Psychology of Eating Podcast: Episode #217 – A Big Breakthrough After 42 Years of Dieting
What would it be like to have something you’ve wanted since you were 12? And now, like Deb, you’re 58, and you still don’t have it. For Deb, this ‘something’ she wants is to feel comfortable in her own skin. As she shares with Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, she has tried all the diets, and lost the weight a number of times, and nothing has worked. As they dig deeper, Deb gains 2 major insights from Marc. He empowers her to reprogram the belief ‘food is calories, must restrict calories’ to a more nourishing relationship of ‘I love food. I enjoy whole, nutritious foods and even have a treat every once in a while’. The second, and big takeaway for Deb, stems from her feeling of ‘not fitting in’ since she was a teenager. Instead of continuing to try to fit by worrying about what she looks like, or how much she weighs, Marc has another strategy. Check out this episode to see what it is!
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 are back in the Psychology of Eating podcast. And I’m with Deb today. Welcome, Deb.
Deb: Thank you. Pleasure to be here.
Marc: And I’m happy to be here too. And I am going to say a few words to viewers and listeners. And then you and I are going to jump in.
So for those of you who are new to the podcast, thanks for coming by. Deb and I are going to spend about an hour together. And we’re just meeting now officially for the first time. And we’re going to see if we could push the fast forward button on a little bit of change.
And for those of you who have been following this podcast, I’m glad you’re back. Welcome.
Miss Deb, if you could wave your magic wand and if you can get whatever you wanted to get out of this session, what would that be for you?
Deb: To lose weight without feeling overly deprived and be able to keep it off, just be steady instead of yo-yoing.
Marc: So to be able to lose weight, keep it off without it being crazy, without denying yourself, just sort of naturally.
Marc: How much weight do you want to lose?
Deb: Maybe 30 pounds.
Marc: 30 pounds. When was the last time you were at your target weight? When would have been the last time you weighed 30 pounds less than you are now?
Deb: I would say I touched down probably about 12 years ago.
Marc: About 12 years ago. And what did you do to get there?
Deb: Cut my calories and increased exercise.
Marc: Cut your calories and increased exercise. When you say, “Cut my calories,” how much did you cut your calories?
Deb: Probably to 15, 1600 a day.
Marc: Did you feel deprived?
Deb: I was motivated. It was a different time. So yes, I would say I felt deprived. I love food. So yes, when I have to cut calories like that, I do feel deprived.
Marc: So how did the weight come back on in your experience?
Deb: I go back to eating the way I had beforehand. It just never became the lifestyle change. There’s no balance. I just haven’t found the right balance to keeping it off.
Marc: So what weight do you specifically want to get down to?
Deb: Probably 135, I think.
Marc: How tall are you?
Deb: 5′ 5.5″.
Marc: So give me a sense of—what do you have for breakfast? Average breakfast. Give me a typical breakfast.
Deb: Two protein bars, 150 calories each, and some coffee. The protein bars have fiber in it. That’s why. And it’s an Atkins bar.
Marc: What time do you eat that, roughly?
Deb: About 9, 9:30. I’m at work when I do that.
Marc: Got it. And that’s a pretty typical, consistent breakfast for you?
Deb: Yeah, that’s what works for me.
Marc: Got it. Got it. Okay. When’s the next time you eat?
Deb: Depending on how hungry I am, I could have maybe a little bit of egg salad. I tend to stick with the same foods because I know what works to help me. But I’m not satisfied with that. I can’t get comfortable with allowing myself certain foods. I just don’t know what to do. So I tend to be the same.
So I might have a little egg salad and then a little bit later—so that could be anywhere between 11 and 12, usually about 12. And then at about 2, maybe sooner, I’ll have some kefir with blueberries and coconut in it.
Marc: Okay. And then when’s the next time you eat?
Marc: Which is…?
Deb: And that would be—depends. Usually close to 8.
Marc: Okay. And give me an idea of a typical dinner.
Deb: It’ll be some seafood. It could be that egg salad again that I love. I’m not big on meat. I just can’t. I’ve got aversions to chicken and meat. I’m happier being closer to vegetarian than being able to tolerate the animal protein.
Marc: Okay. So you have dinner at 8ish. Then when’s the next time you eat?
Deb: I’m enjoying a couple glasses of wine. I know that that’s probably something to consider. And then that’s it. Then if I have a little bit, maybe some fruit or some nuts within an hour afterward and then nothing more until breakfast.
Marc: So do you ever have late evening snacks after dinner other than wine? Do you ever get really hungry?
Deb: No, not typically.
Marc: Okay. So then that’s a typical diet. And on that diet, you don’t lose weight. Is that true?
Deb: Right. Because on the weekends I probably eat more. I’ll take in more calories on the weekend. And I haven’t been physically active. I just purchased a rebounder that arrived yesterday so that I can start something different.
Marc: Okay. So you’ll eat different on the weekends than during the week. That’s what you’re saying?
Deb: Maybe a little bit more. But it’s usually the same. I try to stick with the same thing because I know what works. I know what calories. So I’m more holding my own right now. I’m not really losing.
Marc: Okay. So on this way of eating that you just described, you do not lose weight?
Marc: Okay. Okay.
Deb: It’s not working.
Marc: Okay. Understood. That’s just what I wanted us to establish.
Marc: So how long have you been trying to lose weight?
Deb: Since I was 12.
Marc: Since you were 12. May I ask how old you are now?
Deb: Yeah, I’m 58.
