The Psychology of Eating Podcast Episode 43: Finally, a Breakthrough with Body Image
Stefanie is in her 40s and has had body image concerns since her teenage years. She knows it’s impacting her life as all kinds of negative thinking dominates her inner world and drains her energy. Stefanie feels like a prisoner of her own mind and wants to get out. She just doesn’t know how to do it. Tune in to this powerful podcast session as Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating lights a fire in Stefanie’s world and helps her find the exact motivation she needs to finally get on the right track to personal empowerment.
Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:
Marc: Hi, everybody! Welcome. Thanks for being here. I’m Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. And I have the great pleasure of being with Stefanie today. Welcome, Stefanie!
Stefanie: Thank you. Thank you very much, Marc.
Marc: Yeah! I feel really lucky that we get to do this. And we get to spend some concentrated and focused time together. So let me just catch viewers and listeners up on what we’re going to be doing so they have a good sense.
So this is going to be a real live session. I’ve never met Stefanie before. But what a lovely lady. And I’m so glad to be doing this.
Stefanie: Thank you.
Marc: And we’re going to find out what her challenge or concern is. We’re going to spend about a half hour. I’m going to bounce back and forth with Stefanie. I’m going to ask questions. And then after about thirty minutes, we are going to launch into me giving her feedback and suggestions and ideas for how to really move forward.
So we’re going to turbocharge this. We’re going to try to consolidate, I don’t know, maybe about twenty-five professional sessions into about one session and hopefully come out with something positive. And when you and I can follow up on this same show three months later just to see how things are in see how you’re doing.
Stefanie: Excellent. Sounds great, yeah.
Marc: Yeah, sounds great to me, too. And for those of you listening, if you’re a professional, check out some of the questions. After we finish I’m going to tell you why I asked certain things, different observations that I’ve had. For those of you listening and who just are looking to transform your own relationship with food, you’ll likely perhaps… We see ourselves in everyone. So you might see some of your similar concerns, challenges, as well as some of the solutions and a-has and inspirations in this conversation with Stefanie.
So, Stefanie, why don’t you share with me what’s the concern that if you could wave your magic wand, you’d kind of make it all better? What would that look like?
Stefanie: I think—and I suppose this is how I responded in the initial email around this opportunity—my own perception of my body image. And I suppose in and around that, I guess there are things around relationship with food and those sorts of things. But I’d say I’ve sort of almost held myself as a prisoner for so long around how I perceive myself, specifically around my body image. And it’s kind of irrelevant what anyone says around me about how they perceive me, as much as it’s lovely to when hear people say, “Oh, but you look great,” or those sorts of things. I like hearing those things. But they don’t last for very long because it’s not my inner belief.
And I suppose over the years I’ve tried to soul search as to why it is that I want to try and capture myself, or when I’m having more of those feelings around not feeling good about myself, what’s happened in and around that. But I still find that I fall into that all the time.
And I think it’s debilitating. I think the energy I put into that could so be better used somewhere else. I feel like what are the cues I’m not even aware of that my children might see and potentially adopt? I’d hate for either of my children to ever have to go through the mental anguish I find I go through sometimes with how I perceive myself physically, although it’s not just physically. Yeah.
Marc: How old are your kids?
Stefanie: I have a two-and-a-half year old daughter and a five-and-a-half year old son.
Marc: Wow. Congratulations. Are you a full-time mom?
Stefanie: I’m a full-time working mom.
Marc: Uh-huh. And what’s your work?
Stefanie: I work in HR at a financial services company. So I’m an HR advisor within the company, in human resources.
Marc: And you’re literally working full-time at that job and being a mom?
Stefanie: Yes, yes.
Marc: Okay, that’s many full-time jobs is what it sounds like.
Stefanie: Yes. Yep.
Marc: So how do you talk to yourself about your body? What’s the prison? What does it sound like? What’s going on in there?
Stefanie: It depends what day of the week it is. I actually consider myself extremely healthy. And I’m very focused on my nutrition and have more so come that way in the last twelve to twenty-four months. But there’s this part of me that knows I’m doing all the right things, I suppose, to make myself feel good and be healthy.
