Carolina (Carol) Guizar, MS, RDN, CDN is an intuitive eating coach, IBS specialist and body image healer. She has a private practice in New York City called Eathority, where she helps clients become authorities on their own bodies and health. Carol blogs about non-diet approaches, local restaurants and travel on her website, www.eathority.com. She can also be found on Instagram as @eathority. Read more about her Health at Every Size approach to counseling, in addition to her sage, detailed advice regarding accepting health insurance on behalf of your clients.
Why did you become an RDN?
Very simply put, I wanted to help people. I wanted to help them feel good, physically and emotionally, and improve their health through thoughtful food choices, mindfulness and stress reduction.
Tell us more about your private practice!
I purposely keep my private practice small. After working and shadowing in various practices and witnessing different counseling styles, I knew I wanted a boutique-type experience where quality trumped quantity. I wanted a practice that felt personalized, intimate and most importantly, thorough. I hate feeling rushed and find that most clients appreciate the amount of time I spend with them because I get to know them and their struggles. I become a true ally in their health journey.
What makes your niche special?
My specialties are intuitive eating and IBS management, both of which I practice through the weight-inclusive lens of Health at Every Size. Clients come to me with food and body image struggles, namely disordered eating, eating disorders, digestive difficulties and poor body image. At the crux of these issues is stress about what and when to eat, what a person’s body looks like or a focus on how their body is not functioning optimally. Layer on a diet culture that emphasizes appearance and demonizes certain foods and no one knows what to eat. This leaves clients feeling disconnected from their bodies, confused, frustrated and scared about who to trust. I help clients challenge old thought patterns about food and their bodies, reduce stress around eating and work towards body neutrality and acceptance. I also help clients clear some mental space so they can connect with their bodies and observe which foods actually make them feel good physically and emotionally.
Who is your ideal client?
My ideal client is someone who is looking to have a more peaceful relationship with food and their body. They are willing to explore beliefs, values and how daily behaviors and thought patterns impact their mental and physical wellbeing. My goal is to help the client define health on their terms, trust their body to tell them what it needs and have the body learn to trust that the client has its best interest in mind.
Why did you decide to accept insurance?
I decided to take insurance because it opens up counseling services to people who could not otherwise afford my full rate. It also brings in a steadier stream of clients. Even if plans don’t cover all the sessions needed, at least the client gets to know the practitioner and their counseling style, and they may be more comfortable paying out-of-pocket costs because continuing the relationship is valuable.
What advice would you give another RDN who is thinking about accepting insurance?
Have an honest conversation with yourself. If you don’t mind administrative work and dealing with insurance companies, go at it alone. If you have limited finances, this may be your only option. Just know it requires patience because insurers can be difficult and bureaucratic, and you will have moments of extreme frustration. I know myself. I don’t love admin work and will put it off until it piles up. The incremental cost to hire someone for credentialing, performing eligibility checks and billing on my behalf is an expense I am willing and able to incur.
Also, have very clear client policies that detail the client’s financial, appointment and communication responsibilities. Collect their credit card to have on file to charge fees for last-minute appointment changes and cancellations, and for any instances of non-payment. Also, have clients perform their own eligibility checks before they come in so they know what their coverage is, then perform your own after the first session. This way you can compare notes to see if there is any conflicting information. Ultimately, the client is responsible for the details of their plan and having clear policies detailing this, as well as their credit card information on file, takes the onus off the provider.
What change are you excited to see in the field of nutrition and dietetics?
I feel non-diet and weight-inclusive approaches are gaining popularity within our field simply because people are tired of fixating on weight and appearance, and engaging in the deprivation and hyperfocus that often accompanies weight loss efforts. Health at Every Size focuses on modifiable behaviors to help a client achieve their unique definition of health. It considers their priorities, desires and ability to engage in healthful behaviors. There is most definitely a role for dietitians to support clients in healing their relationships with food and exercise, improving body image, and gently guiding them to a balanced, varied diet.
What’s your favorite piece of advice you have received?
You do not have to know everything to be a good practitioner, in fact, the best practitioners are the ones who admit they don’t know everything. My father once told me that if you do anything for 10,000 hours, you become an expert in it. I’ve been in practice now for over five years, and while I feel I have lots of expertise, I continue to learn and grow. Clients are the ultimate experts of their own bodies and are our best teachers. I take off my “expert” hat quite frequently in session to give clients the space to share what they’ve been through with their bodies, and it is through them that I really learn the most.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’d like to add two things. The first is to find an area of dietetics that deeply interests you, and that you’re good at. The skills needed to succeed in that area will come easily to you, and you’ll take pleasure in learning. The second is to dig deep to discover your own biases about different body types. It’s a hugely uncomfortable process but it opens your eyes to the injustices of how larger bodies are treated in our field. If you have thin privilege, do research on what that means, how it’s impacted your lived experience and shaped your assumptions about health and beauty standards. This will widen your own beauty lens and help you become a more empathetic practitioner.
Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom with us, Carol!