The Psychology of Eating Podcast Episode 5: 20 Years Old and Binge Eating
Being young and pretty doesn’t guarantee instant happiness about food, body or life. In fact, it can make things much more difficult and painful. Many people believe that looking a certain way will absolutely make us feel confident and empowered. But for most of us, this is only an illusion. Tune in to this fascinating client session as Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating helps Gracie discover the potent connection between her sexuality and her relationship with food, while she learns some great tools and insights to navigate her deeper desires.
Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:
Eating Psychology Podcast with Gracie Galland
Marc: Welcome, everyone! 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 with Gracie today welcome, Gracie!
Gracie: Thank you!
Marc: I’m glad you’re doing this.
Gracie: I’m so excited to do this. So excited to be here.
Marc: Yay! Let me take a moment and fill in viewers and listeners who are new to the podcast to let them know what this is about. So in the Psychology of Eating Podcast, we’re going to go for about an hour today. And this is all about us, Gracie and I, doing a session together where we’re going to take about, I don’t know, four months to eight years worth of coaching and counseling and try to condense it into one crazy session. So the idea is for Gracie, for you to have a breakthrough, for you to see some light at the end of the tunnel and hopefully get you where you want to go.
So if you could just wave your magic wand and get whatever you wanted to get from this session, what would that look like for you?
Gracie: A little bit more of—what’s the word?—feeling of contentment, I guess, in where I’m at right now right now in life and just being okay with life and what it brings me.
Marc: So feeling content with life, being okay with what it brings you. What inspired you to want to be a client on the podcast? Nail it as specific as you could.
Gracie: Listening to you and the way your approach is is something that I haven’t tried yet in my life. I’m very new as far as experience wise to this field of health and nutrition. For maybe three years now, I’ve been very influenced by it. And I did attend the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and it changed my life. And I feel like I’ve come full circle. I went from just not really knowing a lot about health and wellness or anything to learning tons about health as far as food goes, and a little bit about the body, but not so much about the mind. And I feel like as I first got into it, I started in a really good place. I changed my life. I feel 100 times better.
And I’ve kind of gone backwards since then. I’ve kind of come to a place of no moderation, no balance in it. I go from one extreme to another, being crazy about something and then completely changing and going the opposite way. And I’ve struggled finding balance in that and with every other aspect of life. And it really ends up playing a mental game and really it just kind of has freaked me out because I haven’t known how to deal with it, so to speak.
And I obviously haven’t heard your approach because it’s not out there. People don’t talk about how psychological all of this is. And it’s really changed my perspective of everything. So I hear what you say. And I think I can apply it to my life. But then when I try and go and do it, I don’t feel it know where to start. You know what I mean?
Marc: I think so, yeah.
Gracie: So I was excited to talk to you so I could know kind of where to start letting go. I get from my mother a very perfectionistic personality.
I like to be a perfectionist and control, in a way, things that happen in my life. And the past year and a half, I got married about a year and half ago. And I am so happy in my marriage. But it’s changed a lot of things in my life.
And there’s a lot I can’t control. And a lot has happened with both of our families since we got married. And you feel like you lose control of everything. And in that, I’ve kind of come through this whole journey with my body and myself and realizing what really matters. But how do I balance at all?
Marc: So what’s your biggest challenge with food right now? How does it show up?
Gracie: My biggest challenge is having balance because I love healthy food. I love healthy eating. I love inspiring others to eat well. And I love that I can show people how delicious eating healthy can be. So it’s not that I want to eat unhealthy foods or that I enjoy them. I choose not to eat them. But I get in his mind games where I’m so one way: “I can only eat this. I only eat these things.” And that’s okay for a while because I don’t want the other stuff. But when my body wants it and I finally let myself have it or whatever it is, I go crazy that way.
And I’ve been kind of on this binging. For my body and myself, it’s definitely binging. It’s trying to use food as an escape in some ways. And it feels naughty, when I go crazy and I use that. It gives you some fulfillment. But then it also just makes you feel awful. And at times of justify it like, “Oh, I’m eating all these healthy foods.” But when I get crazy and I coined the cycles where I eat so much food, even though it’s healthy, it’s so damaging to my body.
And I feel like I’ve been so out of whack as far as not being able to just eat healthy food that’s a good in moderation. Because either way I feel it I can have moderation with how much I’m eating for a healthy or not eating healthy. It’s like I can’t just be in the middle. I have to be either eating perfectly that day or I’m not eating perfectly, then I’m eating really crappy all day.
Marc: Got it. Makes sense. So you kind of do the all or nothing thing a lot of the time. I’m either perfectly in this perfectly. Or all kind of hectic breaks loose with what you eat.
Marc: Okay. And when you find yourself binging, binge eating, does that happen at a particular time of the day?
Gracie: It’s funny because it’s been about a year I feel like since I’ve had this problem. It’s kind of gotten progressively worse throughout the year. So I developed this little hobby that I enjoyed making healthy desserts. A lot of time they’re raw vegan. You can kind of health-ify any treat. And I love treats. And I love sharing them with others.
So I would make all these healthy desserts and share them with others. But I would eat so much of them myself that I’m like, “Oh, it’s healthy. Whatever.” But I knew that wasn’t a good justification. I can’t justify it like that. But I would anyways. So I’ve developed this hobby that I love. And now is kind of like my therapy, my escape.
Like when I need to just meditate and relax, I like to just bake and make things. But then it’s almost like I’m using that and then eating them as like a shield.
