We’re excited to introduce our new partner, Laura Iu, a registered dietitian nutritionist, intuitive eating counselor, and yoga teacher. Laura is a pioneer in supporting women in the belief that true wellbeing isn’t a measure of size or shape, it’s a measure of physical, emotional, and mental well-being. We are thrilled to share her expertise with the Rae community.
We love that you position yourself as an ambassador for wellness—what drew you to your field of work and focus on supporting women’s wellness?
In our society, and especially for women, self worth and success are closely tied to thinness and beauty. From a young age girls are bombarded with messages that their bodies are wrong or not enough and this only gets louder as someone goes through puberty, school, and/or has access to social media. Most of us have lived our lives entrenched in diet culture — the belief system that values thinness as a marker of health, promotes weight loss as a means of moral status and demonizes some foods while worshiping others.
This hyper-vigilance about food often increases anxiety, depression and poor body image. This system oppresses anyone who doesn’t look like the picture of health so it’s harmful to women, trans folks, people of color, people in larger bodies, and it’s also quite damaging to one’s mental and physical health. Advocating for women’s wellness is important to me because I don’t want to contribute to a harmful system, I want to be part of the change.
We understand you’re also on a mission to this world is to serve as a doctor, teacher, and wellness transformation specialist, why are you passionate about this mission?
As a child, losing my mom to her battle with depression is what initially propelled me into the medical field. Because I was able to connect how undernutrition affects cognitive function, behavior and emotions, I knew from a young age that I wanted to enter the healthcare field. Becoming a Registered Dietitian was the way that I could help others while also combining my interest for science, with my passion for mental health and love for food.
Over the years, the patients I’ve had the privilege to work with in my private practice have given me a renewed sense of passion. As a weight-inclusive dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating counselor, I get to play a small part in guiding them to move away from the pain and shame of chronic dieting so that they can live a more authentic and fuller life! Instead of reinforcing the narrative that success, self-worth and health are defined by body size, I help women release themselves from the constraints of who they are told to be and redefine what health means and looks like for them. They reconnect with their body’s hunger and fullness cues, learn to respect their body’s needs, incorporate joyful movement, add in gentle nutrition, embrace their cultural foods and have more mental space to focus on things that actually matter. It’s an empowering process.
I’m reminded everyday that life is short and our time on this planet is limited. When you are hyper-vigilant with food and preoccupied with body image, there is very little mental space to focus on living a full life or room for pleasure. I don’t think you should need to spend your life trying to be like someone else, it takes you away from stepping into your true purpose in life. Life… and food is meant to be pleasurable.
As a busy professional, how do you support your well-being throughout the day?
I make it an intention to check-in with myself throughout the day. I consciously pause to ask myself questions like, “How am I feeling right now?” and “What do I need?”.
Do I need a break from work to eat?
Do I need to relax my shoulders and take deep breaths?
Do I need fresh air?
Am I thirsty?
Would it feel nice to stretch?
Would I like another snack?
I don’t think it’s about having some perfectly crafted routine. We’re not robots so it makes sense that what we need in a day, from the amount of food to movement or rest would look a little different every day. For me, it’s more important to continuously practice how to respond to my needs rather than pushing through the day or striving for perfection – that’s usually what contributes to burnout. With this approach I feel more grounded, centered and happy.
What does ‘shine from inside’ mean to you?
“Shine from inside” is two-fold for me: It means Taking care of yourself and living an authentic life. When I say ‘taking care of yourself’, I’m referring to doing things that help you feel better on the inside, even if they aren’t visible to others and even if they aren’t common things you’d be praised for.
It might look like working with a mental health provider.
It might look like eating more regularly and adding back in food groups that you’ve previously cut out.
It might look like having good sleep hygiene.
It might look like practicing self-compassion.
It might look like adding a vitamin regimen.
It might look like cultivating better body image by letting go of the scale as a measure of self-worth.
When you’re taking care of your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing, it trickles into all parts of your life including creating space for you to live a life that’s true to your values. Many times people are understandably afraid to embrace who they are or to say how they actually feel not realizing that being yourself is how you shine.
Any advice for the Rae community?
You are the expert of your own body. Trust it. There is so much misinformation on what you should eat and when, how you should move your body and how you should look. It can contribute to further disconnection from yourself. It’s very common to have life experiences that make it hard to access your own internal wisdom, but if you can sort through the noise, remember that the answers are within you. Body diversity is real and your body deserves love, respect and kindness independent of what body size you’re in — you are worthy.