Psychology of Eating Podcast: Episode #195 – A Lifelong Journey with Weight
Rachel has hit a wall with her unexplained weight gain. She has been dedicated to fitness, she eats well, and she stays in control of her habits. Yet, in the last year, she has seen the weight come on and can’t figure out why. Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, dives into this question head on with Rachel. He challenges her to rethink her relationship with control and ask her body what it is trying to teach her right now. Rachel shares more about her relationship to stress, her lifestyle, and her tendency to stay in control of her diet. Marc helps her see how all the ways she is trying to maintain control could be sabotaging where she really wants to get in her body and with her health.
Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:
Marc: Welcome, everybody. I’m Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. And we’re in the Psychology of Eating podcast. And I am with Rachel today. Welcome, Rachel.
Rachel: Hello. Thank you.
Marc: I’m glad we’re here. I’m glad we’re doing this. And let me just say a couple of words to viewers and listeners who might be new to the podcast. Here is how it works. Rachel and I just met few minutes ago, officially. And we’re going to spend about 55 minutes together. We’re looking to see if we can help move things forward with whatever you want to work on today, Rachel.
So if you could wave your magic wand and get whatever you wanted from our time together what would that look like for you?
Rachel: I think just through some of the reading and stuff that we’ve learned so far, I don’t know how to slow down. I don’t possess that ability. I am always in the fast lane. I don’t think I used to be that way but I am now.
And so, for me, I would like to know how do I do that? How do I—everything, not just physically but mentally, the whole body. If you don’t know how to do that—like I’m the person in the back of the yoga class that’s struggling to relax into the pose because I don’t relax into the pose. I’m all about to strengthen the muscle. I’m not about the relaxing into the pose.
And so of the 30 times I’ve taken yoga classes, I hate it. I need to figure out how to do that because things are obviously not working for me. And I know that’s what I need and I know for a while that I have needed that. It’s escaping me on many levels, I would say.
Marc: So is this thing about not being able to slow down, how is it impacting you in terms of your body, in terms of food? Like what’s the result of that for you?
Rachel: Let’s see. Probably, for the past 20 years, I’ve been a control freak about what I have eaten. I graduated from college about 263 pounds. It took me like a year. I lost like 110 pounds and stayed there for pretty much my adult life. I got into health and fitness. I enjoyed it. I loved it. And then I think hitting 40, a lot more balls in the air. Like I started with the whole not sleeping. Being committed to my children’s school, I’m a PTO president there, I do a ton of work there, and that’s always on my mind. So, for me, it’s definitely, I would say, over the past years, gotten much worse where all of a sudden I have an extra 20-something pounds and I don’t know why. There’s no, as far as I know, medical explanation for it. I’ve had some tests done and stuff and nothing has come back. So, for me, I don’t know, where do you go from here, because that would be something?
Marc: Right, right. So let me see if I understand this. So even though you were eating the same food and maybe relatively doing the same exercise, this extra weight came on and it doesn’t make sense given what you’re doing and eating. Is that true?
Marc: Yes. Okay.
Rachel: I’ve always been, for the past 20 years, I would say just—and I hate to like throw the calories out there but 1500, 1600 calories because that for me was a happy medium. A few pounds would come on, I’d just see it as I got to watch that, tweak that, take the few pounds off. And as a side thing for the past 20 years, I’ve been a fitness instructor. I sub so I sometimes will teach three or four classes a week.
Sometimes I won’t teach for a couple of weeks but I’m still at that gym five days a week. I am that person that, to me, I want to be the hardest working person in the room. That’s important to me. That’s my thing. And it’s not that I’m looking at other people but I’m always putting in 110%. So that question really is, after going through some of the training, so what really has changed for me?
Marc: Understood. So in general, are you a fast eater, a moderate eater, a slow eater?
Rachel: I would say I’m a moderate eater but I don’t eat sitting down unless…sometimes if I was home for lunch, I might sit and eat if I was looking at the computer. If I’m at work, it would literally be eating bites between waiting on customers. Breakfast is usually eaten in my car as I’m driving to the gym or from the gym depending on when I can fit it in.
