Britt Reuter, MS: Hi to everyone who’s joining us. This is another Conversations with Women in Wellness where I get to introduce all of you to a female professional with a heart to serve others and talk a little bit about what it is that they do, who they support, and what resources they may have available for you to explore. I’m Britt Reuter and I’m a Functional Medicine Nutritionist, serving women experiencing gut issues, hormone imbalances, and autoimmunity. I run an online virtual clinic from my home in the Boston area. If you want to learn more about me and what it is that I do, you can visit my website www.brittreuter.com or find me on Facebook or Instagram @nutritionbritt.
Today my guest is my friend and colleague Annette Sloan. Annette is a life coach for sensitive souls specializing in Food Freedom Coaching, General Life Coaching, And Surrender Coaching for Solopreneurs. In all three areas she helps sensitive women and men to get rooted and resilient so they can transform their challenges with courage, consciousness, and compassion. Annette has a bachelor’s degree in Human Communication from the University of Denver and a coaching certification from The Institute for The Psychology of Eating. She’s based in Colorado, but she works with clients all over the world one on one and through her virtual book club, You Are The One You’ve Been Waiting For.
Thanks so much for joining me here today, Annette!
Annette Sloan: Thank you so much! I’m glad to be here.
Britt Reuter, MS: I’m so excited to share the work that you do with my clients and I know that we’re going to have a great conversation today. I’d love it if we can start things off with you sharing what it is that you do as a life coach and who you’re most passionate about helping.
What Is It That You Do As A Life Coach And Who Are You Most Passionate About Helping?
Annette Sloan: Over time, I’ve become more and more refined in knowing who I love helping the most and who I’m best at helping. Where it really is right now is sensitive souls. I’ve been in this business now for almost five years and I started out with the food freedom coaching being my main thing. Over time as I did that I started to realize, “Well, the food and body challenges are just a doorway into life challenges, into not being rooted and connected with ourselves, and with this invitation to develop more resiliency skills so that we can show up in our lives with more courage and consciousness and compassion.” So, recently I rebranded my business just about a month ago as Life Coaching For Sensitive Souls, and I’m still doing the Food Freedom Coaching, but along the way, I also brought the brand up to date with what I’ve been doing. The Surrender Coaching For Solopreneurs is something thing that has been happening because helpers and healers and other kind of heart-centered spiritually based coaches were approaching me and asking like, “I’ve seen you share some stuff about your journey and building your business in this very non-traditional way. Will you help me with that?” And then also the life coaching it just kind of fits right in there. When people are feeling stuck or lost or kind of tired of their own BS and feel like they can’t get out of their own way. All three of them, although they seem different, they’re really doorways into the same inner work of getting rooted and resilient.
Britt Reuter, MS: I can totally see how it isn’t so much bucketed. It’s a lot of crosstalk between all those different areas.
Annette Sloan: Right, yeah.
Britt Reuter, MS: You’re pretty open about being a sensitive person and you describe how you used to use food as a way to buffer tough emotions. What were some of the first steps that you took in learning to sit with these feelings versus managing them with food?
What Were Some Of The First Steps That You Took In Learning To Sit With Tough Feelings Versus Managing Them With Food?
Annette Sloan: I think that’s a great question, and I really had to think about it. Because you sent me the question in advance and I was like, “Well…”, because I have changed so much. Back when I was really struggling with emotional eating and binge eating, I had no consciousness or awareness, really. But that’s what I was doing. I was eating because I didn’t know how to feel tough feelings. I just knew that sometimes this overwhelming urge to eat a lot of food as quickly as possible, to inhale it until I was in like a food coma state, would just come over me and I hated it. I hated myself when I was doing it, and yet I couldn’t stop. It was like something would take over. I felt out of control.
