Book Review: Embody

I recently finished reading the book Embody: Learning to Love Your Unique Body (and Quiet that Critical Inner Voice!).  The book is by Connie Sobczak, co-founder of the non-profit organization The Body Positive.

Embody is a beautiful book, woven with heart-wrenching stories and inspiring quotes, that teaches the five competencies of the Be Body Positive Model.  The competencies are:

  1. Reclaim Health
  2. Practice Intuitive Self-Care
  3. Cultivate Self-Love
  4. Declare Your Own Authentic Beauty
  5. Build Community

I loved this book.  In my experience, the ability to appreciate your body is often a rate-limiting step to rejecting the diet mentality and committing to a Health at Every Size® approach.  I highly recommend this book to anyone with a body!

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Worrying too much about anything – be it calories, salt, cancer or cholesterol – is bad for you.  Loving optimistically, with pleasure, zest and commitment, is good.” – Robert Ornstein, PhD and David Sobel, MD, Healthy Pleasures

“Everything in moderation, including excess.”

“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” – The Buddha

“We are, each and every one of us, a physical miracle… and gratitude is a healing force.”

“Your body allows you to be here on Earth, which is an excellent reason to celebrate it, care for it well, and give it love as often as you possibly can.”

Listen to your body, love your body, and choose to see the beauty in yourself and in others.  You only get one life to live, and one body in which to live it.

See more of my top recommended books.

Health At Every Size and HAES are registered trademarks of the Association for Size Diversity and Health and used with permission.


Why I am adopting a Health at Every Size® approach

After nearly five years, I have decided to leave my job in medical weight management to practice a Health at Every Size® (HAES®) approach.

Here’s why:

Dieting does more harm than good.  Research shows that dieting is more likely to lead to weight gain than weight loss.  A review of 31 weight loss studies found that dieting was ineffective at producing long term weight loss, and one-third to two-thirds of dieters gained more weight than they lost (Mann et al, 2007).  Calorie restriction leads to preoccupation with food, binge eating and weight obsession.

Weight loss messages contribute to weight stigma.  Weight loss messages perpetuate the idea that anyone can lose weight, and that “overweight” people are lazy or lack willpower. In reality, weight is determined by a complex interaction between genes, environment and social influences. Once a set-point weight range is established, the brain works hard to defend it (Sumatran and Proietto, 2013).  Size diversity should be respected and embraced, just like other types of diversity.

Weight loss is not necessary for health improvement.  People who exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, and practice other forms of self-care can improve their health, without losing weight (Matheson et al. 2012; Schaefer and Magnuson, 2014.)

What is HAES?

The Health at Every Size approach emphasizes:

  1. Weight Inclusivity: Accept and respect the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes and reject the idealizing or pathologizing of specific weights.
  2. Health Enhancement: Support health policies that improve and equalize access to information and services, and personal practices that improve human well-being, including attention to individual physical, economic, social, spiritual, emotional, and other needs.
  3. Respectful Care: Acknowledge our biases, and work to end weight discrimination, weight stigma, and weight bias. Provide information and services from an understanding that socio-economic status, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and other identities impact weight stigma, and support environments that address these inequities.
  4. Eating for Well-being: Promote flexible, individualized eating based on hunger, satiety, nutritional needs, and pleasure, rather than any externally regulated eating plan focused on weight control.
  5. Life-Enhancing Movement: Support physical activities that allow people of all sizes, abilities, and interests to engage in enjoyable movement, to the degree that they choose.

My journey to embracing a HAES approach:

Reading Linda Bacon, PhD’s excellent book, Health at Every Size, was the first step that led me to question the weight-centered approach.  But I still needed a few years to fully embrace the approach.  When I finally saw the harm that dieting was causing my clients, I knew it was time for a change.  (Note: I recently re-read this book, and it is awesome.  I have given away at least 10 copies to friends, family and coworkers.  The sequel, Body Respect goes into more depth on HAES and social justice.)