Marc: Are you still eating the same amount of calories that you have in the past?
Rachel: I would say. Yeah, like I tried this summer to lose about ten pounds I’ve kept on by like, say, from my 10-year anniversary, which was last October to April. I was like, “Geez. I really need to back it off.” I tried this summer to go a little bit more low carb, which I normally am sort of anyway. But I really tried to take it down. That’s a step back by 100%. My body was [inaudible].
Rachel: I must have gained probably 12 pounds or more doing that. And again, watching what I eat and not—I would say that the calories were about the same.
Marc: Got it. Okay. Have you been tested for thyroid health, adrenal health, insulin resistance?
Rachel: I knew this was coming up but I just finally got myself in to go see the doctor. I was tested on Friday. I don’t think they did—I know she was testing for thyroid. I know she was testing for estrogen overload. I know she was testing for a few things. It’s sort of hard when you go in.
So I saw my nurse practitioner, who I adore. But sometimes you can’t have the conversation you want to have with them because you don’t know what their views are on if I say, “Gee, like do I have adrenal fatigue?” If she’s going to roll her eyes and go like, “Geez, everyone who comes in here thinks they have adrenal fatigue.” Who knows what her knowledge or stance on it.
So I did actually get tested on Friday. She hasn’t called me, which is surprising. So I have not heard back on any testing from that.
Marc: Got it. Okay. How old are you these days?
Marc: Forty-three. Okay. And this new weight started coming on, you said, about a year ago?
Rachel: I would say. My husband and I went on our 10-year anniversary last October. We went to Puerto Rico. It’s a three-day weekend. The first time we’ve been away from the kids. It was great. We had a fantastic time. Everything was great. And you got back and you’re back in reality. And for my children’s school last year, I ran an auction.
And really, I mean, I know that was stressful. I got home from that and pretty much got back into running this auction for my children’s school, which we had the first of April. And it was a lot of work. Like I was putting my kids to bed at eight o’clock and then working from eight to 12 or one o’clock on the auction five or six nights a week. I know that was a lot of stress and I guess I thought that once the auction came and went then I would just go back to where I was.
Rachel: Being able to go to bed at 9:30, 10 o’clock at night. That never happened. I would go to bed and then I would lay there until midnight, until I could go back [inaudible].
Marc: And previously you haven’t had trouble falling asleep?
Rachel: Never. No.
Marc: Okay. Interesting. Caffeine? Do you do coffee, tea, what kind of caffeine?
Rachel: I do. I drink coffee in the morning. I really only have like a cup of coffee. Sometimes I’ll have two. It’s not an eight-ounce cup. It’s a mug of coffee. But that’s really all I have time for in the morning.
Marc: Okay. Got it. Are there any other health symptoms or health pieces that have changed for you in the last year or two that you’ve noticed other than this weight thing, sleep thing? Anything else change: digestion, mood?
Rachel: Digestion is fine. Mood is fine. My hair started falling out about six weeks ago. And that was really the catalyst for me going to see the doctor. I would say that, that was the biggest thing. Because you got the weight out and you think, you can just cut back your calories and then it will come off. But when my hair started falling out, that was definitely what sent me to the doctor and I finally got in Friday.
Marc: Got it. Okay. Do you pay attention to how much protein you eat each day?
Marc: How much protein do you think you eat a day, if you had to say it in grams or calories?
Rachel: I’d probably say about 75 grams.
Marc: Okay. Yes, because hair loss is oftentimes related to thyroid issues. And it could be related to protein malnourishment, which you don’t have, given the amount of protein that you’re eating. And it could be tied into stress. Those are generally your three big bets for that. But we’re going to cycle back to that.
So right now, just so you know, I’m asking these questions because I’m just sleuthing a bit. I’m interested in finding out more details because you’ve had what feels like to you, and wisely so, a hard to explain weight gain. So it makes perfect sense to me given that, that you go, “Huh, hard to explain that. Let’s try to break this down and figure it out because it ain’t making sense.” So that’s what I’m trying to do.