It took a while. It took sort of the realization of two things that helped me to get to that first step which I think was developing self-compassion. And one part was realizing I had this identity back in college and my early 20s that I wanted to be a perfect healthy eater. I had ideas about, “Okay, that means I follow these food rules, and that means also exercise in this way, and I just want to be that girl that everybody looks at and thinks like, ‘Wow, she’s got it together, she’s so healthy.’” I kind of did a good job in a way because a lot of people saw me that way. Because, in my head, I had this idea that somehow that would make me worthier in the eyes of the world. Because that’s the message that our world tends to put out there and I bought into it. I realized that like, “Oh, actually my perfect healthy eating, all my rules and stuff, mean that I’m restricting my food intake”. When I learned that binge eating is a natural, expected response to food restriction that helped a lot because it wasn’t just something that was wrong with me. It was my biology and my psychology trying to balance out the restriction that I was doing. So that helped me to develop self-compassion. And then so did the awareness when I started to realize like, “Oh. I’m just a sensitive person, a sensitive soul who hasn’t quite figured out how to navigate this world, who doesn’t quite have the toolkit yet to be in this really messy world, in an always healthy way.” Then I was like, “Oh, wait. I’m actually just trying to do something kind for myself in those moments when I’m turning to food as a way to sit with myself.” That realization also helped me to develop that self-compassion because it’s like, “Oh, you’re not just this out of control monster. There’s a part of you that just wants to make you feel better, and then there’s also this other part that is trying to balance out this imbalance that you’ve created.” The realization of both of those things helped me to release so much of the shame that I was carrying around which made space for self-compassion and also made space for me to start to feel all those tough feelings that I couldn’t feel before because I was just so weighed down and so overtaken by shame all the time.
“..sometimes this overwhelming urge to eat a lot of food as quickly as possible, to inhale it until I was in like a food coma state, would just come over me and I hated it. I hated myself when I was doing it, and yet I couldn’t stop. It was like something would take over. I felt out of control.”
Britt Reuter, MS: I hear you say that it’s almost like breaking down that resistance and the judgment that you carry towards those feelings by validating, “When I do this, it’s only natural that my reaction be to binge. It’s only normal.” Kind of validating that and releasing the judgment which then led you to self-compassion.
Annette Sloan: Mmhmm. Yeah, that’s a great summary.
Britt Reuter, MS: I think that from the women that I work with, and friends of mine, and just my own experience being a woman the pressure to conform to society’s standards is a very toxic and rampant culture. It’s something that I think every woman listening to this is going to be able to understand, so I just really appreciate you being so vulnerable and sharing that with all of us. Like I said, everyone’s going to be nodding their head along with us, “Like, yes! That’s my story, too.”
Annette Sloan: Yeah, yeah. It’s so freeing when we start to realize, “Oh, but it’s not my story because something was wrong with me. It’s because ever since I was born the world has been telling me, ‘Well, you’re supposed to be pretty and you’re supposed to be thin, and that’s your job. Make yourself those things.’”
Britt Reuter, MS: I love somewhere on social media I saw that “the greatest act of rebellion is to just love yourself” which I love because it’s fun to be rebellious sometimes, but we don’t think about that in the radical self-acceptance light like you’re talking about.
Annette Sloan: Yes, yeah.
Britt Reuter, MS: I’ve been following your work for a while, a couple of years, and I know that you talk a lot about intuition. How would you define intuition and how do you think that women can begin to reconnect with theirs?
How Would You Define Intuition And How Do You Think That Women Can Begin To Reconnect With Theirs?
Annette Sloan: Well, I think intuition, there’s so many ways to see it. But it’s the gut feeling, it’s the inner knowing. Maybe it’s the greater consciousness, maybe it’s the voice of the universe, or God. There’re so many ways to see it, depending on our perspective and our faith and spirituality. But I think at the end of the day, it’s something that we all have. Many of us in our culture are really disconnected from it because it’s this thing that arises when we’re sort of a relaxed like a parasympathetic nervous system state, when we’re in our right brain. Both of those things are not things that our culture makes a priority or encourages us to do. We’re so left brain dominant and there’s such an imbalance there. We’re always off and running in the sympathetic nervous system. It’s like we can’t slow down to hear it. But when we do, when we start to realize all this way of life and running and stressed all the time and trying to do everything by facts and logic, like I think life starts to show us.
