Episode 49

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Published on:

7th May 2024

Why Diet Culture is Bad for Your Heart and Your Mental Health

In this impactful episode of The Heart Chamber Podcast, hosts Eden Morris and Boots Knighton delve into critical heart health issues. They discuss the stark effects of diet culture on heart health, emphasize the importance of tailored nutrition for heart patients, and explore the emotional challenges post-surgery. Eden, a dietitian, shares her personal struggle with sports-related energy deficiency and underscores the need to advocate for comprehensive care in the medical field. They introduce listeners to intuitive eating, emphasizing body respect and mental well-being. This episode provides essential insights into overcoming heart health challenges and embracing a supportive approach to nutrition and body image. Tune in to learn how to nurture your heart and mind.

A Little More About Today's Guest

Eden Morris is a Registered Dietitian (RD), Licensed Dietitian (LD), and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. She is a former collegiate softball player turned mountain biker/skier who decided to become an RD after her diagnosis and experiences with Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (REDs).

She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Texas A&M University and combined it with a Master’s of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics through the Coordinated Program at Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Eden internalized so many of diet culture’s messages as a teenage girl and young woman, and she hit diet rock bottom hard at the end of her collegiate athletic career. 3 stress fractures in her left foot, osteopenia, secondary amenorrhea for 3+ years, and a wrecked relationship with her respective sport were the wake-up calls that finally snapped her out of the diet mentality. She realized she could never go on a restrictive diet again if she wanted a more peaceful relationship with food and her body, especially when she retired from competitive sport. She spent the next decade slowly internalizing Intuitive Eating principles, and now, she will tell you the best thing she has ever done for her health is heal her relationship with food. Eden aims to inspire others to recognize that a fueled body performs better than a starving body in all phases of life. She challenges everyone – in her mountain community and beyond – to not let the fear of food, fear of judgment, or fear toward anything else keep them from leading the lives they’re meant to live. If you ask Eden, the keys to becoming truly fearless are eating more food around our activities, appreciating our bodies for what they allow us to do vs how they look, and moving our bodies in ways we actually enjoy.

https://www.acc.org/Latest-in-Cardiology/Articles/2022/12/20/18/25/CV-Consequences-of-Relative-Energy-Deficiency-in-Sport#:~:text=Relative%20energy%20deficiency%20in%20sport%20(RED%2DS)%20refers%20to,%2C%20immunity%2C%20and%20protein%20synthesis.

How to connect with Eden

Website: www.tetonperformancenutrition.com/links

Instagram: @gardenofeden_rd ; @find.food.freedom

How to connect with Boots

The Heart Chamber - A podcast for heart patients (theheartchamberpodcast.com)

Email: Boots@theheartchamberpodcast.com

Instagram: @theheartchamberpodcast or @boots.knighton

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/boots-knighton

If you enjoyed this episode, take a minute and share it with someone you know who will find value in it as well. You can share directly from this platform or send them to:

The Heart Chamber - A podcast for heart patients (theheartchamberpodcast.com)

Transcript

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Boots Knighton [:

The society we have created in the United States does not support heart health. That was a nugget Eden Morris dropped in this episode of the heart Chamber. Eden and I dive into that and so much more, including how diet culture adversely affects heart health and how it also adversely affects our way of being in the world. This episode hit a little too close to home for me. I often reflect with others on how little guidance I got once I made it to the other side of heart surgery as far as what is okay to eat, what is not, and how to even frame eating as a way of helping fuel my body to heal after open heart Surgery. So much more needs to be done in the nutrition space of supporting heart patients. And I have a feeling this is one of many episodes that Knighton and I are going to record over the years to come. So without further ado, I am so excited and honored and relieved to be bringing you Eden Morris.

Boots Knighton [:

Thank you so much for tuning in. Let's get right to it.

Boots Knighton [:

Welcome to the Heart Chamber, hope, If you are a heart patient, a caregiver, a healthcare provider, a healer, or are just looking for open hearted living, this podcast is for you. To make sure you are in rhythm with the heart chamber, be sure to subscribe or follow wherever you Heart listening to this episode. While you're listening today, think of someone who may appreciate this information. The number one way people learn about a podcast is through a friend. Don't you want to be the reason someone you know gained this heartfelt information? And if you haven't already, follow me on Instagram, 2 different places, at boots.knightonor@theheartchamberpodcast. You can also find me on linked in as well as Facebook. But enough with the directions, without further delay, let's get to this week's episode.

Boots Knighton [:

Eden Morris, thank you so much for saying yes to coming on to the Heart Chamber podcast. I am a big fan of yours on Instagram, and you post the most thought provoking, inspiring, vulnerable reels on embracing our bodies and loving ourselves. I mean, this is at least what I take from Knighton. And you have really educated me on diet culture and how harmful that can be. So I just wanted to have you on today to educate Heart patients on heart health and nutrition. So thank you for saying yes.

Eden Morris [:

Oh, of course. And thank you for that, like, Instagram brag there. I definitely try to toe the line between, like, vulnerable, personal, and educational. And I think that comes from a lot of the things I learned myself. Like, you've learned a lot of things yourself throughout your journey and yeah. But I for those that don't know me, my name is Eden Morris. I am a registered dietitian, a licensed dietitian in the state of Wyoming, and I am also a certified intuitive eating counselor. I'm based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Eden Morris [:

I was a collegiate softball player at Texas A&M University, and now I am a mountain biker and skier. And I decided to become a registered dietitian after my diagnosis with relative energy deficiency in sport, which we will get into for sure. My bachelor's degree is in psychology, and then I decided to combine that with a master's in nutrition. Because for me, all of the disordered things that I believed about food, it started from this mental place, and that's what impacted how I fueled or didn't fuel my body. So I've always been really passionate about that mental overlap with nutrition. I, like so many people, I internalized many diet culture messages growing up from my mom, from the media, from so many sources. And now I feel like it's even harder for girls growing up in this age with social media. At least I feel like I was shielded from that a little bit.