But there are also those days I just don’t feel good. And I suppose I’ve already made the decision of what I think of going to see in the mirror before I even get there. And I’m acutely aware of that in a way. So I don’t even know why I bother going to the mirror. It’s like validating what I already think.
Marc: Can you be specific? So what might be some of the specific things you tell yourself? Do you focus on specific body parts? Do you have specific languageing that you use?
Stefanie: Yes. “I look big.” “I look fat.” “My hips are too big.” “My clothes are tighter.” “I’m sure my stomach will looked flabby throughout the day.” “I’m right. I don’t look as good as I thought I did,” or, “How can someone say that I looked good? I’m looking in the mirror now and I don’t look good.” That’s the sort of language.
Marc: And how long can you remember having that kind of internal conversation? When did it first start?
Stefanie: Yeah. I would say I was mindful or really self-conscious about my whole image from, I reckon, from about eight, nine.
Marc: We start young sometimes, don’t we?
Stefanie: Yes. Yeah.
Marc: And has there been a point in your life where you felt you did have the body that you wanted?
Stefanie: Well, that’s a really great question. So, as I said, after the birth of Shelley, my second child, I had a lot of health issues, one of them being diagnosed with hypothyroidism. And that really helped me look at my food choices and things like that.
So, anyway, I had to change my nutrition. I started seeing results, was training with my trainer. I started seeing physical results to the point where I decided to enter into a fitness modeling competition. They’re similar in the States. It’s like the physique modeling competition. So I literally did two of those just in September and October 2014.
And I remember looking in the mirror—the leanest I’ve ever been—that was supposed to be the Holy Grail for me. And just before stepping on stage, just going, “Eh, there are things that I’m not happy with,” which I found interesting. I enjoyed doing that only because it was about setting a goal and then striving to achieve that goal. So I took the feel-good factor away from that.
But in terms of my physical being, there I was at what I felt was always going to be the pinnacle of how I wanted to look. And I was still able to have that negativity and the voices in my head still saying, “You’re not still this. Your hips are still wide here. This is that here.”
Marc: So then technically speaking, let me just understand this clearly. So when you entered these fitness model competitions, technically on paper you had the body that you thought you wanted. Is that true?
Stefanie: Correct, yeah. Absolutely. And what’s really interesting about a competition is that you actually front up. And everyone is just not very much. And there are a bazillion different shapes and sizes all around you. So to an extent, you’re given what you’re given. And you can make the best with what you’ve got. [Inaudible] as well.
And now off the back of that, you’re trying to find that balance because there is no balance. And you’re not healthy. We know we’re not healthy the day we get up on stage. And then you come away from that and try and find a middle ground. And that’s challenging in itself, as well, to feel good about yourself looking back at how you were. Yeah.
Marc: What motivated you to enter the competition?
Stefanie: When I started seeing results from my nutrition changing in my body responding to…I’ve exercise for years. And I’ve never had physical results the way I did. I suppose also because I’ve always admired women that just look strong physically. And I think I always had a curiosity about competing or getting to that level of physique.
So when I started noticing the changes in my body, I just thought, “Oh, maybe that’s something I could do.” For the first time ever, it was actually potential option for me. And if I’m going to commit to doing something, I’m going to do it. I felt like it was in my reach to be able to do, whereas anytime before that in my life I wouldn’t have even contemplated doing that.
Marc: So how do you in your mind to reconcile, “Wow. I put in all this energy and effort. I got the body that I wanted. And I looked in the mirror. And it still wasn’t good enough.” What do you say to yourself about that experience?
Stefanie: I think that it’s not really about my body is what I think. [Inaudible] being in totally different extremes. I’ve been in the world. I’m sitting in a position where people might go, “God, people would love to look like you.” So it’s not really about my body. I think I use my body as the tangible object may be to attack myself when other things maybe aren’t in alignment or something’s not congruent. I haven’t figured that part out.
Marc: Do you know women or have you met women who you think to yourself, “Wow, she’s got the body I want,” but you happen to know them. And you know that they’re not happy with what they’ve got?