Marc: Okay. So a couple of years you’ve been doing this. Since 12—give me a sense, why 12? What happened? What went down? What was going on?
Deb: Oh, I’ll tell you very specifically. My mother got remarried. My mother had gotten divorced when I was 10. She got married. They blended a family. And that was okay. I was living in Brooklyn and Queens, accustomed to the city schools. And then we moved to Long Island. So that was when I was 13. Cliques, completely different. Just a completely different culture. And I was lost. My biological father bowed out of our lives. So there’s abandonment and trust issues, the blended family. My brother and I didn’t have my mother the same way that we had. I hated the school I was in. I gained 50 pounds.
So we moved when I was going into 8th grade. So I started junior high in Queens. And even though that was a different school, I had a great year. I was able to make friends still. But I didn’t fit in. And that’s really what has stayed with me through the years after we moved. I never fit in. And I’m trying to work that through still. Almost there, but it’s a long, long time of just not feeling—it was just very different.
Marc: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So married? Kids?
Deb: Divorced. Two boys—29 and 32. Two grandchildren—almost 5 and 16 months, two more boys.
Deb: Thank you. Thank you.
Marc: Yes, yes, yes. So you mentioned when we were chitchatting before we went live you’re a dietician.
Deb: Yes, I am.
Marc: When? When did that happen?
Deb: That happened—I started school. The kids were 6 and 9. And I had been divorced for a number of years. Didn’t know what to go to school for. Knew and always felt this is going to be great. I just got such a great feeling about it. But they don’t teach you what you do, what IPE does. So because my kids have weight issues and certainly because of me, I thought, “This is what’s going to make the difference.” But 17 years, and I haven’t found it yet. But I did, now. I will be able to go into my own practice because of this program, because of IPE.
Marc: So have you been practicing as a dietician, working somewhere, or just kind of…? Help me understand.
Deb: I’m a renal dietician.
Marc: Oh, really?
Deb: So I work—yes, yes.
Deb: I work in dialysis.
Marc: Oh, wow!
Deb: Yeah, but it’s so unfulfilling. So I became a dietician because naturally I’m a counselor. I just have that inherently and always have except that we’re not taught really counseling. And we’re not taught how to really help people. And the renal patients, the ones who are non adherent aren’t interested in changing. And that’s very frustrating because we get pressured to have outcomes. And we’re having a hard time achieving them. So I’ve done long term care. I’ve been in food service. So I haven’t found my place yet.
Marc: Yeah, it sounds like you want to work one on one with people.
Marc: Okay. So let’s say you lost the weight. Let’s say we waved our magic wand. We had this superpower. You’re 30 pounds less. It’s permanent, don’t even have to worry about it. Who is this new Deb now? What’s different about her?
So this is an important goal for you. I understand. So usually when we have an important goal, we have an idea of what’s going to happen once we get that goal. So I’m interested in what you tell yourself and how you imagine life will be when you are this new person at this new body with this new weight.
Deb: I don’t have delusions anymore. I have enough life experience to understand that—I know myself well enough to know. I will just be more comfortable within my own body. It’s not going to—I have a boyfriend. We’ve been living together for a couple of years. So it’s not like, “Oh, if I lose this weight, it’s going to help me meet more people.” Been there, done that. Doesn’t really—it matters to a degree. But not necessarily.
So I just want to be comfortable in my own skin. And that will help me just be more comfortable, be healthier. I’m in great health—got some aches and pains. I’d like to work that out. So it’s for health reasons more than—Well, no. It’s not all for health reasons.
Marc: Thank you for catching that.
Deb: Yeah, I did. I did. It’s not, because I’m healthy. So it’s just personal.
Deb: It was just like getting my master’s degree. That was personal.
Marc: Yeah, so it sounds like, on one level, it’s a goal that you want to hit. “This is personal. I just want to get there. I’ve been trying to get there a long time.” You mentioned the word, “I’m going to feel more comfortable a number of times.
I just want to play, just for a moment—just for a moment. Comfortable is an interesting word. When I say comfortable, when you say comfortable, everybody has a different notion when we say comfortable.
Deb: It’s relative, yes.
Marc: So I’m just wondering for you, if we broke it down a little bit more, “I feel more comfortable in my body when I lose this weight.” Just give me more words around that. What does that mean for you—comfortable?
Deb: Just having less gut, less abdomen. Less self conscious about my body. And being able to dress the way I want to dress. That doesn’t really have to do with comfort, though. But maybe just feeling more satisfied. Yeah, I’m having a hard time putting that together, defining that for you.
Marc: Yeah, yeah. Understood. So let me see if I can piece some of the things that you said. You want to be able to wear clothes that you want to wear. So I’m thinking of myself, if I can’t wear clothes that I want to wear that I have in my closet, yeah, that’s a little uncomfortable. I want to wear that, not that. So it gives you a more choice, a little more freedom.
It sounds like you’re going to feel better about yourself. It sounds like you’re going to just like yourself better. If you look at your belly and go, “Oh, it’s thinner than it used to be. It’s got less fat than it used to have.”
Deb: Yeah, yes.
Marc: Okay. Okay, I get it. so thank you for hanging in there with me on that question.
Deb: No, thank you.
Marc: Yeah. Sometimes, it’s all in the details. And it’s just good to understand. With each other, I never want to take for granted when—in this kind of conversation if somebody says, “Well, I want to feel more comfortable.”
I have to know what you mean by that, not what I mean by that. I don’t necessarily think we’re in agreement or that I know what you’re talking about. So part of this is really understanding how you’re thinking about all these things. So I’m just explaining why I’m kind of focusing on certain things.
So is your mother still alive?
Marc: How old is she?
Deb: She’ll be 80 in April.
Marc: Are you guys close?
Deb: Yes. Yes, I moved here because I have family here. My kids are in New York. But New York is too tough.
Marc: Got it.
Deb: But yeah, we are close. And we’ve always had an exceedingly close relationship, not necessarily the healthiest. But yeah, we are close.
Marc: So if I was talking to her in a private conversation right now. And I said, “Mama, your daughter wants to lose this weight. She’s been in a little bit of a battle for a long time. What do you think is going on, Mama Deb?” If I asked her, what would she say?
Deb: She would probably take some ownership because of the situation. She married someone solid. She married somebody who she thought would be there for us. And he was. He’s amazing. My dad is amazing.
Marc: It’s your stepdad.
Deb: Yeah, but he adopted us.
Deb: But the biological father—
Marc: Doesn’t make—yeah.
Marc: Got it. Got it.
Deb: So yeah, and he’s turning 90 in April. So she would say she understands the struggle. We’ve spoken about it a little bit more because I keep struggling to find my place and being comfortable in my own skin. And feeling like I belong.
So yeah, she would like take some ownership. She feels terrible. It’s the gene pool. That’s part of it as well. She’s had her own struggles. She has eater’s remorse every time she puts something in her mouth that we would categorize as that bad food.
Marc: Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Understood. Okay.
So I think I’ve got enough information for us to start to play around in a different way and maybe see if we can hone in on some places to work here. So what I’d like to do is give me a minute or two. I’d like to say some things to you like general remarks so far.
So I’ve asked questions. I’ve gathered some information that’s helpful to me. So I’m just kind of going to feed back to you what my mind is gathering from this conversation, first in the big picture. Then we’re going to drill down a little bit.
Marc: Make sense?
Marc: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So you’ve been at this for awhile there, young lady.
Marc: This is not just something that we’re talking about began two years ago. So we’re talking 40-something years of being in relationship with one’s body, with one’s weight. And I just want to acknowledge that that’s intense. And that’s a long road. And that’s not easy.
Marc: So it’s not easy. I don’t want to gloss over this. This is not just a conversation about losing a freaking bunch of pounds because this has been something that has been occupying you essentially since you’ve been a child and has followed you through your teens, your 20s, your 30s, your 40s, through marriage, through kids, through grandkids, and into this moment. So I just want to say that that’s not an easy journey for anyone. It really isn’t. So first off, I am honored that we’re in this conversation.
Deb: I am as well. Thank you.
Marc: I am glad for you that you are still standing for yourself. So what’s happening is that you’ve been on a long journey here. And I’m just acknowledging. And with all due respect, you’re not the only one who has been on this crazy journey.
Marc: As we all know, this grips so many people. This grips so many women. So my perspective—before I go any further, I just want to let you know. My orientation, my perspective here is, especially when I’m speaking to a woman who’s in your age group whose of queen age, my ears are particularly sharp right now because we’re not at the beginning of the game.
It’s not like you’re 20 years old and you have your whole life ahead of you. This is something that I want to get handled for you way sooner than later. We’re not going to take another 42 years.
Deb: That’s good!
Marc: Okay. But I need you to understand that that’s my perspective. I don’t want you to have to waste another minute. So anything that I say to you—huh. Your screen is—
Deb: I’m here. Yeah, I know.
Deb: Someone just left a message. Sorry.
Marc: Got it. Okay. So—hang on. I’m just getting back my train of thought.
Deb: I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
Marc: Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, no, no. Don’t apologize. Let me just pick up on where I was.
So my perspective is that you’ve got to switch gears. And you’ve got to switch gears quickly because whatever you’ve been doing—I don’t care what it is. I don’t care how smart you think it is. I don’t care how clever. I don’t care how scientific. It hasn’t worked.
Marc: Shakespeare—“The proof is in the pudding.” Okay. So nothing has worked permanently, sustainably. So from that perspective, my mind starts to look for, “Okay, what have you been doing that ain’t working, number one? What’s going on? What’s motivating you here? What’s driving you? And what’s really underneath all this?”
So essentially to me, there are two key places you need to work.
Marc: I’m going to tell you key place number two, the less important one first. Okay. But there are two key places. Both are very important for you. Here’s number two—least important but still important.
When I was asking questions about food—and when we jumped in together, I usually don’t ask questions about, “Okay, what do you eat? What do you eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner?” I usually save that to the end. I wanted to do it with you first in part because I know you’re a dietician, in part because you just have more information swimming in your head about that kind of stuff that is useful and that can also get in the way because a little bit of knowledge is good and a little bit of knowledge could also be dangerous.
Deb: Yes. Yeah.
Marc: So for you being a dietician is a huge advantage, and it’s a huge disadvantage, both. So here’s where it’s a disadvantage. You said to me several times. You used the same language even. When I was asking you what you eat, you said, “I know what works for me. I eat the same thing because I know what works.”
Marc: “Because I know what works.”
Deb: Yeah. Right.
Marc: And I want to remove that comment. It’s more you eat that way because you have found a certain comfort zone that somehow you believe is kind of like home base when you’re playing tag. You run back to home base. It’s your safe place. It actually doesn’t move you forward.
Deb: No, it doesn’t.
Marc: So what I want to say is the way you eat doesn’t advance you in terms of where you want to go. Your belief system about food has co-opted your mind a bit. And at the end of the day, I need you eating food. I need you eating a real freaking breakfast. I need you eating food for breakfast. If it’s up to me, you would never eat another bar for the rest of your life.
