Psychology of Eating Podcast: Episode #229 – Sexual Abuse, Food & Weight
Celeste experienced sexual abuse at 8 years old… it’s now 50 years later, and she knows her weight and binge eating in secret are directly connected to the trauma. Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, gently uncovers more to the story so she can move from understanding this connection, to breaking free from her unwanted binge eating. He invites her to see that she is understandably turning to chocolate, a pleasurable food, to medicate from not knowing how to deal with being abused, and actually being sent to bed with no food by her Mother when she told the truth. The twist is, eating the chocolate is also done in secret with an element of shame to it, so she is in a sense recreating the trauma every time, because it’s a comfort zone in a sense. Check out this episode to see the new insights and practices Celeste and Marc discuss so that she can finally be free…. and still keep her chocolate, thank goodness!
Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:
Marc: Welcome, everybody, I’m Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. And we’re back in the Psychology of Eating Podcast. And I am with the lovely Celeste today. Welcome, Celeste!
Celeste: Thank you!
Marc: I’m glad we’re here. And let me just say a couple of quick words to viewers and listeners. And then, you and I will jump in. If you are a returnee to this podcast, thank you, thank you, thank you for being a part of our world. I so appreciate it. If you’re new, and this is the first time you’re listening to a session, Celeste and I are going to spend about 45 minutes to an hour together. And we’re going to see if we can push the fast forward button a little bit on transformation and change and the good stuff.
So, Ms. Celeste, if you could wave your magic wand and get whatever you wanted from our time today, what would that look like for you?
Celeste: I would like to put an end to binge eating and eating in secret, hiding my eating.
Marc: Mmm, how long you been doing that?
Celeste: Since I was eight years old.
Marc: Wow! So that’s been what, like 20 years now?
Celeste: Thank you, 50 years.
Marc: Wow! Okay. Okay. Okay. So that’s a long time.
Marc: So binge eating in secret, tell me what that looks like for you. Like, if I was watching while that was happening, what might I be seeing?
Celeste: You would see me eating large quantities of chocolate when no one else is around.
Marc: Mmm hmm. Any particular kind of chocolate you go for?
Celeste: Mostly 3 Musketeers, but lately, I’ve been going for dark chocolate. So who knows. Whatever’s available.
Marc: Mmm hmm. Does it usually happen at a particular time at night?
Celeste: No, it’s not during the night. It’s just whenever I’m alone—in the car or out and about shopping, whatever. But if no one else is up, if I happen to be the last one to go to bed, that might be the time, but not in the middle of the night.
Marc: Got it. Got it. Got it. So it’s really whenever you’re alone. You’re in secret. Nobody’s going to see this.
Marc: Okay. Who are the people who might see it if you didn’t cover it up?
Celeste: My husband, my son, the people I work with.
Marc: Mmm hmm. How old is your son?
Celeste: The one still in the home is 28.
Marc: Uh, huh. How long you been married?
Celeste: Thirty-five years.
Marc: Yee-haw! God, that’s an accomplishment these days, I’ll tell you. Does your husband have any idea that you do this?
Marc: Really? Wow!
Celeste: No idea.
Marc: You’re either really good at hiding this, or he’s not paying attention or maybe a little bit of both.
Celeste: I think both.
Marc: Yeah. Okay. He’s never said anything to you about it? He’s never found a little wrapper? You never goofed and left a little evidence?
Celeste: No. He’s never said a word.
Marc: Mmm hmm. So is it true that you’re pretty careful to make sure you don’t get discovered. Is that true?
Marc: Okay. In your mind, what would happen if you did get discovered? You didn’t even realize while you were doing it in the car that somebody was watching or there was a hidden camera. Like, what would that be like for you?
Celeste: I would be ashamed, embarrassed.
Marc: Mmm hmm. Who would you feel most ashamed or embarrassed, if they saw?
Celeste: Probably some of my friends who are proponents of healthy eating, I would be ashamed for them to know that in secret, I consume large quantities of chocolate.
Marc: Mmm, I get it, yeah, so your friends. And where would your husband or son rank on the list of, “Wow! That would be so shameful for me?”
Celeste: Probably right underneath them.
Marc: Mmm hmm, makes sense to me. Why do you think, in your opinion, given that oftentimes we’re like the best experts of ourselves, why do you think this behavior exists in your life?
Celeste: I know exactly why it exists. It goes back to when I was eight years old. I was sexually abused. And I reported it to my mother. I’m doing the right thing. I go to my trusted person and say, “This is what happened to me.” And she accused me of lying and sent me to bed without supper. And in my little eight-year-old brain, that became, “I don’t know when I’m going to get to eat again.” So I started sneaking food. And that’s where it all began.
Marc: Wow! Makes total sense. Makes total, total sense. When did you make that connection that, “Oh, this is?…–
Celeste: Very recently. Well, I would say within the last year to two years.
Marc: Really! Wow! Fascinating. What happened for you? I’m just interested. Like, when you made that connection, when you had that realization, like what did you think to yourself? Like, did you go, “Oh, that explains it.” Like, like, what?
Celeste: Suddenly, my whole life made sense. It’s like, “Now, I understand why I behave the way I do.” But what do I do about it. I don’t have the solution on how to fix it.
Marc: Mmm hmm. Understood. Understood. Was the abuser someone you knew?
Marc: Mmm hmm. Can you share who?
Celeste: My dad.
Marc: Mmm. Is your dad still alive?
Celeste: Yes, he is. He’s 90 years old.
