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Authenticity: Being True to Yourself while Eating, Exercising, & More with Maria Terry

Updated: Dec 5, 2022


📌Episode Highlights

[06:37] Maria’s History

  • Maria worked as an English teacher and school administrator before deciding to change careers and become a dietitian.

  • She is currently in her first year of private practice as a dietitian. She found the transition challenging.

  • Coming from a large family taught her the importance of connecting with others.

  • People feel seen when they make genuine connections.

[09:07] Maria’s Private Practice

  • Maria dedicates herself to helping people heal their relationship with food.

  • There is currently a gap in the nutrition community in terms of online assistance and teaching others what to eat.

  • Her practice focuses on people's relationships with food at a specific point in their lives. They take into account their patient's circumstances, such as age or prior experience.

  • She also advises people on fueling their bodies for the specific type of movement and exercise they prefer.

[12:08] Letting Go of Diet Culture

  • Diet culture is a systemic issue, not an individual one.

  • There’s more to diet culture than the thin ideal.

  • You may be stuck in your habits around food and your relationship with food; you don’t have to eat the food in front of you.

  • Social media lacks nuance — the answers on it tend to be point-blank.

[15:33] An Unexpected Challenge Leading to Today

  • Maria felt burnt out while teaching and experienced full-body anxiety because of her teaching career.

  • She was in a very dark place until she acknowledged she had to prioritize her health.

  • Health encompasses more than dieting and exercise — it also involves communicating with and understanding your body.

Maria: “The truth is, you're allowed to hit these points in your life when you're 25, 26 or 45 or 56, when you realize it's not worth it anymore–the work, the stress, the expectations, the misalignment.” - Click Here To Tweet This

[21:42] Recovering from Burnout

  • Take the time to think things through and sit in your discomfort.

  • It’s critical to take note of practical health concerns. Burnout recovery isn’t always luxurious self-care; it’s also going to the dentist and checking on your health.

  • Burnout recovery is building a strong foundation for yourself.

  • Yoga was a turning point in Maria's healing journey.

  • Share your discomfort.

[27:20] The Gray Area in Nutrition

Maria: “If you're a dietitian or health provider, anyone in a helper role listening to this, stop answering questions to give the right answer.” - Click Here To Tweet This
  • It is vital to provide context and ask additional questions to provide a thorough response to the questions people ask.

  • Sometimes, the best path to take when answering someone’s question is to provide a question of your own that leads them to more appropriate information.

  • Dietitians need to help people understand and think for themselves.

[33:19] Relationship with Movement

  • Remove the pressure that exercising is the only path to feeling better because of the results it provides, like fitting into clothes or taking pictures.

  • It’s ok to not have all the answers. Learn to realign yourself with nutrition experts and information.

  • Celebrate the you who decided to go out and improve yourself; movement itself is the reward.

  • Movement doesn't make you worthy. Exercise and incorporate movement into your day because you know you're worthy of being cared for.

[40:36] Finding Your Authentic Self

  • We sometimes commit the mistake of shrugging off our authentic selves.

  • Maria's journey to discovering her authentic self involved rediscovering what she enjoyed as a child.

  • Consider what the child version of yourself needs to hear.

  • Finding your authentic self can involve going back to who you were when you were very young.

[47:25] Maria’s Routine

  • Maria begins her day by devoting time to herself — if she has the time, space, and energy capacity.

  • If she doesn't get to do her morning routine first thing in the morning, she'll try to do it later in the day.

  • Create before you consume.

  • She makes it a point to take care of her body and relax at night.

Maria: “Because ultimately when we are in that work, work, work mode, we think: I can handle it. I can deal with it. What if you told yourself: I can deal with it and I also don't want to or I don't have to?” - Click Here To Tweet This

[54:26] This Week’s Processing Prompt

  • Consider what parts of your childhood you can bring back.

  • Processing Prompt: Who were you as a child before anyone told you who you were supposed to be?

