Psychology of Eating Podcast: Episode #201 – The Brilliance of Having a Sensitive Body
In this session, Marc, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, and Sandra take a deeper look into what she describes as low energy and inability to focus and get things done. As the discussion unfolds, we learn that she is an overall sensitive soul, and Marc gives her a new way of recognizing what this means when it comes to her energy, and her desire to “fix” things. Sandra, at 40 years of age, comes away with a new perspective around honoring her sensitivity, as well as practices to allow herself to take a step back before trying to rush in, plan, and then end up getting overwhelmed. Marc even invites her to have chocolate every day!
Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:
Marc: Welcome, everyone, I’m Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. We’re back in the Psychology of Eating Podcast. And I’m with Sandra today. Welcome, Sandra!
Sandra: Hello, Marc!
Marc: I’m so glad you’re here. And let me just say a couple of words to viewers and listeners. In case you’re new out there, here’s how this works. Sandra and I are officially meeting for the first time right now. And we’re going to spend less than an hour together and do the best we can to move you forward, young lady, and see if we can help in whatever challenge you’re looking for. So if you could wave your magic wand, and get whatever you wanted from our time together, what would that look like for you?
Sandra: I think I would like to have more energy or maybe I could balance my energy better. I have the feeling I waste a lot of energy and spend it maybe in the wrong places. And I have a lot of plans and a lot of ideas and a lot on my plate. And sometimes I don’t know how to make it all.
Marc: Mmm hmm. So when you find yourself not managing your energy well, what might that look like? Like, what would be a way that, “Oh, I can manage my energy better than this?”
Sandra: Sometimes, I get overwhelmed. Then, I don’t know where to start. And then, I get easily distracted. I don’t do what I have planned. I get lost on the Internet or I eat too much. And yes, it’s hard to describe. Yes, it’s sometimes too much I want to do at once. And then, it all falls apart.
Marc: Mmm hmm. So how often does unwanted eating come into the picture for you?
Sandra: It’s mostly in the evening after a stressful day. It’s like calming me down. Or I try to yes, after the hard day to treat myself and get rid of all the tension and the stress. And sometimes it’s at lunchtime or after lunchtime. But mostly, it’s in the evening.
Marc: Mmm hmm. And how many days a week does that happen for you would you say?
Sandra: I think four or five days a week.
Marc: Mmm hmm. So do you reach for any particular foods?
Sandra: Chocolate. I do the healthy dark one. But it still has enough sugar, I think.
Marc: Mmm hmm. So chocolate. Now, are you concerned about your weight?
Sandra: Not really. My weight goes up and down. But I think my body has a wisdom. And I’m not really concerned about weight. I always love to lose some weight. But I’m okay with the body I have. So it’s five pounds or so. But it’s not the priority. I’m more concerned about overeating. And I don’t know, I feel like I’m not myself. And I don’t have the energy for the things I want to do by overeating because my body requires the energy for digesting, I think.
Marc: Sure. Sure. Sure. Sure. Yeah, that makes total sense. So at night after you’ve eaten or you’ve overeaten, what’s usually the feeling afterwards? How would you describe what you’re feeling?
Sandra: It depends on how much it was. And if it was very much, then I feel guilty. And I’m disappointed about myself. And I feel full and yes, but like paralyzed, sometimes not able to do something, but rest. Yes, disappointed about myself often.
Marc: Okay, so that’s a good, juicy answer. So I asked you, at night, after you overeat, how might you be feeling? You said—let me just repeat this back to make sure I got this right—you said that well, depending on how much, if I ate a lot, I could feel guilty, I could feel disappointed in myself. And all of a sudden, I’m tired. And all I could do is rest and not do anything because I got all this food in my system. So does that describe what you said?
Sandra: Yes, pretty much.
Marc: Okay. When was the first time you remembered having a relationship with food that felt a little challenging?
Sandra: Very early in life.
Marc: Yeah, how old were you?
Sandra: I think about 10 or 12, I started my first diet.
Marc: Mmm hmm. What do you think, in your opinion, made you start that first diet?
Sandra: I always felt that I was, I was not really fat. But I felt not good looking. My mother was very slim and skinny and so was my sister. And I was always jealous. And I wanted to be more like them.
