The Psychology of Eating Podcast Episode 1: Body Image & the Fear of Weight Gain

Just because we can have what others consider “a great body” doesn’t mean we’re exempt from a negative body image. Tune in to this emotionally charged live client session with Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating and discover how revealing a powerful family secret has finally allowed Coralie to find a way through her fear of food and weight gain, and to begin to once and for all make peace with her body.

Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:

Eating Psychology Podcast with Coralie Medrano

Marc: Welcome, everybody! I’m Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. Here we are in the Eating Psychology podcast. And I’m with Coralie. Welcome, Coralie!

Coralie: Hi! How are you?

Marc: Really good. I’m glad you’re here. Thank you for doing this.

Coralie: Thank you.

Marc: Yeah, so let me give viewers and listeners who are new to this podcast a sense of what we’re going to be doing. So for the next no more than an hour or so, we’re going to diving together and have a session and see if we can have some openings or for insights or some breakthroughs in a small amount of time.

So this is just as turbocharging the coaching process, trying to take about—oh, I don’t know—six months worth of work and put it into one session. So it’s a little bit different than usual because we’re going to try to get right to the heart of the matter. And why don’t we just dive in, Coralie?

So if you could wave your magic wand and get whatever you wanted from this session, what would the outcome be?

Coralie: I just would want to be happy with myself without always questioning how I look and if I gain a pound and thinking about what I eat. Everybody looks at me like, “Oh, you have a great body. And you look good.” And I want to feel the same way they feel about myself. That would be wonderful.

Marc: So what are some of the things that you say to yourself when you’re looking in the mirror? Do you have a specific number of pounds that you think you have to lose? Or are there very specific things you say to yourself or body parts?

Coralie: Yeah, unfortunately. I didn’t weigh myself for the longest time. I feel like I’m 115. And I’m 5’4”. If I look at myself right now, I feel almost like I’m too fat. Not fat, but I’m really comfortable when I’m 104, which is not healthy. I know that. But I almost get a sense of lightness and high out of being really skinny, which is weird.

Marc: So do you diet to maintain your weight? Do you exercise? What happens?

Coralie: Well, I’m a runner. And I do enjoy running. I ran my first marathon in October. I did a lot of half marathons. I do run every day, every single day. And I have a really weird eating schedule, I guess. Some days I eat every day my breakfast, my lunch, my dinner. Some days I just have a salad for lunch and then a big dinner. Some days I skip breakfast, and I skip lunch and I have dinner. I never make up my mind on how I eat.

I eat mostly organic, local. So I know about eating good, quality food. But I’m not really good with keeping up with a good schedule or circadian rhythm, talking about how I eat and I diet.

Marc: So how long have you had this challenge where you look at your body, you think it’s too fat even though a part of you knows, “Wow, I’m thin. And everybody thinks that.” So how many years? Months?

Coralie: I really got triggered when my sister passed away. So I was in my early twenties.

So I’m thirty-five now almost. So probably fifteen years. It was not so bad during my teenage years, except before that. My sister passed away when I was twenty-three, going on twenty-four.

So I think that really was the start of me exercising everything. First it was kind of a stress release. And I think I kind of felt like I had a control on something when I was doing that. And that’s what it’s been, I think, mostly, even if I really enjoy running. I do. I really do.

Marc: Yeah. Were you close with your sister?

Coralie: Yeah. Yeah. She was older than me. She was thirteen years older than me. But she was like my confidant, my best friend. Yeah, we were really close.

Marc: How did she die?

Coralie: She committed suicide.

Marc: How was her relationship with her body?

Coralie: She was anorexic. And it was extremely difficult to watch. I grew up seeing her torturing her body basically, being really, really, really thin, not eating and then binge eating tons of chocolate and then not eating for days after that because she would punish herself. Now I know that. I didn’t know when I was a little girl. And she was the most caring, loving person you could ever have met. She would give her shirt out of her back to anybody she would meet.

Marc: Where did you grow up?

Coralie: In France next to Paris. So my parents own a restaurant. And they’ve always been in the restaurant business. So I always had food around me, food and good food. So it was kind of paradoxical to see my sister like that and then having my parents in the restaurant business where it’s all about food.

Marc: Yeah. So are your parents still together?

Coralie: Yes. This is really another difficult subject. They just were here the last week. And it didn’t go well. They had to leave early. It’s a little touchy-feely subject right now.

Marc: So are you married?

Coralie: Yes. My husband is an airline pilot. We met when I was a flight attendant. And he’s twenty years older than me.

Marc: And do you have children?

Coralie: I have a son who is three years old.

Marc: Congratulations.

Coralie: Thank you. I love him, love him, love him. It’s wonderful to be a mother. I really, really enjoy that part of my life definitely.

Marc: Can you tell me about your mother’s relationship with her body?

Coralie: Ah, God. Sorry I’m sobbing. My mom always destructed her body in some way. When I was younger, she was drinking a lot, taking pills. And now she’s really overweight. And she eats all bad food basically, what I call bad food, lots of fattening things. When I say fattening, it’s bad facet of things. I’m not judging her fat. But not good stuff in general, and lots of raw meat because in France we eat a lot of raw meat, tartare, steak tartare, which is a raw kind of dish, carpaccio. She likes all raw stuff and all greasy, fattening things.

