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Intuitive Eating & Trauma: APN Lodge Speaker Series With Lauren Bickford

July 13, 2021
All Points North Lodge
Andy:

Hey everybody. This is Andy from All Points North Lodge. We are doing a Speaker Series here with Lauren Bickford, who is a registered dietician-slash-nutritionist, plus a whole lot of other pretty cool letters. And I'm going to let her fill you in on what she does.

Lauren Bickford:

Yeah. So Hey, everybody, as Andy said, my name is Lauren Bickford. I am a registered dietician nutritionist, and I'm also a certified intuitive eating counselor. And with both of those things, I specialize in behavioral health nutrition. So yeah, happy to chat a little bit more with you guys about what that looks like and how it applies to what everyone at APN is doing.

Andy:

Awesome. Right? Because with food people get, is food an addiction? Is food not of addiction? How is it tied? How is it connected? And I feel like so many people out there have different opinions. So we're excited to definitely talk to you and hear where you and your practice, sit on that, but tell us how'd you get into, like, what was the journey, right? How did a young Miss Bickford back in Kansas get to being a nutritionist?

Lauren Bickford:

Yeah. So spoiler alert. It all started in Kansas. There's no place like home, right? So my background in undergrad is in biology, chemistry, and Spanish. So everything that I'm going to be talking about today, remember that like my foundation is in science and I would never do something that is just for, like, the feeling of it. Even though that's a big reason why I do what I do. It's really all backed in science. And so I take a health-at-every-size lens, and I really focus on the relationship with food, with the knowledge of the scientific basis of how that can be beneficial to everyone. So from Kansas biology, Spanish went up to Boston, got my master's degree in food and nutrition science at Boston University. I did my dietetic internship. Everyone who's a dietician has to do a clinical internship.

Lauren Bickford:

So the difference between a dietician-nutritionist, Andy and I talked about that all the time when we were working together. And it really is that master's level degree is going to be required very soon. Everybody has to do an internship. Everybody has to sit for a really rigorous exam and everyone has to do continuing Ed. So there's a lot to it in order to be a dietician.

Lauren Bickford:

And then I became a dietician at Next Chapter when I was working with Andy. So, Mary Ellen Kelly, she is a wonderful dietician, working mostly in the sports nutrition field, but she got connected to Next Chapter, and she's also a BU alum. So she and I got connected while I was still in school, got me in Florida. I had some family down here already, so it just sort of made sense. And I became a dietician in the world of trauma and addiction and eating disorders. So that really from the get-go, has been my foundation. And so now I'm in private practice. My practice is called The Food Fight RD. I specialize mostly in eating disorders. There's lots of overlap though, between eating disorders, trauma, substance use it all works together. And I think we're going to be able to chat a little bit more about the why of that.

Andy:

Absolutely. So, yeah, like Lauren mentioned in there, our clinical director, Abe Antine, opened up a men's facility in South Florida in 2015 and I was lucky enough to be with him on that journey. We opened up a small 18-bed facility for men and we merged with All Points North back last summer. And Abe has brought that clinical approach out to All Points North out in Edwards.

Andy:

But Lauren was our dietician slash nutritionist slash kitchen coach. And it was really cool to witness, we talked about the substance abuse and the trauma, but how the food correlates to that. So subtly where people might overlook how significant something might be or like, oh, they're just soothing through that. But the trauma is definitely connected to all process addictions and in food and in substance abuse. So when Lauren came on a team, it was a big, just broadened our scope on what we could treat and how we could treat it. And she was kind of a Jack of all trade there and worked for us for about two years. And then when we shut down, Lauren went to the, was it The Food Fight?

Lauren Bickford:

Food Fight RD is me. So yeah.

Andy:

Self-employed, I love it. And, but exactly, you know what I mean? And Lauren got great experience with us because we had this unique population of Toronto, all-male, and has taken that experience and just gone bonkers, right. Done great with it and just helping so many people find that balanced plate, right? Some people, I've learned this through Lauren, want to go to extremes with diets, right? Lauren's more about how can we find that balance plate. So again, Lauren, I'm excited to hear how we can talk about trauma relating to process addictions, but in your specific case, eating and what that looks like and what the substance abuse world and how they view the eating disorder and how they treat it and the way you and your team look at it and the way you guys treat it.

