The Psychology of Eating Podcast Episode 27: Fast Track To A Better Body Image

Hayley is in her mid 20s and feeling super challenged by a constant onslaught of negative thoughts about her body. She also finds herself overeating, binge eating, and believes that when she has the perfect body, she can finally love herself. Her perfectionism is strangling her creativity and her happiness. She is clearly stuck and needs some new strategies. Tune in to this compelling episode as Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating comes up with some surprising strategies and unique homework assignments that leaves Hayley feeling upbeat, renewed, and ready to shine in her life.

Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:

Marc: Hi, everybody! I’m Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. Thanks for tuning in. And here I am with a wonderful young woman, Hayley. Thanks for being here!

Hayley: No worries! Great to be here!

Marc: Yay. And I’m speaking to you. You’re in New Zealand.

Hayley: Yeah, just at the bottom of New Zealand in Queenstown.

Marc: Part of me, I’m just a little jealous. To me, you’re lucky. I don’t know. I always think of New Zealand as kind of a magical place. And I would love to just come visit there some time and explore.

Hayley: Yeah, I love it here. I’m just right out the window now is I have the lake and the mountains. It’s pretty stunning.

Marc: Yay. And it’s amazing. With modern technology, here we are. I’m in Boulder, Colorado. And you’re kind of halfway across the world. And we can do this. So that’s pretty profound.

Hayley: Yeah, it’s awesome.

Marc: So let me set you up for listeners and viewers tuning in right now. Again, thanks for being here. Thanks for your interest. Here’s what were going to do. Hayley and I are going to do a session together. And you’ll soon learn what she wants to cover and what she wants to have insights or openings or breakthroughs in. And for about thirty-five minutes, I’m going to be talking to Hayley as if she is my client and in a strange way as if this is the last session that I’ll ever do on planet Earth. So I’m going to give this everything.

So this is a little strange because it’s not typical. If I’m working with the typical client, we could be working together for months, if not a year if not sometimes more. But what we’re going to do is we are going to turbocharge this to see if we can get to the heart of the matter. So it’s a little bit of an artificial situation. But at the same time, we’re kind of pushing the pedal to the metal to see if we can create an opening or a transformation with the kinds of insights that will really help you move forward.

So what I’m going to do is, again, for about thirty to thirty-five minutes, Hayley and I are going to do a session. And then we’ll have a natural ending. And then what I’m going to do for viewers and listeners is I’m going to break down what happened. I’m going to tell you here’s why I said what I said. Here’s what I think is going on.

And if you’re just the kind of person who’s interested in advancing in transforming your own relationship with food, you’re going to get a lot of insights. And if you’re a practitioner who works with clients or patients, you’ll also get insights in how to work with somebody with similar concerns or challenges. So that’s the good news. Do you feel ready to jump in, Hayley?

Hayley: Yep. I think so.

Marc: Okay, great. So let me ask you this question. Can you say in a minute or two or less what’s the challenge that you face when it comes to food, body, or health that you would love to work on right now?

Hayley: Quite a broad question!

Marc: Isn’t it, though? Yeah!

Hayley: Yeah. I definitely think body image is a really big one for me. But then tied in with it is the…I don’t know if you call it overeating or binge eating.

I’ve definitely done a lot of work over the past four years or so trying to work on myself and get through this turmoil that I’d initially had. And I’m feeling like I’m in a pretty good place at the moment. But I just lost momentum.

I’m in like a stage of transformation. But I’m just not getting there. And I have a lot of, you’d say, negative thoughts, self-judgment. They just pop up like crazy all the time. And it’s almost like a reel going over in my head. So it’s hard to tune into it because it’s kind of always been there. So the big one with body image would just be my self-talk.

And then with my binge eating, I used to do it all the time, mainly at night-time. And now it’s every now and then. And it’s definitely stress related or if I haven’t had enough food during the day or that time of the month or anything going on just triggers it. Sometimes I can decide to go and do something else if I’m tired. Then it’s just like boom. And then all the emotions come with it. Yeah. So I’m definitely getting better with just kicking myself back up the same day or the next day straight away, which is really, really good for me. But, yeah, I’m just not really sure where to go to from here. I sort of feel like I’ve had a raging war on with everything that’s going on.

Marc: Great. So that’s super clear. And it makes total sense. We do hit dead ends sometimes. Or we do kind of flatten out and hit a plateau. “Wow, I’ve worked on myself. And I’ve made certain strides. And all of a sudden nothing feels like it’s moving forward.” So I think that happens in a lot of places in life.

Let me ask you about…So the body image part, the negative self-talk, just a couple of examples of what you might be saying to yourself in your head, like what those thoughts are or what those critiques are.

Hayley: It’s definitely frustrating because I know others don’t view me like that, like my partner. But then it’s just in my head. So I’ll be constantly like, “Ugh, look at that,” or, “Ugh. Man, you need to go and work out,” or, “Your legs, what’s going on there?”