Sandra Aamodt, PhD’s TED talk, Why Dieting Doesn’t Usually Work, was another catalyst behind my decision to embrace a HAES approach.  In this powerful video, Aamodt explains how the brain fights against lasting weight loss.  She recommends mindful eating as an alternative approach to health.

In April, I attended Ditchin’ the Diet: Non-Diet Approaches in Nutrition Education, a seminar hosted by dietitians and university professors Dawn Clifford, PhD, RD and Michelle Neyman Morris, PhD, RD, which furthered my commitment.  These amazing women are teaching HAES curriculum to students at California State University, Chico.  These HAES videos recorded by Clifford are available for anyone to watch.  I wish someone had taught me about the HAES approach when I was in school.

 Tools to support a HAES practice:

Intuitive Eating is a method that is very helpful in supporting a HAES practice of normalized eating. I read the book and completed the Intuitive Eating Pro Skills TeleSeminar series.

Michelle May, MD has also been an influential figure.  Reading her Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat books gave me new ideas and inspiration on how to teach mindful eating skills.

The book Wellness, Not Weight contains a wealth of information and is an amazing resource.  Each chapter is written by a different health expert and backed by dozens of research articles.

The book Beyond a Shadow of a Diet by Judith Matz and Ellen Frankel is another great read for anyone providing counseling services. I love the way they integrate ideas from many experts doing this work.

The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) has published Guidelines for Nutritionists and Dietitians to help us adopt a HAES practice.

I am excited and proud to be taking a stand for Health at Every Size.  If you have questions about HAES, please feel free to send me an email or post in the comments section.

Health At Every Size and HAES are registered trademarks of the Association for Size Diversity and Health and used with permission.

Eat Green for St. Patrick’s Day


Instead of (or in addition to) wearing green and drinking green beer on St. Paddy’s Day, try something new– eating green!  Green vegetables and fruits are some of the most nutrient-rich foods on the planet.

I have recently started eating more greens, with the help of this tasty recipe.  A touch of maple syrup gives a sweetness that offsets the greens’ bitter flavor.

Sweet and Sour Braised Greens


  • 1 bunch of greens (e.g. mustard, kale, collard, swiss chard, or beet greens)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup


  1. Rinse the greens and tear or chop into pieces.
  2. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium.  Add the greens and sauté for one minute.
  3. Add the balsamic vinegar and maple syrup.  Cook for 5 minutes or until the greens have wilted, stirring occasionally.

Want to learn more about the health benefits of greens?  My friend Jenny Westerkamp, RD coauthored a new book: Green Foods for Men.  Congratulations, Jenny!

Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

This is a delicious winter dish.  You can make this a one-pot meal by cooking it in a Dutch oven.  Otherwise, use a large skillet and a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.

Roasted Chicken and Vegetables
Serves 4


8 oz chicken breasts
8 oz chicken thighs
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large onion, sliced
4 small red skinned potatoes, diced into 1 inch pieces
1 cup chopped carrots, 1 inch peices
1 cup chopped celery, 1 inch peices
1 large onion sliced
2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp spices, suggested: thyme, parsley, basil, oregano


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Fill either a skillet or dutch oven with a little bit of oil and sear the chicken breasts and thighs until the outsides are a nice crispy brown.  Remove the chicken and set aside.

Add a little bit more oil to the pan and cook the garlic and onions until they become translucent. Add the chicken broth and spices.  Use a wooden spoon to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Add the potatoes and cook for 10 minutes on medium heat. Add the carrots and celery and cook for another 7 minutes, stirring once in a while.

Place a layer of the vegetabes on the bottom of a baking dish. Add the chicken and the rest of the vegetables on top. Bake for 20 minutes.


Nutrition Facts:
Calories: 330 | Total Fat: 10g | Carbohydrate: 19g | Fiber: 3g | Protein: 40g

With assistance from nutrition intern Stephanie Leung.

Dangerous Diet Traps to Avoid

Mouse_TrapDieting is not a healthful practice and can lead to weight gain in the long run (Mann 2007).  Here are 5 specific diet traps to avoid, and alternatives to try.

