Psychology of Eating Podcast: Episode #213 – A Woman Confronts Her Anxiety About Food & Health
Elle, 29, can’t seem to find a positive thought to dedicate to her body. Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, reassures her she is not the only one in this boat. He also gives her his honest view about how much this is gripping her, to the point of her obsession with food and body occupying so much space and energy, he would consider it her primary relationship, above her husband, her dog, her friends. It’s taking up the most of her life energy. So what’s the answer when we feel stuck? When we feel like our happiness will be directly tied to losing weight? But when the weight comes off, Elle has admitted, she still wasn’t 100% satisfied. Marc introduces the opportunity to finally let go, to begin stepping into her womanhood more, learn to receive love and support, and in doing that, finally find peace with food and body.
Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:
Marc: Welcome, everybody. I’m Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. We’re back in the Psychology of Eating Podcast. And I am here today with Elle, all the way from Queensland, Australia. Welcome, Elle.
Elle: Thanks. Thanks for having me.
Marc: Glad you’re here and I’m glad we’re doing this. And Elle, let me just take a moment and talk to our viewers and listeners for a second. If you are returning to this podcast, welcome. Thanks for coming back. Thanks for being part of the tribe here. If you’re new, what we do is Elle and I have just officially met a minute or two ago. We’ve been chatting and here we are. And we’re going to be working together for about an hour. And the idea is to see if we can hone in on what needs to happen for you to feel like you have taken a nice big leap in the right direction for you. So with that, if you could wave your magic wand, if you can get whatever you wanted from our time together, what would that look like for you?
Elle: It’s a big question and I’ve been thinking about it. And it’s probably just to really come down to being comfortable and confident in my own body. I feel like I’ve been battling mentally and physically with my weight since I was—I can remember early as 10 years old thinking, “Oh my gosh, I’m almost 40 kilos or almost this amount,” I can’t remember the exact amount. But having that thought that young now when I look back at it is just—it’s a long time, being 29 now and having that thought 19 years ago really. And to have that, I feel like it consumed my life pretty much all the way through high school and early 20s and now into my late 20s. So I’m about to graduate as a naturopath and I just don’t feel confident being able to give advice to patients when I feel like I’m not—it’s not that I’m not following the advice, but I feel like my physical appearance doesn’t look like I am.
And I’ve gone through all different medical testing and I’ve seen doctors and all the naturopaths trying to figure out why I can’t lose weight and everything comes back perfectly fine. And so I’ve kind of just realized that I think it’s got a lot to do with that I’m focused on it so much and that in turn is just creating this constant level of stress within my body even though it’s almost often about stress. I probably only say I’m stressed from studying. But I think, subconsciously, there’s a level of stress there that I just can’t release. So just, yeah, basically letting go of the doubting and the guilt and the anxiety surrounding food. Yeah, basically, so that’s a big one but a little too big to me.
Marc: So tell me how it shows up in your day to day to day? Like what goes on in your head, what goes on in your eating that kind of holds you back?
Elle: So just constant or I feel that constant negative thoughts about different body parts, any body part really. I feel like it holds me back in my relationship with my husband. He constantly tells me how beautiful I am and I’m perfect the way that I am. But I’d never believe it. And I think that annoys him to a certain degree. I think there’s…yeah, just I feel like I put a lot of pressure on myself to achieve in other areas of my life so that I’m not so focused on it. So I’m like go, go, go with other things that I don’t ever feel like I get the satisfaction that I’m staking out of that, if that makes sense.
So yeah, everyday life, that’s kind of how it is. So with food I find that I go really well during the week because it’s when I’m busy and I can prepare more during the week because I’m home studying most of the time. But come weekends, or primarily Sundays, and my husband comes from work, it kind of just sort of relaxes and goes out the door and I just—I don’t binge. We’ll have take-out. But the guilt surrounding that one take-out meal a week will just put into a funk and feel like I’ve undone everything from the whole week kind of thing.
Marc: So the guilt from a take-out meal, is it because you didn’t cook it yourself? Is it because of the specific food that you ate? Help me understand where the guilt would come in for that.
Elle: The specific food that I ate. I don’t enjoy cooking. I wish that I did but I probably don’t enjoy it because I’m not very good at it. I didn’t grow up with a mother who taught me how to cook. It was like meat and three vegetables kind of thing going off. It was never bolognese or curries or anything like that. So when I do cook now, it’s not very good so I don’t enjoy it. So most of those meals are pretty basic. So it probably comes back to, I guess, feeling lazy that I haven’t made the effort to cook. And then yeah, the guilt around getting a take-out, fried food or whatever, hot chips or something like that.