Eden Morris [:

But I hit diet rock bottom and that's kinda what we call it in intuitive eating when you have this moment of, like, I I can't go on a diet again. When I was a senior at Texas A&M, I went for a run around my neighborhood and I had a pretty bad relationship with food and my body. But like a lot of people who lose weight, I was was very much praised for this body that I was in. I ignored a lot of injuries. I ignored a lot of nagging pain. And then my senior year, I just couldn't ignore it anymore. I ended up with 3 stress fractures in my left foot. I had secondary amenorrhea or no period for 3 Heart, And I had a horrible relationship with food and my sport.

Eden Morris [:

I just felt really ruined. And that was the wake up call that like snapped me out of diet mentality. And I realized I just I can't do a diet again if I wanna be healthier. And I think I'm missing something here. I'm think I've got it wrong. I don't know what I need to do differently, but I'm just gonna go find out. And that's when I decided to become a dietitian. I slowly started to internalize intuitive eating principles.

Eden Morris [:

And now I will tell you like the best thing I've ever done for my overall health, mental and physical is heal my relationship with food, is find this more peaceful place with food in my body. And through just being myself, I do aim to inspire others to recognize that a fueled body performs better than a starving or dieting body in all phases of life. I challenge everyone. It doesn't matter who it is. I don't care if they're athletes, non athletes, a mountain person, non mountain person, doesn't matter. I challenge everybody to just let go of the fear of food. Let go of the fear of judgment, the fear towards anything else that's keeping them from leading the life they're meant to live. And if you ask me like the key to becoming truly fearless is just eating more food around our activities, especially appreciating our bodies for what they allow us to do versus how they look and moving our bodies in ways that we actually enjoy.

Eden Morris [:

And I feel like that's a very different approach than you hear a lot of dietitians and doctors promoting right now.

Boots Knighton [:

Wow. Okay. There's so much to unpack. I'm just gonna start with kind of the first thing that came to mind. We Heart patients, open heart surgery patients, have had, you know, a major trauma to the body. And a lot of times, I hear folks I have come on to the program and then in the support groups I'm a part of that the scar down our chest is so much to accept. And I know that that doesn't have to do with weight gain or loss, but, I mean, heart patients have just that extra little hurdle to get over of we've had the physical trauma, and then, obviously, our bodies respond to the trauma. I know me.

Boots Knighton [:

I I I tell people I'm just there's more of me to hug right now. Right? Because and I've really worked on reframing the weight gain from all that my body has been through. But that is just like this extra hurdle of acceptance. It's hard. Yeah. Something I was actually on

Eden Morris [:

a call last week, so with some other therapists as like just a support person on the call. And somebody brought up about feeling uncomfortable leading into the summer, like wearing shorts and their their body just being more on display. And something I thought about a few years ago, like I I mentioned, I picked up mountain biking, but I was a softball player, and I have scars all over my body. And I model locally in Jackson. And there was one photo a couple Heart ago where I almost pointed out like, oh, don't mind the scars on my legs. And then I realized I don't need to apologize for that. These are a part of the story of my body. And now I have some really kind of cool ones from biking.

Eden Morris [:

There's one on the back of my calf before I started wearing. Now I wear pads around my knees. Isn't it so it doesn't matter as much, but, like, it looks like a wolf clawed me. And I'm like, it's kinda cool. Like, so, like, people ask me, like, where'd that come from? And I I think sometimes with scars, the way I reframe it is like, it's a way to tell a story about how I got here. And for heart patients and people who have gone through open heart surgery, that's a major part of your life. And it's a way to connect with other people.

Boots Knighton [:

Yeah. I personally own my scar, and mine looks particularly exciting just because I had 3 thoracic surgeries. And so the top of my scar was cut 3 times, and, I mean, it looks extra exciting. Let's dive into how diet culture can affect the heart. And you raised eyebrows for me when you were proposing different things we could talk about, and I just had no idea how you know, let's talk about what intuitive eating is, the energy deficiency, how all this impacts the heart. Like like I said, so much to unpack here.

Eden Morris [:

I will start with, like I said, that diet rock bottom I had. So at the time, it was 2012, and I just really wanted to understand what the hell happened to my body. Like why were my bones breaking? Why did I believe not having a period was normal? Right? And that was my mom told me that, or we're told that by even gynecologists. Oh, it just means you're fit. You're an athlete. It's fine. That's not true. But the bone part was really interesting to me.

Eden Morris [:

And, when I was becoming a registered dietitian, taking anatomy, like, really learning how the body uses calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium. Those electrolytes are used for your heart for it to keep pumping. So if you do not have enough calcium in your body, if your body I say in your body, your Knighton is your calcium reservoir. But if you're not taking in enough overall energy, enough calories overall, enough calcium overall, your body will take it from your bones to make sure that your muscles can keep contracting, especially if you're an active individual. But even if you're not, your heart is a muscle that is always contracting. So I remember trying to talk to the team doctors about some of these things I was experiencing as an athlete, and I was dismissed because I was young. And I guess if I had a piece of advice for listeners is advocate for yourself no matter what age you are. And if you get dismissed by one doctor and a symptom continues, find somebody else.

