Yael has been a refreshing reminder that womxn in the professional health world really are practicing with an inclusive approach. Her work is met with softness and understanding whilst discussing topics around diet culture, body inclusivity, food freedom, and some not so helpful traditional diet beliefs.
Yael is a Certified Co-Active Coach, Integrative Nutritionist, and advocate for Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size. She offers group and one on one coaching programs for womxn looking to build a healthier relationship with their body, whilst also sharing some super helpful tips and reminders online.
On days where my self esteem is low and my old destructive disordered eating behaviours arise, I know that I can read her words and know that I'm not alone. Yael is putting in the work and truly making a positive impact on this planet. I hope her story serves you some inspiration and connection, but also as a reminder that there are more people like Yael out here paving the way to inclusive wellness. I hope you enjoy her story just as much as I did!
Can you tell me a little about your story. What prompted you to take an anti diet/inclusive approach to coaching others to heal their relationship with their bodies? Could you share more about what your programs entail?
My love for food & cooking began at age 12. I pursued this passion to study Dietetics in college and then onto culinary school where I specialized in the nutrition & preparation of plant-based cuisine. I became a personal chef and offered plant-based nutrition consultations and custom meal plans to clients. I lived and breathed the idea of “Food as Medicine”, and everyone who knew me at this point in my life would have strongly associated me with this.
What they didn’t know was that while I was preaching the “Food as Medicine” lifestyle as the key to health and happiness externally, I was deeply suffering internally. I had developed severely disordered eating behaviors and a strict “right & wrong” mentality of food as either medicine or poison. I equated thinness with wellness, and dwelled feverishly on the appearance of my body. In the name of “health”, I had dug myself into a deep hole of anxiety and obsession. Finally, I sought out help, and everything shifted.
I learned to prioritize my mental health just as much as my physical health. I realized that my relationship with food and my body was so much more important than what I put on my plate. I decided that I could never be truly healthy unless I felt at home, empowered, and liberated in my own skin.
My mission now is to empower other womxn to reconnect to their intuition, reclaim their life from endless diets, and redefine their relationships with their bodies so they can experience health on their own terms. I work with my clients to restore trust in their bodies by reconnecting to their hunger cues, cravings, and other internal messages. As my clients start to rediscover the language of their own bodies, they begin to make decisions about food and their health from this place of deep, inner knowing; and finally liberate themselves from toxic propaganda that has taught them otherwise.
What main takeaways have you learned as you’ve unpacked the complex world of diet culture?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned while unpacking diet culture has been that our bodies are so much wiser than we’re ever told. In modern wellness culture, there are millions of opinions and “experts” guaranteeing they know the secret to perfect health. We’ve been mislead to believe we must buy that new product or try that new trend in order to be healthy. What we’re not told is that our bodies possess a deep, inherent wisdom that no fitness influencer, diet promoter, or well-meaning nutrition expert can touch. The only way to access this wealth of knowledge within us is to deeply listen, and be willing to trust what we hear. I encourage my clients to tune out all of the externalized nutrition and health advice they’ve received over the years, which more often than not is really just weight loss advice, and instead tune IN to find the guidance they’ve always sought.
The second biggest lesson I’ve learned unpacking diet culture is that the “thinness equals better” trope – in terms of health, self-acceptance, fulfillment, and all around moral character –is a lie. Diet culture thrives off of this narrative, it’s how they keep us hooked. In reality, it wasn’t until I stopped trying to change my body and began to embrace it with gratitude and acceptance that I salvaged my body image. It wasn’t until I gave up restriction and compulsive exercise that I was able to feel truly healthy and energized in my own skin. Most importantly, it wasn’t until I started to see systemic fatphobia and weight stigma for what it really was – oppression and discrimination – that I was able to undo years of harmful messaging about the body hierarchy. Not only was I then able to appreciate body diversity in the world around me, but I was finally able to feel more at peace within my own changing and expanding body too.
What obstacles have you faced challenging the traditional forms of coaching? (ie: restriction, weight loss goals)
I have received a lot of pushback over the years from critics on Instagram, graduate professors who advocate for the conventional weight-focused approach, and friends and colleagues who are deeply immersed in the Food as Medicine-paradigm that I left behind. The hardest to grapple with though has been the pushback and misunderstanding from my own family. At the end of the day, I know my family is thrilled to see me pursuing my passion but, I don’t always believe that they really get it or understand why this work is so important for me, and, for our culture as a whole. Ironically, I sometimes feel similarly about my family’s acceptance of my queerness, which draws many parallels with my identity as an anti-diet activist and coach.
My dad is a very rational, logical, albeit emotionally sensitive, man who has really struggled with understanding the weight-inclusive approach. Similarly, though I know my mom supports me in the best way she knows how, when I hear her make derogatory comments about her own body or an offhand comment about someone else’s, it definitely stings. The resistance and misunderstanding from my parents in particular has been the hardest for me to accept. Ultimately it takes effort and patience on both ends, mine and my parents, to understand each other, and we have come a long way. I’m constantly striving to be more considerate and compassionate in how I approach this conversation with them, and I know they are doing the same to better understand me too.
You’ve intertwined your queer journey into some of what you share online, would you like to open up more about this?
Yes, my body image journey and my queer journey have been very intertwined. They are both deeply rooted in embracing all parts of who I am through unconditional self-acceptance. Accepting my body as it is has required me to release the need to distort, shrink, or modify it for the approval of others, which has been mirrored in my journey navigating my queerness. For the first few years after I realized I was queer, I tried hard to “figure out” the exact parameters of my identity. I felt that I needed to have some kind of nice, neatly packaged label to present to the world so that I could be fully accepted. It was an agonizing process of self-criticism and judgement as I grappled to find answers to questions that did not even exist. Ultimately, I’ve landed at a place where I feel secure and complete in my identity, and don’t feel the need to prove or justify my queerness to others as I once did. I embrace the uncertainty and fluidity, and I am no longer willing to modify or contort who I am in order to please those around me.
Have you faced any challenges being a queer woman in the health and healing world that you’d like to share?
Something I wish was different in the health and healing world are the heteronormative language and roles often referenced. I wish there were more sex and intimacy therapists out there sharing knowledge and insight from the queer perspective, or that there was more flexibility in the language used to discuss “masculine” and “feminine” divine energies. It feels quite limiting, and hard to relate to, when you don’t see yourself represented in this context.
That being said, I am a cisgender, straight passing, white, able-bodied woman, so for the most part I have not felt significantly excluded from many environments in my life. I am committed to calling out and reforming wellness culture in solidarity with marginalized folks who have not experienced this privilege, and hope that one day the worlds of wellness, spirituality, and health will be safer and more inclusive for all.
If you could share one message to your younger self, what would it be?
Oh gosh – so hard to choose! Really though, the one thing I would tell my younger self is to “know that you know”. It’s all about self-trust. Don’t worry about making the “right” or “wrong” decisions because they don’t exist. Just follow your heart, trust your gut, and learn as much as you can along the way. Be true to yourself, and be that way all the time, so your people can find you. You are absolutely perfect in this moment as you are, and, you’re always evolving into an even more perfect, more true, version of you. Embrace it and ride all the waves.
If you want to stay in touch with Yael, follow her work, or reach out for a consultation, you can connect with her on these platforms: