What Everyone Should Know About RED-S, Alcohol, Disordered Eating, and More with Val Schonberg

In this episode we’ll talk about energy deficiencies. I bring Owner of EnlightenU Nutrition Consulting, LLC, Val Schonberg, to the show. She will be telling us about Female and Male Athlete Triad, REDS, and the myths about calories. She will also be addressing diet culture’s role in the fear of weight gain, eating disorders, and how alcohol affects our lives. There will be a Part 2 with Val, where we dive deep into menopause.

Val Schonberg is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian with a master’s degree in Nutrition Science from the University of Minnesota. She is Board Certified as a Specialist in Sports Dietetics, a Certified Menopause Practitioner with the North American Menopause Society and a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Val owns EnlightenU Nutrition Consulting, LLC, a private practice in Atlanta, Georgia where she specializes in nutrition for recreational and professional athletes, dancers and performing artists, women in midlife and menopause, and individuals with disordered eating concerns. Originally from Minnesota, Val’s experience and expertise come from years of practice in many settings including eating disorder treatment, Division 1 college sports medicine, professional dance organizations, and speaking regionally and nationally on numerous nutrition related topics. In addition to individual nutrition counseling, she is currently the consulting dietitian for Emory Sports Medicine and Orthopedics and Atlanta Ballet. Val is passionate about providing nutrition care to populations vulnerable to disordered eating and promoting positive nutrition messages that help people make informed decisions about their health and live a life where they feel free to confidently embrace their best self.

The Female Athlete Triad and REDS
The Female Athlete Triad. This is the relationship between bone health, irregular menstrual cycles, and energy deficiency. The International Olympic Committee found that males suffered from this as well, and that it affected more than just reproductive, hormone, and bone health. This is where the REDS (Relative Energy Deficiency in Sports) diagnosis was developed. Men suffering from the energy deficiency don’t present with an absence of a period. Rather, the energy deficiency manifests in males as early bone stress injuries and suppressed testosterone, to name a few. Sometimes, this can come about unintentionally. Physical activity may suppress the appetite, which leads to them eating less and, in turn, leading to an overall energy deficiency. The ‘S’ in REDS, although referring to sports, is not necessarily representative of the non-sport manifestation of the energy deficiency diagnosis.

“Calories in equals calories out..NOT!”
This statement is not accurate. Your body is incredibly efficient at diverting resources. Trying to lose weight by exercising and going into a caloric deficit is simply going to force your body to take calories from other bodily systems in order to support the physical activity. This can often lead to slow weight loss, if any at all. Increasing your caloric intake could be the solution to this problem, since those extra calories will most likely go to supporting your brain function, reproductive functions, gut health, and bone health. The body is wired to protect itself from starvation. It could take 3 to 4 weeks to die of starvation, versus the many years it could potentially take for excess food to “kill” you.

Eating Disorders
The overwhelming majority of those who present with eating disorders are female (both identifying and born female). Males that present with eating disorders are more likely influenced by diet culture. We need better screenings and assessment tools to help people get treatment, and not just focus on a person’s weight.

The fear of weight gain
The fear of weight gain is a phobia perpetuated by diet culture.
Many who fear gaining weight are scared of becoming “unhealthy”. There are many factors that determine whether or not we gain weight, and taking the “body acceptance” position eliminates the fear of the factors that we can’t control.

Alcohol
Alcohol is one of those things that aren’t actually necessary in order for us to live.
If alcohol is being used to managed emotion, you should probably talk to a professional about that.
On the other hand, skipping meals or neglecting your diet could lead to alcohol filling that gap. Working on your food may help to relieve the need for alcohol to satisfy a physiological hunger need.

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