Deb: I agree. Thank you.
Marc: And it’s not that I have anything against bars. But for you—for you, for you!—I need you to eat food at breakfast. And it could be eggs. It could be egg salad, even if it’s a little bit. I want you to eat real food at breakfast. I want you to have a real lunch.
Marc: What’s happening is you are so skewing how you are doing food you’re probably eating the bulk of your calories in the latter half of your day, if I had a guess.
Deb: That’s fair, yeah. Yeah.
Marc: Yeah, the majority of your calories are coming in the latter part of your waking day. We’ve got to shift that. We have to shift that. It’s a little bit of a tweak. But we have to give your body the signal that we’re going to be revving up your system from morning until late afternoon. That’s when we do all our hunting and gathering. That’s when we do our activity.
And what you’re trying to do—because there’s a little fear of food. There’s a little fear of calories in there. So there’s a part of you that’s holding off because food is the enemy. A bar doesn’t look like food. Bar is like substitute food. You’re actually trying to not eat food when you’re eating a bar. You’re actually trying to not eat food when you have a little bit of egg salad. You’re fueling yourself. You are not eating. You are fueling.
At dinnertime, that’s when you start to eat. You let down your guard a little bit. My guess is, the wine is probably the one time you truly enjoy what you’re taking in.
Marc: Okay. So the way you experience wine is the way I want you to experience food. That’s what we’re going to shoot for. “Oh my god, I love this breakfast.” I want you to eat food that you love that you know is healthy for you.
Now, I’m going to bet that you know what’s healthy for you and you know what tastes good. And I’m pretty sure of that.
Marc: So it has to be like food. I want you to pretend that what you eat doesn’t have calories. You don’t see food. You literally don’t see food. You see calories.
Deb: I see calories.
Marc: You see calories. Until you start to unwind that, we’re not going to get where we need to go with you. You’re not going to get where you need to go. It’s no different than—you were married. You had a husband. For whatever reason, it didn’t work out. You got divorced. And you say, “Men suck. Husbands suck. Marriage is no good. Relationship is no good.” And every time you see a man, you see bad. That is going to really limit your life.
If you have a dog and that dog doesn’t work out for whatever reason and then you spend the rest of your life being afraid of dogs, that’s kind of what’s happening here.
So you’ve labeled food as calories. And because of that, there is a place in you where you are living in a low level stress response that literally hijacks your metabolism.
Is there is a scientific basis for that? Yes. Is what I’m saying conjecture? Yes. Is it based on observation and years of experience? You bet. So in my experience, what I believe is that mind and emotions are so powerful that they can hijack metabolism in such a way that it will alter the body.
I see this time and time again. People release a long-held stress, a long-held trauma, a long-held toxic belief. And their metabolism changes.
So we, meaning you—you have to start to reprogram yourself. You cannot continue on with the false belief that food equals calories. There is no animal in nature that does that. And up until 60 years ago, no human ever thought that. “Food is calories. Food is calories. Food is calories.”
But when you say, “Food is calories,” really what you’re saying is, “Food is the enemy. Food is the enemy. Food makes me fat. Food makes me fat. Control my calories.”
And then what’s happening is your body is defending against something. It’s seeing food as the enemy. Every time you eat, your body goes into a response. Every time the brain perceives enemy, we go into some degree of stress chemistry. You keep yourself in a low level stress chemistry that will function to lock in the very weight you want to lose.
So I could never help you lose weight. If I was getting paid $20 million to help you lose weight—I’m getting paid $20 million to help you lose it permanently, this is exactly what I would do to get my 20 million bucks. I want that $20 million. I’m very motivated right now. I’m making this up in my mind. I’m going to get $20 million. I want that money. So if I want that money, actually the first thing I have to handle with you is usually the last thing I handle with most people.
This concept in you is so strong, it has hijacked your brain. It has hijacked your brain. So you need to start unwinding. Every time you see food, I want you to catch yourself. “No, that’s not calories. That’s food.”
I want you to literally return to who you were when you were 9 years old and you just ate. I want you to look at that food. And I want you to have a smile on your face because part of it—
Wait, wait. Let me just make sure before I—I’m going to start to get into number one. So the piece about food, the piece about nutrition is that we have to get you seeing food as food. So I’m just telling you to turf. I’m telling you what we would do to get there. I’m trying to cram in a lot of time into one little place here.
You have to start to relax with food because you don’t know what food does in your body. You say, “I know what works.” What I want to say to you is you actually tell yourself that. But you don’t. You don’t know. You make that up in your head simply because it’s comfortable because it’s not making you gain anymore weight.
Marc: In your brain, you’re thinking, “Okay, this is going to make me not gain anymore weight.” But what you’ve landed on is a place where, because you’re not actually eating enough food in the first half of your day, your body is taking notice. Your body is going, “Huh. Not enough food.” And this has been going on for mostly years and years and years and years and years.
“I must be in a survival situation. I must be in an environment where there ain’t enough food.” And whenever the human body, whenever any mammalian body is in a situation where there is not enough food in the environment, metabolism slows down. It’s a very simple survival mechanism.
Not enough food in the environment, you slow down metabolism. You burn calories slowly. You don’t muscle build. You conserve energy. Right now, if you and I were stranded on a desert island, to the day, our metabolism would slow down because the brain wisely perceives, “Oh my goodness, lack of food. Body needs to survive as long as possible. Store fat. Don’t build muscle. Burn really slow.”
So you’re giving your body that signal while at the same time your brain is thinking this is good. And it’s actually the opposite. It makes sense to the rational mind because you’ve been taught calories in, calories out.
Weight on my body equals the amount of calories in versus how many calories I burn. And that’s completely not true. It’s an antiquated model. It sounds correct. But the human body is not a pure input/output calorie burning machine. It does not work that way.
Science has already proven that. We can go into a discussion about that. I don’t want to go there because I want to make sure I have enough time to help you get where you want to go. So we may return to this piece because there’s so much to say about it. But I don’t have enough time to really drill down because that’s going to take time. I’m just trying to tell you the places you need to work.
Here’s number one. Here’s what’s most important. And I’m just thinking how to word this so it’s most complete and comprehensive. You were very clear. When I asked you, “So why do you think this has been a challenge for you?” you went right there. And personally, I think you’re right.
And what you essentially said is you went back to a time in your history that was very vulnerable where you were at a time in your life—puberty, age 12ish, age 13ish. That’s hard enough for a human being. Going through puberty in the United States of America is hard. People don’t understand that. It’s hard because we get a lot of nonsense input.
Puberty is a very, very sensitive time. Psychologists call it a time when we are imprint vulnerable. All of a sudden, your sexuality is exploding. As a woman, you’re releasing more estrogen. You’re actually releasing a little bit more testosterone. Your sex drive is coming online. Your feelings, different emotions, are coming online. Your body is changing. Guys are noticing you. You’re noticing. Stuff is happening.
And we need such exquisite mentoring at that time. We need exquisite understanding. And instead, you were thrown into chaos. At the same time, you moved. You went from an environment you were completely familiar with and comfortable with to an environment that you weren’t familiar with and weren’t comfortable with. You didn’t have your biological father anymore. He abandoned you. That sucks.
So you wrap all that together. And you’re in a new environment. And you don’t fit in. You’re a city kid in a suburban environment. You might as well have been in a foreign country. It’s true.
Marc: Not speaking the language.
Deb: It is. Absolutely.
Marc: If you haven’t had that experience, you won’t understand it. It’s big for a 12 or a 13 year old. So what I’m acknowledging here is that, to me, what you said is accurate. To me, what you said is correct. You’ve identified, “Okay, wow! Something was set in motion at this point.”
What was set in motion? So there was—how do we say this? There was a little perturbance in the system. There is some sand in the oyster. And what happens when there is a perturbance in the system that doesn’t quite get handled is it reproduces itself in more elegant ways as we get older.
So that perturbance in your system which you actually named was, “I don’t fit in.” You said several times, “I didn’t fit in. I didn’t fit in.” You also mentioned essentially, “I’m still trying to fit in.”
Marc: So on one level—and I’m saying this as your friend, mentor, coach—on one level, you’re living with this mantra, with this billboard that goes across your visual screen called, “I don’t fit in.” And it’s an overlay that impacts every part of your life, not just your body.
Deb: Everything, yes.
Marc: It impacts everything. “I don’t fit in.” Why does that, “I don’t fit in” come across your screen day in and day out? It’s because of this time in your life when it is the most important time of your life to start to feel like I fit in when we’re going through puberty. We are desperate, when you’re in your teens, to fit in.
That’s what the teenage mind wants. It wants to start to find its place in the world with other humans of its age group. “Where do I fit in? Who am I? Do you like me? Am I attractive? Am I pretty? Am I okay? Talk to me. Be with me. I want to fit in.”
And you so got the message that you didn’t fit in because there was so much chaos going on for you that you turned to the easiest substitute to make yourself feel good which is food. So the fact that you gained weight at that time makes 100% perfect sense because it was the way that you knew to regulate your emotions which were probably so intense to deal with what you were dealing with. Very intense. I get it.
Marc: I understand that. So you are still trying to actually recover from that time.
Marc: And that’s the thing about us humans, Deb. And I know you know this. It’s like, yeah, there’s a part of you that’s a woman and a part of you that’s achieved and accomplished. You’ve raised kids. You have grandkids. You’ve made a place for yourself in the world. And arguably, there’s a place where you fit in.
But you don’t experience that. It’s not how you live in your body. What your body tells you because all these messages that have been going across your screen—“I don’t fit in; I don’t fit in”—live in your body, your body doesn’t feel like it fits in. All of it feels like it doesn’t fit in.
So here’s what happens. Here’s what the mind does—not just your mind. Here’s what your mind has done. But this is what minds do. “Okay, let’s see. I don’t fit in. I don’t fit in. I don’t fit in. I want to fit in. How do I fit in? I know. Change my body.” Why? Because the world tells me that. Media tells me that. Culture tells me that. Magazines, internet, movies tell me if I have a nicer body, I’m going to fit in.
Why? Because you’ve been told that since you’ve been a little freaking kid. “Go to Weight Watchers; you’ll fit in. Diet; you’ll fit in. Look at the boys. They’re going after this girl, that girl. If you look like that, you’ll fit in.”
So you still have in your mind that if I shift my body I will have my place in the world. I will fit in. So you have it. It’s kind of your religion. It’s like commandment number one. You believe this religiously. We all believe things religiously oftentimes. One of the religious beliefs that you have is, “If I lose weight, I will fit in.”
What I want to say to you is that it’s completely false. That is a false notion. You fit in no matter what. Does Oprah fit in? Is she an outsider? Does everybody hate her? Is she worthy of disgust? Or should be dieting Oprah so she could fit in? How many women do you know in your life, or have you met or seen, who are big women who fit in?