In pounds, I don’t know, she would probably be at least fifty pounds overweight. And she has a lot of health issues. She has to have two knee surgeries. She already has her hip surgery. And she continues to eat really poorly and drink, pretty destructive.

Marc: How old is she?

Coralie: She is sixty-eight. She’s been like that for a while.

Marc: And if you could just say in one sentence or two sentences what’s the challenge with you and your parents or you and your mom? How would you language it?

Coralie: Oh, my God. Two sentences. We are just completely disconnected. And we’ve always been. My dad always runs away from everything. He doesn’t face problems. And my mom is a really self-destructive person. So we have a completely disconnected relationship. I don’t think they do anything that connects them to life in general, if it makes sense what I’m saying.

Marc: Sure, sure. And, by the way, I bounce around a lot here. But there is a method to the madness of the questions.

Coralie: Oh, I trust you, Marc. I have no problems.

Marc: How are you feeling right now?

Coralie: My, God. Since last week it’s been a roller coaster. Two weeks ago, my mother-in-law passed away. And then my parents came. I loved my mother-in-law. She was a really simple woman, Italian, really motherly. I could have normal conversation with her. She was connected when she would look at me. I don’t know. She was really amazing. She was simple, but a really, really sweet woman.

And then my parents came. So right now, how do I feel? I feel so many mixed emotions. I’m sad, frustrated. I feel guilty that my parents came and we again didn’t have any communications or connections, all those things.

Marc: How do your parents feel about their grandson and being around him?

Coralie: I think my dad generally loves his grandson. My mom is forcing herself. She doesn’t have that motherly thing in her. She never had. And it’s the same as a grandmother. She tries. But you can tell it’s not natural.

My dad, I can tell really likes his grandson. He really wants to spend time with him. But, just a quick example when she was here, my dad and my husband went golfing. And my mom stayed with me because she didn’t want to go golf, which was weird to me. Usually she wants to go. And they came back from the golf. And my I dad said, “Oh, so how was your day?” And she said, “Oh, I was bored to death today.” She spent the day with me and my son. And she was bored to death.

Marc: Oh, that’s hard.

Coralie: Yeah. Yeah. [Sighs heavily]

Marc: Can you tell me if there are times when you feel most connected to your body and you feel best about your body? When are those times?

Coralie: Oh, God. I hope there’s times. When I run my marathons. It’s crazy. I know it’s pushing myself. But I had the most amazing time I ever had in my life. And I felt so good about myself and my body. And I felt every single part of my body. I trained good, not hard. But I trained so I didn’t suffer or was hurt or I could walk fine after the marathon. And I felt amazing that day.

All the pictures of me that were taken during the marathon, I have a huge smile on my face. And I really felt amazing that day. It’s crazy that I had to feel amazing about my body doing that. I don’t know. I realize that’s extreme, but…

Marc: Are there any other times?

Coralie: Oh, God. I don’t think so. I try. I try. I put a face on. If somebody gives me a compliment, I can’t take it. I always question it. I always feel guilty almost about getting a compliment about myself when I think I don’t deserve it. So I don’t know.

Any other time? Last night we went out with my husband. And, yes, I felt pretty good about myself. I did. So, yeah. I have to think about it. That’s terrible.

Marc: Well, we’re just looking for the times when you notice like, “Okay, this isn’t so bad.” Or the mind talk isn’t so intense. Have there been times since your sister passed away that were better for you in terms of your connection with your body?

Coralie: When my sister passed away, a few years later I started partying really hard. So I think I was connected with my body because I was up all night. I was working. So it was always late nights. I don’t think it was connected there.

Then it was a flight attendant. I’m sorry, but it was go, go, go, go, go. So I don’t think I had any connection to my body. When I graduated from flight attendant school in Atlanta, I remember that. And I had my uniform on. I felt really good about it. And I felt really good about myself. And when I run, most of the time when I run I feel pretty good.

Marc: How does your husband feel about your body? And what does he tell you?

Coralie: Oh, my God. He thinks I’m amazing. And he would not change one bit of how I look. He always compliments me. He really treats me really, really good. And I’m really lucky that way. So, yeah.

Marc: And tell me in general how is your health? Do you have any health challenges or complaints?

Coralie: I sleep poorly, really poor sleep. My parents tell me even since I was born I never slept good. So I guess it’s been almost thirty-five years that I don’t sleep good. I had really bad bloating and migraines for a long time. And I figured out, thanks to you in the program that I’m doing with you guys, I’ve stopped dairy. And pretty much eighty-five of my symptoms and bloating and migraines went away. So that’s great.

Once in a while, I still have bloating. And my nose is dripping. But otherwise I’m pretty good. I don’t have any other crazy symptoms. Back pain. I do have back pain. I probably should mention that. Upper back, my neck and my shoulders, which I get acupuncture and massages for.

Marc: So when you imagine being better, when you imagine not having these concerns anymore and just feeling free and not worrying about your body, what do you imagine the rest of your life would be like? When you picture that person, when you picture you in that state, what do you picture? What are you thinking about?

