Rachel Iverson is a board-certified Sports Dietician with a goal in mind: to spread the ideas of healthy and happy bodies in Bismarck through free programs designed to give everyone a safe environment to work out and feel comfortable with their size.

During her appearance on KX’s “Studio 701” lifestyle show on June 28, she spoke with Amber Schatz and Michael Cartwright about the group, and how it aims to help support the idea that every body can be a healthy body (and also tried some ‘Healthy Coke’ while she was there). When her time on set was finished, though, we thought she had much more to say when it came to the topics of dieting, nutrition, and body positivity. So, back in the Green Room, we spoke to her after the televised appearance for some more information about her support group, thoughts on body positivity, and other programs. Here’s a little more information about the dietician on a mission for nutrition, as well as a few good pieces of advice for anyone looking to be proud of their own size.

While Rachel is only beginning the support group now, she has many years of experience in the fields of diet and sports nutrition, having begun in 2017 after studying the topics in college. Strangely, she notes, it wasn’t the world’s idea of what is considered ‘healthy’ and ‘body positive’ that changed over her years of study and practice — it was her own.

Q: Can you tell us what lead you to pursue the nutrition field?

“When I went into school, I had disordered eating myself. I was on the edge of developing some pretty severe restrictive eating and anorexia, and so I had a lot of body dysmorphia. I had gone from a healthy 145 pounds down to about 115 but cutting out a lot of foods. I thought I knew what I was doing at that point, and it made me want to be a dietician. Being your smallest self, I learned, isn’t necessarily your best self, or your healthiest self. When I went to school, science kind of hit me in the face., and it really changed my perspectives about health. After nine years of studying and working, I’m finally starting to understand metabolism. For the average person, it’s hard to get a full understanding of what’s going on inside your body. But I feel like I have a good grasp on it.”

The same concerns she at one time experienced — particularly eating issues and worries regarding unhappiness or body dysmorphia — are those she states her clients often face as well. In Bismarck, though, she reports that not many support programs already exist — spurring her to create one herself.

Q: On the program, you stated that ‘every body can be an athlete’s body.’ What does that mean?

Rachel: “I honestly believe sometimes that when we focus our workouts around making ourselves smaller, we begin to develop a negative thought of exercise as a form of punishment. But when we start to focus on the idea of ‘I can make my body strong, I can make my body fast, I can make my body flexible’- to think of things you can do instead of the things you feel like you need to- we can stick with those things we enjoy for our entire lives, and even think of ourselves as athletes.”

Now, with both personal and professional experience under her belt, she seeks to help Bismarck — a place where support groups are uncommon — develop a group where anyone can come to share their concerns and learn healthy habits in a safe, non-judgemental environment.

“I haven’t talked to anybody who’s 100% happy in their skin, I think,” says Iverson. “We all could use that confidence boost and that understanding that we are doing okay, and we don’t have to look a certain way. It’s tough… I wish things could change faster. In this area, I’m seeing people want it, but there’s not a lot of help here. That’s why I want to start this.”

Rachel’s new support group — known as ‘EveryBODY’ — will meet once a month, and promises to allow attendees to ‘connect with others while learning about sustainable movement and healthy changes in a judgment-free space.

EveryBODY Move and Empower Support Group flyer (Image Credit: Rachel Iverson)

Q: Can you tell us more about the EveryBODY group?

Rachel: “The core focus is about finding confidence in your health journey, wherever you are in it, and understanding that there are things you can do in a way you truly enjoy — and that you can be healthy in a way that fits you. There are all different levels of health and tons of different ways to start.

The support group that Iverson hosts isn’t the only free activity she has for the community, either. With the help of free and open cooking classes, she aims to help teach people how to balance their exercise and living routines with healthy meals.

Q: You mentioned there’s more than just the support group in the works. Can you tell us about your plans for the cooking programs?

Rachel: “I’ve been doing cooking classes as long as I’ve been a dietician, and I can always find something new, so we’ll never run out of ideas. Our plan is to feature three different recipes every week- a ‘save’ recipe that’s cost-effective, a ‘splurge’ recipe that might need a little bit more to get going, and either a snack or dessert. We’ll see how that goes!

Q: As a dietician, what can you recommend to help people start to adopt healthier habits when it comes to eating?

Rachel: “Dieticians don’t usually recommend diets unless you have a severe health condition. What we commend is inclusion. Most diets focus on exclusion: cut out this, cut out that, and you’ll be healthy. It’s more complex than that. You can’t cut out one food group and expect to be healthy. What you should do is focus on including all the healthy food you do enjoy. Let’s say you hate brussels sprouts: don’t focus on including those. Include a vegetable you like instead. Focus on how many nutrients you can fit in as opposed to what you’re not allowed to have anymore.”

But there is another major aspect that comes when discussing health and body positivity: the mental aspect. Oftentimes, one’s feelings about their workout and dieting regimens can have a negative effect on non-physical aspects of their health.

“I think, when we think of health, sometimes we only think of physical health… we don’t think of emotional well-being. But the truth is that mental health is just as important as physical health, if not more so. When our workouts are seen as necessary evils, we develop a negative correlation between exercise and punishment. We’re hoping to form positive connections through programs that promote positive reinforcement and offer solutions to stay healthy that fit into people’s lives.”

Q: At the end of the day, what are you hoping that people get out of any of your programs?

Rachel: “I’m hoping that people can let go of food guilt. That people can find joy and passion in their movement, make connections with others in the same space, and above all, build a community around health behaviors and positivity.”

The first meeting of the EveryBODY Move and Empower Support Group takes place on June 28th at the Bismarck Public Library at 7 p.m. and will continue every final Tuesday of the month.

The first cooking class, also free to attend, will be hosted at the BisMan Food Collective on July 14th at 6:00 p.m. The menu includes herbed pork marinade, chickpea salad, and protein ‘energy balls’. Anyone, regardless of age, race, or gender, is welcome to attend these sessions.

For more information on Rachel Iverson, nutrition, dieting, or any of her classes and support groups, visit her website at foundationfitnutrition.com or call 701-220-4421.