Marc: Mmm hmm. You ever talk to him?
Celeste: No. I went through therapy about I started having anxiety attacks because I’d been holding all this in for 50 years. And I just discussed it with the therapist. And we agreed that it really wasn’t a good idea to bring it up. Right about the time that I remembered all of this, my mother was critically ill. And it’s like, “This is not a good time.” And he’s 90. We have a pretty good relationship now. I’m his primary caregiver. He’s pretty independent. And I just, I don’t want to ruin a good thing. I feel like I can handle this and straighten my own self out without upsetting him, that would be the best thing for me.
Marc: I understand that. So was it a one-time experience?
Celeste: I only remember one time. And since I reported it, I would probably think it was just once.
Marc: Mmm hmm. Got it. Got it. Got it. And do you have brothers and sisters?
Celeste: Two older brothers.
Marc: Do they know?
Marc: Mmm hmm. Would you consider telling them?
Marc: Mmm hmm. Do you think they would understand? Do you think they would believe you?
Celeste: One of them, yes. The other one, I’m not sure.
Marc: Which one do you think would believe you, older than you, younger than you?
Celeste: They’re both older than me.
Marc: They’re both older. So is it the oldest, oldest?
Marc: Uh, huh. Got it. Where are you at with you and your body?
Celeste: The first thought that came to my mind was, “I hate my body.” And I really don’t think I do. But that’s the first thing that came to my mind. So maybe, I do. I would like to be in better shape physically. I’ve got health issues that would improve dramatically if I was in better shape and lost some weight. And I just want to enjoy the rest of my life in relative good health. And I feel like my weight is preventing me from doing that.
Marc: Understood. Does your husband know?
Marc: When did you tell him?
Celeste: Oh, about the time that I remembered.
Marc: And what did he say?
Celeste: He was very surprised. He is a mental health counselor, so he was very supportive. And I don’t remember if I told him it was my dad or not. I may have just said a male relative. I don’t recall. So he understands that I’m sensitive to that. And when it should come up in conversation or something on the news or something like that, he knows that I might not be calm and collected about it like the average person.
Marc: Yes. Yes. Yes, of course. So you feel supported by him in this department?
Marc: Yeah. Wow! What a good thing. What was it like for you to tell him? How was that, like for you?
Celeste: It was like an unburdening. Like, “It’s not a secret anymore. I’ve told someone,” a couple of other people like my daughter in laws, without mentioning that it was my dad because one of them had a similar experience in her childhood. And I wanted her to understand, “Look, I know where you’ve been. I understand. I’ve been there, too.” So when opportunity arises for me to discuss it with someone that I feel like it would be helpful for them to know, then I tell them.
Marc: Mmm hmm, makes perfect–
Celeste: But it just doesn’t come up in normal conversation most of the time.
Marc: Mmm hmm. By the way, thank you for jumping right in with me and being real and being honest. And I know that this is not an easy conversation. So I’m just over here appreciating you and respecting and really getting that this is big. This is no small thing. So just so you know that’s how I’m in this conversation in a real respectful way. Have you tried to diet?
Celeste: Many, many times, many times. I tend to lose weight, and then reach a point where just naturally, in any weight loss, you hit a plateau. And then, I gain it back.
Marc: How much weight do you ideally want to lose?
Celeste: About 100 pounds.
Marc: Mmm hmm. If you lost 100 pounds, how much would you weigh?
Celeste: About 150, 155.
Marc: Mmm hmm. Got it. And when you do lose weight, what’s the most you tend to lose?
Celeste: Usually in the 60-pound range—50/60 pounds.
Marc: Uh, huh. And briefly tell me, what would help you lose 60 pounds, what kind of diet?
Celeste: One that excludes chocolate, for the most part. I try to eat healthy. I like fresh vegetables. I like fresh fruit. So I like the healthy things. It’s just I have to choose those, instead of the unhealthy things.
Marc: Got it. So, but the unhealthy things meaning chocolate. Anything else that you go for that you think is unhealthy that you need to quit?
Celeste: Well, sometimes, I’ll nibble on snacks my husband brings in the house, but not significantly. We don’t have the same tastes. He likes salty snacks, and I like sweet snacks. And I’m gluten intolerant. So even if he brings sweet stuff in the house, I can’t eat it. So at least I have that… I don’t eat his cookies because it would make me sick.
Marc: Mmm hmm. Left to your own device, other than chocolate, what do you love to eat?
Celeste: Fruit. Salad. Today at lunch, I had soup and salad. It was delicious, really enjoyed it. Smoothies—I like smoothies. Love decaf coffee, my number one beverage. But if that was continuously available to me, that’s how I would eat.
Marc: Uh, huh. What kind of protein do you like?
Celeste: Chicken, fish, beef, I like it all. Eggs. I tried going vegetarian for a little while, and failed miserably.
Marc: Nah, that’s probably not for you. Do you do all your own cooking?
Celeste: Yes, for the most part.
Marc: Good southern–
Celeste: Because I’m gluten intolerant, I don’t eat much in the way of processed foods because most of it has gluten. So I do all the cooking.
Marc: Got it. Got it. Got it. So back to this 8-year-old girl for a second. So your mom sent you up to the bedroom. You don’t get any dinner. And that catalyzed, “Oh, my God, when am I going to get food?” Eating in secret, and you’ve been eating in secret for a long time. Do you remember there being any further conversation?
Marc: That was it?