Eden Morris [:

Like, do not let yourself be dismissed. Do not let just because you're young, like, don't let people talk down to you about how you're feeling in your body. So a good example there, my sophomore year, I was starting to experience numbness in my extremities and having nerve issues. And I had a really low heart rate. I've always had a low heart rate. I feel like a lot of athletes can relate to that. But one of the things that that can happen with relative energy deficiency in sport is bradycardia, like extreme low heart rate. And I went to the team doctor, and I was like, I'm I'm sleeping at night, and I'm waking up because I can't feel my hands.

Eden Morris [:

I can't I can't feel my feet. And it's not just like they're asleep. It's like it's worse. And they just dismiss you like, well, you're young. It's probably fine. And then separately, I had seen the gynecologist for the team. I was like, my period has been really irregular since I moved here. I'm from Georgia originally.

Eden Morris [:

I moved to Texas to go to school, and there was a lot of stress involved with that. I was a homebody, and eventually they tried to put me on oral contraceptives to regulate my period. And then I just felt miserable, so I went off of it, and then my period just stopped. So like all of these things kind of later on in my senior year, I was like, nobody connected the dots here. And this is a problem. I guess that what I want people to recognize is that when you believe all of diet cultures messaging, you think that being in a thin body is what's healthy and you'll ignore a lot of these other symptoms just because you quote unquote look healthy. And that was what was so interesting when I was diagnosed with all of these issues. Like, when I was in a boot my senior year for those stress fractures, when I was telling people, yeah, I have osteopenia.

Eden Morris [:

They'd be like, well, you look healthy. Like, well, I'm not. I know I look like I am, but I'm not. And the heart issues, like they still exist for me. I mean, I'm in recovery now, but I still like, you know, we live in Jackson and I get cold so easily. It might not even be that cold here. It might be 30 or 40 degrees when we're skiing, and my hands are like ice still. And it's not ray nods.

Eden Morris [:

It's like this it's just a side effect of what happened in my past. And I'm like, this is fun. But at least understanding what happened, I can I have more heating elements Knighton, and I try to take care of it? But the muscle contraction piece with calcium, I think is really important because if you start to recognize you're having bone issues, that also means you're having heart issues that you're not aware of.

Boots Knighton [:

What do you think that's a symptom of? Like, do you think that the the coaches you were working with and the doctors you saw, do you think they just were not educated in that area? I would say it's a multifactorial problem.

Eden Morris [:

First of all, coaches of athletes of any age, your athletes body shapes are none of your business. Please do not make comments about their body shape or size Even if you think it's impacting their performance, making a comment about of an athlete's body is going to impact their performance more in a negative way. So I was a, you know, softball player from age 6 all the way until 22. And the best coaches I had did not make comments about my body. The worst coaches I had made comments about my body. And that is prominent across so many sports. I hear it here. Like I've heard young athletes say that their ski coaches will talk about what they're eating or how they look or, you know, it's prevalent in the rock climbing world.

Eden Morris [:

It's obviously gymnastics, figure skating, these more body centered sports. But, coaches should never be making comments about athletes' bodies, but that was very prevalent at Texas A&M when I was there. That coach is no longer there. She got fired like a decade later. I think sometimes it's so normalized in our society. Right? If you haven't seen somebody in a long time, you'll say, oh, you look so good. We were just so used to hearing that. But what are you reinforcing when you say that? So for me, when I first showed up to Texas a and m my freshman year, I had taken to the strength and conditioning program.

Eden Morris [:

I felt so good in my body. I felt good in my body. It had Chamber. My body composition had changed. It was the first time I had really aggressively trained for something. I mean, when you're in high school playing softball, yeah, I worked out a little bit here and there, but I just got by on talent and, you know, consistency with the sport itself and then training off the field came as I got older. And so my body adapted to that training, and the first thing that my coach and my strength and conditioning coach said was, woah, you just don't look like the athlete we recruited. And it just really messed me up.

Eden Morris [:

And I would say like the other piece of like the medical teams that are treating athletes, I feel like there needs to be very specific training on eating disorders in athletes, on relative energy deficiency in sport, on these warning signs. And we need to make athletes feel welcome, where if they have any of these issues and they need to take a break, if, let's say, if they have secondary amenorrhea and they haven't had a period for a long time, the recommendation is to reduce intense exercise and to eat more and to actually gain weight to help regulate that normal part of being a woman. But if that is the recommendation, we need to make sure that athletes don't feel punished for needing to do that. So I think that you need the medical team and the coaches on the same side, helping athletes feel supported in what's best for their overall health, not their overall performance in that school. If you really care about the athlete, you care about them as a human being, and you wanna make sure that they are healthy when they leave your program.

Boots Knighton [:

I just am in awe of you that you recovered from that and that you are now educating others so that they don't fall victim to lack of education, lack of knowledge. And you're giving someone like myself space and the courage to really look at how I fuel my body. And I broke my leg back in December, and I was really amazed at how much food I needed to consume. And I wasn't educated on that after I broke my leg. I mean and luckily, I'm really intuitive, and I'm very in touch with my body now because I've had to be. And so I really honored the the need to eat twice as much as I normally do, and I just trusted that no matter what weight gain I might experience, that it would come off once my leg was healed enough that I could get active again. That's something we heart patients don't get education around. It's like, how do we care for our hearts? I mean, sure.