Marc: Mmm hmm. So you started dieting. And did anybody know you were dieting?
Sandra: Yes. My parents noticed. And but it was okay. It got worse when I got older. Then, it got severe.
Marc: Mmm hmm. Do you live alone or are you in a relationship?
Sandra: I am divorced. I was married for six years. And we separated about eight years ago. And yes, I’m divorced for four years now. And currently, I don’t have a partner.
Marc: Are you dating or have you had a significant other in between this time?
Sandra: Yes, I had a boyfriend. And I ended the relationship this year, a couple of months ago, because it was very difficult and challenging. And yes, I have the feeling, I’m just not good at relationships.
Marc: Mmm hmm.
Sandra: And now, I want to improve the relationship with myself. I want to work on myself. And I think I have some work to do. And yes, a relationship is the most challenging, most difficult part of my life, I think. And now, I have other priorities: my work, my son, and the training. I’m not saying, I don’t want to have a boyfriend ever again, but not at this time.
Marc: So are there times during the week or the month where you notice your eating is much better and you’re not overeating in the evening and things are not as bad as they might usually be?
Sandra: Yes. Yes, there are times.
Marc: What characterizes those times? Are they predictable in any way? Do you notice anything about them?
Sandra: Yes, I’m doing Aikido. This is a martial art. And I really love that. And when I do this, it gives me a lot of energy. And I don’t have the urge to eat so much when I do this. And yes, if I do something that I really like or appreciate or spending time with my son, yes, things that I really like, yes, or watching a movie, it’s when I’m more relaxed because eating, eating too much is pretty much related to stress, I noticed.
Marc: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Mmm hmm. That makes sense. So are you doing most of the parenting?
Sandra: I do a lot. But my ex-husband also takes care. And my son is regularly at his place. I do a bit more, yes. But we get along very well. And we’re friends. And it’s important. Our son is the most important thing. So we are really exchanging important issues. And yes, that works well.
Marc: Yeah. So when you eat at night, you mentioned chocolate. Are there any other foods that you go for?
Sandra: Are there any others? Sometimes nuts or…What else? I really prefer the chocolate. Sometimes it’s some healthy bars with dates, sweet stuff. I’m pretty strict with my eating because I have a lot of food sensitivities. And I have a sensitive digestion. So I try to move in my allowed places.
Marc: Sure. Sure. Sure. Sure.
Sandra: Yes. Sometimes, it’s some nut butters, almond butter, or yeah, some smooth stuff. And mostly, I let the chocolate melt in my mouth. Yes.
Marc: So here’s another question that’s off the topic we’re talking about right now. If you look back on your life, what would you say…How would you complete this sentence? One thing that I’m particularly disappointed in about life is __________. Like, a particular disappointment that stands out for you.
Sandra: Particular disappointment is the work that I’m doing that I couldn’t do what I would have liked to.
Marc: Mmm hmm. So disappointment around work.
Sandra: Yes. I don’t really like the job that I’m doing. It’s a safe job. I can do a living for me and my son. And yes, I get enough money from it. But I don’t really like what I do. And I would like to do something else. And yes, it’s exhausting.
Marc: Mmm hmm. Mmm hmm.
Sandra: Yes. And I’m afraid to leave it because of the security.
Marc: Sure, that makes total sense. It makes total sense.
Okay, so, Sandra, I’ve got some thoughts that I would love to share with you. I may ask some more questions. But I’ve got some good information to get going in our conversation. You started out answering my question. I asked if you could wave your magic wand, what would you get out of this session. So the first thing you mentioned is you would want more energy, and then maybe manage the energy you have better. And you said, “You know, I don’t know that I manage my energy so well.”
And then, we talked about eating at night and how that happens. And that can send you into a lot of guilt. And it could definitely drain your energy and set you back. And you understand why you’re doing it. It’s like a stress reduction. It makes you feel better at the end of the day. It’s totally understandable.
So I want to do something a little different with you. I want to give you a different context or interpretation of your experience. So you experience your life in a certain way because it’s you. And it’s your life. And you experience it. And you decide certain things about it, which makes sense because you’re the expert on your life. I’m the expert on mine.