Celeste: I do recall her taking me to the doctor. And I suspect, she wanted him to confirm, whether I was lying or not. But it was a traumatic thing. And I don’t recall what the…I think he said, “Oh, she’s got a bladder infection,” or something of that nature.
Marc: Mmm hmm.
Celeste: But I think she didn’t want to believe it was true. Yet, she wanted to find out.
Marc: Yeah. Yeah. Understood. How is it, like for you being your dad’s daughter right after that? Were you afraid?
Celeste: Yes, I was afraid of my dad for a long time.
Marc: Mmm. When did that change?
Celeste: Oh, probably in my teen years when I was large enough physically to not be overcome. I spent a lot of my teen years trying to get his approval, even before my teen years, and never really earned his approval until recently.
Marc: Mmm hmm. Now, when you say until recently, what happened that that approval seemed to have come?
Celeste: I think I reached a point in my career, where he finally got around to saying, “I’m proud of you.” And that was pivotal for me that he finally gave me some kind of affirmation.
Marc: Mmm hmm, good for you. So when you think about it now, when you think back to that 8-year-old girl, does it make you angry? Does it make you sad? Like, where do you go in your mind now and your body? Like, where does that live for you?
Celeste: There’s fear and anxiety there. The anger is more at my mother for punishing me for telling the truth, which led to a childhood of constant lying because telling the truth didn’t work, so I just as well tell a lie. And that’s where the anger lives, towards her, not towards him.
Marc: Mmm hmm. That’s an interesting one because you told the truth. And as kids, we’re generally taught, “Tell the truth you know, if you did it and you stole that cookie, you admit that you stole the cookie.” But you told the truth. And you were, not only were you not rewarded, you were punished. So it is actually a very smart conclusion to go, “Speak truth, get punished, bad strategy. Tell a lie, not get punished, better strategy.”
Marc: Okay. Okay. That’s really a big setup. So I asked you the question. So like what do you feel nowadays when you think back to a 8-year old girl? And, in part, you mentioned nervous. And what is that nervousness? What’s the fear? What’s the anxiety?
Celeste: It’s a vulnerability that I don’t want to experience again, that being completely under someone else’s control, and not being able to do anything about it, to be completely under someone’s control.
Marc: Mmm hmm. Yeah, that makes total sense. How is it for you, or how was it for you being, in the early days, in relationship with your husband and marrying this man and you got to sleep in the same bed with this guy now and you know?
Celeste: We didn’t have any issues in that regard. And I really had pushed all of this so far back into my brain that I didn’t even remember it at that point. It came up again much later.
Marc: Yeah. Yeah. So tell me, for this next phase of your life, the next 30/40 years, other than health, other than weight, what do you want?
Celeste: Time with my grandchildren, to just enjoy the things that this stage of my life brings to me—grandchildren, and travel a little bit, just enjoy life.
Marc: Mmm, I like that for you. That’s a great thing. How many grandkids?
Marc: Alright. How old are they?
Celeste: Nineteen, twelve, and eight.
Marc: Mmm hmm. How you doing in this conversation right now? Just give me a little–
Celeste: I’m doing good.
Celeste: I’m doing good.
Marc: Good. Good. I think you’re doing great.
Celeste: I have a little bit of anxiousness. But I expected that. So I’m good.
Marc: Yeah. No, this is big stuff. This is big stuff. When you eat meals, breakfast, lunch, dinner, would you call yourself a fast eater, moderate eater, slow eater?
Celeste: Fast. I’m struggling to slow down because I know that’s…I’m in the midst of reading your book. And I’m trying to slow down.
Marc: Mmm, I get it. Yeah. How often do you see your dad?
Celeste: At least once a week.
Marc: Mmm hmm. And is he living in an assisted home or he’s just—
Celeste: No, he lives independently.
Marc: Uh, huh. So you come by, you visit?
Celeste: We usually go out to eat. Spend some time together. Maybe, we’ll watch a football game on TV or something like that.
Marc: Mmm hmm. And the therapist who you were talking to, working with who you guys both agreed, “No, let’s just like let this one go,” how long ago was that conversation?
Celeste: Two, maybe three years.
Marc: Okay. I want you to tell me again the reason why you arrived there. And that feels good for you. Let me see if I know what you said. Let me see if I can feed it back to you. Tell me if I got this right. There’s this part of you that goes, “Listen, you know, it happened so long ago. There’s a big part of me that’s just moved on. We have this good relationship. My dad is 90 years old. Like, you know, why rock the boat at this point, and just let it be?”
Celeste: And I’m not sure he even remembers that it happened. It was so long ago. And he’s no threat to me now.
Marc: Right. Understood. Okay. That’s helpful. So I actually got so much to work with here.
Celeste: Where do we start?
Marc: Ah, there’s all kind of great places to start. The good news is there’s great places to work. The good news is, you’re in a good place, I think. Yeah, there’s changes you want to make and there’s transformations you want to see happen. And what I want to do is give a…I’m going to start wide. I’m going to make some big picture comments. And then, I’ll just try to circle down and get more specific, as we move along.
Powerful events happen in our life. And they define us, oftentimes. And this was an event that defined you. So when you say to me, “Okay, hey, what I…If I could wave my magic wand and get whatever I wanted here, it would be to stop this binging and be free of this.” And we got right into where it comes from. So there’s a lot of good work that’s been done already right there. So you know what’s connected to what.
