Flourishing: Tara's story

In this episode, Claire interviews Flourish alum, Tara, who shares her story around movement, body image, and food—and how Flourish fits in to her growth.

Show Notes
Program note: Hey, glad you’re enjoying the podcast! In this episode, you might hear Claire talking about Nutritional Freedom and Foundations. Since we launched the podcast in 2020, we've undergone a makeover to improve the membership experience. For more, listen to our "And we're back! All the updates!" episode.

Claire Siegel: You're listening to the Flourish podcast. I'm your host, Claire Siegel, founder of Flourish. We're on a mission to help women get healthy for good. Join me each week for a new episode that'll help you sustain healthy habits and nourish your body so you can Flourish in life.

When it comes to nutrition, does it feel like you know what to do, you're just not doing it? Or maybe you find yourself stuck in this annoying all or nothing cycle. If it sounds like I'm reading your diary, well, that was my diary for a while too. And it's also the story of the thousands of women I've personally coached.

That's why I created Flourish, the nutrition and body image support app made for women. If you recognize that diets don't work, but "just not dieting" isn't helping you feel your best either, download Flourish today. Your first live session with one of our credentialed nutrition and psychology experts is totally free, no credit card required.

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Claire Siegel: Welcome to the Flourish podcast. I am so delighted to be here. I have a very special guest with me. I'm joined by Tara, one of our very own members. So Tara, why don't you take a second, introduce yourself, and then let's get started with your story.

So I want to hear, you know, from the very beginning, um, your experience with nutrition, with health and, and body image prior to joining us in Flourish.

Tara E: Yeah, of course. Thanks for having me. I'm Tara, I am a 29-year-old female in the DC area. I've been a member since I think October of last year, and it's been a wonderful experience.

So a little bit about me. I have struggled with body image and nutrition my whole life, essentially. So as early as I can remember, like maybe even first grade, thinking that smaller girls were somehow more valuable or more, um, desired than larger bodies. Um, and I did grow up being the tallest girl in the class. I was like always the biggest. Um, so I think that shaped a lot of my own opinions about myself and my body image. And I also was a dancer, so that I think contributed there as well.

And then, a big piece is growing up in the south. Not sure if it's just my community or my family specifically, but very appearance-focused, um, always. And so that definitely has shaped my experience about how you should value, um, appearance and body size.

And then... I'm going to be light on this section, um, just to keep it a safe space for everybody. But I did have an eating disorder for a good amount of time. So, um, through high school and college. So I dealt with that in a way that was, I guess, not your traditional way of treating an eating disorder. Um, I definitely dealt with it like by myself and stopped those really like the overt behaviors, because I knew that wasn't something that should be happening, right? Um, but then I never really healed that relationship with food and my body, um, which is why I came to be a member.

Claire Siegel: That's amazing. So it sounded like through your eating disorder recovery, it sounds like maybe you on your own, we're able to maybe get some symptom relief, but maybe struggling to get to some like root cause stuff.

Tara E: Yep, exactly. So, I'm like it's something that I've been working on and healing from for a long time, but being in this community where I could see how other women have similar experiences and similar thoughts has been very helpful for me.

Claire Siegel: Yeah. Oh, well, I'm so glad. I'm so glad you're here. Yeah. And just so you know, we're, we're recording this... it's almost May, so October through May and Tara's just like been such an incredible example of what can happen if you come into this community. I love that you already like, kind of highlighted that aspect of, of Flourish and really open yourself up to the experience. So I'm super excited to dig into that.

So I'm curious, like, in that timeframe had you tried anything, you know, specifically with nutrition or any diets, things like that, that come to mind that you had maybe dabbled in?

Tara E: Yes. So I definitely was like, a cyclic kind of pattern of what I was either like on some sort of health kick or if I was just saying F that essentially.

But I would basically go through these patterns of like... I was big on like the workout challenges. A lot of working out all the time in efforts to change my body. And I definitely have emphasized that more heavily than like the nutrition piece.