Coralie: Well, it would be wonderful to just be confident in myself and always have that kind of positive energy radiating. And I would be more available for my family, for my son, for my husband.

I would be somebody happier in general. That’s what I picture is somebody happier, who is okay with what she has now.

I don’t want to be seventy-five, eighty years old and I look back and be like, “What was I thinking?” That’s what I picture. I don’t want to be that because I know I will look back. I know. I’m not denying that I might look back later on in my life and be like, “What was I thinking exactly?” So I picture a happier me so I can live my life to the fullest.

Marc: How long do you imagine yourself living for when you think about living?

Coralie: It’s crazy. But I always thought since I’m a little girl that I was going to die really young. I remember being five or six years old and thinking, “I will never see the day when I’m going to have a child because I’m going to die young.” And I still think so. I always tell my husband I’m going to die before him. Ugh. I can’t believe I’m saying this stuff.

Marc: No, that’s very honest. I appreciate you being honest. So you always imagined that you wouldn’t see the day that you would have a child, that you’d be a mother. But you’ve already seen that day. So now you just kind of pushed it up a little and say, “Oh, well. I’ll die before my husband.”

Coralie: Yeah.

Marc: So do you picture an age that you would die at?

Coralie: I don’t know. Right now, forty-five. I don’t know. I feel like a psychopath when I say that.

Marc: No, I understand.

Coralie: I’m extremely fearful of my future. When I was pregnant, for example, I just always had panic attacks about—oh, my God. I can’t believe I’m saying all this stuff—about the end of the world. And my husband would make fun of me. He would be like, “Why? You can’t worry about those things.” I would think about an asteroid hitting the planet and I would go in complete panic attack about it. And, “Oh, my God. My son is not going to see the light of day.”

And now with my son being born, I’m a little better because he’s obviously bringing me a lot of joy in my life. So I look forward to things. But I’m still really fearful of death almost, I think.

Marc: Do you have any kind of religion that you’re connected to or spiritual approach? What’s your relationship to that?

Coralie: I do believe in something higher. I don’t have a particular religion. I was raised Catholic. I went to Catholic school, pray every morning before lunch. We had Mass and all that stuff. But I believe there’s something higher. I started to believe that when my sister passed away.

Before that I think I kind of rejected the whole Catholic religion thing because it was so overwhelming when I was a little girl, the constant praying in the mass. I was always surrounded by sisters. So I think I just said, “I don’t want to go this direction.” Maybe it was some kind of rebellion. I believe in something higher. I don’t know what it is. When I’m in distress, I do pray to somebody, not a particular person or figure.

Marc: Okay. So, Coralie, I have some thoughts that I would love to share with you. I’m just taking all the information that you’ve shared. I really thank you for just being so open and being very raw because that’s who are. And so often we have these thoughts. And we have these beliefs. And sometimes they’ve been with us for a long time. And they move us. They really are important and how we see the world.

So something like you shared, “Ever since I was a little girl, I thought I would die young,” you’re not the first person to think that you have that feeling. And who knows where that came from? But we know when we have it. We know when we think it. And we know how powerful it could be.

So the way I see you is that you’re doing your best to deconstruct or understand, “What’s happening in here? What’s happening in here that I can’t be happy? And how do I get control? And how do I make my life work so I can be happy?”

And you intuitively know that there’s a better place to be for yourself. And the challenge is getting there. So the good news is you have an intuitive sense. And I think it’s pretty strong that there’s a place on the other side of this. And I just kno., I get that you were very frustrated because you just don’t know how to make that leap. And you don’t get there. If you know how to get there, you would do it. All of us would do it.

Coralie: Yes. Yes.

Marc: So my feeling is that… When it comes to looking at a person’s challenges with food and body, when it comes to just looking at people, I think we all come into the world different. That’s what I’ve observed. If you watch somebody who has four different kids and you ask them, “What was each one like as a baby?” a mom and dad could tell you, “Oh, they’re so different. This one was this. That one was that.”

We come out a certain way. And sometimes there’s no understanding it. There’s no predicting it. And it is what it is. And I think there is a place where it just might be that either you came into this world with a little bit of fear and a little bit of fatalism or a little bit of, “I don’t know if I can be here.” And maybe you didn’t come in like that. Maybe it got changed at an early age. But at the very least, to me, I think the core thing, the core piece that you’re battling with is so much bigger than food and is so much bigger than being then and is so much bigger than having a perfect body.

It’s really, “Do I want to be here? Do I want to be alive? And how do I even do that? How do I make this world work?”

You just took a nice, deep breath when I said that.

Coralie: Yes. Well, it’s been in my mind. Can I say that I’m doing the coach program?

Marc: Sure, yes.

Coralie: Since the beginning of the program, it’s been in the back of my mind what you were just saying. Because you mentioned it a lot in the lectures. And every time you say that, obviously it’s really hard to hear because, yes, I’m thinking that might be me every time.

Marc: And for viewers and listeners, by the way, Coralie is referring to we have our Eating Psychology Coach Certification Training. It’s a professional training program. And you’re part of that program. So, yes, to me, this is a fundamental challenge that many people face, whether your relationship with food or body is perfect or not. It doesn’t matter. But many of us face the challenge of, “I’m alive. I’m here. Maybe I’m married. I have a job. I go to work. I do this. I do that.”

And so many of us walk around with, “Well, what’s this all for? This is too hard. I don’t want to be here. Life is painful. I’m in the wrong place. Who are these parents? I’m in the wrong family. What’s going on?” I think there’s a part of that for you. I think there’s a part of it for you where you could never relax and feel like you’re at home or you’re at peace. It doesn’t sound like your parents were able to provide that for you.

I’m sure they’re good people. And I’m sure they mean well. And what happens is our parents do the best job raising their kids, us. You do your best job raising your son. I do my best job raising my son. And maybe ten years for now, he’ll look back and he’ll go, “Dad, you did this wrong and this wrong and this wrong.” And I’ll go, “Oh, my goodness. How could I be so dumb?” even though I think I know so much more than my parents.

So all I’m saying is without blame—I just want you to hear this—without blaming your parents, they couldn’t give you a sense when you came into this world that, “I’m safe. I’m okay.” Mother is who we bond with. The mother carries us in her womb. And she holds us in her arms. And she feeds us. And she’s the first human that were completely bonded with. We’re feeding off of her body.

And we are very sensitive creatures when we’re in the womb. And we’re sensitive creatures when we’re born and were young. And we imprint. We take on who mother is and what she’s feeling. And there’s so much that’s passed on to us that just comes into us. And, to me, it feels like it’s almost as if your body has never been able to relax, being alive.

Coralie: I agree. I agree totally.

Marc: And in so many psychological approaches, they won’t necessarily name your condition like this. But I would even say it’s kind of like PTSD. It’s kind of like post traumatic stress syndrome when you hear stories of soldiers by men and women who go off to war. And they come back end their life is forever changed because something happened that the system can’t absorb. They saw horrible things. They experienced horrible things. And stress lives in the body. And it can’t leave the body.

So, to me, what’s happened is there’s been a stress. There’s literally a fight or flight response that lives in your body that has probably been there from a young age. And you haven’t been able to shake it off because we don’t know how to. And it’s never been safe for you. So to me, you’re in a constant state of vigilance and a constant state of alert and a constant state of, “What do I have to do?”

And food becomes like a symbolic playground. Food becomes the place where we kind of play that out so we could almost see it better for ourselves. So, “Oh, my God. Okay. Did I eat enough? Did I do this? Is this too much? Is that too much? Is my body okay?” Would play out that, “I’m not comfortable here. It’s not safe here.” So then food becomes a mirror for that because food really isn’t safe. And your body is not safe. “But if I can only get it just perfect…”

And what happens is also society teaches us, the world teaches us, and culture teaches us that, “Well, Coralie, if you just have the perfect body and the perfect diet, then you’d be okay.” And our mind wants to go often times for the simplest solution. So a child’s mind goes—and you even said this—at the beginning, you said, “Well, it’s sort of like control for me. I feel like I could just have control.”

And that’s what we want as human beings. We want control. “Just let me control this pain and control these parents and control my life and control my body. If I can just get control, then I’ll be safe.”

So what I want to say is it’s a good strategy, believe it or not. The mind—especially a child’s mind—has to find a way to get control because as kids we don’t have control. Your parents control everything. Your teachers control everything. Somebody else controls it, not us. So there’s a part of us that desperately wants control.

And manipulating our food and eating just right and having the perfect body is a symbolic way because the mind is very symbolic. It’s a symbolic way of getting control. But I just want to say it all makes perfect sense because you’ve been trying to do the best way you can to take all the fear and stress. And it’s real. In your system, it’s actually real. It’s chemical. So your brain knows, “Oh, my God. I’m in a stress response. Where is the threat? What to have to fight?”

So you haven’t been able to let that go. And my sense is once you’re able to let that go, your personality is going to change in a lot of ways. Everything will change. And I know you know that. There’s a part of you that understands that. And it’s so hard to get there. So I just want to acknowledge that. And it’s hard to get there, not because you did something wrong, not because you have some weakness or not because of any deficiency that you have. It’s just so many of us have a hard journey. And yours is particularly hard in a very certain way.

My heart goes out to you, sharing the story about your older sister. In a lot of ways, she was the love in your life. She modeled for you what a good woman could be because you could be safe with her. And when you described her, she was so loving and she would give so much. That’s not your experience of your mother. And you also said, “My dad avoids things and doesn’t take care of things.” So you couldn’t feel safe with your mother. You can feel safe with her father.

What happens for us as young children, even in the womb we adopt their stress chemistry, especially for your mom. We entrain with their nervous system. So just like if you were hanging around with a friend who is nice and relaxed, you’re going to relax a little bit. If you’re hanging around a friend who was all upset, you might get a little upset. If you’re hang around partying people, you’re going to want to party maybe.

So you entrained with your mother. And your mother hasn’t been able to take care of her body. She still doesn’t love her body. And again I’m not saying this as a judgment. She doesn’t know how. We don’t know what happened to her.

Coralie: Oh, I know what happened to her. She told me that when I was six years old, which is really too young to hear that. But her dad sexually abused her for the longest time. And I’ve been hearing that since I’m a little girl. So it’s a little difficult to hear from your mom, especially when you don’t understand what it is to start with.

Marc: Yeah. So all of a sudden, you’re not safe because, “My mother wasn’t safe. So am I safe? Is that going to happen to me?” And that is one of the ultimate, is for a child to be a sexually abused by a parent, especially to be sexually abused by one’s own father is very intense. And it can ruin a life.

Coralie: It pretty much did.

Marc: Yeah. So right now, I think what happens for us as human beings is that we often are called upon to heal pieces that the generation before us could not heal, to transform things that the generation before us could not transform.

Your mother hasn’t been able to integrate that experience, and for very understandable reasons. It usually takes a lot of help. It usually takes a lot of active support and connection and most often times professional help. And when we don’t have that, we’re on our own. And humans are not equipped to handle that kind of trauma.

So in a certain way, her trauma of being sexually abused by her father, her inability to unwind that this kind of transferred to your nervous system and your metabolism. So you’re living in a strange way with a stress that almost doesn’t belong to you, if that makes sense. And I’m sorry for that. And at the same time, it’s the hand you’ve been dealt. And it’s the path that you’re on. And I think there’s a reason for it, and the reason being that this is something that you can heal and transform.

Coralie: [sighs heavily] Sorry.

Marc: No, you don’t have to apologize.

Coralie: Yeah. I agree. And I’m so thankful that you guys came my way, you and what I’m doing, because this is a blessing that I can maybe start to work on that healing process.

Marc: Well, you’re already doing it. You’re already working on that healing process for a little while now. And it’s important to, I think, acknowledge yourself for that. And I think it’s important to acknowledge that you have a big task before you, that what you’re trying to do…

And I really mean it. And I’m not saying this to scare you. I’m saying this to acknowledge your courage and your being brave. This is hard to do. And this is why people don’t do the work. This is why we stay addicted to the alcohol or we become addicted to drugs or we numb ourselves out and just want to watch TV. And we just want to escape. Or we use food to numb ourselves. We could do so many different things to numb out. We use so many different things to escape our pain because it’s too hard to face the pain for so many of us.

Coralie: It is hard.

Marc: Yeah. And on top of this, as I said, you’re dealing with your sister. In a strange way she couldn’t make it. She couldn’t do it. And I think a part of you sees that. A part of you says, “My older sister, who is this wonderful woman, she couldn’t make it.” So there’s a pattern—or you can call it a karma—in my view, in your family where the women are trying to survive and stay alive. And the women are trying to find a sense of safety in this world.

Coralie: Yes. Yeah. Again, sorry. It’s pretty painful. I understand why people don’t want to do that because it brings back a lot of…Like you said, it’s almost like posttraumatic stress disorder, a lot of bad memories and pain. But you try all your life to control somehow, maybe like you said like I’m doing with my body with food. And it doesn’t go away. It’s always here.

Marc: And I would never tell you, by the way, “Oh, I want you to eat more food.” Even though I might like that for you, I wouldn’t tell you, “Stop running. Stop running. And stop doing a marathon,” even though a part of me might want to tell you that because those are pieces that you need right now. They help anchor you. And they help you feel safe. And, to me, the running definitely gives you a high.

And you have to do something extreme. Like when I said, “When do you feel best?” you talk about in a marathon. And that is extreme. But I want you to know what you’ve gone through in all of your life is very extreme. So what happens for us, when we have that kind of an upbringing, there’s extreme sadness and extreme pain and extreme challenge, we often have to do things in extreme to feel good and to feel pleasure just to balance it out. So for you, running really helps change your chemistry. And it changes your metabolism so you can feel what you intuit is, “Oh, this is how I should feel.”

Coralie: Yes. My, God. You’re just a genius.

Marc: Yeah!

Coralie: I couldn’t put it in better words that you just did.

Marc: So I want to say it makes perfect sense that you’re doing that because your body craves that. And your soul craves that experience of, “I just want to feel good being here. And I just want to feel safe.” I would much rather you do running than do heroin, for goodness sakes. That’s not going to work for you. So you figured out a really brilliant way to take all this pain and take all that hardship and start to manage it so you can have a life.

And I also want to say to your credit what you’ve done right is it sounds like you’ve chosen a man who loves you and who cares about you and is supportive and who is being a parent with you. And you have a child together. And my guess is he’s an improvement in terms of what your mother maybe has with your dad.

Coralie: Yes. Yes.

Marc: So all I’m saying is that you’re doing something right.

Coralie: Thank you. It’s hard, Marc. It’s hard to think you’re doing anything right. It really is. Thank you.

Marc: Yeah. So this is going to be a very good practice for you. And I know that this is hard. But part of it is that when we become so hungry and when we’re so starving, even if you were literally starving and all of a sudden somebody gave you a meal, it’s hard to eat the whole meal because the body is just not ready for it.

So there’s a place where you’re starving to feel good. And you’re even starving to get the… It’s a love and it’s a safety and it’s a connection that, again, you didn’t get from your mother growing up, and you didn’t get from your parents. So when we don’t get that sense of, “Ahh, I’m safe,” the body is constantly in the stress response. But then when it comes your way, it’s hard for you to receive it. You follow what I mean?

Coralie: Yes.

Marc: So even though it’s the thing you want, it’s hard to take in. So knowing that, I would love for you to start practicing. And I know you already do this. But just a little more. Just a little more, especially with your husband. In fact, I would love for you to tell him. And this is a homework assignment. And I’ll email my notes to you in a few days.

But I would love for you to tell your husband, “This guy gave me this homework assignment where every time you compliment me”—every time your husband compliments you, you have to take a deep breath. And you have to see if you could take it in just a little, almost like you’re taking a sip of water. So if you take the water, you don’t spit it out immediately. You let it come into your body.

So it’s learning how to take in the nourishment and the love when it’s available to you, when it’s actually coming in because again your system doesn’t exactly know how to do that because you weren’t given that when you were young. So you’ve been slowly taking that in, I think, in your life. And now it’s time to take it that love even more where you have it.

Coralie: Okay.

Marc: Even when you’re with your son. There’s moments I know when your son thinks are the greatest thing in the world. Parents are like gods to their children. So when your son looks at you, he’s looking at you through the eyes of love. And do you take that and when he looks at you in that way?

Coralie: Yes. I can do that with my son. The love I have for him, it hurts it’s so big. And I never thought I could love somebody like this, obviously. I think a lot of moms are like that. So I definitely feel it and let it sink in. I can do that with my son.

A lot of times… He speaks French pretty good. He speaks both languages. But a lot of times I’ll get dressed in the morning, he tells me, “Mama, you’re pretty.” It does make my heart melt. I don’t know if I feel good about it. I can’t tell. I take it in a different way than anybody else.

Marc: Yeah. So that’s the practice is to take it in and to let your heart melt if it wants to melt, to really do that. And the thing is there’s going to be pain in your system for a while. There’s going to be tears that want to come out. I wish sometimes we could just push the happy button. “I’m happy!” And it’s all gone. And sometimes our system just needs to process all the emotion that’s in there. So there is a lot of grief that circulates in your body. There is a lot of sadness. And it’s understandable. It’s really understandable.

So I think for the next few years of your life, to really give yourself permission in a strange way to feel the grief and to feel the sadness. And at the same time—and this is a paradox—at the same time to take in the love, to take in the love from your son, to take in the love from your husband, to take in the love from wherever it’s coming from, even if your girlfriend compliments you, to see if you can just pause for a moment [breathes deeply], deep breath, and take in the compliment.

Because that will start to help your system relax because the world is trying to tell you, “Coralie, you’re loved. And we see you. And there’s love here for you.”

That’s all the world is saying. When your friend compliments you, the world is saying through your friend, “There’s love here for you.” And when your son looks at you or says sweet things to you, it’s the world speaking through him in the same, “There’s love here for you.”
Coralie: Okay.

Marc: And that’s the message you weren’t able to get when you were young. I think it’s also very important for you to keep asking the question, “Do I want to be here? Do I want to be alive? And what will it take for me to say yes?” Because I’m not quite sure, but if I had to guess, I would say about sixty or seventy percent of you wants to be alive, especially for your son.

Coralie: Yes, oh, yes. I totally agree with you. Yes.

Marc: But it’s not a hundred yet. And that’s where I want you to slowly move towards because it’s almost not enough for you to just survive and stay alive for him. The biggest gift you can give him is for you to keep doing the work that you’re doing and find the place inside yourself where you can start to thrive. And you can start to feel happy being here.

So not only are you staying on planet Earth for your son and your husband, but you’re staying on planet Earth because you want to be here. And you want to give this a shot even though it’s hard, even though there’s pain.

Coralie: I can try. No, I will. I will try. I don’t want to say, “I can’t.” I will try because it’s worth it. I know it’s worth it.

Marc: It’s an ongoing question to ask yourself: “What is it going to take for me to choose to fully be alive?” meaning to choose to not be half here, meaning to say, “What do I need to do so I can be on planet Earth and heal myself more and more so that I have moments where I’m truly happy to be here?” because I know that you love your son and you take care of him when you’re with him. And when you’re in your private in the world, that’s where the turmoil is. And that’s where you’re not feeling safe.

So in a strange way, it’s a perfect healing for you to be a mom. And he’s a real gift for you because it gives you the opportunity to just love and to have a reason to be here beyond yourself and to feel that pure love because you feel your love for their son. And he feels pure love for you. And pure unconditional love is what heals us.

Coralie: Right. True.

Marc: Because he doesn’t say, “Oh, mom, could you please weigh 106 pounds for me? Then I’ll love you.” And I’m sure you don’t say to him, “Oh, I want a son who’s six-foot-four. You need to be taller.” No. You love your son for who he is and for where he’s at.

And this is where we need to as best we can for ourselves where your love for yourself doesn’t have so many conditions on it, meaning, “Well, I’m only going to love myself if I lose five more pounds. I’m only going to love myself if I look a certain way.” And you can just love yourself. There doesn’t have to be a condition. So that’s the goal. That’s the goal that we’re shooting for.

I want to ask you a question. Do you ever talk to your sister?

Coralie: I used to. I don’t do it as often. I used to do it. And I don’t do it. I have another sister. So we talk about her together. She lives next to Dubai, Abu Dhabi in the Middle East part. So we talk together about her all the time. Her name was Regine. “When Regine was doing this…” But as far as just me talking to her, no, not really. I don’t do it anymore.

Marc: When you used to do it, how was that experience for you?

Coralie: It was great. I felt like she was still here and still next to me. And I would ask her for advices or to direct me in a way or another way. It felt good to maybe think that she was still here in some kind of form.

Marc: Yeah. I want to suggest something to you that you consider doing that again.

Coralie: Okay.

Marc: And just seeing how it works for you, especially if it could be a time when you’re quiet and when you’re alone. And talk to her. And have that connection because oftentimes… And it’s a very personal thing. And it’s about what you believe. And it’s between you and a higher power. And it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks about this.

But the relationship never ends. It never ends. For the people that we love, even when they’re gone, they live inside of us. They live in our hearts. So it’s not like they’re gone. Yes, they’re gone. They’re not here. But they’re still here. So it would just be interesting to be back in touch with her in that way.

I even want to suggest to you also a homework assignment if this feels good for you where you write your sister a letter, just a nice long letter.

You say everything you want to say. It doesn’t matter what you say. “I miss you. I love you. Here’s my problems. Here’s my challenges. I wish you were here.” Whatever you want to say to her.

And nobody else is going to read this letter. This is just for your eyes only for you to just to be able to really let it out because sometimes when we write it out or we type it down, a different part of us comes out.

Coralie: I did that for my parents.

Marc: Ah.

Coralie: Last week. I did that last week when they left. I don’t know why I didn’t think about it for my sister.

Marc: I’d love for you to do that for your sister. And then at some point, I would love for you to write a letter from your sister to you as if you’re pretending to be your sister talking to you. And what would she said to her little sister? What would she say to you? And it could be a nice long letter of everything, just tuning in to her and see what would she be saying to you? What advice would she give you?

And, again, do that in a letter form because I think something different comes out when we do it in that way.

Coralie: I can’t believe that it’s been ten years that it’s still so raw. I feel almost guilty. I feel like a weak person to be so emotional about this because it’s been ten years. I don’t know.

Marc: Coralie, I want to say that there are people who grieve for decades. There are people that grieve the loss of a loved one for a lifetime. My father passed away thirty years ago. And there are moments where I still cry. And I still miss him. And it has nothing to do with weakness on your part. What it means is that love very deeply. That’s what it means. That you love deeply and that you feel deeply and that that there’s still more grief to feel. And it’s totally okay.

And the more you are able to feel that grief, the more it can metabolize in your system. And the more it can change to love. And the more you body can ask. If I’m trying to push away the sadness and push away the grief and say, “No, I shouldn’t be feeling this. I’m so embarrassed. It was ten years ago,” the body tightens up because the feeling is natural. And it’s real. And it’s coming from your soul. And it’s beautiful.

If there was any extra support I would love to see you get it, that extra support would be to see somebody who specializes in PTSD or trauma release work. So if there is somebody in your area with a trauma specialist, there is something called somatic experiencing, the work of Peter Levine.

Coralie: I’m going to write that down.

Marc: Somatic experiencing, if you Google that and find the website, they have practitioners all over the world. They’re trained psychologists and psychotherapists. They do beautiful work to help body and emotions release, because there’s trauma in your system that is just ready to unwind.

And it is already unwinding. But it would be wonderful just to have some extra help and extra support and to know for yourself that the grief is still there and it wants to come out. And it’s a beautiful thing. If you have to cry every day for the next nine years, that’s okay. It really is because it’s beautiful.

Coralie: Okay. I was not able to go to her funeral either because I was in the U.S. on a visa. And I couldn’t go back. And I think that, like you said, I never had that grieving start at least because I felt terrible about not being there. She died January 1. And I was married to an American before being married to my husband. And I was on my fiancée’s visa. And you couldn’t go back for that period of time before you get married. I don’t know if you heard about that visa.

Anyway, so she did that knowing that I couldn’t go back. And I couldn’t go to her funeral. So I really felt like I could never express my sadness because I was not there. But I don’t know that makes sense to you. You explained everything. You didn’t have to explain what I said for you to say what’s going on.

Marc: Yeah. So you’ve never been able to fully feel that grief. And now is the time. And even if you can also find someone…And it might be the same person, the same practitioner, who also specializes. There’s many practitioners to work just with grief counseling. And it’s a beautiful process because grieving is natural. It’s no different than breathing. When we need to grieve, we need to grieve because people die. And people leave us. And we get hurt.

And grieving is one of the most intense emotions. Grief is one of the most intense emotions that there is. And it’s so overwhelming that we don’t know what to do with that. We don’t always show how to manage it or how to feel it. And so much of what you’re doing in your life is you’re learning how to take all these emotions into that are so powerful.

And powerful emotions means you are powerful person. That’s what it means. If you feel strongly, it means you have strength in you. If you feel deeply, it means you have depth than you. If you care deeply, it means you’re a caring person. So you feel very intensely. And there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s your power. It’s not a weakness.

So I really want to start to see that, that that’s your power as a person. That’s your power as a woman is and how deeply you feel. And it’s that way that you deeply feel that his help to get through life and helped you get to this point and helped you have a lot of successes and learn how to be in this world. So I want to say you’ve figured out a way to survive from very challenging circumstances.

So you figured out a way to do it. And you figured out a way to do good things for yourself. And I see you only continuing to do that. And I’m also acknowledging to you that you’re right. The work is hard. I so wish for all of us that it was easier. And sometimes it is. Sometimes we’re going to do work that’s just easier. And you’re in a part of your life right now where the work is hard.

But I want to remind you that you said to me at the beginning of this conversation, “I don’t want to be seventy-five years old and look back and say, ‘What was I thinking?’”
Coralie: Yes.

Marc: So you already know that you’re in this for the long haul and that you want to transform in that you want to change this and that that’s possible. And I want you to see if you can look at it as kind of like a life’s work. It’s the work of a lifetime so that when you’re eighty years old, ninety years old and you’re on your deathbed, you can say, “I did it. I learned how to love my life. I learned how to love my body. I learned how to take in love. I raised a beautiful child or children. And I did that in love. And I was able to thrive and field and have moments of feeling good about being here in the world,” that would be like a soul victory.

Coralie: Yes. It would be wonderful.

Marc: Yeah. So it’s a journey. And I have no doubt you could do that.

Coralie: Well, thank you. I have no doubt about myself either. I have to work on that. I have to try to be confident that I can do this and try to put my weight issues in my body on the side because obviously, like you said, I have more important work to do.

Marc: I’m also wondering if you noticed or if viewers and listeners notice your nervous system is almost a lot more calm now than when we started. Can you feel the difference?

Coralie: Yes, huge, Marc. Oh, yeah. I was saying that to myself five minutes ago. It’s funny that you’re saying that. Yes.

Marc: Yeah, so part of that, part of why that happens is that you are being seen and you’re being acknowledged and you’re being given permission and you gave yourself permission to feel what you’re really feeling and to move a little bit of the grief and a little bit of the sadness without, “Oh, my God. This is bad. This is terrible. This is no good.” But actually it’s beautiful.

So when we’re able to give ourselves permission to be who we are and when were getting permission from the outside, when we have that safety, “Ahh. I’m safe. I can relax. I can be me.” So this is the feeling that we’re going for. And we’re not going to always have that feeling. But the feeling is, “How do I start to create experiences, moments, with my son, with my husband, with myself, where I feel safe? And I can feel the sadness, feel the love feel all of it.”

Coralie: Yes. Thank you. That’s huge. You gave me a lot of perspective and explanation about myself, actually.

Marc: Yeah. And I also want to once more say that big piece… And I normally would never say this to somebody in a first session talking about how this is for you such a deep soul or spiritual issue of wanting to be here and alive on planet Earth. So many people face that end either know it or they don’t know it.

And they’re just kind of sleepwalking through life. And they’re medicating. And they’re doing things and habits to distract themselves from feeling. So we’re not really alive, even though we’re alive. And that will never be good enough for you because you feel too much.

So I think that there’s a way where you can really honor your lineage, honor your sister. I think the biggest gift you can give to her is for you to be able to make it, for you to be able to take those steps that she wasn’t able to.

Coralie: She left me a voicemail before she did that and with what she said. She said, “I hope you can make it. And I hope you’ll be happy in your life.” It was a New Year message, which I didn’t know at the time, and the day after she did what she did. But, yeah, she did say that. So I have at least for her memory I have to try to do it.

Marc: Well, Coralie, I so appreciate you being so honest and so raw and so open. And I know this is for you. But I think a lot of people will benefit from just how real you’ve been with us and just willing to go to some deep places. So I’m very much appreciating you. So thank you. Thank you.

Coralie: Oh, thank you. I really appreciate all your insights. And you’re just, as usual, wonderful. Thank you. And I hope I can help as many people, too, because I’m sure a lot of people go through right now the same thing that I’m going through. So thank you, Marc.

Marc: You’re welcome. And may it be so. And thanks, everybody, for tuning in. I so appreciate you being present. And I so appreciate your interest in this work. Lots more to come, everybody.

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  • Mairead

    Excellent, thank you for your courage Coralie. Thank you for the wisdom Marc.

    • Thank you Maired! – so glad you glad you enjoyed listening to the podcast, Warmly, Marc

  • Emily

    Thank you, merci for this podcast.

About The Author
Marc David

Marc David is the Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, a leading visionary, teacher and consultant in Nutritional Psychology, and the author of the classic and best-selling works Nourishing Wisdom and The Slow Down Diet. His work has been featured on CNN, NBC and numerous media outlets. His books have been translated into over 10 languages, and his approach appeals to a wide audience of eaters who are looking for fresh, inspiring and innovative messages about food, body and soul. He lectures internationally, and has held senior consulting positions at Canyon Ranch Resorts, the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, the Johnson & Johnson Corporation, and the Disney Company. Marc is also the co-founder of the Institute for Conscious Sexuality and Relationship.