And sometimes, we don’t see clearly. Sometimes, we do. So here’s what I want to say. I want to put some different words around your story. And we’ll see if this is helpful.
So when you say, “I want more energy or I want to learn how to manage the energy I have better,” what I see comes before that is that my guess is you’re a very sensitive soul.
Marc: You’re a sensitive soul. You have a sensitive body. And unfortunately, what I think happens in this world is we don’t distinguish and appreciate the sensitive souls. We don’t really understand it. It’s a different species of people. There are some humans that are very hard. You can throw them into all kinds of environments and toxins and stresses, and they just handle it better. They’re bodies’ a little stronger. And they deal with it better. They’re not necessarily better than a sensitive soul. A sensitive soul is not worse than them. It’s just different.
So what happens is…And when I said you’re a sensitive soul, you shook your head. You agreed with me. So you’re going to be experiencing a different set of conditions in life, compared to the average person. So I want to see you through that lens. And I want you to see you through that lens. So sensitive souls have more of a reactive body, meaning the body will react to things that don’t serve it or that the body doesn’t like or that irritate the body.
On one level, all that is is body intelligence. It’s your body saying, “This ain’t good for me. This does feel good. This doesn’t feel good.” So then, you know very specifically, “Oh, this feels good. This doesn’t.” So sensitivity is actually a form of intelligence. It’s the body and the world and our experience giving us feedback and saying, “Okay, this, this…Something’s not working here. Oh, this food doesn’t work, let me make and adjustment. Oh, this environment’s not working. I’ve got to just figure something out here.”
So you will probably, from now until forever, be managing your experience with the world based on that sensitivity. So I’m saying this because I would love for you to be able to honor that part of you a little more and respect it a little more and to notice any places where you may see that part of you, as somehow less than or deficient because you don’t have a lot of room to A) be sensitive and react to something in your environment, and then B) to get down on yourself for doing that and then get upset with yourself for trying to compensate in ways that don’t work well. So to get upset at yourself for trying your best to navigate a sensitive body and a sensitive soul, you have to have more compassion.
Sandra: With myself?
Marc: Yes. Otherwise, you’re beating yourself up.
Marc: And beating yourself up is the opposite of what you want to do. You’re constantly trying to protect your body from getting beat up by food or by the environment or your emotions from getting hurt by the environment. So it makes no sense to self-attack. So what I’m saying is that’s where you have to get exquisitely better and better and better at respecting your own sensitivity, looking at it as a companion—it’s a companion—and understanding that you need to honor it and respect it and respond to it, as opposed to think it makes me less than or I have to fix this. Do you see the difference?
Sandra: Yes. Yes.
Marc: One is a more empowering way to look at your circumstance. The other is a disempowering way. Both ways have you noticing the condition or the experience. But one way is elevating you. And the other way brings you down. It’s no different than you look at your son. You look at what his proclivities are or what he’s interested in. What his talents or skills are. Yeah, you see the places where maybe he could learn more. But we’re always looking to see what’s their talents? And how could we support them? And if he has a special need or a special condition, then you work with that and you love him. You don’t attack him because you’re sensitive to a food or a kid at school. Right?
Sandra: Mmm hmm.
Marc: So I really need you to be your best friend in this regard.
Marc: See where I’m going?
Marc: A lot of your energy gets wasted, I think, trying to fix something.
Marc: And I really think that when you get that you don’t have to fix this, that you just have to live into it with more compassion, then it’ll still have challenges. You’ll still have challenges. Things will still be difficult. You’ll still be sensitive. But you’ll use that information in a different way. So you come home. And at night, you’re turning to chocolate to feel better and to stress relief.
So here’s what I want to say about that. I want to give you a different story around that. Part of your story, I believe, based on what I’m hearing from you is, “Hey, this is not a good behavior. It’s like I do this.” I asked you what happens afterwards? How do you feel? You go, “Wow! If I eat too much, I feel very guilty. And I feel disappointed in myself. And I have no energy. And I need to just like do nothing and relax.”
So one of the reasons you’re going to chocolate is because you’re trying to regulate a life that challenges you. You have, I think—correct me if I’m wrong—but you’re the kind of person that doesn’t have an easy time being alive on planet Earth.
