Written by Lauren Mackay
Photos by Jenny Vu
It isn’t for a lack of information, or even a lack of knowing what to do that prevents people from cultivating healthy nutrition habits. It’s the not knowing how to change and maintain habits that is the hardest. This is precisely the gap holistic nutritionist Molly Sanders, creator of Get Real to Heal (GRTH), is striving to bridge.
It was while working as a technical writer when Sanders really began to become interested in the link between food and healing. Feeling underwhelmed by the work she was doing at the time, she decided to shift gears and enrolled in studies at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition.
Noticing her own eating habits weren’t exactly what she would like them to be, she began to identify areas where she could improve herself and parlayed her own experience into developing a program that can be used to help others.
“Our relationship with food is necessary. Eating is something we need to do three to five times a day, but beyond being essential to our health, the role of food in each of our lives is also cultural, celebratory - it’s unavoidable. There are many conversations we land in around food, without meaning to. I wanted to offer something that could help people truly heal.”
Sanders’ Beyond Food Program is a 12-week program that offers a guided and supportive infrastructure allowing participants to tackle whatever health concerns they are interested in healing, for example, reducing blood pressure, managing type II diabetes, weight loss, addressing digestive disorders, binge eating, etc. The program is comprised of three four-week segments that work on the individual’s connection between food and the body, the mind, and the environment. “We are looking to create understanding of how particular foods work for your body, to examine the mental side of eating, your behaviours, and to take a good look at how the people and places in your life contribute to how you are eating as well,” says Sanders.
The program is completed online, and all clients are given guidance developing, tracking, and maintaining a program that works for them. Each week includes a weekly education session by Sanders, delivered via video, and a session with a personal food coach (all coaches are holistic nutritionists). The program is self-led in the sense that everyone is guided to determine what they want their personal results to be, but also provides the support and accountability so many of us need to make change. The approach the coaches take is to ask lots of questions and then the answers reveal what you need. Food is tracked through a photo taking food app. In Sanders’ expertise, there are three areas to examine on the road to creating nutritional wellness.
The Body Connection Many of us live in a state of disconnection to the body. Somewhere in our journey, we have lost the ability to know what feels good, what helps us feel well. The first four weeks of the Get Real to Heal (GRTH) program works to re-establish clear and conscious understanding around how your body feels when you eat particular things. “At the beginning, we focus on making the connection between what we eat and how we feel. When I eat protein, I feel like this. When I eat refined sugar, I feel like this. Once we begin to build a consciousness around how we feel when we eat certain things, we can begin to plan to reinforce what we know helps us feel well.”
The Mind Connection Each of us have developed specific practices around eating. Our habits are formed by so many aspects of our lives. To truly make changes, we must delve into what we think and feel about food and how we use it. The second month of the GRTH program centres on addressing the emotional side of eating. Is fear causing you to eat? Do you experience food guilt? How can motivation become self-generating? It is during these weeks that we dig and uncover the baggage, the difficulties many of us have. We address whatever surfaces and remove it and then make sure you are set up for success.”
Environmental Factors Where we come from, how our families, and greater communities relate to food affects us profoundly. Did we have access to healthy food growing up? Now? The final four weeks of the GRTH program focuses on our relationship with our external environment and how it is impacting our relationship to food. “Many of us don’t even consider how the external affects our nutritional wellness - our experience with family, friends, roommates. But it all plays a huge role. We look at what’s working and what isn’t and strategize around what is preventing your success.” This final month looks at things like goal setting, meal prepping, etc. and sets clients up to be mindful of environmental aspects that can be harmful to maintaining their goals.
Cultivating nutritional wellness is undoubtedly fraught with complexity. If you find yourself struggling or in need of support, considering some appropriate coaching may be right for you. “We aim to provide the right supports and uncover what is blocking success in each particular case. There is a lot of power in taking the mystery out of the equation. I’ve seen people really transform their lives through food. We know that restriction and negative motivation doesn’t work long term. Many of us find ourselves in a place where we are working against our circumstances to try to succeed with our health goals. Even though 90-95 percent of people who come to me already know what actions to take, they aren’t set up to succeed. It takes something to turn this relationship around, but with the right support, it is entirely possible.”
You can follow Molly’s journey on her socials at @mygetrealtoheal