Michelle Lelwica


Dr. Lelwica is Professor of Religion at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, where she teaches courses on the intersection of religion, gender, culture, and the body. She did her graduate work at Harvard Divinity School, where she received a Masters of Theological Studies in Christianity and Culture (1989) and a Doctorate of Theology in Religion Gender and Culture (1996). She is the author of Shameful Bodies: Religion and the Culture of Physical Improvement (Bloomsbury, 2017), The Religion of Thinness: Satisfying the Spiritual Hungers behind Women’s Obsession with Food and Weight (Gürze Press, 2009), and Starving for Salvation: The Spiritual Dimensions of Eating Problems among American Girls and Women (Oxford University Press, 1999), as well as scholarly articles, popular blogs, and podcast interviews that explore women’s conflicted relationships with their bodies. She has also published articles and taught courses that focus on mindfulness practice and social justice. 

How did you get started in your career?

I started studying the religious and spiritual dimensions of eating disorders and related problems as a graduate student of religion at Harvard Divinity School. I was deeply disturbed to discover the negative attitudes towards female bodies that are prevalent in traditional Christian theology, and I began to recognize the parallels between the patriarchal aspects of this tradition and the images, myths, rituals, beliefs, and morality surrounding contemporary women’s pursuit of thinness. This recognition led to the writing of my dissertation on the religious dimensions of eating and body image problems, which became my first book (Starving for Salvation). My second book, (The Religion of Thinness) challenges American culture’s devotion to female thinness and is written for a broader (i.e., non-academic) audience. My most recent book, Shameful Bodies: Religion and the Culture of Physical Improvement, builds on my previous work on eating and body images problems to analyze a wider range of issues that often produce body shame, including (dis)ability, chronic pain and illness, and aging, as well as weight.

What advice do you have for someone new to the field? 

Stay open to a complex and integrative perspective on body image and eating problems—one that explores their spiritual dimensions and that thinks critically about the cultural underpinnings of these problems. This openness will foster an understanding of eating disorders as responses to human suffering that tragically create more suffering. Such an understanding fosters the compassion that is necessary for the process of healing. I urge new professionals in the field of eating disorders to investigate the spiritual needs that obsessions with food and weight thinly veil, and I would encourage them to define “spiritual needs” very broadly (i.e., in non-sectarian terms), including the need for a sense of purpose, love, inspiration, courage, community, agency, and peace.   

Erica Drewry


Erica Drewry, CEDRD, RDN, LD

Website: www.alignednutrition.com

Instagram: @alignednutrition

Facebook: @alignednutrition

How did you get started in your career?

I always liked science and I loved the idea of working with people. I started out majoring in pharmacy and quickly realized that I wanted to help people more preventatively. Once I began studying nutrition, I became obsessed with being thin and learning the “perfect” way to eat. I used nutrition information as a weapon to try and “whip myself into shape.” I wasn’t willing to go into practice for fear of infecting others with my rigid and unrealistic standards. 

Fortunately, I was able to work with a dietitian and therapist which transformed how I view nutritional science.  I couldn’t believe how much psychology was involved in changing my eating habits and self-management. 

From there, I had a clinical job and some earlier entrepreneurial stints. Gaining clinical experience was invaluable to me and exposed me to eating disorders right away. I entered private practice in 2011 and haven’t looked back. Over the years, I’ve honed my niche to end up where I am today. 

What is your typical day?

Many people think they want to go into private practice while being unsure what that actually looks like. Do you work typical 9-5 hours? Do you take naps at 2 pm on a Thursday? The answer is whatever you want it to be. Consider what kind of boss you are to yourself. 

It’s important to develop systems and have a job description for yourself just like you would at a traditional job. It’s a good idea to batch your tasks and have set office hours. I resisted this structure for years (that’s why I left the hospital job – freedom!). But the truth is, you can easily work too much or completely ineffectively if you don’t develop systems and refine your tasks. You are the intake coordinator, dietitian, marketer, biller, collection agency, networker, CEO, etc. Which leads me to delegation – it’s helpful to hire professionals into your business as you grow. If you are in sessions for 6 hours and someone new reaches out to you for help, it might be nice to have someone answer/return their phone call?

In a typical day, I consider structuring my schedule, the roles I’m performing that day, developing systems for things I do more than once, and now hiring out tasks I don’t enjoy or do as well as someone else. 