Marc: Well, let me give you some more data, some more information, some more…I’ll give you my opinion of some other pieces of the puzzle that help round things out just so we can see if we can be more on the same page and just have more to work with.
I mentioned before, it makes perfect, perfect, perfect sense that if you experienced a trauma/betrayal, which is it’s rather unspeakable and unfathomable, and the mind can never wrap itself around this kind of stuff, it’s a young girl being sexually abused by her father. Our parents are supposed to be our guards and our protectors. That’s their job. So that’s a place where he did not do his job well. And that could be very damaging.
And what’s happened is in a strange way you said, “I don’t want to have that feeling of being like overpowered by someone. And I can’t help myself. I’m helpless.” So that’s part of what lives in your system. “I don’t want to be overpowered and feel helpless.” Because when you were eight years old, you were overpowered and you were helpless.
And you went to your mother. And you were overpowered by her. And you continued to feel helpless. And on top of that, you had to go underground and you had to hide. And you had to start doing things in secret. And you even made the conclusion that I don’t even know when I’m going to eat next. So I need to survive by stealing food.
It would have been no different if you were poor and had no money and had no chance of having money. And you just gotta steal for food. Sometimes, we just got to do what we got to do to survive.
So what’s happening is your survival skill, your coping skill, because children need to cope and survive, so that was a trauma for a young girl. That young girl couldn’t go talk to her friends. She couldn’t figure it out on her own. She wasn’t getting help from the adult world. So that young girl has to figure certain things out on her own. What most young people figure out is very quickly there’s certain ways you can medicate.
One of the most awesome ways to medicate is with food, plain and simple. And one of the most awesome ways to medicate with food is to medicate with a food that’s fun and that’s sweet and that’s pleasurable. And chocolate for a human, a small human, a large, any human, is very pleasurable. It hits all the buttons. So on one level that became for you a soother. It becomes a friend. It becomes a place also where strangely enough you enact the abuse that happened. Let me explain that for a second. I’m going to step back.
Humans have this particular quality, where we will reenact a hurt, a wound, or an abuse until we fix it. So if somebody told you when you were young, “You’re worthless. You’ll never grow up into anything,” what often happens is we then have this voice in our head that goes, “I hate you. You suck. You’ll never grow into anything. You’re dumb.” We literally take that offense that was hurled at us, and we take it on. And we do it to self. In a strange way, we are repeating the offense, so we can heal it and figure it out because we must make good on it. We must heal it. We must transform it. We must unwind it. So we continue the offense.
The offense that was committed against you, the way you continue it with food is that when you go for chocolate, you are being overpowered by the chocolate. It’s an overpowering feeling. And you are not in control. And then afterwards, you feel shame. And you need to hide it. So you needed to hide the experience that happened with your dad. And you were feeling shame about it, whether you knew it or not. There is a deep shame that lands in the system, even for a child, when a sexual abuse happens from anyone, and particularly from somebody that we’re close with, particularly from a parent or an adult that loves us.
So what I’m saying is on that level, when you eat chocolate, it’s your way of symbolically repeating the offense. It happened in secret. It happens in secret. It doesn’t happen in public. It happens in secret. And nobody could see this. It has to be kept secret. It is an overpowering experience. And you have no control over it.
“Would you like to stop eating all the chocolate?”
“Do you have control over it?”
“No, not really.”
That is the same felt experience. Obviously, it’s not the same experience. That would-be God awful. But it’s the way the mind, the psyche, the soul is, how we’re designed. We take the offense. We figure out a way to reproduce it symbolically, until we can really deal with it finally.
Celeste: That makes a lot of sense.
Marc: So you wisely reach for chocolate, because yes, it has helped you, as a child, feel good, feel better. And it reenacts the event. But the weird thing is, when you reenact that event, you have a modicum of control over it. That’s the good news. The reason why it’s so faithful, and you return to the experience, is because, “Well, okay, I’m in the car. I’m by myself. I could do this. Oh, I’m in this room. Nobody’s around. I can do this.” So there’s a certain amount of control there.
It slips into uncontrol for sure. But it’s how the mind…Unconsciously, you don’t think these things. The brain doesn’t think, “Okay, I’m going to do this,” because it’s an automatic process. So you actually do have a mild, small, tiny bit of control over it, but not really. And what’s happening is, there is no technique that I am aware of, that will help you stop eating the chocolate. There’s no technique about food or about chocolate, per se, because this isn’t about chocolate. And this isn’t about food. This is about you using food to reenact an event, to relive it to try to gain some control over it by reliving it, but reenacting it doesn’t fully heal us. And it doesn’t fully help us until we address what we need to address very directly.
So what is happening is I asked you, “Who knows about this? Who knows about the shameful eating? You mean, your husband never figured it out. This one never figured it out. That one never figured it out.” Okay. And I asked you, “What’ll happen if people would find out?” And you very quick, you didn’t hesitate for a moment. You said, “I would feel ashamed.”
What would happen if anyone found out that this is what your dad did to you when you were eight years old? That is a very shameful experience. You would feel ashamed. He would feel it. It’s like, just sucks. There would be shame. You would feel shame if that was blasted publicly, chances are.
So the fear is, “I’m going to feel shame if I am discovered for this experience.” And what I want to tell you is that fear of the shame is part of what’s stopping you from getting where you want to go.
Marc: So just as it is difficult for you to speak about the shameful experience called, “being alone, sneaking food, eating the chocolate by myself,” just as that feels shameful to discuss, so does the sexual abuse feels shameful to discuss. Same thing. It’s the same experience, just in a different form, different colors, different flavors, much more step down.
