The Psychology of Eating Podcast Episode #33: Hooked On Sugar
Natalie has been hooked on sugar since childhood. Now in her 30s, she realizes that sugar seems to be controlling her in a big way. It depletes her mood, her energy, her brainpower, and she can’t figure out how to free herself. Sugar gives her a temporary high, but it soon leaves her feeling guilty and in a fog. Tune in to this podcast session as Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating helps Natalie discover that the way to solve her problem with sugar is to see how sugar isn’t really the problem she thinks it is, and that it’s really pointing to something deeper and far more interesting and important.
Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:
Marc: Welcome, everybody! I’m Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. And here we are in the Psychology of Eating podcast. And I’m here today with Natalie. Welcome, Natalie!
Natalie: Thank you!
Marc: Glad you’re doing this! Glad we’re doing this!
Natalie: Yeah, me, too.
Marc: I’m going to just say a few words for viewers and listeners who are new to the podcast. So here’s the scoop. Natalie and I are going to be spending about an hour together. And we’re going to do a client session. And she’s going to come to the table here with whatever concerns, challenges she wants to work with around food, body, and health.
And this is pretty much like a one-time session. So were going to try to condense about six months to a year’s worth of work and distill it into an hour-long session. So for the first twenty minutes, I’m going to ask questions. And then we’re just going to kind of bring things together to help you, Natalie, have some breakthrough, some openings, get you more squarely on the journey so you can get where you want to go.
So I’m going to ask you this question. If you could wave your magic wand and get whatever you want from this session, what would that look like?
Natalie: If I could get anything I want from this session, it would be a better understanding of myself and of the path that I’m on and how to move past some of the places where I feel stuck.
Marc: And where is that? Where do you feel stuck? Where do you want to work on?
Natalie: Okay. I’ve thought about this. And there are several places. But the main one is coming up that feeling right to talk about is I feel stuck in still using food and relying on food, especially sugar, for emotional coping. And I’ve done so much work. I’ve come so far. It’s been a beautiful, amazing journey of change and transformation. And now I’m at this point where I feel like I’m ready to move beyond that lesson. And the way that I use food—and sugar especially—has some harmful effects on my body, some painful effects that I’m ready to move past.
And I’m at a point where I feel like I’ve tapped in to so many resources and I’ve done so much growth, I’m not sure what to do to just to get past this point.
Marc: So when you use a sugar or you overeat, what does it look like? How often? What do you go for?
Natalie: It can look like a lot of different things. A lot of times, it will be like a healthier option like fruit or some dried fruit or dates or some sort of coconut yogurt or something. And it’s just that I know that I’m using it in a moment when it’s as a coping mechanism. It’ll be usually sometime in the middle of the day. But it can be any time of day, not usually at night or early morning. Usually between, I would say, 10 AM and 5 PM.
And it’s usually while I’m going through my day, getting stuff done. Maybe I silly moments of stress or overwhelm. Or sometimes I just feel really good. And I will choose some sort of chocolate, fruit, some sort of healthier yogurt with sugar in it or something. But chocolate is kind of the main sugar rush thing.
And I’ll eat it really fast and maybe too much.
Marc: And what’s the effects? What’s the bad effects that don’t work for you?
Natalie: So immediately it works really well, which that’s why I do it. And I feel good right away. But the bad effects are it will make my stomach hurt or make me feel bloated or gassy. And then the long-term bad effects are that if I eat too much sugar, sometimes I wake up with night sweats. And I think that that plays into some hormone imbalance and contributes to hormone imbalance. And also my moods and my energy just rising and dropping.
Marc: So when your mood rises and drops, give me a sense of what that looks like.
Natalie: I would say that if I eat too much sugar and if I eat it too fast and it’s in a moment of coping, then I’ll go from feeling like, “Okay, I’m good. And I’m busy. And I’m doing everything I need to do.” And then I’ll kind of drop into feeling kind of fuzzy and a little like my head is not clear and I’m a little more tired and just a little down.
Marc: Got it. So the sugar can make you a little fuzzy, little tired, little down even though moments before you were feeling good. You are feeling clear, especially when you had the sugar buzz.
Marc: And are usually super hungry when you go for the sugar? Or is it just something few feel like doing as opposed to, “I’m so hungry.”
Natalie: It’s just something I feel like doing. I’m really consistent with eating. And I try, actually am consciously choosing to eat before I go for sugar. And then either the sugar craving is still there. So I go for it. And I choose it. Or I decide I don’t want to choose that. But then somehow this thing happens in my brain where I, in a moment, will justify it, trick myself or change my mind. And then ten minutes later I’m like, “Wait! What happened? Why did that just happened?”
Marc: Got it. How long have you been doing this?
Natalie: Long time, since I was a little kid.