  • Actionable Experiment: How can you make movement a reward itself?

About Maria

Maria Terry is a registered dietitian in New Orleans, LA. She was a former English teacher and school administrator before she changed her career to nutrition. Her goal as a dietitian is to guide you toward a better understanding of yourself and break through the all-or-nothing approach to what you eat.

Connect with Maria: Website | Instagram | LinkedIn

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Maria Terry: There are so many ways that I am not good enough, and I am not going to meet these standards that I never set. That allows a person, I think, to say, well, how am I going to take care of me? How am I going to deal with that?

Caitie Corradino: Welcome to Whole, Full and Alive, a podcast exploring the art and science of falling in love with your life, with your story and with who you truly are, underneath your titles, your resume, your relationship status, and your bank account.

I'm Caitie Corradino, a registered dietician nutritionist, certified fitness and yoga instructor, eating disorder recovery coach, Reiki healer, and founder of Full Soul Nutrition, but underneath my titles and resume, a big fan of kitchen dance breaks, early mornings, all things chocolate truffles, world traveling and serendipity. I'm here to share no bullshit stories and actionable tools to help you feel unshakably worthy. You have everything you need within you to feel whole, full and alive right here, right now. Let's get into it.

Hey, welcome back to another episode of Whole, Full and Alive whether it is your first episode, your tenth episode or your eighteenth episode, I am so damn grateful that you are here that you're tuning in that you and I got connected in some way shape or form and you are joining for this episode because it's going to be a really good one.

Before I dive into today's episode, I want to let you know that the whole full and alive toolkit is now available for purchase on my website This is a cluster of modules, journal prompts, experiments, all kinds of things that you can implement into your life today to start cultivating a sense of wholeness, fullness, and aliveness.

With this toolkit, you can focus on nervous system regulation, intuitive eating, energizing exercise, self esteem, self-worth, all kinds of things that we explore on this show in really specific and actionable ways that you can apply to your life, literally today. At first, I was calling the toolkit an online course. Every time I said online course, it didn't sit well with me. I was like, “Why doesn't it sit well with me to be calling this an online course?” I realized, because it's not an online course, yes, there are some videos that you can watch in this toolkit.

But it's not like a course, it's not like you're going to school and sitting down and taking notes and watching a bunch of lectures. It really is a big cluster of actionable experiments and journal prompts. And like kind of like the things I give you at the end of every podcast episode, but like a little juicier and a little more specific and organized in a super intentional way. So the toolkit is organized into three units: Wholeness, which focuses on nervous system regulation and self worth, Fullness, which focuses on intuitive eating and intentional nutrition and eating in a way that's energizing, sustainable and not restrictive. And then Aliveness, which is about intentional energy output.

So things like exercise and other actionable things that you might do that expend energy but ultimately help you feel more alive. So if you're interested in purchasing this whole full and alive toolkit, it's a great accompaniment to this podcast. And it's a great option for you if you're thinking about diving into one-on-one nutrition counseling, one-on-one wellness coaching, but you're not quite ready to take that full step or don't have the resources to take that step yet.

This toolkit is really going to give you a kickstart in focusing on your health and well being in a way that's intuitive, non-restrictive, truly sustainable and authentic to you. I'm so excited about this toolkit. We've gotten great feedback on it so far and I hope that it will serve you. So with that let's get into today's episode.

I have an incredible guest today. She is also a registered dietitian like me, her name is Maria Terry, and she is truly one of my favorite people on the internet. I hate saying that she lives off the internet too, she's also a human but she has the most amazing Instagram page @vitamin_ri. Please follow her. I am so thankful that I've known Maria for a while now because I have personally learned so much from this woman that you are about to meet.

Maria is a teacher turned dietitian so before she was a registered dietician, she worked in education, and boy you can tell because she is so good at breaking down pretty complex nutrition concepts into bite-sized, digestible, tangible nuggets that I think a lot of people can understand. Maria really beautifully combines her background and education, with her incredible sense of humor to provide amazing nutrition education, especially around fueling for an active lifestyle.