Stefanie: Ah. The ones I know, there’s one in particular I can think of. But otherwise, the other ones that I know, they don’t seem to not be happy. But I probably haven’t spoken to them on that level.
Marc: But you know at least one?
Stefanie: I do know at least one.
Marc: Yeah, yeah. I’m just collecting data because I find this fascinating. I find it fascinating how we set this goal in terms of our looks. You actually got there. So you had what it takes to actually get to where you wanted to be. And it wasn’t okay. I just find that fascinating. That, for me, it’s kind of a gold mine of learning and wisdom.
But I want to ask a few more questions first. So you have kids. I’m assuming you’re married?
Stefanie: Yes, I’m married.
Marc: How does your husband feel about your body?
Stefanie: Well, we’ve been together thirteen years. So I was the biggest size when we first met and first fell in love. So he loves me and tells me I look fantastic no matter what. He’s probably my biggest advocate and says, “You don’t know what you’re looking at. You look great. You look better than everyone else we’re around.” So, yeah, I’ve never felt like I’m letting him down. I know that he thinks I’m great, which is lovely.
Marc: When do you love your body the most? Are there moments during the day, week, or month where you notice, “Wow, this is good. I like this.”
Stefanie: Generally straight off the back of a workout when I feel strong and I feel like my body is firing. Maybe that’s endorphins. I feel awesome then. And then I do have moments in the day—I like to say I’m generally positive anyway—but, I don’t know, when there’s lots of energy around me and there’s lots of things going on and I’m just moving with that energy. Then I’m also just like, “Yeah, I just feel great!” But to answer your question, I’m not probably thinking I specifically think my body is fantastic. Overall I just feel great.
Marc: Yeah. So in those moments there’s a lot going on around you, a lot of buzz. Life is good. And you’re not busy thinking, “Wow, but my body sucks.” You’re in this moment of, “I feel good.”
Stefanie: Yep, correct. Correct.
Marc: Yeah. And any other time—I just want to repeat this to know I’m getting it right—is you have a good workout and you’re feeling strong. You’re feeling pumped and you’re loving on your body.
Stefanie: Yeah, yeah.
Marc: Okay, great. Great, great. So what do you want for your kids in terms of their relationship with their bodies, especially your daughter?
Stefanie: I want her to know that she is more then the vessel that she lives in, that she’s more than the number on the scale. She’s more than the size of the clothes that she wears, that her energies are put into areas that mean so much more than just, “Oh, I feel soft here,” or, “I feel this here,” or, I don’t know, “My jeans are tight here.” I don’t want her to have that as her focus, I suppose, or have that all her energy into that area.
Marc: Can I ask how old you are?
Stefanie: I’m thirty-four.
Marc: Okay. So let’s say she was thirty-four right now, and you were whatever age you would be. And if she came to you and she was sharing with you all the same things that you are sharing with me—“I’ve got these thoughts. I’ve got this way that relate with my body. I’ve got this going on. I really don’t like it.”—and meanwhile she has a kid. And she has a young daughter. What advice would you give her as her mother who loves her to pieces?
Stefanie: Um, what advice would I give her? The same advice as my mother gives me at the moment probably. Just, “You should try and find a way to set yourself free from all of this.” What else does my mom say? What else do I say to Shelley? I’d feel sad if I hadn’t captured any of that earlier ahead of her being thirty-four. I don’t know what I would tell her if she was thirty-four.
What I think now, where my focus is as she’s growing up, is wanting to encourage her more around her strengths in so many other areas of her life and not just focus on her appearance. It’s well and good to be well presented. But her strengths around being smart or being great at this thing or really resilient or eager to try hard and eager to learn. I want her to focus on all her other strengths. And that’s where I’m mindful when I’m chatting to her or communicating at two-and-a-half.
Marc: Do you weigh yourself?
Stefanie: I don’t own scales. I believe weighing yourself if you need to track something or you have a goal. But I weigh myself once a week with my trainer.
Marc: What happens if you’re not where you want to be?
Stefanie: I generally know if I’m going to be where I’m going to be when I stand on the scale. I’m generally right. I don’t feel great. But then at the same time, I’m acutely aware if I’ve eaten to get the results that I want on the scale. So it sort of goes hand-in-hand.