So the way through, in my experience, in my opinion, and experience and the opinions of some others that I would respect, is to go right into the heart of the matter and to burst the bubble on the shame that is contained within the experience, and let the cat out of the bag. And I am going to ask you to do something. I don’t want you to say yes or no. I don’t want you to agree or disagree. I want you to consider it. And you know what I’m going to say. I want you to consider telling your husband about your relationship with chocolate.
Marc: This is a man that loves you and has been by your side for 35 years. There is no safer human, I’m going to guess, on the planet for you. You have to get, young lady, that when you tell him, you will still be loved and you will still be okay.
Now, here’s the healing. You were eight years old. And you told your mother what happened. And she didn’t believe it. And you were not okay. And she made you wrong. And that sucked. And that was horrible for you. And to this day, you even say to me, “I’m less mad at my dad. I’m more mad at her.” That makes sense in a lot of ways because, “Wait a second, I’m revealing this to you.” So there’s an ancient fear that’s living in your system, “That I’m afraid if I go for help, if I reach out to the one who loves me, that I’m not going to be okay. I’m going to get abandoned.”
So you don’t even realize this, but inside your system somewhere, there’s a fear that you’re going to get abandoned and you’re going to get sent to your room again, and told that you’re wrong, and told that you’re a liar, and told that there’s something bad here if you talk about this shameful experience. Can you see that connection?
Marc: Okay. So this is all the symbolic way that the mind works, that the psyche works, that the soul works, that the heart works. And what I am telling you is if you want to get this handled, you want to get this chocolate thing handled, and you want to get this weight thing handled—I’m not beating around the bush with you, whatsoever, and I’m not saying this is easy—but I’m saying you want to pick up your bow and arrow and aim it at this target. And you want to hit the bullseye. And the bullseye is called, “I am now going to share about this shameful experience that I have kept covered up for many years, the chocolate. I’m going to share about it with my husband.”
And before you share about it with him, I want you to think about how you’re going to prepare him to treat you. Here’s what I mean. “Husband, I had this podcast session with this crazy guy. And we had a nice conversation. And you know, I decided to consider doing something he suggested. There’s something I want to tell you. And it’s very sensitive for me. This doesn’t affect you, husband. It’s nothing you’ve done wrong. It’s nothing bad, per se. But it’s just something about me that honestly, I have a lot of shame about. And when I share this with you, honestly I just need a lot of love here. I just need a lot of love.” So you’re telling him in advance, “Here’s what I need.”
Do you think if you did that, knowing you and knowing him, would he rise to the occasion?
Celeste: Yes. He’s not a very expressive person. He’s very quiet. But he would definitely be accepting.
Marc: Mmm hmm. Great. Who else potentially, possibly, maybe are people in your world that you could tell who would be good to you? Who would under–
Celeste: My best friend.
Marc: Yes, I love hearing that. So that was an immediate answer, meaning 100% agree. So you might even choose to tell that person first. Is it a him or her?
Celeste: It’s a female.
Marc: Yep, you might choose to tell her first, up to you. But I would love for you to do best friend and husband in whatever order feels right for you because what this is going to do, it’s going to help you come out of the closet. What this is going to do is it’s going to show you that you have nothing to be ashamed of. It might feel shameful for you.
But here’s what I want to say. I want you to feel that shame. “God, this is really shameful for me to say.” And I want you to see if you could love yourself, even though you’re feeling shame. Here’s what I mean. If your grandkid was feeling so ashamed about herself for some reason, I don’t even care what it is, so ashamed because somebody’s insulted her, what would you do? You’d love her up.
Marc: Whatever you did, whatever you said, it would be love. It would just be love. You would communicate something that was love because you know that that would be the best medicine for that shame, to love her through it. You wouldn’t say, “Okay, I’m going to go beat that person up who said that to you.” You wouldn’t say, “I’m going to go shoot them.” You wouldn’t say to her, “Oh, don’t listen to that stupid nonsense. You’re wasting your time. I can’t believe that you feel shamed about this.” No, you would love her up.
So that’s what I want you to do for you. I want you to actually see if the adult in you could love that little eight-year-old girl in you because there’s an eight-year-old girl in you that’s still here with us. And there’s nothing wrong with that, by the way, because we’re a lot of different people. I got a 17-year-old in me. I got a 5-year-old in me. And those guys show up whenever.
You have an 8-year-old girl in you who needs a little bit of air time here. When you’re in that car eating that chocolate, when you’re hiding and eating that chocolate, you are that 8-year-old girl. That’s who you are. You are going in a time machine. And you travel back, even though you’re in present time. And you become that girl again. So what we want to do is we want to get it all up to date because you’re actually not that 8-year-old girl anymore. You are actually not her. Does she live in you? Absolutely. Is she a part of you? Absolutely. But you’re this beautiful woman that I am talking to right now. That’s who you are. And this 8-year-old girl is a part of that experience. So what you’re learning how to do at this ripe young age, of what, 58 you said?
Marc: You are learning how to integrate that part of you now and integrate that past experience in a healthy way now. This is how to do it. This is how to do it. There’s no sneaking around this. There’s no, “Well, maybe I could not tell anybody.” This is all about reliving that situation in a better way because now when you share about a shameful experience, you’re going to go to people who are going to love you and accept you and understand you. You follow me?
Marc: Can you see how that can be some potential medicine?