Deb: Right. They’re comfortable in their own skin.
Deb: Right, yeah. And the correlation you’re making—the fitting in. Right. It’s the comfort in my own body. Right. Okay. Got it.
Deb: Got it.
Marc: So here’s what happens for you. You have a belief. The 12 or 13 year old girl in you is very clever. She’s a smart 12 or 13 year old girl. This is my challenge right now. Most 12 or 13 year old girls have a lot to learn. They’re not that bright. They’ve only been on the planet 12 or 13 years. The same for boys. But you’ve got a smart 12 or 13 girl in you.
And she still believes that her way is going to get her where she wants to go. She believes that if I do this kind of diet, this kind of strategy, if I keep doing this—somehow, somehow, somehow, somehow, despite the fact that I’ve been trying these same things for 40 years—somehow this is going to get me where I want to go.
Now, here’s the thing. I want to think of the best way to say this. You’re still waiting to be invited to the party is what it feels like to me. You’re still waiting to be invited to the party. And the reality is there is no party out there. It’s life.
This is your life. It’s all happening. I am trying to tell you there is nothing to get invited to. There is nothing to fit in. You have been doing your life. You’re trying to get to a place that doesn’t exist. And it’s called fitting in. What does that mean? You translate that into, “I’m going to be more comfortable.”
But you use that in a circular way. “Okay, well, when I lose weight, I’m going to be more comfortable because I’m going to fit in. I’m going to have this feeling. And when I have this feeling, then I’m going to be okay about myself.”
And what I’m trying to tell you is that feeling—you’ve had that feeling. Years ago when you came close to your target weight. And it didn’t stay. It didn’t get you there. Your diet didn’t keep you there. The system you created, you pretty much got where you wanted to go. And it didn’t work is what I’m trying to tell you because the system itself—you reaching a target weight—what I am trying to tell you will not get you where you want to go.
And the way you’re trying to get to your target weight, does it even get you to your target? There’s no way to get to your target weight.
Marc: There’s no way. Who you are being right now cannot get to your target weight.
So what I am saying to you is, for a period of time, you have to get off drugs. And the drug for you is dieting, focusing on food, focusing on my weight, focusing on losing this weight, focusing on getting to this goal. That’s become a drug for you. It’s literally the place you go to get juice. It actually gives you something to do. It actually motivates you. It gives you energy.
Does it take away your energy sometimes? Absolutely. Does it drain your energy? Absolutely. But it’s so familiar to you. It’s like an old friend.
Deb: Yeah. Very old, ingrained friend.
Marc: Yes. And in a lot of ways, to move forward, you have to become no longer your mother’s daughter. You have to become your own woman. Right now, there’s a place where you are still being a young girl in your own mind and in your own experience.
Now, for sure, I want you to always have that young person in you. I want me to have that. I want us all to always have access to that.
But I don’t want them driving the car. I don’t want them running your life. I don’t want the 12 or 13-year-old girl running your life. She runs your diet. She actually runs your relationship with your body. She runs the show. When you and I are in dialogue about most of this stuff, I’m going to say 75% of the time we’ve got a 12 or 13-year-old girl that I’m talking to.
And now, it is time for you to understand that you are not that girl anymore. We’ve got to get you more into present time and get you to see that there is not party out there to get invited to. You’re the party.
There is no, “Okay, I fit in now.” Fit into what? To what? Where? Here’s your boyfriend. Here are your kids. Here are your grandkids. That’s where you fit in. Here’s where you live. That’s where you fit in. Okay, you’re doing a job right now that you’re good at that you’ve been doing for awhile. And you’re transitioning out of it, great! You’ve been here. And now you’re going to fit into this other place. You’re doing your life.
It’s almost like you’re trying to get something that you have. And you’re running around thinking you don’t have something. And I’m over here going, “Why are we running around like this?”
I’m very serious about this, by the way, that you thinking that you don’t fit in—I’m just raising my hand over here. I’m trying to tell you that this is not just you. There are these mantras, these commandments that drive us, that literally drive the car of our life. “I don’t fit in” drives your car. It’s automatic. It’s unconscious. It just does itself because that’s what has been happening since 12 or 13. You haven’t figured out yet. But we’re doing that today.
And this is going to be hard to hold. This is going to be hard for you to hold and anchor inside yourself because you haven’t been thinking this. But you fit in. And you fit in for one reason—because you say so, because you’re a woman, and this is your life.
Who’s going to tell you, you fit in? Nobody sends you a certificate. Nobody sends a graduation thing. There’s not committee that says, “Congratulations, Deb. You’ve not lost 30 pounds. You finally fit in. We love you now.” Nobody does that.
Marc: The only person who graduates you is you. Previously, you have determined that you will graduate yourself when you lose X number of pounds. And what I am telling you is that is a backwards strategy, that you have to graduate yourself now. You have to fit in now. And if you want any hopes of shape shifting your body—I’ve got no problem with you wanting to lose weight. I’ve got a problem the way you’ve been going about it.
I want you to get where you want to go. But first and foremost, I need you to be the person you’re supposed to be. You cannot cheat the body. You cannot cheat life.
It’s kind of like saying, “I want to climb a 15,000 foot mountain.” And you get in a helicopter. And they drop you off at the top. And you go, “I did it! Ain’t I cool?” No, you didn’t hike the mountain.