Marc: And are you trying to lose weight?
Marc: Okay. So you just want to not to do this sugar thing. And it kind of sounds like you almost check out a little bit when it happens.
Marc: Okay. So since you were pretty young, if you had to guess—and I know is not necessarily a fair question—why do you think you do this?
Natalie: I think for exactly that reason, to check out or to feel an extra amount of support or energy when I don’t have it or because I feel overwhelmed. To handle how I feel.
Marc: To handle how I feel, a little extra support, might be feeling overwhelmed. What do you do for breakfast, generally speaking? What’s a typical breakfast?
Natalie: Typical breakfast, so I wake up naturally. And I eat breakfast within an hour of waking up. And it’s usually eggs and greens. And maybe sometimes it will be oatmeal. Or sometimes it’ll be some soaked oats with some goat kefir or something like that.
Marc: And what’s a typical lunch?
Natalie: A typical lunch will be a salad or soup. I’ll always add some kind of protein. I’m pretty careful about having a good protein, carb, fat, trying to get it all in there. That’s when I feel best. Or it will be leftovers from our dinner the night before.
Marc: Got it. So what do you think was the youngest age you started doing this?
Natalie: Probably around six or eight.
Marc: What was it like for you growing up as a kid?
Natalie: I generally have felt that I had a pretty good childhood. And I felt pretty happy. I was always really busy and signed up for a lot of things. And I’ve recently come to realize part of that was about escaping some chaos at home. I have a really awesome family.
But we had some really challenging stuff happen in our family and some really challenging dynamics. And we weren’t very good communicators about emotions. So growing up, there was this feeling of chaos in my house with my sister and brother and my parents. But I was a really active, happy kid.
Marc: So a lot of chaos in the house. But you’re an active, happy kid. Where were you of the three kids? Which part of the birth order?
Natalie: I’m the youngest.
Marc: You are the youngest. Got it.
Natalie: Yeah, my sister and brother are six and eight years older.
Marc: And tell me again where you grew up.
Natalie: So I was born on the East Coast. And we moved quite a few times, East Coast, West Coast. My dad was in the Air Force. And then when I was five, we moved to Kansas City. And I went to elementary school there. So that’s where all my memories of childhood mostly are there, Kansas City. I went to elementary and middle school. And then we moved to California when I was thirteen, just north of Santa Barbara. And I went to high school there.
Marc: When do you feel most grounded in yourself such that you wouldn’t even need to eat sugar? Are there times when you go, “Wow, I feel so good I don’t even know why I have that habit.” It just doesn’t even come up for you.
Natalie: Yeah, I notice that I don’t crave the sugar most on the weekends when I’m really relaxed and I’m taking time to play and be with my friends and be with my partner, my boyfriend. That’s when I don’t have any work or obligations.
Marc: Got it. Got it. So what’s your workweek look like?
Natalie: At the moment it’s a little bit erratic. And it’s changed a lot. So the last five years, I’ve been a personal chef, self-employed. So I’ve been in that rhythm of going to people’s homes and cooking throughout the day. And just as of recently, I’m cooking less and starting some new projects.
I was gone from Santa Barbara for a couple of years and just moved back here about eight months ago. And I’ve kind of been reintegrating into my community here and getting settled in starting new work and new projects.
So now my work week looks like I have a couple of clients, consistent clients. And I have maybe four or five different obligations throughout the week. And then other than that, it’s always changing with meetings.
Marc: Other than food, sugar, that kind of thing, what are some of your growing edges as a person? What do you find that you’re working on with yourself that this phase of life? What’s up for you these days, again, other than food, sugar, body, health? Just on a personal level.
Natalie: On a personal level, I’ve gone through a really big period of major changes in my life over the past five years. And right now I’ve come to a point where I feel like life is asking me to step up and step into my power and step into myself and serve and live out my purpose in a really new way.
Marc: And how is that for you? Does it scare you? Does it excite you?
Natalie: Both. It scares me and it excites me. Yeah.
Marc: And where do you see your trajectory going in terms of relationship? Are you looking for marriage, family? Not the time for you? What’s happening there for you?
Natalie: So right now I’m in a committed partnership that feels like it will last forever. And that’s the understanding that we have. And that looks like marriage at some point probably. And we’re not there yet. But it feels like that’s coming, and kids as well, yeah.
Marc: Any other health symptoms I should know about that concern you?
Natalie: So I had such adrenal burnout pretty bad about five or six years ago and have been on this big path of healing from that. I’ve done a lot of work. I’ve changed my lifestyle really dramatically. And my cortisol is still a little low. That’s how I feel. I wake up in the morning. I have great energy. I eat my breakfast. And then I dip a little bit. And tests with my endocrinologist say that my cortisol is a little low.