Lauren Bickford:

Yeah. So I think like you mentioned before, at the very beginning, when it comes to how individuals and clinicians decide their treatment model, we don't all have to agree, but that doesn't mean, like, one of us is right and one of us is wrong. So I want to preface with that. But in the model that I use, it all goes back to how, the origin story of everything. So if we think about when we're younger, when we go through a traumas and when we get older a lot of times, both addiction and eating disorders, they're maladapted coping mechanisms, right. I know that's the fun little clinical term, the maladapted coping mechanism. And what does that mean? It's using a tool that you already had at your disposal in a way that's not correct for the appropriate way to address what's going on.

Lauren Bickford:

So trauma, right? We have trauma. Food is like the first thing that people are drawn to when they're born. So when a baby cries, oh, does it need a diaper change, does it need food. Is it tired? What does a baby need? So from the time that we're born, food is a soother, it's a coping mechanism, right? So it's how you utilize it, though. So it's the relationship that you have with food, the relationship that you have with your plate, and oftentimes, your plate can be a reflection of what's going on around you. So if there's so much chaos out here and you can have control on the food or the plate that's in front of you, there's your way that you can have your control, but just like with substance use, it's a way that you can have that control, but it doesn't actually address the problem.

Lauren Bickford:

So being able to have someone like a dietician to help you understand what your relationship with food looks like while also working with a team, right. Having a therapist who can support you in dealing with the outside stuff at the same time. So that by the time you go through the process, work with two people or more, you can have both a healthier relationship in the outside world and with your plate.

Andy:

Absolutely. So in your world, how often do you see an eating issue parallel with a substance issue or another process addiction? Is that something common or do you see people just focused? Like I just had some eating stuff I need to work through or is it that parallel process sometimes we see?

Lauren Bickford:

It's both. And I think oftentimes what I've observed in my work in the substance use field at Next Chapter, a lot of times when you deal with one coping mechanisms, the underlying ones rise up. So that's one thing and then the other thing too, is, so often in early recovery, we get this all-or-nothing attitude of like, "Oh yeah, now I don't need that." The classics of now I'm going to get in shape. Now I'm going to do this. Now I'm going to do that. And it can take food to an extreme as well, as far as restriction or a way to eat that really eliminates a lot of other types of foods that are also totally fine to eat like I'm an all-food fit kind of girl.

Lauren Bickford:

And it's when we start to restrict those foods that we have a heightened reward for them and that we have heightened desires for them. So it's actually in restriction that we start to develop a more maladapted relationship with food itself as well. And also there are genetic predisposing factors to eating disorders. So you may have been an individual that had never had any sort of issues around food before, but then you go to this extreme in recovery or this extreme when you're dealing with your trauma and you start to restrict food, or you start to do things that look more, resemble something more closely to a diet, but then that genetic trigger happened and now it can spiral and spiral until now your problem is an eating disorder versus just trauma. I say, "Just trauma," right.

Andy:

It's behind a lot of these behaviors that can be destructive, that some people suffer with, but we were talking about balanced plates. Can you talk about when you're working with somebody new and the term "Diet" comes into people's minds and how people see the word diet and what they think? I know for me, I'm like, I know I was talking to Lauren two years ago and like, "Well, I'm cutting all carbs." And she's like, "Why are you going to cut all carbs?" And so can you just help educate us a little bit about that whole balance plate in a theory that you live by?

Lauren Bickford:

Yeah, for sure. So, oh goodness. "The balance": I feel like even that I use in quotes now because even I continue to learn more about how we talk about food, let me reel it in and put my thoughts together. So when it comes to food and plate and how we talk about food, it's really been infiltrated by the knowledge that the average Joe has now about how to, the way that I like to phrase it is how you manipulate your body shape or size with what goes on your plate and how you change your body shape or size has a lot less to do with your health than like your relationship with food does. We know so much more about stress hormones and how those can be triggered and activated when you're in a really restricted place.