What advice do you have for future nutrition professionals?

When I first started, I had no idea what supervision was. It is essentially hiring a more seasoned RD to advise you, support you, and help you learn how you show up in practice. Beyond helping you with a tough case, a good supervisor can share how to manage the emotional labor of this work and deal with your own feelings about who or what work you are doing. I recommend this to everyone whether it’s required or not. Supervision helped me not feel alone and supercharged my professional expertise and philosophy.

Learning about yourself and how to take care of yourself is essential. This goes beyond getting your nails done or taking a weekend away but being able to check in with yourself on a regular basis and meet your needs. Those needs might be rest, time away from work, making a difficult phone call, a tough decision in business, creating a policy with yourself, focusing on a specific type of client, or seeking support from a therapist. 

Sarah Gleason


Sarah Gleason, RD, LD, CEDRD

Website: SarahTheDietitian.com

What is your current position? 

I am my own boss.  I have had a private practice for 10 years and work exclusively with people who have eating disorders.

How did you get started in your career? 

Just after graduation I just wanted a job.  For five years I did assorted work in hosptials; working on the ENT floor, Diabetes Self Management Training, Med/Surg floor etc.  I worked in a gym as their dietitian. I also worked in a nursing home as the food service administrator. None of those jobs fit me or my personality. I like to sit down and chat with clients.  It was quite difficult to do that right after a patient had a CABGx4! I moved to Tucson in 1999 and quickly found a job at Sierra Tucson a psychiatric rehab hospital, there were are about 10 beds dedicated to people with eating disorders diagnosis.  I fell in love with the job immediately. It was hard.  I had a very steep learning curve. I had to ask many questions.  But, it just felt right and I haven’t looked back since then.  Over the last 20 years I have worked in residential, either as a full-time RD or PRN, and I started my own office. In these last 10 years I dove head first into volunteering for local and national organizations which has been time consuming and such a learning experience. 

What advice would you give to someone new to the field? 

  1. Get involved. Volunteer for local or national organizations that speak to you. The more people you meet the better your connections to getting your dream job.
  2. You will likely have more than one job that doesn’t suit your dreams.  That is what I hope for you. Those are the jobs where you will learn about yourself, your tenacity, your spirit. You will learn about you.
  3. When at a conference, ask a question to the speaker, even if there are 250 people in the room. Start it with “Hi, I am (fill in your name) from (city, state).” You will stand out from the crowd.
  4. Get a supervisor if you are working with or want to work with clients who have eating disorders.

Casey Bonano


Casey Bonano RD, LD, CEDRD

Practice Website: wwww.dallasnutritionalcounseling.com

Ebook Website: www.thefoodfreedomguide.com 

Instagram: @dallasnutritionalcounseling

Twitter: @caseybonanord

Facebook: @caseybonanodietitian

What is your current position?

I am the sole owner of a private practice in Dallas, Texas called Dallas Nutritional Counseling where I provide outpatient services to those struggling with eating disorders and disordered eating. 

How did you get started in your career?

For as long as I can remember I knew what I wanted to do and it had nothing to do with nutrition. I entered college with a completely different major and I quickly because disinterested and restless. I browsed the different colleges and available majors. I knew I wanted to do something in the sciences, most likely something within healthcare, but I had no idea what. That is when I stumbled across nutrition and the idea of becoming a Registered Dietitian, which I knew nothing about. I talked to the head of the department, and decided to change my major second semester sophomore year. I began my coursework, applied to the coordinated program, and was accepted. During my internship I hated just about every rotation. I was wondering if I had made a terrible mistake, and I was questioning whether or not I really wanted to be a dietitian. Then I interned with a private practice dietitian specializing in eating disorders, Intuitive Eating, and Health at Every Size. Over the couple of months of my last rotation, everything became clear. This was exactly what I wanted to do. After graduation I spent a couple years in clinical dietetics, but I knew my passion was working with eating disorders. I began working part time, nights and weekends, at a residential eating disorder treatment center. I eventually left clinical dietetics to work full time for the eating disorder treatment center. After a couple of years, I transitioned to another treatment center where I was working 30 hours a week and officially opened my own private practice. After several years of doing both, I left higher levels of care to focus solely on private practice and outpatient care. 

What advice would you give to someone new to the field?

