S1 E28: Body Image & Food Fear While Healing with Fallon


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Amanda: Hey, this is Amanda, women’s health dietitian.
Emily: And I’m Emily, nutritional therapy practitioner.
Amanda: And this is the Are You Menstrual? podcast where we help you navigate the confusing world of women’s hormones and teach you how to have healthy periods.
Emily: Each week we will be diving into a different topic on women’s health and sharing our perspective using nutrition, female physiology, and metabolic health.
Amanda: Our goal is to help you wade through conflicting health information and empower you on your healing journey.
Emily: We hope you enjoy it.

Amanda: In this episode, we are diving deeper into a couple aspects of the healing journey that a lot of women struggle with. And that’s body image and food fear. So after we did Episode 19, where Emily and I are, went really in depth on different hormonal shifts that happened during the healing journey, symptoms that arise, we had a lot of you reaching out and asked us to talk about more, like, body image stuff, weight gain. Why do these changes happen? And just a little bit more insight into, like, what can I do to support myself mentally during this time.

This is a big topic, I want to make sure I did it justice and discuss it in a lot of detail. So that’s why I invited my friend Fallon, she’s @fallondanae on Instagram, to come on and talk about this subject with me. It’s something she talks about a lot. She’s been very transparent with her healing journey. And I just I love the way that she goes into body image, how she has respected her body throughout the healing journey. So we’re gonna dig into all of that.

But a little background on Fallon. She is a mom to three boys, wife to her college sweetheart, and a kitchen creative turned business owner out of Dallas, Texas. She launched Fallon’s Table to help bridge the gap between nutrition, easy kitchen prep, and delicious food. She offers calorie specific meal plans and recipes on her website and loves to walk alongside and encourage women in their pursuit of making peace with their bodies. Fallon has a long history of restrictive dieting and food sensitivities. And she’s really watched her own health journey go from being limited to seven foods to finding vibrancy and food freedom. So thank you so much for being here, Fallon.

Fallon: Of course, I’m so honored.

Amanda: I’m excited to kind of dig in. And I feel like the best place to start is to have you just tell us more about your healing journey, and what you’ve gone through, you know, to really get to where you are today.

Fallon: Yeah, so I was diagnosed with Hashimotos back in 2015. And this was after several years of feeling really off. Like, starting in college I dealt with really bad crippling anxiety, panic attacks, you know, joint pain, terrible digestion, I had started losing my libido as I’d gotten a bit older, I had back pain…. And I’m like, what, 19 at this point, like, I should not be plagued with all of these health issues. And in hindsight, you know, in college, I was way over exercising, I was doing, like, half marathons, working out all the time, had a major lack of nutrition understanding, even though I thought I had a really solid grasp. And then, you know, after the birth of my first two children, my health just sort of continued to spiral. I had my first two kids 18 months apart. I got pregnant when my firstborn was nine months old. And you know at the time, I had no awareness of minerals or what happens in your body when you’re pregnant in terms of, you know, your mineral stores, and I was not aware of, like, nutrients. So it was just, you know, I was kind of, I was kind of coming into this whole scenario already behind.

And then my second son developed really extreme eczema and allergies at, like, two months old. And it was in that same several month time frame that I got my own diagnosis. And so we started diving into this idea of healing through food, more for his sake than for mine actually. And before long, you know, we had really gone full force into sort of the paleo realm and then autoimmune paleo, and we were just on this seemingly endless journey of just cutting food. And it felt like every single week, we were just finding more cuts. You know, we still had symptoms, so in my head it was like, okay, what foods are causing these symptoms, or, you know, toxins or environmental stuff, but mostly it came back to food in my head. And so we just continued to cut more and more things.

