Psychology of Eating Podcast: Episode #233 – Overcoming the Need to be Perfect
Ashley has spent many years working out obsessively to achieve a certain look. With her overexercising came adrenal fatigue and leaky gut due to not truly taking care of herself. She is now on a journey to experience pleasure in her life without feeling guilty and to learn to accept her body as it changes throughout womanhood. In this session, Marc, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, and Ashley dive deeper into how her thoughts are driving her towards perfection and Marc invites her to step into her womanhood and be in her body in order to get to the next phase in life.
Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:
Marc: Welcome, everyone. I’m Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. Here we are in the “Psychology of Eating” podcast. And I am with Ashley today. Welcome, Ashley.
Ashley: Hi, Marc. Thanks for having me.
Marc: I’m glad we’re doing this. You are welcome. And let me just take a moment and say a few quick words to viewers and listeners. If you’re returning to this podcast, thanks for coming by again. I appreciate you being in our world. If you’re new to the podcast, it’s very simple. Ashley and I are meeting officially for the first time ever right now. And we’re going to spend 45 minutes to an hour together and see if we can push the fast-forward button on a little bit of change and transformation. So, Miss Ashley, if you could wave your magic wand, if you could get whatever, ever, ever you wanted from this session, what would it be for you?
Ashley: It would be for me to experience pleasure without feeling guilty and like I had to earn it. And accepting my body.
Marc: Mmhmm. Experience pleasure without feeling guilting and without feeling like you need to earn it.
Marc: I love that. And what was the second part?
Ashley: Um, it’s kind of tied into it, but it is just feeling comfortable and accepting my body. And not worrying about it and not being obsessive with the thoughts that come along with health and wellness. I’m a bit obsessive about it.
Marc: Give me a sense of what those obsessive thoughts might sound like.
Ashley: Well, my day, I would say, 75% of my thoughts are around, just around, maybe more than that, just around health and wellness. And around fitness. I’ve been a trainer for almost 11 years, and my role as a trainer has morphed throughout those years. I’ve evolved to being a trainer that I’m really happy with the way that I am with my clients and things, but I have had experiences of abusing my body and overexercising. Undereating, very orthorexic behaviors, things like that. So, my obsession with being the healthiest, being the most fit, being the most, just, I guess, the best. That sort of perfectionist mentality, I guess I would say.
Marc: Mmhmm. So, when you’re going through that on a day-to-day basis, is there any time when you feel inspired by it, or are you just kind of feeling like, “Oh my God, more rules, more stuff, more things to take care of, more things to worry about”?
Ashley: You know, it ranges. This entire year I’ve made huge progress in my, I call it recovery. I honestly think I’m half recovered. Because I laugh at myself now, when I get these thoughts. I kind of am able to almost gracefully somewhat dance around these thoughts. I’m able to kind of now look at it as, “Alright, my compulsions are telling me what to do. I get that they were once trying to protect me maybe or something, but…”
So I’m able to kind of see them as not a part of me, in a way. So, I don’t beat myself up like I did maybe a year or two ago, when I do get these thoughts. But, for example, I still have these tendencies, because one of the exercises I did was, “Ok, I’m going to eat the things that give me pleasure or foods that I may have restricted in the past.”
And oh, I just ate it up! I loved it; it was amazing. But I still just had this compulsion to where I wanted to go to the mirror, and I still have this compulsion on a daily basis where I want to check my stomach and make sure—I hate even saying it—that it’s flat and that it is still like that trainer and like this. And, you know, my body is changing. I’m older now, I started being a trainer when I was 20 years old.
So now, I understand that. I want my body to change. I want to be a woman. I want to step into my womanhood in a way. And there’s something there that I still feel this really deep need. It’s like a deep compulsion that I have to wake up at 5:30, and I have to go work out, and I have to maintain this body.
Marc: So, when did this start for you? Did this start when you became a trainer? Was it before?
Ashley: No, when I was a trainer, I was just happy-go-lucky. I worked out; my body really never changed. I didn’t really have these obsessive thoughts until I moved here, actually. I moved away from family. I moved in with my now-husband. And maybe losing a sense of connection with things put the spotlight on these feelings, perhaps.
But, roots. Where we live, we’re saving money while he’s a student. I moved from a home I felt like was very homey, and I moved in and didn’t have friends or family here. And, so that seemed to be an issue for me. Threw myself into my career to sort of get those good feelings.
I’ll admit, being a trainer you get… I love listening to people’s stories and finding out what makes them feel good and where they’re struggling. And I want to be that helper to people. I love it so much!