And other than that, just some digestive issues. My digestion is not awesome. It’s pretty good. But I feel like I get bloated easily or my stomach gets irritated fairly easily. And I’ll get acid reflux, not really bad. It’s really minimal compared what it used to be. But it’s still there.
Marc: Do you tend to be a fast eater? Moderate eater? Slow eater?
Natalie: I’m a slow eater. I’m naturally a slow eater. And then especially with all adrenal healing I’ve had to do, I really worked on getting present with my meals, slowing down, eating really consciously. And I notice that if I to eat even a little bit more quickly, my stomach will hurt right after I eat.
Marc: What caused your adrenal burnout, do you think?
Natalie: There were two things. So first my life starting from a very young age was really busy, lots of activities, tons of sports. I loved to run hard and play hard. And that continued all through high school and kind of intensified in college sports and academics and overachieving, burning the candle at both ends, and after college.
And I just kind of pushed too hard. I had a lot of fun, enjoyed what I was doing. But I didn’t take good care of my body. I didn’t listen. And then as I was kind of still in that state of going hard, I was training for triathlons. I was on my way to law school. And my mom got diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer and was given nine months to live. And that was a period of six months that was really intense for me. I moved home to take care of her. And that was hard.
And coming out of that, I also learned a lot about natural health and healing and nutritional healing during that time. And coming out of that, I kind of jumped back into my routine and getting busy. And I just crashed.
Marc: And did your mom make it? Did she pass on?
Natalie: No, sorry. She did make it. She amazingly, miraculously recovered and now is still five years, six years later still in remission, which is really unusual for that diagnosis.
Marc: Congratulations. So how do you deal with conflict? Are you good with conflict? Mild? Medium? Great? Not so great? How would you describe that part of you?
Natalie: I would say that it depends on the type of conflict. But typically I’m good at conflict in that I can stay pretty steady. I can communicate well through it and kind of I can stay out of the reactive state pretty well. However, if I’m in a situation where someone is like angry or really aggressively yelling, I kind of shut down. And I just become quiet. And it have to do with it later.
Marc: Got it. Got it, got it. So what do you think life would be like if you didn’t have this sugar thing anymore, it didn’t exist? How would things be better? How would you be different? How would life be different?
Natalie: I think that it would free up time and energy that’s spent both in the preoccupation with sugar and food, and also with the dealing with the stomachache or the low-energy. I think I would just have more time and energy. And I need that right now if I’m going to step into doing my work and stepping into my power a little bit more right now in my life. I need that right now.
Marc: So then it sounds like your energy would be freed up and you could just step more into being you and doing your work and not have to worry about all this nonsense and all this up-and-down energy. Is that true?
Natalie: That’s what it feels like, yeah.
Marc: Okay. Great, great. So I think I’ve got some good data here. And I’d love to put together my thoughts and just share with you where I think you’re at and what I think is going on.
Sugar is an interesting creature. It has all kinds of great advantages. It tastes great. It’s really sweet. It gives us a buzz. It gets us high. So there’s a real live actual good reason why you or I or anybody else would go for sugar. It’s not a mystery as to what’s attractive about it.
And for you, you’ve definitely notice, “Yeah, when I take it, there’s an immediate short term I feel really good,” followed by some experience of I don’t feel good. And it’s that I don’t feel good part that definitely is going, “Wait a second. I don’t want to do this.” And then you’ll still end up repeating this pattern because for a lot of us, the sugar is pretty attractive. It’s intense. It just draws us in.
And it’s kind of hard to say no, which is what happens for you. You just can’t say no. It’s just too good. The temporary high is too good. And even though, again, you crash a little bit and you don’t feel good about yourself, that’s kind of what plays out. So I’m just saying in my words what you’ve kind of said to me.
There is a level where we’re always going to use food to regulate our metabolism. We’re going to use food to regulate our feelings. There’s nothing new under the sun about that. When an infant is crying and screaming its little brains out and it gets mother’s milk or a bottle, all of a sudden that little baby is nice and happy. Food has regulated its metabolism. It’s turned it from a crying, screaming little creature to, “Wow! Everything is cool. Mommy is holding me. I got the sweet stuff. And I feel good.” So there’s this primal place. There’s a primal memory inside of us that understands that food can regulate my metabolism.
When I asked about breakfast, lunch, you really emphasized that there is a protein always at lunch. And it sounds like there’s a protein most of the times at breakfast. That probably helps you ground more and regulate your personal and physiologic metabolism. So all I’m saying is we are going to use food to chemically manage our experience.