We can call it our intuition or something else, but whether it’s just feeling unhappy or unfulfilled, or whether it’s certain areas of our life, like professionally, or a relationship or whatever, it may be just kind of blowing up. It’s like it’s the world showing us, the universe showing us like, “Hey, there’s something to pay attention to here. There’s a way here in which you’re not following your knowing, you’re not in alignment with your true-self.” It’s nothing to judge, nothing that we’re doing wrong, but just something that “Oh, ok. Maybe I want to look at this differently, get curious about it.” I think sometimes we have to take that path of torment, especially if we’re just really not tuned in. The universe loves us enough to be like, “Okay, well, if you’re not going to pay attention to these little nudges, I’ll show you in a bigger way, because I want you to get the message.” But, if we are aware enough to hopefully not let it get to that state, then I think the path to tapping into your intuition more is practices like yoga and meditation. It can seem a little overwhelming if we’re really not used to quieting the mind. So then I would say even just the smallest things like let’s not think straight to like, “Okay, how do I get quiet enough to hear my intuition?”, but what if we take the middle step of, “How do I connect with my body?”. As we start to do that, as we start to take a few deep breaths throughout the day, or as we start to eat more mindfully, or just stretch a couple times a day, or even the smallest of things, when we start to feel into our body presence, instead of just being so present in the mind all the time, I think that also smooths the way to get in touch with our intuition.
“The universe loves us enough to be like, ‘Okay, well, if you’re not going to pay attention to these little nudges, I’ll show you in a bigger way, because I want you to get the message.’”
Britt Reuter, MS: That’s just such a practical way to break it down. Because it can seem really intimidating, something as abstract as intuition. For a lot of us that are kind of stuck in the left brain, you just want a really clear roadmap like, “Just tell me the steps and then I’ll do it.” I like your idea of having that middle ground and just reconnecting with your body and starting there. It’s so approachable the way that you laid it out.
Annette Sloan: Yeah, I’m glad.
Britt Reuter, MS: It sounds like a lot of the work that you do is so needed because of the pressures that just society in general and maybe like the beauty industry and health and wellness industry possibly put on women. What would you say is one thing that women who are listening to this conversation can do today to resist the constant pressure that the diet and beauty industry puts upon them to feel less than?
What Would You Say Is One Thing That Women Can Do Today To Resist The Constant Pressure That The Diet And Beauty Industry Puts Upon Them To Feel Less Than?
Annette Sloan: I think that’s such an important question and the biggest thing we can do is really educate ourselves about what’s happening and how these diet and beauty and wellness and health industries often also are the billion-dollar industries. They’re using the most sophisticated psychology tactics that that exists, right? They have big teams that they can find the most effective way to get into people’s heads to get them to believe that they’re not good enough so they will buy a product. It’s when we really start to understand that’s what is going on, one it probably makes us angry, but two it starts to free us because we’re like, “Oh, right. I am a product of my culture and my conditioning. But that’s, that’s not really me.” And then we’re like, “Okay, so there’s nothing wrong with me.” That’s not like a ‘one and done’ kind of thing, but it’s just levels of starting to understand more and more how prevalent it is and it becomes really empowering and freeing. I like specific, action steps too. So, in terms of how to do that, have you seen the documentary Embrace?
Britt Reuter, MS: I have not. No. I’ve been wanting to watch it.
Annette Sloan: Highly recommend. It’s on Netflix. It’s this powerful documentary about body image and about the beauty industry and weight and all the expectations on women. That’s one very practical, easy thing to do to start to educate yourself on this world. The book Health at Every Size, have you read it?
Britt Reuter, MS: Yes, I think that you had shared it. Is it in your book club?