Celeste: It could give me the healing that I was looking for that I’ve never had.
Marc: Yes, you got it. Because you need that. Your soul is craving that. Your craving someone to say, “You’re not alone. This is okay. I’m sorry this is happening. You have done nothing wrong. You being in the car eating chocolate, you’re doing nothing wrong.” You have been doing your best to metabolize and manage a God-awful experience. And you have done very well for yourself. How many kids do you have?
Marc: So you’ve raised three kids. You’ve got grandkids. You’ve had a long-term successful marriage. You’ve done well for yourself in this world. You’re a good lady. You’re a good human. I get that about you. You’re wise. I get that about you. And now, you’re bringing it together. Now, you’re going to start to put it all together. I mean that. And what that means is you, the adult in you, the momma in you, I need you to be a momma to the 8-year-old girl in you. My guess is you know how to be a good momma.
Marc: So I want you to be a good momma. You already know how to do that. I’m not asking you to do something you don’t know how to do. And you know how to do it well. But you’re being a good momma for you. And a good momma for you means, even if you…So I’m not expecting you to stop eating chocolate in secret. I’m just expecting you to share about it and let two people know and talk about it, talk about details. I want you to say, “You know, the guy I was talking to, he just asked me to share some details. Here’s what I tend to do. And here’s some of the places I tend to do it. Here’s how I feel afterwards. And I just need your love and support. This is something I want to let go of. And what I know to do, first thing to help let go of this, is to acknowledge that I do this and to get some love, where I usually feel a lot of shame.”
And then, when you eat chocolate, here’s what I want you to do. I don’t want you to try to stop eating chocolate right now at all, at all, at all, at all, at all. I don’t want you to stop doing that. I’m asking you to continue because I think it’s going to be good for you to continue for a while. But I want to shift a few things. Or I want you to consider shifting a few things.
Thing number one, I really want you to slow down when you’re eating that chocolate. I want you to slow down. I want you to enjoy it. You love chocolate. Chocolate’s good. Great. Enjoy it. You’re wanting something from that experience. You’re wanting pleasure. You’re wanting nourishment. You’re wanting to feel good. What happens is if you go unconscious and you’re not paying attention, and you do it too fast, you actually don’t get the experience you want. So we tend to hunger for it again.
It’s no different than if you or I, that if we’re in a conversation together and if you’re talking, and I’m not listening, you’re going to walk away from that conversation feeling a little empty. You’re going to walk away feeling hungry for something you didn’t get because I wasn’t listening, same with food. If you’re not listening to your body when you eat, if you’re not listening to the chocolate, if you’re not getting what you want, then you’re going to need to eat more. And you’re going to need to continue again and again and again to that experience. I want you to start getting present in that experience.
Here’s the other piece. Check this out. And you might not remember this. But when the abuse experience happened, a part of you needed to check out. A part of us needs to check out when we are being harmed in that way. A part of you needed to disassociate. When you are doing the chocolate thing, a part of you checks out. It’s the same part of you that checked out when you were eight years old. So now, we’re going to have her check back in. Fortunately, you don’t have to check back in in an abusive experience similar to the past. You’re checking back in with chocolate. What a lovely way to heal that. That’s all. It’s that simple. I’m just asking you to get present with that chocolate because what you’re doing is you’re getting present with a place in you that long ago, you had to check out in order to not feel pain and suffering and hurt and terrible things.
So this is about you just getting present. You’re calling your soul back into your body. You’re calling yourself back into your body because it’s safe now. You’re just eating chocolate. That’s fine. You’re calling yourself back into your body. So I don’t want you to try to stop. I actually want you for at least the next couple of months, at least to not try to stop it and to not fight it. In fact, I want you to welcome it. Every time you go to eat chocolate in secrecy, I want you to think, “Oh, this is the way I’ve learned how to cope with a difficult past experience. This is a clever survival strategy,” which it really is, by the way. It’s a clever survival strategy. You could have done drugs. You could have messed yourself up with alcohol. You could have killed yourself. You could have done such stupid nonsense. But you did chocolate.
Celeste: Relatively harmless.
Marc: It is! Good for you! Good for you! That’s actually an accomplishment. I really mean that.
Next thing about the chocolate, so remember, I want you to do it. I want you to. And I mean that, don’t fight it.
Celeste: I understand.
Marc: I just want you to slow down. I totally want you to slow down. And this will be better to do with your girlfriend, your best friend. I want you to consider this. Consider enrolling her as a support buddy and say, “Listen, my guy told me that it would probably be a good idea if whenever I ate in secret if I could have a support buddy where I can report to you later that I did that.” Just to report it. Just so somebody else knows. “And he asked me to continue to eat chocolate, to slow down because I’m helping relive that experience and get present,” you could explain to her. And all her job is is to say, “Honey, I love you. I totally understand. I’m glad you told me. How you doing? How can I help you?” That’s all her job is. That’s all. Just to be your loving friend who goes, “You know, I totally get it. And I’m so happy that you’re working on yourself and you’re healing yourself.” That’s all she has to do. She doesn’t have to fix anything. Just got to love you.
Celeste: And she will do that.
Marc: Oh, I’m so happy. I’m so happy you said that because that’s going to be worth its weight in gold. You don’t have to pay her any money. Cook her a dinner. What a beautiful thing. So you’re going to report to your friend. You’re going to use her as a support buddy. You’re going to not try to stop yourself from eating chocolate in secret. You’re going to share with your husband and your friend in whatever order feels good for you. And you’re going to ask them to just be in support of you and loving you.