And making that connection with people. So, I dove into that. I worked from about 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day, and then, about last March, got adrenal fatigue, was losing hair. I developed leaky gut. I was just in the worst health because I wasn’t taking care of myself. And now I see that as my body was telling me to slow down. And I actually made the huge step to quit my job as a trainer and completely just change things up and do something that spoke to me. And I was still working out obsessively, and then I broke my arm at the gym. So, another thing. The universe was telling me to slow down. And that’s when the anxiety just poured over. Because the first thought I had when I fell on my arm was, “This is what you needed to stop.”
And I was resting and healing, and I had this overwhelming anxiety every day that I was going to gain weight. Like not being able to move my body was so terrifying to me. And to just sit still was very terrifying. And that’s when I knew that I had to seriously make space for healing and sit with what was happening. And that was in March of this year. So, this entire year has been really devoted to all of this.
Marc: Are you going to want kids?
Ashley: Yeah, we’re actually trying. I lost my period two years ago. I’m sure that my lifestyle contributed to that, but we’ve recently been more successful. So, yes, we’re trying.
Marc: How old are you?
Ashley: I’ll be 30 in February.
Marc: And what does your husband think of your challenges? What does he say to you?
Ashley: He’s very supportive. The way that he knows how. I love to talk everything out, and he loves my body so much. He could care less if I was a personal trainer. He could care less about the way I looked. He is extremely supportive. He’ll ask like, “Ok, what are you craving tonight? Let’s really think about it.”
And he’ll try and honor these cravings: “Let’s go get this food.” And then he’ll [say], “Let’s quit the gym membership now.” We belong to a rock climbing gym where we go together. And that is free therapy right there. It’s fantastic. We’re doing things together. So, yes, he’s being very supportive in doing things that help it.
Marc: So, when you talk to yourself, what do you think is kind of hanging on in your system? What do you attribute it to? This kind of piece in you that still worries and still looks and still goes into concern and fear.
Ashley: Well, I think the compulsion to look a certain way comes from maybe the time of my life that I was happy in my body? And that was when I had family and friends around me. That’s something I think about. And I also attribute this sort of image of success and what that looks like. So, there’s one feeling that’s very warm and more of an emotional thought, and then there’s one that is this societal pressure that most women feel. So, I think it’s like success and also this sort of, if I let my body change, then I won’t be able to make as big of an impact, for some reason.
Marc: Interesting belief. I understand it, too. And you’re not the first person to have that. So, these days, are there days or times when you notice, “Huh, it’s not so bad upstairs in my head,” where you just notice, “Wow, today was a decent day”?
Ashley: Yeah, most of the day, I feel great. It is the morning. I usually wake up with this compulsion to check my stomach and see that it’s toned and that it’s flat. And that’s the area of my body that I always focus on. And that starts the obsessive thoughts and the need.
And so, I’ve been trying different exercises where I’m not going to let myself go to the gym. I’m just going to wake up naturally and sit and start a new routine. “Let’s start a new routine, Ashley.” So, I’ll try that, and it may last a day. And then I’ll say, “Well, I need to move my body,” because if I don’t, then I tend to get anxiety towards the end of the day.
It’s normally just the morning where I wake up and I feel this pressure to just have this perfect day and to create and to make an impact and to do something great. And normally, a workout and a routine is included in that. And when I was younger—I’m an only kid—there was a little bit of that pressure to be the best, do your best. And so, I know I’ve carried that into my adulthood.
Marc: How’s your mom’s relationship with her body?
Ashley: When I grew up, she looked in the mirror, and I would always say, “God, you look so beautiful, mom!” I think my mom is the most beautiful woman in the world. And she would go, “Ugh! I’m a fat cow! Ugh, I need to lose 10 pounds.” She did Weight Watchers, I remember. But, I think now that she’s older, she doesn’t really care as much. But when she was younger, mid 30s, 40s, I do remember her not really liking her body very much.
Marc: Interesting. So, how many days a week are you actually exercising?
Ashley: I exercise five to six days a week.
Marc: So, on the one or two days that you don’t exercise, how do you feel?
Ashley: A little shaky.
Marc: What does “shaky” mean?
Ashley: It means I’m very much in my head. I’m not really in my body, so I don’t even know what it feels like. It feels like I can’t sit still. My husband is always asking me to sit with him and lounge, and “Let’s go cuddle.” And I always have something to do. I’m always rushing. I’m always going, going, going. And it feels like that. Like a snow globe that’s been shaken. That’s what my brain feels like. And those are the days when I’m more obsessive with food. I think, “If I’m not going to work out, then I really need to not overeat.” Which is so not the way I talk to my clients. This pressure I put on myself, it’s so boggling to me, because I’ll tell my clients, “Move in a way that you feel good, and eat in a way that you are honoring you.”
