As we nestle into our chairs in a cozy, modern coffee shop and sip on our respective lattes, I can already tell this interview is going to be good. It’s 10:00 am on a dreary Friday in Boulder, CO, but the energy in the cafe is buzzing. Within three minutes of sitting down, Intuitive Eating expert Soshy and I are somehow in deep conversation about communicating your feelings in a relationship. THREE MINUTES! Verdict: Soshy Adelstein is my type of people.
I met Soshy not long after moving to Boulder, CO, and right away I could tell our energies would mesh well. She is intuitive, smart, and has a no-BS approach that I appreciate immensely. (She also has a wicked Brooklyn accent that is so endearing, I sometimes try and steal it.) She is a mom of an impossibly cute 2.5 year old, and recently quit her day job to pursue her dream of being an Intuitive Eating expert and coach.
After 30+ minutes of conversation most people wouldn’t touch on with a friend of 5 years, we settle in and get down to business:
A: I think a basic place to start is: what is Intuitive Eating?
S: So Intuitive Eating is a style of eating that helps you tune into hunger and fullness. It’s about eating when you’re hungry, and stopping when you’re full, eating food that you love and what feels good, and most importantly listening to internal body cues.
A: My understanding, and TBH why I’m a fan, is that it’s more of a lifestyle change than a diet?
S: Exactly. It’s accessible to everyone at any point in their wellness journey. Our purpose to get away from diets and harsh guidelines.
A: So what’s the purpose of Intuitive Eating? Like where did it come from?
S: It’s essentially an answer to the diet culture that is pervasive these days. Diets usually don’t take into account who we are as humans, as a person. They’re good short term fixes, but most women find that they don’t last.
A: They get caught up in the Yoyo dieting?
A: I also feel like we are told things that often oppose one another. Like, one day dairy is the devil, then the next week we’ll hear it’s “okay in small quantities.”
S: Yes! We get so much confusing and conflicting information around diets.
Intuitive eating is about tapping into your own stomach instead of listening to the latest article with advice on what you should be doing with food.
A: So how did you get into “Intuitive Eating”? It’s a relatively new term.
S: I had a fairly normal relationship with food growing up; there was no dieting in the house or anything. My mom took great care in making sure nothing was processed, and we were eating healthily. Then one day at 19, I saw a photo of myself and I wasn’t happy. Couple that with trauma at 17, plus moving out of my house (with no emotional or financial support) at 18 and going to college? A huge shift happened, and all of sudden I found myself stuck in a cycle of dieting and bingeing.
A: Is that a common age for your clients? Early twenties?
S: I would say that it’s a common age where a woman’s journey with disordered eating starts, but I see women of all ages. I think something happens at that age, when you move out of the house you grew up in and go to college or elsewhere. Some sort of maturity shift. I tried my first diet at 19, and for six years I was chronically dieting, bingeing and over-exercising. Over that time, I gained and lost 30 pounds at a time. It equaled probably hundreds of pounds over time.
A: Wow. I think a lot of women can relate to the constant weight fluctuations. So I’m interested to know: when you lost 30 pounds, did you feel differently? Or were you in the same headspace as when you gained 30 pounds too?
S: I felt horrible no matter what I did, but society definitely inherently rewarded me when I was thinner. But on the inside, I felt like garbage.
A: Did it have an effect on you when you would get compliments, or positive feedback on how your body looked?
S: No. Never. The issue wasn’t what others were seeing, or even what I was seeing. It was how I felt on the inside.
A: So you’re in this struggle with yo-yo dieting for six years, then what happens?
S: I broke my ankle when I was 24 and couldn’t exercise, which caused me to become severely depressed. I finally had a conversation with a friend about how I was feeling, and it was then that I realized the past six years were a real issue. I started seeing a therapist, and from there learned about Intuitive Eating. Within 6 months, all of the issues I’d had with eating started to disappear.
A: SIX MONTHS!? That’s crazy.
S: I know. A lot of my clients see improvement in as little as six weeks.
A: What does a typical client struggle with?
S: Anything from binge eating, disordered eating habits, a loss of control around sugar and sweets, emotional eating, restricting, and yo-yo dieting.
Intuitive Eating is for people who have unhealthy relationships with food.
A: Is there a point where you suggest clients seek therapy, or perhaps a more intensive treatment?
S: Absolutely. I help people with disordered eating, not eating disorders. I refer out if I feel it’s necessary.
A: What do you normally say about “bad” food? Like soda, donuts, etc? I can imagine it’s hard to argue against the fact that they are indeed “bad,” considering all the research that’s out on how terrible some ingredients or processed foods are for you.
S: We just have to look at what’s working. Does it actually work to tell people “stop eating this?” The research says no. That’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to help them stop harmful eating habits, not necessarily “harmful” foods.
A: That’s a good approach. It reminds me of “harm reduction” in mental health and substance use: if someone doesn’t want to stop drinking entirely, you ask them: “Can you cut down from drinking five nights a week to only two?” Essentially we’re just trying to reduce the overall harm. So in your case, perhaps you would encourage them to couple a “bad food” with a healthier choice?
S: Yep, that’s exactly what I mean. Our goal would also be to reduce any shame or guilt around consuming foods, and trying to maintain a healthy relationship with any food.
A: I’ve noticed you’ve avoided the term “bad foods,” during our conversation. I’m assuming that’s on purpose?
S: Totally. I don’t want to label foods as good or bad, or black and white. It creates extreme behaviors around food.
I’m interested in helping people eat in a way that feels good. Sometimes that’s a big salad and a small donut, sometimes that’s a small salad and a big donut.
A: OOOOh I like that last part a lot, definitely going to quote you on that.
What can a client expect to gain from working with you?
S: Typically, my clients go through a 6 week or 3 month long program, depending on their needs. We’ll have a consultation over the phone where I learn what’s going on with them and see if my program is a good fit. If we agree to move forward, we’ll have a video session every week, and check in’s throughout the week.
A: Do you incorporate food logs?
S: Yes. I use them to pay attention to how they’re eating, as opposed to what they’re eating. It’s another good data point to use throughout their journey.
A: I noticed that you’re quite vulnerable on your Instagram. Do you feel that this helps potential clients connect with you better?
S: Absolutely. I think the most important piece of it is hope. They’re able to see that I’ve gone through something similar, and I’ve come out on the other side. They need to see that someone has successfully dealt with disordered eating. I write a lot creatively on social media, but when I’m with a client I hold the space for them, it’s not about me.
A: I definitely see where you’re coming from on that. When I was practicing as a therapist, I often found that when I (appropriately and tactfully) revealed something vulnerable about myself, clients really responded. When a client is reminded that we’re all human – even the so-called “experts” – I think it reduces their shame tremendously.
Thank you so much for letting me pick your brain, Soshy. Should we go get that donut now?