Now, I got another suggestion for you.
Marc: Again, I want you to consider this. I want you to consider having a straight- up conversation with your father. And I’m going to tell you why. Your dad is 90 years old. I get that he’s an old man. I get that he might be frail. That doesn’t matter in this conversation, believe it or not, and the things that we’re talking about. I’m going to say that his age doesn’t matter and his frailty doesn’t matter. What matters is his heart and his soul. What matters is your heart and your soul. And this is an offense that happened. When you say to me, “I don’t even know if he remembers.” If I had to bet every cent that I own, I would bet he remembers. If I had to bet, one way or the other, I’d bet he remembers. And I would bet, he’s probably pushed it to the side, as best he could.
But what’s happening here is you haven’t spoken it to the most important person you need to speak it to. Your mother’s out of the picture. So it’s you and him. You may—here’s my belief—be doing him the greatest service you could possibly be doing him, by talking to him about this. Because we go through this life, and we have a lot of successes, and we make a lot of mistakes. We are accountable. On Earth, for sure, if you’re accountable, you mess something up, you’re accountable. You steal something, you’re accountable. You hurt someone, you’re accountable. We’re accountable for our actions. As far as the afterlife, wherever we go, are we accountable? I certainly hope so. We should be. We ought to be. That’s a good way for the universe to work.
When a human is still alive is the best time to work stuff out. It’s the best time. The best time to work things out while people are still alive. It’s a beautiful opportunity because it might very well be the thing that he needs to start to find some peace himself because you have no idea how this has impacted him. Because what I will tell you across the board is every time that I have been involved in an experience where somebody is confronting a sexual abuser, who they are or have been close with, who is a family member, had similar stories, because this happens. This is not unusual.
And there’s different opinions on this. It’s all opinion. I’m giving you my opinion just so you know. I understand your therapist gave you a different opinion. I’m going to give you a very strong opinion on the other side because I believe strongly in what I’m saying. And I’m just asking you to consider it. And I trust you will make the right decision for yourself. But if you ask me 1,000 more times between now, and I hope he lives another 10 years. I hope he lives as long as it’s going to take for you to have a conversation with him.
I really do, because what I have noticed, particularly with men, is that this shit eats at them. They often know that it’s eating at them, or they don’t know that it’s eating at them. Or once they realize, once it’s made conscious and once it’s a conversation, then all of a sudden, everything comes to the forefront. This is not something that a human, the abuser or the victim, can sweep under the rug. It just doesn’t work that way.
Now, if he wasn’t alive, it’s another story. It’s a different conversation. Could you move on? Could you heal? Sure. Will you heal better and faster if you’re able to have a conversation with him now? I believe so. Will he be able to heal better and faster? I believe so. Just let me say also, that to me, the conversation…And you’d have to think about this. And I would like you to get some support with this, particularly from somebody who supports you in doing it who might have a little bit of skill in it. And what I would like to see is the conversation, it’s calm, it’s clear at the beginning, at the very least.
“Hey, dad, you know, there’s a lot that’s been happening for me lately and a lot that’s been going on inside. And a lot I’ve been learning about myself and about my life. And there’s some things I want to share with you. A couple of years ago, I made a connection about my eating, my weight. I have this binge eating problem that I’ve been dealing with since I’ve been eight years old. And it’s been gripping me. And it’s been terrible. And it’s impacted me. And it’s been driving a lot of my life. And I realize what it’s connected to. Do you remember when I was eight years old what happened?” And then, I want you to describe and remind him what happened. “And I just realized two years ago that this was a powerful experience for me. And it’s impacted me. And it’s been hurtful for me. And it’s stopped me in a lot of ways from fulfilling some of my potential. And I need you to know that. And it is very hurtful. And what I would like for you to do is to, as best you can, explain yourself and apologize.”
What you would be doing is you would no longer be an 8-year-old girl with him. You will now be a woman speaking to your father because right now you’re functioning as his daughter, which you are. You’re being a good daughter. You’re being a wonderful daughter. You’re putting him first, which is a very respectful thing to do with one’s parents. It is respectful to put the aged before us. It is respectful to put our parents before us. So what you are doing is respectful.
However, on a deeper cut, what’s happening is you’re staying an 8-year-old girl with him, a part of you. It’s that girl who couldn’t stop him and was still looking for his approval. So a few years ago, you said to me he finally gave you approval. What he did when you were eight was a disapproval. That’s how it landed in your system. It was a disapproval. All children want approval from their parents. That’s how we’re designed. So it is natural for us to get approval from our parents when we’re young so that then when you’re 21 years old and you step out into the world, you’re good to go. “Ah, I feel a sense of support. My parents have uplifted me. They’ve protected me. They’ve approved of me. And now, I feel good about myself. I’m approved of. I can step out into the world.” And it took until you were in your 50s for him to approve of you. So that’s hard. That’s hard. That’s hard. That’s hard. That’s hard.
And I’m glad you got it. And you don’t need it anymore. You do not need his approval anymore because you got it. And even if it wasn’t enough, you still don’t need it. What you need is your approval, not his, yours. You don’t need his approval anymore. You’re 58. You’re a queen. You’re a grandma. You’re a mother. You’re a wife. You’re accomplished. You don’t need his approval. The 8-year-old girl in you thinks she does. So what I’m trying to say to you is that there’s a voice, I think, that wants to come out. And it’s the woman in you speaking to the adult in him. Not the 8-year old girl talking to him, it’s the woman today. You. That will be very hard for you to do because you will feel like that 8-year-old girl. It will be extremely hard. I believe it will help liberate you.