Boots Knighton [:

I was told low sodium diet, and I was told heart healthy diet, and they even prescribed that in the hospital. But that was, like, where it ended. There was nothing additional about the role of calcium and magnesium. And can we get into the weeds and, like, really dive in now on those really important nutrients? Like, let's go beyond the typical low sodium, low saturated fat, whatever Heart health stuff, and get into the weeds of this a little more.

Eden Morris [:

Also, that advice could be really bad advice for somebody who's an athlete. Right? If you are low sodium is a thing too. Like if you're sodium, if you have, you know, hyponatremia, that's also a thing. But I've heard that feedback from our medical system here in Jackson, I'm not trying to shit on our medical system here, but that there's not a lot of nutrition follow-up for patients. If they have, let's say they have knee replacement surgery or they Heart hurt, you know, at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, there's no real nutrition education around wound healing, about injury healing. And it's interesting to me because I I know the dietitians there and I'm like, what are you guys doing? But I don't think it's their fault. I I didn't get into this, but I used my first job out of grad school. I worked in the clinical setting.

Eden Morris [:

I worked as an inpatient and outpatient registered dietitian. And if I had a big gripe about our entire medical system, it's that we have prioritized quantity over quality in patient care. And it's, you know, the clinical realm is just overrun. And so what I used to do when I was an inpatient dietitian, you know, you have 15 minutes with a patient, even if they've come out of heart Surgery. I literally had, you know, the cookie cutter nutrition education. And I was like, okay, I got 15 minutes. That is not enough time to go over this with you. So what I'm gonna do, I'm gonna put this in this little folder back here for your, you know, for outpatient education, everything.

Eden Morris [:

And you'll see my hope was that they would see an outpatient dietitian, but I didn't know. Right? I really had no idea. But my goal was actually sit with a patient for 15 minutes and just ask how they were doing to help them feel calmer, to help them feel heard because that's really what's missing in our current medical system. We we're lacking on the care effect of people's health outcomes improve if they feel cared for. But to go back to some of those nitty gritty things you were discussing, like, you know, low sodium and it's just not that helpful. I mean, it's basically cut out all these foods. Right? So you end up increasing the overall stress of somebody mentally because they feel like they come out of the hospital and that they're I can't eat anything. Everything's unhealthy for me.

Eden Morris [:

A critical piece of nutrition I feel like a lot of people are missing is that the overall stress that we're making everybody feel around the eating experience, that actually increases our overall stress in our heart and our body and increases cortisol in our body. And I feel like the way you hear cortisol described now, it's just like, oh my gosh, depends on who you talk to. But what I try to do with my patients or clients, I don't see patients in this inpatient setting anymore. I see clients via Zoom. I see them through Find Food Freedom, which is a virtual private practice. But if I have somebody who has elevated lipid levels or anything else they wanna discuss with heart health, we focus on what they can add each day. So if we're sitting down to breakfast, it's like, can I have more fiber here? So this morning I had, like, an avocado toast. Right? And avocado has some of those heart healthy fats you Heart about.

Eden Morris [:

I put some seeds on top of it. I put some spices on top of it, and it's a great source of fiber. Right? Like, talking about it from that lens. And then somebody else was like, well, eggs are bad for our health. I'm like, it does just depends on who you talk to. And that's what's so hard about nutrition. It just depends. But I'm like, but they also have, like, choline and some other, like, micronutrients, plus they're a great source of protein.

Eden Morris [:

So if you're eating enough overall protein, some unsaturated fats, and, you know, a variety of foods, and you're feeling more at peace with that experience, you're going to improve your heart health because you're going to be calmer in your body. But again, that starts with like, how can I make you feel more at peace with this experience? I don't know if I have time to do it, but I would love to create like a piece of educational content for people coming out of surgery here at Saint John's about nutrition by addition. Okay. You've come through this really stressful event. How can we make you feel like you have more options around you? You have support around you and you can eat in a way to help your body heal. So I'm curious to hear your thoughts about that.

Boots Knighton [:

There were so many great things my heart surgery did for me besides saving my life. That was number 1. But but it it got me to really connect with my inner compass and knowing, like, what should be an absolute hell yes and what should be an absolute not right now or hell no. Right?

Eden Morris [:

I like that with nutrition. It was just because, like, we see so many things. We're like, this is good for you. This is bad for you. Whatever. And I think I'm very good at being, like, I know what's good for me now. And I actually do, but I have a big advantage. Right? But just the training and the the constant education and learning and unlearning of that weight centric model that I was trained in into a more of a weight inclusive model, I know what's best for me.

Eden Morris [:

And that's what that's really great. It's it's kind of nice. But not everybody has that advantage. And nobody I'm not saying everybody needs to go get a degree in psychology and nutrition, but it definitely does help you advocate for yourself to set boundaries with people that you need to even if that is your health provider at times. And, like, a good example there is, like, last Heart, I went for a doctor's appointment. And, actually, this is interesting just because we were talking about secondary amenorrhea. Because of the experience I went through, I will not ever have any kind of birth control that messes with the menstrual cycle itself. So I have chylenia, which is really small.