So I’m asking my kind of questions to gather information, to see if I can be of help here. Has your eating pattern changed in terms of, “Well, I’m eating just way more food at night.” Has that changed at all in terms of amount of food at night?
Rachel: No, because I’m always that person, too much of a control freak that I won’t eat after dinner, never have.
Rachel: Even when I was single I didn’t. That wasn’t my thing. And especially now, we have dinner, 5:30, six o’clock because kids need to eat. And my youngest one is five. She needs to be in bed by 7:30, so we eat decently early. And then that I’m not really a snacker after dinner, at all.
Marc: So putting aside food for a moment and your relationship with it and weight, what would you say at this time in your life is one of the places that, if there is one, where life is asking you to grow more in?
As an example, for me, at this stage in my life, one of the places where I know this life is asking me to grow is it’s asking me to step up more as a father even though my son is 24 and is beyond more independent than he’s ever been in his life, there are still places where I need to improve as a dad, where when I am paying attention and really looking at him and looking at myself where there’s ways I could contribute to him, but I have to really pay attention. I have to really help myself grow there. So that’s just a place life is asking me to grow. So what I’m just asking, is there a particular place for you where you just noticed, “Huh, this is just up for me.”
Rachel: I don’t know if I would say there was. I mean I know a lot of times I try—and I was thinking about this the other day. Like I feel bad sometimes when I’m so controlled about things with my kids. Like I heard my five-year old say the other day, “Don’t make a mess because mommy doesn’t like when you make messes.”
And sometimes I feel like, “Geez, am I really like that?” like you have to be so controlled with everything? So I do, for that, try to take a step back and say, “Well, it’s okay to make a mess every once in a while,” but inside I’m like, “Yeah, I really don’t want that mess.” So I don’t know if that—but I don’t really know, I think I’ve always been that way…
Rachel: …and I don’t think that’s different. I don’t know if there’s any way. I would have to really think about that.
Marc: Sure. So let’s table that for now but it is something I would just like you to keep your eye on just to see if there might be any connections. And in fact, we will circle back to that in this conversation because I think it’s actually important. But we’ll get to that.
So in an ideal universe, right now, I would have a little bit more information relative to the testing you’ve just gotten because I’m interested to know especially thyroid, especially estrogen for you because that can have an impact on what’s going on, potentially. Putting aside for a moment, let’s say your test came back fine, here is what I want to say. Here is some other pieces to the puzzle that I want to share with you based on what you’ve told me so far and based on like “Wow, hey, I’ve had a system that’s worked for me for X amount of years and I’ve been fine. And now this shifted and it doesn’t make sense. What’s going on?”
So, here is where my mind goes. I’m going to tell you from experience what I have noticed is that human beings, we could do certain things for a long time and they work. They do because they do. And things change. What happens is you can be a great tennis player and play tennis at a certain level for 20 years and all of a sudden your body gets older.
And all of a sudden, that right elbow isn’t as strong because that’s the one that you use. So all of a sudden you got to take care of that more. And all of a sudden you’re slowed down a little more. So what happens with the body—and one could say, approximately every ten years, age 20, age 30, age 40, age 50, there’s just a shift. We morph and we change and we lose a little. At the same time that we lose a little, the body gets more wise.
What most people don’t realize is, yes, the body ages. The body gets older. There are certain places it just gets more inefficient because it’s breaking down. It’s like an old freaking car. But there’s another level where the longer you and I are on planet earth, the more information the body gathers. You’ll notice a lot of older people, their immune system is actually stronger. Not all of them.
But technically speaking, our immunity should get stronger as we get older and it does for a lot of old people. My grandparents used to tell me, “I would usually get sick. I don’t get sick anymore.” They were in their 70s, 80s and 90s because their immune system learns. It just learns about the environment so the body gets smarter.