Marc: Okay. So if you had the perfect body, if you really got there and there was no mistaking that you had exactly what you want, what would the results be? And I don’t mean in terms of what does it look like. What’s the payoff? What’s the big win?
How is life going to be different? How are you going to be different? I’m not talking about the looks wise. But you want this for a reason. So the reason is because, “I’m going to be, or feel…” or, “Here’s was going to be different.”
Stefanie: I think just overall I’d be more at peace with everything. So to answer your first question, what I deem is the perfect body rationally or irrationally… And I have a very rational inner voice, thank God, because it keeps me on track a little bit. I am not designed to have the body—if I could choose a body type of choice—I was not designed that way. So I sort of know that. So what I’m attracted to and what I see and when I go, “Wow, they are so lucky they look like that,” I’m acutely aware. Well, no. I shouldn’t say that. Other people might see me the same way as them. So I’m not that.
So it’s about just finding inner peace with myself more than anything because when I don’t have that peace and I get down on myself on how I look, it affects my mood. I’m probably on a shorter threshold with my kids. I probably beat myself up around other things. Or I’m distracted or preoccupied, again, in a place that’s not even worthy of my energy. So I have just more inner peace with myself. There wouldn’t be this continual conflict. That would be the biggest payoff.
Marc: So the biggest payoff is inner peace. Any other payoffs that come to mind?
Stefanie: It would be great to just feel good. Well that sounds a bit… You’re not going to always be happy every single day. You’re not going to feel good every single day, but more than not.
Marc: Okay, so you have a sense of inner peace. And you would feel good. And that good, can you just say a few more words about what feeling good means? Happy? Energized? Are there more adjectives, more descriptives?
Stefanie: I feel more inclined to use the words “congruent” and maybe “aligned.” I generally am happy. I generally have a good disposition. I generally have a lot of energy. It’s just the mental dialogue that goes on is draining around how I see myself.
Marc: Yeah, I totally get that. I totally get that that dialogue can be draining.
Your mom, how old is she?
Stefanie: She is fifty-nine.
Marc: How is her relationship with her body?
Stefanie: Excellent. So in all my searching over the years, my mom is stunning. And she’s the mother of four kids, all very close in age. She had us very young. She was/is like a walking Barbie doll, literally. And the whole world told her that as we were growing up. She was—I want to say was—my ideal of what just beauty is. Not to say that she isn’t anymore. I’ve gotten older. And I think in my maturity and my rationality can understand that I wasn’t designed to look like her. And that’s okay.
So she’s always been very comfortable with her body. She’s never had to worry. When I say worry, we’ve talked about this a lot. And she says, “I never had issues with myself that way.”
Marc: So do you have sisters?
Stefanie: I do. I have one sister and two brothers.
Marc: And the sister is older or younger?
Stefanie: Eighteen months older.
Marc: How is her relationship with her body?
Stefanie: Not great. Not like mine. She… I don’t want to say cares less. Her energies are elsewhere. I think if we were both asked the question, we would both feel the need to want to look a certain way. How do I want to word this? I want to say to seek approval from my mom. I think we both know how my mom would like us to look, if that makes sense.
She’s just had her second child. And she was put on medication quite young, which actually ballooned her weight out. And she became sort of stressed, saw a new doctor, and actually [inaudible] incredible. And she was in her natural body form. So she was praised and recognized for how little she was. And then she had to come off the medication to have her children. So now she’s sort of back to where she was.
So she’s now started on this Isagenix. I don’t know if that’s big in America. It’s really huge in Australia now, unfortunately. But it’s these shakes and all this other stuff to lose weight. So she’s gone down that path for the next thirty days in the hope to fast track what she’s trying to do.
Marc: Got it. Got it. Okay. I want to kind of tie things in a little bow here for now and just give you some thoughts and feedback and some ideas and some impressions hopefully to help you move things forward.
So here’s what I want to say to you. I’m really happy for you that you have kids. And I’m especially happy for you that you have a little girl because I really, really, really hope for you that she will be massive motivation for you to turn this thing around.