Eden Morris [:

It's like the hormones that are from that particular IUD are localized just to the uterus. And so I it's fine to me, but I still have a regular cycle. But still, when I go to any doctor appointment, any kind of health appointment, I refuse to be weighed. Like I just refuse. And I know now from everything I've unlearned that they don't actually need my weight for anything. The appointment goes so much better if we never even talk about it. And I feel a lot less stressed. And the nice thing is like, cause I was getting my IUD replaced last year and then they see all the the bone health issues in my chart and, you know, secondary amenorrhea.

Eden Morris [:

Like, if I say, I don't wanna step on the scale because of a I have a history of an eating disorder. It is respected, at least in this town. And it changes the dynamic of an appointment, but I guess I want listeners again to know that you can advocate for yourself if you do not wanna step on that scale. If you were there for something else, let's say you're there for, you know, knee pain or something else, or you're getting your IUD replaced. You're allowed to say, I don't need to be weighed. That has that doesn't apply to what we're doing today. Heart failure medication, they do need your weight to give that medication. And I heard this from Kelly Baxter who is a doctor here in Jackson, another weight inclusive doctor.

Eden Morris [:

She even educated me. She said the 2 times that they could could need to weigh you are 1 if you're pregnant and we wanna see if the baby is growing, and 2, to prescribe heart failure medication. There you go. It's okay.

Boots Knighton [:

Yeah. Because I don't have the privilege of not thinking about my heart. It's been this really interesting duality for me because I get triggered when I weigh myself, and I also have to be mindful of my hypovolemia that I'm struggling with. I'm not in heart failure, thankfully. There's concerns that I might be heading in that direction. And so it's it's a really delicate balance, and I just have really had to learn skills from my therapist on how to hold both realities, you know, as truth. Like, you know, I'm still working on radically accepting my body, and I also have to be mindful of my Heart. And it's like PhD level skills.

Eden Morris [:

I've worked with a therapist for the past 6 years off and on through I moved to Jackson when I was getting divorced. So Anhanyi moved in Jackson. I loved Jackson, wanted to move here. Everything fell apart. I moved here. If there was something, I guess, I even learned through my tumultuous athletic career, there were situations at Texas A&M where I was like, I can't handle this by myself. And I did ask to speak to the team psychologist or therapist. And I'm glad I had the humility then to say, I can't do it by myself.

Eden Morris [:

And I think a lot of athletes don't do that. Like, we'll just suffer in silence for a long time. But that helped me when I was going through just so many just emotional roller coasters and grief and moving here and working with a therapist through that. She's been instrumental in, like you said, the body image piece of, like, what does this number even mean? Like or I'm having trouble accepting this body Heart. Or how long one of the questions she asked me, it just, like, cut me to my core. It was 2 years ago. She was like, how long have you felt ashamed of having larger breasts? And I was like, oh, since I was 14. Really really great if somebody's feeling like you where it's like, I I know that I'm going going to have to be weighed for this purpose, and I want to feel more at peace with that process And not put so much weight on the number.

Eden Morris [:

Oh my gosh. Not pun not intended there. But, you know, I'm working with a therapist to kind of help you with those feelings.

Boots Knighton [:

Yeah. And I talk about therapy a lot on almost every single episode because heart stuff is so heavy and hard, and we've got to normalize seeking help and support. We just have to. And that's a reason why I reached out to you to come on because I know I don't commonly hear people say, oh, I'm working with a dietitian. Circling back, though, to getting back into the weeds, so we talked about calcium. What does magnesium do for us, Heart patients, specifically. Keeps your rhythm healthy in your heart. And a lot of times, if you know let's say that, like, somebody says, oh, I'm taking magnesium.

Boots Knighton [:

My approach there is, like, how can we eat more foods with magnesium in it to

Eden Morris [:

make sure that your heart rhythm is, like, correct or, like, you know, not your regular. But that just it's just interesting to me that it's it's always, if we think, oh, I'm low in this. It's like, what supplement can I take? And I'm always like, well, I was trained this way in my master's degree that the body actually prefers to absorb vitamins and minerals in their most natural source, like in their most natural form. And I say that, I mean I mean bound in food. So if I went to the doctor and they said, oh, you're low in this, I'd be like, well, how can I get this through food first? And I think that is something that people

Boots Knighton [:

need to hear. Your body, like, needs magnesium magnesium to keep your heartbeat regular, if that was that was the simple answer to your question. Well, because I had, another great dietitian on a few, weeks ago, Michelle, and I'll link her episode here too, and she talks about how arrhythmias can be caused by diet issues. And I think about the standard American diet, and that cannot be supportive of appropriate amounts of calcium and magnesium for our hearts.

Eden Morris [:

Yeah. So something I would zoom out there though, and you're not gonna hear very many medical professionals talking about this. I would actually zoom out and think about the social determinants of our health there. So when we talk about the standard American diet, the standard American person, like who is that person? 1, but like so I used to believe those kinds of things too. Like, oh, our diets suck. We're just all unhealthy. But working in the hospital that I did, I worked at the top trauma hospital in Georgia, and we took everybody. Like people off the streets, whatever it is.

Eden Morris [:

It's called Grady Memorial Hospital. It's in downtown Atlanta. And what I realized is that sometimes people didn't have access to fruits and vegetables and fresh fruits and vegetables. And they were it was just they were born into this system that made it almost impossible to be healthy. If you're working, you know, 3, 12 hour shifts, like, several days in a row, and then on top of that, you're trying to eat consistently. And then the only thing you get to eat is something from a fast food restaurant. I would tell you it is better to have something than nothing. And that's what I feel like we need to talk about a little bit more.

