, particularly. Maybe two tubs. And I just felt like I just couldn’t stop. And mentally I was saying to myself, I want to stop, but I just couldn’t.

Ryann

And I think that that’s so important for other people to hear whether they are struggling or not, because there were so many times that I wanted to stop, but I don’t know about you, but I was not ready to do what it took to stop.

Toni

Yeah, I mean, my turning point, I was probably more in a privileged position than other people would be. I actually moved countries, so I moved from England to Peru. And I think having that kind of start over again and being in a country where I didn’t have the foods that I would normally go for or they’re not kind of there. There are Pringles, but maybe not the flavors that I would always go for. But I think having that fresh start was a really good thing for me. And I know that not everyone gets that opportunity. I got to leave my stressful job and kind of start my own business, which has been stressful, but I’ve learned how to deal with that stress in different ways. But yeah, I think moving for me was a really big turning point.

Ryann

When you were struggling with the restricting and the binging, did anybody say anything like, hey, I’m worried about you? Like, did you get any concern comments or did you hide it that well?

Toni

No, I never really had any concern moments. I think I hid it pretty well. Yeah, another thing, like when I went home, because my mom and dad would have a lot of food and I would try and avoid, I would then kind of binge a lot on those foods. Like crisps, I really tried hard to buy crisps so they weren’t in the house. But then when I went home, my mom and dad have like a massive selection of crisps and we’re kind of there eating, eating. But I don’t think anyone was concerned, no one ever expressed concerns. I think a lot of people with binge eating hide it pretty well and don’t think people are concerned.

Ryann

When did you realize that what you were doing was binging and that you had a problem with food?

Toni

It was really when I started doing this work. I knew that I wanted to be in the non-diet kind of space and I think when I started learning, I was a weight management dietitian in the NHS, so I think having that experience, like kind of seeing this eat less, move more kind of advice not working and being really generic and not really motivating people. And then when you start learning how much diets don’t actually work, I think that was a realisation for me that I needed to kind of move towards a more balanced approach to eating and overcome food fears and have them around a bit more. I really, I’ve always loved your breaking food fears kind of things you’ve done on Instagram. Like I remember watching them and I think it’s really important to do that work. 

Ryann

Did you do it all by yourself? 

Toni

Yeah, I would say I didn’t get any help. Yeah, I did. 

Ryann

Wow, I think that too is so important to hear because I know that it can feel really defeating if you are unable to connect with the right therapist or dietitian right away, but also if finances are a barrier, knowing that it is possible. I mean, it’s tough. It’s a whole other level of difficult, I’m not gonna lie, but that it is 100% possible to do it on your own.

Toni

Yeah, I think obviously, me being a dietitian, I was able to look at the right places for the support. There’s a lot of stuff out there, isn’t there? And having a social media kind of cleanse and getting rid of accounts that do not align with where you want to go, I think is really big step as well. Following more accounts that do promote that non-diet space is really important.

Ryann

When you were working at the NHS and doing the weight management dietician, do you feel like that helped give you more insight into, wait a minute diets aren’t working? Like was that kind of an eye-opener for you or was that triggering?

Toni

No, it’s definitely an eye-opener. It definitely triggered me as well. Like being a dietician, we get comments about our bodies and I don’t know if you’ve experienced this but even when I worked in the hospital, or you look like a dietitian, you must be really healthy, like just those little comments and when I worked in weight management, oh I’d love to be your size, I’d love to be how you look and those kind of comments I actually secretly quite liked and they actually like drove me to continually restrict my food but then I did see how unmotivating the advice was and there was a point where I did a lot of weight management with people with learning disabilities and we’d find that the same people would come back. Like when we’re working with them, they’re losing weight and then when we start in a year later, they’ve kind of gained all that weight back on them more and that was the eye-opener for me because yeah it really made me understand that diets aren’t sustainable.

Ryann

And then that is what drove you to want to be in the anti-diet space.

Toni

Definitely. I was always kind of listening to podcasts and following accounts and when I worked in the learning disabilities, I worked a bit in eating disorders and that’s how I kind of like moved into my own practice. 

Ryann

Why did you choose to be a dietitian? Like was there any sneaky I want to learn more about food or was it truly like I’m ready to heal, like, what was the driver behind that?

Toni

The driver was my experience at dance college and seeing friends break down around their eating habits. I mean, I always loved food, I was never really like a fussy eater, I was always open to eating everything. But seeing my friends kind of break down and having that experience at dance college, I kind of came away. And at the time, my mom went back to uni as a mature student, she wanted to be a social worker and she brought home loads of leaflets and one of them was dietetics. I read it and I was like, that’s what I want to do. And that’s how I kind of got into it. There was nothing to do with kind of my relationship with food at that time, to be honest. I kind of just wanted to do it to be a dietitian because I just love talking about food. 