In a strange way, if you told me that, “I come from a family where my grandmother beat my mother and then my mother beat me and my great-grandmother beat my grandmother,” if you told me that that was being passed down from one lineage to the next, I would say, “Oh, my God. That’s terrible! You’ve got to stop it.”
And what happens is you beating yourself up passes it on to your daughter, there’s a damned good chance. And what I want to say, you said at the very beginning, “I’m trying to figure out why I have this.” You didn’t use the term “perfectionism.” But like, “I’ve got this. I want my body to be better. Here I had the ideal body. And I still wasn’t happy. And I’m trying to figure out why I have it.” So let’s just figure that out right now. I’m going to tell you the answer. You never have to spend another moment on wondering why you have it.
It actually has nothing to do with you. And this is a piece of psychology that most people don’t understand. We think if we have a problem that, “It’s my problem. The problem lives in me. The challenge lives in me. The concern lives in me. But it doesn’t exclusively belong to me.”
My friend has cancer. So he has cancer. But guess what? So do hundreds of millions of other people have cancer. So cancer doesn’t belong to him. It’s a collective disease that finds a home in different people. So you are not the only gal on planet Earth who looks at her body and judges in, who has a great body and says, “I don’t like it,” or any variation in there.
So there are people with all kinds of levels of looks who either love their bodies or don’t love their bodies. So you’re not the first one. It’s a collective disease that you caught. It’s not your fault. You didn’t ask for this. It’s not a character deficiency. Just like if you caught the flu, just like if you caught an illness that was caused by air pollution in your environment, it isn’t your fault.
And now that it’s in me, I’ve got to deal with it. So I want you to take away any type of personal fault, a new type of, “Oh, God. This is my terrible issue. What does this say about me?” That’s going to waste your time. You will never get out of that hole.
When you look at this as an illness, as a virus, as a parasite, the parasite is perfectionism. The parasite is transmitted through the media. It’s transmitted through magazines and images and television movies and models and the subtle things that people said to you growing up, and the not-so-subtle things people say to you growing up.
And we are getting bombarded from all different angles of, “Here’s how you’re supposed to look.” And you were thinking these thoughts when you were eight years old. And you know something? You might have been thinking of them when you were three or four. You just don’t remember. So what I’m saying is you’re not smart enough at that age to invent that. That was kind of vaccinated into you.
So our job, which were doing together, which we’re all doing is where having a collective immune response to this disease because it is a disease because here you are. You created what you wanted in this fitness competition. And it still wasn’t good enough because it’s never good enough.
And I asked you, “What’s the payoff? If you really had what you wanted, what would be the payoff?” you said inner peace. And you couldn’t really think of anything else. And that was really the big payoff. And when I pushed a little bit, you said, “Oh, well I’d feel good.” But really the main thing for you was inner peace.
And when you said that, what I thought to myself was, “Wow. There’s a battle that’s set up in your mind.” So your mind is like a battlefield. All our minds are battlefields. Everybody has different battles going on in their minds: “I love myself. I hate myself. I’m good enough. I’m not good enough.” And because you’re battling with perfectionism, we could never win. We could never be perfect because it doesn’t exist. There is no perfect.
There’s an old saying from the mahabharata. It’s like the longest, oldest, ancient poem on planet Earth. It comes from India. It says, “Then the strong, there’s always one stronger. Then the most beautiful, there’s always one more beautiful.” No matter who it is that’s the best, there’s always one better. And if they’re not there, they’re coming around the corner.
So what I’m saying is the perfect state doesn’t exist. And it’s like a bad virus when we catch it and we think it does exist. So our job is to turn up the heat on that virus, to raise the body temperature so it can’t exist in us anymore.
And you’ve got to do it for yourself. You especially have to do it for your daughter and for the women of the world because you can talk all day. We can talk all day about how men perpetuate this nonsense as it relates to women. But let me tell you something. Women perpetuate the nonsense as much as anybody else with each other.
So the women—and I’m just saying this as a man on the outside looking in on women’s culture—women have to band together. And you’re thirty-four. So in my languageing, in my understanding of the world, you’re probably in what I would call the late to mid princess stage. And it’s an archetype. And princess, I’m saying that in the positive, meaning when we are young, we’re either a prince or a princess. And at some point, that transitions. And as we get older we can transition into queen or king.
And then the princess stage—and, again, “princess” it’s not a negative term—one of the ways a princess, a young female, gets her value and feels her worth is through praise that comes in from the outside world. “We love you. Look how beautiful you are. You’re so good.” “Oh, wow. Thank you. I feel so good about myself now.”
So for the princess psyche, for the princess mind, it feeds, it gets energy on outside input. Right around when you hit thirty, we have to start turning the corner so that we’ll self-reference more, so that we’re not dependent on other people giving us our worth. Because you know something? You can poll 1,000 people, and 500 of them think you’re the greatest. Two hundred of them think you’re okay. One hundred can’t stand you. We can’t please everybody. And yet we’re going to be affected by that so much.
So what I’m saying is there’s a place where you have to take on, not problem-solving the issue of negative chatter about body image, there’s no problem to solve. It’s more like—excuse the masculine term—it’s more like a battle to be addressed. It’s more like an obstacle and a disease that you’re being asked to overcome, which means you have to watch yourself, which means you have to catch yourself because every time you say a negative thoughts to yourself, you might as well be saying it out loud to your daughter because you know we pick up on each other. Kids pick up on their parents.
I had a client who had God-awful body image, so many challenges over the years, eating disorders. And I had asked her, “How is your mom’s relationship with her body?” And she said, “Oh, it’s really great.” I’m like, “Huh. Interesting. Do me a favor. Observe your mom more.” A few weeks later she comes back. She said, “I never noticed ever in my entire life. I’m thirty-something. I never noticed that every fifth thing my mother says is a negative statement about her body.”
She didn’t have it in her conscious awareness of her mother said, “Oh, look, I look so flabby.” It didn’t land at her conscious mind. But I promise you landing on every other level that was imperceptible to her. So you have to know that you are powerful. You are that powerful that the thoughts you think and the thoughts you say to yourself impact the ones you love most, especially your children.
So that’s why am harping on this because I’m looking for the places that are going to really motivate you and inspire you because you have to turn it around. You have to put yourself on the fast track. No more problem solving. You know what the problem is. You’ve got a virus. And you have the same virus that a lot of the world has and a lot of the women of the world have, and more and more the men of the world have. The virus is perfectionism. The virus is about the body and how it’s supposed to look a certain way. And it will never resolve itself by changing the actual body. And you proved it.
There is a place—and you know it—I asked you, “So are there times when you love your body and it’s okay?” Now, your answer really fascinated me. The first thing you said was, “Well, yeah. After a workout and I’m feeling all pumped.” And you said, “Maybe it’s the endorphins. I really feel good about myself.”
So what I want to say is I think you’re right. There is a way that you and I and all of us can get chemically high. We can get chemically high on all sorts of actual chemicals and foods and substances. We can get high on exercise. We can get high on certain kinds of exercise. And there’s nothing wrong with it.
But when we use that as a benchmark for, “I need to feel this way all the time,” that’s what happens to a drug addict. When somebody’s on heroine like, “I want to feel this way all the time,” okay, that’s going to be a problem.
Stefanie: With the working out, I think part of why I feel good is because I’m—what I believe, anyway—is that I am pushed out of my comfort zone physically in that moment or during that session, I suppose. Maybe it’s all one in the same.
But I feel like I’m physically challenged, mentally challenged. And then I feel strong, not just physically, but mentally. I think that’s actually positive energy to infiltrate in other areas of my life. So there’s the endorphin piece. But I come away as someone going, “Whoa, I smashed that. And I didn’t know I could do that. Kudos to me!” kind of thing.
Marc: Yeah, absolutely. So I’m not knocking that. I’m saying it’s good. And all I’m doing is I’m raising my hand and saying be careful because there’s also a piece in there. And you could continue doing the same kind of exercise. And it could be the best thing for you for all the reasons you just mentioned. But my guess is there’s a part of you that’s attached to that exercise because it’s going to get you a certain look, which will then get you a certain feeling. It’s going to get you closer to perfection.