A big one for me is definitely my legs. That one sort of rolls over quite a lot. It’s hard to remember the actual negative thoughts because they’re sort of autonomous, sort of just happen. And I just get the negative feeling, not necessarily the exact words.

Marc: I get it. So if you could wave your magic wand and have the body you wanted, what would that look like?

Hayley: I would definitely be a way bit slimmer than I am. And I would just hold myself really well. I’m sort of tied up in this whole perfectionist circle, as well, which isn’t helpful. But it would definitely be just a bit slimmer than I am.

Marc: Do you have a number in your head? Like, “Oh, I would lose X amount of kilos or pounds. And that would be my magic number.”

Hayley: Not really. I stopped weighing myself maybe three, four years ago just because that was really just adding fuel to the fire. So I can only really guess maybe like a dress size, one or two dress sizes. Yeah.

Marc: So have you ever had a time when you had the body that you want right now?

Hayley: Yes! And it’s so annoying! [Laughs]

Marc: Yeah?

Hayley: And I think that just makes it so much worse because it was maybe four years ago. But I don’t like how I got there. And like you say, it doesn’t change the thought processes for your happiness or anything like that. But it was the sort of, I guess, ideal that I would be looking to get to, but in a more natural way.

Marc: Okay, so how did you get there? So four years ago, how old were you four years ago?

Hayley: Twenty.

Marc: Okay, twenty. So how did you get that body? How did you create it?

Hayley: Mom went on this diet. And she lost like sixteen kg. And then I came home from summer and at university, had a real tough 1st year. And I’d put on quite a lot of weight. And I was like, “All right.” And I just did landscaping for a job or painting. I can’t remember now. And then I’d just charge the gym every day.

I ate bare minimal, just like protein and veggies pretty much. Yeah. And I think that diet was actually weighed, as well. You’d weigh out, like you’d go in the morning and get your portion sizes. That was quite crazy. I hadn’t done anything like that before.

Marc: So you were weighing your food. You were controlling your diet. Were you doing more exercise than you’re doing now?

Hayley: Yep. Yeah.

Marc: What kind of exercise were you doing and how much?

Hayley: I’d go to the gym for like an hour, an hour and half. So I’d just do a half hour of cardio and then just do a general weight circuit. Or I’d be playing touch. Yeah, so just a general full body workout each time I went to the gym.

Marc: So you had that body that you wanted. Was there a moment, was there a day when you looked in the mirror and said, “Oh, my God, Hayley! You did it. Here it is.”

Hayley: Yeah, definitely.

Marc: And then what happened from there?

Hayley: I had an amazing summer. And then I went back to uni and just put a bit more weight on. But I didn’t go right back to where I was. Life just went on as normal. And then all of a sudden, I looked at my body and looked back and I was like, “Ooh! That’s changed a wee bit!” But it wasn’t sustainable, and I knew it. So these things happen.

Marc: So how long have you been in the relationship that you’re in right now?

Hayley: About five years.

Marc: Wow. And how does your partner feel about your body?

Hayley: He has no qualms. He loves it and continues to say that it and wishes I could see it.

Marc: And how does that land for you when he says that, when he’s like, “Wow, I love this. I wish you would just accept it and see you the way I see you.” What happens when he says that? Where do you go in your head?

Hayley: I really like it. But I think I have trouble actually receiving it. I hear it. But I don’t necessarily believe it.

Marc: So you don’t believe it meaning, “I think he’s telling the truth. But I don’t believe it for me.” Or do you think maybe he’s just trying to make you feel good? And he secretly wants somebody who’s like really skinny? What are you thinking? See if you could break it down a little more.

Hayley: Oh, no. For him, I know that it’s completely genuine. It’s more just me being able to actually receive it with my self-esteem.

Marc: Yeah. So these days…And, by the way, Hayley, for you and for anybody else listening in here, I like to bounce around. So we’re moving from topic to topic. But there’s a method to the madness here. And we’re going to put everything together, for sure.

So these days when do you think you love your body the most? Meaning are there moments where, I don’t know, maybe it’s accidental or all of a sudden, “Hey, this is okay!” Or when are the moments where you feel most loving towards your body and the least amount of the talkie talkie?

Hayley: Oh, I have moments of complete love. And it’s so amazing. It’s often when I’m just out walking in nature or I’m in a yoga class. Yeah. The best times are definitely when I’m out walking just by myself.

Marc: And what do you say to yourself in those moments? So there’s outer things going on. “Okay, I’m walking outside.” “I’m in a yoga class.” What is it internally that’s happening for you that makes that a moment of, “Gosh, I love this. I love myself. I love my body.” What are you saying?

Hayley: When I go for a walk by myself, I often just air out everything that’s going on in my head. And I love being outside. And I just go for a bush walk around the road or down the road, pretty close. So I just air out everything, all my worries. And then I just notice where I am and what I’m doing. And I just start on this massive gratitude wheel. And I just begin being really grateful for everything in my life.

And that also comes into…because I’m obviously trying to work on loving myself. So lots of affirmations, like, “You’re out in nature. It’s so beautiful.” I don’t know. I feel so much more connected to my body when I’m out in nature. And I think that comes through in like a really nice way when I’m walking.