Marc: If you want to hike the mountain, you actually hike the mountain. So in order to shape shift the body, for many, many humans, the first move is not changing your diet, eating less, exercising more. For many humans, the first move is to become the person we’re supposed to be before the body can shift itself.
You keep trying to put one thing before another that’s not in its rightful order. You think you’re going to be a happy person when you lose weight. No, you’re going to be a happier person when you’re a happier person. You’re going to fit in when you finally freaking say to yourself, “Oh, you know something? Let’s look at the evidence of my life.”
So really what I’m asking you to do is drop all this nonsense for a time.
Marc: I’m asking you to drop weight loss. I am asking you to start to trust. Okay, here’s the hard part. Here’s the hard part. You don’t trust your body. You don’t trust your body.
Deb: No. Oh no, no!
Deb: I don’t.
Marc: So you don’t trust your body. You don’t trust the process of nourishment. You don’t trust that if I nourish myself my body will find its natural place. You think I have to deny myself. And I have to manipulate my food for my body to reach its rightful place. You think I have to worry about shit for my body to reach its rightful place. You don’t trust.
Now, in order to learn trust, you’re going to have to take some risks. You’re going to have to let life prove to you what’s going on. So I don’t know if you weigh yourself. I want you to not weigh yourself for a couple of months.
Marc: I want you to make a menu for yourself, a menu of three, four choices to eat for breakfast that have some healthy protein and healthy fat in it. I don’t care what else it has. I want you to have a lunch, an actual lunch—as best you can, and actual lunch that is more robust than the lunch you’re having now if at all possible. What?
Marc: Sure, eat bread.
Deb: I’m so—
Marc: Am I saying eat two loaves?
Deb: No, no.
Marc: Yes. Yes, of course you can eat bread. Eat bread.
Deb: I’m so carb-phobic.
Marc: Yes. Yeah, so this is what I’m saying. You have to start to let go of that and exercise flexibility because your tweaking your metabolism by the intense stress and the intense thinking that goes on in your mind. And your body is creating a fight-or-flight response against food.
So the only way that shifts is that you start to get accustomed to food. The only way you’re going to get comfortable around dogs if you’re afraid of dogs is if, okay, here’s a nice friendly little dog that never bites. Pet it. And you’re going to be scared petting that dog. And it might be the tiniest little thing with no teeth. But you’re going to be looking at it like it’s a big bulldog going to eat you up. And you’ve got to learn that it’s not that.
So I am asking you to do completely different than what you’ve been doing for 40 years—completely different. What I am saying to you in all honesty is if you continue the way you’ve been going, you will not get where you want to go at all. And you will just get more frustrated. And that’s not fair to you.
So you have to step into your womanhood in a whole different way. In relationship to food and in relationship to your body, I need you to start being a queen. I need you to sit on your throne.
When a queen sits on her throne, she doesn’t say to her minions—she doesn’t say, “Hey, everybody, is this okay if I eat this? Is it okay if I eat a piece of bread? Do I look okay? If I lose 30 pounds, will you love me more?” Nobody is going to listen to that queen. Nobody’s going to follow her.
But if you sit on your throne and you go, “Hey, this is me. This is where I’m at. And I’m a good person. And I’m acceptable. And I’m lovable because I say so. Might I want to change my body? Sure. Here is me for now. Here is me experimenting with my diet.”
Own yourself. Own the experience. Start to trust. Start to notice when your 12 or 13-year-old girl takes over because she has taken over quite a bit. And I need you to catch that. I need you to start to catch yourself and slowly—this is going to take some time.
I’m going to say for you, this would take a year of practice. With a year of practice, this is not just about you and weight, this is about you reclaiming your life because this is gripping you right now. This occupies a significant portion of your airtime.
Marc: So now is the time to change that. You have to get really clear that you’re going to bust through to the other side. Busting through to the other side doesn’t mean losing weight. It doesn’t mean finally eating 1500 calories a day and really controlling this so I could lose the weight.
It means doing some different. Doing something different number one—to slowly deprogram yourself around calories. It takes time. You’re not going to do it overnight.
Deb: Oh, no. No. I know that.
Marc: But you have to make that commitment to yourself. Just because you make a commitment doesn’t mean it’s going to happen overnight. It doesn’t mean you know exactly how to do it. We commit to things. We make a commitment till death do we part. We don’t know how to do relationship. You learn on the job.
Marc: So this is something you’re going to be learning on the job of how to begin to see food for what it really it is. Food is not calories. Food is food. Is that one aspect of food? Sure, but it’s very limited. And we know way less about it than we think.
The other piece I need you to be constantly reminding yourself of—and I mean this—is you have to have a mantra in your head that says something to the effect of—you find the words—“I fit in. I now fit in.” You have to choose to fit in. You have to choose to make your life okay. You have to choose to make your body okay. The fact is, as far as I can tell, your boyfriend and your kids and your grandkids aren’t banging down the door, telling you to lose a bunch of weight.
Deb: No. No.
Marc: So as it turns out, you fit in. And you’re living life as if you don’t. I’m serious about this.
Deb: Okay. Right.
Marc: That’s not good. That’s not okay. And it’s a simple shift—not easy, but simple in concept. So I need you to keep your eyes on there because the painful part, a part of you that this feels hard—and I understand that part—is the part of you that’s that 12 or 13-year-old girl going, “Holy shit!”
I need you to see that that 13-year-old girl is still with you. But you’ve surpassed her. You’re not that girl anymore. You’re not her.
Deb: No. No, no.