Marc: I think I understand. How much weight do you want to lose?
Elle: So that’s the other thing. I feel like no matter what weight I am, I’m never satisfied with it. So I got married about two and a half years ago. And just before my wedding I went on this crazy, regretful crash diet. So I was probably 76 kilos before I did this diet and I got down to 69 kilos and actually had to try and put some more weight back on because my wedding dress got too big. So I think I ended up with about 73, which it seems to be a comfortable weight for my height because I’m quite tall. And after that, because I didn’t follow through the maintenance phase of the diet, I just piled on the weight. I got married at the end of April and by the July, I was back up to 86 kilos. So not only had I gained back the weight that I’d lost, but I’d also gained back almost 10 kilos on top of that. And then since then, I’ve put on more again. But even when I was at that 69 kilos at my wedding, I still felt like I was too overweight. Whereas now, I think, “God, I would give anything to get back to that weight.” So it’s just like I’m never satisfied even when I am at a lighter weight. Yeah, so…
Marc: So do you ever have times, maybe during the week or during the month, maybe a day here or there, where you find yourself more kind, more loving of your body, food is less of an issue, does it ever happen to you where there are just these brief times when like, “Oh, it hasn’t been so bad today or these few days.”
Elle: No. Not recently. Pretty much not since I gained back the weight after my wedding pretty much. And it wasn’t like the weight gain was from getting comfortable and being like, “Oh I’m married now, it doesn’t matter.” It was not like that at all. I haven’t really changed the way that I’ve eaten since then from before I went on that crazy diet. So yeah, I don’t know what’s going on. But no, recently, I don’t ever feel like I have a day where it’s not in my thoughts at least half a dozen times, a dozen times.
Marc: So tell me about your mom’s relationship with her body.
Elle: My mom is overweight. I do have memories of us walking around one of the large parks in Sydney with her pumping her hand weights or the weights that were strapped around your ankles in the 80s kind of thing. So she was trying to lose weight and I remember her doing shakes and that sort of thing. And then when I was about 17, she got a lap band put in. And she did lose a lot of weight from that but she also had, I think, it was about three or four months living over in Indonesia, going to university over there while I was in my last year of high school. And so she came back like 20 kilos lighter and she was looking fantastic. But since then, she had so much problems trying to digest foods that she just ate really sort of basic biscuits or crumbly kind of things that will go down easily. So yeah, she’s gained the weight again. I don’t ever remember her saying that she hated her body. And she was never really subconscious about it in front of us. But I do remember her taking us to Weight Watchers meetings and that sort of thing. So I think it is there but she never sort of verbalized it.
Marc: How do you think your life will be different? Who would you be? What would it look like? Like describe to me a day in your life or just what would be—who the new you would be if you’re at the weight you wanted and you felt good about it?
Elle: I just think I would have so much more energy and the energy to get out there and enjoy life. It has been hard the last four years because I have been studying so much. So I have been in my little study cave. But I just don’t feel like I have energy outside of work or study to really get out and socialize and do activities with my husband and get out and go hiking, which I really enjoyed when I was living in Canada. So yeah, just basically the energy, I just feel like I’ve put so much energy into trying to get my food perfect and worrying about my weight and my appearance and what other people think of me. But if that was all gone, then I would be out to, yeah, get out there and just be confident. And it sounds horrible but I feel like I would be more successful. Yeah, kind of like in my heart I know that’s not how it is. But in my head thinking, you’d be so much more successful if you looked like this kind of thing. So I hate saying that but, yeah, it sounds…
Marc: No. I’m glad you’re being honest about it. And you’re not the only person who thinks and feels that. And the world often gives us that message. Media gives us that message. Culture gives us that message. If you look a certain way, we like you better. So it’s understandable.
Marc: So you said to me your partner thinks you’re beautiful. And when he says something like that, you don’t really believe it. So what does he do with that, when he is complimenting you and loving you and you’re not loving your body, like then what happens between you and him?
Elle: I pretty much just kind of brush him off and just like, yeah whatever or like it stops him from—no, it doesn’t stop him. He still tries to like hug me and stuff. But even hugging me, I just don’t feel comfortable with him having his hands on my stomach or my leg even kind of thing. So he does say, “You know that you’re beautiful. I think you’re beautiful, isn’t that all that matters?” And I’m like, “Yeah, but I don’t believe it.” So in myself it does kind of affect our relationship for sure.
