Influencer With A Cause: Alissa Rumsey
My name is Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, CDN, CSCS.
2. Where are you from?
I grew up in upstate Connecticut, a very rural area in a town of 1200 people. The big joke growing up was that there were more cows than people!
3. Where are you based?
I've lived in New York City for 11 years. My work is all done remotely, which allows me to travel frequently, but NYC is my home base.
I am a registered dietitian and nutrition therapist. I own Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness, a nutrition private practice and consulting company.
5. When did you realize you wanted to become a Dietitian, and what gave you this passion for healthy eating?
The first time I became aware of nutrition was in high school. It started after I gained some weight during my junior year (mostly totally normal weight-gain related to puberty). What started out as a personal interest in nutrition and healthy eating quickly grew to more during a biology class my senior year, where I learned about how the foods we eat (or don’t eat) affect so much in our body. As I prepared to go off to college, I found out about that you could talk about nutrition and help people improve their health and wellbeing: a dietitian. I was all “sign me up!”
I started out practicing from the “traditional” nutrition model, recommending portion sizes and calorie levels, creating meal plans, tracking my client’s weight. It always worked for a little while but over time I realized that, despite my client’s best efforts, no one was able to maintain the “lifestyle changes” that I believed I was teaching them. Inevitably they’d go back to their prior eating habits and feel like they failed. I too felt like a failure, how come I couldn’t help them? Everything changed after I took a course on intuitive eating.
Now, working from an intuitive eating, weight-inclusive approach, I help people to heal their relationship to food and their bodies, find true food freedom and create positive health habits from a place of self-care instead of self-control. My goal is to help people reconnect with their internal body cues, build back body trust, and cultivate a healthy and peaceful relationship with both food and their body. With this approach, my clients discover the nutrition and self-care behaviors that help to nourish them and to thrive, for the long run.
6. Where and what did you study to become a dietitian?
I did my Bachelors degree at the University of Delaware, double majoring in dietetics and exercise science. I then completed my dietetic internship through the University of Connecticut, working at Hartford Hospital for much of that time. I also have a Masters of Science degree in Health Communications from Boston University.
7. What is your favorite meal to cook?
Since living in NYC my cooking has decreased to an all-time low! My go-to is a simple grain bowl with farro, roasted vegetables (ideally fresh veggies from my local farmers market, they're SO sweet and yummy!) and Trader Joe's steamed lentils. Boring but easy and satisfying!
8. What does body acceptance mean to you?
Body acceptance means that you can take good care of your body just as it is today, without trying to make it look different. You may not love your body all the time, but body acceptance means you can start to view it more neutrally. It means appreciating our bodies for what they have done for us and what they can do, no matter what size they are. All bodies deserve respect, are equally valuable, and don't need changing, no matter what their shape, size, age, gender or ability.
Negative body image is linked to poor self-care, depression, anxiety, weight cycling, eating disorders and poor overall life quality. You can't treat your body well if it's something that you hate. Positive body image, meanwhile, is associated with lower levels of anxiety and depression, emotional well-being, healthy eating and physical activity behaviors, and more. We live in a crazy diet culture where it's seen as normal to diet, to dislike our bodies, and to constantly be trying to change them. In our image-obsessed society, it is incredibly tough work to get to a place where you feel positive and self-confident about your body. We are fed lots of messages on a daily basis that tell us that our bodies are not good enough, that they are something we need to change and improve. I'm passionate about helping people make peace with their bodies so that they can stop postponing their lives "until I lose weight" and be happy with their body just as it is today.
9. Did you ever have your own eating problems or body issues?
Yes, after gaining weight in high school, I responded by copying what was around me, which at the time was Weight Watchers. I started counting and tracking points, attending meetings and weighing in. What I didn’t realize until later was that what I thought was a healthy way to eat, lose weight and be healthier ended up causing me to spiral into disordered eating behaviors over the next few years. I constantly thought about food, what I was going to (or not going to) eat. I had tons of food rules and whenever I broke one I'd feel so guilty and would end up overeating or binging. I would scrutinize my body every day, trying through diet and exercise to get it to look like some “ideal” image that I had in my head. It wasn’t until my mid-20’s when I moved to NYC that I started loosening my grip on on food and exercise and began healing my relationship to food.
10. What is your opinion on juice cleanses?
Detoxes and cleanses are low in calories, protein, and fiber, the essential nutrients that our bodies need to function. They leave you feeling hungry and cranky, causing a rebound food binge once you stop the cleanse. Plus they reinforce the harmful cycle of restrictive eating followed by overeating or binging. Despite all the hype and popularity, there is no proof that “detoxing” will remove toxins or make you healthier. Our liver and kidneys do a great job of cleaning our system on their own. The liver processes toxins and harmful substances that have gone through our digestive system or been absorbed into our body and helps to neutralize and excrete these substances from our bodies.
11. If I have a constant craving for chocolate, and even though I know it is unhealthy I still eat it. What can I do to diminish these cravings?
Cravings are a side effect of restriction. When we are restricting ourselves, our body responds with cravings and an increased appetite, because it literally thinks it is starving. Plus when we restrict ourselves, keep foods off limits and out of the house or looking at certain foods as “good” or “bad”, we end up going overboard or have a hard time saying no whenever we do have access to those foods. The key is to release both the physical AND emotional/mental restriction. Getting rid of a physical restriction means allowing yourself to eat the chocolate and keeping it around so you have access to it. But that alone isn't enough to decrease the craving, you also have to work on the mental/emotional restriction. Those guilty/shaming thoughts of "this isn't good for me/this is unhealthy" or "I shouldn't have it" function as a restriction, because when you have those thoughts your body gets the signal of "She's not going to let me have this again, better get it in now!".
What to do: instead of saying (or thinking) that certain foods are bad for you or you shouldn’t have them, try reframing those thoughts to release the mental restriction. For example “I’m allowed to have chocolate whenever I want” or “The chocolate will be there later, I’ll have it if I want to”. In addition, make sure you keep enough of the food around to create a sense of abundance, so you know that it will be there when you want it. Continue to give yourself permission to eat it.
12. Do you believe that it is also important to work out in order to live a healthy life?
Physical activity and movement is one way that we can practice self-care, take care of our bodies, and enhance our health and wellbeing. I believe that the type of movement you choose to do should be one that feels good in your body and one that you enjoy. Plus, when you approach movement from a place of self-care, rather than a way to change your body, it becomes less stressful and more enjoyable!
13. I know that some Dieticians say to eat three meals a day, and some say 5. Do you recommend eating a certain number of meals during a day?
Every person is different so I don't recommend a number of meals/snacks. Instead I help people tune into their own bodies and learn how to understand and respond to their body's hunger, fullness and satisfaction cues. This then guides when, what, and how much they eat during the day, rather than an arbitrary number of meals.
14. How can one connect with you if they wanted to book a consultation and learn more about working with you?
Visit my website - alissarumsey.com - to learn more about working with me and my team. You can book a free discovery call to chat and learn more about how we can help you find food freedom and heal your relationship with food and your body.
15. What is your motto in life?
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
and “Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." - Dr. Maya Angelo