Unlearning: moving away from harmful or unhelpful beliefs, actions, or information that you once held as truth 

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how much my clients have to unlearn in the intuitive eating and body acceptance process. I also think about all that I’ve had to unlearn in my 12 years as dietitian in order to become a better clinician. 

What does it mean to “unlearn?” I define unlearning as a process of moving away from harmful or unhelpful beliefs, actions, or information that was once held as truth. This is my working definition. For those of you that have experienced the need to unlearn something, how would you define it? 

It can be so hard to unlearn something deeply engrained. It takes time, patience, and a hearty dose of self-compassion to do so. What are you holding onto that is unhelpful in your life? 

For my clients, it can be:

  • the clean plate club

  • ideas about body size and health

  • black and white thinking around food choices

  • the thin ideal

  • counting of calories, macros, and steps

  • exercise rules 

  • weights and measures

For me as a clinician, unlearning has meant rejecting a good chunk of what I learned in school and training, including:

  • everything about the BMI (see previous post “BMI is BS”)

  • that we need low fat diets to prevent or mitigate heart disease (see post “Bodies need fat”)

  • That high blood sugar must mean too many carbs (not always - did you know stress can increase blood sugar??)

  • the idea of healthy and unhealthy foods (nope- all foods fit)

  • that people have the power to change their body size (One’s size is dependent upon a host of factors, from genetics down to the predominant type of gut bacteria!)

  • that my job is to "fix" (it’s not - I am a better clinician when I do more listening and asking than offering of solutions. This allows clients come up with ideas and experiments on their own)

Please share! Is there something that you’re working on unlearning? I’d love to know !