It’s like a way to escape essentially from everything else that’s going on. And it’s been okay up to a point. But, like I said, it’s gotten progressively worse to where I would just do it.
Like sometimes I would just binge at night or on the weekends when I just let myself do whatever. I’d be really good all week and then just do it on the weekends. And then it progressively got worse to where it was every night. And then it progressively got worse til I couldn’t eat a meal without eating too much. So every single time I sat down to eat, I feel like I overate.
But then I’d end up being in my head. So even if I didn’t overeat, I’d think, “Oh, my gosh. And so then I’m thinking, “I can’t eat food without eating too much.” And so then I do end up eating more and more and more. And I’ve seen over the course of a year certain portions don’t satisfy me anymore because I just think that I need more in my head. And it doesn’t matter if it’s healthy or if it’s not healthy. I just think I need this a big amount of food.
So I would go on these cycles where I would try and have moderation and I’d be good for a little bit. Then I’d go crazy and go crazy for a little bit. And then I’d be like, “Oh, I’ll just cleanse. And then I’ll get myself back on track.” So I do a little cleanse or detox, feel great, get back on track. But the cycle just keeps going and going and going.
Marc: Got it. Okay. So this has been going on for at least a year you would say, correct?
Gracie: Yeah. It progressively got worse over the course of a year.
Marc: Okay. Have you gained any weight?
Gracie: So that’s the funny thing I have to mention to you. After I got married, I went to a holistic hormone specialist just because I heard a lot of good things about him. I went to check out my levels and stuff. And my levels were quite off. My thyroid was quite low in the bunch of other things, which I hadn’t even really thought about. I wasn’t bleeding when I was menstruating. I could tell when I was menstruating, but I was not bleeding at all. And I thought, “Oh my gosh. That maybe is bad.”
So I went to get everything checked. And he put me on supposedly this natural thyroid that helps me feel so much better as far as my energy and stamina throughout the day. And without realizing it, I wasn’t as focused on what I weighed. I’ve always been kind of self-conscious about my body. I’m really short. I’ve always felt like, “Oh, I just feel short and kind of frumpy or whatever.”
But I slowly progressively over a few months just kind of shut off excess weight like it was just like I just felt lighter. I felt more myself. And as that happened, one day I looked in the mirror and thought, “Oh, my gosh. I’m a lot smaller.” And I finally realized, “I feel good about the way I look. I feel good about this.” So for a few months, I think I felt really good.
And then about this time last year, I started getting kind of narcotic with it where I would look at myself and think, “I look good. So I can eat whatever I want.” And then I kind of go crazy with that. But then on the other hand, I would nitpick all these little parts of my body that I thought I could make better. So over the course of the year, I developed this binging thing because it’s like, “Oh, finally look the way I want to. If I can eat however I want to,” even though I wasn’t necessarily eating to be tiny. I was eating to be healthy, too.
I feel like now I’m kind of back to where I was before I visited my hormone doctor. And my levels are all normal now. I feel fine in that sense. I’m still not menstruating as far as bleeding or anything goes. It’s been about two years since I actually had a period. But he acts like that’s no big deal. I’m still menstruating. I’m just not bleeding, which some women do, he says.
Marc: So let me ask you this question. Are you on a low-fat diet?
Gracie: Not at all. And especially what I was feeling my best, fat was probably the main macronutrient I was getting. I was eating a lot of raw nuts and seeds and good fats. I’m aware that fat is good. And I’m not afraid of it in any way.
Marc: Okay. How does all this impact your relationship? How does it impact your marriage?
Gracie: At first, like I said, when I first kind of looked in the mirror and realized that I was smaller and felt better about myself, I was able to let go more and be myself more. But slowly I put myself back in this prison where I’m nitpicking so much and I’m so self-conscious about my body that I just think, “How can Devin”—my husband—“love me or love these parts of me if I don’t?”
Obviously, that’s a common thought. But it makes me not want to be sexual. It makes me not want to be myself and just be able to be.
So sometimes I use it as a reason not to be sexual. I’ll binge eat and feel really gross one night and kind of sick.
And then say, “Oh, I don’t feel good tonight,” or just whatever, kind of use it as a shield so I don’t have to reveal myself, if that makes sense.
I don’t know really how to put it. But it’s definitely progressively made that worse because when I’m eating well and feel well, I feel good about myself. But then I’m afraid. I start to feel good about myself and I think, “I don’t need to worry anymore.” And then I think that for some reason than it’s okay to eat like crazy or whatever it is that I use to get this fake form of happiness or whatever it is.
And I have a beautiful, great life. I have nothing to complain about. My husband is amazing. He would do anything for me. But I don’t feel adequate sometimes as far as fulfilling his needs because I can’t love deeply myself. [voice breaks]
Marc: Yeah. That’s hard. That’s really hard. And I get that you want to do the right thing. You want to do the right thing for you. And you want to do right by him. And right now, that’s not easy. No. I get it.
Marc: Yeah. Yeah. Thanks for being so real and honest. And that’s very up close and personal. And that happens. That really happens when we have a relationship with food and the body that kind of takes over, it sort of becomes our primary relationship.
It’s almost like it’s sometimes—I don’t want to say easier—but it just sort of happens that we become more married to my eating challenge or my health challenge or whatever is going for us. We can become more married to that than to the person that were married to. Not because we want to. It kind of happens.
