Psychology of Eating Podcast Episode 159: Follow-Up: When We Fight Our Belly Fat, It Tends to Fight Back
Pamela knows about nutrition. She practices healthy eating and exercises regularly. After working hard on her relationship with food and body, she has made peace with almost every aspect of herself, but one thing still bothers her: her belly. No matter what she tries, she can’t seem to get rid of the excess fat that concentrates there. Whenever she’s feeling down, she attacks her belly with negative thoughts, and it responds with symptoms of physical discomfort. In this heart-opening session, Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, helps Pamela find a way to work on her belly without attacking herself. Tune in as Pamela learns that she doesn’t have to love her belly, but she does need to love herself. Without this key ingredient, happiness and weight loss success will be much harder to find. But with a little love, all things are possible!
Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:
To see Pamela’s first session with Marc, click here!
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, with Pamela today. Welcome, Pamela.
Pamela: Hi, Marc. How are you?
Marc: Good. Good to see you again.
Marc: So for people who are new to the show, here’s how it works. Pamela and I have already done a session together a bunch of months ago. And this is our follow-up session.
So this is just a check in call to see, Pamela, how you’re doing, what’s up, if there have been any steps forward, steps back, just a weather report for us.
And if you can also share with people just briefly the key concerns that we had worked on when we first met for our one session and then what’s been happening since for you.
Pamela: All right. So the first time that we met I was really concerned about this abnormal weight gain that I had experienced in the last months. And I’m a very sensitive person that wants to understand the deeper meaning than just the physical aspect of it. So I was in a search for that. And I went through a series of things that I thought could have triggered that weight gain. And now maybe the weight, I will shed some. But then it will come back. So I was not able to tap in, really, to what was happening to me.
And so after we talked, you told me to calm down, to stop looking for perfect and to start trying to fix myself. And I was just really in that search. I really wanted everything. I wanted my answer right now because I know about nutrition. I know how to cook. I know about healing foods. So I was like how come this is not working out for me?
So I was kind of in a very controversial or contradictory perspective against me. I was like . . . so that was what I take from your first podcast, to just calm down and let nature do it’s thing. It’s about patience. So that was great advice. But I was still not satisfied with the things that I would continue to see.
And then it came to a point that I just gained more. And then I gained even more pounds of what I had already gained. So I just didn’t understand what was going on. So I reached out to an Ayurvedic doctor, which tried to help me. And the first thing was to address the gut, right, just to make sure the digestion was working properly, and I’m reducing stress. The main thing was to reduce stress. And that’s just something that’s been present in my life throughout. And last year I had a very rough breakup that just kind of threw me to the world alone with a baby. And I just had to start from scratch. So that was very tough on me.
And it’s just part of the whole journey. But then I chilled with this Ayurvedic doctor and was able to calm myself a little bit and just let it be, just accept what it is. But despite doing your work and by going through the material at school, I realized that I also had this perspective about me that I had to be perfect. I just couldn’t slack. I just couldn’t take a nap. I just couldn’t give myself any break. And also, with my body, instead of wanting to help it from a love standpoint, I was just really attacking it because I just couldn’t accept that that was happening to me.
So those were main key things that I went through. And I was like okay, so now let’s just look at things from a different way. Let’s let nature do its thing. That’s my whole thing, just patience. Let’s let the body work. Don’t worry so much about it. And things will just come as they need to. So I just chilled. I was kind of not concerned about how I looked or my weight or anything. I was just chill, kind of calming myself and trying to reduce my levels of stress.
And then it turns out that I’ve had a thyroid problem for various years of my life. Before it was hyperthyroid. And I was able to level my hormones through my pregnancy. And then after my pregnancy, three, four, almost five years after, which coincides with this gain of weight, it started to come back. So I had several blood tests done to me. And the doctors who looked at the results would say, “You’re fine. You’re normal. Your levels are okay.”
So I’m like okay, so everything’s fine. So maybe I have to look some place else. And then this Ayurvedic doctor sent me one more test that is not done when you get your thyroid checked. Usually you get your T3, T4, and TSH. And she wanted the antibodies. And when that came back, they were up through the roof. So she gave me some herbs to try to calm that down.
But I just continued doing the work. And this happened very recently, just in this past month. I was like you know what? If thyroid’s my problem, that’s what I have to address. Why didn’t . . . of me of trying to say it’s not with me?