Marc: Yeah, your face kind of lit up the most that it’s lit up since we’ve been doing this. I get that it’s a real special experience for you. Something happens.

Hayley: Yeah.

Marc: Yeah. So in yoga class, which is a little different. I’m assuming you’re in your yoga outfit and you’re around other people. And everybody’s doing yoga. And you’re showing off your body, whether you like it or not. What helps you drop-in and love your body in those moments?

Hayley: I think I love it. It’s the atmosphere that the class and the studio has. You just walk in and there’s no judgment because you just go in. Like when you’re doing an internal pose, you just somehow drop all the crap and just focus on your body and how it’s functioning and what you can actually do.

And when you use your breath and get to that quiet, still place, you’re quite authentic in that moment. And there’s no crap. That critic in your head just isn’t there. And that’s what I like about yoga.

Marc: Got it. So tell me again. Let’s say you waved your magic wand and you have that perfect body right now, what would be different for you other than the fact that you have this perfect body? What would be different? What’s the result?

Hayley: Whenever I think about that or visualize that, I think of the body. But I more think about how I’m feeling and how I’m holding myself. So I just hold myself with confidence, but still be humble and just feel really grounded and strong and really owning my power, but feel really free and fun, like I can just completely be myself and not have a care in the world what anyone else thinks.

Marc: Ah. Okay. I just want to repeat that back for you. So if you had that perfect body, the benefits are really mostly of feeling. You would be free. You would be confident. You would carry yourself a really great way. You’re still humble. And you don’t care what anybody thinks. You’re just loving what you have, and empowered and, “Here I am, world! This is great! I’m happy to be here!”

Hayley: Yeah, definitely.

Marc: Any other benefits that you see yourself having? Do you imagine it’s going to be different? Is your partner going to like you better? Are men going to like you better? Are women going to like you better? Is there anything there in terms of how life will be better?

Hayley: I think the personal transformation, like me having all those amazing feelings. Obviously, that doesn’t last forever. That would change our relationship. So me having that confidence and that power, that real fun, flirty side, that would definitely help things. But we’d still have all the normal stuff we have. I’d just be more out there.

Marc: Yeah. So that fun and flirty side would be there. You would be more out there. Okay, got it.

Let’s talk about the binge eating thing for a moment. So these days, how many times a week might you find yourself binge eating on average?

Hayley: I don’t know. I definitely overeat at meals. I sense when my body is full. And I’m just like, “Eh,” and carry on. It’s more like on a monthly cycle. Maybe for a week of the month, I’ll binge eat more. I definitely crave the sugar and stuff like that. It’s more in the afternoon. It’s more between 4:30 and 6:00.

Marc: 4:30 and 6:00. So are you reaching for certain foods?

Hayley: Yeah. I don’t really buy junk food as such. So I might just come home and just have a massive binge on cheese and crackers and avocado. But then if I do just stop at the shop, I’ll get an ice cream or a block of chocolate or a big thing of nice yogurt. But I can’t finish it all. I used to be able to just burn it out at home. It’s really weird. I sort of binge on healthy stuff.

Marc: A lot of people do.

Hayley: And I think I justify that to myself. But it’s definitely, if I’m going to go for any junk, it’s ice cream or chocolate.

Marc: So it’s usually between, you said 4:30 to 6:00. And that’s after work? Is that true?

Hayley: Yes. And I’m often home alone for like an hour or so. But I think it’s just midday stressing because I’m still on break now. I don’t go back until next Monday. And on break, it’s in the afternoon. I don’t know. I think I’m bored or avoiding. Yeah.

Marc: So how about at night?

Hayley: I usually have quite a big dinner. And then I’m just done.

Marc: Are you dieting these days? Are you trying to follow a weight loss diet?

Hayley: No. I haven’t dieted since that last diet.

Marc: Do you generally eat breakfast?

Hayley: Yeah, I love breakfast.

Marc: What time do you eat breakfast?

Hayley: If I’m going to work, about 7:00 or 7:30.

Marc: And a typical breakfast might be?

Hayley: I usually have bacon and eggs and some grains or a smoothie or an omelet.

Marc: And what time does lunch usually happen when you’re at work?

Hayley: When I’m at work, I try to eat lunch at about 12:00. That’s usually when I’m starving by then. Sometimes I’m too caught up and don’t get a break until maybe like 2:00.

Marc: And what’s a typical lunch?

Hayley: I usually just have a smoked chicken salad or chicken and Avon crackers or leftovers. Yeah, it sounds pretty healthy.

Marc: And how long do you take for lunch, generally speaking?

Hayley: Half an hour max, unless I’m meeting mom or a friend.

Marc: So half an hour max. But what would you say is average?

Hayley: Probably twenty minutes.

Marc: Twenty minutes. Okay. And so lunch, you try for 12:00. Sometimes it’s as late as 2:00. And then anywhere from 4:30 to 6:00, you’ll have that snack, which you’re sometimes calling overeating or a binge.