Gracie: Oh, absolutely. And I’m definitely seeing that. And I’m not in any way shape or form fat. And I wasn’t before I lost weight. I felt good the way I looked. But I was maybe trying to be like this skinny, tiny woman I see in pictures or whatever. But that’s not realistic for my body. I’m barely 5 foot. And my family is more big boned, not like stick skinny people. But they’re not big people.
Not that that has everything to do with what I’m going to look like. When I thought I felt my best and looked my best as far as looking at myself in pictures, I was about 90, 92 pounds. And now I don’t know how much I weigh. But last time I weighed myself, I was maybe 98. And I just think, “Oh, since I felt my best when I was 92 pounds, I’m only going to feel my best to find 92 pounds.”
So I’ve stopped weighing myself to try to clear my mind because I know that doesn’t have a lot to do with it. Like the last time I weighed myself, I looked at it was like 98 or something. And I was just like, “Oh, my gosh. I am gaining weight.” And then I look at my body and I’m like, “Yep, I’m fat!” It’s so ridiculous because I’m also very into fitness. And I know that more pounds doesn’t mean more fat. And I enjoy working out and I work out every day. And I tried not to get crazy about that, too. But I do at times. I go through cycles with that.
But the other thing that I’ve realized lately is what I did feel my best and felt small and myself and the light and happy, I was practicing yoga at least three times a week. And I practice a traditional ashtanga yoga series. And I really enjoy it. And I’m good at it. And when I get away from that, I kind of get out of my body. It helps me get into my body more.
Marc: One more question. How old are you?
Gracie: I’m 20.
Marc: Okay. When do you turn 21?
Gracie: In September, the 27th.
Marc: Got it. So I’ve got some ideas for you. And I’m going to start sort of wide, and big picture, and the slowly narrow down to maybe suggestions that could be specifically helpful. But it’s good to, I think, have a big picture view of ourselves and life in order to navigate the challenges that we’re navigating.
So for you, what I want to say is you’re 20 years old. And by definition, your boat is in waters that’s a little bit rough.
And the truth is, when we’re in our 20s, it’s kind of rough seas. You’re not a teenager anymore. You’re not living with mommy and daddy. Especially for you, you’re married. So it’s you and your husband.
And the 20s is a time when we’re really doing a heckuva lot of self-discovery. We’re really learning to define who we are. And that’s not easy to do in the world because right now you are at a time in your life… And I really think it’s important that all of us honor the life phase that we’re in.
So your life phase is, “I’m just getting married. And I’m a young woman. And the truth is, I don’t know what it’s like to be married. I don’t know what it’s like to be in a long-term relationship. I don’t know what it’s like to wake up with the same dude every day. And I have to meet his needs. He has to meet my needs. And we’re doing that probably till death do us part or something close. Wow. How do you do that? And then how do you have a life at the same time? And then how do you navigate all these challenges with food and my body and perfectionism that kind of comes out of nowhere?”
So, on the one hand, before we try to fix all that, what I want to say is what you’re going through in so many ways is normal. That doesn’t mean that should feel good to you. But what I’m saying is you’re in rough waters. And it makes perfect sense because you’re defining yourself.
And especially when we get married, I think there’s something a little bit mystical and magical that happens when you get married. And it’s hard to put into words. But it’s almost as if marriage will bring up so many of the good things in us. It brings out the part of us that wants to commit, that wants to love, that wants to go deep, that wants to be really intimate. It brings up the part of us that wants to bond with another human and maybe start a family and to build a life together. Like, wow, that is huge.
But at the same time, it’s going to bring up everything that would get in the way of all that. Marriage is going to bring up all of our insecurities about ourselves. If you’re a woman, it’s going to bring up all kinds of insecurities, if you’re married to a man, about men and about partnership. It can bring up insecurities about my body, about my sexuality because all of a sudden you can’t just go back to your apartment by yourself every night. You’re sleeping with a person.
And the sex part of it, it’s like a whole new territory.
Gracie: Can I tell you something quickly?
Gracie: I’m a latter-day saint. I’m Mormon. And I grew up that way. I love my religion. My husband grew up the same way. And it’s always been a huge part of my life. As I listened to your podcast on religion kind of, not destroying sexuality, but shoving it in a way, I realize I was raised that way.
And that’s not the point of my religion. They don’t say that. But certain families can raise their women especially to not portray their sexuality because you don’t want to attract the wrong kind of attention. Or you don’t want to put thoughts in men’s head. You don’t want it yourself into trouble. We abstained from sexual intercourse or anything before marriage. And I never did anything like that before I got married.
I had those urgencies. I obviously felt sexually aroused and attracted to my husband the whole time we were engaged and everything like that. We never had sexual intercourse before. And I felt like you have the urge like you want to before. But the second I got married, I’ve never wanted it.
This kind of sounds really bad. But I’ve never enjoyed it, not because of my husband, not because of anything he’s doing. He would give the world to just make everything perfect and amazing for me. But it’s just not something I need. I love him to death. But I don’t need that to love him. Still, which is weird. I’ve never wanted it. I’ve never enjoyed it really. Obviously, once you get into, it can be enjoyable.
At the beginning, I didn’t like it was because of self-conscious reasons. I don’t feel like it was because of my body. It’s become that way. I’ve realize more and more as I get more into myself and a self-conscious about every little part of me, then that’s when I’m thinking about during it.
But I don’t feel like I’ve ever experienced it like a young 20-year-old girl should. And that’s so frustrating to me. And it’s frustrating to my husband because it gets him down, like I’m not sexually attracted to him, which I am. But I just don’t need it. I could take it or leave it, which I think a lot of women are like that. But for me to spend two years old and not want to have sex with my husband and not because I don’t love him in any way, but just because I would rather just snuggle him and watch a movie.