We were doing muscle testing at the time and then cutting whatever we couldn’t have. It was a short-term progress honestly. It was like, okay, yeah, we would maybe cut something and then for the next few days, it felt like, oh my gosh, we had this burst of, you know, feeling good or energy or lack of symptoms or whatever it was, but then we always ended up chasing more food sensitivities, you know. It was never the, the long-term answer. And my diet got so limited during that time, I mean, I got down to like 110 pounds, maybe even less than that and I’m 5’5” so, like, that’s a pretty significant amount of weight to drop down to. And I was eating 7-10 foods in several different seasons. You know, at this point, I had cut dairy, gluten, soy, nightshades, coffee, chocolate, eggs, nuts, seeds, legumes, grains, like tons of fruit. I mean, it was just, it was crazy how limited I was. You can imagine I was majorly afraid of food, and I had really severely disordered eating. I was convinced I would never recover.

And then I finally found what’s called the dynamic neural retraining system. It’s like a brain rewiring program to help, you know, sort of calm your limbic system, rewire your brain. So I slowly started doing that and introducing more foods as part of the program. And so I was able to jump from, you know, that seven food range to more of like a paleo, Whole30 style diet for several years. But there was still this hump that I feel like I couldn’t get over. You know, I still had low energy, I still had digestive issues, I still had no food freedom. And I was still having autoimmune flares, like, all the time. I mean, I remember spending most days in the bath by the end of the day, because I just was in so much pain and so tired I couldn’t do anything else besides, you know, take a hot bath and crawl into bed.

And so I finally found the world of metabolic eating and healing about a year and a half ago now. And once I started incorporating, like, really basic principles, you know, eating enough, increasing my carbohydrate intake, I mean, I was super low carb in the world of paleo. I mean, I almost immediately came off my thyroid medication, like, it didn’t even take much—my body was so ready for that nourishment. And then, of course, I started viewing food much differently than I had before. And started shifting from, you know, those black and white food rules to focusing on bioavailability, focusing on nutrient density, and really listening to my body in terms of what it was asking for, instead of, you know, trying to adhere to some list that someone had given me.

So I feel like my journey has been, I mean, really beautiful, honestly, like, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t change any of it. It’s been tough, and we’ve learned a lot over the years. And it’s funny that, you know, how my nutrition philosophies has, have sort of just been on this roller coaster. You know, my husband still laughs that we have dairy in our house, because it was, like, I swore I would never, you know, dairy was just the worst for the longest time in my head. So I love just how far I’ve come and how free I feel around food now. And I love that I get to, you know, talk about that today, because I feel like you’re so encouraging in that light too, Amanda.

Amanda: I feel like everyone gets there eventually. I talk to my dietitian friends, my NTP friends, and it doesn’t even matter if you are working in this space. I feel like even more so if you’re working in the space, you tend to experiment a lot and dive really deep. You read all the books, you try all the different diets, eventually you kind of get to this place where you’re just like, oh, this is all of them. Okay, got it. Like none of this actually works. And this is missing the entire point of health and achieving health. It made me laugh when you said that your husband still laughs that you guys have dairy now. I feel like I can relate to that one.

It can be really hard. You can look back and be super frustrated and think why didn’t I understand food sensitivities better? Like, why didn’t I just support my digestion? Why do I have to keep taking foods away, but it’s, like, you have to get to that place where you basically, you’re at the point where you’re, like, I can’t do this anymore. This is not working, this is crazy, I’m doing the same thing over and over with the same result. And then you’re really willing to branch out, because I feel like a big part of that for you was likely all those fears that you created around food. A lot of people do that when they start to eliminate things and follow different diets—you literally get afraid to consume a food because of what you’ve learned about it. And for you, you, so you got down to like 7-10 foods, you had lost a significant amount of weight…how old were you when all this was happening?

Fallon: I was 24? Maybe not even. I started having kids pretty young so yeah, I mean, I was young. Like, this is really early on in life to be dealing with significant health issues, you know. Feeling, feeling like you can’t eat anything, you can’t, you know, find health. I mean, I was, I was virtually a child still, like, it’s, it’s crazy that I was dealing with all of that at such a young age.