So people who like to lift and run marathons and do things like that, and also for people who are just trying to focus on their nutrition in an intentional way, without sliding back into the dieting mentality. So on today's episode, Maria is going to grace us with her wisdom, her beautiful way of explaining complex nutrition concepts, and also with her amazing sense of humor, and just big, big heart that I think you'll be able to hear come through in every single question she answers.

I am so grateful to have her on this show. Without any further ado, I'm just gonna dive right into my interview with the amazing Maria Terry. Maria, thank you. Maria, thank you so, so, so, so, so much for being here today.

Maria: I am so so excited and honored to be here with you, Caitie. Thank you for having me.

Caitie: I love talking to you. So let's get it started. The opening question for my guests is always who are you, and I love to hear about what you do in the world. Also, I love to know who you are, what are a few words you use to describe energy, personality? What's important to you?

Maria: Yeah, this is a big question. Who am I? My name is Maria Sylvester Terry. I'm a registered dietician. I'm a former English teacher and school administrator. I left my career for something that didn't have grading and mental turmoil, for me, and that meant talking about food with people. I didn't expect that it would be me talking about food and how it makes them feel and their parents and how they grew up and what their fears are on food.

I didn't see that coming, but I still welcome it, and it is exactly where I'm supposed to be. So I feel like I'm in my zone of genius as a dietitian. I also feel like it's hard running your own business. I'm a private practice dietitian. Pretty new to it, I'm in my first year, and it has been a roller coaster that I would get in line for every single day and ride it over and over and over again, but it’s still a roller coaster, kind of always wondering when you go upside down, am I gonna fall out of my seat, I know physics says I won’t.

It's a lot of trust in myself. So I'm still learning who I am on that journey in a way. When I think of things that are important to me, connection, I think, is the word that always comes to mind. I thrive when I connected to others. This conversation right now is the best way to start my day. Talking to clients, that's an incredible way for me to start my day. Having that connection comes a lot from being one of five children, so I'm from a big family with lots of cousins.

I really don't know a life where I'm not connected to people and laughing and having a good time with them, or even just being miserable together. Having connection means someone sees me and I see them, and who doesn't need that, who doesn't want that. That's what probably one of my biggest values, and it's ultimately why I left my job for private practice is to feel more connected with individuals.

I had to describe myself, I'd say I'm vibrant, even though I'm wearing a black sweater today. I'm otherwise very vibrant, very light hearted and empathetic.

Caitie: I really, really see you in all of that. You are such a connector. You're so genuine. The way that you show up even on social media, which is really hard place to be authentic in the way we connect with people, you're just right there. I feel like you're always talking to me. I feel like you're always talking to someone, and that's such a cool, cool thing about you. I'm not surprised that you come from big family.

I could definitely, definitely see that. So tell us a little bit more about what you do. What is your private practice focus on? What were you doing before that briefly?

Maria: Yeah, so my private practice focuses on folks' relationships with foods at a specific point. A lot of my clients are coming from already having done Intuitive Eating courses. They've kind of told themselves, I'm no longer dieting. I am not interested in being on that hamster wheel anymore. I don't know if I have the capacity or the knowledge or the practice with trusting myself around structure and having structure that doesn't feel restrictive.

That's sort of where I feel like I'm the bridge troll, like let me ask you these three riddles and see if you're ready to cross. I'm pulled a lot of people's hands going from I know these fears I have. I know these feelings I have around food aren't rooted in any reality other than the fear that I'm feeling right now. So I ask them the questions kind of bring them through to feel like I can eat vegetables on a regular basis and I'm not on a diet.

I can eat salads with salad dressing, and also if I want to order it on the side, because that's my preference, I'm not on a diet. So that is such a interesting group of people, but I find that there is so much need, and there's a little bit of a missed opportunity in the dietetic sphere right now of helping people, yes, unlearn dieting and also how do you feed yourself. My clients are in their 20s, or 30s, or 40s.