And on one level, that’s what you’re doing. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. Every moment that you’re hungry, even if you were the most perfect eater in the world, you’re going to use food to regulate your personal and emotional metabolism. “Oh, my God. I’m feeling tired and weak. Whoops. Time to eat. Oh, my God. I’m going to be staying out late. I need more energy. I eat.” Or, “Oh, my goodness. I’m working hard today. Maybe I’m going to have some tea or caffeine or coffee or whatever.”
So people do that all the time. And then it becomes a question of, “How is it working for me?” So if you’ve been doing this a long time since you were a kid, as kids, that’s when we learn how to eat sugar. We get exposed to sugar from a young age. So we have a memory that sugar really works for us. Sugar gives us that buzz.
And I think what happens for you on a subtle level is you, like all of us, you like feeling a certain way. Each one of us has, “I like feeling this way. I like feeling that way.” We have the places that we feel most comfortable being me. And you’ve had a significant part of your life where, “I was a busy one, the happy one. I had a good family. I was active. I was in sports. I was in college getting ready to go to law school.”
So there’s this sense of your kind of on a roll. There’s a part of you that likes to be in that happy, active, things are working kind of a buzz. Yeah? Is that true?
Marc: So what I think happens for you is the moment you start to slip away from the, there’s a part of you that goes into a little fear that you’re not going to keep that certain frequency that you like. Some people, some practitioners call that a state addiction, where we get addicted or attached to a certain state, a certain way of being, a certain emotion. Some people are addicted to the stress. They’re freaked out. But that freak out, they kind of love it because it give them a buzz. It gives them a rush. They’re constantly in a stress response. And they love it.
Some people get addicted to their own anger. Some people get addicted to certain kinds of pleasure. Some people get addicted to excitement. They have to do things that are super stimulating and super exciting. Extreme sports. We could get addicted to certain kind of exercises.
So in the scheme of things, is any of that so bad? Eh, who knows? It depends. But what I’m saying for you is I think there’s a place where you go into discomfort when you start to lose a certain level of positivity, when you start to lose as certain—I don’t want to say competitive edge—but it’s an edge where you’ve got a certain amount of energy and a certain amount of smile and a certain amount of happy and a certain amount of life feels good. And the moment that slips away, sugar starts to come up for you.
And I especially find it interesting that it happens during the day for you. I find that interesting because for a lot of people, it often comes more in the evening for a lot of them. And what that tells me in part is that during the regular part of your day, even though you might be busy, even though there might be things going on, it’s really important for you to have a certain feeling.
And I guess what I would love for you to start noticing is what’s actually coming up for you when you’re reaching for the sugar because what sugar can do for people—I’m not saying this is you, but I wouldn’t be a little surprised—what sugar can do for people is it can mask other emotions that are uncomfortable for us that we don’t want to feel.
So as soon as something is happening for me, maybe it’s conflict. Maybe it’s a relationship. Maybe it’s, I’m bored.” Maybe it’s I don’t like what I’m doing. Maybe it’s, “I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to do this. I’m not going to be okay.” Whatever it is, something triggers. And from that place, we want to medicate right away.
So my sense is there’s certain sensations, there’s certain feelings that come up for you before you eat sugar that sugar kind of pulls you away from. And then you go into the little momentary buzz. And then you go into the crash a little bit. But that momentary buzz and that momentary crash actually still pulls you away from the emotion. Are you with me?
Marc: And sometimes an emotion, it’s a subtle thing. It’s something that the subtle. It doesn’t have to be that profound. It just could be good old-fashioned, plain old discomfort. And the discomfort might have ties into, “Oh, I don’t feel like I can do this. I don’t feel like I’m good enough. What if I don’t succeed?” Or, “Gee, I’m not really high right now.” Because people to get a little tired. Our energy does go up and down. You could be in perfect health and perfect weight and perfect everything and your energy goes up and down. And then nighttime comes and you want to go to sleep.
So energy is going to move and shift and change anyway. And I’m kind of thinking that if we look at your relationship with sugar as an opportunity for you to grow instead of looking at it as a problem, instead of saying, “What’s Natalie’s problem?” Well, to me you don’t have a problem because there’s a significant number of human beings that get hooked sugar. And you’re not look so bad. It’s not like you’re doing tons of sugar everyday. It’s not like you don’t have a healthy diet. It’s not like you don’t take care of yourself.
So compared to others, not such a bad problem. It’s not like you’re trying to lose a ton of weight. You’re not trying to lose weight. So compared to others, it’s not such a bad problem. And it still affects you because you know, “I can really be at a different place inside myself. And this powerful substance when I use it, pulls me away from that more powerful place.” Right? Make sense?
Natalie: Yeah, yeah.
Marc: So from that place, I don’t look at this like there’s something wrong with you. I’m just looking at trying to get a sense of who you are, what your trajectory is, what you want in life, where you came from, and how this challenge with sugar is a good exercise, is good weightlifting to help you get stronger so you can be the better or best version of you. So that’s what I see happening here.