Marc: It’s not easy for you. I get that about you. Some people, honestly, Sandra, it’s just harder for. And I have all the compassion in the world for them. It’s just harder. Some people it’s easier. Some people are somewhere on the continuum. But it’s hard for you. And I think, because your nervous system is very sensitive, when you say, “Oh, you know, I need more energy to focus on things. I start something. I don’t complete it. I get distracted,” a part of that is your nervous system isn’t strong. It doesn’t know how to function well in this world. You get easily thrown off. It’s just you’re easily distracted. Your nervous system has a hard time focusing because stimuli distract you. And especially, negative things are going to grab your attention. Things that are wrong in the environment. Negative feelings will tend to capture your attention is what I get, as well.
So I want to acknowledge that it’s hard for you, so turning to chocolate at night makes perfect sense. That is arguably the most harmless strategy you could have chosen to self-medicate.
Sandra: Yes. And it’s such—
Marc: Of all the strategies to do, you could do drugs, you could do alcohol, you could do a lot of stupid things—of all the strategies, that’s probably one of the best. Eating a bunch of dark, healthy chocolate, even if it’s too much or eating some nuts, in the scheme of things, it’s okay. It’s not affecting your weight in a dramatic way—
Marc: nor is it probably affecting your health in a dramatic way. What it affects is your…It affects your self-esteem. And it also affects your sense of like, “Hey, I want to be moving forward here. I want to be getting better at this. But I’m not.” So you get disappointed.
So what I want to also suggest to you is the feelings that come up for you, I want you to try this on. The feelings that come up for you, after you eat too much chocolate at night, are the feelings that are there anyway. They’re kind of there. And I could get in there somehow and see the feelings that are there. Even when you haven’t eaten any chocolate, I suspect that somewhere in there, there’s this feeling of, “I’m disappointed. I’m guilty about me, life. And I’m tired.”
Sandra: Mmm hmm. Yes.
Marc: And when we’re tired, the only thing you can do is rest, really. You can push through it. But that is awful. It’s hard to push through being tired. You’re probably not great at pushing through. When you’re tired, you really feel it. It would probably affect your mood in a big way. You could probably do it. But it doesn’t benefit you in a big way.
So what I’m saying is, for you, the chocolate makes sense. It makes perfect sense. It’s a reasonable strategy. And I want you to try to put a different context on it. I want you to look at it not as a terrible thing. And what I would like you to do is to plan on eating chocolate every night, to actually plan it,–
Marc: It’s to say, “I am going to do this. I am choosing to do this. Why? Because it actually works for me. It can work for me. I do it anyway. I do it anyway.” So now, I want you to choose the thing that you’re doing because it gives you a benefit. So I want you to learn how to experience the benefit, to actually experience the actual benefit that it is giving you. The actual benefit that it gives you. It gives you some pleasure. It gives you some fulfillment. It gives you gratification. It gives you stress relief. It helps you get in touch with your feelings. It helps you get in touch with, “Geez, I’m a little tired.” Because I just get from you that a part of you is just a little tired.
Marc: And you don’t even have to have a reason. You don’t have to justify it. You don’t need a reason to be tired. You don’t need to justify it. You’re a little tired. And a part of you is a little disappointed, and in life maybe, in yourself maybe, a little guilty in yourself maybe, perfectly natural. So I would almost want you to, when you start to drop into those emotions at night, to start to hold yourself there more, as opposed to get away from it or feel bad that you’re creating that, because what’s happening on a certain level is you’re actually dropping into yourself.
Marc: You’re actually using the food at night to help you drop into an experience, which you need, which is intimacy with yourself. Right now, you need more intimacy with yourself. You’re learning how to be in a relationship with you. You’re learning how to treat you better. One of the ways you treat you better is by being in contact with you. So at night, that’s your first time, probably during the day, to just be really in contact with yourself. When you’re eating chocolate, that’s your time.
Marc: Right. So you’re being with you. You’re being, just it’s you. It’s just you and whatever experience you’re creating. And the experience you create is an intimate one with this substance. This stuff that makes you feel really good. It gives you pleasure. It gives you stress reduction. It makes you feel good about yourself temporarily and gets you in touch with some emotions that are under there, which is guilt and disappointment, and the feeling of being tired. And the tired, in part, is physical. But it’s also, it feels like an emotional tired. It feels like a little bit of a soul tired.