Amanda: Things change, you have more stress and stuff. And you’ve had two kids, one of those kids has health issues. When you were describing that I was like, that’s a lot. Like, you getting the diagnosis, your son having all these issues, and then you just be, like, alright, I guess we’re gonna try to figure all this out. Was that because you weren’t getting the help that you needed from your doctors?

Fallon: It was, it was. I’m sad to say it’s empowering to kind of find the answers yourself—and I have appreciated that journey—but it also is, of course, incredibly frustrating to feel like your practitioners aren’t really listening to you. I remember really insisting with people, I mean, everyone from our primary care physician to, I mean, specialists that we would see, like, dermatologists, that there was a food link here. And I just remember them being like, no, there’s not, there’s just no science to prove that. There’s nothing that suggests that food and, you know, skin health is related. And I’m just like, this is mind blowing to me that there’s not a clear connection here that, I mean, obviously what we put in our body and put on our body is greatly affecting our skin health and our gut health and our immune health. And it feels like every practitioner that I saw, just insisted that that was not actually a link that was proven to be true.

And so finally we just decided to take things into our own hands, because we just were not finding healing for…again, this was all sort of for my son more than for me. I mean, I reaped the benefits of really diving into this. But, you know, as a mom, the worst thing is to watch your baby suffer and to watch your little one suffer with absolutely no answers. And so it was like, yeah, my health is in shambles. But that was on the backburner for me. And so we really dove into all of this because of my son. And, you know, finding his path to health is what put both of us on this path to health. And gave me, I think, the ability and the encouragement to, you know, make choices myself and to be informed and to seek out knowledge and wisdom and research and feel that I have the capability to do that as a parent.

Amanda: Yeah, I can’t even imagine, like, how much that… it’s just difficult and you’re just, like, what else are you going to do? If you can’t get the answers from your doctor, if you have this innate feeling that you’re, like, I know that there’s something deeper going on. I could totally see that driving you to look for those different options and kind of going really deep into the AIP, like, autoimmune paleo world, which is just, like, super restrictive. It just is, I can’t even imagine a kid eating that way. I’m like, your whole family ate this way?

Fallon: We did. We did for so long. It’s really crazy. And now I see. I got an email from an old doctor’s office not long ago, about, you know, snacks, AIP snacks for your kids. And I’m like, but why are these kids on AIP is my question. You know, it’s just crazy. But because we were there, we’ve been there. And I think that, you know, I have to give myself grace, and hopefully others grace, in realizing that sometimes, that’s, that’s the knowledge that you have available. And that’s what we felt like was the best choice at the time. I know better now. And so we’ve changed now, and we’ve seen a lot of improvements because of those changes. But at the time, you know, we, we really thought like, okay, this is the best choice for our family.

And I think that yeah, there was some short-term healing. And I think there was some principles that we learned in that season that we still apply. But yeah, oh, my goodness, I mean, I, my older son, you know, we shifted him from sort of standard American diet to like AIP. And he was, you know, two at the time, so it wasn’t a huge loss. But it’s tough to do that with kids. And it’s not their favorite, you know, kids have a great need for sugar and carbs. And you know, AIP is not super high in those things. So we’ve, we’ve done a lot of shifting over the years in terms of how we feed our children and definitely for the better.

Amanda: I can only imagine. I, just in my mind, I’m like, I can’t imagine getting a toddler to eat that way. Just, you know, eventually they hit that age where they’re just like, nope, I don’t want any of this stuff anymore. My nephew’s in that stage right now. My sister sends, like, a group text. It’s like, another dinner, another night spent trying to make, you know, a bunch of different dinners to see what my toddler will eat. Like, it’s just, and he used to be, like, the best eater ever. So it’s, like, you know, they’re gonna go through phases, but like, wow, AIP with kids, I can’t imagine.

But interesting that you all did it. I think the tricky thing with food is that it’s something we can control. It’s an easy thing to want to adjust and make changes to. And I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. Again, it brought you here. And now your family’s in a place where you guys eat very nourishing foods, don’t have a ton of restriction, and it sounds like you guys have all seen health benefits.