They’ll tell me what I’m telling you, and I’ll tell them, “Oh, honey…” I’ll just give them so much comfort and kind of talk them through their compulsion, so that they can somehow see it differently. But for some reason, I’m the hardest on myself.
Marc: So, we do kind of teach what we need to learn, oftentimes. We do kind of say the things sometimes that we ourselves need to hear. I think it’s understandable. So, let’s say you’ve gotten where you want to go, you’re the person you want to be. You have the relationship with food and body that you want to have, the relationship with pleasure that you want to have. Describe this new person to me.
Ashley: This person is carefree and fun, and I can see this woman. And there are days where I am so close! I can feel her. You know, a soft place to land. A woman, to me, is that. The woman I want to be, she’s this fierce, yet soft. I want to wake up in the morning and have sacred time with myself and relax and then have a great day with clients and then have a great evening with my husband. And she doesn’t think about how I “should” have treated my body. That woman doesn’t “should” all over herself. She’s fun.
Marc: So, she’s in a flow, she’s fun, she’s a soft place to land. She’s exciting, she’s bubbly, she’s out there, she expresses herself. Got it, got it, got it. What is the most challenging thing for you about food? If you had to name one thing: “The most challenging part of this whole thing for me when it comes to food is…”
Ashley: Oh, man! It’s when I am eating intuitively. It is when I stop. If I feel too full, I feel bad about myself. That, to me, is the hardest thing. Because it’s not so much picking the food. I have a great diet, and for the most part, my relationship with food I feel good about. I love cooking; I love being in the kitchen with my husband. It’s fantastic. I love the food that we make. The word “indulge” comes to me.
When I indulge, it’s hard for me to just leave it at the plate, in a way. The word “indulge” just has this sort of negative connotation with me, and I don’t want it to. I don’t want to feel like I have to earn the food. I don’t want to feel like I have to earn the pleasure, earn the indulgence. I don’t want to feel like I have to go work out in the morning or work out before. It’s the feeling of earning something that’s great.
Marc: Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like underlying all this that we’re talking about is the fear of gaining weight.
Marc: Would you agree?
Ashley: I would agree.
Marc: I want to kind of highlight that with our yellow marker here. Because, in a lot of ways, everything else you’re talking about it is useful and it’s helpful. And there’s the part of you, as with a lot of people, as with a lot of women, as with a lot of young women, that gets sucked into perfectionism in a very big way. It’s got to be perfect, it’s got to be just right, it’s got to be great. I want to wake up in the morning and go, “Yes! I’m going to have this great day, and I’m going to exercise, and it’s just going to be so good! And everyone will love this, because it’s just so good. I will love this because it’s just great.”
And that’s understandable. It’s an understandable goal. And it often as well feels to me like it’s this weird picture that gets painted for us in the personal growth space. Like, every day is supposed to be this miracle day, and every morning is supposed to be this miracle morning. And you’re supposed to make miracles happen and be fabulous and do all these fabulous things. And fabulous, fabulous.
And the truth is, sometimes things are fabulous, but fabulous is not a consistent adjective in our lives. I don’t care what anybody says. You can put fabulous on a pedestal all you want, but you’ve got to change diapers. That ain’t fabulous. You’ve got to deal with my headache and my stomachache, and the plumbing needs fixing, and I miss my friends and my family. That’s not fabulous.
I think what’s happening here, in part, Miss Ashley, is there’s a place where you are due for a great reexamination of your religion. And, when I say “religion,” I’m not talking about church or anything like that. I’m talking about the religion that you’ve inherited, invented, come up with, absorbed from the world around food and body and how life is supposed to look.
Marc: I think there’s some commandments that you have that you will naturally fall short of. And you will then naturally not like yourself or be upset with yourself, because you’re not living up to the standard. So, if I set the high bar of a fabulous life and a fabulous day, and each morning has to be kick-ass, that’s cool and that’s sweet and that’s good. There’s nothing wrong with that. But you don’t leave any room for messy. You don’t leave any room for “It’s just going to break. Stuff is going to happen.” You’re going to get up on the wrong side of the bed, and it’s snowing out today, and the car doesn’t start. And part of it is just joining the human race and getting a little more messy. A little more messy, a little more messy. Because you like perfect.
Marc: You do!
Ashley: I do.
Marc: I get it. And that’s sweet and it’s good. And I want to suggest that you can have perfect in moments. Where everything just feels so good, and that meal just feels so good, and that workout feels so good. There’s a place where you tyrannize yourself that it has to be a certain way all the time. And I don’t know, maybe it’s too much social media, where everybody seems to have this freaking fabulous life. And there’s no pain and struggle. And everybody is always having a fun time. There’s never a bad picture.