So I actually am not someone who went on a lot of diets, but it was mainly, um, movement-focused. Um, and how I would go into those kind of binge-restrict cycles, but it was similar to my workout routines.

Claire Siegel: Yeah. And I think that's something really interesting that a lot of women coming into Flourish experience, is like they'll come in with a very specific kind of like problem to solve, typically it's around food, but what we start to see when we scratch beneath the surface of that is the way that you engage with food or, in your case, exercise is it's sort of like indicative of the way that you deal with other aspects of life or the way that you think about other things, right?

We talk a lot about black and white thinking. And it sounds like from what I'm hearing, that you had like a very black and white approach to exercise, specifically. And so, yeah. It's like, it's kind of the same thing I was saying earlier like, based on the symptom versus getting actual like relief from the problem. And so I think the Flourish community and obviously the coaches and the entire experience allows you that space to... yes, experience that kind of symptom relief and kind of again, solve that problem that you're here to solve.

But then also we invite you to dig a hell of a lot deeper. So that those symptoms actually stop occurring, whether it's in your relationship to exercise, in your relationship to food, or in any other kind of experience of, of life. So, that's awesome.

Tara E: Right. Yeah. And I agree, and I honestly didn't even know that was a pattern I had. Like, I came into this really wanting to focus on my relationship with food and was not even considering my relationship with movement at all.

Claire Siegel: That's interesting.

Tara E: Yeah. And I think I, and this is something I've worked through in the coaching calls a lot with Elizabeth specifically, like, um, working through, I guess, what the worst case scenario is with working out.

So like a lot of like, "Okay, what if you just stop working out?" And dealing with that and all of those feelings around it, um, was something that I didn't anticipate going into with this. So it's been really eyeopening for me.

Claire Siegel: That's so interesting. Do you remember when you first realized like, "Oh, I also have this thing with exercise"? Was that something that you kind of realized in a coaching call? Did, did Elizabeth or Julie kind of hold that mirror up for you? Like what was that aha moment there?

It was pretty early on, because I was like, well, I'm not a dieter. Like, I don't know if like ditching diets really fits me. You know, like I, I don't diet. That's not my relationship with food. But it was whenever I really learned about like that black and white thinking and like the all-on, all-off, um, and how it's not just... it doesn't necessarily mean a diet, but even like your mental restriction can be considered that black and white thinking.

Totally. Oh my gosh. I love having... so for those of you listening, we have, you know, this curriculum built out, but I think what, what Tara is alluding to is like we all experience black and white thinking in some way, shape or form.

And a lot of us experience diet mentality, even when we're not on any specific diet. And so just remaining open to like... "Okay, what's, what's in this here for me. What can I extract from this experience, these video lessons, these activities?" And then having like that one-on-one relationship with a coach or even arrive into group coaching and sharing in the curriculum and like really making fit you and where you are I think is super cool.

Tara E: Yeah. I was just going to say like that I had previously really... like I learned about Intuitive Eating, tried to do Intuitive Eating on my own, essentially. So like I learned about it and I think it's wonderful... identified that like, this is a wonderful concept, but there were components of it that I didn't even know I wasn't there yet.

So like, I was like, well, I do allow all foods, for example, like I do have all foods. But I didn't even realize there were ways like in that mental restriction that I was still saying, okay, you can have however many Oreos. So it was still a way of not truly having that freedom of having as much of any food you can have.

Claire Siegel: Yeah. And I'm curious, has anything... in allowing yourself that, that true freedom, what has been that experience? And, and I guess, what have you gotten out of that?

Tara E: Oh yeah. So I actually, in the, I think one of the calls last week, I shared my, when, um, of I have ice cream and all of these sweets in my house right now.

And I realized the other day that like, I hadn't had any desserts in a few days and it wasn't coming from like a restrictive mindset at all. Just, I hadn't thought about it or I hadn't wanted it. And it was just a nice, refreshing moment of being like, oh, I could have, I have actually three different flavors of ice cream in my freezer right now.

And like I just hadn't wanted it. And that felt so freeing and knowing that like, I can trust myself and I can trust my body to eat it when I want to and not binge on all this ice cream.