And if that’s a hidden driver, then you’re going to be on the same road to nowhere. So you can do that very same exercise and have it be complete in and of itself, meaning, “Great. Thank you. I love this. I feel great. On to the next thing.” If there’s even a touch of, “Okay, now I’m going to weigh myself once a week. I’m with my trainer,” I almost want to give you the challenge. Okay, so you like a challenge. I want to give you a challenge. And the challenge is to not weigh yourself for the next three months even once.
Stefanie: Okay. Well, yeah.
Marc: So I want you to consider it. I really want you to consider it. You don’t have to say yes. It has to feel right to you. Here’s where that challenge comes from. You said to me when I asked you what you want for your daughter in relationship to her body, the first sentence you said was, “I want her to know that it’s not about a number on the scale.” So if it’s not about a number on a scale…
Now, weighing yourself once a week, that’s not a lot. Honestly, between you and I, I know people who do it fifteen, twenty times a day. So you weighing yourself once a week honestly, there’s nothing wrong with it. And it’s not a lot. And for you, it’s a lot. For you personally, for where you’re at and where you can be, it’s all relative.
So for where I would like to see you go, once a week is a lot. It would be fascinating for you to do the same workout, the same exercise, you could be with the same trainer and say, “Hey, Mr. or Mrs. Trainer, I want to just let go of this weighing thing. I want to see if I could just free myself of that.”
You even said to me, “I know before I get on that scale whether I’m there are not.” That’s what I’m interested for you. Because as soon as you look at that scale, that number is going to tell you, “Hey, Stefanie, here’s how you should feel.” If the number is where you want it to be, then you are allowed to now feel good. If the number isn’t where you want it to be, you better feel bad.
So you’re going to let that number tell you, “I feel good,” “I feel bad,” or, “I feel like garbage,” or, “I feel really great.” And it’s a little machine. And not only that I promise you if you take that scale and move it to seven different places in the building, you will get seven different readings because these machines are not exact. And it’s all about atmospheric pressure, temperature, where the moon and the sun and the stars are, quite frankly. So the machines are not exact. And we’re letting that determine how we feel.
But what I’m saying is if you really want that for your daughter, the challenge here is let it go. That would be a beautiful gift. Your freedom is a beautiful gift.
The second thing you said to me, well, you said, “I want inner peace. That’s what’s going to happen when I have the ideal body. I want inner peace.” I want to remind you that when we set up this conflict… You’re setting up a conflict: “I need to look perfect.” Okay, so when I get to perfection, I will then be peaceful. But until then, I’m at war with myself. And I’m not in inner peace.
So it’s kind of like me saying to you, “Every day I’m banging my head against the wall. Literally I’m taking my head and I hit it against the wall. But I really want to stop.” And then you say to me, “Well, so if you stop, then what’s the benefit of stopping?” And then I’ll say, “Well, my head will feel so much better.” Okay. Well, how about we just stop banging my head against the wall? There’s a place where we’re setting ourselves up. You set yourself up for inner turmoil by reaching for an impossible goal. So you won’t have peace. It is definitionally impossible for your brain and your mind to have peace because you set up a war.
And you’re saying, “When I win the war,”—which means have the perfect body—“then I’ll be at peace.” And him saying just call a cease-fire. You don’t even have to have the war. That’s where the action is. That’s how strong and smart the virus is. How a virus survives in your body is it eats away at us. It takes our nutrition. It weakens your body.
A virus prefers not to kill you. It just wants to weaken you because the virus could stay in your body for sixty years. As you enough so he can have his way with you. But if you die, the virus goes with you unless it jumps to someone else. So right now the virus is kind of weakening you. And the idea is we strengthen ourselves such that the virus can’t live in us. The thought called, “You need to be perfect,” it doesn’t have room anymore.
So let me suggest some homework for you. And I’m going to send this to you just so you can have it and you don’t have to worry about taking notes right now. So the homework is I want you to start to notice every time you say a negative thought about yourself and your body and your looks. And in that moment I would love for you to say, “Does this serve my children? Is this how I want my girl to speak to herself? Is this how I want my boy to speak to himself?” Ask yourself that question.