Ashley: Yeah, I’ve had to filter some of that.
Marc: Yeah! It’s crazy! I get it; I understand it. And that’s what you’re up against. That’s what you’re dealing with right now. It’s not super personal, but you’ve absorbed a lot of the, I think, the ineffective beliefs of the world that has us thinking it’s supposed to look a certain way, and we’re always going to come up short.
With perfectionism, we’re always going to come up short. With having to be fabulous, you’re going to come up short. With having to have it all perfect and even feel good about your body. Instead of shooting for that: “I want to feel good about my body.” I would even take that off the table! There’s a difference between feeling great about my body and treating my body in a way where I can feel good about myself.
I’m going to say that again. There’s a difference between “I feel great about my body!” versus “I treat myself, I treat my body, in such a way that I feel good about me.”
Marc: What happens is if I say, “I want to feel great about my body,” usually what we’re really saying is, “I want to have the perfect weight, the perfect shape. Which means I have to have the perfect diet; I can’t eat this, I can’t eat that. And I can’t stray. I have to exercise a lot. And oops, I missed my exercise today, which means I can’t have the perfect body, which means I can’t feel great about myself. Because I can’t feel great about my body if it’s not perfect.”
So, that’s different from, “I’m treating my body in such a way that I feel good about myself.” And that looks like not every day is going to be the perfect workout. Not every day will you get to work out. There’s going to be some days where you’re being a mommy, and it ain’t gonna go down; it ain’t gonna happen. You’re going to do the exercise called “picking baby up and putting baby down.” And you’re going to be doing the exercise called “bounce baby around, and drag the kid here, and do this and do that.” And life needs you to trust that.
Marc: You don’t trust that. Your belief is “If I don’t stick to my religion”—my religion being, ‘I don’t work out like this, I eat like that, I do this, I don’t do that’—“If I don’t stick to that…” Basically, you’re screwed, in your belief system. You’re kind of screwed. You’re kind of convinced you’re going to gain weight.
Which would make sense that you wake up in the morning like, “I’ve got to check my belly, and then I’m going to be a little bit crazed,” because your religion says, “This day must be perfect.” So, you’re starting out, “This day must be perfect; this body must be perfect.” So, you’re starting out with a goal that is designed to set you up for failure. And then you get frustrated with yourself. And then you think you’re doing something wrong.
So, a lot of this you kind of know. I’m putting slightly different words around it, and I wish there was an easy fix for this. I really do, Ashley. I wish there was an easy fix. And you actually, you’re making amazing strides with this. You’ve already painted a picture to me that where you were a while ago and where you are now, you’ve changed and you’ve shifted, and it’s not as bad. And you’re getting better here. And my very educated guess is that you are moving as fast as you possibly can. I really mean that. You can’t move any faster than this.
And I get it. You’re human, I’m human, and we have high standards. You have high standards. I have high standards. I want things to happen faster. “Why do I have to wait for this nonsense? Let it happen now!” That’s a little bit of what happens for you. You want things to get fixed now, and if they don’t get fixed now, you take that as a sign that you’re doing something wrong again. “What do I have to do different?” Right? Yeah.
Marc: So, you’re beating yourself up for things that you don’t need to beat yourself up for. It’s like, I don’t like snow. And when it snows, I noticed I used to beat myself up. Which is so dumb! I would start to get depressed, and I would get angry. “Why do I live here? Why do I live in snow? Why didn’t I see this coming?”
Ashley: Oh yeah, totally.
Marc: And I’m like, “Wait a second. That is the most ridiculous, retarded conversation I could possibly have with myself!” To beat myself up because it’s snowing. But, for sure, I did that for a number of years. So, what I’m saying is the mind could be a little bit insane in that way.
Marc: And you are moving as quickly as you can to mature yourself. Part of maturing yourself, you’ve accurately identified as stepping into your womanhood more. Because a woman doesn’t stand in the world and say, “Ok, do I need to lose another pound for you to love me?” and “Whoops, I ate an extra piece of marshmallow today. Is this going to mess me up?”
There’s a place where you’re learning to trust. And you don’t fully trust yet. And what I want to say to you is that’s ok. I really, really, really want you—one of the best moves you could make right now is to take a little bit of the pressure off yourself. It’s less about fixing yourself at this point. It’s less about getting rid of the thoughts. Thoughts are going to be there for a while. I just want you to take the pressure off for needing it to be so different so quickly. You see what I’m saying?