So, to me, it becomes a matter of tweaking. When I see tweaking, I’m meaning this is on the one hand, it’s not a super big deal. So the shifts you’re going to make re smaller. And I’m not minimizing what you’re going through. But I’m putting it in a context. And the context is you are a person that got a lot going for you. You’re in a relationship. You can see yourself in a long-term committed partnership with this person. You like where you live. You have a social system. So you’ve got a lot of things in place that are good and positive. And here’s this obstacle.
So instead of looking at it actually like an obstacle, we’re going to look at it as what it’s raising his hand for an with out. So we look at it like it’s the sugar thing is there for a reason, what my guess is, again, I’m going to get back to I think that you’re using it one starts to feel a little not so good about yourself and you’re not feeling like Happy Natalie.
So part of the challenge for you, I think, is to embrace the part of you that’s not always happy. And you don’t have to have a reason actually for not being happy. Like a lot of times, “Well, what’s wrong with you? How come you’re not like, ‘Ta-da! I’m here. Everything is great!’” Like, “What’s wrong?” There doesn’t have to be anything wrong actually. Our mood goes up and down. And we get moody sometimes. Or we hit a little bit of a low spot. And I think that scares you just a little.
How does that resonate for you when I say that? How does that land for you?
Natalie: Yeah, that feels true. It feels true that it scares me a little. It’s a whole range of emotions that come up that I’ll turn to sugar for. It’s a lot of different things. And it’s not even just a discomfort or an unhappiness. It’s happiness, too. And that’s where it gets confusing for me.
Marc: Yet. So let me give you a sense. We can often have a lot of feelings at once. And oftentimes people will say the term, “Well, I have these conflicting feelings.” And to me there’s no such thing as conflicting feelings. And any given moment, you could be feeling a lot of love for somebody. And at the same time you could be judging them and hating them. You could be with your partner or your best friend and you can love them and hate them at the same time. You could be really happy about your life, but at the same time sad that your best friend is going to a hard time.
So there can be all kinds of different feelings present. It might be possible for you that there are, as you’re saying, a range of emotions that are uncomfortable for you. And it is not uncommon at all for happiness to be a discomfort.
If I’m feeling really good, often times we’ll hit our ceiling. And we’ll bring ourselves down. We’ll do something to take ourselves off of the high because the high is literally too uncomfortable. We can’t handle that much goodies. Literally people have a happiness tolerance. And sometimes we’re learning how to expand and embrace that. So my sense is for you it might not be just one thing. And, to me, this sounds like a time in your life where you’re grounding more.
How old are you?
Marc: Okay, so you’re thirty-one. So you’re stepping into your thirties can be a very empowering time. Twenties can be very tumultuous. Once you start to hit your early thirties. You start to have a better sense of who you are. You start to have a better sense of what you want. You start to really look towards the future, towards grounding, towards solidity, towards work, towards relationship. That’s kind of traditionally that’s in our psyche, that’s in our DNA.
So here you are. You just moved back to Santa Barbara. You’re settling in. So, to me, one of the things for you with grounding. And that word just, as I was asking you questions at the beginning, the word “grounding” to just coming across my screen, my invisible screen. It just feels like this is a time in life for you to ground.
So, for me, grounding means just a sense of, “I’m rooted here on planet Earth,” a sense that, “I’m stable,” a sense that, “Even when things around me aren’t stable, I can still have a sense of place” because things around you aren’t always going to be stable. But if I’m stable in the chaos, then I have a sense of me.
You describe your early family environment overall as very positive. “I had a great family. And, yeah, there were issues.” And there’s challenges. So that, to me, is probably always going to be a challenge for you is how do I ground in this world? How do I ground when I’m really feeling great and happy and celebrational? How do I keep my feet on the ground so I don’t lose that and then just want to go for sugar and crash myself?
It’s no different than somebody going out drinking and having way too much to drink and just collapsing on the floor. The first drink felt good. The second drink felt great. The third drink felt really good. And then after that, it was downhill. They literally couldn’t manage their metabolism. They couldn’t manage their emotional and their chemical metabolism. They just kept spinning out even though they were feeling great.
So you’re learning how to regulate your emotions, the full range of them. That’s what I see you doing. It’s a life phase. So whenever you’re reaching for sugar when you don’t want to, it’s a sign that, “There’s emotions that are happening that I’m not able to manage.” So the technique…And this is a training. This is a practice. What I’m about to suggest is no different from you training for a marathon.
If you want to run a marathon, you train. What this training mean? You work every day. And there’s a bit of intensity to your workouts. You start out running a couple miles a day. And then you’re running four miles a day or eight miles a day. Then you’re running twelve or fifteen on the weekends. So you build up in intensity and frequency when you’re training.