Eden Morris [:

The society that we have created does not support our heart health. I feel like the society we have created creates more stress than ever. If you think about sitting in traffic just to go to your job, and then on top of that, you hardly have time to sit down to a lunch to where you can chew your food completely. And then on top of that, you get home, and let's say you have to run your kids to practice and all these other things. Like, it's almost impossible to eat enough. And I think that we've created this society that prioritizes stress unintentionally, and then we demonize the food as the problem. Social determinants of health, that was something I was exposed to when I worked at that hospital in Atlanta, and it showed me that a lot of my patients that were coming to me, even though they had some of these elevated blood markers, they didn't have access to food, they did not have time to cook, they had 3 kids and one you know, it's just I just was like, I'm missing something here. And then on top of that, if we were talking about the care that a lot of these patients were receiving if they were in larger bodies, There was a moment when I was teaching outpatient nutrition classes about heart health, actually, that was the topic in this class, and this was 2015, 15, 2016.

Eden Morris [:

There was a man in the class, and he was black, he was in a larger body, and I liked to structure the class where I was like, I want you to feel like this is a conversation, I'm going to go through the materials together with you, but like if you want to stop me, and you want to talk about something, and he looked at me, and he asked, have you ever weighed over £200? And the answer was no. I actually said to him, no, I have not. And I don't know what it's like to exist in a larger body in this country. And it just, like, shook me to my core, and I've never forgotten it. And I just remember kind of thinking about the kind of care that he probably gets. People probably never even talk to him as a human being. They just probably always tell him to lose weight. And so that actually impacts health outcomes as well.

Eden Morris [:

If you exist in a body where you do not feel cared for, you're going to avoid going to the doctor because you don't want to be discriminated against. And that improves our health outcomes as well. That makes them worse. I've never forgotten that encounter with that patient, and I'm so glad he put me on the spot in front of everyone. He didn't say anything else. He just he just nodded his Heart, and, I mean, that was actually really kind of him. Right? He could have said, then why are you talking to us about this? If you've never been in this place, then how do you even know? He didn't say anything like that. It was interesting.

Eden Morris [:

And I I don't see that kinda compassion and sympathy from our health providers Heart, or even the people in this town, I hear the talk, like if we see somebody in a larger body, like I hear what people say. And it really upsets me as somebody in a thinner body. Like we have tourists from all over the world that come Heart, and the way that people talk about them. I actually have stopped somebody before and said, you know, we don't know what their life is like when they're not here, and they're just here to enjoy this place that we we all love. So I left the job at the hospital. I ended up I was married at the time, and my ex husband took a job at Texas Instruments, so we moved to Dallas. But they were actually starting a program at this hospital. This was also a food desert in the middle of the city, and the reason why was safety.

Eden Morris [:

Like it was it was not safe necessarily to walk to a grocery store. But they were starting a program actually to have a farmer's market inside the hospital, like on the bottom floor, like once a week. And doctors inside the hospital and outpatient doctors in the hospital system could write a prescription for you to go to the farmers market. And actually, I say prescription, I mean, like, you would get free fruits and vegetables from local farmers in the region. I thought that was incredible to kind of combat the food desert that was this sprawling city, but that was unsafe for, and I say this, I worked at a as a after school mentor, and there were children that I would see that if they didn't get a meal at that program, they might not get one because their parents were working. They might not get dinner. But it was incredible to me that the hospital was trying to create programs to help with the food deserts within that city.

Boots Knighton [:

And I just think about the implications on the Heart care system as a whole when we're undernourished as a society and what that does to the load on the health care system, on communities. And I just think about one of the guiding principles of this podcast is I believe that every heart patient and, I mean, I believe every soul. But if we're just gonna think about this podcast and my point of this podcast, I believe that every heart patient has the right to not only survive open heart Surgery, but to thrive post open heart surgery. And I really feel like the medical system just goes far enough to make sure we get on the other side and hopefully survive, and then then they wave us off. And, like, that actually literally happened to me. Like, I had a a 6 week follow-up with my heart surgeon, and he said, you're doing great. And he said, now go live your best life, and he never referred me to cardiac rehab. He didn't tell me how to eat.

Boots Knighton [:

He lifted just like driving restrictions, and then that was that. And I said I remember I pushed back a little. I was like, is that it? Really? You want me to go live my best life? And he's like, yeah. I really actually don't know what to do with you. He's like, I normally only operate on obese people. That's the word he used. And, you know, here I was a skier from Jackson Hole and with a congenital defect. I mean, I baffled the heck out of everybody on the heart floor down in Salt Lake, and that was that.

Boots Knighton [:

I had to figure everything else out myself. Athletes have heart issues.

Eden Morris [:

Like, my brother was friends with a guy who was a cross country runner in high school who died. Like, like, just died on the spot in college, like, running for his college, like cross country team, because he had a heart defect, and they never found it. And sometimes, I don't mean this in a good or a bad way, but like maybe they find heart things in patients who are in larger bodies because they're looking for it a little bit more, and they might dismiss it in thinner bodies Because like, well, they're they look thin, they're probably fine. Right? And that's what that doctor meant. He's like, I don't know. I'm so used to only operating on people in larger bodies. He didn't use that phrasing. I did.

Eden Morris [:

But it's just, that's really frustrating to me. I feel like, again, it's not necessarily the doctor's fault, it is the system we have created to where they do not have time. And I think that's that's not right. I want it to change for sure. I know that it leads to burn out in doctors. Like many of them don't like that system, and they so of them they leave it, and they go do something else. Because they feel like they're not making a difference, and if I had to tell you why I left clinical, I actually quit working completely as a registered dietitian in 2017. I was working at a clinical hospital in Dallas, and I was supposed to be PRN, which means like as needed, and I was hitting overtime hours.

