Brenda Stephens Bio
"When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers" - Ellyn Satter -
I, Dr. Brenda Stephens, am on a mission to help frustrated dieters, especially heavier women, find their “happy balance” with food. To me, “happy balance” means having confidence that you are eating in a way that meets your nourishment needs in physical, sensual, and even emotional terms. This should include eating foods you enjoy, eating enough of them to feel satisfied, and paying close attention to what your body is telling you. Instead of counting calories and grams and looking for the “perfect diet” to achieve your “perfect weight,” why not focus on living a full and rewarding life in the body you have, and learning to allow food to simply be a source of enjoyable nourishment, rather than stress?
If you’re looking for a nutrition professional who can help you stop yo-yo dieting for good, banish guilt about eating, and learn to eat in a practical way that meets your needs and stabilizes your weight, you’ve come to the right place.
With over 30 years of professional experience in the field of nutrition, including 10 years of teaching nutrition at the college level, I am well qualified to help you develop more confidence in your OWN ability to decide what, when, and how much to eat, based on YOUR individual needs rather than the latest diet craze.
My Path to Becoming a Nutritionist/Dietitian and Choosing My Mission
When I was a very young girl, I loved pretending to be a nurse. I’ve always felt that I was destined to help others in distress. My strong interest in health class in fifth grade added to the evidence that my life purpose might be health-related. When this was coupled with my history of being a teased chubby child, and a teenager who felt obligated to diet constantly to be an “acceptable” size, you can see how my interest became more focused on weight management and nutrition. As for nursing, I once almost fainted when I was watching my sister get blood drawn, so I decided that profession was not for me! When choosing a major in college, I reasoned that nutrition knowledge could apply to my personal life as well as a profession, so a degree in nutrition would serve me well.
My early formal training in nutrition only reinforced my thinking that I needed to restrict my calorie intake to maintain an acceptable weight. Whenever I stopped restricting (like during vacations or just after I got married) I would gain weight. I didn’t realize, at that time, that my dietary restriction was contributing to weight cycling by actually teaching me to ignore my body’s hunger signals on a regular basis. When I finally allowed myself the freedom to eat what I wanted, my body would store all the energy it could (fat) in order to protect itself from future “starvation” (the body’s interpretation of dieting).
Throughout my nutrition career, I have always maintained a keen interest in research about body weight and how it relates to health. I knew that I had not personally experienced the negative consequences that were supposed to be related to weight, in spite of having a weight that was supposedly “unhealthy,” so I knew it was possible to be both “heavy” and healthy. (None of us live forever, though, and age eventually will take its toll on people of all sizes.) By the time I reached age 30, I had come to realize (based on both research and personal experience) that diets rarely work in the long term, and can do more harm than good.
After years of having the scope of my work defined by employers, I am now focusing my energy on doing the work that feels like my true calling. I want to help people learn how to eat well and joyfully WITHOUT focusing on weight. I began this shift when I started blogging for the website More of Me to Love. Now, I post and publicize the blogs of other writers on that website. Having a community to support you is very important when you're making a shift from focusing on weight to focusing on caring for yourself in ways that don’t focus on weight.
What Sets Me Apart?
In current times, there is a growing number of coaches who promote the concept of Health at Every Size® (HAES) and/or the idea of moving away from food restriction. One thing that sets me apart among these coaches is that I have believed in these principles for around 30 years now, and I have lived in a fat body for even more years than that.
In addition to actually LIVING the principles of accepting myself as I am and sticking to my research-based belief that dieting usually does more harm that good, I have years of formal training in nutrition (Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD) from accredited state universities (LSU and University of Tennessee).
I have also received training from Ellyn Satter, one of the pioneers of the “non-dieting” philosophy. I actually completed her training on “Treating the Dieting Casualty” a number of years ago, have been reading her updates ever since, and recently engaged in one on one training with a faculty member from the Ellyn Satter Institute.
Alignment with Other Professionals
From the moment I started reading Satter’s first book (Child of Mine) I strongly identified with her extremely practical yet scientifically grounded approach to nutrition. Although much of Satter’s work has been with the development of a relationship with food in early childhood, this work inevitably involves working with parents on their own relationship with food, and she has developed an overall approach to adult eating that applies to the single adult as well as to parents raising children.
My professional affiliations also include the Association for Size Diversity and Health, which is the organization that copyrighted the term Health at Every Size®. Although Linda Bacon is a prominent leader in the area of HAES®, my philosophy about eating itself is more aligned with Ellyn Satter.
I also identify strongly with the writing of Ragen Chastain. Like Ragen, I believe that nobody is obligated to pursue health, and that worthiness of respect should not be attached to health or body size. I want to support individuals who long to make peace with food and weight, whether or not they want to include the pursuit of improved health along with that goal.
That said, I believe the path to making peace with food and your body includes recognizing the value of enjoying eating and being attuned and responsive to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. That path most likely will lead to improved health.
Let’s Have a Chat
I know very well how it feels to be fat in a world that idealizes thinness. It’s stressful, to say the least, and stress can really wreak havoc with our eating and our health. Learning how to eat in a way that is practical and nourishing (physically as well as emotionally) can help to reduce a lot of that stress. When you feel confident in how you’re eating, it frees up energy to live your life more fully, joyfully, and peacefully.
Do you want to find your peaceful place with food? That’s what I mean by “happy balance” – a way of eating that feels good to you – satisfying, nourishing, and free of guilt about eating foods that really appeal to you. It would be my pleasure to guide you toward this goal. Let’s have a conversation about how we can work together. Make an appointment now to have a brief, complimentary chat with me about how I can help you.