- Content warning: eating disorders and disordered eating
Bamboo Nutrition is devoted to helping those with a negative relationship with food rekindle a positive one.
We live in a world where we are constantly being exposed to diet culture, and for many, fad diets that promote fast weight loss can create a toxic relationship with food. That’s where Bamboo Nutrition comes in to help.
“You can refer to us as ‘food behavior specialists,’” Isabelle Bouchard, registered dietitian and owner of Bamboo Nutrition explains. “We’re worried about your relationship with food, your behaviors around food, more so than calories-in, calories-out, or weight management,” she adds.
Bamboo Nutrition is a private practice comprised of dietitians that take an “intuitive eating” approach, where the focus is on balancing food decisions between three pillars: emotions, instincts, and thought. Bamboo Nutrition also uses the Health at Every Size approach, a practice that doesn’t make medical assumptions based on a person’s weight or body type.
At the practice, Isabelle and Laura Rende work with individuals with eating disorders or disordered eating — patterns of behavior that are similar to eating disorders, but not to the same extent — and, most recently, Julia Henry has joined the team to focus on chronic disease and gastrointestinal tract issues.
“I love to meet where clients are at,” Laura, a registered dietitian, says. As clients come in, many of them have fallen victim to diet culture, and it can be overwhelming, especially with so many prescriptions, advice, and opinions at our disposal. “Breaking [nutrition misconceptions] down early on and letting them know that it doesn’t have to be that difficult or overwhelming to get adequate nutrition is where I start.”
It’s not just putting clients on yet another new diet and hoping for the best — Bamboo Nutrition goes deeper than that. The Bamboo Nutrition clinicians cater each client’s plan to what fits their lifestyle, their body’s needs, and their preferences. It’s about connection, too. As clients walk into the office space, they are greeted with the warmth that comes from both the cozy environment and the passion of the Bamboo Nutrition team.
To start, the clinic’s dietitians work to get to know each client and their relationship with food, going as far back as the client can remember.
“I focus on behavior changes rather than weight changes, because there’s so much more to health than just being at a certain weight,” Laura says.
The practice has worked with all ages. The youngest, Isabelle explains, was 8-years-old, while the oldest have been in their 80s or 90s. “It’s never too late to want to improve your relationship with food,” she adds.
Coming into Balance
Food has always been an integral part of Isabelle’s life. “My dad is French, so food has always been the center of everything we did,” she explains, adding that he cooked for three days leading up to this past Christmas. It wasn’t until Isabelle left home for college that she saw how common it was for people to not get excited about food.
“It really saddens me to see people not looking forward to food, or when their eyes don’t light up around food,” she says. “So much of that is because of the culture we live in. We’re trying to mend that from the inside out.”
This process of strengthening a client’s relationship with food looks different for everyone. And while there’s no set solution that will help everyone, Laura has some favorite techniques. One approach the practice uses is cognitive behavioral therapy to help reframe what food is and what it’s serving us in the moment we are eating it.
Laura also loves to do meal exposures with her clients. This process is also different for everyone, but essentially, it’s choosing a food that someone is fearful of, or something not in their normal routine, and making it more approachable. This process helps clients be less fearful of the food and more comfortable buying it, eating it at a social setting, or even making it by themselves at home. “It can be really intimidating for some at first,” she explains. “But over time, just seeing how that food becomes less scary for someone is really rewarding for me to see.”
And that’s the practice’s ultimate goal — to improve an individual’s relationship with food. “For some people, they might not get to the point where their eyes light up around food — and that’s OK. We’re here to try to help make being around food easier and help them meet their baseline energy needs, achieve nutritional adequacy, and understand what fuels their body,” Isabelle says.
Some people do achieve that passion and enjoyment for food again. “The biggest thing is just being able to be in a social setting and be present with family and friends rather than being so internally disturbed and focused on the food,” Isabelle adds.
Help in a Time of Need
Isabelle and Laura have noticed a lot of added stress on patients due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the beginning when food shortages, food insecurity, and lockdowns began. They add that the increase in isolation has had the biggest impact on their clients. “A lot of eating disorders and disordered eating is about control and seeking for control somewhere,” Isabelle notes. “So when there’s something like a pandemic going on, where we can’t control a lot of our lives, a lot of individuals are controlling food more.”
But Isabelle and Laura have been there to help their clients in need, explaining that they’ve done a lot of meal planning, meal exposures, and pivots on clients’ meals when a food they’re looking for is unavailable.
“We’re the only people in our clients’ lives that they’ll come to for an hour or half-hour just to talk about food, their relationship with food, their feelings around food, and feel it’s acceptable to do that,” Isabelle says. “We break down a lot of boundaries when they come in.”