Marc: Because once you take that pressure off of you, your system can relax more. And when your system relaxes more, your higher intelligence, your higher brain starts to come online more. Your intuition comes online more. Your higher instinct comes online. You get so stressed out that your decisions aren’t your best ones. The decisions, meaning how you think and how you choose to respond to your thinking. And what you make up about your thinking and your life, and what you make up about where you’re at. You keep gathering evidence that you’re not enough.
Ashley: Oh, yeah.
Marc: I need you to start proving something different. There’s a place where it is literally like, if you were a computer, it would be like there’s a virus in there, and we’ve got to get it out. The virus is called “looking for evidence that proves that I’m not good enough and I need to work harder, do better.”
One of the ways you work harder and do better, believe it or not, is you talk to yourself in ways that are harmful. Thinking that it’s going to motivate you. Thinking that it’s going to cause you to take action, because that’s what the health world and the fitness world teaches. “Come on, you can do this!” Being a personal trainer, you can do this!
And that’s a good message, when that message is the right message. It’s a great message. But we need a lot more messages in your pocket than that one. Another good message for you would be, “You don’t have to do this today.”
Ashley: I know! I’ve thought about that. I’ve thought about “How wild, Ashley, would it just feel for you to take a day off?” Like, put that on the shelf. How wild that would be! How liberating. And, I will go to bed and have these feelings of, “Ok, tomorrow I’m going to do this, this, this, and this.” It’s lists in my head. And it’s been that way my whole life. And then, I’ll think, this wiser self will step in and say, “Shut your alarm off; tear up the list,” and I will feel this “Ahhhhh, ok.” And I’ll sleep great!
And it’s sort of like when you’ve tasted the sweetest or had the best meal of your life, and you just can’t find it. I’ve been there. I’ve been in that moment of, “Ahhh, ok.” And then, “Wait! Don’t lose it! Don’t lose it! Stay in this room here of confidence and not needing to be perfect.” So, it’s like you say, I’m almost—well, not that you said, but—I’m almost there. I’m trying very hard to stay in this space of a positive mindset and a loving mindset. I’ve tasted it, but I’m not quite living in it yet.
Marc: So, here’s a way to go. Ok, I’m going to tell you how to get there faster. We’re going to cheat here. I’m going to tell you how to get there faster. Ok? One of the ways to get there faster, to that great positive place where you’re treating yourself better, where you’re talking to yourself better, is to being to embrace the part of you that doesn’t talk so nicely to you. And to not let it freak you out so much. Because, right now, you are being so reactive to that other voice inside you. It freaks you out. The perfectionist voice in you just puts you in a tailspin sometimes.
When you’re in a bad mood, the perfectionist voice puts you in a tailspin. Is that true?
Ashley: Very true.
Marc: Ok. So, that is what I am calling a “bad religion.” Because, in truth, the way life works is some days you feel good and some days you don’t. Some days you get into an argument with your husband, and he’s a jerk, and you’re pissed, and you think of all these things you wanted to say and should’ve said, and nah nah nah nah… And it’s not a great day!
And maybe you ate too much, and the reason you ate too much today was because you got into that argument and you want to feel good about yourself, and you used food. And what I want to say to you is when that happens, I want you to go, “But, of course! That’s life. That happens; I’m human.”
You must come down to earth with all the other humans who get muddy and sloppy. Because you’re there anyway.
Marc: You’re trying to get higher up into the atmosphere, and you’re going to keep crashing. Instead, we hang out with our feet on the ground, and when you have a bad day, you love yourself. And when you overeat, you love yourself. You don’t love the fact that you overate, but you love yourself despite the fact that you overate.
Marc: Your loved ones, your family, the people that you love the most, sometimes they do dumb things. Sometimes they do things that aren’t good. Sometimes they do things to you that look silly. You might have a moment of judgment. You might have a moment of, “Why do you do that?” but you don’t say, “Ok, pulling away my love now! You suck.”
No, you need to be a better friend for yourself. You keep pulling away and being the perfectionist whenever things aren’t going perfect. And you actually become a not nice friend to you.
Ashley: And on those days that are good, I respond to that voice, and I say, “Oh, honey.” Like I am nice. But those are only days where… It’s half and half. And I’d like to get out of my head and not even in my heart. I want to get in my hips. I want to just really drop in and be here. I want to be in this body. I want to be in it.
Marc: This is how you do it. How you be in this body is you be in all of your experience. How you be in this body is you be in all of your emotions. Because emotions live in the body. Experience lives in the body. So, feel bad when you’re feeling bad. Feel annoyed when you’re feeling annoyed. If you’re feeling lazy, feel lazy. If you don’t want to work out, don’t work out. Trust yourself. And, if you get confused, get confused. But still find love for yourself.