Annette Sloan: Yes. That one is by Dr. Linda Bacon and it really goes into all of the stuff. It’s making me mad now. I think Dr. Bacon was working on her PhD about body BMI and those sorts of things. One day she’s working on her PhD, she’s super immersed in all of the research, and then one day, she wakes up and she sees the news that all of a sudden, they changed the limits and they’ve made the BMI measurements for healthy weight and overweight and obese, they’ve lowered them all. So, a whole bunch of Americans went to bed one night, and they were considered in the normal weight or weight range, and then they wake up the next day, and the numbers have changed. All of a sudden they’re overweight, right? She started to dig and eventually came to realize like, “Well, the science doesn’t support those numbers changing.” What was happening was that there was an industry behind it, a pharmaceutical industry that runs one of the obesity associations that was a big contributor to their money, and there was some encouragement there to change the numbers because if more people believe there’s something wrong with their body and that they’re overweight or obese then they will go looking for solutions for that. The company makes money, right?
Britt Reuter, MS: Yeah, and just how profit driven that is. It’s not out of care or compassion or concern, for those individuals because, like you pointed out, they went to bed and they’re healthy and they wake up and all of a sudden, they’re no longer what’s considered to be healthy. Yeah, it’s really sad I agree. Every time I think about those things I feel that sense of indignation and anger well up. It’s not just how it impacts you as a woman in society, but the positions that we’re in, we have so much compassion and empathy and sympathy for the clients that we support and just seeing how these toxic images impact them, it’s kind of a whole different layer of anger.
Annette Sloan: Yeah.
Britt Reuter, MS: You just want to be protective.
Annette Sloan: Yeah. It’s not just beauty and diet industry too, but it’s the medical industry. Most doctors have no idea how to have a healthy conversation with patients around nutrition. First of all, they don’t know a lot about nutrition in general and there’s no awareness of this whole relationship with the food piece. There’re so many stories of doctors shaming patients and the way they talk to them about food and weight and diet that causes so much harm. Yet doctors are seen as the expert’s people are supposed to listen to.
Britt Reuter, MS: Right. That reminds me of an example. Recently I was working with a client who was told by her doctor, “The next time I see you I want you to weigh 20 pounds less.” That was just so hurtful to her and so disempowering and I saw a woman who felt like at first before that appointment, “There’s so much that I can do to love for and care for my body. I want to nourish it with these healing foods and love myself and do things that I enjoy. Take fitness classes that I enjoy or spend time walking with friends that I love.” After that toxic conversation with her health care provider you could see just how out of sync that threw her and how much work it ultimately took her to get back into that place where it’s like, “I can love my body at any size or any weight, and I’m going to continue to do these things to honor and show respect for my body.” It was really frustrating for me to see her in that way and I’m sure you’ve heard those stories many times.
Annette Sloan: Do you find that people come to you after being frustrated with doctors in terms of conversations with them about nutrition?
Britt Reuter, MS: All the time! I’d say that most of that has to do with the lack of specificity in their feedback. Just that one example it was, “Go lose weight through whatever means necessary”, was the implication. Weight loss itself isn’t something that I help clients with because weight isn’t really the issue. We could talk about something more productive, more actionable like, “Let’s reduce inflammation. Let’s improve gut health. Let’s improve heart health and look at a cholesterol panel.” Those things are just more actionable. I think that always positioning clients to take action out of love, instead of fear like, “What can I do to show love for my body and reduce fear of whatever (rejection or fear of the certain foods).” Maybe in this case, this client of mine, maybe her doctor made her feel fearful about her weight. I do see that a lot and I think women are ready for the conversation to change and for it to be more actionable, for it to be healthier, less toxic. All that judgment I think does inspire that self-talk that a lot of us struggle with and then the guilt that we feel for all of the negative thoughts that we think about ourselves. Just like you said, where if we took a step back, we would see that those thoughts were fed to us by an industry that profits off of a lack of self-esteem. I agree and the natural response is to be pretty angry.
Annette Sloan: Yeah and that’s healthy, you know. That’s a cool, a freeing realization to have and then if we can let that anger be a fire under us that then helps us not only to be like, “Okay, now I’m really motivated to learn to love myself so I can say, ‘Hey, screw you system!’” Then it starts to spread, there’s a ripple effect which is really exciting.
Britt Reuter, MS: Yeah. I think that anger is healthy. It’s good to feel that indignation and it is a higher energy state then feeling apathetic or a lack of empowerment. It’s kind of like on your way to taking action and I think maybe in society as women we’re told that we shouldn’t be angry, but I think it’s okay.