Marc: Sure. So let’s talk about that. I think it’s perfect that here we are. We’re talking about your relationship with food.
But really we’re talking about your relationship with food and your relationship with your body and your relationship with your husband, your relationship with sexuality because it’s all connected.
And right now for you in your life, you’re figuring out what those connections mean for you. And what they mean for you are very personal to you. What they mean for you and your husband are personal to each other. And I just want to say that I don’t know if it’s true when you say, “Wow, I haven’t experienced normally what a 20-year-old girl should experience.” I don’t know that there’s really a normal.
I think what it is really, that’s the image that we have. And it’s kind of a little but Hollywood. And most of us, many of us are never really talked about sexuality. You probably know more about your religion than you know about sexuality. You probably know more about nutrition than you do sexuality, there’s no really deeper teaching because there’s no teaching around it. We don’t learn it in public schools. We don’t learn it in private schools even. It’s like where did you learn it?
Gracie: And how do you learn it in a way that isn’t skewed like the world sees and makes it dirty almost? How do you make it a pure, beautiful thing? How do I teach my girls to be sexy and comfortable with their sexuality, but not have them go off and be like a skank or something? What’s the balance?
Marc: Sure. So these are great questions. And what I want to say is this is the powerful question you’re going to be living in for a while. And I would love for you to reframe this is, “I’m not doing anything wrong. There is nothing wrong with me. And what’s happening is I’m now learning this new aspect of life. I’m learning this new phase of life. It’s not like you’ve been having sex for 20 years and you’ve learned all about it and you’ve been with all kinds of different people. “And now I know what this is and that is and what I want and what I don’t want.”
So you’re learning. And your journey, everybody’s journey and their relationship with their sexuality is unique and highly personal, just as you are you a unique human being. And what you will go through in life is unique to you. That’s the same for your journey with sex.
And if you look at it as it will be a great teacher for you… So it’s just a teacher. And it’s going to show us where our insecurities are. It’s going to show us places where we need to learn more, where we need to explore more. It’s going to show us like, “Oh, I like this. I don’t like that.” Right now, if it’s not something that you want, in a strange way, you have to honor that. The challenge for you is, “Well, wait a second. My husband…” And it brings up all these feelings. That’s totally understandable.
If I was talking to him right now and he was telling me, “Wow, I love her. But this is so hard for me,” I would say to him, “Yeah, if I was in your shoes, I would feel the same way. This is hard for you. And I know that she loves you. And you know that you love her. And, man, this is a challenge right now.”
So instead of looking at it as you’re wrong, which you’re not, he’s not wrong for his need. It’s just right now this is a place where synergy isn’t happening. And it’s just a beautiful opportunity to grow and to be in dialogue and to be real with each other. “Wow, here’s what’s happening for me. I just don’t enjoy it that much. I don’t want it that much.” That might be hard for him to hear. And it’s true for you.
And there’s different ways to work with that. But what I want you to hear first and foremost is you can’t make yourself wrong for that.
And the first and foremost embrace that you’re at where you’re at for a good reason.
It’s for a very good reason because here you are, you’re put into this whole new experience that you just don’t know a whole lot about.
It’s like putting you into a foreign country where you don’t speak the language. And then you saying to me, “Gee, Marc, I feel so bad about myself. I can’t speak Portuguese and I’m in Portugal.” I’m like, “Eh, it’s understandable.”
Gracie: And when you say, in a recent podcast that I listened to, that some women store their sexual energy, I feel like that’s what I’m doing because I feel weird releasing it. I don’t feel comfortable. So I feel like it is stored in me. And I try and release it through other things, through food and get the same satisfaction through those different things.
But it’s obviously not satisfying, like I feel like I should turn to my husband and the get satisfaction that way rather than binging one night so I don’t have to have sex with him and then just going to bed mad. You know what I mean? It’s just like why can I not to use that when I know or I think I know that’s what I need? Is it what I need? I don’t know.
Marc: So here’s the thing. We will turn to food—you will turn to food, we will turn to food, I will turn to food—any of us will turn to food when we are having challenging emotions and challenging life experiences that we just don’t know how to manage. We’ll turn to food because food helps regulate us. Food helps smooth over, at least temporarily. So feel bad, eat food, feel better.
Gracie: Yeah, it like numbs everything else.
Marc: Yes, it can definitely numb everything else. It could be a great way like, “Oh, I binge eat. I hate my body. Sorry, honey.” So now there’s almost a real reason not to do it. It’s a safer way to have a real reason. In a strange way, it’s a little harder to be more real and to have an honest and authentic conversation and go, “You know, honey, gosh I am so frustrated because right now I want to give you what you want. But I’m just not there. I can’t. I don’t really want to go binge eat because that sucks for me. And it’ll suck for you, as well. But at the same time, I’m really just not feeling it.”
So one of the lessons this is teaching you, I think, is to practice being real and authentic in your relationship, just to practice being real and authentic. If you and your husband can be in close dialogue about this, the more honest you can be…
Gracie: Yeah. And I do tell him… I’ve had the conversation with him, like I don’t enjoy it in any way. It’s not because of you. It’s just not something I need. And we’ve talked about that a lot because he’s been down on himself for it, obviously. How can he not? Because he thinks it’s something he’s doing wrong. But I verbalize to him that it’s really not.
