Food Psych #182: Fitness Culture, Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, and Why Health Is Not an Obligation with Cara Harbstreet

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Non-diet dietitian Cara Harbstreet joins us to discuss hypothalamic amenorrhea and the lack of adequate care in conventional and alternative health, the normalization of diet-culture thoughts and behaviors in collegiate athletics and dietetics education, why thin privilege and other privileges don’t necessarily protect a person from internalizing body shame, why you don’t have to engage in or value movement or health, and so much more! Plus, Christy answers a listener question about whether weight loss is necessary for conception and pregnancy.

Cara Harbstreet is a Kansas City-based non-diet dietitian. She's the owner of Street Smart Nutrition, a food blog that celebrates fearlessly nourishing meals and explores food-related topics. She's also the founder of Libre Connections, a digital platform that connects clients to HAES-informed dietitians for virtual coaching services. Her mission is to provide greater access to the support so many of us need for our healing journeys to take place, as well as providing opportunities for dietitians who aspire to work in this area. She is passionate about advocating for change both within and beyond the dietetics profession. Cara is an active volunteer for multiple professional organizations and recently authored a cookbook, The Pescetarian Cookbook: The Essential Kitchen Companion, to promote a more realistic and simple approach to home cooking for health and happiness. When not occupied with work, she can usually be found checking out the local food scene, spending time outdoors, or experimenting in the kitchen. Find her online at

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We Discuss:

  • How Cara’s parents’ emphasis on family meals positively influenced her relationship with food growing up

  • Thin privilege, and how it and other privileges don’t necessarily protect a person from internalizing body shame

  • The normalization of diet culture in collegiate athletics, and how this affected Cara’s relationship with her body

  • How over-exercising affected her athletic performance and overall health

  • Hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA) (aka missing periods), and her experience of being misdiagnosed with PCOS

  • The lack of competent care from conventional and alternative health practitioners when it comes to menstrual and hormonal issues

  • How “fear talk” associated with some medical diagnoses perpetuates diet culture

  • How diet culture skews our view of how much food or activity is “normal”

  • Dietetics education, and how it reinforces diet mentality and behaviors

  • Cara’s experience working at a weight-loss camp for children

  • One of her key strategies to help recover from diet mentality

  • What helped her push diet culture away and start to heal her relationship with food and her body

  • Her experience with the “honeymoon phase” of intuitive eating

  • Why she credits some of her business success to intuitive eating

  • Exploring other forms of movement after her collegiate athletic career

  • Giving ourselves permission to not engage in physical activity

  • Why you don’t owe anybody your health, even if it is something that you value

  • How participating in The Wellness Diet is a form of privilege

  • A quick litmus test to see whether an activity is right for you


Resources Mentioned

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Listener Question of the Week

Can weight loss help regulate hormones and increase fertility? Is it possible to try to lose weight without relapsing into eating disorder behaviors? What are some ways that the eating disorder voice or diet culture messaging can show up for people? What is harmful about intentional weight loss? What is likely behind difficulties with conceiving for people in larger bodies and why don’t we hear about them? What is hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA) and what are some of its risk factors? What can a person do instead to help increase their chances of conception?

Resources Mentioned

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