Fallon: Oh, absolutely. The, I mean, my, my middle son that was so sick, still carries a lot of allergies and things that we’re sorting through for him. The amount of allergies he’s lost, and the way his hair has grown, and the way his sleep has regulated, and his mood has regulated. I mean, all of us, I mean, I have an older son who’s had cavities that have been reversed. Like, I mean, all of us are seeing just incredible amounts of healing from this new nourishment path that we’re on.

Amanda: That’s so cool to hear. And one thing, like, obviously, you’re on this journey because your son, and then you kind of benefited, because you were diagnosed with Hashimotos and had your own, like, health struggles at the same time. You’re on the other side of that now, I would say, I don’t know if you would agree. One thing that’s brought you is obviously relief to a lot of your symptoms. But obviously, there’s changes that occur along the way. And one thing that I love that you have such a beautiful way of talking about is how your body has changed throughout your healing journey. It’s easy to talk about how your symptoms have gotten better, you know. Like, oh, my energy is better, I got off my thyroid medication, I have a libido now, like, you know, my period’s more enjoyable, like, all those kinds of things. But it can be really difficult with the body image stuff. So can you talk a little bit more about how you were able to build up that positive mentality toward your body during this time?

Fallon: Yes, I love this conversation so much. And I’m so honored to get to have it on your podcast. This is really so great. So for background, I have gained probably 25-30 pounds over the course of my healing journey. And I was coming from major restriction for, like, half a decade, if not more, so my body needed some major adjustment. You know, not everyone comes from that place. But that’s been my journey. And lately, I’ve really had to learn that, you know, feeling peace with your body is truly a daily choice. It’s not some destination that you just magically arrive at. So for years, I thought that I was super confident and that I didn’t deal with body image. In hindsight, I always just happened to fit a societal mold of thinness, and looking back, you know, my image was always a struggle even when I was like 115 pounds in a size two. You know, there was literally always something that I was critiquing about myself.

And, you know, like you said, what I do have now is energy and food freedom and a recovering libido, and, you know, my hair is strong, my cycles are completely pain-free and, like, on the dot regular. And so my quality of life has changed drastically and while it certainly continues to be tough, you know, to maybe buy new clothes or, like, adapt to sort of a new version of yourself. You know, I, have to remind myself of the life that I’ve gained in the process, because I used to legitimately cry over food and over missing out on experiences. You know, I wasn’t nourished, I wasn’t happy with my relationship with food, and I wasn’t even happy with my body in all honesty, and I think that’s one of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned is that a lack of confidence is hardly ever about our physical bodies.

You know, we want affirmation and acceptance and approval. And so many of us have convinced ourselves that a certain body type is how we receive that. But I’ve learned over the past, you know, year and a half or so, and 25 pounds or so, that nobody’s love or care for me has changed. Like, honestly, my husband probably likes my figure better now. So this pressure to be a certain weight is a completely internal desire and struggle for most of us. You know, the people around us, honestly, don’t care. You know, first of all, they’re probably thinking about themselves mostly anyway. And I think there’s something beautiful about, like, a flawed group of people loving and supporting each other. And, you know, realizing that they’re not alone in the quirks that they have or the struggles that they have. Like, if you spend time with women in person, we all get acne, we all have places on our body that we don’t love, like, no woman just shows up, shows up and is like, I love everything about my physical appearance, like, I just have nailed it, I love every part of it. Like, no woman feels that way.

And so just realizing that, you know, when you are really living life with other women and thinking about how other women view you and how you view them, like—nobody has friendships because of the way that the other person looks. We don’t love people more or less because of the way that they look. It’s something that we’ve put onto ourselves, you know, to fit in some mold when really, like, nobody else really cares. It’s just, it’s this pressure that we’ve put on ourself to meet some standard of either what we used to look like, or what society says we should look like. And it’s just not, I mean, it’s not serving any of us well, you know.