So, what I’m saying is, instead of keep shooting for perfection, and keep shooting for “Wait a second, I don’t want to have these bad feelings, I just want to have these good feelings,” Saying, “I don’t want to have these bad feelings, I only want to have these good feelings, not the bad ones,” it’s almost like saying, “I want to be high all the time. I want to be stoned all the time. I want to be on drugs all the time.”
That’s why people get addicted, because they want to keep that same feeling all the time. And it just so happens that the human experiences that we go through—a lot of feelings and a lot of different emotions—we go on a ride. Sometimes every day. Especially when you’re younger. Especially if you’re a female.
Marc: There’s a lot of emotions coming across the screen. And, stepping into your womanhood means allowing for them. Welcoming them. Not getting so hung up on them, either duking it out with them or trying to suppress them or trying to live there forever. So, I’m just painting a slightly different picture of what things can be like for you. I am really trying to let you know that you set yourself up by setting impossible goals for yourself.
Marc: And you may need to go through a period of experimentation where you will feel a little bit ungrounded. You’ll feel uncertain, because the day when you don’t work out and you do sleep late, yeah, you’re like, “Oh my God, this feels great. Oh my God, this is terrible! Oh my God, I shouldn’t have done this!” Give yourself that. And love yourself through that even. What I’m saying is it’s learning how to stand by yourself through this rocky road, as opposed to turning this rocky road into this smooth, perfect thing. You see the difference?
Ashley: Yup. Yeah. Absolutely.
Marc: So, Miss Ashley, some of the big takeaways here is that it’s a rocky road to reclaim one’s ownership of one’s body, to reclaim one’s dignity, to let go of all the negative thoughts as best as a human can. And what’s going to happen is you’re going to reach a point where you let go of the negative thoughts that control, but they’re still going to be there, every once in a while.
Marc: It won’t be perfect, but it’ll be 95%, 96, 97, 98. Some days it’ll be 100. Some days you’ll dip down to 70%. But overall, what I’m saying is, as you let go of “It has to look a certain, specific way,” then you give yourself so much more room. You talked about losing your period for a while, and so often, so, so often it’s related to either poor diet, overexercise, or stress. Those are three of the most common factors that I’ve seen. So, you probably didn’t have a poor diet, but potentially, overexercise or stress can create that. And stress could look like a lot of things.
Marc: So, I think this is about you relaxing more into this next phase of your life.
Ashley: Yeah, I think when I did move here, I was trying so hard to pick up and be perfect and have this perfect life and have these perfect feelings and perfect clients. And more success. And I fed off of feedback from clients, and I didn’t feed myself, I think. And, I think in doing that, in depending on positive feedback from being “perfect,” it stopped me from really living. And that’s what I would like to practice. The whole “living” thing.
Marc: Yeah, so you’re turning that around. You’re turning that around, and these things take time, you know? Birthing a baby takes time. Gestating a baby takes time. Life takes time. Creation takes time. And life needs you to respect that process more. That it’s not all going to be perfect ever, and there’s ways you’re going to keep getting better and better, for sure. And you’re doing it. You’re actually doing it, and you’re learning along the way.
And it never stops. You’re going to keep seeing your missteps. And you’re going to keep saying, “Oh, I could’ve done this better!” and “Oh, wow, I just learned something new! I was going in this direction and I really should’ve been going in that direction.” A little bit of forgiveness, deep breath, and then, we move on.
Marc: And, my guess is, for the move that you’ve made and the life change that you’ve made and how you described it—you’ve been close with your family, and you’re living in a place where you don’t have a tribe and you don’t have support—that’s huge to do that! That’s very brave! That’s very, very brave, to start to kind of plant roots for a new life, a different life.
Marc: And, is that a doggie?
Ashley: [laughter] Yeah, sorry!
Marc: That’s so funny. Yeah, I think there’s places where it might be useful to give yourself a little bit of credit. Because you’ve wanted it to look perfect, and because of that, and because nothing is ever perfect, and it can’t look perfect, then you’ve missed celebrating what an awesome experience you’ve created, given the circumstances.
Marc: You see it as, “This isn’t perfect.” Most other humans would see it as, “Wow, that was brave! Wow, good for you! Wow, letting go of a career that you’ve had for 11 years that you’ve realized, ‘Wait a second, this isn’t working for me.’” And, I know that was letting go of a lot for you. It’s letting go of a way of thinking; it’s letting go of a way of life; it’s letting go of a whole part of your personality. And when you let go of that, there’s not anything there immediately to replace it that has the same bigness to it and intensity to it.