I work with clients in their 70s, and there's the same question or the same statement comes up, I can't believe I don't know how to eat. How did this happen? I thought I knew everything. A subset of my practice is also in person here in New Orleans at my gym, which is Crew Fitness, and so I work in the New Orleans community, with corporate wellness. I work with different hospitals.

I'll work with my clients there, so I also have this active population. So we're learning how to fuel. We're learning how to nourish our bodies for movement as recreational athletes so that we can also feel our best and focus on that longevity of our movement, but also our bodies in general.

Caitie: Good, good stuff. I mean, you know I love that, and it's definitely a big part of what I focus on my practice, too. I love how you are really owning the gap that you're filling, I think it's so important. It's hard to talk about structure without restriction because it's so easy to say something that can sound subtly restrictive and subtly diet-y, and you are just the queen of explaining things with such beautiful nuance.

I really, really appreciate that about you and your content, I think, it's so thoughtfully curated. You really do such a good job of helping people who are in that place, yeah, of wanting to find a little bit more structure with their nutrition who have totally fully let go of the dieting mentality. I think that's an important part because there are people who think they've let go of the dieting mentality, but they haven't, unfortunately.

I'm actually curious if you could speak to that for a moment. How does someone know when they've actually let go, or when they've pseudo let go of the dieting mentality? I'm not expecting a point blank answer to that question, obviously, bring on the nuance of whatever comes up for you.

Maria: I think it's a couple things. One is they've actually learned that it is far bigger than dieting and far larger than diet culture. It's rooted in white supremacy and systemic racism and ableism, like sexism, everything. It's so much bigger than what they think. I think when you can come to terms with that, verbal terms, mental terms, you can sit with it and recognize, wow, I didn't have a dog in this fight.

There are so many ways that I am not good enough, and I am not going to meet these standards that I never set. That allows a person, I think, to say, well, how am I going to take care of me? How am I going to deal with that? So sometimes, I get folks that come in with that clarity, and I think that helps. I also think it's a point of stuck and frustration and saying, I've done the thing, where I put cookies in my house for three months.

I've done the thing where I've eaten ice cream every single night, until my stomach hurt and I no longer want it. I hate going to the grocery store, so I'm not able to buy the food I feel like I should have, or that I want to have, dropping the shoulds, food I want to have in my house to nourish myself, because I'm afraid to go. I don't like being in the grocery store.

It reminds me of really bad times in my life, and having really strict about things following a whole 30 protocol, whatever it might be. So there's a point where they can see themselves and what they want to be and how they want to feel around food, but they feel stuck, because they're like, I am just going to keep eating the ice cream, and I don't want to. You know what, they don't have to.

I think that the lack of nuance on social media, I mean, that's also how content goes viral. That's also how people see content is when it is a little bit point blank period, right? It is just right there. Folks tend to think well, if I see a doughnut, I should eat it. Because if I turn it down, I'm dieting. You and I both know that's not what Intuitive Eating talks about. That's not what the principles are.

But the translation of it can sometimes leave us feeling like, huh, so I'd say it's the three. You recognize that this is a system far greater than yourself, and it's not an individual dieting issue. It's not just the thin ideal. You are stuck in your habits, and you feel like I know that there's a different way around this, and I'm just not sure how to get there. It might also just be total confusion.

What am I supposed to believe? How am I supposed to feel? Are you sure if I eat Greek yogurt that's plain and unsweetened that I am not on weightwatchers?

Caitie: Yeah. I really want to underline what you said about how it's not just the thin ideal. It's so important because so many people are like, well, I understand this concept of the thin ideal and how you know I shouldn't be aspiring to the thin body and all that, so why can't I let go of this. It's largely because of that. It's largely because this is a much larger systemic issue.

There are so many freaking layers to this, and we can't just sit here and be like eating disorders are all about the thin ideal.