So for you to train to learn how to better regulate your emotional experience, part of that is to be able to catch yourself more and create more pause when you’re about to go for sugar. And that’s the hard part. So I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. But the hard part is creating that pause because it’s that moment of, “Oh, my God. I’m feeling discomfort.” And you literally go into a stress response.
And that discomfort puts us in stress. It puts us in anxiety. It puts as it increased cortisol and adrenaline. And, when I eat the sugar, it actually makes me feel good. “Ahh, stress goes away. Ahh, feel better. Whatever was bugging me and uncomfortable, that’s gone.” But then there’s a crash. And then there’s a little bit of guilt or shame or disappointment.
And chances are—here’s another clue—chances are the feelings that are coming up after the sugar, a while after the sugar, are some of those feelings that we get uncomfortable with. So when you start to feel guilty or you feel a little shame or you feel, “Wow, I failed,” those are actually some of the feelings we’re trying to learn how to deal with. And that’s just a very human endeavor. We are always dealing with our, yeah, there’s your digestive metabolism. I eat food, how does it digest? Does it digest well? Does it digest great? Does it give you heartburn?
There’s also emotional metabolism. We’re always metabolizing emotions. You’re metabolizing your emotional experience of life. You are metabolizing emotions in your partnership. You’re metabolizing emotions from twenty years ago. You’re just metabolizing your own emotional experience of what it means to be Natalie because you go through all these emotions.
And a lot of us are just learning how to be on our own ride. We’re learning how to be on our own emotional train, which isn’t always a straight shot. Especially for you, when you have a little bit of time in your day and you can wake up when you want and you don’t have a schedule that’s so intense that you’re working twelve, fifteen hours a day. Sometimes that kind of spaciousness oddly enough gives us more time to feel.
Marc: It gives more time for things to come up that need to be metabolized or looked at. So I think that’s also happening for you right now. A lot of times, we just have to learn how to better contain. Contain means to better hold and cuddle with and understand feelings of guilt or shame or discomfort or, “Am I going to make it?” or, “Ugh, I failed.” It’s literally learning how to deal with those. And how can you still love yourself after you ate a bunch of sugar that you wish you didn’t?
So what I want you to do was try to pause when you’re about to do the sugar thing. A couple of my favorite strategies any time there is a sugar craving and you’re able to do something that’s more of a salty, mineralized kind of broth, if you ever do miso, if you can get some instant miso, it’s a great little trigger food to shortcut some of the sugar cravings. Have you ever done that before? Have you ever used that?
Natalie: Yeah. I would say it helped a little bit.
Marc: It helped a little, but not a lot for you?
Natalie: I think everything that I’ve tried to put in that pause, I still want the sugar afterwards. I kind of have played with that.
Marc: Yeah. Yeah, so if you still want the sugar afterwards, there’s two things going on on one level. You’re not ready yet. You’re not ready to get what you want to go, which is totally fine. Sometimes we’re just not ready yet. So you’re not ready yet. And that’s okay.
Another possibility is that the work needs to be done on the other side, meaning, it’s like, “Okay, so you’re going to do this. And now here’s the results.” And the result is whatever you feel. Like, “Oh, my God. I checked out. I wasn’t present.” And then those are the feelings that still need to be learned in terms of how I manage those.
So after you do a sugar thing, can you identify typically what you might be feeling later on once you have that little crash? What are the thoughts that go through your mind?
Natalie: Not as many judgmental thoughts towards myself. I feel like at this point I’ve really accepted it. I’ve come into a place of curiosity around all of it. It’s more of a, “Why is this? Why is this still here?” Or there will be disappointment of just like, “Oh, now I don’t feel good. And I did it again.” And it’s not as much of the blaming as a, “Darn! That’s uncomfortable.”
Marc: Got it. Got it. I think that’s really healthy. I think that’s really healthy. And I think that if you continue with that approach and that attitude over time—to me you’re on the right track—then the answer is going to come for sure. And I think the answer for you has to do with how you ground yourself in the world.
I think the answer for you is how you in a strange way bring the masculine part of you more to the table. And when I say that, I mean archetypal masculine, the part of you that’s just more linear and more pointed and direct and straight. And, “I want to do this. I don’t want to do that.” So it feels like as you’re reaching a time in life where you want to get your career thing down more, it’s that part of us that needs to be born because we can’t just float.
If you want to have what you want work lies in the career wise, you can’t float. And there’s a place where sugar gets you floating a little bit sometimes. Is that true? It’s like you kind of end up off your horse. And you’re like, “Whoa, how did I get here? Wow, I ended up there again.”
