When people come to see Liz Brinkman, it's usually because they want to be free of a preoccupation with food and their bodies. "I don't want to live this way," is something the registered dietitian and nutritionist hears often.
With more than 20 years of experience, Brinkman works with a variety of clients, 8 years old and up. The most common group is those who want to get away from the dieting mindset. She helps them find the confidence to make food choices based on preference, pleasure, and intrinsic values. Brinkman also works with binge eating disorders, orthorexia (an obsession with eating healthy that leads to restrictive behaviors), Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (restrictive eating without the goal of weight loss), anorexia, bulimia, sensory issues that accompany autism, and sensory processing disorders.
The destructive pressures placed on women and girls to look thin and young are well-known. Brinkman's observation that the current cultural metrics for beauty aren't sustainable (or affordable) led her to look for other metrics. Her practice is based on Health At Every Size, or HAES. “HAES focuses on an idea that anyone at any size can have health and we can’t measure health by a body size, nor should we,” she says. “Although it has its roadblocks, HAES provides an alternative to our western medicine.”
Medicine, Brinkman notes, is an evolving science. Consider how the guidelines for cholesterol have changed. There are also studies that show that anywhere from one-third to three-quarters of obese people are actually metabolically healthy. A quarter of non-overweight people are "the lean unhealthy," Brinkman says.
Brinkman believes that resolving eating problems requires looking at the person as a whole, what health means to her, her life story, and culture. The eating disorder may signal needs totally independent from food.
Clients are driven to seek her help for a variety of reasons, but the most common are:
1) They feel like they are at "diet rock bottom." They've tried all the diets and don't want to give any more time, money, or life force to the diet industry.
2) They have a wake-up call after a birth or other family event.
3) They come to the realization that our current culture treats women’s bodies as ornaments, and see body liberation and food freedom as an act of resistance to it.
Brinkman's tools include polyvagal theory, pendulation somatics, regulation/dysregulation. Once one maps his/her nervous system responses, the options for treatment are as diverse as the factors that created the eating disorder. Other approaches she uses are internal family systems, motivational interviewing, and the relational cycle.
The initial session with Brinkman costs $125. She offers three and 5-session packages at a lower cost. For Arizona clients, she also accepts a number of insurance plans, some of which cover unlimited sessions with no out-of-pocket cost. Further, she works with nutrition students who can see patients for free (under Brinkman's supervision).
There, in her cozy, womb-like office, one feels safe, which is one of Brinkman’s goals for her clients. “I want people leaving my office feeling a bit more whole and seen.”
She extends her arms and cups her hands as if holding something, then says: “Bring your knot. I’ll hold it for you and together we free you enough to look at it and decide where to start pulling.”
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Liz Brinkman Nutrition
1130 E. Missouri Avenue, Suite 700