Claire Siegel: I love that. Yeah. I remember I was actually just listening in on that call. So, um, we did Elizabeth led a call last week again, for those of you listening, Tara already knows this. But we, uh, Elizabeth led a call last week about sugar addiction, kind of going into some of the science behind sugar addiction and then, um, you know, inviting everyone on the call to share their lived experience with that.

And I remember hearing your, your share and your win. And I just thought that was so awesome. And it is so counterintuitive, right? But as soon as again, we like hold that mirror up and say, listen, are the foods that you try to control the most, the foods that you also feel like you have the least control over? And, you know, nine out of ten people like that is the case.

It's, you know, it's the ice, it's the chips, it's the candy. It's whatever. It's these foods that I try to control so rigidly feel like they are so powerful over me. And when we actually release some of that control, you start to regain that power and that freedom. Um, I tell people all the time, like... you are a grown ass woman, no single food has control over you.

Um, so I love that you're getting to experience that.

Tara E: Yeah, definitely.

Claire Siegel: Awesome. Okay, so I'm curious... we've touched on it a little bit, but I'll just put the question out there. What have been some of the biggest takeaways for you since, you know, really becoming an active member back, uh, last fall?

Tara E: So really this is like a bigger takeaway, but it's given me the space to really like dedicate and learn about myself and what my relationship with my body and my food is.

And I think previously, you know, to me, that could feel like something that was a little bit like self-indulgent and just spending this time to really focus on me. Um, I am someone who is constantly like working or doing something, pretty much. So to just take this time for myself has really showed me how important it is to invest in yourself and be the best version of yourself. And how that can enhance your other relationships in your life. So that's been a huge thing for me.

And then another big one is that it's helped me learn to trust myself and my values. So it's expanded past just food and health for me, but really in all areas too.

Claire Siegel: Oh, that's so amazing. I love when I hear women talk about this as like... I've heard people say like, kind of what you said, like this is an investment in myself. This is my self care. This is a gift to myself.

I remember, uh, we did, uh, like a webinar back in November, December timeframe. And so we had a few people join as like Christmas presents to themselves. And it's the coolest thing, because I think it's, I think for many of us as women, we struggle with, you know, people-pleasing or putting everyone's needs ahead of our own. And it's hard, I think in general, just to make time to really focus on you and do that like work of self care.

And, you know, some of us may experience it going to see like a therapist, for example, which is, I mean, incredible. I love my therapist. But it's not necessarily that kind of like ongoing, day-to-day support kind of like that throughput in your life, which is why I love like the, the membership experience of it, because it becomes kind of this like undercurrent of, of your, you know, day-to-day experience. So, that's so cool. I love that.

Talk to me a little bit about coaching. Talk to me about kind of your experience of coaching, private sessions with Julie and Elizabeth—our nutrition and mindset coaches—and then also group coaching as well.

Tara E: Oh, man. Yeah. I love the coaching sessions. So, um, I'd say I'm an active communicator in sessions. So, um, in the group sessions it's, like I said, so nice to hear from other women and their perspectives, because oftentimes, like if you have a question or some, you know, some issue that you've had, it's likely someone will identify with that. And everyone's so supportive and in the chat, like I resonate with that and all this.

So it gives you a nice, like reassurance that you're not alone in this journey. Um, and so that's been great. And then also it's a nice place where like, even if you don't necessarily feel open to sharing that day, or, you know, you're not feeling up to it... other people will. So you can still learn something even just by like sitting there and being like an observer. So yeah, I love the group sessions.

Um, and then the one-on-one sessions are also wonderful, but very different I would say then the, the group sessions. I usually try to go into them with some idea of like, you know, what, we're going to talk about, send them ahead of time what my concern is.

But we always find a way to talk the entire time, like, no matter what if I'm just like, okay, just have this one question I want to ask. Somehow we fill up the entire time and it's always so valuable. And they give me things to think about, again, my relationship with my body and movement that I hadn't explored before. So yeah, both Elizabeth and Julie have been wonderful with that.