Marc: And it’s fine for you to acknowledge, “I’m tired.”
Marc: So before you have more energy, you have to be tired.
Sandra: That makes sense.
Marc: I think you have to hang a little bit more in being in the experience that you’re in, which is fundamentally, there’s a part of you that’s a little exhausted. That’s a little tired. That doesn’t appreciate the grind. You’re not getting fed being in a job that’s not totally in alignment with who you are. Even though, it gives you the money, it’s hard for you because you’re a sensitive soul. So right now, you’re hitting a point…How old are you?
Sandra: I’m 40.
Marc: Forty. Yeah, so 40’s a powerful transition point. And it’s a time when we really have to reckon with ourselves. We really have to see ourselves clearly and own who you are. So it’s learning how to do relationship with you well—you’ve said that—but doing relationship with you well, means you accepting you for who you are. That’s the secret. Don’t try to make your son be someone he’s not. If he’s an athlete, let him be an athlete. If he’s into cars, let him be into cars. If he’s into math, let him be into math. If he doesn’t like dancing, don’t force him to dance. So let yourself be who you are. And who you are is very different. It’s a little different.
Sandra: Yes, it’s true.
Marc: It’s more sensitive. And you’re just a sensitive soul. So you have to learn how to embrace yourself there. You have to learn how to love you a little bit more there and hold yourself a little more there, as opposed to what’s happening right now is you’re still resisting that part of yourself. And now that you’re 40, what I’m saying to you—this is very important—if you take away nothing else from this conversation, now that you’re 40, now that you’re at that point in your life, you must embrace this part of you. I mean embrace it to the point where you love it, you honor it, and respect it. And you see it as your power, not as your deficiency, not as your weakness.
I can identify this in you because I’m the same way. So I’m a sensitive soul, too. But I learned, I learned how to work with that, plain and simple. I live out in the country. I don’t like living in the city. It doesn’t work well for me. It will completely decrease my efficiency as a person, as a human being. You would not like me if I lived in the city. I wouldn’t like me if I lived in the city. So I learned certain things help regulate me. Environment regulates me. Certain kinds of people help regulate me better. Certain foods help regulate me better. Certain ways of being with myself help regulate me better.
Sandra: Yes. Yes. Yes.
Marc: So that’s what I’m asking you to do. But it requires that you stop trying to fix this part of you or avoid it. And you fully embrace it. And you start to see. You ask yourself the question. You say, “Sandra, how is me being a sensitive soul, how is that a gift? How is that a gift? How is that a grace?” How is that a gift? Tell me.
Sandra: I sense a lot of things. I’m a good listener. I can listen. And people like to be around me. And they like to tell me their stories. And they just know that I’m very understanding. And other people appreciate my sensitivity. Yes. And how is it a gift? Yes, I’m very aware of myself, of other people, of their feelings.
And yes, sometimes, it’s a gift. But sometimes, it’s hard. And sometimes it’s hard for me to—how to express that—to set borders. And I notice that I need a lot of “me” time. I really love to be alone, not always. But when I’m among people, and there’s a lot of different energies, I feel, I have to spend time with myself and recharge myself. You know what I mean? Yes. And I–
Marc: So that’s the answer to how you have more energy. How you have more energy is you just honoring how you work. This is how you work. You just said, “You know, wow, I need to recharge my batteries. I need to be alone. Alone time helps me.” So it’s respecting that and saying that’s just how you work. There’s no guilt. You don’t have to justify it. You just have to do it. You just have to say, “Given my life and my lifestyle, and given my responsibilities, how do I get some alone time? How do I recharge?” But it’s learning to respect that part of you.
That’s what I’m saying, to really own it and respect it as if it’s your power. Because when I asked you, “You know, how does it benefit you?” You said some amazing things. It makes you who you are. It gives you your superpowers. People feel good about you. When they’re around you, they can feel seen. They can feel understood. You can track people. You can feel their emotions. You could feel what’s going on in your own self. And yeah, you identified. And it can be hard, for sure. Absolutely. It could absolutely be hard. So that’s the package deal. That’s what you have to learn how to live with.