Hayley: Yes.

Marc: So that’s maybe somewhere between 4:30 and 6:00. And then what time is dinner?

Hayley: Yeah, and then that’s the thing. I’m not even hungry. And then I just charge dinner down at like 7:30.

Marc: But are you hungry at 7:30?

Hayley: No.

Marc: No. But you say you have a big dinner at 7:30?

Hayley: Yeah. I live with boys at the moment. So I often have big dinners.

Marc: Because boys eat a lot of food? Is that what you’re saying?

Hayley: Yeah, they love their dinners.

Marc: And do you live with your partner?

Hayley: Yeah.

Marc: And does he eat a lot?

Hayley: Yeah. He doesn’t eat much during the day. He’s a builder. He’ll have a couple of sandwiches, like an egg omelette for breakfast and then just has a massive dinner.

Marc: Got it. And in general do you consider yourself a fast eater, a moderate eater, or a slow eater? How would you rate yourself?

Hayley: I’m slow compared to most people I know. But then I still consider myself only to be a moderate eater. Yeah.

Marc: Okay, got it. So in the interest of just having some new ideas, new tools, and new directions and getting off this plateau and feeling like you’re moving somewhere, I would love to give you my, I’ll say, feedback based on the questions I’ve asked in the answers you given because I’ve really learned a lot. And you’ve been very clear and honest. So thank you.

So what I’m going to just do is give you some of my general impressions. And then I’m going to just say some guidelines to think about and then some homework! See, because you’re a student. So homework is good!

Hayley: Yeah!

Marc: So I’ll give you some homework that, to me, will help you get to where you want to go. So in general the first thing I want to say is that first of all congratulations because I get that you’re really working on yourself. And you really want to better yourself. And you really want to feel empowered. And for you and for anyone else, that is the absolute key is that you want to get there.

And you’re making efforts and steps to get there because what you’re trying to do—i.e. love my body—is one of the hardest freakin’ things to do for a lot of people on planet Earth right now. So I’m guessing that you’re not the only one who faces this challenge. There’s a lot of people that do face this in a big way. “I don’t like my body part.” “I don’t like my legs.” “I don’t like this.” “I want this to change.”

I really want to emphasize, I want you to notice when I asked you the question did you ever have that perfect body and how was that? How did you feel, what happened? And you got there. And you said it felt great. Yeah, like, “Wow, that felt great.” And then it wasn’t sustainable. “I went back to university, whatever. And things happened.”

So what I want to say to you is for all of us and for you, we kind of get high on certain things. So when I have two shots of tequila, I feel really good. I feel kind of like the best maybe that I felt all day. But that’s not a sustainable practice for me feeling good. Oftentimes when we diet and exercise and we effort to have a certain body type, it’s a temporary high. And then life sets in. And we kind of get stuck in what I’m going to call a state addiction. We’re addicted to a certain state.

So some people get addicted to the state called buzz on alcohol. Some people get addicted to the state called high on cocaine. Some people get addicted to the state called running ten miles a day. We can get addicted to certain states. People get addicted to their dieting and their exercising and reaching their goal and that feel-good place. And it’s kind of not sustainable.

And to me, what I want to suggest is there is a natural place where your body wants to be.

And when I asked you, what’s the result that you’re going to have, like if you had the perfect body, what would be the result, virtually everything you shared with me was a feeling. “Here is how I will feel.” And you said, “I will feel empowered. I’ll feel good about myself. I’ll feel, ‘Hey, this is me. And I don’t care what anybody thinks.’”

So I want to mention for you and for anybody else listening here, in the human mind when we say to ourselves, “I want the perfect body,” perfection implies, “I’m above criticism. You can’t criticize me. I can’t criticize me. And nobody else out there can criticize me because I’m perfect.” Who is going to criticize somebody who has the perfect job? The perfect weight? The perfect house? The perfect partner? The perfect life? You can’t criticize them.

There’s a part of the human brain — and it’s a little dumb — that wants to have perfection so nobody bothers us, so we’re above criticism. Because if you’re above criticism, everything is good and I’ll live happily ever after. And the truth is we’re not perfect. And when we go for the perfectionism thing again and again and again, it usually leaves us lacking. It’s a no-win situation. I think you’re learning that it’s no-win for you.

Hayley: Oh, yeah. Yep.

Marc: So you’re learning that it’s a no-win. So here’s how I would love for you to context or think about perfectionism. I would love for you to think about it like it’s a bad virus. Having the perfect body is actually a mental virus that humans catch. And you’re not the only one that’s caught it. Chances are your mother has it. True or false?

Hayley: Yeah.

Marc: Okay, chances are some of your girlfriends have it. True or false?

Hayley: Yeah, definitely.

Marc: Yeah. So I know few people who don’t have it, quite frankly, especially in my business. And it’s particularly intense for women. And it’s particularly intense for young women because that’s kind of where we catch the virus. We catch it in youth. So, again, I want you to think of your problem as less personal one, and more collective one, kind of like catching the flu.

Hayley: Yeah, okay.

Marc: And if you caught the flu and you’re sick, you would try to eat well. You try to take some good supplements. And you would want to knock that flu out because you don’t want to have the flu for the rest of your life because it’s irritating, it depresses you, it depletes your energy. Perfectionism, I really want you to think of it like a bad virus. And anything you do to combat that virus — and this is the only place I’m going to ask you to fight; this is the only place I’m going to ask you to get strong — is when you notice yourself going into, “I don’t like my body. I don’t like this part of my body.” That’s the virus talking.

And the virus wants to weaken you. Just like any parasite or any virus that you catch, its job is to weaken you and feed off of you. So that perfectionism, having the perfect body virus, literally feeds off of us. And then companies feed off of us by promising us quick-fix methods and weight loss, instant lose ten kilos in ten days, all that kind of nonsense.

So interesting when I asked you, “Hey, Hayley, when do you love your body? When does it feel good?” You immediately knew the answer to the question. And your first answer was, “When I’m in nature. When I’m walking alone.” You feel connected. And right then and there, there’s that feeling that you want. You feel empowered. You’re loving yourself. You feel good. You feel connected. There’s nobody else around. So you don’t care what anybody else is thinking because there’s nobody there anyway. And it’s just you and the trees in the wind and the birds in the sun and the stars.

So there’s your medicine. I want you to think of it as your medicine. And we don’t take medicine all the time. “Oh, I’ve got a headache. Maybe I’ll take aspirin.” “I’ve got a cold. Maybe I’ll take a good herb. I’ll take Echinacea. Or I’ll take ginger. Or I’ll take rhodiola,” or whatever I take. It’s not that I take the medicine all the time. But we need healthy doses of the right medicine to combat whatever virus we’re looking to overcome.

So that feeling that you have in nature, that’s yours. And it’s real. And it’s true. And that I want to suggest to you is the true you.

Hayley: Yes, definitely.

Marc: That’s the real you. And the more time you could absorb that, the more consistently you do that, and the more consistently you acknowledge, “This is the real me right here.” And for sure when you go back and you go back home and you watch TV or you see people and then that creeps him again, at the very least you have a guiding star because you know how it feels.

Nature doesn’t lie. That’s why people like yourself and a lot of us…I could take people who even hate nature. And they don’t like being on a trail. And if you take them out of the wilderness for ten days — and I used to do this for many years — they’ll eventually be converted. They’ll learn how to love nature. Nature doesn’t lie. It’s not attacking you with evil thoughts and negative thinking. Nature doesn’t judge you. A tree is a tree. A bird is a bird. They’re not trying to sell you anything.

You also mentioned that, “Hey, when I’m doing yoga, I’m loving myself.” And how I language that is when you get out of your head and into your body, you fall in love with yourself more. So the trick to having the body you love — for you and for all of us — is to get out of our heads and be more in the body.

Hayley: Yes.

Marc: And be in the body in a way that you love. So there’s a part of you, when you’re doing yoga, you actually love it. That’s good for you. And I’m guessing it’s a good class. And I’m guessing, “Wow. You like the people. And you like the teacher.” A lot of people do exercise that they hate and they can’t stand and that’s punishing. And they make themselves do things that they don’t like to do because they think, “This is going to make me have the perfect body, which will then make me happy.” But happiness and a loving your body comes in the moment. So what I’m trying to say is this is a practice. And it’s lifelong. And it’s baby steps. And you are way further along than you think.

Hayley: Okay.

Marc: Yeah. So in your mind — I’m telling you as a professional who’s been doing this for years — you’re way further down the line than you think you are.

And you’re closer to being where you want to be than you think you are. And, to me, what I would like to say to you is where I think you want to be is where the majority of you spends your time in, “I love what I’ve got. I feel good about this body. I feel good about my life.”

Where the majority of you spends your time there, which means fifty-one percent. Not a hundred percent. Not ninety-nine. But minimum fifty-one percent. As soon as you hit that fifty-one percent point, your life changes dramatically. You don’t have to be at ninety-nine percent. You just have to hit fifty-one.

And the way you hit fifty-one is actually the way you’re doing it right now, which is baby steps. A little walk maybe every day. Maybe three or four times a week, a yoga class. Twice a week, three times a week, four times a week. And feel what it feels like to have what you want.

And here’s the other piece. So here’s part of your homework assignment.

Hayley: Okay.

Marc: And, by the way, I’m going to email this to you. So you don’t have to worry about, “Oh, my God. I forget what he said.” You’re going to get this via email. So, homework assignment, first and foremost is I want you to write a list for yourself so you can have it on paper or on a document on your computer, “Here, again, are the benefits I think I’m going to have when I have the perfect body. Here are the benefits.”

So that was the good feelings that you mentioned. “I’m going to love myself.
I’m going to be the real me. I’m going to be confident. I’m going to carry myself
better. I’m going to be a little flirty.” You mentioned that. “I’m going to be a little more sassy.” You didn’t use that word, but that’s kind of what I heard. You could be that today. You could carry yourself different today. You could start to be more sassy and flirty today. You could feel better about yourself today.

If I told you, “Hayley, you’re going to get paid a million dollars to be an actress in this one TV show. And the part you’re going to play is this 24-year-old young woman who loves her body and is just so confident and feels so good about herself and she’s such a flirt. And she so digs herself.” If I said you’re getting a million dollars for that, I’m willing to bet you would nail that part. We would film you for the day. And you would convince us for that money. So it’s kind of sort of playing with faking it till you make it.

Hayley: Yep.

Marc: And what I’m suggesting to you as a homework assignment, it’s simple in principle, but not easy to get there. But it’s something as simple as when you leave the house and you’re walking down the street, how are you carrying yourself? How do you smile at people? Are you being generous with your energy? Are you communicating, “I feel good about this.”

I want you to be an actress. And you might even give yourself a whole different name in your head that describes that person. And I want you to see if you can remind yourself in different moments during the day to play act who you would be if you have the perfect body.

You’re creating those feelings now because it’s a feeling that you are after. And those feelings can happen literally as we speak because you’re already doing it. You do it when you walk in nature. You do it when you’re doing yoga. How does that land for you so far?

Hayley: Yeah. That sounds really good. It’s nice to get someone else’s view on it all.

Marc: And I really want you to remember — this is so important — that you’re further along than you think. I want you to remember that if your best friends were as critical of your body as you are to yourself, they would not be your friends.

Hayley: [Laughs] Yeah.

Marc: Is that true?

Hayley: Yeah.

Marc: You wouldn’t talk to them! It would be unacceptable. If your boyfriend was as mean about your body as you might be to you sometimes in your own head, he probably wouldn’t be your boyfriend. And the relationship wouldn’t last.

So there’s your model because other people are seeing you for who you are. And you even mentioned…when I asked you, “How does it land for you when your partner says to you, ‘Honey, I love what you’ve got!’” And you said, “Well, I kind of believe it. But I kind of don’t believe it. I don’t know if I can take it in.”

So, oddly enough, second homework assignment have so many great pieces in place for success. I just want to let you know. You have a really god setup here because you’re with someone who loves you. You’re in a long-term relationship, which is maybe unusual for someone your age. And it’s somebody who really likes you and is attracted to you.

And I would love for you to tell him, “Hey, I had my session with Marc David. And he gave me this homework assignment. And the homework assignment is, honey, that whenever you complement me about my body and my looks, I have to pause, look you in the eye, and take a deep breath, and see if I can take in the complement.”

Hayley: Okay.

Marc: And when you do that, you have to be quiet. And you literally have to see if you can take it in. And it’s a practice. And you might miserably fail for weeks. But if you keep practicing…and what a good practice to have, right? What good problem to have. “Oh, I can’t take my boyfriend’s comments about how wonderful I look.” Good problem to have. But sometimes when we can’t love our own body, it’s nice to have the help of someone who does.

Hayley: Yep.

Marc: We need other people, you know? I can’t be a businessman all by myself. I need help. I can’t cook all by myself. Sometimes I need people to cook me a meal. There’s tons of things you and I can’t do by ourselves. Sometimes loving our body means accepting the love and the compliment that’s coming from out there.

So regular practice might be every night before bed your boyfriend gives you some beautiful, sweet compliments. And your job is to be silent, deep breaths, and take it.

Hayley: Okay. Yep.

Marc: How does that feel?

Hayley: Yeah, that’s definitely achievable.

Marc: Does that feel scary? Does that feel like, “Oh, my goodness. I can’t do that.”

Hayley: No, not at all. I’ll have to remember. But it’s definitely a fun bit of homework.

Marc: Yeah. I also want to point out a principle that underlies everything you and I have been talking about, which is here’s the principle. The principle is you look as good as you feel. You look as good as you feel. Have you ever have days where for some reason, you just woke up feeling good. You just woke up feeling good and you look in the mirror and you’re like, “Yeah! This is okay! I like this.”

Hayley: Yes.

Marc: Have you had those days?

Hayley: Yeah.

Marc: And conversely have you had days where you wake up. You just wake up and you don’t feel good about yourself. And you look in the mirror, and you really think you look like yuck.

Hayley: Yeah. I’ve had those, too.

Marc: Yeah? So it’s all about a feeling. It’s all about how we feel that actually kind of determines how we look. So the key here is to keep creating the conditions that help generate the feeling that we want. The feeling that you want is, “I feel good about myself. I love myself. I love my life. I’m flirting. I’m open. I’m being the real me.” You can create those conditions by taking in your boyfriend’s loving compliments. You create those conditions by walking in nature, by being in yoga class, and really anchoring that feeling.

Remember, “This is the real me. The rest of the mind chatter is virus.” So it’s learning how to control your mind. So a lot of what we’re talking about…and I want viewers and listeners to really understand this, whether your professional or whether you’re just anybody looking to transform your own relationship with food, and if you have challenges loving your body, really the program that you’re in is learning how to tell my mind to shut up when it’s saying nasty shit, essentially, to tell my mind to cease and desist when it is saying things that are unacceptable and undignified and that don’t elevate me.

Because if your friends were doing that, you would tell them to stop. If your boyfriend was doing that, you would tell them to stop. And this is about mind training. And it takes time. So if any of you are expecting, “Oh, my God. I’m going to take some pills. I’m going to push the magic button. And I’m going to love myself overnight,” it ain’t gonna work. It’s a practice in bettering ourselves like any other practice. You want to learn how to run long distances? You got to start with small distances first. So I really want you to think this is a journey that you’re on. And you’ve already come far.

Hayley: Yeah, definitely.

Marc: So my absolute, hundred percent assumption — and I would bank all my money on this — is that if you continue with the same commitment, continue with the same passion for bettering myself, even in the times when you feel stuck, it’s just a little bit of a holding pattern because sometimes we need to be in a holding pattern. And when we keep practicing loving acts — you take walks, you go to yoga class, you take in the love from your boyfriend, you monitor your mind, you listen to what it’s saying—and you say, “Uh, excuse me. You’re going into self-attack. You’re going into self-criticism,” deep breath. And literally you’re saying no in that moment. You’re literally saying no. If a stranger walked up to you and started to be nasty to you, your best move is to walk away or to just say no. And that’s what you have to do with your own mind.

I also want to say something about the overeating piece. Overeating, binge eating, I really would need to spend more time with you to really break it down. But here’s what I want to say about that. Given your schedule, given the time that you eat breakfast — 7:00 a.m. — given the time you eat lunch, anywhere from 12:00 to 2:00-ish, you don’t have a super big lunch is what it sounds like.

You’re eating lunch in twenty minutes roughly. It makes sense that you’re hungry between 4:30 and 6:00. So I want you to know it makes sense that you’re hungry between 4:30 and 6:00. Your body is probably needing nutrition at that stage of the game, at that time of day. So just from a nutrient density standpoint, just from a metabolic place of what your body is needing to get you through the day, there’s a five hour leap—sometimes X or seven hours leap—between your breakfast in your lunch. And you’re very hungry at lunch.

So what’s happening is you are having a smaller size lunch. Your body is naturally going to be hungry three or four hours later. And plus you set yourself, “I want to de-stress sometimes after work with food,” which is also understandable. Food helps us de-stress.

Hayley: Yeah.

Marc: So I want you to think of that afternoon snack as, “This is part of my meal plan.” Instead of trying to get rid of it, thinking, “This as part of my meal plan. My biology is calling for food. It’s calling for nutrient density.” You’re already tending to choose healthy foods. So that’s great. I want you to think of it as a positive. And I want you to focus on, as best you can, relaxing and eating slow and enjoying that snack.

Relax. Eat slow. Enjoy. That’s going to help you not overeat. It’s going to help you get what you want. It’s going to help you not self-reject. And my sense is if you relax into that snack, you’re not going to be fighting against it. Because if you’re fighting against it, you’re going to end up losing, meaning, “Oh, my God. I ate too much. I shouldn’t have eaten that. And now I’m not hungry later on.”

So if you eat it slow, if you relax into it and get what you want, my suspicion is you’ll eat enough for your body. You’ll find your body wisdom. And then when you come to dinner, you’ll be a little more hungry than usual for your dinner meal.

Hayley: Yeah. That sounds good.

Marc: Make sense?

Hayley: Yeah, definitely.

Marc: Okay. So, as I said, I’m going to make sure to send you these. And I’m going to give you one more homework assignment. And it sounds like you kind of do this already, especially when you take your nature walks. Sometimes instead of fighting our problem, fighting our challenge…so your challenge is the negative self-talk about my body.

And I did mention to you I want you to catch yourself when you’re having those thoughts and kind of say no and wanted to your mind and really see if you can harness it and control it because it’s your mind. And our mind tends to run around like a crazy little monkey and do what it wants to do and say what it wants to say. And it could torture us. And again the name of the game is harnessing the power of our thoughts so they don’t harm us.

So instead of always doing that strategy — it’s a good strategy — another way to improve ourselves is to crowd out the old negative habit with a positive one.

So the positive habit that I want to crowd your negative self-talk out with is gratitude.

And I would love for you to see if it feels good for you to do a gratitude journal at night. Keep a journal by your bed. And it’s straight up your gratitude journal. And for five or ten minutes before you go to sleep while you’re in bed, your day is done, I want you to write down everything from that day that you’re grateful for. And there should be at least fifteen to twenty entries on the list.

It doesn’t have to be big things. It could be tiny things. “I’m grateful that I get to spend another day with my partner.” “I’m grateful that I’ve got a roof over my head.” “I’m grateful that I have my health.” “I’m grateful that I have beautiful people around me.” “I’m grateful that I got to speak to my mother today even though she was kind of a jerk to me.” Even in the negatives, we can find some gratitude. So I want you to just flood that journal with things that you’re grateful for, and especially some things that you’re grateful for about your body.