Maria: Right, right.

Caitie: So yeah, thank you so much for addressing that in such an amazing, beautiful, organized way. So back to you. What is one unexpected challenge or obstacle that you faced in your life that kind of brought you to what you're doing today in work or your personal life or anything?

Maria: I'm sure I think I don't talk about this all the time, and I probably should, because I'd like to normalize or make more space for people to feel like these things happen. I did everything I was supposed to do. I went to school. I wore my uniform. For 16 years, I went to Catholic school. I graduated with honors. I did Teach For America with a teaching degree. If there was an overachiever, it was probably me, and I did a really great job as a teacher.

I was immediately ushered into administration, which is unfortunately what happens in charter schools. They take great teaching talent, and they pulled them out of the classroom. I hated it. They hated me. I told myself over and over and over again, you don't hate this. You can't leave these kids. A lot of savior complex problems here came up for me. In fact, I feel like I drank that Kool Aid. I chugged it.

If there was a beer hat with Kool Aid and the straw, if it could have been a Camelback, it would have been on me. I felt like I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, and my body said no. I had a full throttle anxiety, like full body anxiety takeover, and it took months and months and months for it to manifest into something, but I was in a really dark place.

Something really unexpected that got me where I am is that place is April 18, 2016. I'll never forget that day in my life, where everything was not important anymore. My health mattered, and it mattered because that didn't happen anymore.

Caitie: Yeah.

Maria: When you realize that health is so much more than like all the diets you're on and all the running that I did and all the boxing I did, it didn't matter, and that's a heavy, heavy note to share on a podcast where you're like, I love you. This is fun. The truth is you're allowed to hit these points in your life when you're 25, 26 or 45, or 56, when you realize it's not worth it anymore, the work, the stress, the expectations, the misalignment. It just wasn't.

I couldn't do it anymore, and my body said no. I would recommend that if you are in a place where you are turning off those body communication moments, they will get loud one day. They will come, and they will find a way for you to hear them and see them. It was so unexpected to just be so incapacitated by my own anxiety, unable to leave the house, unable to talk to people, couldn't go to my job.

I was a highly, highly motivated, successful and energized person, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. It can happen to anybody. It's not just like you’re a nervous friend or you’re an anxious parent. Anyone can work themselves to a point where their body says absolutely not. You're staying home. You're gonna figure something out. So getting where I am today came from a place of deep, deep, deep care for my body and deep respect for like, you know what, you are right.

My insights were right. Not my most eloquent answer, because again, this isn't like a fully processed piece I share a podcast, but I share it for you because I know this is a place where I can do that, and I appreciate that.

Caitie: Thank you. Yeah, this podcast really is all about both sides of the coin, really. What do you need to feel deeply on one end of the spectrum so that you're able to feel something else on the other end of the spectrum just like being fully alive. I really appreciate you sharing that because it's something that I admire so much about you is how authentic and inviting and aligned you seem to be in what you're doing right now.

It's so important to know that that didn't come easy for you, that wasn't something that you just have been aligned and energized for your whole life, and you just had this beautiful, easy transition from teaching to dietetics. You just don't know what someone's been through when you look at them kind of on the surface and no one would have ever guessed.

I think that you really went through a lot of pain at the end of your teaching career, even though there are a lot of things that you loved about it, right, like the nuance. You did really love serving kids in a lot of ways, and I know some of it seems to have been rooted in some things you were working on internally, but also I'm sure you did genuinely love it in a lot of ways.

Maria: I did, I did.

Caitie: The nuance there is something that someone would never see unless you share it, and I'm so thankful that you did share that.

Maria: Thanks. Yeah, it’s my pleasure. I think we sometimes just call it burnout, or like you’re burnout. It's like, no, I grieved.

Caitie: Right.

Maria: Leaving my career was so hard. It was just heartbreaking. I get a lot of questions like, was that worth it? I'm a teacher, and I want to be a dietitian now. It's like, well, I mean, I don't know, that's just one hard place to another hard place.