So let’s go back to the chocolate. I want you to plan on having chocolate every night.
Marc: I want you to plan on having chocolate every night. And what I would like you to consider, consider, is plan on how much you’re going to have.
Marc: Now, I don’t want you to undershoot it too much and deny yourself. I want you to pick an amount that you feel, “You know something, I think this can satisfy me.”
Marc: And then, do what you always do, which is you say you eat it slow and you enjoy it. Then, you do that. And you conscientiously say to yourself, “I’m doing this to feel good. I’m doing this because I’ve had a stressful day. I’m doing this because this gives me a certain kind of pleasure that right now nothing else gives me. And this helps me. And dark chocolate’s not going to hurt me.” It’s probably not. As these things go, that’s a pretty safe bet. And if you take care of yourself in other ways, you’ll be fine.
So you’re choosing. You’re choosing to do the thing you’re going to do anyway. You’re honoring the experience. You’re enjoying it. And over time, what will happen is, is it will strengthen your ability to enjoy the thing you’re doing or to choose not to do it, if you don’t want to do it because you’re embracing it first. And you’re seeing the brilliant reason for it. There’s a brilliant reason why you’re doing it that makes sense. So we’re just looking to honor that.
Sandra: Yes. Yes, something else just came to my mind. Is it okay to say this?
Marc: Yeah. Please. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Sandra: I’m very excited about learning and educate myself in this whole psychology and eating and healthy nutrition stuff. And then, sometimes, I get overexcited. And I binge watch videos and podcast and information. So maybe it’s an overload. And yes, with eating too much chocolate, this maybe is a reflection. I don’t know.
Marc: Again, let’s look at why it would make sense. There’s the part of us humans that we like sensory experience. We have sight. We have hearing. We have touch. We have taste. All the senses are here to be fulfilled. So the eyes want to see and the ears want to hear. The voice wants to speak. The skin wants to feel. Taste buds want to taste. It’s as simple as that. We are built for sensation. So the body hungers for sensation. Every human, from the smallest child, as soon as they can contact their senses, like kids are like amazed by their own body and their own little experience because it’s all new to them.
So you are having an experience when you’re binge watching, let’s say, and eating, you’re creating a multi-sensory experience for yourself. It’s like being at the movies and eating lots of popcorn. It’s this full-bodied experience of the visuals. The feelings you get inside. The food in your mouth maybe being excited. And when you’re chewing it, it actually can accentuate the excitement. But then, it could also contain our level of excitement so it doesn’t get to it.
So it’s a sensory experience. So I’m always wanting you to see the brilliant reason first, where it makes sense. I want your mind to see why this experience makes perfect sense. Why it’s not wrong. As soon as you make it wrong, you will go into, “There’s something wrong with me. I’m deficient. I can’t stop this. I need to fix this. What’s my problem?” You go down the wrong road when we think the behavior’s wrong. You might not want to do the behavior. That’s fine. It’s fine for you to say to me, “Marc, you know, when I watch videos, I don’t want to be eating. I don’t like that behavior.” I go, “Okay, that’s a different story. But first, let’s understand why the behavior is there. Let’s understand why it makes sense. Let’s even maybe have a few times where you could actually enjoy the experience—
Sandra: That’s true.
Marc: and go, “Okay, here’s that experience. Let me just enjoy it once or twice so I could see what it’s like.” Once you do that, you have more power to say, “Ah! Huh, do I want to eat while I’m watching this video? Do I want to eat in any given moment? Is that what I want to do?” We develop our choosing muscle when we choose to do the very thing we’re going to do anyway. It strengthens our choosing muscle in both directions.
Marc: So that’s a practice. It’s a practice in always you’re seeing yourself from a higher perspective. Even though the behavior might be something you’re going to want to choose not to do, you have to recognize the wisdom in it first.
Sandra: Yes. Yes.
Marc: Make sense?
Sandra: Yes, it makes sense. And I think it stops the fighting.
Marc: Yes. Exactly.
Sandra: And this is still a strong part of me that wants to fight this behavior.