So I end up going to an endocrinologist. She’s a naturopath as well, so it’s the natural functional kind of approach. And she looked at my test. And she’s like, “You have Hashimoto’s.” So with that being said, the big a-ha was not to being prescribed with an autoimmune disease, but with the fact that I did not want to accept that I was sick.
For me, realizing that there was this imbalance in my body meant I failed. Or what I’ve been doing for the last five, six years didn’t work. Or all this movement that I have created about plant based eating, maybe I just didn’t do it good enough. So what I realized is that it was not just accepting that I have a thyroid imbalance, but, going back to what I said before, it was this need of me just not being perfect all the time or just not accepting that I needed help to continue thriving. So that was what I took back from all of this.
Marc: So that’s pretty big news, first of all, to be diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. Hashimoto’s, for those people who aren’t familiar with it, it’s a very strange thyroid condition that can cause one’s thyroid function to really be all over the map. It could affect energy levels. It can affect your cognition. It could affect your mood. It could affect your weight. It could affect your digestion. It could impact just about everything.
And it’s a wild ride. And nobody quite knows what causes it. And nobody quite knows what cures it. So it’s an interesting journey. It’s one of those conditions that are, I think, a product of our times. I personally think it can come from a lot of different factors that we might not even realize. We can be born with a sensitivity to that disease from birth, depending on what your parents ate, depending on what your mother ate, depending on if you were vaccinated when you were young.
Sometimes Hashimoto’s might just need one or two particular triggers to express itself. For a lot of people that trigger could be stress. It could be poor diet. It could be who knows what. But I think it takes a certain amount of maturity to not start to blame oneself because I’m sick, especially if you’re in the health field, like you are. And if you’re into natural food and natural health, the expectation is, “Well, I should be healthy all the time.”
Pamela: Yeah, it’s all based upon a concept that I think is so beautiful. And of course you helped me understand that much better. And it’s when talking about sensitive people. So in our world we have sensitive as being a bad thing, when you are sensitive to gluten, when you are sensitive to nuts, when you’re sensitive to sesame, for whatever it is.
We think that that person that is sensitive is weaker. Or she has an issue. We always kind of put sensitive in a lower realm to what it really is.
But I think that what we have to understand is that being sensitive is actually a power that we have over everyone else because being sensitive means that we can sense something before someone else.
So it’s almost like a superpower that we have.
If I take it to a different realm, into kind of like a joke that we play around with my friends, we’re kind of like witches in a way. We can perceive or feel stuff before someone else. So this sensitivity issue comes in play when it comes to thyroid, for example, because what I learned through all this research that I’ve done is that the thyroid is directly linked with our hormones, of course.
And hormones, it’s about our emotions. So we are up. We are down. We are stressed. We’re happy. We’re sad. So all of that affects us and affects our thyroid. So it’s about us being so sensitive to our emotions, so sensitive to our environment that that causes an impact, a physical impact, inside our bodies.
So I thought that is such a great concept to understand, that instead of blaming one for being sensitive, it’s actually a good thing to be because we have an awareness that others maybe haven’t reached yet.
And yesterday Emily posted a quote about being sensitive, if you’ll allow me to read it, on Instagram. So she posted, “Highly sensitive beings suffer more, but they also love harder, dream wider, and experience deeper horizons and bliss. When you are sensitive, you are alive in every sense of the word in this wildly beautiful world.
Sensitivity is your strength. Keep soaking in the light and spreading it to others.” So that just kind of summarizes what I just said. Having this thyroid issue meant that I’ve been super sensitive to what has gone through my life. And now little by little, speck by speck I just need to fix, organize everything in my 360 degree surrounding, not only health, not only what I eat, but how I relate myself with how organized my house is, how many times I wash my hair. I mean just everything has to do.
And you also posted something about that recently, that it’s not just what you eat but the person that you are. And that’s what really is going to normalize your body, your sensations, your spirit.
Marc: Well, Pamela, I’m really happy for you that you’re drawing a wider circle around this health condition, and you’re not just seeing it as oh, I’m a victim, or oh, there’s something wrong with me. When we’re given a challenge like this, it really is a journey. And it’s somehow teaching us. And it’s not necessarily fun. And it’s not necessarily what we want. But I know, I’ve seen this for myself for so many other people, when we really take a certain level of responsibility for what’s going on in our body, meaning okay, I’m going to be with this, I’m going with this, I’m going to learn from this, I’m going to listen to this, then we can go through life in a more empowered way instead of going oh, what’s wrong with me? What did I do wrong? What’s my problem? Why me? And that’s one place we can go which doesn’t move us forward, really. It only brings us down. And this is about us responding to what life is giving us.
And oftentimes we’re being asked to heal something in ourselves so we can eventually kind of figure it out and maybe be of support to other people because it takes a lot of attention, and it takes a lot of energy, to heal ourselves sometimes. It really does. Now sometimes it’s just a question of time and waiting it out.
And other times you’ve got to go from practitioner to practitioner. You try different things. You see what works. You do this diet. You do that diet, more rest, less sleep, whatever it is. So it just feels like you’re on a journey of discovery. And how can you do it in a dignified way? So you stand by yourself instead of abandoning yourself. And abandoning myself would mean oh, you jerk, how did this happen to you, why me, that sort of thing that I’m calling abandoning myself.
Pamela: Yes, and maybe the last thing that I would like to touch upon is also that toxic nutritional belief of being fat as if it was a bad thing. And this is also helping open my eyes because before I was skinny. And then I just didn’t have the empathy for what gaining weight was. So once that started happening, it’s amazing to see the reaction that one can have against one’s body because even though we think we are not intoxicated, that toxic nutritional belief, we totally are. It’s just so in our environment.
I actually am thankful that it happened because I realize how detached I was from the truth. Who is to say how you should look or how much you have to weigh? And we just go on in life thinking that the numbers are going to give us the solution, or our pants or whatever it is. So it was great to have that challenge in order to put myself back in place.
Now, when I have to talk about these issues, and when I have to refer myself to someone else that’s going through something similar, I can really understand where it comes from. I can really see how blind we are from really seeing the truth. So being fat is not the problem. And I don’t know…It’s really amazing to see how, in our society, we just really condemn that as a bad thing.
Marc: I also think that it’s interesting what our definition of being fat is. In my universe, I’m just telling you, I personally wouldn’t define you, Pamela, as fat. You define you as that. I don’t. So I get that compared to perhaps how you looked at some other point you might say, “Oh, my goodness, I’m fat.” In a lot of ways, how you are now might be closer to where your body wants to be. Think about it.
From the time you’re in the womb to the time you pop out to the time you die, how many times does the body change and morph and go through all these different phases? We are never one person for that long.
Yeah, there are certain people that stay a very similar weight throughout their life. But honestly, that’s the exception and not the rule. So we have a lot of different incarnations in this one life. We live a lot of different lives in one life. And part of that is we tend to have a lot of different bodies. There might be times, sure, when you’re skinny. There might be times when you have more weight.
But then when you have more weight, to define that as fat is interesting because the words fat or calling myself fat or someone fat, there’s always this kind of underlying little bit of a judgment in there. Fat is such a loaded word. So I guess what I’m suggesting to you is to start to look at your body not necessarily as fat but just look at it as okay, this is the incarnation that my body is in right now. And take away the descriptives and just notice what happens.
Pamela: And in this new path that I stumble upon, it’s about accepting. And you said something that I actually wrote in the well of my bed. And it’s, “Accept myself any way that I come.” So it’s about understanding what my body’s going through because the body holds much wider wisdom than we can actually comprehend right here in our minds.
And now I’m a single woman. I love to do Ashtanga. I love to run. I love to surf. I love to swim. So of course my body has to change to give me the strength to be able to do all these strength-based exercises. So sometimes I get out of my car, and I have my daughter in one arm. I have her lunchbox in a finger. I have my dog in the other hand. I have my purse, my . . .
So I also morphed in a way so I can be stronger for myself. Maybe I’m comparing myself to something that has no point of comparison whatsoever. Before my breakup I was this skinny little girl that had no soul in her. I was so skinny that you could see my collarbones. And I was missing that life. I was missing that gumption. And these changes of my body that now I won’t call fat, I just call growth, gave me that strength to say I’m here. When I enter a room people will notice me because I’m here.
Marc: Beautiful. Pamela, I so love that because now you have more of the body of a woman because you are more of a woman now. You are a mother. You do need to be responsible. You’re taking care of a child, an animal. You’re making sure the finances are there. So we have to have more weight in the world. We have to be more here, more solid, more dense.
The thinner we are, generally speaking—this is a generalization—but once we start hitting the zone called thin, it is possible that we start to lose a little bit of our grounding. It is possible that we start to become a little more lightheaded, a little more kind of dispersed. And we aren’t able to incarnate as strongly. Is that true for everybody? No. But I’m saying as a generalization, I’ve noticed that. So your body is, in part, reflecting the stage of life that you’re in, which is hey, world, I’m here. Here I am.
Pamela: I’m expanding. And I was running. And when I was running, I was worried about appetite and how some people have these great appetites. They have appetite for life. And what that means – of course I have to take it from you – it’s like having this hunger for happiness, of expanding, of growing, of being here, being alive and celebrating that.
So I wrote specifically expanding. And that’s what I’m doing. I’m expanding as a metaphor in life. And my body’s expanding with me.
And for no reason whatsoever, I have judged that as a bad thing. It’s just really like going more deep into the words that we are using and understand the more philosophical meaning that they can have. And it’s about really expanding and moving through life maybe in a spiral way, just moving up.
Marc: It sounds like you’re in a good place. Is that true?
Pamela: Yeah, making friends with yourself, I think, is one of the best things you can do for fun. And just understand that sometimes we need help. And try to balance all those different issues that we have and things that we think of ourself, just letting go, maybe, of that so strict thinking of what you think you should be, just letting it be and being open.
Yeah, I’m a happy person. I really love taking your course. And it just lightened me up in many different ways. And just to be able to come back and have those insights and put it into practice and combine that with my job and with my surroundings and teaching it to my daughter and to my friends, it just gives you happiness. That’s what makes one happy, being able to share your insights and your life. So, yes, I am in a good place. And although my body might not be all the way there, I am here to take my hand and make sure that I can balance myself again.
Marc: It is all about being friends with yourself and making friends with yourself. You wouldn’t tell your best friend, “I don’t like you so much anymore. It looks like you gained some weight around your midsection. I’m going to be not liking you so much until you lose that.” You wouldn’t say that to your friend, nor would you ever want your good friend to say that to you.
But we say that to ourselves sometimes. It takes staying awake at the wheel to realize that anything other than befriending ourselves tends to look like attacking ourselves. And attacking ourselves is an autoimmune disease. It’s us attacking us. That’s a true autoimmune disease. So I think the more we stand by ourselves, the more good things can happen. And it’s happening for you.
And yeah, it’s not all perfect right now. It’s not exactly where you wanted to be. But I guess what I was saying is it sounds to me that you’re owning your life right now. And you’re being responsible for it. And that’s the best we can do and the highest we can do, I think. I’m in this. And I’m working it as best I can. And I’m trying to learn as much as I can from it. And I’m standing by myself. And all I’m saying is I think you’re doing a great job.
Pamela: Thank you. Yeah, if I may add just two more things, one, the concept of being perfect. Doing some work on myself, I realize that comes from thinking that I was not enough or that I had this fear of being rejected or abandoned. So my urge to be perfect was just to cover up those kind of little wounds that I had inside of me. So letting go of perfection was something that really took me a lot because throughout my life I have always kind of aimed to be that.
So that was one thing, that now if I’m going to talk about perfect, that is a weakness. And the second thing is about being responsible for ourselves. If there’s something that I would love whoever’s listening to take with them, it’s that once you feel responsible for your own body and know that it’s your responsibility to heal and love yourself, then you can make things happen. That’s the only thing that will really trigger that change.
Marc: Beautifully put. Thank you so much for being so generous about your journey and your story and sharing it with us and sharing it with viewers and listeners. I think you’re very inspirational, and your story is inspirational. And it continues. You’re still living it out, and you’re still writing it, and it’s writing you. And it’s a good thing.
Pamela: Thank you. You are inspiration for my life.
Marc: Yay, lucky me. Thank you so much.
Pamela: Thank you, Marc.
Marc: And I’m going to say let’s put the nice little bow on this conversation now. I think this is a great point to finish up. And I just want to say everybody viewing in and listening, thanks so much for tuning in. Once again, I’m Marc David. On behalf of the Psychology of Eating podcast, I have been with Pamela. And as always, lots more to come, my friends. You take care.
I hope this was helpful. Thanks for listening to the Psychology of Eating podcast. To learn more about the breakthrough body of work we teach here at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, please sign up for our free video series at ipe.tips. You’ll learn about the cutting edge principles of dynamic eating psychology and mind body nutrition that have helped millions of people forever transform their relationship with food, body, and health.
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