Diet Trap #1: “Saving” calories for a party or event

If you under-eat throughout the day to save calories for an event, you will likely arrive very hungry which can lead to overeating.

Instead: On the day of the party, eat balanced meals so you arrive only mildly hungry. At the event, mindfully enjoy a balanced meal. When you have reached comfortable satiety, move on to other activities.

Diet Trap #2: Exercising off extra calories

If you overeat at a meal, don’t try to burn off the calories with extra exercise. Excess physical activity can lead to overtraining injuries, and make exercise feel like a form of punishment.

Instead: If you overeat at a meal, don’t sweat it! Get back to your normal routine, and trust that your body will naturally compensate for the extra calories over the next few days. Exercise regularly for health and enjoyment—not for calorie burning. If overeating occurs frequently, try to find the root cause of the problem. Are you getting enough food/sleep/relaxation?

Diet Trap #3: Eating only fat-free food

Fat is an important nutrient for good health. Eating meals with some fat makes the meal more palatable and satisfying. Fat-free desserts and condiments still contain calories and are usually not any healthier than their full-fat counterparts.

Instead: Include some healthy fats, like nuts and oils, in your diet. Enjoy full-fat versions of your favorite foods, if they taste better to you. Slow down and savor these foods, and you may find that you are satisfied with smaller portions.

Diet Trap #4: Avoiding carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the body and brain’s preferred form of energy. Eat too few carbohydrates, and your body will begin to break down muscle protein to covert it into carbohydrate.

Instead: Include adequate carbohydrates in your diet. Choose mostly nutritious foods containing carbohydrates, such as whole grains, vegetables and fruit. Some carbohydrates can come from “fun foods” like dessert and refined grains.

Diet Trap #5: Ignoring hunger

Hunger is your body’s request for fuel. Ignoring this signal will eventually backfire, and you will become ravenous.

Instead: Listen for your body’s hunger cues and honor them by eating a satisfying, balanced meal or snack.   This basic form of nourishment and self-care is more important (and reflect’s your body’s needs more accurately) than sticking to a prescribed calorie budget.

“Beet” the Day Smoothie

Mixing vegetables into a smoothie is a quick and easy way to get them into your diet. Nitrates in beetroot juice may enhance athletic performance. The nitrates reduce the amount of oxygen your muscles need, giving you more stamina.

Beet vegetable


If your blender isn’t powerful enough to cut through raw beets, roasting them is a great way to soften them and intensify their sweetness. To roast, scrub the beets and dice them into 1/2 inch chunks.  Scatter onto a baking pan and roast for 30 min at 400 degrees F.

“Beet” The Day Smoothie
Serves 1


1/4 cup beets, chopped
1 1/2 cups kale, chopped
1/4 cup diced carrots
1 cup frozen fruit
1 cup non-fat milk
1/4 cup greek yogurt


Put everything into blender. Blend and drink.

Nutritional Facts:

Calories: 300 | Total Fat: 2g | Carbohydrate: 60g | Fiber: 9g | Protein: 15g

Cajun Shrimp Linguine

This hearty, warm dish is a great way to end the day.

Cajun Shrimp Linguine
Serves 4


1/2 pound shrimp, peeled
1 large onion, sliced
4 large zucchini, sliced
1 bell pepper, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch of spinach
3 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning
8 oz linguine noodles
2 cups crushed tomatoes


  1. Prepare pasta according to package.
  2. Sauté garlic and onions in olive oil over medium-high heat until onions turn glassy.
  3. Add bell peppers and zucchini and cook until zucchini turns tender.
  4. Add shrimp and seasoning and cook for 7 minutes until shrimp barely turns pink.
  5. Add the cooked noodles, crushed tomatoes, and spinach. Mix well. Cook until spinach is wilted and serve.


Nutrition Facts per serving:
Calories: 550 | Total Fat: 9g | Carbohydrate: 86g | Fiber: 19g | Protein: 33g

With assistance from nutrition intern Stephanie Leung