So that was a lot I just said. And again, I’m just going to ask you to consider that. And if it doesn’t feel right for you, I don’t want you to do it, truly. But I really want to make sure…How do I say this. Here’s what I think a challenge is for you because I’ve watched it in this conversation. You got these two-main people in there. One is Celeste, the woman, the queen, the momma, the grandma. And the other’s this 8-year-old girl. And you jump back and forth between the two. You know what I’m saying?
Marc: It’s like a very interesting TV show. And it’s sweet because it’s what keeps you young because you have that kid in you. It keeps you young and it keeps you sweet and it keeps you flexible. And what also happens is you’re being too much of a good girl here, a little too much of a good girl. Sometimes we get mad. Sometimes we need to speak up. Sometimes we need a little justice. Sometimes we’re hurt. And we need to speak up and say something. You’ve been a good girl with your dad. You don’t have to be a good girl anymore. You have been a good daughter to him. You have not wronged him in anyway. Don’t deny him or you the gift of doing a real good piece of growth and healing because this is still alive for you. This is still happening for you. And we need to start to unwind it because there’s no more time to lose. You know what I’m saying?
Marc: So I’ve been yacking a lot. Tell me what’s happening for you, young lady.
Celeste: What you’ve said makes a lot of sense. I’m feeling quite anxious at the moment. But that’s a part of growth. You have to feel where you are, and not push it down. But I feel like I can handle telling my husband and telling my best friend. And you’re not the first person who has suggested I tell my dad. So maybe I should listen to that, too. But that’s going to take longer for me to get to that point where I can sit there and say that with him.
Marc: Mmm hmm. Mmm hmm. Mmm.
Celeste: But I’m assuming you’re right. He probably needs healing, too. And he’s 90. He’s not going to be with me forever. I’d like to give him that healing.
Marc: Yeah, because I promise you, there’s guilt living in his system. And there’s pain and suffering living in his system, too. He’s not dumb. So it makes perfect sense to me, perfect, perfect sense to me, that you’re not ready to do that yet. And that’s fine. I don’t want you to put pressure on yourself, whatsoever. No pressure. I wanted to speak that. I want you to file that away. Just file it away because you’ve got other work to do first that is actually should come first, in terms of talking to your husband and your best friend, and handle that piece first. And then, you can revisit this. And because you filed it in the back of your mind, it will come back to you. It will remind you.
You and I get to meet in another five months or so. And we’ll have a follow-up session. And we’ll chat a little bit and see where you’re at. What I want to say to you, Ms. Celeste, is this is such a powerful life circumstance that you’re dealing with. And you need help. You need help getting through this. You do.
And this conversation, I think is a great next step that you’ve taken. Talking to your husband and your best friend, great next steps to take. Starting to pull the plug on the shame of eating in secret, knowing that, “Here it is. Do it. Slow it down.” And there’s only one thing I want you to do with food right now and the rest of your life, is I want you to learn how to slow down because what that really means, what that really means is that food for you has become a trauma zone. Food for you, in a lot of ways, actually takes you back to that time, particularly the chocolate. But when you eat fast, eating fast is a habit. I’m talking about breakfast, lunch, dinner. Fast eating is a habit. We learn it. But it’s difficult to slow down because oftentimes feelings get intermixed with our relationship with food so we actually start to feel more. We feel discomfort.
So what I’m going to ask you to do is to just notice that discomfort that’s there because you’re learning how to let your system handle more discomfort because you’ve had some very discomforting things happen to you. So we’re learning how to metabolize. We’re learning how to digest life. You know what I’m saying?
Marc: When you’re able to digest this past experience fully, then you can move on and be free. Then it will be easier for you to not have to do the chocolate thing. You’ll have chocolate in your life. You’re not going to get rid of chocolate. But it’ll just be, “Okay, dessert time, candy bar. Done.” And you’ll love it. And you’ll enjoy it. And you’ll be on to the next thing.
So that to me is what the future is going to look like. But you’re not there just yet. There’s a little bit of work. And the work, in a sense, has nothing to do with food. And the work has everything to do with you healing this part of your shameful past by now going to loving people who this time will embrace you and accept you. Makes sense?
Marc: Yes. Anything else you want to say before we finish up?
Celeste: Thank you for speaking the truth with love.
Marc: Mmm. You are a magnificent lady. I’m just, I’m blown away. I feel very fortunate to be in this conversation. I feel very grateful. I really do. I believe that you are a tremendously, tremendously brave and gracious soul the way you have conducted yourself with this. I really do.
Celeste: Thank you.
Marc: Yeah. I mean that.
Celeste: I want to come to healing. And to do that, you have to face the truth.
Marc: You do. And sometimes when you pull out that splinter, it actually hurts more than if you’d just left it in. You know what I’m saying?
Marc: It’s like the splinter hurts, pulling it out really hurts. But then, once you pull it out, ah, there’s a little bit of relief. It still stings a little. But then, it really starts to heal. That’s what this is going to be like.
Celeste: I’m looking forward to that.
Marc: Me, too. Celeste, thank you so much!
Celeste: Thank you, Marc!
Marc: Mmm. And wow, what a powerful conversation. And my friends, thank you so much for tuning in. I’m Marc David on behalf of the Psychology of Eating Podcast. You take care.
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