Marc: Do you have anyone in your life or anyone that you know who was having difficulty loving their body and then they had a shift and now they just love their body more?
Elle: To be honest, no, I don’t. Yeah, I can’t really think of—like my sister, she’s a little same as me. Since she’s had kids, she struggled with her weight as well and she’s pretty down on herself about it as well. And she’s probably the closest female to me. As I said, I don’t, having moved to this town not knowing anyone, I don’t know too many other people in the town at the moment. It’s kind of moved away. So yeah, closeness-wise, I don’t have that many close friends surrounding me right now.
Marc: What do you for fun? What do you for fun, entertainment/pleasure? Any one of those or all those.
Elle: Probably, yeah, it’s a hard question because I know I don’t have very good work-life balance. It’s like practitioners are the worst patients by far. Even though I can give the advice, I don’t necessarily follow it. So I do enjoy spending time with my dog though. And that sounds, yeah, really mushy but he’s probably the thing that lights me up the most besides my husband. So just when it’s the three of us kind of having an adventure is probably my most enjoyable time of the week, which is usually Sundays, when my husband gets time off. So yeah, just heading to the beach or going for a picnic or something like that.
Marc: So what do you tell yourself given that, okay, you look back, let’s say to your wedding, and you go “God, I would love to get back to that weight. How was I so crazy thinking that I needed to lose more weight?” Like what do you tell yourself about that, given that you now know from this perspective that back then you thought you had a bunch more weight to lose. And now you can kind of look back on it and go, “Huh, that was pretty good.”
Elle: Yeah, I feel like if I was…I look back and I just think I was crazy for thinking that I needed to lose more weight because I looked hot. But at the time, I was still really self-conscious. So yeah, I look back now and yeah I think that was crazy of me to think that. And yeah, so I know that I have troubles accepting it even when I am there and that’s what I need to get past and yeah.
Marc: Yeah. So, really, it sounds to me that in a lot of ways, you know what your path is or ought to be in terms of you know that, okay, I have to get to the place where I’m accepting myself and loving myself but you don’t quite know how to get there.
Elle: Exactly. It’s like I can see it out in the distance and I just cannot get there. Or if I start getting there, I self-sabotage. And yeah, just let everything go and put my hands up kind of thing.
Marc: Okay. Just let me ask a question about that. So if you start getting there then you self-sabotage, how do you know when you start to get there? What indicates to you that, “Oh, I’m on my way. I’m heading in the right direction.” Like what are the signs of that?
Elle: Feeling better in my clothes. Yeah, just basically losing the weight. I guess I can hear myself keep saying that it all comes back to the weight and I hate that I’m saying that. But it’s been such a big part of my life for so long and that’s just how it is for me. So basically, it usually gets to about 4 or 5 kilos that I lose and then something will come up like special occasion or event or a weekend away or something like that and just getting back on that wagon after relaxing for that time. It’s just a struggle and I end up just going backwards again. And then it gets too much down the track and I’m back to where I started. And do it all over again.
Marc: When you look at yourself and try to understand yourself and why this happens for you, do you have a thought, do you have an idea like, “Yeah I think I have this challenge because…” And this doesn’t have to be right it’s just a total opinion question.
Elle: Yeah. I think the way my personality is I always have to have a goal and I think it’s good to have goals. But this is kind of one goal that I feel like I’ve never achieved in 19 years. So it’s like a really big one for me. And I don’t want to say that I’m like an A type personality or like obsessive or anything like that because I’m not. But it’s like I am when it comes to this. So yeah, as I said earlier, I just find that I try and have these other little things that I try and achieve. And I get there but then I don’t feel like I have that full satisfaction of that, of achieving that mini goal, I guess you could say of…yeah.
Marc: Okay, so let me share some thoughts with you about what I think of where you’re at and what might help move you forward. What I want to say, I’m going to start general with just some big picture thoughts and observations and then we’ll see if we can circle in a little more.
You are really gripped by this. Like this really has you. It kind of runs your life, this challenge. It’s not like a side issue. It’s sort of like the main activity. That’s my sense of you. Even though you’re married and even though you’re going to professional school and finishing up and been working on that for four years, in a lot of ways your full-time activity has been dealing with this, managing it, trying to manage it, trying to fix it, trying to make it go away, whatever it is. It feels like this is truly like your life in a lot of ways. Am I accurate? Not accurate?