I had to really shift my thinking on weight and weight loss in general. Because, you know, for a while I think, like, most of us assumed more or less that all weight loss is healthy, right. So for years, I equated thinness with health, and I grew up—probably most of us, kind of, in this generational era grew up—surrounded by, like, fat shaming and weight jokes. And not to mention the skinny culture of like the 90s and 2000s. Like, this weight journey of my own is honestly what made me realize how toxic my personal view of weight loss was. You know, I always praised people for it, or judged people by their looks, you know, made judgments on their health based on how they look, commented on, like, celebrities’ body changes, you know. And I felt okay with all that, because I was hiding my own securities in my thin body. But I’m convinced now that it’s just not ever okay to criticize or pass judgment on another woman’s body or make assumptions based on their body in terms of their health. Because, you know, we don’t, we don’t know what people are going through behind closed doors and behind the scenes.

I think there are some people who would probably even question my own level of health, because, like, our culture’s emphasis on thinness is just so prevalent. You know, at this point, I would consider myself probably a mid-size woman, and I don’t think that’s always what people want to envision for a healthy, thriving woman. But we have to acknowledge that even, like, calories in and calories out, is not a 1:1 representation of body weight. And even, like, how often you exercise, like, that’s not a 1:1 representation of weight, you know. Like, I’m stronger now than I’ve ever been, I’m healthier than I’ve ever been, and my body happens to be a bit larger than it’s ever been. And all of those things I think can exist and coincide.

Amanda: There’s so much to unpack there.

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Amanda: Two things you said I want to highlight, because I feel like we need to hear it over and over again. Number one is, like, because I feel like this is probably, I’m guessing, a question you do get a lot is, like, but how do you show up like this for yourself on a regular basis? And like you said it’s a choice. It is a choice every single day. It is not something that you will just automatically believe. Because there’s social media, I mean look at Instagram. You open Instagram and even if you don’t follow people that are like fit influencers or whatever it’s called, personal trainers on Instagram, Instagram models, when you go to your Explore page, you will likely still see that even if you don’t like any of those photos or anything like that—you’re still going to see it. Somehow you’re going to get exposed to it. If we look at TV shows, this is something that I always noticed, it’s very rare that you’re going to see someone that is not thin in a TV show, especially as, like, the main character. And we’re never going to be like 100% happy with our bodies. I mean, maybe eventually. Like you said, like, there’s always that time or like, you look back at a picture, and you’re like, I look so good. But at the time, you did not think that way. And it’s like, you just have to remember that, and our bodies are meant to change.

I think that, you know, so many women are, like, well, I weighed this for, like, a good portion of my life. And that’s, like, my normal weight. I’m like, okay, but that was 10 years ago. So our bodies are going to change as we get older, and that’s, like, totally normal and healthy. It’s a daily practice, I want to emphasize that. And the life that you gained, when you said that I was like, whew, that’s like, very powerful. And something that it’s really easy to overlook, you know, the idea of… I even get women that reach out to me, they’re like, I’m afraid to start eating more, I’m afraid to have more carbohydrates and, like, to really nourish their bodies, because they are afraid of gaining weight. And the question is not, like, will they or will they not gain weight. It’s why do you have such an issue with it? Like, where’s this coming from?

And I think it is a lot of societal pressures. And like you mentioned, those assumptions that people make about people that maybe they are overweight, they are considered fat or obese, and it’s not accurate. Everyone thinks that, like, okay, I’m going to lose this weight and then I’m going to be healthy. That’s maybe even what someone that’s listening to this their doctor might have said that to them. I have so many clients who can’t even get the right lab tests done at the doctor because they’re like, well, that’s not the issue, you need, your weight is the issue. It’s hard both ways, you know, whether you enter this journey as a thin person or you’re entering it, maybe you feel like you don’t have weight that you need to gain. And you might still gain a little bit of weight, or at least not lose any weight in the beginning—it’s going to be hard no matter what. But I think the important point is that you will learn a ton in the process and gain a new appreciation for your body.