And it's just been nice to see that they're so open to like meeting you where you're at. So they're not trying to force any sort of ideas on you, but really help you work through wherever you're at in this journey.

Claire Siegel: I love that. Yeah. I call it like gentle accountability versus that like bootcamp, you know, tough love. I mean, we can, we can do tough love. I probably, I think I do the toughest love out of all three of us. But yeah, it's, we're certainly not like pushing any ideology. It's really like, what do you..? We're here for you.

I mean that at the end of the day, like we are on the same team and it's, it's your team, it's your life. We're really just here to support you. So what do you need, you know, today? So I, I love that. Um, and I love that that's been, been your experience.

Okay, you said twice like, "I tried to do this on my own," like reading the Intuitive Eating book, so on and so forth. So we get the coaching piece of it. But what has been different about doing it in the context of a community as, as well, versus kind of just like reading a book on your own, for example?

Tara E: Yeah. So I honestly didn't think the community aspect was going to be that important to me. Like I'm an introvert. I'm not usually that chatty. Like I.. Yeah, I just didn't think that was something that I would find value in, but I do. And so, like, I think that's why I keep talking about it because I've realized how much that is important to me.

Um, and hearing those stories and seeing how their stories resonate with me. Um, and in return, it helps you know that you're not alone in this and that other people feel the same way, especially if you're dealing with, um, you know, community is or social circles where people might be still wrapped in diet culture.

It's really nice to have that outlet of people who are like minded and are trying to work against that.

Claire Siegel: Yeah, that's so true. That's actually one of like the number one questions we get early on in people's experiences. It's like, "Okay... How, how do I do this work internally when a lot of people in my friend group and my family circle are, you know, definitely a few steps behind or just see things differently?"

And it's so nice to be in this like safe space in Flourish where, you know, we have different experiences and, and, you know, have different histories. And yet, there's a lot that we have in common. And I think, I think just like the level of vulnerability that we see in the community is, is huge. And even if you don't like, see your experience, something, the exact same way, that level of vulnerability is connecting regardless.

Um, and, and you can experience that you mentioned this earlier, but like even without sharing, you know? This is not the situation where you have to like bare-all and tell-all and you're forced to do so. It's very much like invited, but it's ultimately up to you. But even just hearing it from someone else is so incredibly disarming, especially if you have kind of like been suffering in silence or feeling like, "Oh my gosh, I must be the only one who feels this way about her body."

You don't even need to like share all your, your nitty-gritty details with the group, but just to hear it from someone else is like, "Huh. Okay. I guess I'm not the only one. I guess I'm not some weirdo or that there's something wrong with me." That this is actually like quite normal.

Tara E: Right. Exactly. And then I think part of whenever I, you know, tried to do it on my own, that's very much me being like ultra-independent... I, you know, there's so many books out there. And so I then would like go question myself, which all ties back into the confidence piece and everything. But like, "Oh, well, who am I to be doing this journey, you know, by myself where everyone else is still in this diet culture track?" So having this space to like, as a safe space to go through it is really helpful.

Claire Siegel: That's so amazing. Oh, I love this. Okay. So paint a picture for me of like your... I was going to say before and after, but I don't really believe in the after. I think it's just like before and like ongoing progress and growth and all that. But like, where would you say you are now relative to when you first joined us last fall?

Tara E: Yeah, so I think last fall I thought I was joining at a place where I was much further along than I really was. Like I came in being like, yeah, I've read the books. I am ready. I just need to like wrap it up, essentially. I really thought I was way further along than I was. Um, and that was pretty eyeopening for me. Um, that I was still, you know, restricting food and movement in a way that wasn't truly freedom.

Um, and now I would say with food I've really learned to trust my body and trust my hunger cues, um, which has been truly life-changing. Like, I didn't even realize how often I was, you know, looking at other people's plates to judge how much I should eat or using meal prep as a way to under eat, things like that.

Um, so. I've come a long way since then. And I feel like I'm truly free with my, my nutrition now, um, which has been wonderful. I am still working on the body image piece and the movement piece. So that's where I'm at right now.