Caitie: Yeah.

Maria: The alignment is where it really has to matter and how you show up for yourself. I feel like if I wouldn't have carpentry, I'd still run into the issue of wanting to work my fingers to the bone like, the hardest working carpenter. They're unlearning urgency and unlearning perfectionism, which I'll never do, but I'm endlessly going to try. That's all part of it. So that was also a big deal for me.

Caitie: Unlearning urgency, I feel like I want to change the name of the podcast to that. That is what I want for all of the beautiful people who listen to this podcast, or myself, too. I'm on that lifelong journey as well. I totally get that. I have so many more things I want to ask you in our limited time together. But before we move away from this, I do want to ask.

You said you re-learn to take care of yourself and really show up for your body as you were kind of recovering from that burnout, which was true burnout, not like casual buzzword burnout. You really were feeling so anxious and burned out. What were some things that you did to kind of crawl your way out of that and move towards a new career?

Because I think there are a lot of people listening to this whose bodies are telling them to get out of their current job, and they're like, well, what would that even look like if I were to move forward with that?

Maria: Yeah, I was very lucky to have already been in an administrative position where my salary was the highest it had ever been in my life. I've never seen money like that. Okay. So I like very logistically took time off. I had a lot. I never took a day off. So I had years of PTO, and I also had short term disability, and was able to utilize about two to three months of time, and then I was able to resign from my job in June.

So I took some time. At the very beginning, it was like I asked my parents to drive me places if I needed to go somewhere. I got all of my appointments in. I started doing the little things like going to the dentist. I went to the gynecologist. I went to the eye doctor. I went to all these places I hadn't been in years because they didn't matter.

As long as I had teeth and eyeballs, why do I need to go spend time to check on them? I have them. It's fine. Spoiler alert, it was not fine.

Caitie: Yeah.

Maria: It's not good. So I did a little things. I asked for help. I went on my honeymoon because of course, this was all happening in the first six months of my marriage, let’s just lay that in. So we went on our honeymoon, which was a beautiful, beautiful trip in Europe, and I felt like I was finally myself again. So about two, three months later, I was like, okay, I'm coming into who I remember myself to be.

I was a yoga teacher in college and in the early start of my teaching career, and I went back to recertify. So I took some of the money that I had saved and put it into a teacher cert and in a make that price even cheaper. I worked at a studio, so I did like an energy exchange and being in that place where I was really asked to show up authentically. Practice is really what served me best. So yoga was a huge part of my healing journey.

I was in a studio where the owners were just absolutely incredible, and they were respectful of yoga. They saw yoga for larger than movement and larger than a studio cash cow, really believed in the full, all the limbs of yoga. So that really supported me and then that gave me some time to recalibrate what do I want to do, where do I want to be. I know I want to be in a helper role. What does that look like?

So in a lot of ways, taking care of myself look like these little tiny steps of doing the things, the little annoying things I was ignoring, and then also taking time to sitting in my own discomfort, sitting in a lot of tears, go to a lot of walks and just suddenly crying and not knowing why, realizing I just had been through it.

I haven't really been through it and not being afraid to talk about it, not being afraid to call all my friends I hadn't spoke to in months because I was too busy to talk to them, and tell them where I was without shame because I felt very bad for not being there for them as friends as a friend to them. That has served me really well.

Caitie: I love that you mentioned going to the dentist first like yeah, it is the little thing. I think people are like oh you need a bubble bath with lavender petals thing and all these things. Healing from burnout looks like really starting from the ground up, building a strong foundation for yourself and making sure you're checking on yourself in the most basic and simple and boring of ways. I really appreciate that you started there.

Maria: I feel like I left something out and it feels like a lie if I don't tell you.

Caitie: Oh my gosh, do it.

Maria: So there was something I did before all of that.

Caitie: Okay.

Maria: I know you've heard part of the story before. I downloaded some Australian influencers, sugar, adre