Eden Morris [:

Because I was there at that hospital, it was a smaller regional hospital, so I basically would go in in the morning and assemble meal trays with the food service Heart, and then I would also I would deliver them. I would go see my patients I needed to see, help them assemble lunch again, go deliver lunch, go take meal orders in the afternoon, and then again try to see patients between that time and dinner time. And I was doing that 4 days in a row, and that's me as a clinical dietitian. I was like, my feet were killing me. I was not sleeping well. I felt like I wasn't even, like, making a difference and that's where I left. I was like, I'm I'm not making a difference. I'm seeing people who are frequent flyers who keep coming back to me for diverticulitis or some other issue.

Eden Morris [:

I can't help them here. And so I left. I was like, I picked the wrong career. I got really far away from my why of why I ever Heart, like, wanted to become a dietitian. And at the time, my ex husband was like, you should just quit. Maybe you come back to it one day, but right now, you're burnt out. I felt what you're saying. It's like, I felt like I didn't have time to give to my patients, and yet I was still, like, so burned out and on the floor so long.

Eden Morris [:

And I think you we're seeing this now. I feel I see a lot of nurses leaving the traditional, you know, medical space to go do more like aesthetics and cosmetics because they don't have to work the long hours and they get paid better. Right? So even for myself, like I got back to finally what I wanted to do. I work for a private practice where all I do is nutrition counseling and intuitive eating counseling and body image work, and it's so much more rewarding. But I was stuck in that system of, like, I can't care for the people I want to. And I can't give them the time that they deserve and they need, and that is not my fault.

Boots Knighton [:

I just think of all the patients though that were so lucky to receive your care. It was interesting. Actually, when I quit the chief medical officer

Eden Morris [:

or the chief nursing officer, I told her I was leaving because I didn't feel valued at the hospital by my own, like, dietetic supervisor. I at one point, they're like, well, you need to prove your value. And I'm like, oh, really? K. Well, I'm leaving. Only with the encouragement of my ex husband, chief nursing officer was like, I'm so sorry you felt that way. All of us on the floor, like, she is always here. We see her all the time. We hardly ever see the other dieticians.

Eden Morris [:

And I think it was just interesting to hear that other people valued me beyond my department at the time, But you're right. There were certain patients that I knew their names. I loved them. I, I wanted to help as much as I could and just wanted them to feel heard.

Boots Knighton [:

Yeah. As we start to wind down here, will you educate us on what intuitive eating means?

Eden Morris [:

Intuitive eating is a flexible framework of 10 principles that combine psychology and gentle nutrition to help you find a more peaceful relationship with food in your body. It is not solely focused on nutrition by itself and it is not solely focused on just mental health. It's like this amazing combination. So if you have not heard of intuitive eating before, please do not go off of what you see on social media because even I will try to show people I'm eating less nutrient dense foods at times, but I if I eat nutrient dense foods, this is how I describe food. I don't describe food as good, bad, clean, healthy, unhealthy. You're never gonna hear me use those terms. I use nutrient dense and less nutrient dense, or instead of junk food, I say play food. That's straight from the intuitive eating book.

Eden Morris [:

I got that from Evelyn Tribblee and Elise Resch. Those are the 2 dietitians that came up with this framework in the nineties. But it's the ten principles are I'm gonna do this off the top of my head with nothing in front of me. It's reject the diet mentality, honor your hunger, make peace with food, feel your fullness, cope with your emotions with kindness. Principle 8 is respect your body. Principle 9 is movement, feel the difference. And then finally, principle 10 is honor your health with gentle nutrition. And my 2 favorites out of the intuitive eating framework that do not get enough attention, you know, they would do because I'm always talking about them since you follow me on Instagram, but it's coping with your emotions with kindness and respecting your body, respecting your body where it's at.

Eden Morris [:

And I'm not telling people to love their bodies. I think it's kind of if we've been taught to reject the bodies we're in, that they always need to change to get to this place of I love my body, but this is what my therapist told me a couple Heart ago when I was really having trouble accepting having larger breasts, being in a society where it is uncomfortable as an athlete to have larger breasts. It's hard. It hurts. Right? And I am wearing sports bras that make it hard to breathe at times, or even like you're objectified for that body part. But she looked at me and she said, you do not have to love that. You do not have to love having that body part. You do have to accept it.

Eden Morris [:

You do have to accept it for its functionality and what it is what those are there for. And so what I try to tell people when it comes to your body, if you were to think of like how you love your husband, you're not overwhelmed with love for him all the time. There's this underlying unconditional love towards him. So that's the kind of love that I try to help people find in their body. It's not like this, I love how my body looks. It's like, I love that I still have a body. I love that I have a body that went through heart surgery. I love that I have a body that is still here with me through all the diet culture bullshit I put it through, and I can do my best to respect it by making it comfortable and responding to its basic needs every single day.

Eden Morris [:

So anyway, in a nutshell, that's what intuitive eating is. That's what I help people do. And sometimes I help people eat more around their activities, but usually I have to help them just unpack all the bullshit in their head before we can even get to the nutrition piece.