Ashley: Yeah, exactly.
Marc: So, a part of you has been trying to figure out who the new you is going to be, and part of you gets sucked back into the old you. “Ok, let’s go! You can do this!”
Marc: You’re not that girl anymore. Don’t even bother. Don’t even bother. Don’t even bother.
Ashley: Oh, those words are fun.
Marc: Don’t even bother. Now, it doesn’t mean on any given day, just for the heck of it, you couldn’t be her, but you would do it and have so much fun. As opposed to, “I have to do this. I have to be this person.” You know what I’m saying?
Marc: It’s like, you could take your friend to a gym and give her a great experience, and give her a great session, and motivate her, and have a beautiful time. And you could be your old self, and you could laugh and be goofy and give a lot of great instruction. I’m not talking about that. What I’m talking about is that person that made a living and identified with just being a little bit carefree, a little bit happy-go-lucky, a little bit like, “Hey, this body’s cooperating with whatever I’m asking it to do. It’s looking like I want it to look like. I’ve got lots of energy, and I work out, and I’m doing this and doing that.” And, you’re not her.
Ashley: Yeah, you’re right. So, I can befriend her, once in a while.
Ashley: When I need that, when I want that, but yeah, I’m so ready to just let her know she’s not in control of this life anymore.
Marc: Yeah, yeah! She’s not in control. She doesn’t run the show, and there’s a new expression coming. So, at the same time that you’re placing her into a smaller role—you’re just downsizing her role, dramatically—but at the same time you’re doing that, you’re inviting in a new life. Now, here is the kicker. You don’t exactly know what that new life looks like. Therefore, you have to be in the unknown a little bit. Therefore, you don’t have total control. Therefore, it’s not always going to go perfect. And therefore, you have to trust.
That is like weightlifting. So, that’s going to build your muscles. That’s going to build your personal, spiritual, emotional muscles. And it’s going to also infuse you in your new body. Because in order for your new body—because at every life stage you have a new body. You just do. Your body changes every year. I’m going to call that a new body. I’ve got a new body at my age. Next year I’m going to have another new body. But with every new body comes a new you.
Marc: Yeah, so with every new body comes a new you. In order to have a new body, you need a new you. There’s a new you coming down the pike, and there’s a new body coming down the pike. The new body is going to be more efficient. I’m just telling you, straight up, as you get older, you must train your body to become more efficient. Just more efficient. Like don’t waste energy doing things it doesn’t need to do.
Marc: That’s all. Just more efficient, and more specific. Ok, I need this; I don’t need that. This works for me; this doesn’t work for me. When you were a kid you could do a lot of nonsense oftentimes. The body’s resilient. So, all I’m saying is that your body will match you. If you’re stressed, and you’re freaked, and you don’t trust, then your body will match that. It will feel stressed and freaked and not trusting, because it’s getting signals from you that it’s not safe.
Marc: A body that’s not safe does not want to procreate. Because your body only wants to procreate when it’s safe. That makes perfect sense. “It’s not safe yet! Don’t bring baby into danger zone.”
Ashley: Yeah, no.
Marc: So, yeah. It’s not just about you anymore.
Ashley: Yeah, that was the big wakeup call for myself. When it became difficult for me to carry a child or to have a period. That was when I was like, “Ok, I need to let go of this flat tummy, almost college, teenage body. This is not the body I’m going to have. My body’s going to change. And you’ve got to be ok with that, Ash. You’ve got to be ok with that.” So, this new life, it feels exciting. It feels like I’m going on vacation, kind of. It feels like, “Ok, this is going to be exciting. This going to be fun. Ok, let’s do it! Seatbelts on. It’ll be ok. It’ll be good.”
And I can kind of see what it looks like, so I’m excited to just take the pressure off of just communicating the load I was carrying to you. It almost feels like, “Ok, I can exhale now, and let’s just move forward.” And let’s embrace this next big chapter and be ok with it. And, I hear you when you say that there are days when it’s going to be hard. To kind of recreate or build a religion, I guess. But I’m ok with that, because it’s better than hating yourself for not working out.
Marc: Yeah, yeah. So, you’re on that journey. You’re on that road. And it’s not perfect. You’re not perfect at it. None of us are. I’ve never met anyone who is. And I’ve met a lot of people who work on themselves in a very earnest way. And, you’re doing great! You really are. You’re doing great. It’s time to give yourself a little credit.
And it’s time to just kind of let the wisdom of the universe take over a little bit here. And, you know, there’s a saying in the sports world—forgive me for using a sports analogy, but I think you might appreciate it—and it’s especially used in basketball where they’ll say, “Let the game come to you.”