Elle: Absolutely. And the only time that I feel like I ever let it go was when I was living overseas. And I actually lost 10 kilos plus without even setting foot in a gym. And I was eating really badly like I was eating fried chicken and drinking four or five times a week. But I was going out and having fun and I ended up leaving London and Canada almost 15 kilos lighter without even trying. So I think that says a lot and, yea,h consciously I know that. But I don’t know how to get back to that place, so yeah.
Marc: That makes total sense. And it makes sense to me also that when you were in a different environment, a foreign environment, and you let go of everything, your body started letting go. So there’s a level, there’s a place where you do understand that there was an interesting phenomenon that happened. I want to be scientist for a moment. A good scientist observes. A good scientist gathers data and you gather data and you gather data. And at some point, you have enough data. And you start to collate that data. You start to see what the data is telling you. And then you legitimately draw a conclusion from that data based on what it seems to be telling you.
So I think you have a very, very important piece of data here. And the important piece of data that you just shared is that when I let go, I strangely get the very thing I’ve been wanting even though I’ve been trying so hard to get it without success. This I would call not so much a weight loss lesson or a nutritional lesson, I would call it a life lesson. And I’m concerned for you because I could see how much this is gripping you and it has gripped you. And it is understandable that it is gripping you because that’s what this does. Negative body image, self-hate about the body, perfectionism about weight, wanting my body to look a certain way with the assumption that it will give me love, success, power, happiness, this, that, the other thing.
You didn’t invent that concept, that concept exists out there. You were taught it. It comes from the world. It’s not unique to you. You’re not the only girl going through this. And it’s unique to you, for you, you’re experiencing this. And again, I’m just saying I’m noticing how much this occupies your life.
So what I want to say, from the outside looking in, is not acceptable, okay? And I know you know that and you’re trying to change that. The challenge is you’re feeling a little stuck and you’re also doing the same strategies. And the same strategies don’t get you anywhere but they’re the only strategies you know. Maybe they helped you a little bit here or there in the past so I’m getting that you’re at a frustration point and I’m actually glad for you. You may have to get more and more and more to the frustration point to really see how much this grips you. Because right now, and I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, but I just want to acknowledge it, that in an odd way your relationship with your body, your challenged relationship with food and your body is your primary relationship. It’s not your husband. It’s not your dog. It’s like this is who you’re sleeping with.
Elle: I agree.
Marc: I say that because you need to start expanding your vision more and use other things to inspire you to change. Previously, you’re trying to inspire yourself to change by promising yourself I will be more successful and have more energy if I lose weight and have the body I want. Understandable. And you’re at an age in life where you’re transitioning into your 30s. And transitioning into your 30s—so you’re 29 now?
Marc: Yeah. Transitioning into your 30s is the first true foray into adulthood. It’s a time when really adulthood starts to get some little roots in the soil. So you’re in a transition zone. You’re transitioning, honestly, from a princess, a teenager, a girl at her 20s who needs to look good so people love her, to an adult who has a profession, has a husband, has a pet that you care about, maybe you’re going to have kids down the line. So you need to grow. Plain and simple, you need to grow. You need to expand your consciousness.
Marc: You need to expand how you see the world, how you see yourself, and how you see this whole challenge because, otherwise, you’re going to be 75 years old and still dealing with it.
Elle: Yeah. I already feel like I’ve just wasted so much of my 20s not enjoying them. You say that coming into 30s is when you get into that adult time but I feel like I’ve been doing that for five years already since moving back to Australia. And I haven’t been able to live and enjoy as much as I did early 20s. I thought I’ve been living there already.
Marc: Yeah. So the good news is it’s never too late. You can still move forward into your adulthood while reclaiming fun and pleasure and nourishment and life and joy. And what I believe for you very strongly is that the road for you to get where you want to go in a weird way is so much easier than you think that you wouldn’t believe it. I almost don’t even want to tell you because you’re not going to believe it. But I’m going to tell you in a second anyway. And you won’t fully believe it even though you’ve had experience with it already, which is that, as you let go, things change. There’s a part of you that you have a death grip on, “I got to change my body. I got to do this. It has to look like this so I have to make it that. This has to be. I got to control this. I got to control this. I got to get this under control.” And in actuality you have to let go of control.
