• Hayden Seder

Wild Woman: Functional Nutritionist Amanda Johnson

Amanda Johnson is a functional nutritional therapy practitioner as well as HAES (Health at Every Size) practitioner—something that’s becoming more and more important in the battle against diet culture, particularly in the outdoor industry. The 35-year-old lives in Boise, Idaho where she loves spending time in the outdoors and helping clients to find a sustainable lifestyle.

Tell me about your views/philosophy on nutrition and how you relate that to your clients/work? What is it about your practice that’s different than other nutritionists? Describe functional nutrition for those unfamiliar with it?

Amanda: So, I am a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner as well as HAES (Health at Every Size Practitioner). My views/philosophy on nutrition is always a NO diet approach. Our bodies are so unique and different, and we are all looking for a sustainable way to live. Unfortunately, we have been mostly blinded by the stream of diet culture; we have completely lost our connection with food, the earth, and how all that connects. I help my clients find their own sustainable lifestyle and understand the journey of health. Most of us have been seeking health with the expectation that eating healthy meals = weight loss and weight loss means health. I completely don’t agree. The thing about health is it is a constant journey and continual practice of trying to balance our stressors with our health.

I often call Functional Nutrition root cause nutrition. This is the no band-aid, NO diet approach to health. In my practice, I help folks pinpoint and understand why you are not feeling your best and develop a healing protocol to support my clients Bio-Individual needs. We get to the root of your symptoms and provide targeted support to your body so you can live life to the fullest!

Functional Nutrition is built on foundations of improving our health via digestion, blood sugar balance, minerals, fatty acids, hydration, and eating a nutrient-dense diet. When these foundations are out of balance we tend to have lack of energy, digestive issues, hormone issues, mood swings, sleep problems—this list can go on. I know there is a big push for intuitive eating; while I love the idea and hope we can all get there, it is very hard to eat intuitively when our system is out of balance. So, it is not just making a suggestion of what to eat, but also supporting foods, herbs, and lifestyle changes that can help in the journey of bringing our bodies back into balance.

How did you get interested in functional nutrition? What’s your own background with nutrition?

Amanda: I first got into nutrition when I was in the beginning stages of my eating disorder recovery. I had spent nearly 15 years battling bulimia, during 12 of which I lost my period (hypothalamic amenorrhea, aka HA). I knew I had years of damage that was done to by body from the stress and malnutrition and I was seeking knowledge on how to heal. During this time, I actually became very sick and ended up seeing a naturopathic doctor who later discovered I had SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth). I was overwhelmed and felt honestly defeated as I was in the midst of my ED recovery. I was limited on what I could eat and it was all emotional and challenging. To top it off, I was training for a 50k Ultra and literally felt like I couldn’t eat a single thing. So I ended up seeing a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. She helped me dig deep into my health, getting to the root of my illnesses. At the time, I was also dealing with eczema which I had always had since I was a kid, and no one had ever helped me try to discover the root of my skin issues.

I then knew I had to make a career change as I became incredibly passionate about how this changed my life. My skin, my energy, my constant gut issues all got better—I felt amazing. And I wanted to help other folks achieve the same!

Where did you grow up? What was your relationship like to the outdoors growing up?

Amanda: I grew up in western Washington outside of Olympia, camping and exploring with family which exposed me to the outdoors at a fairly early age. It wasn’t really until my late 20s that I really embraced my joy for the outdoors as it was my saving grace in my ED recovery and really helped me find myself.

Where do you live now? What’s your relationship like to the outdoors now?

Amanda: I am currently living in Boise, Idaho; we relocated here almost 2 years ago. I need a fair amount of time outdoors to thrive as it deepens my connection with myself and the earth. I feel increasing our awareness of the connection to the outside world can strengthen our connections with our personal “inner” worlds. I do a lot of trail running, hiking/backpacking, and wildcrafting (foraging).

Talk a bit about the intersection of diet and outdoor culture?

Amanda: Diet culture is a big topic. The overzealous pursuit of being thin circles back to these expectations that healthy=thin and thin=healthy. This has really impacted how folks feel in the outdoors, like that we need to lose weight to do certain activities, that you would be better at something if you were to lose weight. It is very toxic world. And I think everyone at some point has been affected by this stigma. With that topic also follows the strict guidelines some think they need to follow like eating keto or low-carb or paleo or plant-based or tracking macros and calories to be a better athlete or achieve your goals in the outdoors. While I think a lot of specific diets can be helpful for some folks, we are all different, therefore our bodies all need different food. We should honor that. To clarify, when I say diet I mean in terms of what we eat, not dieting. However, our culture around diet has become so toxic that we feel we need to be doing what everyone else is to achieve health. I don’t agree with that. EVER.

What are some guidelines you give to active women who want to be healthy and not succumb to the pressure of diet culture?

Amanda: Health is NOT about eating less and exercising more. Shift your mindset around food/movement to boost confidence! Food is not an enemy. For many of us this is really hard to accept and relearn. Learn to love and appreciate YOUR body. You do not need to earn your food. Stop following anyone on social media that makes you feel like you need to give into the pressure of dieting. Get rid of things that no longer fit—people, places, and things. Keep in mind that weight loss does not always mean that there is a healthy change.

What are some of your favorite foods to cook at home?

Amanda: Oh my goodness, I love cooking! And honestly this might change from season to season. However, almost always my favorite goes back to soups. I love me a good soup any time of the year.

What are some of your favorite tips for living a non-toxic life?

Amanda: Love this topic! Making economical choices, such as finishing the products you do have and then purchasing (or making) new non-toxic ones such as household cleaning products, make up, skin care. My tip would be to not be too overwhelmed and make small changes that feel comfortable. I often tell my clients to start as small as shifting your deodorant, then think about changing out your non-stick cooking skillet for a cast-iron skillet. Ditch the idea that you need to do it all at once.

What’s your favorite trail/crag snack?

Amanda: Homemade dehydrated fruit, usually pears. Pears are legit amazing.

#wildwoman #functionalnutrition

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