Marc: And that drains your energy. That’s what drains you. It’s the fight that drains your energy. And if you’re a sensitive soul to begin with, self-attack and self-fighting really drains your energy.
Sandra: It does.
Marc: It really drains your energy because you’re busy trying to deal with the world with the way the world can give us stimuli that we don’t like. Now, you have to defend yourself against your own self. That’s not fun. That’s the last person you’d want on the other team. So yeah, we’re letting go of the fight. When you let go of the fight, you’ll have more energy. And at the same time, it’s okay to be tired. Part of what you’re tired of is you’re tired of the fight and the struggle.
Marc: That’s a big piece of what’s tiring you is the very fight and the struggle. You think the fight and the struggle is what’s going to get you out of the tiredness and out of the disappointment and out of the guilt and into a better place. No, the fight only makes it worse.
So that would be a huge shift for you to make. But that’s the shift I’m asking you to make. And you can make that shift. I would not ask a 21-year-old to make that shift. They’re not ready. You as a 40-year-old are ready for that kind of transition, for that kind of evolution because you’re wise enough and you have enough years on the planet to understand and to see the results that fighting yourself has not gotten you where you want to go.
Marc: Which either means you have to fight yourself harder and beat yourself up more. And trust me, that doesn’t work. It doesn’t work. So then, we have to call a cease fire. So the things I’ve been asking you to do, another way of saying what I’ve been asking you to do is stop the fighting. Stop making things wrong. Stop finding the enemy in these behaviors. Start to make them your friends. See the wisdom in it. See the beauty in it. See the brilliant reason behind it first.
And then, what I’m suggesting is that’s going to help you eliminate the fight. It’s going to give you a little more energy. It’s going to give you more of you back. It’s going to make you more grounded. And it’s going to take you out of the stress response. Fighting yourself is just going to make you crazy. It’s not going to work for you.
Sandra: Yes. True.
Marc: So then, what this stage of life is also about for you is for noticing when you’re fighting yourself and starting to catch yourself. Have a little alarm inside the head that goes off when you’re fighting yourself. A little alarm that goes off, “Ding. Ding. Ding. I’m fighting myself.” Deep breaths. Two or three deep breaths. Pause. “Does this help me? Does this get me where I want to go?” Ask the question. So you introduce consciousness into the place where you normally go unconscious. Fighting yourself is an unconscious act.
Marc: Harming another human being is an unconscious act. Harming self is an unconscious act. A part of us must go to sleep. It is not a natural act. So defending oneself is natural. Harming oneself for not a good reason, not natural. So you’re learning to change that behavior. In order to change that behavior, you have to train yourself to stay awake a little bit more when you do the behavior.
Catch yourself, “Oh, my God, I’ve been fighting myself for the last 10 minutes. So we’re shortening the amount of time that you spend in self-attack. So if you spend…I’ll just make up a number. If you spend an hour there every day, we want to shorten it to a half hour. And then, we shorten it down to 20 minutes. Then, we shorten it down to 10. So we gradually shorten the amount of time where you’re self-attacking or self-hating or not loving yourself or feeling guilty.
So that’s the targets we’re shooting for. How you doing? Do you have thoughts, questions?
Sandra: I think it’s a good idea to become aware when I’m fighting myself. It’s because maybe I’m often unconscious about that part. You said some time ago, I’m in a transition time. And that’s true because I would like to go, get out of my job and do something different. And this is really challenging. And yes, it requires a lot of courage and also energy. And yes, and it’s also my age. I think, if I don’t do it now, maybe I will not be confident to do it later. So yeah, that’s a big part in my life right now to do this transition.
Marc: So to do the transition, you need to be on your own side.
Sandra: Yes. Yes, it’s true—
Sandra: and not fight myself.
Sandra: Yes, that makes total sense. And yes, I’m the person, I’m very left brained. I’m rational and logic. And yes, very often, I push through. And I don’t appreciate this sensitive part of me. I think I suppressed it a lot of times. And that make me tired and exhausted. Yes, I think that’s an explanation.
