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Dietitian Services

Many weight issues are caused by some sort of trauma, whether it is a form of abuse, bullying, or problems in the home. In order to deal with trauma, children, teens, and adults turn to food for comfort, rewards, relaxation, and happiness.  Learn how to eat for survival rather than for emotional needs at Safe Place Counseling. As a registered dietitian, I have a unique outlook and approach to eating disorders and weight issues, and I work to help you overcome past challenges and learn how to manage your personal goals to become a better you.

Sometimes we need medications to help us repair our brain. Amino acid therapy (AAT) can be an alternative to medication therapy. For example, 5HT is an amino acid that helps produce serotonin in the brain, and can be used as an alternative for certain SSRI’s or help them do their job better. AAT and good nutrition is very effective in treating addictions such as alcoholism, drugs, and eating disorders. I have you fill out some questionnaires to help us decide if AAT could help you. No prescriptions are required and I will give you samples to try before you buy them so we can see if they produce results for you. (See my links page for “The Craving Cure” and “The Mood Cure” by Julia Ross)

I will pinpoint your weaknesses, set new goals, and overcome your issues in a reliable way. Exercise and nutrition can change not only your physical state, but your mental and spiritual state as well. Call to set up an appointment to start working towards your new goals today!



If I were to write a prescription for all my clients, it would be “Exercise!”  Everyone knows that exercise is important for good health, weight control, combating diseases, improving moods, increasing energy, helps you sleep better, and the list goes on.  So why don’t individuals do it?

Most people say they don’t have “enough time.”  If you want to lose weight, you must have time to exercise.  It must be a commitment and a priority that you will do at least 5-6 times per week.

When you have anxiety or depression, exercise often seems like the last thing you want to do. But if you will do it, exercise can make a significant difference. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise helps ease depression in many ways including releasing feel-good brain chemicals that may ease depression (neurotransmitters, endorphins, and endocannabinoids); reducing immune system chemicals that can worsen depression; and increased body temperature, which may have calming effects.

Regular exercise has many psychological and emotional benefits, too.  It can help you gain confidence by achieving goals or challenges; make you feel better about your appearance; take your mind off worries and get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression; get more social interaction giving you the opportunity to meet or socialize with others; cope in a healthy way by doing something positive to manage anxiety or depression.

At Safe Place Counseling, I help you find an exercise plan that will work for you.  It is usually a simple plan that works with your schedule and budget.  You just must implement it.

Bariatric Surgery Counseling


Many people do not think of getting mental health counseling before getting bariatric surgeries.  Unfortunately, those that do not take care of the mental issues that caused the weight gain, will usually gain back the weight eventually.  Weight gain does not just come from overeating.  Food can become addictive and can be used to comfort, numb, or reduce anxiety.  It is imperative to take care of these issues before and after the surgery to ensure weight loss is permanent.

Most insurance companies require a mental health evaluation before bariatric surgeries.  Not only do they want to make sure you are physically fit for the surgery but that you are mentally fit for surgery as well. At Safe Place Counseling, I do assessments and work on the emotional issues that caused the weight gain in the first place.  I want you to maximize your success by losing excess body weight, becoming a healthier person, and improving the quality of your life to the greatest possible extent.


“FOOD is the most widely abused anti-anxiety drug in America, and EXERCISE is the most potent yet underutilized antidepressant.”

― Bill Phillips

Do I Have a Food Addiction?

Every day we watch the news and see police apprehending drug dealers and users.  We applaud their capture and want them off the streets and in jail or deported.  But those aren’t the only addictions that are affecting our lives and the people around us.

I am a registered dietitian, and here at Safe Place Counseling we can see that food addictions have been increasing as food has become more available and affordable.  Food is legal, socially acceptable, and highly marketable. Even children are able to use it without side-effects!

Experiments with humans and animals have shown that in some people, the same reward and pleasure centers of the brain that are triggered by addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin are also activated by food, especially pleasurable foods such as sugars, fats, and salts.  They generate the release of feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain including serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins.   Once people experience this, they feel the need to eat again even if they aren’t hungry.   Eventually, these signals to the brain can override feelings of hunger, fullness, and satisfaction.

So how do we know when food is no longer being used for survival, but to feed our need for love, comfort, and acceptance?  Here are some questions dietitians ask:

  1. Do you find yourself constantly thinking about food, how much you’ve eaten, counting calories, or what you will eat for your next meal?
  2. Do you prefer to eat alone or secretly?  Are you embarrassed to eat in front of others because you are afraid they will see how much or how little you eat?
  3. Do you weigh yourself daily and panic if you have gained 1 pound or more?
  4. Do you find yourself going on uncomfortable eating binges during which you consume large amounts of food to the point that you feel sick or make yourself vomit?
  5. Is the most powerful fear in your life the fear of gaining weight or becoming fat?
  6. Do you have binge eating episodes where you've experienced a feeling that you lacked  control over your eating (e.g., a feeling that you could not stop eating, or control what or how much you were eating during the episode)?
  7. Do you feel guilty or disgusted after eating a normal meal or binging?
  8. Do you diet, skip meals, or eat very little to make up for binges?
  9. Do you panic if you cannot exercise after eating a large meal?
  10. Do you exercise for 2 hours or more, or keep track of calories burned when exercising to make sure you burn of all the calories you’ve consumed?

If you answered yes to some or all of these questions, you may have a food addiction or eating disorder.  Like with other addictions, it is important to get help from a professional.  Many times we believe we can do it on our own, and we may be able to change for a while, but then something triggers us and the addiction begins again.  Most addictions are there because of underlying issues, whether it is trauma, low self-worth, bullying, or other things.   Call and make an appointment to come in and get the addiction and the issues that caused the addiction resolved.

Deanna Nichols, LCMHC, RDN, CPT

11075 S. State Street, Suite 14
Sandy, Utah  84070
(801) 819-4011

Monday - Thursday 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Friday 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Sunday - Closed