Boots Knighton [:

I'm gonna include those principles in the show Boots. So, like, listeners can just have them on the ready, because I think that's so profound. I'm hearing how that those principles can help emotionally regulate you, at least for me or emotionally regulate me. I can justify play food like it's snow tomorrow, and I can overly justify it. I'm holding that to be true in one hand and then also being kind to my body. And so I can't justify eating 3 muffins because, first of all, it's just gonna make me feel terrible. For me, the way I'm interpreting this, can I have a little bit of play food and still be kind to my body? Yeah. Absolutely.

Boots Knighton [:

So one

Eden Morris [:

of the things I love to help people with is like, okay. Right now I'm craving a Persephone chocolate chip cookie. Right? And like, what do I want and what can I add to it to make it more physically nourishing? So I like physical and mental nourishment. Like food provides both, right? But it's like, what do I Heart? And what can I add? And that simplifies nutrition a lot for people. So like the easiest thing there is like, okay, I can add like a Ciggies high protein yogurt to that, to where I get to have the fun food and the food that's gonna keep me fuller longer.

Boots Knighton [:

Eden, I feel like we could talk for hours, but how can listeners find you?

Eden Morris [:

You can find me on Instagram at gardenofeden_rd, if you'd like, if you're an Instagram person. If you're not, you can go to my website. It's tetonperformancenutrition.com. I do send out a free weekly newsletter called Pocket Snacks that I love writing for people. It's has a mindset shift. It has a media recommendation, and it has a snack or a recipe, and it's been one of my favorite resources to provide to people. And then I also work for a larger private practice called Find Food Freedom. And you can find them on Instagram at find.food.freedom, and our website find dash food freedom dot com, and we do accept insurance.

Eden Morris [:

So I have some patients and clients that I see that have unlimited coverage. So if you wanna work 1 on 1 with a registered dietitian to kind of work on the things that Boots and I have been talking about in this podcast, you might have a fully covered session with me or 3 sessions or 10 sessions. So you can go to our website and check your benefits, and you can schedule a session with me through that process.

Boots Knighton [:

So great. And I love receiving your newsletter. And I'm very careful about what lands in my inbox because that is also consuming. Right? Like, we can consume food, water, and information. And I have really been very intentional the last few months of curating what fuels my knowledge, and your newsletter is worthy of planning in my inbox. So I just wanna, like, put a special plug in for that.

Eden Morris [:

Thank you. I mean, it's I I told you I've unlearned a lot of things over the past several years, and I share that with people. It's like this book was amazing. This podcast episode was great. Or this song has some soothing lyrics, or this is a recipe I love. Here's how I add more to it. So I think I had the, what do you Heart, what can you add type thing to it? But, like, this week's newsletter, I'm talking about body image during the summer. It's gonna be a topic I feel like a lot of us are navigating over these next couple months.

Eden Morris [:

But, I guess what I want you to know is like a somebody like a stranger in the wild, I would be like, I wonder what story that scar has with it versus judging your body how it looks. I'm more just like, bodies are so cool. If I had a book recommendation for people, it's The Body is Not an Apology by Sonia Renee Taylor. And in that book, she talks about the 3 pieces, piece, like making peace. So make peace with your body, you know, let go of the shame that you feel around your body, like start questioning why you feel ashamed of it. So making peace with your body and which helps you make peace with other bodies. So then you also make peace with difference, making peace with difference in the world. What's interesting for me is I go to a yoga class Knighton.

Eden Morris [:

And 5 years ago, I would have been comparing my body to other people in the room. And now I'm like so grateful for all the different shapes in the room. I'm grateful to see people in different bodies, sizes, and shapes. And it's just like they all have different stories and we're all moving our body in a way that we enjoy. And I think that's beautiful. And then the final piece is making peace with not understanding. That's not easy for people, but, like, as a dietitian, I specialize in certain areas. I'm not meant to know everything about nutrition.

Eden Morris [:

I think the same thing is true for your doctors. Like, they specialize in certain areas and they are more effective when they recognize that they specialize. And there's people that know more about another body system than they do. Like, it's like a cardiologist trying to be a neurologist. It's like they're different things. So, like like, if you can make peace with, I don't need to know it all, I can just be really good at what I know and continue to learn and refer out. It makes you a better provider. And also I think it makes you a more compassionate human being.

Eden Morris [:

So anyway, that book was The Body is Not an Apology by Sonia Renee Taylor.

Boots Knighton [:

Hey, Eden. Thank you so much. And I will have all the things in show notes, and then we will definitely be circling back together. So thanks again for your time today.

Boots Knighton [:

Thank you for sharing a few heartbeats of your day with me today. Please be sure to follow or subscribe to this podcast wherever you Heart listening. You're those stars on Spotify. I read these and your feedback is so encouraging, and it also helps others find this podcast. Also, please feel free to drop me a note at boots@theheartchamberpodcast.com. I truly want to know how you're doing and if this podcast has been a source of hope, inspiration, and healing for you. Again, I am your host, Boots Knighton, and thanks for listening. Be sure to tune in next Tuesday for another episode of The Heart Chamber.

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About the Podcast

The Heart Chamber
Conversations on open-heart surgery from the patients' perspective
**The name of this podcast is changing on June 4, 2024. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss the announcement!** Join Boots Knighton every Tuesday for conversations on open-heart surgery from the patient perspective. Boots explores the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual experiences of surgery with fellow heart patients and health care providers. This podcast aims to help patients feel less overwhelmed so you can get on with living your best life after surgery. You not only deserve to survive open-heart surgery, you deserve to THRIVE!
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