Natalie: Yeah, I think that’s the longer-term effect. But the initial effect feels more like getting me into that masculine like, “Okay, I have the energy. And now I can do this, this, and this.”
Marc: So it’s a false substitute. So you’re thinking sugar is doing it. And it is temporarily. But it’s not. It’s not doing it for you. It’s not actually giving you what you need. It’s like an imposter. It’s a mimic of what you really want. So because you’re not generating the frequency in yourself, you’re looking for in a substance outside, which makes perfect sense.
Some in a lot of ways, part of it is slightly defocusing on food for you. “Oh, it’s a sugar problem. It’s a sugar problem. It’s a sugar problem.” Sure, on one level. But it’s really more about you learning how to ground yourself and you learning how to feel more solid and starting to look at what are the other places in life where you can do that? Where the places where life is asking you to just be more solid, where life is asking you to ground more, where life is asking you to make more boundary lines, where life is asking you to say no?
How does that land and when I say that?
Natalie: That feels true. And it’s interesting that you brought up that I may need to be bringing my masculine more because that actually triggered a lock in me or it brought up a lot of feeling just then. Because I did operate out of my masculine a lot for a long time. And that’s part of why I got adrenal burnout because I was just driving hard and in my masculine.
And over the past five years, I’ve really focused on calming that. I’ve had to change my lifestyle entirely. And I felt like I had to let go of that to be in a place of relaxing and feeling and healing. And, yeah, coming into this new place of being ready to make some decisions and to make some things happen, I do need to bring in that masculine more. And I’m maybe not trusting it in myself.
Marc: Yeah. So for you, it’s going to be about steady and slow and grounded because previously masculine meant full speed ahead, crazy, burn the candle at both ends and use all my motive force to get where I want to go and not necessarily pay attention to my body. So you’re not that person anymore. You’re a whole different person.
And grounding/masculine—again, I’m using those terms metaphorically, symbolically, for you means doing it in a more positive way, in a way that works for you and discovering what that is because the sugar almost brings you back into that old state. Zoom! Here we go! So I get it. So you’re really finding your new operating system a lot of ways, like, “How do I operate in the world? Because that didn’t work, what I was doing that got me a little sick. Okay, no one getting better. And now I’m coming out. Now what? How do I regulate myself?”
So now you’re learning that that’s buzz that sugar gives you, again it’s going to probably give you a sense of the old you in a weird way because a sense of the old you is really you would get high off of that buzz of your life and moving fast and pushing. You wouldn’t have done it if one some level it didn’t feel good. So we like the buzz. We like the buzz.
So you’re learning now how to proceed and move through the rest of your life with a different kind of balance. And you haven’t found it yet. You don’t know what that looks like or feels like. So you’re in this transition place. So what I’m saying is you’re on the right track. The sugar is showing you. It’s going to be your teacher. It’s going to be your teacher.
And I would hold the question and keep asking the question, “How can I be in my masculine in a positive way? What else do I need to do in my life that grounds the and that helps me get from point A to point B and that helps me be methodical without burning myself out and without overstimulating myself?” So that’s the question. And I think you’re going to just be a little bit of a discovery process for a while.
Natalie: Yeah, I think so.
Marc: Which means it’s a little uncertainty, which means you’re not going to be grounded, and, “I’m grounded now! Here’s a sure answer that I was just given. You just pop this pill. And I feel great.” We all learn how to get stronger. And stronger in this case means you being better at managing your daily life, your physical life, your emotional life, your metabolic experience. You’re learning how to do that. And you can’t go back to the old way. And you don’t know what the new way is quite yet. But you have a pretty good idea, actually.
Natalie: Starting to.
Natalie: Yeah. Yeah. And it’s funny. I want to protest that like “I’m so done with sugar. I don’t want it to be my teacher anymore.” But in this moment right now, I’m just feeling like I’ve been in that for a while now. But asking the question about how I can be in my masculine in a way that feels balanced and healthy and good feels really powerful.
Marc: Yeah. So you can protest. And you can say, “I want this to be done.” But you can say it from the place of, “Okay, what’s it going to take now? What’s it really going to take?” So, yeah, I’m fine with you saying, “I want to be done with this.” That’s great. So speak that into the world and into the universe. And life is going to show you how that needs to happen and what you need to do along the way so you can really be done and you can really graduate.
But in order for you to graduate—because this is a lesson that you are learning—in order for you to graduate, you got to learn your lesson and pass a test, sort of a thing. So you’re still in class with sugar. And you are saying, “I’m ready to graduate. I’m a senior. And I’m ready to be done with this. I want to take my final exam.”