Hayley: Okay.

Marc: Make sense?

Hayley: Yeah. That sounds good.

Marc: And the idea is to do that for at least thirty days, a thirty-day journal of gratitude at night.

Hayley: Okay.

Marc: Okay?

Hayley: Yeah.

Marc: So I want to say a few more pieces relevant for you and relevant for anybody else tuning in here. Again, for those of you who are working with clients, I want you to notice…And for all of us, this is a positive psychology model. I didn’t say to you, Hayley, “Hey, come on, girl. Get with it. Stop overeating. Use your willpower. You can do it. What’s wrong with you, you loser? How come you can’t get those pounds off your body? You need to exercise harder. Then you’ll love yourself.”

No. That’s a bunch of nonsense for most people. This is about we’re looking at this as each one of us are on their journey. So I want you professionals out there to context your client like they’re on a journey. And our journey is going to have challenges. It’s going to have celebrations. It’s going to be uplifting. It’s going to be hard at some point. Nobody escapes pain-and-suffering as far as I can tell. I’ve never met a single person who didn’t go through at some point in their life heartache, breakup, financial stuff, disease, challenges with food, body, health, kids, parents, life, death. You name it.

So we’re going to be on a journey. Let’s approach it from a positive psychology model, which is let’s use the challenges that we have, in this case negative body image. Let’s see what’s the positive in that. “Oh, it’s a virus. It’s not really me.” And if teaching you to love yourself more. Because we know when we love ourselves, we are in a strange way an unstoppable force. We are powerful when we love ourselves because we can give to the world more. We can be the real me. And life gets really interesting.

Now, again, for those of you that are working on your own relationship with food, there’s a lot of great takeaways in here. We talked about, “Hey, how can I look at what is it that I think I’m going to get having the perfect body? And how can I start to achieve those end results right now?” Because a lot of those end results, you could’ve said to me, “Wow, if I had the perfect body, I would feel so light.” So, okay, that might be a physical benefit that one would have.

But I know a lot of people with big bodies that feel light. Lightness comes from within. Yeah, you can lose a bunch of weight if you truly had excess pounds to lose and you’d feel lighter. But the majority of benefits we expect from having a perfect body comes from an inner feeling that we can start to create now. And I think we’ve got to start to let go of the perfectionism thing.

I’ve really encouraged you, Hayley, and all the viewers and listeners to see perfectionism as a virus, to see it as a parasite, to see it as a disease. Yeah, for sure, I want to be excellent. So do I have my perfectionist tendencies? Sure. I get perfectionist when I write. I get perfectionist when I speak. I’m perfectionist about my house being clean. So, yeah, have high standards when you want to have high standards. Aim high. Be excellent. Be skillful. Choose a path where you do your best.

But that’s different from being perfect because perfect implies that we do nothing wrong and everything is the same and it never changes and we’re in this heightened state, which doesn’t exist. It’s a myth. It’s a false hope. And when we let that go, we become more human. And then we can love ourselves and our humanity more. It’s kind of like if you had a little baby. And the baby pops out of the womb and it has a bunch of baby fat. You don’t yell at the baby like, “I want a baby that’s got no body fat, is all muscle, nice toned abs, and buns of steel.” You’d never say that to a kid. It’s dumb. And yet we say that nonsense to ourselves.

So it’s letting go of perfectionism, controlling our mind, monitoring it, and understanding that were on a journey and this is all about growth and transformation. And we’re using our challenges with food and body and health to really better ourselves. So, Hayley, I think you did a great job. I’m really proud of you. And I think you got some good takeaways here.

Hayley: Yeah, so much.

Marc: Anything else you want to say about this experience right now? Any thoughts, feelings?

Hayley: Oh, I really enjoyed it. I was quite nervous. But it was just really easy. You’re so easy to talk to. So everything was easy to put out there. And it’s really cool to have some fun homework to go and work on.

Marc: Exactly, as homework should be. It should be fun. Yeah. And you and I, we’ll follow up in about three months on air, see how you’re doing, see what’s happening, and see how your homework went and all that sort of thing. So thank you so much.

Hayley: Cool, thank you!

Marc: Yeah. And thank you, everybody, for tuning in. Lots more to come, my friends. Take care, everybody.

The Institute for the Psychology of Eating
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About The Author
Marc David

Marc David is the Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, a leading visionary, teacher and consultant in Nutritional Psychology, and the author of the classic and best-selling works Nourishing Wisdom and The Slow Down Diet. His work has been featured on CNN, NBC and numerous media outlets. His books have been translated into over 10 languages, and his approach appeals to a wide audience of eaters who are looking for fresh, inspiring and innovative messages about food, body and soul. He lectures internationally, and has held senior consulting positions at Canyon Ranch Resorts, the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, the Johnson & Johnson Corporation, and the Disney Company. Marc is also the co-founder of the Institute for Conscious Sexuality and Relationship.