So on the one hand, your body is getting smarter. That is my assumption. On another hand, it’s getting older. So things that used to work don’t always work anymore. I used to be able to not work out during the week and then on the weekends do a hard workout. I can’t do that anymore. I can’t do a hard workout one day a week. I have to do two or three lighter workouts during the week and then a hard one on the weekend, otherwise, it’s too much of a shock for my body. But I used to be able to do that. My body changed. So my body is letting me know.
What happens is there are people—and honestly, Rachel, I see this a lot—who will tell me a very similar story to yours. “I’ve been doing 1500 calories. I’ve been doing 1200 calories, 2000 calories, whatever it is for X number of years and it worked. And all of a sudden it stopped.” And you’re not doing anything wrong. What’s happened is there’s a shift and there’s a change. And we have to look and we go, “Oh, my god. Something’s changed. Something’s shifted. What does that now mean for me?”
So it usually means a couple of things. It usually means that what we used to do doesn’t work anymore, very clearly. So what you used to do doesn’t work anymore. Then it’s a question of asking, “What exactly is it that doesn’t work anymore?” There’s an interesting question because is it that 1500 calories a day doesn’t work anymore? Is it that being a highly controlled person doesn’t work anymore? Is it that “Okay, I’m the person at the back of the yoga class who’s like ‘I’m not relaxing into this posture. This sucks. I can’t relax. Like what are you guys talking about?’” is that what’s not working anymore?
So we don’t know for sure. We don’t. So then this becomes an exploration. So what I’m just sharing with you is my thought process. I’m trying to draw a wide circle around this one. I’m trying to see what is the range of possibilities here. If I was a betting man, if I had to bet all my money on what was actually happening for you, this is what I would say that your metabolism is undergoing a shift from where it used to be to where it is now. Good for you that what you used to do worked. It doesn’t work anymore.
So now you’re looking at, “Okay. Well, what do I do?” So again, at this place, there’s no blame. It’s not like you are doing something wrong. It’s just that life is changing. It’s kind of like winter is coming. You’re not doing anything wrong. You got to dress warmer. The fact that you’re colder is because things are changing.
So, my guesstimation is your metabolism is probably needing a little more nutrition is my guess. When I say nutrition, I mean nutrient-dense food, whatever that means for you. I don’t know that your body needs to be as calorically-controlled as it used to be. Because if your metabolism is changing, if your body needs more nutrition, if you’re not giving it that, it would be easy for your body to then determine not enough nutrition, not enough food, starvation mode, and hold on.
Marc: It’s a strange reaction that the body does, but it makes sense to the body. Because the body thinks, “Wait a second. She ain’t giving me enough. There must be starvation conditions. I better slow down metabolism and hang on.” So that is a possibility. If I was in your shoes and I was going to be eating more I would focus that on healthy protein, healthy fat as best as you could, as best as possible.
Rachel: Yes. That’s my thought.
Marc: The next piece I want to say is that—and that’s why I asked you the question like, “Okay, what’s happening in your life right now? Like where is life asking you to grow or develop right now?” Oftentimes, that’s the place where we need to work to shift the body. I’m not saying that it’s always like that but I’m saying it’s often like that. I’m just trying to, again, stay within the realm of possibilities for you. So if I was going to be meeting with you 10 times, that’s what I would be exploring with you. I would be wondering, “Okay, what’s going on in Rachel’s life? What are some of the things that she needs to learn as a person, as a human being, as an adult, as a growing, evolving entity?”
And maybe you’ve hit on something here. Because the piece about the relaxing and the control and the let go, there is a level where the body perceives that as a stressor. Previously, it has not affected you from a standpoint of weight and metabolism in any way that you would complain about. It just might be that now, because the body is a little older and it’s a little wiser and it’s a little more sensitive, it’s going to talk to you. So, now, if you can’t regulate your ability to slow down, that might impact you different than it did two years ago simply because things changed, plain and simple.