So I’m saying great. I think one of the ways that you can graduate most quickly, one of the ways for you to get their fastest, is for you to start to look at other places in my life, other ways, small, medium, and large, little ways, big ways that I can be more in my grounded self, that I can create more of a sense of being here, more of a sense of being solid. What would make me feel more safe? What would make me feel more rooted? What do I need? How do I need to be in friendships, in relationships, in my relationship so that I’m showing up in a way where I’m just kind of grounded in the earth? Does that make sense for you in any way, shape, or form?
Natalie: Yeah. It absolutely does. That hits home.
Marc: And, again, you’re finding yourself. That’s what you’re doing. And it’s a beautiful process. It’s a powerful process. And part of it is trust. Part of it is trust that your going to get there. And the other part of it is it’s almost like an agreement between you and the universe. It’s almost like you really committing to getting there.
Committing to getting there doesn’t mean you know how to get there and you’re going to push a button and you’re going to be there tomorrow. Committing to getting there means you’re committing to getting there. I could say, “I am committed to moving to Indonesia.” Now, I have never been there. I don’t know about it. But if I commit to that, I know various steps I need to do to start to make that happen even though I’ve never done it before. So I know if I made that commitment, I could make that happen.
So, for you, there’s an inner place, I think, that wants to happen of really making that commitment. Commitment is a little bit of a masculine term. “I am going to do this. And it’s not from this place of intense willpower. I’m going to push through that sugar craving. I’m going to just keep my mouth shut.” It’s less about that and more about you getting clear with you that you’re going to do whatever it takes because it’s going to be different from willpower.
It’s more of a spiritual power. It’s more about you finding yourself than it is you becoming this, “No, I’m not going to take it in.” It has nothing to do with that.
Marc: So, how are you feeling?
Natalie: I feel good. I feel a little exposed and seen. You did get to the root of what I was looking for. And also in this moment, I feel really clear. I have a sense of what that commitment is and what it looks like and what it can feel like. And I haven’t made that commitment to myself out of fear of going into that other masculine, driving place. And this is a big shift for me to understand the masculine different inside myself.
Marc: Well put.
Natalie: Thank you.
Marc: Yeah. You’ve been a good sport. You’ve been very willing. And I think we got to the place inside you where the action is. And the action is where you’re being called in life and where you’re going and making that deeper level commitment and finding that part of you that’s really a newer part of you that might not ever been expressed.
And it’s between you and the universe. It’s between you and a higher power. It’s you rising into a new place in yourself, a new level of maturity. And the sugar is just showing you where you need to get clearer, stronger, more committed, more awake, more present at the wheel, all that sort of thing.
Marc: I’ve got confidence in you that you’re going to get what you want to go. I really do.
Natalie: Thank you. Thank you.
Marc: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It sounds like all the pieces are in place for you. And you’ll get there as long as you make that commitment to yourself. And that’s an inner shift. And you’re pretty much ready to do that. And you just have to make that choice inside you, which is kind of like tapping into the adult in you. It’s tapping into you really claiming dominion over your own life and your own direction and making a choice.
And it’s going from being at effect of the world, meaning, “The world is always affecting me. And I do things when I’m affected by him and her into this and that,” and doing things because you’re causing them. “I’m choosing this direction. I want to go in this direction. This is who I want to be. This is what’s next for me. I’m choosing this.” That’s being more at cause in your life. So you’re invoking that place in a whole new way.
Natalie: Yeah. It feels like calling in my core. And I know that that’s what I need to do. And it feels really validating and supportive and helpful to hear it reflected from you.
Marc: That’s what were here for! That’s why we’re doing this, to support each other, to help each other get elevated and grow and be better. That’s the whole point. And we just did it for each other. And I think there’s a lot of people tuning in who can probably relate in a big way. So thanks for being really open and honest and vulnerable about your journey. I really appreciate that, Natalie.
Natalie: Thank you, Marc. I really appreciate your time and your attention. I really feel your attention here. And that’s amazing and really helpful. Thank you.
Marc: Yay! Okay. Good job. Good work!
Natalie: Thank you.
Marc: Yeah, and thanks, everybody, for tuning in. I’m Marc David on behalf of the Ppsychology of Eating podcast. Lots more to come, my friends. Take care.
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating
© Institute For The Psychology of Eating, All Rights Reserved, 2014
Get Your FREE Video Series
New Insights to Forever Transform Your Relationship with Food
P.S. If you haven’t had a chance to check out our FREE information-packed video series, The Dynamic Eating Psychology Breakthrough, you can sign up for it HERE. It’s a great way to get a better sense of the work we do here at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. If you’re inspired by this work and want to learn about how you can become certified as an Eating Psychology Coach, please go HERE to learn more. And if you’re interested in working on your own personal relationship with food, check out our breakthrough 8-week program designed for the public, Transform Your Relationship with Food, HERE.