Claire Siegel: I love that. Thank you for being so honest. Like I said, it is like continued progress and growth and I think that's true... probably for everyone, but I think especially us as women.

I've worked with women in different life stages and, you know, they may grow with—let's, let's use body image as an example— grow to a certain point in body image where maybe they're at a place of like body acceptance or body neutrality, those are concepts we talk a lot about in Flourish, and then they get pregnant, you know, and then things start to change and it can be a little bit scary, you know, to feel like, oh my gosh, am I taking a couple steps back in this journey that I'm on? Um, and, and that's something that we really like neutralize in Flourish. That there is no such thing as perfect body image.

Even people that think like quote-unquote should have perfect body image... don't. And that having a bad body image day, you know, every once in a while is, is part of being alive. It's part of being human.

And if your bad body image days are disrupting your life, or that they're very severe or acute. Then that simply points us to like the work to be done. Like it's, it's really helpful to actually acknowledge and, and be aware of like what those pain points are so we can actually do the work and the growth.

And kind of like, I always say, I think like there's no better work that you, you can do than like work on yourself, because that just enhances, like you said, like working on yourself enhances your experience of everything else in life.

Tara E: Right.

Claire Siegel: That's awesome. I love it. Okay. Last question before we wrap up. Who do you think would benefit from becoming a Flourish member?

Tara E: Really any woman who's like ready to think about changing their relationship with food or their relationship with diet culture. Um, one thing that I would say should be like accounted for here is that everyone joins for a reason. So like, that's been helpful for me too.

And coming back to like, you know, like you said, we have these bad body image days sometimes, and it's like, oh, why am I doing this? You know, wouldn't it be easier to just go back to like working out all the time and, you know... yes maybe it would be easier. But thinking about why I joined and I think everyone comes into it with their own story, but the ultimate thing that ties us in is that we were all like ready to approach this and ready to change that relationship.

Claire Siegel: I love that. I, um, we're running a challenge in May. By the time this goes live, the challenge may have come and gone, um, but we're doing this, this challenge for the month of May called the Flourishing Life challenge. And we're really just, it's, it's really just focusing on these small, very sustainable habits. It is not like the workout challenge you mentioned earlier in the podcast like it's much more gentle than that. And I'm so excited. It'll be a great taste of what we do.

But what I was going to say... oh! One of the questions that we ask in the signup process is, "Have you dieted before?" And I was like really curious to see what people would say. And 95% of registrants for the challenge have dieted before.

And it just got me thinking... if diets worked, we wouldn't need this challenge. Right? If diets lived up to their promise, we wouldn't need this. Or people wouldn't sign up for something like this. And so I love what you're saying around just being ready to approach your health, your nutrition in a different way.

I think that can feel a little scary. It certainly can feel very exciting, I think as well. Um, but it's a good thing. You know, I always say like, yeah, Flourish is unlike anything you've ever tried before, but that is actually a very good thing. Because if you tried before actually worked, you wouldn't, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Tara E: Exactly.

Claire Siegel: I love it. Okay. Well, Tara, thank you so much for being here. Thank you so much for being just so brave and vulnerable and sharing your story. Is a gift certainly to me, but more importantly, it's a gift to at least one person listening. I know they'll be able to see themselves in your story, so thank you so much. Thank you for being an incredible member of our community, and I'm just so grateful for you.

Tara E: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Claire Siegel: All right. We will see you next week on the Flourish podcast.

Claire Siegel:

Thank you so much for joining me for today's episode of the Flourish podcast. If you enjoyed it, please take a second to leave us a five-star review or better yet, share it with a friend. And if you're ready to start your own journey to get healthy for good with accountability from expert coaches and the support of an incredible community, head to the show notes to get started on your Flourish journey.

I'll see you in the next episode.

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Claire Siegel
Co-founder, CEO
Claire Siegel is the founder and CEO of Flourish. Claire has made it her life’s mission to help women create a sustainable approach to their physical and mental well-being.

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