There are foods that I am more sensitive to now than I was five years ago. It’s weird. I wish it wasn’t true. The body changes. So what I’m thinking for you is that the relaxation piece is a close cousin of control, which is a close cousin of a sense of let go and being in a flow. It might be interesting for you to experiment with being in more of a flow with food.
And a flow means, instead of having a very specific regimented diet, “I eat 1500 calories a day,” technically speaking, every day is different. Some days you have more energy. Some days you like yourself better. Some days you love the world, some days you don’t. Some days the kids are great, some days they’re not.
Some days you’re on, you’re just on. And other days you’re a little off. So every day is different. Same with the body. There’s days the body needs more food. There’s days the body needs less food. There’s days you’re hungrier. There’s days you’re less hungry.
When you can start to dance a little more with that, then you are being in relationship with your body in a more elegant way. That’s almost like saying to your kids, “Okay, children, every day we’re going to have these two kinds of conversations. Every day we’re going to talk about school and we’re going to talk about your friends.” Now, that could be really cool because every day there’s a consistency. And every day they’re going to talk about those two subjects and they’re going to get insights and they’re going to learn. But you know, some days you might not have to talk about that stuff. Some days your kids might want to talk about their dog or whatever it is.
So there’s this element of flexibility that I’m looking for with you where you start to tune in to your body in a different way. Instead of telling your body what to do, “Here’s how many calories you get, body. Here’s the food I’m going to give you, body. Here is the exercise I’m exercising you with, body.” Instead of that, I’m interested in the conversation, “Hey, body. What do you need to eat today? Hey, body, do you need to slow down with this meal? Hey, body, what would truly nourish you right now? What do you need? What are you really hungering for?” Because you might eat something completely different for breakfast.
So I’m going to share with you a PhD concept and forgive me if you’ve heard me say this before. A PhD concept is there’s a level where it’s very useful to plan our meals, plan our food, plan our nutrition. These are the ideal things and the ideal ways to eat. The PhD concept is there’s a place where we throw all that out the window. There is a place where sometimes I might eat very little during the day and I have a meal at night at 9 p.m. in the evening and I go to sleep and that’s the perfect thing for me. It’s weird. I can never subsist on that but there are times when that’s what’s happening given my lifestyle, given the time of year, given what’s going on. But I only know that because I’m listening. I’m tuning in.
So I think, for you, there is a place where you’re being asked to be in relationship with your body in a different way. It’s the more kind of creative, flowing, feminine, colorful, unpredictable, intuitive, dancing, in the moment. It uses your knowledge. So you know a lot about food, about what to eat, what’s good, what’s bad, what’s not. So you’re using your knowledge but you’re applying it in a very intuitive way. You see where I’m going with this?
Marc: So that would be my guess. So if this was reality TV and if I was going to get $1 million to help you lose the weight that you want to lose, this is how I’d work with you. I would say throw out the diet because the truth is we could diet the hell out of you and exercise the hell out of you and you’d lose a bunch of weight and it won’t be sustainable. You’d go crazy.
So I’m trying to see how you/we adapt to your body as it’s changing now. We got to respect the body on its own terms. The body talks to us. It’s so much wiser than us. It’s more in control than we are. You don’t know when the body is going to get sick or when it’s going to die. The body kind of has the say in things. We have a say, for sure, how we feed it, how we treat it but we also got to listen to it. And I think that would be a whole new way for you.
Rachel: Yeah. Probably.
Marc: Right? That would be a whole new way for you.
Marc: I have no doubt that you’re capable of it. But it would require a huge shift and it’s going to shift the way you think because it’s going to also impact other areas of your life, such as noticing where you like to control because you want a certain outcome. We’re human. We want to control things. I want certain outcomes. I like to control stuff. I got no issue with that. And there are times where it gets in my way. And there are times when it doesn’t allow me to grow. And when we’re not growing, oftentimes, the way life lets us know when there’s a place where we need to pay attention to, life talks to us through a symptom.