That will scare the heck out of you for understandable reasons because, “Oh my god if I let go of control, what are you saying? Just eat whatever I want? Then I’m going to gain even more weight.” So I’m not saying be so out of control that I buy guns and shoot people and tell people off and eat all the food I want and put poison in my body. No, I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that there’s a place where it’s time to let go. And it’s time to drop into that part of you that has fun, that enjoys yourself, and that doesn’t worry about what I’m eating. You’ve done it once before at least that you’ve shared with me. And it actually gave you the result that you want. You don’t have to necessarily eat junk food or trash your body in order to let go. Letting go is a feeling. It’s a feeling. And you have to remember that feeling. It feels very far away to you right now.
Elle: Yeah, I just sort of feel like I’m all or nothing in that I’m either really strict with my diet or I’m just way off, like I can’t find the happy medium or I can’t find the balance in between. I’ve tried to let go but it just kind of looks way to good. So I understand what you’re saying. It’s just…yeah.
Marc: All or nothing is a belief system. It’s a religion. And once your realize it doesn’t work for you then you slowly, at the least slowly, change your religion. You change your belief system. When you realize your religion doesn’t work for you. So all or nothing is actually like a religion, meaning its beliefs that you hold to be true. “Okay, I just got it all. I’m like I got to do everything perfect right, exquisitely focused on the diet, oh my god that’s not working, I don’t want to do this. It’s too hard. God, I’m going to eat whatever I want, do whatever I want to do, I’m just going to let go.” That’s a childlike approach. That doesn’t come from an adult mind. It comes from a childlike mind. It comes from a teenage mind. Teenagers do that kind of stuff. It’s like they behave when they have to behave. And then all of a sudden when they get the keys to the car they drive like crazy and they do crazy things when the adults aren’t around.
So it’s less that you’re learning. Let’s phrase this differently. It’s less that you’re learning how to not be all or nothing and it’s more that you’re learning how to step into your womanhood more and more.
Marc: That’s a different activity. Stepping into your womanhood doesn’t just mean about all or nothing. Stepping into your womanhood is about every part of your life. Now, only you know what that means for you. But stepping into your womanhood is about every part of your life. It’s stepping into your womanhood in relationship to your husband, stepping into your womanhood in relationship to your profession, stepping into your womanhood in relationship with your body.
Womanhood does not mean I am dry and I have no fun, quite the opposite. A good adult, a smart adult, a smart woman, a smart man knows how to have fun. And then they go take care of their responsibilities. And then they know how to play and they know how to party. And they know how to do it without hurting themselves too much. And then they go back to their responsibilities when they have to. So when you’re operating in an all or nothing universe, you’re always—it’s kind of like driving a car and you’re swerving down the road. Yeah, you’re getting where you want to go but it’s a crazy ride. So what I see you doing right now is looking at self-maturing and you’re not quite sure about it. You’re not quite sure if you want to grow up, really.
Elle: Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah, it’s true.
Marc: So if you’re not quite sure that you want to grow up then you will hesitate about all these things. And you will stay in this relationship with food because the relationship with food and body that you’re in right now keeps you very young. It keeps you young.
Elle: That makes sense.
Marc: It keeps you ineffective in your life in many ways. It keeps you immature and it keeps you a child. It keeps you a teenager where you really can’t take on responsibility because you’re not taking on yourself. So what I want to say is, you have enough smarts and you have enough information right now. Your challenge I believe is choosing to mature yourself. And when I say mature yourself, it means learning how to be an adult and learning how to bring joy, fun, and pleasure into your life because that’s an adult activity as much as anything else. It is necessary because you need to feed yourself in that way. When you feed yourself in that way, something good happens.
We don’t have enough time to figure this out nor will it necessarily be super helpful. But somewhere along the line in your life you’ve figured out, erroneously, that if I just be a good girl and I get really serious and I just get focused and I don’t have any fun and I just be really strict, that’s going to be good for me. Either I will get respect, people will like me, somehow that’s going to fix stuff. And so there’s a place where the seriousness has taken over but the seriousness is actually the seriousness of a 16- or 17-year-old girl who has challenges and wants to be loved and wants to have a good body and wants to feel good about herself and thinks, “Oh man, I just got to buckle up here and get real tough and strong to help myself.” Which makes sense, by the way, that’s a sensible strategy.
