Defining and Learning About Food Neutrality

In this interview, we discuss the benefits to embracing food neutrality. It is a mindset that helps your overall relationship with food. Christy Maloney details the concept, how it helps and the easiest way to start embracing this mindset.

By Christy Maloney, RD, LDN, CEDS-S


Crissy – 

We are so excited to be here today with Christy Maloney. Christy is one of our HER Expert Panelists. We are honored to have her on the team this year. She is a registered dietitian, she specializes in helping those with eating disorders and disordered eating. She works out of Enhanced Nutrition Associates in Charlotte, North Carolina. And we’re so excited to have you with us today, Christy.


Christy Maloney – 

I am super excited to be here talking with moms about relationship with food. It’s like all my jam.


Cindi – 

Yeah, and food is so complex. It’s just, it’s great for celebration, it’s great. But it also has like negative connotations that go along with that as well. And with that being said, Can you please help us with defining what food neutrality is?


Christy Maloney – 

Yes, so food neutrality is when you’re able to view food neutrally, as you would imagine. So a lot of times, you know, people will think about food is good or bad. You know, I’m so good if I ate a salad, or I’m so bad if I ate a piece of cake. So food neutrality is really this idea that no food is inherently good or bad. It really is just a cut some combination of fat, protein and carbohydrate. And at the end of the day, your body knows what to do with those things. You know, so if somebody is having a piece of cake, you know, one thing I work on with my clients is like, okay, so what goes into a cake, we know there’s egg and flour, and sugar and milk, like all the things that we wouldn’t necessarily think of is like bad foods. But when we put them together, we call it cake all of a sudden, it’s bad, right? So it’s really kind of parsing out each piece of food and what it does for us and helping us look at like how foods help us. It’s not good, it’s not bad. It just is. And the all foods have a place. In somebody’s diet, there’s room for everything.



How can food neutrality help your overall relationship with food?


Christy Maloney

Yeah, so if somebody is struggling with their relationship with food, you know, a lot of times what I see, especially as an eating disorder specialist, is somebody might be very restrictive, which sets them up for constant food, obsessive thoughts, or malnutrition issues, where they might, you know, think of foods is good or bad. And if they have a bad food might set off a binge, you know, that kind of thing. Or there just might be general stress and anxiety about going out to eat or going to social functions, when the food anxiety gets really high. So in embracing food neutrality, it’s just a mindset helps your overall relationship with food, because then you’re not restrictive foods are not good or bad. So it doesn’t create that binging on bad food situation. It helps somebody go out to a restaurant and order, whatever they want, and just kind of, you know, make it very simplified into what’s my protein, what’s my carbohydrate? What’s my fat? What’s my produce? And when you can do that, and just kind of say, Do I have protein, fat carbon produce in some sort of arrangement at each meal, suddenly, the stress goes away, and you’re able to eat a salad or a cheeseburger or a piece of cake, or an apple and peanut butter, like whatever it is, and just think about the nutrition that you’re getting. And so when you’re able to do that your relationship with food just transforms because it’s no longer anxiety inducing. It’s a fun, healthy, helpful part of your life.



Oh, it sounds great to be in that place. So what is the easiest way to start embracing this mindset?


Christy Maloney

Yeah, I think, you know, I kind of tell clients, notice when you should yourself, right? Like, we hear a lot about that, like, don’t shoot all over yourself. So I should eat this, I shouldn’t eat that. If you’re if you’re shooting yourself, then you know that there’s likely a diet culture mentality behind that. So first and foremost, notice that what you tell yourself is okay or not okay to eat. And then really kind of think about why if I’m thinking about, you know, having a burger, but I shouldn’t do that. Well, why not? Right? Because it’s a it’s a protein, it’s fat. It’s Kharbut has led us in tomato on it’s got some produce. It’s like a really great vessel for all of those things. So don’t shoot yourself, first of all, and then secondly, you know, when you’re thinking about food, and you’re thinking about how to put together a balanced meal, if you can go through To the list of what do I want for my protein? What do I want for my car? What do I want for my fat? What do I want for my produce and really think about it in the individual parts and the the ways that those things help you, and putting it together in a way that you enjoy. Again, that just takes so much of the anxiety away. And it also gives a chance to create more variety in what you want. You know, if you’re really craving something one day, I’m always craving french fries. They’re my absolute favorite food. So if I’m like, Oh, I really want fries. Well, that’s my carb, like, what kind of protein and fat? Do I want with that? And like, what am I gonna throw in there for like a vegetable. And so then that way, you know, you think about allowing yourself all of those things and your food options just open up and expand. And then I always like to say foods, not moral, just to remind yourself that you’re not bad. If you ate a piece of cake, like you’re bad if you stole the cake. Like that’s probably not an action that we want to do. But having a piece of cake or having whatever other foods you really enjoy. It’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with that you didn’t do anything wrong, even though diet culture likes for us to believe that. Was that me?



Thank you so much, Christy. I think that’s such a powerful message to have, especially as we head into summertime. I feel like there’s a lot of food issues that tend to crop up in summertime. You know, as you well, I mean, really in all the seasons, right? There’s the holidays, and it happens all year long. But summer has its own special I think diet culture aspects that come into it. So I think it’s a perfect time to learn more about food neutrality and to try to embrace it in our everyday lives. So thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us.


Christy Maloney

You are so welcome. I enjoyed it. Great to see you. You too.

Christy Maloney is a Registered Dietitian specializing in helping those with eating disorders and disordered eating in Charlotte, NC. Christy earned a BS in psychology from Wingate University. Following a career in banking and finance, becoming an RD was a second career for Christy. After completing coursework for a BS in Human Nutrition and her dietetic internship, Christy has been an RD since 2011. In January, 2019, she opened her own practice in Charlotte, NC, Enhance Nutrition Associates, devoted solely to the treatment of eating disorders at an outpatient level. Christy has become a Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian – Supervisor (CEDRD-S), now the CEDS-S certification . This credential shows Christy’s expertise and experience in the field. She also is an iaedp approved supervisor for other dietitians looking to obtain their CEDS certification.

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