So I’m calling your extra weight right now a symptom. It’s getting your attention. Your body is raising its hand. What’s one thing that might get our attention? Weight gain. Weight gain gets our attention. So it’s got your attention. So this conversation about, okay, now, this has our attention, how can we respond to it in the best way possible? So, those are my thoughts right now. How’s that landing for you? Tell me what you’re thinking and what’s going on for you.
Rachel: Yeah. I mean working through some of the material that even just in module one, it’s things that you do think about like the more—being more relaxed with everything, I guess. And I always feel like I’m always so prepared and controlled about eating because I’m like, “Okay, well, I’m leaving my house at 8:15. And, I’m not picking my kids up from bus until 3:15. I’m in the car. I’m going here and I’m going there.” So, I’m like, “Okay, well, I know I’ll have these three things,” and there’s no “I have to bring that with me.” This is awful. I would never just pull up to some place and get a sandwich. You know what I mean?
Marc: Yes. I’m 100% with you there. So I still want you to be smart. I still want you to plan when you have to plan. So I’m not saying throw that out the window. And this is good. I’m glad you brought this up. What I’m asking you to do is when you do have that luxury, tune in more. When you have the luxury to choose, so when you’re on the road and you’re boppin’ around, you do need to have prepared in advance. I’m with you.
And I’m glad you do that. I think that’s a great strategy. And you might even ask yourself in the morning as you’re preparing things, you might even tune in a little bit more, “Huh, what’s my body wanting today? Is it wanting the same snacks, foods that I usually bring? Maybe something different. Am I having an unusual craving? Do I want to try experimenting and going with that?” So that’s the sort of thing I’m saying.
Marc: I want you to give yourself more leeway, when you can. I want you to plan. I want you to take care of yourself for sure. But when you can, give yourself leeway in choices. And you might choose the same thing every day. That’s fine. You might choose the same thing you’ve been choosing. That’s fine as long as you’re really checking in, as long as you’re checking in with yourself and really seeing, “What’s my body calling for today?” and making adjustments as best you can. So I’m not asking you to throw out responsibility, at all. I’m asking you to just be flexible when you can, if need be just, to ask the question.
Marc: Does that make sense?
Rachel: Yes, very much so.
Marc: And with exercise now, if all exercise burned the same amount of calories, if all exercise that you did anything—I don’t care what it was. I don’t care if it was walking—if it all was amazingly calorie-burning, what would you do?
Rachel: Geez. I’d probably do kickboxing. I like that a lot. People dread exercise. I don’t dread exercise. I enjoy it, I really do.
Marc: So You like kickboxing. Tell me what else you love.
Rachel: Weights. I mean I do like a body sculpt type free weight class. I like that. I hate running. I used to do that before I had kids and freedom and I could run outside. But I can’t run inside on the treadmill, it just didn’t work for me. I teach step classes, which is okay, but it gets a little boring. I love pilates. I recently got certified in that. And I started coming for a class. I don’t have a problem with the pilates aspect, which is a little bit more of like a lower key exercise. I feel like I’m trying to transition myself into something that’s lower key.
And a couple of years ago did a pilates certification and loved it and have loved doing that. I just seem to can’t make the jump. I still feel like though I started doing the pilates thing because the past two years, I’ve had chronic injury. I’ve had plantar fasciitis. I have carpal tunnel on one wrist, or tendonitis in the wrist, which is all flared up right now. Over the past six weeks, again, has been a huge flare-up of everything. Same thing with arthritis in the other foot and my toe, everything has just flared up. I have had to take a step back as far as lifting as heavy or going to kickbox on Monday. And I’m like, “Oh, I can’t use my feet because my plantar fasciitis is flared up and I don’t want to pound on my heel right now.”
Marc: Got it. So life is really asking you to pay more exquisite attention right now because your body is changing. So this makes it super clear for me. And again, Rachel, I want to say it’s not unusual. I will hear this story from people who have been very embodied and in fitness for a long time. All of a sudden, they’ll say, “God, I’m getting all these injuries. They’re little minor nagging stuff. I’ve got to change everything.” So it’s a transition time for you.
I love for you the fact that you’re moving into something like pilates and, specifically, pilates. Because what it does is it focuses you more specifically. It asks us to be very conscious about muscles, joints, movement, body parts, connectivity. It’s a little bit more holistic, a lot more holistic than just getting on a treadmill.
Marc: It’s probably a lot more holistic than doing a step class. So it’s different. It’s asking us to be in relationship with the body in a different way, which is what I like for you. Anything that slows you down and helps you embody more exquisitely and more particularly so it really supports you, that’s good for you. And that is what I think will slowly help you find your new place with your body. You’re finding a new place with your body right now. You haven’t quite found it yet. You’re experimenting with new forms of movement. You’re experimenting with, “Okay, how do I diet? How do I do this?” So I want you to consider this a transition stage.
There is not certainty right now. That’s okay. That happens. That happens in life. That happens with the body. We go through phases where, “What the hell is going on? Is this a transition? It’s not working like it used to.” It happens in relationship. It happens at work. It happens everywhere. So it’s happening with you and your body. So if we just respect that process and understand, “Okay, I’m going to try some different things right now.” So we’re going to try slowing down more. We’re going to try being more aware. We’re going to try being more intuitive about what to eat when possible.
I don’t want you to count calories in the same way because it’s not going to work at this stage of life. It’s more important for you to tune in to see what your body is calling for. Because if you’re counting calories and you’re denying your body what it needs, it’s going to backlash on you. So that’s why you have to listen to your body in a whole different way. This is the difference between being a 20-year-old in your body and exercising the hell out of it and doing what you want because it’s immortal, versus being a 43-year-old and you got to be more elegant and specific and exquisite at this new stage of your life. And you have to keep looking out for how is life asking me to grow right now, because that will connect to your metabolism.
So, other thoughts that you have based on what we’ve been talking about? Any other—just things that are swimming in your mind?
Rachel: It’s funny. When I’m teaching a class, I always tell people, “When you walk in that door, you need to take a second, take a breath. Whatever you were just thinking about, whatever you were doing, you need to leave it outside. Because when you’re in here, if you’re not focused on what you’re doing…” You know, when I’m teaching a step class I know when somebody is thinking about the grocery shopping they have to do because they missed that and they’re heading the wrong way.
And I’m like, “Hey, you guys. Focus. Like some of you seem to be not paying attention. Are you here? Are you present? Are you listening to what I’m saying or what we’re doing?” The same thing, obviously, when you’re working with the muscles. Like if you’re not focusing on the muscle work that you’re doing, you’re not reaping the benefits from it 100%. And I tell people that all the time.
And I feel like when I am there and I’m teaching, I am 100% focused. But I think that there’s other times when I’m not, that I am also that person, that I’m just participating and I’m letting other things get in the way, wander, thinking about what I have to do next. I never used to be that person that looks at my phone when I was exercising. And now I do it and I can’t stand it. I wrap it in my shirt and shove it in my bag so that I can’t even see it because I can take care of that later. But I feel like that probably I maybe need to be more of who I’m telling the people taking the class they’re supposed to be.
Marc: Yeah. Look at it this way. I hear what you’re saying. I want to use the term for you embodied. So when you’re doing pilates, you do pilates and you do it the way it’s done, then you’ll have the pilates experience. If you want to do a step class, there’s a certain way that we do it that you get the best benefits from it.
If you do a yoga pose and were taking two minutes to relax into a pose, there’s a certain way to do that to get the benefit of it. So you are training your body to embody in different ways, in more ways, and in ways that it might not be used to. You just might be now realizing the places where it’s hard for you to embody.