Lauren Bickford:

If you don't have enough fat, your hormones, in general, they rely on fat. If you don't have enough carbohydrates, your brain's primary fuel source is carbohydrates. So if you don't have enough of that, so often we focus on all of these really almost like kitschy ways to talk about food that are, I like to say if the way that you're talking about food is trendy, it's probably not actually based in any sort of science, because if you think about really big influencers, why is that where you're getting your source of information? So I think it can be helpful to pause and check-in, who am I listening to? And also look into a lot of different resources. So when it comes to who you're listening to, not just a dietician, not all dieticians practice the way that I practice, either.

Lauren Bickford:

So it really is dependent on you and what your needs are. But if you're looking at nutrition just for the food itself and has nothing to do with your relationship to food and has nothing to do with your health and it's primarily about the size of your body and what that's going to look like as a result of what you put in your plate.

Lauren Bickford:

And I challenge you to consider that and look into the why you know, why is it so important for you to change your size? Is that actually going to change your health? Spoiler alert: we know a lot more now that size is not as synonymous with health as we once thought, there's the lens in which I practice through is health at every size. And if that's a completely new concept for you, for those listening, check it out. It has a lot to do with why I practice the way I do, especially in the world of eating disorders. And I would argue, if you're treating eating disorders and not using the health-at-every-size lens, it's probably not a very ethical practice.

Andy:

Yeah. Good point. Two hot topics or words or phrases you might hear is intuitive eating or mindful eating. Can you help explain what that looks like, do you practice it, do you believe, and just expand on that for us?

Lauren Bickford:

Yeah. So let's just do intuitive eating because like I said before, I'm a certified intuitive eating counselor, so it's the leg I can really firmly stand on between the two phrases. Yeah. Intuitive eating, word of warning, word of caution. It is the buzzword of the season of the wellness world this year. So that means a lot of people are talking about it that don't really know very much about it. So word of warning there, but Evelyn Tripoli and Elise Rush, they're the two dieticians that actually developed the framework. So it's not a diet, which is awesome because diets are exhausting, but it's a way really ultimately for you to be able to reconnect with your body and stop listening to so much external noise of what you "should", you can shit all over yourself, but maybe let's pause on that and get you connected to your own hunger and fullness cues, get you connected to a positive relationship with food and get you connected to a positive relationship with movement, too. As a dietician, I'm able to chat with people around their exercise and their fitness.

Lauren Bickford:

And of course, if they need something more than that, recommending a personal trainer rather than me, but being able to chat about the extremes that we can take movement as well. And do you even like it, why are you doing that movement? What feels good in your body and what feels good for your life? So talking about both food and movement and you in general. Finding the foods that work best for you and your body and getting you reconnected to that. And a lot of that comes into being connected to your feelings and your emotions. And here it is, your trauma like if you're super disconnected from what's on with you, both emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, even lots of different things that can contribute to our wants and our needs and the way that our body responds to the outside world. Every single feeling and emotion shows up in your body for some people, a lot of feelings and emotions show up in the same kind of area of their body where their stomach is located.

Lauren Bickford:

So of course, your feelings and your emotions are going to impact your food choices. So being able to really take the intuitive eating framework and applying it specifically to individuals who are processing their trauma at the same time so that they can stay, I always say, "Be in your body, let's get you in your body." So they can stay in their body instead of checking out when it gets to be too much because doing the work, it's a lot. And to say that it's easy-peasy is not quite accurate, but to really form a team that provides you the adequate support to get through, as we always say, the journey that's really all about.

Andy:

Well, it's awesome that you've mentioned that a APN philosophy isn't, like, a one size fits all. Like, "Hey, if you're suffering from addiction, whether it's substance abuse, alcohol, if it's mental health, if it's eating, if it's gambling, oh, this is what you need to do." Like we are a custom curator, we're meeting the client where they're at, each client has specific needs and one client, especially nutritionally, might say, "Hey, with our team, this is what's working and this is what we're going to do." And somebody might look similar but have all different issues. And then their treatment plan through nutrition and through food, is completely different and it's custom, right? We're not just saying, "Hey, this is how we do it." And we feel like we have a lot of pride in that because we're going to meet everybody and give them that individual treatment plan and that custom-curated plan.