Annette Sloan: Yeah, that’s definitely another thing I’ve worked on in my own journey. I had that internalized belief too like, “I should just be quiet and peaceful.” The past couple years I’ve really turned towards recognizing the anger that existed in my body and in my psyche and like “It’s okay I can bring it up I can release it. I can let people know when I’m angry.”
Britt Reuter, MS: It’s all part of all part of that journey, embracing the emotions that we feel and like trying to understand them.
Annette Sloan: Yeah. Going back to your question, actionable strategies for resisting the system. The documentary Embrace, reading the book Health at Every Size, and then I also recommend clearing out your social media feeds (if you’re on social media a lot) of anything related to the diet or beauty industry, anything when you’re scrolling and you notice that twinge of “not good enough”, or “I wish I looked like her”, or “I should blah blah, blah”, and replacing it with body positive accounts, health at every size accounts, bodies of all sizes and shapes and colors that are presented in a positive light. If we think about how many times we’ve seen the images of this very narrow, thin, young, pretty white woman that’s what beauty is, and that’s what you’re supposed to be like. We have to do a lot to start to counter balance that. If we can be intentional about seeking out that kind of media to expose ourselves to over time, if we’re seeing it every day, it really does start to develop new neural pathways in our brain and deletes that old conditioning.
Britt Reuter, MS: I agree. It does seem intimidating (same with like the intuition concept) when you think about reprogramming your brain, redefining for yourself what you consider to be beautiful, versus having someone fill in that that blank for you. But what you surround yourself with, the things that you let wash over you through social media or wherever that’s going to have a big impact.
Annette Sloan: Yeah. We really are a product of our society, so how can we change what we’re immersed in?
Britt Reuter, MS: I was just going say that it’s kind of a blessing on social media that you do have some say over what you’re exposed to, which is nice.
Annette Sloan: Yeah. It has its pros and cons.
Britt Reuter, MS: I could think of a lot of cons, but add that to the ‘pro’ bucket.
Annette Sloan: Yeah. My last one is just a simple question of, if we notice ourselves start to feel not good enough to take a breath and ask ourselves, “Who profits off of this emotion?” The more we do that, and the more we’re like, “Oh, that commercial with the girl with the perfect shiny hair on TV, they’re trying to profit off this emotion or whatever it is.” Start getting into practice, really, of asking yourself that question every time we feel that way and it really helps to bring awareness to how pervasive and how insidious it really is.
Britt Reuter, MS: I think I’ll write that on a post-it note and put that in my bathroom or near my TV or something.
Annette Sloan: Yeah.
Britt Reuter, MS: Wow That’s powerful! Well this has been so much fun for me and in case anyone who is watching this wants to connect with you or learn more about what it is that you do where should they go?
Annette Sloan: My website is www.annettesloan.com and on Facebook and Instagram, I’m @annettesloanlifecoach although I don’t post on either one of them very regularly, at least recently.
Britt Reuter, MS: When you do it’s so good!
Annette Sloan: It’s fits and spurts, it’s my own journey with how social media is affecting me. But you can find me on both of those places. You also mentioned earlier, I have a virtual book club called You Are The One You’ve Been Waiting For and March 4th we’re going to start reading this book called Nonviolent Communication and I am so excited! It’s really powerful and it’s all about being able to communicate. Not only change our communication, but change our moralistic thinking and judgments so that we can change our self-talk. Also change our communication and the impact it has for relationships, both personal and professional, is profound. It’s made a big difference in my life already. So, I’m excited to read it with the book club. And if anybody seeing this would like to join us, then we always love new people.
Britt Reuter, MS: Great. Awesome. That’s so exciting! And I can’t wait to check that book out. I have not heard of that. But that sounds amazing.
Annette Sloan: Yeah, yeah. Thank you.
Britt Reuter, MS: That’s it then for today’s conversation. Thanks again so much Annette for joining me today. And thank you to all of you watching this for sharing this conversation with us.
Annette Sloan: Thank you, Britt! It’s been fun.