It’s probably easier for you to do certain kinds of exercises and certain kind of movements especially if it’s like more hustle, more vigorous than it is a movement, like dropping into a posture and into your breath and feeling your alignment, your muscles. That’s harder for you to do. In part because it’s a different rhythm, it’s slower. It’s a lot slower. So it’s asking something different of you. And I particularly have my eye on that for you because that’s a form of embodiment that most people have difficulty with. It’s the kind of embodiment where you’re able to actually drop in, feel, tune in, and inhabit your body in a relaxed way, where I don’t have to go and work really hard because, oftentimes, hard exercise is really a code word for stress reduction. We have so much stress in our system that I just got to blow out all that steam. That’s fine. But that’s a very narrow bandwidth of what movement and exercise can be.
So you’re 43. It’s time to train your body to be more exquisite and intelligent in certain ways. Again, one of those ways is the ability to slow down, breathe, feel, without needing to distract. What that’s going to do is it’s going to make you feel uncomfortable as you start to do that because you’re going to realize how hard it is.
Rachel: Oh, yes.
Marc: So you’re going to want to look at your phone. You’re going to want to get out of there. You’re going to want to judge. You’re going to want to like, “Whatever gets me out of this moment.” So all I’m saying is that that’s a great place for you to work and it’s going to be hard. But it’s going to train your system how to drop into relaxation response so it can be in relaxation response when you ask it to as opposed to constantly having to be vigorous and on, constantly having to be in a mild, alarmed, alert stress response. Do you follow me?
Marc: It’s a subtle shift. But I find that it makes a huge difference. So that’s, for me, one of the important takeaway messages here is for you, Rachel, to start to notice how you can drop into your body more. Even if you did a yoga class once a week and struggled in the back, I’m good with that. I’m good with that. You’re going to struggle. But it’s going to teach you. And I would love for you to learn what it’s teaching you. It’s going to show you where it’s hard for you to regulate yourself. And from that place you’re going to better train your nervous system. And when you better train your nervous system, you have more control over your metabolic potential, plain and simple.
Rachel: Right. Okay. I’m trying to do the yoga thing. It just hasn’t worked out yet.
Rachel: Actually, I’m headed to Canyon Ranch tomorrow for a weekend and I always try it there. They’ve got meditation stuff like that, so I’ll try some of that there again, hopefully.
Marc: Good for you. Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires?
Rachel: Yes. In Lenox, yes.
Marc: Yep. I worked there for many years.
Rachel: Is that right? I’ve been going for about 10, so I don’t know if I was ever there when you were there.
Marc: No, probably not because I was there way back in the early days, in the ‘90s. But it’s such a beautiful place. It’s so gorgeous there.
Rachel: Yes, very much so.
Marc: Yes. So, Rachel, great job. Great job. I think you’re in a good place. And it’s an unknown place. And it’s an interesting challenge for you. And it’s just life is different. You are living in a different metabolic universe and you’re exploring it right now to determine the new turf and the new terrain of what actually works. So there’s going to be some unknowns in there. So patience is a good strategy, just patience and a little bit of trust and experimentation. And there’s not going to be certainty until there’s certainty. So that’s good Jedi training.
Rachel: Right. Okay.
Marc: Okay? I really appreciate you being so honest and open and generous and willing and jumping into the conversation. And I think it’s going to unfold for you well.
Marc: And you just have to have a period of time where things are rearranging.
Rachel: Right. Yeah, I’m comfortable saying I think there’s a thing that’s hard for people. Like for me, I’m like “Oh, I don’t want to be uncomfortable but I guess I have to do it.”
Marc: Yeah. That’s what helps us grow, discomfort. Otherwise, we stay in the same place. Growing pains it’s often called. A little bit of discomfort urges us to grow. It’s that little piece of sand in the oyster that inspires it to create a pearl so it can get rid of that irritation. So we need a little irritation sometimes.
Rachel: Right. Okay.
Marc: Yeah. Great job, Ms. Rachel.
Rachel: Thank you.
Marc: Thank you so much. And thank you, everybody, for tuning in. I appreciate you being on this journey with us. I appreciate all your wonderful feedback. Once again, I am Marc David, on behalf of the Psychology of Eating podcast, and there’s always more to come, my friends. Take care.
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