Andy:

And we have so much to offer at APN, right. Kind of deal. And our clients do work with a nutritionist out there, too. So and you're speaking a lot of the same language she is. So that's exciting. And again, then lastly, real quick with just how trauma drives all of these, I think that the term used is maladapted behaviors, right? These interesting, the people, we cope in different ways and food seems like the first way I might learn to cope when I'm seven or eight because I can't, if I'm an alcoholic, I can't get to a bottle of Jack Daniels, right. It's just hasn't been introduced or from gambling or what it is, but food's right there. And how trauma drives that can drive that unhealthy relationship people get towards food.

Lauren Bickford:

Right. Exactly. And I think answering that in the same kind of just continuation of what you were already saying, right. We all develop our relationships with food in a completely unique way, depending on the environment that we were in, the support that we had or didn't have. The types of foods that were available to us, even any sort of religious or ethical practices related to how you choose, prepare, consume food. So many different things that are unique to every individual, that one diagnosis is going to look completely different on two different people. So being able to really learn from the person who's coming into receive care, we can learn so much from our clients and we will create the adequate plan for them, but we really need to spend some time getting to know the people that we're working with.

Lauren Bickford:

And that's the really cool thing that, like you mentioned, really being able to get to know the person behind the diagnosis is always a really top priority for me. Yeah. I think sometimes we have the tendency to treat humans in a less than humane way and treat them based on their diagnosis and their, you know, textbook, textbook, textbook. It's like, let's bring the humanity back in to how we work with people.

Andy:

That's awesome. All right. So lastly, before we close up, I know that you mentioned Food Fight?

Lauren Bickford:

Yeah.

Andy:

And are you working for another institution? Can you tell us quickly about that? So everybody can do their research and find you?

Lauren Bickford:

Yeah. So I have a few different ways for you to find me. So I am, like I said, the Food Fight RD, its how you can find me across socials and my website, as well as the foodfightrd.com. I also work as a recovery coach for eating disorder recovery clients at the Eating Disorder Center. They're based in Maryland, but it's nice because as a coach, virtual office over here, so worldwide, no matter where you're located, you can get support for recovery in your eating disorder from one of the coaches at our center. I also support individuals who are in the nutrition and dietetics field, whether it's as a student or as an intern. So those early years under the Food Fight Fam. So serving as a mentor and really serving as a place for students to connect with each other. A lot of times we have a tendency to be a little competitive in nature. So being able to have that space where we can come together and move forward together, rather than being so divisive as we're growing and learning.

Andy:

A lot of Zoom, right? The whole world is Zoom right now.

That's great. All right. Well, Lauren, I appreciate it. And like we said in the beginning, me and Lauren have known each other for a couple of years now, but I spent some time out in Colorado, at the campus, and just back in South Florida now. So it was a great opportunity to catch up with Lauren. And usually, like we were joking before the call, this is the most professional conversation we've ever had because usually after 30 seconds, one of us is busting each other's chops about something. So if somebody, you guys, knew us and just witnessed what we just did for the last couple of minutes, people would be shocked that we didn't make fun of each other.

Lauren Bickford:

Yeah. I think people should bring a chair to sit in while they watch this if they know us before because I'm impressed with us and our professionalism.

Andy:

Absolutely, well done. Adulting. Well again, great. And everybody, our Speaker Series, you can find it on apn.com/speakerseries, and it'll be on our social medias. And I'm sure Lauren wants, Lauren will post this on hers.

Andy:

Again, we're just excited to connect with professionals that see addiction, see this maladapted behavior through the lens that we see it and trauma does drive these behaviors. And we at APN are going to treat that trauma. We're not just trauma-informed. We are trauma-focus and we are going to treat the wound and we're going to get down to when that wound happened. Did it happen at two, did it happen at eight, right? And we're going to address that. We're not just going to talk about it. Right. And like we said, trauma can show up in many forms and food is one of them. So we're just excited to work with other professionals like Lauren that are doing the work that we're doing. And we're just super stoked about it. So again, Lauren, thank you for taking some time out of your busy day and sitting with us and everybody that All Points North, we thank you. And see you guys soon.

Lauren Bickford:

Thanks, guys.

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