But I don’t know if I feel embarrassed or I just haven’t necessarily made the connection completely in my head that I am using food to escape him or escape his sexual energy that he’s constantly throwing at me—not constantly. But I sense it. And I want to give it to him. I want to be that for him.
But it feels so unrealistic to me right now because I can’t ever get in that mode where I can just be that. It’s so hard for me to get there. But I haven’t verbalized to him. And I don’t think it’s the only reason I binge eat or overeat, because I do it sometimes all throughout the day all the time for no reason.
Marc: So it’s all a package deal. So I want to get back to the big picture for a second. So in the big picture, you’re 20. And you’re learning about yourself. Plain and simple, you’re learning who you are. Who am I as a person? Who am I as a young adult? Who am I as a sexual being? Who am I as a married woman? Who am I in my work in the world?
And right now there’s a lots of unknowns. There’s a lot of challenges. And again there’s a lot of rough waters. And what I’m saying is this is to be expected. It’s totally to be expected. Even young people, girls, boys, men, women who have been having sex since they’ve been 15, even that doesn’t mean that they know who they are in that realm.
So all I’m saying is you’re in a discovery zone. And it’s going to be rocky because it is.
And I don’t know that anyone can take that away. I don’t know that anyone can push a button or give you a pill that’s going to make this all change. But, again, what I would love to see you do is to take this on.
I would love for you to sit down with your husband and say, “Listen, I know this is a challenge for us. And I just want you to know I’m committed to making this work. I don’t know how.” So you don’t know how. But just because you don’t know how to make it work doesn’t mean that you can’t be committed to making it work.
It’s like you don’t know how to be a married person. You’ve never done it before. But you committed to it. Have you seen other people do it? Your parents do it? Sure. See you have kind of an idea. So it is possible to have a healthy, sweet, wonderful sexual relationship. And you just don’t know how to do that because you’ve never done it before, nor have you been taught how to do that. So it makes sense that you don’t know how to do it.
But you can commit and say, “Hey, honey, I want to get there with you. And let’s just be in this for the long haul. I want to get there. And we’re not there right now. I love you. We’ll get there.”
So, to me, I want to see you relax in this a little bit and to know that you have some time. I think you understand. But I just want to affirm for you. I want to jump to your husband’s side of the court for one second. As a young man, is he similar in age to you?
Gracie: Yeah, he’s just two years older.
Marc: Okay. As a 22-year-old, he’s a young guy. And what does a guy want at that age? They want to know that, “I’m okay. I’m attractive. And I’m a man. And she loves me. And I’m a sexual being. And I know what I’m doing. And I’m pleasing her.” Guys want to do it right. Guys love to do things right. We like to score 100 on a test. We like to throw the touchdown. We like to get the ball in the basket. We like to hit the ball with the bat. We want to get it right.
So when a guy doesn’t have that, especially for a young man, they get very insecure. They get extremely insecure. So it would make sense to me that he would be insecure or he would get upset because he’s human. And he’s a guy. So I know you know that. But I’m just saying that so that you can remember in your challenges, with your own self, to have a little patience for him and understand like, “Oh, that’s where he’s coming from.”
And there might be times where he blames himself, where he blames you, where he just gets frustrated. But at the end of the day, you’re both trying to figure it out. And you’re both trying to meet somewhere in the middle. Now, what I want to suggest is that there’s ways for you guys to start getting…
Before I get into that… Part of you having a good relationship with food, let’s put the sex piece aside for one second. Part of feeling like, “Hey, my relationship with food and body feels good,” part of that is you getting comfortable with your body. Part of that is you getting comfortable with how to feed yourself. Part of you is you being comfortable with, “This is me. This is how tall I am. This is how much I weigh right now. Yeah, this is how much I weighed a year ago or two years ago.”
Part of it is learning how to be comfortable no matter what because there’s some days you and I wake up and we feel great. And there’s some days we wake up, we don’t feel great. And then you look in the mirror when you don’t feel great, you don’t look good. And the days when you wake up and you feel great, you think, “Wow, I look great!”
So part of it is learning that it’s going to always shift and change.
So I think the big picture for you, you are learning how to find home in your body, plain and simple.
And home includes how I do food, how I feel about my own body, how I love my own body. And being home in your body also is how I feel about myself as a sexual being and what that even means.
So you’re not there yet. And you’re not there because you can’t be there because you’re 20 years old and you are discovering it. You are like an explorer that we just sent out into the wilderness. And we go, “Okay, Gracie, here’s your backpack. Go find some cool stuff out of there because we’ve never seen that’s territory. And we’re going to send you out there.” So that’s what you’re doing right now. You’re in new territory.
So I wish for you that anytime you get down on yourself, you can find a little forgiveness. So this is where I want you to practice some good religion. I really want you to forgive yourself whenever you think you’re guilty of something here. I want you to forgive yourself whenever you think, “Oh, I shouldn’t have eaten that.” I want you to forgive yourself every time you feel, “I’m not good enough for my husband.”
And it’s not like you did something wrong. You’re in the process of finding yourself. And that’s not easy. And that’s why most people don’t do it. It’s easier to just go and eat and be unconscious. It’s easy to go drink. It’s easy to go out and do stupid entertainment and distract yourself from the emotions that are coming up and the feelings that are coming up and the challenges that are coming up.
So I see you addressing them. And when we address the challenges, it’s a lot of heat. And it’s not easy. So I would love for you to get on board with, “This is not easy.” Because if it was, it would be. And you’re taking on something that a lot of young women aren’t able to take on. And I see you taking it on.
You are saying to me, “I want to have a healthy relationship. And I’m actively working on it. I want to have a healthy marriage. I want to have a healthy sex life. I don’t know how to do all that. But, man, I’m working on it.” And that’s the best you could ask for of yourself. You follow me?
Gracie: Oh, yeah.
Marc: So here’s what I want to suggest to you is that your trying to find with your mind, “Okay, well, which diet works for me? What should I do? And if I could just figure out what I should eat, then I’m going to feel better, look better, be better. Or if I could just figure out maybe what to do with my husband, then maybe the right button gets pushed and am available to him and give him what he wants.”
I don’t know that that’s going to happen that way. But here’s what I do think. I think the more you practice exploring being in your body and going just a little bit more to your edge of exploration about what it means to be Gracie and be a young woman, as an eater, as a sexual being, the more you just push just a little edge, the better.
So here’s what I want to suggest when it comes to you and your husband, I would say to him, “Hey, I want to try to experiment.” And this is just one suggestion. There’s so many little things to do. “Honey, I just want to try an experiment for the next month. I want us to see if we can take sex off the table. For the next month, I just don’t want to feel any pressure because this is such a challenge for me and I really want to do well. But this has been really frustrating for me. So for the next month, we’re taking it off the table. So just take the expectation of that happening off the table. But what I want to do is I want to see if we could just play with touch. And what if I just massaged you in a way that you like to be massage? What if we danced together? What if we exchanged massage, but really slow?”
And what if you said to him, “I’m going to give you direction. And I want you to do exactly what I want to do. And it might mean massage your feet.” And just asking him to do for you exactly what you want. And it might not be sexual, but it might be just touch. It might be just holding you. It might be holding you from the front, from the back, in bed, on the couch. But experiment with what makes you feel good.
And it could be anything. It could be the littlest things. It could be just, “Honey, hold me and say nice things to me.” So for you to start to get accustomed to asking for what you want and feeling safe that that will be enough because you’ve both agreed that we’re taking sex off the table. You follow me?
Marc: So that’s a great way for you to explore you practicing, “What do I want? What’s going to make me feel good?”
And we’re taking it away from pure sex and making it my body. You might like to have shoulder rubs. You might like to have your wrists massaged. I don’t know. But to practice asking for that, and making it fun, making it a game, goof about it. Joke about it.
So then you find ways to play with each other where you can start build a little trust. And you can start to make it fun. But especially for you to explore, for me being Gracie right now and my life, what would feel good for my body? And what might feel good is, “Honey, make the bath for me and put rose petals in it. And bring some wine. And just let’s sit with candles and play music.”
So you can make that up and make it interesting. You might even ask him. And then you might exchange. Like, “Honey, what can I do for you that’s not about pure sex, but that can make you feel good?” And it’s all in the context of we are exploring. We are finding ways to get comfortable with each other. Because as you can do that with touch and with physical pleasure, it’s going to translate into your relationship with food because part of it is you going out of your head and dropping into your body and saying, “Body, what feels good for you?”
Because right now I would love to see you, when it comes to food, to start trusting yourself just a little more that you don’t have to eat perfect in order to be you. So, yeah, you need more balance because you’re telling me, “Yeah, I go to these extremes. I’m either eating perfectly and I think I have to eat perfectly. Or just let it go.” That’s all or nothing is a soul killer. It’s a soul killer. So instead of all or nothing, let’s go for middle-of-the-road. And going from middle-of-the-road means you have to relax a little more and trust more.
One of the reasons why we don’t enjoy physical touch or sexuality—one of the contributing factors—is that we don’t feel relaxed because the truth is if my favorite masseuse came here right now and started giving me a shoulder rub, if I’m not feeling relaxed and if I’m not ready to receive that shoulder rub, “I don’t wanna. Don’t do it!” I’m not going to receive any pleasure. If somebody made your favorite meal right now, but you’re all kinds of stress because you had a rough day, you won’t be able to receive that meal because you’re not relaxed.
So part of us learning how to be in a better relationship with food and body and sexuality is learning how to relax more in life because when I’m relaxed, when you’re relaxed, you can receive more pleasure. But if I’m thinking, “Oh, my God. What’s he thinking? What’s she thinking? My body is too this. My body is too that. He’s thinking my body is to that,” there’s no relaxation there. Of course you can’t enjoy.
So it’s really about learning to relax, especially in the places where we beat ourselves up, where we create artificial stress. So this thing called all or nothing, that creates for you an artificial stress. It’s not a real stress. A real stress would be, “My cat is sick and I have to take him to the vet.” That’s a real stress. That’s something real. Me saying, “Oh, I have to eat perfectly. And if I don’t eat perfectly, I’m screwed,” that is a stress would create. And then we can’t live up to it. And then we feel all freaked out.
So that’s where you can do personal work on self. And I want you to catch yourself more and more when you start to do that and say, “Okay, I’m going to start loving myself no matter what I eat. I’m going to give myself more wiggle room.” So, yeah, eat 90% healthy or 85% healthy. And own that, “I’m going to do 10% or 15% other stuff.”
Gracie: And, see, I feel like I was in such a good place as far as that goes at the beginning of all this when I felt my best. I was good at that. I could just eat healthy most of the time and then enjoy the milkshake that I loved every once in a while. I could have it just every once in a while rather than having it and just saying, “Oh, screw it.” And then I just eat for a week awfully. And then I feel awful.
I don’t know. With eating well, I just want to be able to have balance even when I eat good. I want to be able to just eat my salad that’s really filling and healthy and good with my protein and everything and then just be done because I feel like I am constantly, constantly thinking about food or what am I going to eat next or am I hungry or am I not? Is my body just playing tricks on me? It’s constantly on my mind. And I don’t know how to not let it be like that, to just eat.
I feel like I knew how to do it so well and just be in my body and listen to by body and what it wanted. And all of a sudden I can’t do that anymore. And it’s so frustrating. But I think it’s just all in being able to relax into life and not to be afraid, like, for the whole year that I was smaller than I had ever been in my whole life. I mean, I’m 20. It’s like I’ve had a very long life of an adult body.
But when I was in that state is supposedly just looking small and feeling good about the way I looked, I got in my head like, “This is how I should look.” And I got afraid of gaining weight. And I constantly would look at pictures of myself and compared to before. And then I look at myself now and compare it to pictures of when I was tiny. And just like, “My gosh, I don’t look like I should look.”
Marc: So let me address this for you. I get it loud and clear that your mind has been captured by the concept of, “This is when I feel my best. And this is when I look my best at this number.” So that’s a thought that has pitched a tent in your brain and has taken over.
What happens to humans is that we have thoughts or beliefs that can be extremely powerful that we take on, that we adopt. They’re often very viral in nature. It’s like catching a virus, an organism, a parasite, a bacteria. It lands in us. It’s actually not us. So the thought that you are speaking of right now, it’s inaccurate, inaccurate being, “I can only look my best in feel my best when I’m at this weight.”
That’s not true. People look their best and feel their best at all kinds of different weights. And your body is going to change a million different times from now until the time that you die. “I felt really great when I was in college. And I was exercising three hours a day and taking five classes a week and jogging and running and dating for different girls.” Does that mean that I should do that again now because I I’ve been feeling so good lately?
We often use and experience in the essay, “Oh, this is when I felt good.” People feel good when they’re doing drugs. People feel good when they’re in an alcoholic binge. Does that mean that that’s my goal that I’m shooting for? So we often set up a false expectation. So what I’m saying is you’re going to have to over time overpower in a strange way that’s toxic thought because it’s not to you. And it’s strong.
And it’s not you because you didn’t invent that thought. Those kind of thoughts and land in us because we’re susceptible to advertising, to media, to airwaves, to everything that the culture teaches us, particularly for women. You have to look a certain way, be a certain way. And when that happens, you’re going to live happily ever after.
So women will get in their minds like, “Oh, my God. I’ve got to look at this. I have to be this way because that’s when I felt my best.” Sure, you might have really felt great then. But there’s all kinds of temporary highs. And life is constantly in flux. And life is constantly changing. And it’s being you and you being in the present moment, what is right now.
What is right now is this is who you are right now. This is your body right now.
You can experience the greatest pleasure from food and life. You can experience the greatest pleasure right now. There’s no need to wait. Can I learn how to experience more and more goodies and pleasure? Sure. Absolutely. But what I’m saying is this is going to take you some time. It’s not an easy one to get out of because we have to grow through it. So you don’t have a problem. You’re just growing as a person. That’s really what it is.
And I’d love for you to keep remembering that. And if you forget, shoot me an email. And I’m going to tell you, “You don’t have a problem. You’re growing. And you’re learning how to become the best version of Gracie.” That’s what you’re doing. And there’s going to be a point at which, when you have your 30s, when you’re going to feel so empowered. And there’s going to be a point where a year from now you’re going to feel even way more empowered then you are right now. You’re going to keep building on it.
This is the time when you just have to know, “Wow, I am a big open book. And there’s a little bit of chaos right now.” And the way, again, that you’re going to get through this is by starting to land in your body right now. So that means when you eat to train yourself to eat and enjoy in the moment while you’re eating. The more you can enjoy in the moment while you’re eating, the less you’ll start to obsess after you’re done about thinking about what’s next. It’s a practice. You’re not going to do it perfect.
When you said, “Man, this has gotten worse for me,” all of that means to me, if something is getting worse, it means we’re heating up. It means were hitting the boiling point and were getting ready to transform like never before. So that’s my sense for you is sometimes the problem is to get a little worse. The challenge needs to get worse before it gets better.
Gracie: Oh, for sure. And I feel like it’s definitely woken me up to reality, to life, to realize I have to accept myself now. And I’m a big believer in things happening for a reason. And I just feel like this school and this experience fell into my lap right when I need it.
I’m thankful for my knowledge on health and nutrition and good food and genetically modified food and all these things because I’m a big advocate of that knowledge. But this fell into my lap right with I needed it the most. And there’s a lot of obstacles that could have prevented me from doing it. But I went with it.
And I know that this is it. This is my learning experience. And the biggest thing for me is just learning to relax and not have everything have to be perfect. My house is constantly clean and perfect. I have to let that go. And I’m going to have kids someday. That’s not going to be reality. And I just have to, in a lot of areas of my life, just let go and just relax. And that’s what I’m learning. And I love it because it’s such a challenge for me.
Marc: Bingo. And it’s simply that. And, you know, Gracie, relax on a certain level really means trust. And trust on another level means faith. It means faith of something bigger. And because you’ve been raised in a very close-knit family and religion, then you understand that. You understand the concept of trust and faith. And I want you to apply that to every part of your life.
Have trust that, “I can relax and I’ll be okay.” That takes trust. Okay, so what happens if it’s a little messy around here? I’ll be okay. God is still going to love me. Life will still be good. What’s going to happen if I lose 5 pounds? If I gain 5 pounds? You’ll still be okay. No matter what happens, it boils down to trust.
So whenever you get into the moment of thinking, “Oh, my God. I can’t believe I did this. I can’t believe I ate that. I don’t know if I should eat that. Maybe I should be following this system, that system,” When all that noise starts going off in your head, the place to go is to your deep place of faith where you go, “Okay, I don’t know what I’m doing right now. This is confusing for me. But I know I’m going to get through this. And I know I’m going to be okay.”
And that’s where you can use something that you already have to your advantage. So applying trust, faith to your relationship with your own body, to food, with your husband, with sex and sexuality and sensuality, it’s like, “Okay, I trust that this is going to work out. I trust that I’m still going to be loved even if I didn’t get this perfect, even if I binge ate.”
So it’s you finding that. And that’s going to help you relax. Does that make sense?
Marc: And the piece about forgiveness is really great because you ain’t going to be perfect here. Life is just putting up a mirror and saying, “Hey, I know you want it to be perfect, Gracie. But check it out. It isn’t perfect. Nothing is perfect.” And that’s sort of the perfection of it. But I think that’s how we learn.
We learn that life isn’t always easy. And it’s not always black and white. And there’s going to be challenges. And there’s going to be places where we have to grow and heal and explore and go into some tough territory. But if you have a strong belief in who you are and why you’re here and that there’s a bigger wisdom that’s behind it all, then that’s what you have to refer even when it comes to your relationship with food and your relationship with your body.
I guarantee you God’s not up there saying, “Sorry, Gracie. I don’t love you anymore because you weigh 98 pounds.” That ain’t happening. It’s not what’s going on in the universe. So you have to align yourself more with your belief system. You follow what I’m saying?
Marc: You have to apply your belief system to your own body. Does that make sense?
Gracie: Mmm hmm.
Marc: Does that feel right for you?
Gracie: Yeah, it does. It does. And, like I said, I don’t know exactly how to go about doing it. But I figure it out as I go. But that totally makes sense to me. And I have to let go of unrealistic fears, like starting a family and having kids. I’m afraid of what pregnancy is going to do to my body. “What if I get fat the rest of my life? I can’t lose the weight.” Like why am I afraid of these things? Because there’s a plan for my life. It’s all been planned out. And all these things are happening for a reason.
And I strongly believe that. And I know that I believe that. But it’s so easy to get out of the mentality that I need to be in. So I’m constantly reminding myself to fall back into that. And I love how you said that it’s trust. It’s trusting what is. It’s just trusting the universe, trusting God that every thing, even these little dumb things, like, “I ate too much last night,” are happening for a reason, to teach me something greater so I can become something much greater than I am now.
Gracie: And to change other people’s lives, I feel like with this whole training, I am going through this so I can help people who will come to me later in my life that are going through the same thing, that I am specifically put on this earth to help. That’s why I’m here. And I know that that’s my journey in life. I know that I’m supposed to help others. So I’m excited to be able to fulfill that.
Marc: Bingo. That’s it. That’s it. It’s all happening for a reason. And you’re learning how to trust life and trust God and trust the universe throughout this whole process, that it’s all designed for your growth, for your transformation. There’s no accidents here. And sometimes we learn through challenge and we learn through hardship. That’s how we grow. All humans go through that. And that’s part of what you’re going through right now.
And the good news is, like you said, you have a beautiful life. And you’re with a wonderful person who loves you and cares about you. And you have the resource you need. What an incredible thing! Really, what an incredible thing! And I’m going to put the cherry on the cake right here because I think you got to a really good place, which is to start to bring all of you to the table in terms of your sense of trust, faith, to the challenges that come up for you around food and body and marriage and sexuality, to just bring that into your life. And know that this is going to unfold.
And you’re going to fall of the wagon. You’re going to have the painful moments. And then you have to remember, “Oh, okay.” You have to just return back to home. That’s what you have to do.
Gracie: Yeah. And I feel like stuff like that happens. You fall off the wagon. You get a cold because your body is trying to remind you what it feels like to be healthy. And then you learn how to appreciate that. So I feel like I’m not going to achieve balance and then have balance the rest of my life because life will have to show me imbalance so I can learn how to really appreciate balance.
Marc: Always, always, always. It never ends.
Gracie: Yeah, which is frustrating, but it’s reality.
Marc: It is, yeah. And it’s not so bad. Gracie, I really appreciate how open you’ve been and how honest you’ve been and how real you’ve been. And I just have a feeling there’s a lot of people listening in who can really relate with your story and certainly learn a lot from it.
So by sharing ourselves like this, it’s not just for us. It’s not just for you. It’s not just for me. But it’s for anyone else that needs some inspiration and needs to go, “Oh, right. That’s me also.” We’re all different and we’re all the same on so many levels. So I just really appreciate how you showed up today.
Gracie: Absolutely. Thank you so much. Thank you for all this, for all of your words. Everything you say literally when I’m listening to you every day, I’m like, “Yes, I need this. I need this. I need this.” So thank you.
Marc: Good work. Thanks a lot! And thanks, everybody, for tuning in. I really appreciate your time and your energy and your enthusiasm for this work. I’m Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating on behalf of the Psychology of Eating Podcast. Lots more to come, my friends. Take care.
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