Sydney Bates

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Another inspiring RD-to-be who I am so lucky to know IRL. I'm excited to introduce Sydney from @Syds_HealthScoops. She is changing the way we think about health and helping others change their perspective on health to respect their bodies and live life more fully. We are both interns together at Mass General this year and she is completing her concentration rotation at Walden Behavioral Health. Meet Sydney!

SO let’s start off with introductions, tell us a little about yourself!

My name is Sydney Bates! I’m 25, living in Cambridge and completing my dietetic internship at Mass General Hospital. I received my Masters in Nutrition and Health Promotion and Certificate in Sports Nutrition from Simmons College and am passionate about helping people heal their relationship with food and exercise, and to make peace with their natural body size. I love to travel, cook (duh), try new restaurants and pet stranger’s dogs.

How did you get started? What was the inspiration behind Syd’s Health Scoops?

My account started way back in college when Instagram was born as a fun way for me to share pictures of food I made. I named my handle Syd’s Health Scoops a couple years ago when I began to dedicate it to food & nutrition posts. I envisioned sharing regular nutrition facts or advice, however it has taken on a very different meaning for me. It has evolved with me over time as I have discovered intuitive eating and mindful movement and implemented it in my own life. These days it is so much more to me than talking about the nutrient composition of cabbage, and more about health at every size, calling out diet culture and sharing what intuitive eating looks like for me.

I have some ideas for what it will look like in the future, so stay tuned ;)

In your insta bio you talk about joyful, intuitive eating and movement, will you explain a bit about what that means?

I vehemently believe that eating and exercise should be a source of pleasure and enjoyment in our lives, not another source of stress and anxiety. There’s no denying that exercise produces positive health outcomes, but our culture is so obsessed with exercise and the thin ideal that people often go overboard and become fixated on perfecting their eating and movement, which in turn is unhealthy. I think that the best outcomes happen when we look inward and use our inner wisdom rather than relying on external food and exercise rules. I think when we realize how amazing our bodies are and stop fighting them, some magical stuff happens.  

What’s your advice to someone who wants to pursue their RD?

I took the long road to getting my RD (went back to school for my DPD certificate and Masters, now in my internship- so close!), but I encourage anyone who is passionate about nutrition and health to go for it! Form as many connections as you can, put yourself out there, and seek out as many experiences as possible (volunteer, work as a research assistant, tutor etc.). It’s A LOT of work but its so worth it. I encourage those considering this field to read about Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size, because its not something they are teaching in most dietetics programs (yet) and in my eyes paramount to treating people in this field without doing harm.

When someone finds out you study nutrition and are going to be an RD, what’s the most common question you get asked and how do you answer it?

“So like, you tell people what to eat?”

Actually, that LAST thing I want to be is the food police. It is NOT my job to tell people what to eat nor will it ever be! As much as I know about nutrition, that will never be my prerogative. I believe that with gentle nutrition education and lots of work on tuning into internal body messages, people are the true experts of their own bodies, and it might just need a little coaching to get to that place of awareness.

What’s been the biggest learning curve with sharing your message social media?

Verbalizing my beliefs in a way that without getting preachy is HARD. I get so fired up and downright angry at diet culture that I sometimes want to turn to social media to rant. I have learned that this is not an effective way of transmitting my message, and leads to less engagement. I am learning to keep my frustrations with diet culture in check, and rather to use positivity and gentle language to get my point across rather than getting on my soap box (with the occasional rant sprinkled in…)

I’ve also been learning to stay true to me and my message. Before I post I think to myself, is this benefitting me and my ego or benefitting the people I am putting this out there for? It can be tempting to post a picture of a perfectly assembled stack of pancakes with the goal of getting likes, but if my message is not something meaningful to me that I think people need to hear, its not getting posted.

I’m also learning (albeit, slowly) not to compare my work to others’. I have a whole life outside of instagram, so getting caught up with comparing my gram to other people’s is a waste of brain space. I don’t know, instagram is weird and I have a true love/hate relationship with it. For now, I’ll keep using it to connect with other like-minded individuals, share my messages, and stay on top of the latest diet/weight loss/fitness fads (so I can debunk them of course!).

What do you hope someone takes away after visiting your Instagram or hearing you speak about nutrition?

My hope is to at least plant the seed of intuitive eating/ mindful movement, even if only for a few people. I know that Rome didn’t get built in a day, and my journey of spreading this message has only just begun. It makes it all worth it to me when one person messages me asking for advice on how to stop dieting/counting calories/tracking macros etc or for book recommendations on Intuitive Eating. That’s the best outcome that I could even hope for- opening someone’s eyes to the harms of diet culture and knowing there is an alternative.

