Today on the podcast I’m talking to Aaron Flores, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Body Trust provider based in Los Angeles. With over 10 years of experience, Aaron has worked with eating disorders in a variety of settings.
I get a lot of questions around why there are so many women in the Intuitive Eating/eating disorder field when there are so many men who struggle too. In response to that, Aaron is here to talk all about gender and body image and Intuitive Eating from a male perspective.
In this episode, we talk about:
- How Aaron starting working in the eating disorder field
- Healing his relationship with food
- Becoming a Body Trust provider
- Gender and body image healing
- Addressing the notion that diets don’t work
How Aaron Got Into The Eating Disorder Field
Like a lot of other folks who got into nutrition, Aaron had his own struggles with food growing up. On the recommendation of his family, he saw his first Dietitian when he was 15. He hated every minute of it. Looking back, there was nothing wrong with his bod; it may have been a bit bigger than the norm, but it wasn’t large or fat in any way.
Throughout Aaron’s young adult years, food was always there for him. From the time he went away to college, to when he dropped out of college, to when he moved back to LA and worked a job he hated in the video game industry, food was a friend.
It was during that time that he decided to implement all those things the Dietitian had told him to so many years ago. As a result, his weight started to change and he got a ton of praise for it. But he was also exhibiting a ton of eating disorder behaviour. He was excessively exercising, anxious about food, missing out on social events, and cutting out food groups.
On top of that, everyone was treating him differently- in a good way.
This all happened at the same time that he was unhappy with job and realized he needed to do something else. In light of his weight loss journey and interest in nutrition, Aaron decided to become a Dietitian.
Throughout school he was very weight loss focused, but there came a time where things started to change. He read Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size, he was supervised by Elyse Resch, he learned about social justice, and eventually found himself where he is now.
Healing His Relationship With Food
Without the Intuitive Eating book, Aaron never would have started down the path he’s on now. He started the book in college, but didn’t ‘get’ it. He didn’t pick it back up again until much later when he heard Elyse Resch speak at a local dietetic event. She articulated the book in such a human way that finally clicked.
The Intuitive Eating book helped Aaron think twice about the food choices he was making, why he was making them, and make changes that felt more comfortable to him. From there, it was a snowball effect.
He continued to learn more about Health At Every Size, what activism looks like, fat acceptance, and the impact of weight stigma. He did the internal work first so he could figure out his own journey with all this and eventually implement it with his clients.
During that time, Aaron was still helping clients with the ‘traditional’ nutrition approach.
If he could go back and apologize to everyone he worked with, he says he would. He was straddling both paradigms until he realized he couldn’t. Even though his intention was good, the impact was harmful.
Once he got off the fence, Aaron hit a point where helping people with weight loss was no longer in alignment with his values, so he quit.
Becoming a Body Trust Provider
Aaron became a Certified Body Trust provider in 2017; he was the second cohort to go through the training. He met the founders Hilary and Dana from a conference he attended, and sparked up a social media friendship with them. When they announced the Body Trust certification, Aaron was on board right away.
Going through the certification was worth every penny. It’s thought out, intentional, has depth, and the way the content presented is amazing. Just as valuable as the education is the community that emerges among the members. All of the Body Trust providers have a similar language and understanding that has been immensely important in Aaron’s professional and personal development.
The certification covers:
- Intuitive Eating
- Health At Every Size
- Feminist theory
- Race work
- Weight stigma
- Fat activism
- Social justice
It makes you think about the intersectionality of all of these topics, which allows you to discuss them with clients. This may not resonate with some clients, but for Aaron, it feels like a necessary conversation to include in this healing.
A Through Line is an acting story that carries you around the entire arc of what you are going through. Having a social justice Through Line is really helpful in healing your relationship with your body, because it’s bigger than you. It takes it that one step further and helps you realize that you’re part of something bigger. It’s not all on you.
Gender And Body Image Healing
We need more narratives in the eating disorder field. There needs to be more people sharing their body story- not just cis-gendered, white, thin, financially privileged men. We need trans, non-binary, people of colour experiences.
In the female narratives, Aaron sees a lot of people talking about body image. We assume that the body image experience will be the same for men, but it’s not. It’s very complex and is highly dependent on the intersections.
There are so many people who identify as men who are having body image issues. They are struggling to be in their bodies, and patriarchy doesn’t serve them either. The thin ideal affects men as well. There’s just no space to talk about it.
When men make their voices heard in this way, they get shot down.
Once they share something about their bodies, they’re open for ridicule, mocking, teasing, and all the rest. It’s not a safe community or a safe topic of conversation. So the men go back to talk about their IPA and what happened in the sports game.
Men are not socialized to have emotional conversations. Folks who have been raised as male are not given that space to exercise that muscle.
We Don’t Need To Change The Narrative
If you search #bodypositivity, you only see thin, white women. It’s not relevant to males. The interesting thing is that the language and wording resonates. We don’t need to change it that much to make body positivity relevant to men. We need to make space for our male clients to share their story, and for us to listen.
In his male-only Body Trust groups, Aaron doesn’t include anything different than he does with his female clients. What he does is provide a safe space for them to say what they need to say. People connect and appreciate hearing another person they identify with share a story that’s similar to theirs; that paves the way for self-compassion.
Addressing The Notion That Diets Don’t Work
Although my ‘viral’ tweet was criticized by some for being too black and white, Aaron unapologetically takes that same approach. Diets don’t work. The 5 percenters may be able to sustain weight loss over 5 years, but he doesn’t consider that ‘working.’ If only 5% of people get a benefit from the blood pressure medication, it’s not going to market. So no, diets don’t work.
People assume that diets don’t work because the person didn’t try hard enough. “I knew what to do, I just didn’t do it…” screw that. Your body is not the problem. You didn’t fail the diet, the diet failed you. Diets are inherently going to fail. It doesn’t have anything to do with you, what program it is, how firmly you stick to it; it’s biology. Your body has mechanisms in place to become obsessed with what you restrict and slow it’s metabolism in response to dieting.
It’s not that your body isn’t working, it’s working perfectly! Your body doing exactly what it’s supposed to. It’s our mindset and our fatphobia that is getting in the way of having a better relationship with food and becoming comfortable in our bodies.
If diets really worked, there would be no fat people. There would be one diet, everyone would go on it, and it would be successful. That’s not how it works.
There’s always been body diversity, and there always will be. The sooner we can wrap our heads around that and embrace it, the better off we will be.
Aaron Flores is a registered dietitian nutritionist based out of Los Angeles, California. With over 10 years of experience, Aaron has worked with eating disorders in a variety of settings. He currently works part-time at Center for Discovery and part-time in his private practice in Calabasas, CA. He is a Certified Body Trust® provider, and his main areas of focus are Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size®.
In his work, Aaron helps individuals learn how to make peace with food and develop body-positive behaviors. His work has been featured during Weight Stigma Awareness Week, in blogs for the National Eating Disorder Information Centre and National Eating Disorder Association.
Aaron is a frequent speaker and has presented at the 2016 and 2017 Binge Eating Disorder Awareness Annual Conference, the 2018 and 2019 International Conference on Eating Disorders and the 2018 Association for Size Diversity and Health Conference. Along with his work with eating disorders, he also is a co-host of the podcast, Dietitians Unplugged.
This post was transcribed and edited by Brittany Allison, Intuitive Eating Counsellor. You can find her on Instagram @thefoodfreedomlife.
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