Because a lot of times you’ll get out there on the court and you want to do stuff, you want to make stuff happen, and you’ve got to do something. And you come out on the court, and you’re all nervous, and you want to do well, and sometimes you just come out with the attitude of “Ok, let me just come here and there’s a game here. I’m going to let the game show me. I’m going to let the game come to me.”
And part of that means you have to sink into your body. You sink into your body before you change your body—do something to it, exercise it. You’ve been doing stuff to your body. You do to the body. A lot. And now is your time to just be in your body more. And I know you’ve been doing that more. I know you’ve been being in your body more, letting go of being super-duper fitness trainer. That’s going to help, for sure.
But more, more, more, how do I just be in this body? Because that’s what going to take you into this next phase of your life. That’s what’s going to give you your healthiest body. That’s what’s going to give you your best metabolism, when you’re occupying your body. Not when you’re occupying your head, trying to tell your body what to do.
Ashley: Right. Right.
Marc: You know what I’m talking about.
Ashley: I do.
Marc: I know you do, because you’re smart.
Ashley: And, in the program, I’m so loving it. I’m loving the journey, and I’m excited to see what’s coming.
Marc: Well, I’m happy for you that you are so diligent about really working on yourself. And, really, the truth is that all of this energy that you’re trying to learn how to manage is really your enthusiasm for life. That’s really what it is. You just want to have a great life! I get it.
Marc: But having a great life doesn’t mean everything has to be perfect. But having a great life means “I am giving it my all.” And I see you giving it your all. And, all you need to do is just be kinder to yourself and notice where you have a couple of beliefs that just kind of get in your way of, “Whoa, wait a second. No, it’s not going to be perfect.” But all that energy is not—I would like you to not use the word “compulsion” when you describe yourself. I would really like you to not use that word.
Marc: I don’t think it’s accurate for you, actually. I hear what you’re saying, and I hear that it can feel like that, but what I want to do is, I want to see if you can slightly shift it. And every time you notice your “compulsion” or your compulsive behaviors or your compulsive thoughts, I want you to remind yourself, “This is really my energy, my boundless energy, to have a great life and to make things really good and to make them really work. And I’m just learning how to harness this energy better.”
Marc: You follow that?
Ashley: I do. Yeah. So, these—ok, not compulsions—these energies that I get to maintain this body, this body shape, then I’ll practice seeing that as just my energy that loves soaking every drop out of life sort of thing.
Marc: That loves life, that wants to have a great life, wants to have a great family, great kids, be a great mom. Be healthy. Help people. Do good work in the world.
Marc: And a lot of times, all that energy gets put into “perfect body.”
Marc: As opposed to “great life.”
Marc: “Full life.” Because we think, “Oh, if I had the perfect body, then that gives me great life.” But no, a great life gives you a great life, not a perfect body.
Marc: So, all I’m wanting to say there is compulsion doesn’t truly describe you and what you go through. It doesn’t honor, actually, who you are. You see what I’m saying?
Ashley: I do, I really do.
Marc: It’s your energy. You’ve got a lot of juice in your system, and you’re learning how to harness it in a way that works for you. It’s no different than any little kid that you see that has all this energy, and they run around and they fall down.
Marc: And that’s kind of what it is. It’s like a little kid with a lot of energy—run around, fall down. It’s like, “Ok, slow down now.” You know?
Ashley: No, you’re so right. I do have that.
Marc: So, I think this has been a great conversation.
Marc: I think we’ve covered some good turf.
Ashley: Yeah, I feel really good about it.
Marc: Yeah, you look way more relaxed. When you watch this video, I want you to notice your face at the beginning of this, I want you to notice your face in the middle, and I want you to notice your face at the end.
Marc: Yeah. Because, this is like there’s a part of you that’s really relaxed, and not trying to fix anything right now. And that’s you.
Ashley: Yes, I agree. I feel it.
Marc: Yeah. Ashley, thank you so much!
Ashley: Thank you, Marc! As always, I really appreciate it.
Marc: Yeah, me too, me too. This has been a great conversation. And we’ll get to follow up in another session a bunch of months from now.
Marc: Yeah, someone from the team will reach out.
Ashley: Oh, I’m excited! Thank you so much.
Marc: Yeah, thank you. It’s been really great. I really appreciate you being so willing and so open and so honest. I really mean that.
Ashley: Thank you, Marc. I appreciate your kind words, so thank you.
Marc: Thanks, everybody. I’m glad you’ve been on this journey with us. Always, more to come. Take care. I’m Marc David on behalf of the “Psychology of Eating” podcast.
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating
© Institute For The Psychology of Eating, All Rights Reserved, 2016
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