If you are trying to get into the field, but continue to find road blocks due to lack of experience, try to get experience in non-employment avenues. Reach out to local eating disorder dietitians and see if they have any part-time, volunteer, or shadowing opportunities. Become a member of the local and/or national eating disorder organizations such as IFEDD (international federation of eating disorder dietitians) and iaedp (international association of eating disorder professionals) and make connections with those currently in the field. Let everyone who will listen know that you are looking to get into the field. Paid experience is not the only experience of value. If you are new to the field, learn as much as you can and never assume you know enough about the treatment of eating disorders. Attend any and every educational opportunity about eating disorders even if it is not specifically geared towards dietitians. Make sure you are receiving adequate supervision and if you are not seek it out from a Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian Supervisor. 

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Ursula Ridens


Ursula Ridens, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor

President/Owner of Ursula Ridens, RD Inc.

Website: www.ursularidens.com

How did you get started in your career?

My vision of having a flexible work schedule and being my own boss mixed with my interest in health and nutrition is what got me started in my career as a private practice dietitian.  However, this is not where I started out.  I climbed the ladder through clinical and outpatient dietitian positions through a local hospital and gradually built my private practice on the side.  I developed an interest in the field of eating disorders in college and began researching on the topic and networking with professionals.  Having a good understanding of my passion to help others develop a more peaceful relationship with food and their body is what has allowed me to build my business successfully.

What advice would you give to someone new to the field?

My #1 piece of advice is to share your passion and work interests with others.  Talk about what you aspire to do, network with other professionals (both those in your field of choice and those outside of the field), perhaps volunteer your time or shadow a professional to gain experience in your area of interest.  For some, this means stepping out of their comfort zone.  Believe in yourself and that you can achieve anything.

Rachel Coleman


Rachel Coleman, M.A.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS)

Website: www.rachelcolemanceds.com

Instagram: @rachelcolemanmft

Facebook: Rachel Coleman LMFT

What is your current position?

I am currently in private practice treating Eating Disorders and various mental health disorders. I have been doing private practice for 8 years and have remained connected in the community with involvement in my local IAEDP board for a few years, consulting work with Hoag Diabetes Center educating staff on Diabulimia, speaking at multiple graduate schools on career options with Eating Disorders, walking and supporting my local NEDA chapter, and mentoring students writing their dissertations on Eating Disorders. Being in private practice is so fulfilling because I love watching clients learn to take charge of their recovery process in an outpatient setting but, since I am a social person and believe in the power of the community, I also love consulting and networking with other professionals as much as I can!

How did you get started in your career?

I was interested in what causes Eating Disorders when I was in high school and watched my cousin suffer from a severe Eating Disorder that led to years of inpatient treatment and a significant stress on her family. When I was in college, I read the book “Reviving Ophelia” and my career path was set! I majored in Psychology with a minor in Counseling at Messiah College, PA then attended the Graduate School of Education and Psychology at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA to get my Masters in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy. I did as many papers and studies as I could on Eating Disorders in graduate school, but was still underwhelmed by the information offered to graduate students on this population, which has fueled my passion to help graduate students learn as much as possible about this amazing clientele and field of work. Upon graduation from Pepperdine, I began my Internship at Shoreline Treatment Center in Long Beach, CA as a Recovery Counselor, then Primary Therapist, then Program Director. I got all of my pre-licensed hours working at Shoreline and absorbed some amazing, career-changing, priceless knowledge and experience. I have taken what I have learned into private practice and learned even more by my strong and beautiful clients and treatment team I consult with on those clients. 

What advice would you give to someone new to the field?

My advice is to get “in the trenches” so to speak. Even if it is low pay or seems below your educational level, get a job at a treatment center or ask to shadow therapists or RD’s for the day. My time spent working late night shifts at a housing program for clients helped me get a glimpse into what it feels like to “be at home” with a client and see them in their natural environment outside of a traditional therapy setting. It gave me an inside look into the anxiety that comes up while getting dressed, or the discomfort when diet commercials come on TV, or the difficulty in suppressing binge urges late at night. If I had not had that experience, I wouldn’t have been able to hear their struggles and see them firsthand. I highly recommend as much exposure as possible, as well as reading lots of autobiographies of recovered patients, to truly get into the mind and heart of someone in the recovery process.