If you want a result—you said you’ve been goal-oriented. One way that we reach our goal is we focus. This is a good thing. That’s a good skill that you have. You’re able to bear down and focus. Now, to get where you want to go in this realm called body and weight and loving your body, it’s less about bearing down on a diet. It’s the opposite of that. It’s less about bearing down on some psychological system and it’s the opposite of that in a lot of ways. It’s just learning how to enjoy this body as it is right now in this moment.
Marc: Learning how to find joy in your own skin. As you do that, you start to let go more. As you start to let go more, your body lets go of the physiologic stress response. As your body lets go of the physiologic stress response, you are then positioned to be in your optimum day-in, day-out metabolism. Your body is under constant stress state. It thinks that it’s being chased by a lion every freaking day because you’re freaked out about your weight and your body. So it thinks you’re freaked out about a lion chasing it. It thinks your life is in danger. And it does what everybody is supposed to do, which is it tends to slow down metabolism a little bit when the body thinks it’s threatened; when it thinks it’s threatened with long-term survival.
So this is not about diet per se for you. This is about personal growth. And what I believe for you, Elle, is that you’re going to have to make a choice. You’re going to really have to just get good with yourself and make the choice that I’m going to grow up here, I’m going to—there’s a part of me that’s kind of resistant, part of me that wants to stay a little kid and not do the work I have to do. Because the work you have to do is not hard work of ‘eat this, don’t eat that.’ It’s not hard work of following a diet. It’s a different kind of hard work. It’s the hard work where you look at yourself. It’s the hard work where you choose to love yourself more. It’s the hard work where you choose to have fun. It’s the hard work when your husband says, “God, you’re beautiful.” Where you take a moment, you don’t say anything, you take a deep breath, you look him in the eye, and you have a big smile on your face and you go, “Thank you, honey.” How freaking cool it is that you have a husband who loves you and loves how you look? How cool is that?
Marc: So you have to start letting that in there, young lady. You got to let that in. It’s almost like if you said to me, Marc, I need money. And I go, “Hey, you know, I just found $500 I don’t even need this $500, here take it.” And your hands are closed and you go, “No.” And I’m like, “Well, wait a second you just said you needed money and now your hands are closed. I’m giving you money, you’re not taking the money.” And that’s kind of what’s happening or you say you want to be happy or you say want to love your body, you say you want to feel good about yourself, but then when that goodness comes your way, you’re refusing it. And you’re not doing that purposely, that’s just a habit that you’ve been taught. So all I’m doing is I’m raising my hand and saying that’s the work. The work is to stay awake there to catch yourself resisting the money, resisting the love, resisting the compliment and start to, as best you can, take in even 5 percent, not 100 percent, just a little bit. And this is a practice.
So just so you know, if you really want to do the work here, it’s a daily practice and it’s the little things. Right now, there is nothing big in my opinion that you can do that will help you. There’s nothing big you can do that’s going to help you lose weight. There’s nothing big you gotta do that’s going to help you be happy all of a sudden. But there are so many opportunities to do little things that are going to build on themselves so well and so much quicker than you think. But it’s the little things. It’s the little things. It’s the little things.
You’re not focused on the little things right now. You’re focused elsewhere. So I want you to focus on the little things. I would love for you—and it’s going to scare you—to at some point have a conversation with your husband and say, “Hey, I really want to learn how to enjoy my body more. I want to learn how to just have more fun.” Let’s talk about ideas and have a conversation and see what you come up with. And you don’t do anything you’re not semi-comfortable with. But you also have a little bit of willingness to feel a little bit uncomfortable because you will be uncomfortable. Learning to love ourselves when we don’t love ourselves is a very uncomfortable feeling. I have places where I’m learning to love myself very uncomfortable. So it’s learning how to be comfortable with discomfort. You follow me?
Elle: Yeah. And I think that’s what I struggle with as well. Like yeah, just getting past that discomfort, hence the control.
Marc: Yes. So what it’s about is just be an uncomfortable mess. You got to get a little messy, got to get a little messy. When I say messy, just messy, just messy. It’s like, “Okay, I overate, fine. Okay, I goofed up. Okay, I don’t know what I’m doing here. Okay, I get a little clumsy sometimes.” It’s about you being a little bit more messy and not under such control and join the human family here. We’re messy. We’re not perfect.
Elle: Yeah. Yeah, I look forward to it.