What’s your dream job?

I love this question! My dream job would be working in a private practice where my clients would come to me for help healing their relationship with food and making peace with their natural body size. I would love to work in a clinic with multiple non-diet RD’s to lean on for support, plus a social worker, therapist, and movement specialist (like a personal trainer). I have a passion for movement, as I think finding a healthy relationship with movement can be truly transformative and help instill a more positive body image when the right mindset around exercise is established. I hope to integrate movement therapy and nutrition counseling in a cohesive, holistic approach to wellness.

Take us through a typical (or not-so-typical) day!

I am a pretty predictable person and definitely an introvert so I don’t go out much other than dinners out or weekends away with my fiancé. I don’t think I have a truly “typical” day but here it goes!

7:00 am: wake up, make coffee

7:00-7:30: get dressed and ready for the day, scarf down a quick breakfast that I may have assembled the night before

7:30-8:00: take the T to MGH/ commute to work

8:00-4:30pm-ish: internship! Current rotation at an Eating Disorder clinic (Walden Behavioral)

5:00-6:00ish: get home, have a snack, chill out

6:00-7:00ish: get some movement in (lately jogs on the Esplanade, sometimes Crossfit if I have the time+energy) OR catch up on internship work

7:00-8:00ish: make dinner

8:00-8:30: Eat with my fiancé

8:30-9:00: Clean kitchen, take a shower

9:00-10:30ish: chill out, watch TV together, finish any internship work/readings

10:30-11:00: get ready for bed, stretch, read

11:00-11:30ish: bedtime

What’s your biggest goal as of now? (personal or career-related)

Travel to every continent with my future husband! We love to travel and have done South America and Europe together- one of our bucket list items to accomplish in the near future is to climb Mount Kilimanjaro! I am also dying to go to Thailand and visit and elephant sanctuary.

What’s something you’re currently obsessed with? (people, things, products, habits, places - can be anything!)

Currently obsessed with the Esplanade in Boston. It is one of my favorite places in the city for dog and people watching. It is especially gorgeous right now with all the flowers and baby geese! It’s the perfect place for a jog, walk, picnic, whatever.

What does “health” mean to you?

Health in the most literal and obvious sense is the absence of disease or injury. To me, it encompasses so many other things. This includes stress levels/ the ability to cope with stressors, sleep quality, having healthy relationships, access to enough food to adequately nourish you, gentle & regular movement, mental health, and living out a full and meaningful life with hobbies, socialization, and setting goals.

I have always been fascinated by the Blue Zones (places in the world where people live the longest). These people don’t count macros or eat “superfoods” or train for marathons. They walk to their neighbor’s house for lunch, live a low stress life, garden, are involved in their community, cook simple meals using local ingredients. And they are joyful while doing those things, not doing them with the purpose of fitting into a certain pant size.

Health is NOT determined by a person’s relationship with gravity nor dictated solely by what we put into our mouths. Weight stigma and weight bias in the medical field is harmful and our obsession with the “obesity epidemic” perpetuates poor health outcomes. I believe there are people in small bodies and people in larger bodies, and the sooner we stop trying to fit people into one category the sooner we will see improvements in overall health and longevity. This is why I am so passionate about IE/HAES. When people learn to ditch the diets and realize that the body is not meant to be one size forever, there is so much more room for meaningful living. Dieting is stress inducing, results in weight cycling, poor body image and poor psychological outcomes. We know that diets don’t work in the long term, so why do we keep pushing them? Why do we continue to let this industry profit off of body insecurities? I feel so grateful to have found this amazing community of non-diet RD’s and RD-to-be’s and think this work is SO important. I hope that with time and getting loud in the face of diet culture, more people will come to the “dark side” and embrace IE rather than succumb to diets and the pressure to be thin.

How do you see (or hope to see) our perception of health and nutrition changing in the near future?

I hope to see a society where women aren’t constantly comparing themselves to fitness models they see on instagram or measuring their value based on their pant size or a number on the scale. I hope to live to see a world where disordered eating behaviors aren’t the norm and aren’t praised or seen as “commitment”, “discipline” or “willpower”. I hope to see that day all women have dreams and goals for themselves that don’t include validation for the size of their body or six pack abs.

I am optimistic that we will start to see a shift in years to come in which health is measured by a full, joyful life and not the how well a person lives up to society's unrealistic, shallow expectations.

How can readers keep up with you? Social handles and platforms!

Right now, just instagram! Follow me on @syds_healthscoops

The WellfulComment