Marc: She’s a part of your past. But you’re not her anymore. You’re lovable. And you’re acceptable. And you’ve made a life for yourself. And you fit in. And you have to get that in your bones and in your cells. You have to remind yourself of that every single day because you’ve been reminding yourself of the opposite of that every single day for decades now.
So it’s going to take a little bit of air time to go, “Wait a second. No, I fit in. This is my world. These are my people. This is my experience.” And you know something? If somebody shows up on your movie and says, “You know something, Deb? You don’t fit into my world. I don’t like you. I don’t like your weight.” Good! Cross them off the list because they don’t fit in your world.
If someone is going to be such a knucklehead that they say something like that to you, you should be happy about that because you know that’s not your people. That’s not your tribe. And you don’t want to fit in with them for that very reason. Are you with me?
Deb: I’m with you.
Marc: Okay. So we are at that time. I’ve gone a little over because you’re not easy because you’ve been doing this a long time. And I really wanted to make sure that I was being very clear and very direct because I want you to remember what we’ve spoken and what we talked about.
But I’m just wondering—because I’ve been doing a lot of yakking here—what are you taking away from this?
Deb: Well, it’s a lot. It’s a lot. And I’ve been in therapy. I’m currently in therapy. So it’s not like I haven’t tried to address this and be comfortable in my own skin as I listen to you with the teachings and trying to own that because I’ve heard you say this. And I think, “How do I do this myself? Take that little girl and let that go, let that past go?” And it’s so huge. It’s just unbelievable.
Marc: Okay. Yeah.
Deb: But it’s going to take work, like you said. But I enjoy food. So for you to say, “Enjoy food.” And so much I don’t. But when I do let myself have it, I enjoy it. And you’re saying that I should be enjoying it every time I eat.
Marc: Every time.
Deb: Every time. And not the bar because I eat the bar. And it’s just a means to an end. I’m at work. It’s quick. It’s easy. No, it doesn’t work for me. You’re right. Nothing what I’ve been doing works for me. So yeah, change my fit-in. Change that mantra because I get that loud and clear. And I still have to process it.
Deb: I hear you say that. And I can do it. But it’s huge. This is so many years.
Marc: Yes. It is huge. But I also want to say this. It’s big. But by no means is it impossible. By no means is it even as difficult as you think. Just because something is big doesn’t mean it’s difficult. I don’t want you to confuse those two.
What I want you to understand is that the road is very simple and clear. The road, the way you get there is you remind yourself every day. You catch yourself every day. You are learning how to talk to yourself differently. You are creating a different conversation with yourself inside yourself. So you make sure to converse with yourself daily in a different way.
You make sure that when you start to notice, “Oh, I’m looking at food as calories,” take a deep breath. Notice that. It might be impossible for you to change that in the moment. And then you go to yourself, “That’s just me, looking at food as calories. Not even a big deal. Let me see if I can eat this and enjoy it anyway.” So it’s kind of not making a big deal of it even though it’s a big deal.
Deb: Right. Right.
Marc: Little bit of a paradox. I don’t want the bigness of it to stun you so much so that you don’t do anything, so much so that you just have to start to talk about it and think about it and hypothesize about it. No, therapy is great. Coaching is great. And I love it. And you don’t need it. And it’s great. And it’s helpful. You don’t need to figure out anything else.
There is no hidden information that’s going to change everything at that point. That’s all I want to tell you. There is nothing you’re going to learn—“Oh, I just have to do that and then this is going to go away.” It’s not about this going away. It’s you learning how to master it because you know something?
There are going to be moments for the best of eaters where they feel guilt. There are going to be moments where you’re going to look at, “Oh my god. I shouldn’t eat that. That’s going to be fattening.” You’ll never be 100% free. But that’s fine. Be 90% free. Be 80% free. Being 98% doesn’t—as long as you get it into the high numbers, you’re great. You’ll be doing absolutely fine. It’s not about perfection. You know what I’m saying?
Deb: Yeah, yeah. No, I just need to relax about it.
Marc: Yeah. So this is big. You have a wonderful task in front of you. I think you have everything you need, honestly, as a person to do this. I really want you to get there. I really want you to see that this is the time. This is the time in your life to actually start to make this change and to start to make this shift.
And it’s you just making that choice even though you don’t know exactly how you’re going to get there. Just make that agreement with your own self, your own soul. I think all the wisdom will start to come to you, the hints and the help and the unseen allies will show up as you make a deep inner choice. Yeah, that’s what I want to say to you.
Deb: Okay. I embrace this. I do. I’m up for it. And it’s time because it’s just beating me up. And it’s really old.
Marc: It is.
Deb: Really, really old.
Marc: Agree. I totally agree with that. Deb, thank you so, so much for being so willing and being so wonderful and really letting us into your world in a really powerful way. This wasn’t necessarily an easy conversation because I dropped a lot of big pieces in your side of the court there. And you’ve just been very gracious. And I really appreciate you.
Deb: Oh, I appreciate you. So thank you very much.
Marc: Okay. And thank you everybody for tuning in. Thanks for being on this journey with us. Once again, I’m Marc David on behalf of the Psychology of Eating podcast. Always more to come, my friends. Take care.
I hope this was helpful. Thanks for listening to the Psychology of Eating podcast. To learn more about the breakthrough body of work we teach here at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, please sign up for our free video series at IPE.tips. That’s I for Institute, P for Psychology, E for Eating.tips. T-i-p-s. You’ll learn about the cutting-edge principles of dynamic eating psychology and mind/body nutrition that have helped millions of people forever transform their relationship with food, body, and health.
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