Marc: Yeah. I look forward to you getting there. And it’s a choice for you at this point. Again, you don’t know exactly how to get there but you can choose. When you decide to go to naturopathic school, you don’t know how to be a naturopath when you decided to go to naturopathic school. But you know that by going to school, you will learn. And then you go to school and you learn and then you realize, “Okay, cool. And now I have to learn on the job a little bit and see patients and that’s how I learn even more.” But you made a choice. I want to go down this road called naturopathic school.
So now I’m asking you to make the choice to go down this road called self-love and self-acceptance and fun and pleasure and enjoyment of my body. Choose to go down that road even though you don’t know how exactly you’re going to do it. And then start to gather evidence from the environment about how to do that. So I suggested having a conversation with your husband, have a conversation with a close girlfriend.
Marc: Make a phone call and say like, “Hey here’s what I’m up to.” Do you have a friend who is more of a leader in this realm, like a girlfriend who is just comfortable with her body, knows how to have fun, somebody who like has figured this out a little bit?
Elle: Yeah, yeah. She’s just a phone call away.
Marc: Yeah. So that’s the person you want to talk to. That’s the person you want to confide in. That’s the person you want to ask advice from. That’s the person you want cheerleading you. So you’re taking steps in a direction. Because right now your strategy has not worked for you. Your strategy is, “Let me force myself to lose weight. Let me see if I can do all these different things. Let me try these strategies. Let me try all these techniques.” I get that you’re disappointed because you’ve learned this whole body of work in school and it doesn’t help you get where you want to go.
Marc: So here’s what I want to say about that. Forget about school not teaching you how to get where you want to go. Pretend that school was really life. Life is the proper school. Life has already taught you that you can apparently get some interesting benefits when it comes to feeling good in your body or when it comes to your body starting to get a little more natural in its weight when you let go. Life has taught you that. Life gave you that lesson. I want you to start to play with that lesson. I want you to modify it a little bit because you know enough about nutrition to not trash yourself. But what I also want to say is, there isn’t a single food you can eat right now in this moment, tonight, today, tomorrow, that’s going to mess you up forever, that’s going to make the weight stay on forever. There’s nothing you could eat today or tomorrow that you can’t recover from in minutes. It doesn’t matter. What you eat next meal doesn’t matter. It’s who you’re being inside that matters for you.
Elle: Yeah. I can see what you mean by saying that that’s an immature way of thinking that one meal can undo a whole week. Yeah, I can definitely see that that’s immature.
Marc: Yes. So I need you to get that. I need you to get that. I need you to catch your thinking when you go into like 12-year-old, 13-year-old girl thinking. You got to catch yourself.
Marc: You’re smarter than that and you are smarter than that. And you demonstrated it in other ways. This is one place where you go younger. We all have our places that are challenging for us. This is the place where you get challenged. So all I’m asking you to do is just remember that this is where you get challenged. And I want you to catch yourself when you think thoughts that are logically and scientifically and experientially impossible, i.e., one meal is not going to mess everything up for life; i.e., you worrying and beating yourself up has never advanced your cause, ever, when it comes to having the body you want.
So to get where you want to go is very different than what you think. It’s not about contracting and bearing down. It’s about opening up and letting go for you, I believe.
Elle: Yeah. I agree.
Marc: You can disagree, I’d be fine with that. You could yell at me if you want. How’re you doing? Tell me how you’re doing.
Elle: A few emotional parts in there. But yeah, it’s good to hear it from someone else. I think I needed it. It makes it… yeah. It makes me realize that, yeah, I’m not the only one that go through this and there is a way out.
Marc: Yes. And this is about you not isolating. Because what’s happened is you’re good at isolating, it’s actually a superpower. You’re a good loner. Loners often just aren’t completely alone. Like a good loner has one or two people around them or a good pet and that’s their tribe. And then they can actually be very functional and get a lot accomplished and be very focused and do stuff. So that’s a superpower, that’s a great thing. And it also gets in your way because you isolate around the weight thing and your body. And you kind of go undercover a little bit. And you go very inward around it. And you end up spinning in your own world and you’re not getting feedback about how you’re actually talking to yourself. And how that conversation in your head doesn’t move you forward.
So what I’m telling you is, the conversation in your head about food and body that you have doesn’t move you forward is not good enough yet. And there’s no blame, there’s nothing wrong with you. Because guess what, this happens to untold millions of girls around the world, untold millions of women around the world. Men, to a lesser degree, but still yes. So I am so wanting you to kind of expand your bandwidth, jump into the human family, start getting support from people, start getting support from your friends, get support from your husband, and start to marshal the resources that you already have and come out of your shell a little bit more. And you’re going to feel vulnerable. You’re going to feel very uncomfortable. And as life challenges go, that’s not so bad. Having to learn to love your body isn’t so bad. Gathering support from your friends and husband who loves you isn’t so bad.
