Why I’m a Body-Positive Running Coach (and Dietitian)

I identify as a weight-neutral, or body-positive dietitian. I don’t prescribe, or believe in diets (which seems to garner a lot of questions), and try to help other dietitians and dietetic interns adopt this approach to their nutrition practice. But until this week, I hadn’t thought about how these philosophies translate to my run coaching. Now I know: I’m most definitely a body-positive running coach–which was pointed out to me by one of our Fit Fueling participants, interested in working toward some new running goals.

What is an Anti-Diet Dietitian?

Pro tip for my fellow coaches and RDs: Always ask how someone finds your services/website. Anne suggested this, and I’ve found it SO helpful in connecting with clients. I don’t pour money into acquisition channels or ads or anything of the sort (because as of now, I’m mostly pouring money into this). I do put time and energy into writing regularly, sharing #realtalk moments, and chatting with other RDs. It’s nice to know which of those resonate with you, as a potentially new client.

This week, on a introduction call to talk about run coaching services, I asked my usual, “How did you find me?” The response was, “I searched ‘Body-Positive Running Coach’.” And damn, I love that. I love that this person thought to search for exactly what they needed, and that I popped up.  

Many thanks to whatever Google/internet algorithm put that together and pointed out something I hadn’t thought necessary to say: I’m a body-positive running coach, because your body is your own and your health isn’t mine to manipulate.  

We talked about this person’s previous experience with a running coach—one who thought everyone should follow a Ketogenic diet. (False.) We talked about health, and running progress, and goals. I learned why it was important for me to be a body-positive, or weight-neutral, running coach.

In the general questionnaire for my running clients, I have a few queries that are optional–weight is one of them. It’s only relevant if this number has changed drastically in the past few years, in either direction. Even then, I may not need to know. All I really need to know is what the client wants—what they need from me, how I can help, what goals they have, where their fitness level is now and where they want it to be; their personality type and how that translates to our coaching relationship.

I know many coaches out there are concerned about their clients’ weight.

I understand the misconception, because diet culture and “race weights” and all that jazz. I also understand being concerned if a client’s weight drastically changes while you’re working with them (in either direction). But what should be clear is a coach’s scope of practice. A certified running (or swimming, or triathlon, or USATF) coach is not taught (enough) about nutrition or health care practices. Unless they are otherwise certified—e.g. a registered dietitian—addressing weight and nutrition is not appropriate.

And sure, someone may decide that they want to pick up running for weight loss—I hear that all the time. And running publications can’t help themselves, capitalizing on (and reinforcing) this trend left and right.

Sure, everyone is allowed to have their own health and fitness goals. But coaches aren’t allowed to classify themselves as weight and health experts because of their personal beliefs. Clients shouldn’t be subjected to weight or health scrutiny by someone who isn’t qualified to assess this, much less to provide diet or weight recommendations.

I see this with elite and hobby athletes alike.

It’s part of why the Female Athlete Triad and RED-S are so prevalent in athletics at all levels (for women and men, respectively). I’ve read stories and surveys of coaches who have no idea that it’s unhealthy for a woman to skip one (or many) period(s), or not menstruate during teenage years. Even coming in 5th place at the NYC marathon doesn’t make you immune to body judgment by those who think “fast” runners should look at certain way. And you don’t have to be a competitive, or elite, “athlete” to be at risk for the Triad.

body-positive running coach

My job as your coach—nutrition or running—is not to manipulate how you look.

My job is to help you work toward YOUR goals, teach you what I know when you’re ready to learn, guide you through challenges, and motivate you to grow. My job is to figure out what training plan or nutrition path works for you, using a combination of my education, knowledge, compassion, and intuition. A big part of my job is to respect you. And another part of my job is to know where my expertise ends, and someone else’s begins (it’s called a “referral”; massage therapists, physicians, reproductive specialists, physical therapists, etc.). 

Tune into Episode 42 of the RD Real Talk podcast, where I talk about the difference between coaching, counseling, and education with Corinne Dobbas, MS RD.

I’m a body-positive, weight-neutral running coach and dietitian.

If that’s what you need, many of us exist.


If you want to work together for run coaching, get started here.

If you want to work together for nutrition, fill out this form.

If you’re an active woman looking to learn more about mindful and intuitive eating for sports nutrition, sign up here (our next class starts in the new year, on January 8).

If you need or want to chat, or have questions (as a coach or athlete) about anything mentioned above, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Comments

  1. December 8, 2017

    I love this so much, Heather – thank you for writing it and putting this out into the world for others (who might not have the magic Google word search combination) to find.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be made public.