Ryann

Yeah, yeah, totally. Was it hard to leave NHS and then go into a new space? Like, tell me about that transition. 

Toni

It wasn’t hard leaving the NHS. I think the two years of COVID that we had was really tough, especially because I was in the learning disabilities role there. The impact it had on that role was really significant. Like, we just really couldn’t help patients that we had as much as we used to. And I think it was really hard and tough mentally. I mean I love the NHS, I think it’s amazing, but I was really happy to leave and do something new. I invested in training as we have to as a dietitian and professional development and learnt more about non-diet, binge eating and yeah I decided to go down that route.

Ryann

And when you were in the beginning of your schooling, how did this align with your binge eating recovery? Like how long did it take you to go through getting to a place where you were no longer binging throughout this process?

Toni

Yeah, that’s a hard question. I would say it took a good few years to kind of finally heal that relationship with food, but I think mindset wise was really easy. I was like, yeah, I’m ready to kind of sort this out and get on with it. Like I said, I was in a position where I was able to make it a little bit easier, if that makes sense. I got to leave my job and be more flexible in my working which is really helpful. So yeah, I wouldsay the years took me to stop binge eating. 

Ryann

And if you were to kind of summarize the things that really helped, like the game changers in healing your relationship with food, what would you say those are? 

Toni

Because being alone was a big thing for me. I read a book called Alonement and it’s by a British woman called Francesca Spector. She’s got a podcast as well so I really like deep-dived into this. It’s really helping to understand how to be alone and how to enjoy your time alone and I think that was a big one for me. Again, moving countries, I’m away from friends and family that I’m so used to being around all the time so I actually got pushed to be on my own a lot more so that was a really important thing for me. Like an example, being alone instead of not cooking a nice meal for yourself now I’ve made sure that when I am alone I do make an effort to cook for myself. I see it more as self-care and respect to myself for making an effort and I deserve the effort, I deserve that nice meal and I think if you change your mindset away from on my own, there’s no point in cooking a nice meal for just one person. Just changing that mindset was really powerful for me.

Ryann

What about what helped you in letting go of the attachment to losing weight? Because I can only imagine growing up with your mom on Weight Watchers, being a Weight Watchers coach and then you going through that for 15 years back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. What helped you just let go of that?

Toni

You’ve got to learn to accept your body, don’t you, for what it is. And it’s really hard, and I really understand how upsetting it can be to kind of let go of that and that ideal body type. I mean, the ideal body type I always strived for, the ideal weight I have always strived for was so unrealistic. I think the weight that I wanted to be at was when I went to Asia performance and I actually caught dysentery. So I was in hospital for a few weeks and I lost a lot of weight, obviously, and I wanted to be that weight after that. Stopping weighing myself was huge and getting rid of the scales. I mean, throughout my uni, when I was in my 20s, I always had scales in the bathroom. Getting rid of those was massive. But like, letting go of that unrealistic weight is a big thing as well.

Ryann

I agree. So, Toni, anybody who is currently really struggling, feeling hopeless or in that period of binging and wanting to get out but not knowing how, what words would you have for them?

Toni

You’re not alone is the big one for me. Like I said before, I really felt alone in all this and I didn’t want to tell anyone, I didn’t want to give anyone any ideas. So if you’re in that position, you’re not alone. There is a community out there of people that are talking about it like this podcast and on Instagram and I think it’s really important to connect and listen to these stories. 

Ryann

Oh 100%. Well, thank you so much for sharing yours. Tony, if listeners want to find you and connect with you more, where can they find you?

Toni

I’m mainly on Instagram as @the.binge.dietitian. I have a website as well which is thebingedietitian.com.

Ryann

I love it and I’ll have all of those links below. And Tony, in honor of the Food Freedom Lab, what does food freedom mean to you?

Toni

It is not having to worry about food, the food and situations, like social situations, I think, can be really stressful, but freedom is like not having to worry about that.

Ryann

So good. Well, thank you for taking the time and sharing all of this. I appreciate it so much. And I know that so many of you listeners are going to relate. So thank you for being here. 

Toni

Thank you so much for having me.

Ryann Nicole

Licensed Therapist, Certified Nutritionist, and Virtual Wellness Coach

Ryann is a licensed therapist and virtual wellness coach who has assisted individuals worldwide in establishing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies.

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Ryann is a licensed therapist and virtual wellness coach who has assisted individuals worldwide in establishing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies.