Ep. 4: Cultivating Authentic Connections with Sarah Petty

dietitian turned designer podcast

Courtney Vickery [00:00:09]:

Welcome to the Dietitian Turn Designer podcast, where we strive to empower health and wellness professionals with the knowledge and skills they need to create inclusive and impactful online businesses.

I’m your host, Courtney Vickery, and you guessed it, I’m a Dietitian Turn Designer, and my goal is to provide valuable insights and actionable tips to entrepreneurs, designers, and health professionals who want to create weight-inclusive businesses that prioritize authenticity, compassion, and inclusivity.

On this podcast, we have informative and engaging conversations with industry experts and we explore topics such as weight-inclusive design, branding, website development, marketing and business management, and more. So whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or just starting out, join us on this journey to create positive change in the world of health and wellness.

Courtney Vickery [00:01:08]:

Hi, everyone. Welcome back to the dietitian turn designer podcast. Today I’m excited because we have Sarah Petty, a board-certified, integrative, nutritionist and trauma-informed and size-inclusive personal trainer located in Fort Worth, Texas. Welcome, Sarah.

Sarah Petty [00:01:23]:


Courtney Vickery [00:01:24]:

Yeah, thanks for coming today. Can you tell us a little bit about your story and how you became to be a nutritionist and do the work that you do?

Sarah Petty [00:01:32]:

Yeah, so my story is probably very similar to a lot of your listeners. I grew up thinking that my body was wrong and did a lot of things to try to, quote, unquote, fix it.

A lot of that was sort of subtext or not a conscious choice. It’s just sort of embedded in my consciousness because of media and culture and the way people talked around me. The truth is I was very well treated and I was very lucky that very few people outright bullied me.

So I really kind of got off on the kinder end of things than most people do. But I still carried a lot of shame, a lot of internalized hatred. I was very depressed for most of my teen years, and I didn’t receive any psychological support or even really a whole lot of emotional support from people that I knew because I didn’t know how to vocalize this feeling.

So I was very alone for a lot of that. And that’s a perfect environment for disordered eating to develop. And of course, it did. And through my disordered eating, I’m not sure I would have been diagnosed with a specific eating disorder. But it was definitely not healthy and it was definitely harming my body. Not necessarily intending to, but I didn’t really care either way.

And so I thought after I graduated college with a music degree, which I got just because I enjoyed music and I’m good at singing and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so I went to school for music. And about halfway through that degree, I started to realize that I enjoyed learning about vitamins and nutrients and learning what food actually did in the body.

And that was the first real positive experience I’d had with any kind of health, quote unquote behaviors because up until then, I had thought of exercise as a way to morph or punish my body for the way it looked or the way it was. And I thought of food as almost like the enemy was something that I just avoided as much as possible or ate certain things that it would help the exercise do its job better, basically.

So everything was geared towards making my body smaller and being more socially acceptable. And in college, I don’t even know where I came across the information, but I started learning about B vitamins and minerals and the things that they do in the body and it’s so much more than just the metabolism those things impact. And I started becoming really fascinated with the science behind it because I am truly a nerd and I love learning about how things work and I love getting really detail oriented in the mechanisms behind things.

And so that was the first positive experience I had with nutrients and I thought I’d love to help other people learn how to eat again, quote unquote, to help them avoid the problem I had, meaning like help them not have the same body issues that I had. And so I thought, I’m going to see if I can find a way to do that. And I actually took a few years off after college looking for the right thing.

Finally found a master’s degree that accepted my music undergrad, which is pretty hard to find, actually, and went from there. And I thought this whole time as I got in, this will help me lose the last 20 pounds, and I will know everything there is to know about food. And I’ll finally have figured it out. This is a magic key ingredient, it’s just knowledge that I’m missing and everything will be fixed after that. And about halfway through the degree, I started to realize, thankfully, because of the way that the program is set up, even though it is still very weight centric and there’s a lot of problematic elements in typical dietetics and nutrition education.

There was some really good stuff around mindfulness and around intuitive eating or more holistic eating and eating in a way that honors the body’s needs. And just being exposed to that, even though it wasn’t as complete as the knowledge that I have now started me off on this journey towards realizing that there was nothing wrong with my body in the first place and that food was just there to nourish and support me. And that was just so liberating.

And it took several years for me to fully integrate that and accept more of a weight neutral philosophy and practice. But at first it just felt like freeing myself literally from being in this prison of the self imposed prison of self harm. And once I started using food as a way to explore creativity and nourishing my body in a positive way and getting to try new things and it being colorful and bright. It felt like a completely new world. And that’s when I knew, oh my gosh, this is what I want to teach people, that food and movement can be so almost like spiritual or meditative process, but not in a self harm way, in a way that actually brings more joy and more life, and this is what it’s meant to be.

And anything less than this is just not good enough, in my opinion. And so it’s my mission now to share that concept in whatever way meets people where they’re at, because not everybody’s ready for a weight neutral philosophy, and I completely understand that. But whatever way meets people where they’re at, I want to share that idea that food and movement are meant to bring us joy and help us fulfill our purpose and value in life as a method or a tool that we can use rather than something that we have to be subservient to because we are not good enough. So, yeah, that’s where I’m at today.

Courtney Vickery [00:06:55]:

Yeah. Thank you so much for sharing. I love that you were really interested in the vitamins and the minerals part because I teach a class at the University of Georgia, and I feel like that’s the hardest part to teach because I want to make it interesting, but not everyone really wants to know all the scientific side of it. So I love that. Let’s talk a little bit about your branding and how your story kind of influenced the brand that we created for you.

It was actually last February. I had to go back and look at the date, and I can’t believe that it’s been that long.

Sarah Petty [00:07:26]:

I know!

Courtney Vickery [00:07:29]:

But yeah, you reached out to me for a brand refresh. Well, we kind of talked about what inspired your reason to start your business and your brand. But how did you tie your story and your beliefs and values into your mission?

Sarah Petty [00:07:44]:

Well, we talked a lot about how my story kind of is just reflected in what I want to be able to share with other people and how we want to use the brand design to be able to do that. So I don’t know if this may be answering a later question, but we talked a lot about colors and types of fonts and things that really emphasized the energy of what we’re going for.

Courtney Vickery [00:08:08]:

So before you reached out to me, how were you envisioning your brand’s identity and messaging being, and how did you envision it speaking to your ideal client?

Sarah Petty [00:08:18]:

So I was really looking for a way to share this concept of feeling emboldened and empowered because that was sort of the brand name or concept that I was really wanting to emphasize. And so I wanted something that looked strong, bold, powerful, but not overwhelming or overbearing, because I’m also a very sensitive little soul with high attention to detail and words and colors and details really matter to me.

So I didn’t want something that was like bright orange and yellow and red in your face, bright pops of color. Because even though that’s really fun and a lot of people really resonate with that, that feels like overwhelming to me on a sensory level.

Courtney Vickery [00:09:04]:


Sarah Petty [00:09:05]:

Yeah, it felt a little aggressive for me. And I think a lot of my clients and people that I’m seeking to reach out to are similar to me in a lot of ways in that they like being inspired and energized, but also there’s a sensitive side where too much is too much.

So we were looking for colors or I wanted colors that were like rich in saturation but not too bright. So I really liked the sort of jewel tone effect that we went with and the fonts being bold, but not so bold that they were aggressive.

Courtney Vickery [00:09:40]:

Yeah, no, it’s funny, I was looking back over your branding questionnaire from last year, and you wanted your ideal audience to feel excited but calm. And you felt like, I know that’s the opposite, but I knew what you meant is what you just described.

Like people can be excited and encouraged without it being aggressive and still feeling calm and safe. So can you tell me what you think are the key elements that make your brand unique and stand out in the health and wellness space?

Sarah Petty [00:10:14]:

It’s tricky because there’s a lot of nondiet, dietitians, hazel line nutrition professionals. There’s a lot of weight neutral personal trainers now, which is so great to be able to say because I’ve had a lot of people say, I’ve never found a trainer like you before. I’ve never found a nutritionist who had the integrative clinical knowledge but also had this weight neutral approach.

And I’m always thinking, but there’s so many of us. I know so many found me, but also we’re in a little protective bubble and not a whole lot of I guess not enough people know about us where it’s truly mainstream yet. So as far as what sets me apart, there’s a lot I see more similarities than I see differences, honestly.

And there’s many times where I really question, am I even the best person to be presenting this message? Because some of the other people are doing it well. So of course, like any other entrepreneur, I’m constantly questioning, am I doing this? Should I be doing this?

But I do think that there’s power in sharing your individual story because no matter what someone else has been through, the concepts and elements can be really supportive and inspiring to other people, even if their story is different than yours. So I think just by sharing my story that that is somewhat unique in the way that it all came together.

And I also think that I have a very specific way of communicating with people. Like that energy where we were looking for inspired or excited, but also subdued and kind of serious at the same time. And I think that that is a little bit different than what I see in a lot of other practitioners and a lot of other trainers is usually a lot of big and bold or a lot of more soft and elegant. And so I feel like I’m kind of in the middle and maybe that makes it a little more generic, but I do see that that’s a little bit different than most of what I see.

Courtney Vickery [00:12:05]:

No, I can tell when your stuff comes through on my feed. I can be like, of course I made your brand. But either way it sticks out to me because I can tell it feels authentic to you. And that’s something I always tell people.

Yes, it’s probably true that there’s not necessarily a brand new novel idea or a novel message, or a novel way to say a message, but it’s the fact that it’s you and your personality and your brand that makes it different. And people will resonate with you based on your story and the things that you share and the way that you share it.

Sarah Petty [00:12:40]:

Yeah. One thing that I actually didn’t think of when I asked you a question just a second ago is that more recently I’ve learned that I’m very neurodivergent. I just thought it was normal because my whole family is probably neurodivergent and so I grew up thinking that we were all just quirky. And so I’ve really embraced that. And I don’t always talk about it as like an identity, but it does inform the way I communicate with people, informs how I work, which is not like the typical task list due to things Monday through Friday 95 that will suck my soul out of my body. So I do think that that is an element of uniqueness. Although there are a lot of amazing practitioners, again, that are neurodiverse and they talk about that too. So it’s not an necessarily totally unique, but I think that plays a role of making my content and also my work because it has to work for me or I will burn out. And I have almost multiple times during this. Then in that way it becomes unique because I have to call people to work with me in a way that is sustainable for me as well as for them. And so that is unique because it’s unique to me. And I also think that a lot of people really resonate with me being nerdy and quirky, because a lot of them are also nerdy and quirky. And so they feel seen and also feel like, oh, I get you. Even though I don’t share a ton about my personal life. Always on social media, there’s elements of that where it’s like, oh, yeah, kindred spirit. Yes.

Courtney Vickery [00:14:05]:

No, definitely. And I’m also a neurodivergent, so that’s probably how we probably came together and understood each other because I feel like we always find each other. We all can tell we’ve got the Neurodivergent $0.06 going on.

Sarah Petty [00:14:19]:


Courtney Vickery [00:14:21]:

So let’s move into moving on from our branding story and into what we really wanted to talk about today. We wanted to talk about building authentic connection with a community of many intersections. So to get started with that, can you kind of share I know we’ve been talking about weight neutral. Can you kind of share your definition of what you consider a weight neutral space and why you think it’s important to connect with folks of various intersections within that space?

Sarah Petty [00:14:50]:

Yeah, I do. For one thing, weight neutral means different things to different people. So I think it’s really helpful to define that. And when I’m talking about weight neutral, what I mean is that I work with people with a purpose of supporting their values and their goals apart from intentional weight loss as a primary goal. And I think that it is unkind to assume that people should just leave their desire for weight loss at the door. I think that’s unrealistic and unkind to really honor what people’s desires for acceptance in our society is. And so because of that, I don’t say like, I will absolutely not work with you if you still desire to lose weight because that just doesn’t make sense to me. But what I will say is this is the values that I’m upholding if you’re willing to work with me and knowing that, I can’t guarantee that your body will change or not change. But we’re going to work on habits, behaviors and things that help you live a life more fully in whatever way that looks like for you, then we can work together and you are allowed to desire whatever you want. Beyond that, just know that I’m not going to be asking for body measurements and asking how your weight is and asking hair and all of that. I’m going to be asking how are you feeling? What is your mobility like? What are your symptoms like with nutrition related? What are your food habits that are supporting your well being? And those are the things that I’m going to be prioritizing. And of course, if something is relevant that comes up that is important to you, please share that with me. But just know that I’m here to be a neutral receiver of that. I’m not going to prioritize or applauding weight gain or weight loss. To be neutral truly needs to be like an atheist in that sense. And so I’m not going to be applauding or denouncing either one. It’s just human bodies change and they’re going to change throughout your life. And so we’re here just to work with you regardless of that and facilitate well being. And I think that weight neutral is a term also that intersections or overlaps with several other terms. There’s a lot of overlap there and they all have slightly different meanings. And so sometimes I use fat liberation or body liberation. Sometimes I use weight neutral, sometimes you use Body Positivity, depending on who I’m talking to, what I think will be the easiest for them to understand. Since you have talked about it being weight neutral, that’s the term I’m using here. But just for listeners to know, I’m not really beholden or specific in terms of which individual term I think is best. I think it depends on the situation and the person.

Courtney Vickery [00:17:16]:

Yeah, no, exactly. And the way you explained how you explain it to your clients is exactly how I explain it to my clients in my nutrition practice, too. I am fine with the desire to lose weight, but I’m not going to actually be an active role in you making your body change, because I can’t control that. And I’m focused over your overall well being as a person. And you said something about bodies changing, and that’s my sticker. I know they can’t see it, but my sticker says Bodies Change. Worth doesn’t.

Sarah Petty [00:17:46]:

Oh, I love that. I have a T shirt that I found on Etsy that says that, and I love wearing it.

Courtney Vickery [00:17:51]:

Yeah, I got it at an event yesterday called Balance is BS nice for local women entrepreneurs. And that was one of the stickers. All right, so let’s talk about this a little more. Can you tell me how can individuals with different identities effectively communicate and build relationships within this space?

Sarah Petty [00:18:11]:

Yeah, I think this is such an important conversation to have because one of the key criticisms that I have seen of people in the weight neutral or intuitive eating dietetic space, specifically, is that a lot of us are thin white women who don’t always understand where people are coming from, especially the people that we’re working with. And that’s really important that we do our job to actually be able to support people instead of just saying we want to and like having good intentions, we have to actually back that up with action. And there’s a lot of people that have amazing education and a beautiful heart and want to support people but still end up inevitably, without meaning to, creating, harm or hurting people in their work. And that’s something that’s going to exist regardless of how hard we try to fix it because we’re human. So I’m not saying perfection is the goal, because that wouldn’t make sense either. But I think it’s so important to look on this, and one of the best ways that I found is to well, there’s a lot of ways that I’m going to share just a second, but primarily not assuming that I know everything about the person I’m working with in order to say the right thing. And also always assuming that I’m going to probably make a mistake and just having that be the lens that I’m looking at. Everything not in the self judgment, like, oh, my gosh, you’re not ever going to be good enough for this to help this person kind of way, but more just like, hey, you’re human, just like they are. So just be ready to pivot if something doesn’t work right. Be ready to apologize if you’ve made a mistake. Be ready to repair if there’s something that’s really gone wrong. That’s just the nature of being a human in this practice. And rather than creating more shame by pretending like you didn’t do anything, do your due diligence to make up for it the best that you can. And so I think before we get into any of the other stuff that we’re going to talk about, I think the primary three things that I try to always hold true whenever I’m working with people that have different experiences than I do or have different identities than I do is to be kind and keep my mouth shut if I don’t know what I’m talking about. There’s a lot of times where maybe really tragic events happen and a lot of people feel like they have things they need to say about it or maybe feel obligated to say things about it. And I’ve definitely been put in that situation where I’m like, I feel like not saying something would be worse than saying something and saying it wrong accidentally, and that’s tough. But I do always choose to keep my mouth shut if I don’t know what I’m talking about because that doesn’t have their help. So those are my two kind of primary things that I always keep in mind. Give people the benefit of the doubt and try to treat people with kindness as much as possible. Obviously, we’re human, and again, we’re going to be activated. We’re going to be responding based on our own past experiences. And we can’t do that like we’re empty shells, we are humans. But trying to feel as neutral and grounded as possible before responding is always a great place to be. And then again, referring out or just not talking if it’s not something that you truly have the knowledge to speak on, I think is a really good baseline. If anyone just took one thing away from this podcast, that would be it.

Courtney Vickery [00:21:34]:

Keep your mouth shut.

Sarah Petty [00:21:36]:

Just keep your mouth shut if you don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t know what I’m talking about half the time. When it’s not like my exact specific field, I usually just don’t say anything because I’m like, I don’t know enough about this to really have an informed opinion. So you really don’t want to know what I have to say.

Courtney Vickery [00:21:53]:

I feel like I’m going to roll today because you’re talking about being kind and that’s what my shirt says.

Sarah Petty [00:21:57]:

Oh, my gosh, that’s so cute. For those of you who are listening, her shirt is it like a rainbow. Be kind underneath. That’s adorable.

Courtney Vickery [00:22:07]:

I’m going to roll with the words and the phrases today.

Sarah Petty [00:22:10]:

Yeah. All right.

Courtney Vickery [00:22:13]:

So speaking of being kind and keeping our mouth shut, in your experience, what are some common barriers to building an authentic connection with individuals of different intersections and how can they be overcome potentially?

Sarah Petty [00:22:28]:

Yeah, I think that it helps a lot to follow other creators, whether that’s people who with the same type of profession that you have or just generally other creators in the online space who are outspoken, not just people who have other identities, but people who are outspoken about their experiences. Because even if it’s something that really rubs you the wrong way or feels weird or wrong or unfamiliar and therefore scary to you, it’s really helpful to have other perspectives informing you on a daily basis or however often you check social media. Maybe not daily, that’s probably not always healthy, but regularly being exposed to ideas or experiences or points of view that are different than your own. And that doesn’t mean you have to change your mind. But just being exposed to things that are different than your own experiences help you not only be more aware of where people are coming from when they enter your profession or your environment, but also helps you develop an appreciation for other types of work that’s being done outside of your own bubble. And when you come across as people, for one thing, you’re able to have a more informed response so that you don’t have to keep your mouth shut because you might actually know what you’re talking about if you listen long enough. Second of all, when you truly listen with the goal of not correcting or educating, but truly just listening to either learn or just to be aware, doesn’t even have to be something that you’re taking in if you completely disagree. But if you’re being aware of what’s going on outside of your world, that helps you have more empathy and more awareness of your clients or the people that you want to become your clients. And even just that exposure alone, I think makes such a difference in how you see the world, but also just how you sit with people. Being more open to new ideas, being open to being wrong more regularly, being open to changing your mind on things more regularly. I think it’s super crucial so that’s my number one thing is just to follow people who again, maybe not even have the best idea, or maybe you don’t even agree with them, maybe you will never agree with them. But just knowing what’s going on in the world outside of your bubble and expanding your worldview, expanding your thoughts, being open to changing your mind, being open to change your mind again, that has happened for me for sure is crucial. And then this is sort of piggybacking off that idea. Beyond just following people and learning for free, you should pay. The people that you have determined are either the most educated in that area, have the best lived experience in the area, that applies to what’s going to help you be a better practitioner? Maybe. For example, let’s say you’re working with people who are neurodivergent but you are not neurodivergent. Following and paying neurodivergent coaches, whether that’s like a business coach or like a content writer coach or like an email marketing person or something like that, who truly understands what they need. If you’re working with people of color, let’s say you’re specifically working with I’m going to use a very specific example. In North Texas, the maternal mortality rate of black women is exponentially higher than white women and even much more higher than the country national standards. So if you’re going to work like, let’s say you’re a this is not even related to nutrition. This is really blessed. Say you’re a doula or a midwife and you work primarily with black women in North Texas and you’re not black, you need to, if you haven’t already, be working with other black doulas and midwives. You need to be learning from those people whether that’s hiring them to train from or going to conferences that are those people are speakers or whatever. However it is, I’m not a midwife. I don’t work in the midwife world. But just to use that as an.

Courtney Vickery [00:26:20]:

Example, add that to your list of things.

Sarah Petty [00:26:25]:

A lot. And so learning from those people in those environments and then being able to integrate those ideas in a way that fits your purpose and mission or maybe even expanding your purpose and mission to include some of those things is really important. And you can pay people without paying a lot of money. Like if you are just getting started as a practitioner, you don’t have to be hiring expensive coaches. And that’s not what I’m saying necessarily, although that is a great thing to be able to do if you have the financial ability to do so. I’ve never regretted working or paying people of a variety of backgrounds and a variety of identities because I’ve learned different things from each one of them and it’s made me a better practitioner every single time. So definitely a big fan of that. But also many of these people who are online creators have either like a membership or a patreon that you can pay one, two, $5, $30, whatever a month and so it can be very accessible. And because of that, not only are you supporting them and helping them do their work more sustainably, but also you’re able to benefit from learning from them on a regular basis. They usually have some sort of like weekly or monthly email or podcast that’s exclusive for their subscribers. And so that’s a great way to have a low cost way of learning from people that you want to learn from and also even just reaching out to them and saying, I want to pay you for your time, but I don’t know what that would look like. Maybe they don’t have a public offer and just say if it’s someone you. Really resonate with, I’d really like to learn from you. Could we set up a call? What would that look like? What would be an appropriate rate for you? Just working something out with them directly is a sign not only of good faith that reaching out to that person, saying, I really value what you have to say. And that person may have been wanting to offer coaching but not feeling like they had the wherewithal to do so. So you’re encouraging them to do that, but also, again, directly making a connection with that person and building direct community with them, which opens up so many doors for both of you to be able to collaborate in whatever way you want potentially in the future. So it’s a win win in my opinion. And having an open mind for what a paid relationship could look like anywhere from having someone do administrative work for you or doing social media work for you, having them consult with you to where they are, helping you build your offer, helping you build your strategy for the year or whatever it could be. And even things like CPA or financial guidance or whatever, like on the back end of things as well. Working with a variety of people helps you be more diverse in the way that you are working with pay professionals and that’s going to inform how you work with the people that you’re supporting as well. So I think it’s just like a continuously cyclical community building process and then the more connections that you have, the more ways you’re able to truly reach out to the people in those communities. They’ll say, hey, I know you this person, I can see that you really care and that you’re really authentic, so I trust you. Now I’m going to potentially have someone that I know work with you or follow you on social media or they may be able to help you with another project that you need help with that I’m not qualified for. So it just expands your network of community. I hate the word network community to where you’re able to just benefit from so many more people that you might not have thought of before if you hadn’t taken the time to be intentional about diversifying who you’re learning from. And I know that was a super long answer, but it’s like such a big web.

Courtney Vickery [00:30:13]:

No, I love that. Honestly, you worded it really well because that’s something that I think about a lot too. And I love like I always tell people, I feel like a connector sometimes because I like connecting people to the resources that they need that are the most appropriate for them. Coming back to thinking of design and website stuff, if someone reaches out to me and they have a website on a different platform than I normally work with, I’m going to refer them to someone that I trust and know works on that platform. Because to me, it’s community over connection, right? So it’s not going to help the client for me to try to do something that I’m not familiar with when I can refer them to someone that I trust to do that work in a better way.

Sarah Petty [00:30:54]:

Yes, definitely.

Courtney Vickery [00:30:55]:

Let’s go on to this next question. How do you think individuals can ensure that their online spaces are trauma informed and welcoming for I don’t like saying making the space safe for all because I feel like that is hard to do and you can’t promise that and then that can in turn then cause harm. So I’m saying this what are things that we can do to make sure that we are being trauma informed and doing our due diligence to make this space safer?

Sarah Petty [00:31:24]:

Yeah, it’s impossible to make any space truly safe, right? Whether that’s online in real life, people can come along and maybe people in a closed environment can say unkind things or hide who they are and then come and blow up your environment. So obviously we can’t promise that. But what we can do is really it’s related to that building the web of connection that I mentioned before with the back end professional part of your world that informs how the front facing part of your business goes. So I think just doing that alone helps you make the internal changes or adjustments that you need to make in order to be more trauma informed and welcoming. But I do think it’s very helpful to have specifically trauma informed training because trauma informed is now becoming more of a popular thing but it’s not something that should be just spoken of lightly. So I for example, have taken a trauma informed personal training course, a certification so that I’m not there’s so much more to learn always about the human brain. But I have a general knowledge of what is helpful or not helpful with human beings in general, regardless of knowing, you don’t have to know what people have been through in order to be trauma informed, by the way. So just being able to make a space feel like relatively chill enough for people to feel safe enough to express their thoughts and feelings is really important. I think the best knowledge that you can have on that is just understanding why human beings in general have fight, flight, free spawn response and basic understandings of how to interact with those. Because a lot of times the people that are interacting on your page are doing so because you made them feel something, whether that’s just inspiration or like they’re responding rapidly out of anger or fear or something. A lot of times that’s because they’re coming from their own experience and something that has troubled them in the past and not that their words aren’t true or they are true, but they’re speaking from those feelings. And so learning to not take that personally necessarily, but to try to see where they’re coming from rather than reading into it is really important. That is a trauma informed practice and that happens in a one on one setting, like when you’re working with a client, but also in a social media setting or if you got like a nasty email or something like that. It’s the same kind of thing. Human beings are typically not operating from an intent to be equivalent mean. Many times they’re hurting and they’re responding from that pain. And so seeing where they’re coming from helps a lot. There’s definitely a time and place to just be like, all right, I’m done with this conversation because it’s now no longer helpful to me or them. But often I am one of those people that relives conversations for years after I’ve had them. So often, the more I think about it, the more I’m like I wonder if there was, like, a deeper meaning to what they said and then trying to learn from that after the fact without overthinking it to the point of causing myself additional stress, which is always a lovely little challenging balance. But I think that’s a really good place to come from. And then trying to give people the benefit of the doubt basically is what I’m trying to say. And then I think it’s also important to invite collaboration and feedback. So similar to what we were talking about with collaborating in a paid way or just following other creators. Inviting collaboration and feedback from your audience, who may be also having different identities than you’re experiencing, will help you get the feedback of what your audience needs from you in terms of like if you’re trying to make your offer make sense to them in a way that will help them the most or community your offer in a way that will make the most sense. Getting feedback from doing things like asking questions in your post or in your stories, having polls and things like that. And not always just fun things like what did you do this weekend? But here’s something that I experienced this week. Has this ever happened to you? And if it’s never happened to the majority of people that respond, then you’re like, okay, so this particular thing isn’t super helpful, let me try something else next week and I share something from my own life. So sharing your own story and just seeing what resonates helps, you know, what types of elements will be most impactful or most helpful for the people that are following you. Same thing for writing an email. If you write a story and people I will write a story, sharing something and then I’ll get like three responses from people that I already know. Either I already work with or they’ve responded several times before to my email. So these are people that I’ve already built a relationship with and always like, oh my gosh, I can’t believe you said that. I’ve really been struggling with the same thing thank you so much. And it’s like, okay, this is a concept that we can work with. Because if three people took the time to respond to my email, which I never respond to emails, I don’t even read most of the marketing emails that I get, I’m like, okay, so someone really resonated with this. This is good stuff. So that question answer kind of cycle, it can feel really tedious. There’s definitely weeks and months even, where I just don’t feel like doing it. And that’s part of the reason why I’m paying other people and outsourcing some of that stuff for me to be able to stay fresh in my own mind and kind of distribute tasks a little bit more evenly within my business. But even just doing it cyclically, like every quarter or so to get awareness of where your audience is currently at. And this reason why this is so important, I think, beyond just trying to be helpful, is that if you’re doing, like, if you’re launching a new service or like a new round of a program or something like that, and you’re like, blah, my cool weight neutral nutrition program is so awesome. Here’s all the things it does for you. And you’re hearing crickets. It’s probably not because your program sucks. It’s probably because either you’re not communicating in a way that really resonates with their people, or maybe your people are just going through some stuff right now and they don’t have the capacity to engage even if they want to. They don’t have the capacity, whether that’s financially or just like emotionally. Maybe they’re going through a tough time, and that’s hard for you because then you’re like, oh, no, how am I going to pay the bills? But you can figure it out. You’ll figure it out. But in the meantime, knowing that their silence doesn’t mean you’re bad, no shame there. But then using that information to say, okay, well, if that’s not resonating, what else is? And trying being willing to change your plans and try something different in terms of how you’re pivoting, in terms of how you are communicating or even changing your whole I’ve changed my whole program before because I was like, oh, maybe this isn’t actually what people need. Which I know is really painful, but necessary. Because if our goal is to help people, then we have to do it in a way that makes the most sense for the actual people we’re trying to help, not because we think it looks like the right thing to do, right? So, yes, that is my opinion on how to make your online environment more choppy.

Courtney Vickery [00:38:31]:

So I had tons of thoughts, and I was like, I want to talk about these things too, but I want to stay on track. But two things I was thinking about I love this conversation because my brain is thinking about how this is what I’m talking about when I talk about brand strategy with people because they think that branding is just the logo and the design and the colors and that’s all great because that’s what people see visually. But this is where the strategy piece comes in because everything you’re talking about is stuff that they would learn in this brand strategy process. Like they would figure out what their missions are and their values are. And I always talk about values exercises with my nutrition clients and with the business clients because at the end of the day, you have to come back and ask yourself, is this in alignment with my values? And if you don’t have those values and you don’t have that mission, you don’t have a target audience or understand their journey, then you can’t create a program, right? Like you can’t create a program because you don’t know what they need. And that second point was thinking about my experience in public health and having to make community programs. It’s the same thing. You can’t just make a program and assume that people want that thing. You have to ask them. We can’t assume what their wants or needs are. We have to ask and figure out what do they actually need and what would benefit them and not just what we think they want.

Sarah Petty [00:39:51]:

All right, so what advice do you.

Courtney Vickery [00:39:53]:

Want to give individuals who may feel intimidated by engaging with these big concepts around weight neutrality or any other topics in their marketing and social media?

Sarah Petty [00:40:03]:

Oh, gosh. Well, I will just say that even though I’ve been doing this for several years now, I still feel intimidated. So I don’t know if the intimidation necessarily goes away. Maybe for someone with decades of experience, possibly, but I don’t think the whole concept of weight neutral nutrition and fitness is even that far along in terms of being like a professional genre. So I think we’re all still kind of winging it a little bit, but in order to make things feel less intimidating, simplify to the nth degree. So one mistake that I made I mean, I guess it wasn’t really a mistake because I learned from it, but one thing that I did frequently at the beginning of my process of building a community and trying to do Instagram was to have really informationally dense posts. And I still do this occasionally if it’s like a complex topic that we’re going to do a little deep dive in. But I think that long form, really detailed stuff is more better suited for an email. So I’ve actually recently started doing that, specifically having like a long answer in my email and the short answer is in the Instagram, which I think is kind of fun. Feel free to copy that. Whoever’s listening think that’s because I’m sure I’m not the first person to do it. But in Instagram or whatever short form social media, this TikTok or stories or whatever YouTube shorts you can use if you have a whole topic. You can make that into a series and have, like, five to ten posts just on that series. And you don’t even have to call it a series. It was just, like, themed, that you can just be like, this is related to the theme. This is really to the theme. But having just very simple text on a photo, text on a bold or colorful background, or just like a paragraph, even if that’s the kind of content your audience works with. Well, just talking about one part of that concept or just explaining one application that they could use, like, let’s say we’re trying to make Hydration feel easier. Maybe struggle with hydration. Maybe that’s the topic, the theme. So instead of it being like, here’s ten tips for Hydration all on one page, you can have ten different yes, because what I’ve learned the hard way is that people are so smart, and also they have such a limited capacity for new information coming in because we are so information overloaded in our world. And also, like I said, people are going through hard times. They may have just been through a breakup or lost their job, and then they’re on Instagram and they’re like, Hydration. They should probably be doing that better. Here’s ten reasons why I suck at Hydration. They just feel more shame, and then they’re not acting on it, but also they’re feeling more shame, and then they’re associating your post with shame. And that’s never a good thing. So our job is not to tell people how to do things better, but instead, let’s say, how can we meet them where they’re at? So instead, be like, Are you struggling with Hydration? I have two. Here’s one thing that really helped me. If you’d like to try it, let me know how it goes. That’s a great invitation for a call to action, where you can just be like, have you ever tried this? Let me know in the comments in that community. It prompts people to respond. It also prompts immediate consideration of that thing. Like, oh, I’ve never tried the water bottle with the fun little messages that say, keep going, you’re almost there on the side. That sounds, like, very encouraging. Oh, and it’s only like, $20 on Amazon. I think I’ll order that for myself. I deserve it. It’s a little dopamine hit. And then they’re like, I did it. I did a thing. And then they’re going to be proud of themselves, and they’ll probably be like, 20 years later. You didn’t know this, but 20 years ago I bought a water bottle because you recommended it. But people actually do.

Courtney Vickery [00:43:52]:

No, really?

Sarah Petty [00:43:53]:

Yeah, it’s really cool. Yeah. Keeping things super simple is a great way to avoid overwhelming, actually make an impact. And when in doubt, again, don’t speak on things you don’t know about or that you think you don’t know enough about. Speak on what you know. Speak from your own personal experience. Because the people that need to hear that will find you and keep it as simple as possible is a big part. So when you’re talking about weight neutrality, specifically, since that was part of your question, the first time I wrote a post about weight neutrality, I was like I was like, posting it and then checking it every five minutes after I posted it. I was like, people are going to hate me. People are going to be like, oh, my God, you can’t beat weight neutral. You’re a nutritionist and a trainer. That’s so stupid. Like, your whole job in life is to help people. Wait, what are you talking about? I was like, People are going to hate me. I’m not going to have any clients. I’m going to have to go get another job. This is going to be terrible. No, people are like, oh, my gosh, this is so helpful. I never thought about it this way or, wow, I’ve been really looking for someone who could help me in this way because I just want to feel better, and I don’t really care about what this girl says. And in fact, it’s actually helped my business to grow quite a bit because it’s amazing how many people are just looking for a fresh perspective on nutrition and fitness. And they’re like, I don’t want to be tied down to any kind of numerical outcome. I’m looking at qualitative improvement. That’s what I’m looking for. And so even if it’s simple, even if you feel scared, even if you feel like you’re not doing it right, you’re going to make mistakes, by the way. So just get it over with. Rip the paper. Yes. But if you are able to communicate your values, this goes back to what you’re talking about. If you’re able to communicate your values about whatever flavor of weight neutrality, whether it’s like fat liberation or body positivity, whatever words that make sense for you and your brand that you want to help people with, if you’re able to use that and you mean it and you’re not just saying it, just to say it, that’s not helpful.

Courtney Vickery [00:45:40]:

And people will know too.

Sarah Petty [00:45:41]:

They know when you’re oh, they know. The tone comes across. I don’t even know how, but pattern recognition is a huge thing, right? So people can tell with the tone. So if you really mean it, then people will get it. And if they unfollow you, good, because those are not the people that you want to work with anyway, right? And if they send you a stupid community or a hateful message, I’m really sorry, that’s really terrible. And also, if you’re standing up for something that you truly believe in, there are going to be people that really angry about it because they have very different beliefs. And so good job. You’ve stuck to your guns on something and you’re going to make people mad. And if you’re a little recovering people, pleaser, like, me. That’s terrifying. So I highly recommend sort of like easing your way in with slightly less controversial statements and then you’ll be emboldened the more you do so that eventually it’s not as scary and then you can say outright, I just don’t coach weight loss. Which has been my most like, probably one of my best performing non video posts, just like a canva image post is my one on why I don’t coach weight loss. I’ve reposted it three different times and every time it performs very well because it’s not even that controversial anymore. But at the first time I posted it, I felt like it was and it’s always had great responses because people are like, thank you so much for doing this, or like, this is so clear and insightful. Thank you for sharing why you do this. I know that you did it, but now I know why you do it. And so eventually you get really comfortable with saying stuff that used to terrify you and there’s still things that I feel terrified to talk about or maybe I don’t feel like I know enough about, so I haven’t spoken about them yet on social media. But I just come constantly, like increasing my tolerance for discomfort, which is a trauma informed approach. Use it on yourself too. Yeah, that’s how I would do that.

Courtney Vickery [00:47:34]:

Yeah, and that’s pretty much exactly how I did it for my nutrition practice too, because I am also a people pleaser. I don’t even know if I would say recovering. I mean, maybe I’m still a people pleaser. I’m working on it and I was terrified too. But like you just said, doing it gradually and then eventually you will increase your confidence in talking about those things. And also I think the education piece you mentioned earlier is a huge piece of that the more education you give for yourself and invest in, then the more confident you’re going to be. What are some of the next steps that individuals can take so they can connect with some of these folks of various intersections?

Sarah Petty [00:48:11]:

Yes, I will share a list of folks on Instagram that you can follow. There’s also some great people on TikTok and YouTube, but I’m not on YouTube a whole lot. And since I’m assuming you’re mostly sharing this on Instagram, we’ll focus on that. But people of a variety of experiences of identities that are either talking about weight neutral, fat liberation, body positivity approach or they are talking about content creation marketing or they’re talking about business strategy or whatever. Just like a wide variety of people that you can learn with varying backgrounds. And again, this may feel like competition, but it’s not because we’re all in this together. And so the more you’re learning from different people, the better. And I have found that by following some of these people, I’m learning so much and I’m able to refer people to them, I’m able to tag them on things that I feel like is relevant for them to be connected with. And so it’s expanding community. And so I recommend anyone who’s listening, who truly wants to diversify their own knowledge and their education, but also be able to truly make an impact and support the people around them in their community that have a different identity or experience than they do, that they follow these people. And again, if not changing your mind or even changing to agree what some of these people are saying, but to integrate the awareness of their experience so that you can have a broader knowledge of what is going to be helpful for your community. So yeah, I’ll be sharing those in the show notes.

Courtney Vickery [00:49:45]:

Yes, I will put that link in the show notes. Is there anything else that you would like our listeners to take away from today?

Sarah Petty [00:49:52]:

Yeah, I think the final thing that I would say is that no matter how hard you work on this, this education expansion of your knowledge and your awareness, it’s never done. You’re never going to get a gold star, you’re never going to get to the final boss. So rather than putting a lot of pressure on yourself to be the best at this, which is a very common thing to do, or try to be completionist, do all the right things in the list and get it. All done rather than trying to do that which is unrealistic and not possible for any human in this life. Just consider this an ongoing practice. If it is truly a value of yours, then it is something that you will continue to integrate on a daily, monthly, yearly basis. And it’ll evolve over time, of course, but this is something that you’re always going to be doing. So don’t feel like you have to tag everybody at once. Don’t feel like you have to learn from everybody at once. Follow some of the people that I’ve recommended, find your own people that you want to learn from and then just gradually start integrating. Pick one person to really follow that really resonates with you, that you want to learn from, that’s different than you, that you can either see how they’re doing their business or see how they’re talking to people, see how they’re telling stories, see how they’re communicating, seeing what they’re saying about their community. That’s like a point of pain or a need that maybe you could fill. Maybe you can volunteer your time or maybe you could spend money. Maybe if there’s like a community outreach situation you can support with that. Or another option is to find one person that offers a service that you could benefit from. Maybe it’s something that you are already looking to spend money on in your business and you’re finding someone who you really resonate with that fits your needs. Again, don’t just be spending money just to spend money, but look for purposeful ways to improve your business that’s also expanding your knowledge and expanding the reach of what you have. So find the people that fill that role and invest in them. And like I’ve said before, I have never regretted investing in a variety of services from a variety of people. It has always been a beneficial experience.

Courtney Vickery [00:52:02]:

Let’s end on a fun question. I didn’t prepare you for this. What is your favorite food?

Sarah Petty [00:52:08]:

Oh, no, you know that it’s so hard to answer. I know. I will answer with the food I’ve really enjoyed most recently, and that was this really delicious penne pasta with this chicken and a parmesan sundried tomato sauce. It was so good. It was like cheesy and creamy. But then the sundried tomato give it those very earthy sort of pungent taste. And I love penne pasta. That’s my favorite pasta. So that’s my favorite food I’ve had most recently.

Courtney Vickery [00:52:40]:

That sounds fabulous. And now I want it.

Sarah Petty [00:52:42]:

It was so good.

Courtney Vickery [00:52:44]:

So tell the listeners where they can find you.

Sarah Petty [00:52:47]:

On Instagram, you can find me at PowerUp Movement co that’s my fitness handle. And then I have at Nourish connect as my nutrition handle and may be consolidating those again. Okay, at this point, but for now that’s where you can find me. And on TikTok I am at Sarahempowers. All one word. And my website is www.sarahempowers.com and so from there you can get connected with me on my email list as well, if you’d like.

Courtney Vickery [00:53:16]:

Well, thank you Sarah, so much for joining us today and I hope you all have a good rest of your week.

Courtney Vickery [00:53:30]:

Are you tired of DIYing your website and brand?

But maybe you’re afraid to let someone who doesn’t quite understand what you do, do it for you?

Well, as someone who has experience in both the health and design industries, I’m uniquely qualified to help weight inclusive private practices and businesses create beautiful brands and websites that showcase their talents and vision while staying true to their values.

You can reach out today to chat about my services or you can check out my free resources on my website and you can also get the link in my show notes.

And don’t forget, you can always come hang out with me on Instagram where I share tips and tricks and of course, a few cat photos. And memes as well.

Thanks for tuning in to the Dietitian turn designer podcast. As your host, I’m passionate about providing valuable insights and actionable tips to help entrepreneurs, designers, and help professionals build weight inclusive businesses that prioritize authenticity, compassion and inclusivity. We’ve had some amazing conversations with industry experts about topics from weight inclusive design to web development, marketing and more. And we’re not stopping there.

We’ve got even more great content coming your way. So thank you for being a part of this journey with us. Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or just starting out, we hope you’ll feel inspired to use your designs and marketing as tools for. Positive change in the world of health and wellness.

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    courtney vickery dietitian website brand designer

    Hi, I'm Courtney

    I'm a Dietitian turned Designer who loves helping weight-inclusive private practices get more clients with designs that stay true to their values & mission.

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    Declet Designs offers website design, branding, and VIP Design Days for weight-inclusive small businesses. Located in Athens, GA, and serving small businesses and private practices nationally.

    Declet Designs is a welcoming and inclusive space for all people regardless of their race, ethnicity, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or national origin.