Elle: Yeah. I’m looking forward to it. Yeah.
Marc: So tell me one thing for you that feels like for you an important take-away from our conversation today?
Elle: I sort of feel like the weight has been lifted off my shoulders, really. I feel like I can breathe again. And knowing that there’s a way out of this.
Marc: There is. And you’re not going to figure out that way. The way is going to show up for you. It’s showing up for you now. And it’ll continue to show up for you in different ways just as you open yourself up to receiving help. Another way of saying all this is this is about you learning to receive. This is you learning to receive.
Marc: Applying and sending in your application to be in this podcast, good for you. It’s reaching out for support and learning how to receive and sharing yourself publicly in this way. It’s giving to others but it’s also receiving because, in a weird way, it holds us accountable when we like put ourselves out in public. Your patients, I promise you, won’t give a damn about how much you weigh or what you look like. You’re fine as you are to see patients. There would be patients, if somebody feels like you need to lose 5 or 10 kilos in order for them to see you as a professional, you don’t want them as a client. It’s a waste of your money. It’s a waste of your time. Literally, it’s a waste of your time.
There will be people who only want to work for you because they’re actually comfortable with who you are and that’s not even to do with your looks, it’s just “I’m comfortable with her, I trust her, I feel safe with her.” So success-wise, inner success precedes outer success. One of the greatest ways to be successful in the outer world is be successful in the inner world first. How one is successful in the inner world is, at least in this case for you, is learning how to slowly give yourself the love, the nourishment, the acknowledgement, open up to receiving, asking for help, that’s an inner victory to just open ourselves up.
Elle: Yeah, I do find that I close myself down a lot, which I can’t—yeah, which won’t get me far.
Marc: So what I want to say to you is I know you’ve worked really hard. And I think that’s so honorable and I think that’s so amazing. And I hundred percent believe that you’re going to get where you want to go, and where you want to go is to feel free. Your weight, I promise you, will find its rightful natural place as you find your rightful natural place. It’s not like, “Okay I shape-shifted my body. I make it weigh a certain amount. And then I’m going to discover who I am and what makes me happy and…” No, no, no, no. The way it’s going to work for you, we all have a different journey. You know people, I know people who do not have to worry about their way to their body or their food and they have their perfect body and their perfect health and whatever and they’re on to the next thing.
We all have a different journey. So I encourage you to respect your journey. Your journey is the right one for you. It’s the right one to help you be the best person. And your journey gives you an interesting challenge. And the challenge is to learn how to love yourself, to open up, and to receive love and acknowledgement from others. What a good challenge to have.
Elle: Yeah. Yup, it is. Because I know that it will get me really far like it would get me out of this, so I’m feeling good about it.
Marc: Yeah, yeah. A little bit more patience. A little bit more patience. You’re going to get there. And I really want to say give yourself a little more time and space. And know that as you open up, your body open’s up. As you relax, your body relaxes. As you become more natural in terms of being you, your body becomes more natural in terms of being it. It finds its natural metabolism but it’s waiting for you. Body is just waiting for Elle to just have a little more fun, enjoy herself more.
Marc: I really appreciate you being so willing and so open and I know this wasn’t easy for you. And I know that there were a lot of tender places that got talked about. And I’m just really honored that we’re in this conversation that you hung in there.
Elle: A few touch-and-go moments.
Marc: Yeah, yeah. So I think you’re an amazing, young woman. I know you’re going to get where you want to go if you keep applying yourself. And you don’t have to work as hard as you’ve been working, really. You don’t have to work so hard.
Elle: Yay. Oh good, it’s good to hear.
Marc: Yeah, yeah. So you and I get to meet in another handful of months for a follow-up session. And in the meantime, I really want you to start to reach out for support from your friend, who’s a phone call away; from your husband; and invent other interesting ways to start to enjoy your life, your body more, and see what happens as a great experiment.
Elle: I know. Yeah. It is. I look forward to it.
Marc: Elle, thank you so much.
Elle: Thank you so much.
Marc: And thank you, everybody, for tuning in. I appreciate you being on the journey with us. Once again, I’m Marc David, on behalf of the Psychology of Eating Podcast, more to come, my friends. Take care.
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating
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