Fallon: I have also had to really change my definition of what loving my body means. Because for so long I had this idea that loving our body is focused on our physical body and everything about it. So, you know, the goal is to get to this place where I love my stomach and I love my thighs. And I don’t think that’s the goal, I think the goal is to focus on showing our bodies love. And I think that we’re just not going to achieve our dream body, because the definition of what that is, is constantly changing—individually and then on a societal level. Like, we look at how women’s bodies standards have changed even over the past 40, 50 years. It’s just constantly changing. And then our own kind of view of what we should look like is also constantly changing.

So I think for me, you know, my new goal, instead of getting to a place where I, you know, feel like oh, I love my body, like, I want to get to a place where I feel confident in the choices I’ve made toward nourishment and healing. And honestly, overall, just thinking about my body less. I think that’s more of my end goal than, you know, feeling like, oh, I love everything about my body. Like, I want to be so full of life and so full of pouring into other things, and meaningful things, and, you know, pouring into purpose and passion and, you know, parenting and friendships that, like, my body is not even the first thing that I’m thinking about.

Amanda: That is such a good point. I have a membership for people that have worked with me or for if they’ve gone through my course, and there’s a ton of amazing women in there. They’re just, like, people I’ll be friends with in real life. It’s, like, the coolest thing ever. One of the things that often will get posted about is, like, wait, and I’m like, man, I remember at first when I first started, I’m like, why is this topic coming up so much? Like, who cares, you know. Because I was already in this place where like, my body changed, like, you know, five years ago. So I’m like over it. And I spent my whole life hating my body. And I feel like you get to a point where you’re just like, I don’t have the energy for this anymore.

I really like the concept of body neutrality, where it’s, like, you don’t have to, it’s just like a lot of stuff you’re saying, like, you don’t have to love your body. You just have to respect it. And you want to make choices for your health and for how you feel versus how you’re going to look. And it took me a long time to get there. But at first, I had a really hard time, like, holding space for that kind of a topic. And I think it was just so, like, I’m like, but guys, this doesn’t matter, like, none of this matters. But when you’re in it and you’re in the thick of it and you’re on your healing journey and you’re gaining the weight and you’re just, like, what’s happening to my body and I thought I’m feeling better, so why am I gaining weight? I think it comes back to that association with, like, weight gain and not being healthy and, like, weight loss with being healthy.

So when you were on your healing journey and you did start to, like, gain weight, maybe your body, even just seeing changes in your body. A lot of people don’t even weigh themselves. How did you react to that initially?

Fallon: It was tough, I won’t say that I handled it in the best way. I think it was a battle for me every step of the way. I think once I started shifting the focus from this internal sort of pity party and started actually sharing this message—that was a big turning point for me to really connect with other women who were feeling the same way. And realize that, you know, this needs to be talked about. And I think there’s something about again, shifting that focus from yourself onto others that really helped sort of alleviate that pressure. But it’s been a daily battle honestly to refocus my attention, because I did grow up with really skewed ideas of health. And even worth. You know, I did pageants in high school, I was always praised for my appearance, like, that was kind of the thing that was, like, I just felt like was my identity, you know, that I looked a certain way. And I would, I just, I swore that I would never, like, let myself go or gain weight. And I remember saying, you know, as a teenager, who again, at the time was like, what, 112 pounds, you know, that I would do anything to get weight off if I ever gained it.

And so I have to laugh at the irony of my journey, because I am at a place where I’m larger than I’ve been before. And I, I’m not, like, freaking out or trying to get it back down. I’m, you know, honoring my body and trusting the process. And I think I’ve really had to come to grips with a few things. So I don’t think this is a new concept probably for anyone listening, but, you know, we know that being skinny does not mean that you have a healthy metabolism. Like, I was stick thin m

Amanda Montalvo

Amanda Montalvo is a women's health dietitian who helps women find the root cause of hormone imbalances and regain healthy menstrual cycles.

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