Marc: And it comes out at night for you when you’re finally quiet and alone and you don’t have responsibilities and you could be with yourself. That’s when it comes out. And that’s the person you want to care for. You just want to care for her. You don’t have to have answers. You don’t have to know, “Okay, here’s exactly when it’s all going to be okay.” You just have to love that part of you like you love your kid. You don’t tell your kid, “Okay, well, I’m going to love you more when you’re like taller or shorter or you gain weight or lose weight or whatever.” You probably don’t say that to your son,–
Marc: nor should you say it to yourself, nor should you be making your own love for yourself conditional. That’s going to give you more of you back. To deal with a powerful life transition, you need more of you available. So part of your work is to empower yourself more. This is the part of the work, not easy, but it’s a practice.
Marc: So how are you feeling? You feeling…Yeah, give me some words that describe you right now.
Sandra: Yes, I feel a bit overwhelmed. And I realized that I am, for a long time, I have been really hard on myself. And it’s, yes, it’s not so easy to let it go because behavior, it’s one thing to acknowledge it. And yes, the other thing to change it. And yes, I’m a person, if I could, I would change it right now. And I think, “Okay, Marc said this to me. And it made sense. And now, I’m going to change it at once.” And maybe it’s a good thing to observe myself—
Sandra: better and to become more aware when I’m in that place of self-judgment and be hard on myself. And yes, that’s a good practice—
Marc: Yes, well said.
Sandra: to be kinder.
Marc: That’s something you must do to move forward into the future. You have to do it. And it’s a practice. And it’s not going to happen overnight, but give it spaciousness, give it time. And even the overwhelm, I think what happens for you is sometimes overwhelm might be a little bit of a default place that you go to. And overwhelm—I’m just going to leave you with this—it’s a…For you, I think what happens is you get excited. And your mind wants to figure it out. And you want an outcome. So you’re excited. Your mind wants to figure it out. You want the good outcome. But because the mind can figure it out, it cannot figure out how to do all of this quickly, but you are excited about it, the way you end up translating that in your system is, “Oh, my God, I’m in overwhelm.”
So this is what I’ve been thinking, in this whole conversation, is you often interpret your experience in a way that doesn’t fully honor and serve you. So what I’m saying is you’re probably less in overwhelm. You’re more in a little bit of excitement.
And you’re in a little bit of, “I want to fix this fast. But I can’t.” So then, your default place is, “Oh, well, I’m overwhelmed.” And I’m asking you to pause there and say you don’t have to…Like, after we get off this conversation, I would even spend some time trying to not even think. I would spend some time not even thinking and just notice how you feel, and not try to figure anything out, and not try to create a plan. Okay.
Sandra: Mmm hmm.
Marc: Wait a few hours before you do that–
Sandra: Mmm hmm. Yeah.
Marc: because sometimes you just have to let your nervous system take things in without assessing them, without having to fix them, change them, do something to it, just marinate a little bit, absorb, digest a little bit. Make sense?
Sandra: Totally. Yes, that would be a typical reaction to make a plan, and to notice, and to yes, to say, “Yes, I do this tomorrow.” And yes, it would be a typical reaction for me. And probably it’s better to yes, to let it flow and just sit there maybe. And yes, like you said try to stop over thinking, over analyzing.
Marc: Yeah. Yeah. And just do some breathing and just be with yourself in a way where you could drop out of your head and more into your body. Yeah.
Sandra: Yes, sounds good.
Marc: Alright. I really appreciate you being open and sharing your journey and being real and being honest. And you’ve really hung in there in this conversation. So I thank you very, very much.
Sandra: I thank you. And yes, it was really profound. And yes, I’m really glad I had the opportunity to be here and to yes, to open myself because it’s not so typical for me. Usually, I’m more in the shadow.
Marc: I understand. I’m glad you made that choice, good for you. That’s a good sign.
Sandra: Okay. So the sign I move forward, I think.
Marc: Yes. Exactly. Exactly. So, Sandra, I’ve got all the confidence in you. I think you could do this. And you’re just embracing the beautiful, sensitive part of you and owning it as a part of your power and because it’s your power. And it’s a great thing. It’s a great thing.
So I’m going to say thank you to you, Sandra, and thank you to everybody who’s tuned in. Once again, I am Marc David. On behalf of the Psychology of Eating Podcast, always more to come, my friends. Take care!
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating
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