And if you care about your children—I know it’s hard—so what I’m asking you to do is extremely hard. If this was easy, you would’ve done it a long time ago. And you and I wouldn’t be in this conversation. So there is nothing about you that is not strong. There is nothing about you that is not courageous. I know you’ve been working hard on this. And I’ve been trying to re-context of this for you.
So for viewers listening right now, if anyone out there is challenged with “I don’t love my body” and “How come I can’t defeat this?” the answer is because you can’t. It’s stronger than you. It’s stronger than any one person. However, this is us working together, mounting an immune response, sharing with each other. I’m sharing with you my little medicines that I know these little viruses hate. It’s the last thing it wants. The last thing he wants is for you to counter self-hate: “I don’t love my body. This sucks. This is no good. I need to change this.” You’re countering that with love. That’s the only thing that will vanquish away hate is love.
And it’s hard to love myself sometimes quite frankly. In this case, it’s going to be easier for you to love your children in that moment. You’re not going to tell your daughter… Imagine if your daughter woke up tomorrow and she stood up and you’re about to dress her. And you said you heard the same nonsense that you say to yourself sometimes. That would be horrible.
Stefanie: Yeah, it would be.
Marc: You wouldn’t do it! It would be terrible. You would not do that. But every time you say it silently to yourself, she hears it on an unconscious level because she’s your offspring. She has half your DNA. These things are communicated in the silent and subtle universe. And it’s true. We pick up on the nuances, on the body language. We pick up on nonverbal cues. And we actually pick up on thoughts and feelings. We are psychic. We picked up on everything, especially kids. They’re sponges.
And I want to say something else about that. Kids are extremely brilliant observers. But they’re poor interpreters. So she is going to see you. And she’s going to brilliantly observe, “Wow, my mommy is so beautiful. But she hates her body. She doesn’t really like her body.” She’s going to hear that. And every girl wants to be like her mother in some way, shape, or form. They want their mother to love them.
And if you’re not loving yourself… Remember, kids are brilliant observers. They’re poor interpreters. If you don’t love you for your body, she’s going to look at her body. And then she’s going to make up that you might not love her for her body because if you do it to you, of course you’re going to do it to her. That’s where a child’s unconscious mind will go.
You even mentioned about your own mother like, “I’m trying to live up to her expectations.”
Stefanie: She is a perfectionist. When I heard you chat, I was like, “Oh, she strives for perfectionism in every other area of her life.” So there’s a lot that you just said that resonated that I started reflecting on about her.Stefanie: Good! My brain is stimulated with lots of thoughts.
Marc: Yeah. So I just put a lot in your direction. But that’s what this was about. So these are things I would’ve said to you over the course of many, many, many months. So if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, you should be because I’m giving you what I consider the punch lines, getting right in there and drilling down to here’s the goal. Here’s the target that you want to hit to get where you want to go.
Let’s get all the other nonsense out of the way and get right to the heart of the matter because the truth is life is short. We don’t know what’s going to happen. And you owe it to yourself, your husband, your kids to give them the best of you ASAP. We all owe it to our family, our friends, our loved ones. We owe it to the world. So you’ve been a really good sport there, Stefanie.
Stefanie: Thank you! I’m receptive.
Marc: I know you are.
Stefanie: Genuinely. And that’s why am so excited that I was able to be part of this. I genuinely want the knowledge, I suppose. Now I know I’ve got to do something with it all.
Marc: Yeah. Yeah. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to send you a reminder, just some of the key highlights that we touched on, the two homework assignments, which is catching yourself every time you going to negative self talk and saying, “Is this how I would want my kids to talk to themselves? Is this how I would want to talk to my kids?”
And use that as a pattern interrupt. Use that as a way to create a, “Whoa! No!” As a way to stop, because otherwise our habits… So a negative habit is automatic. It’s unconscious. It repeats itself. These things you tell yourself are literally a tape. It’s a loop. And it constantly plays itself. You don’t even have to think to do it. It automatically runs us. It runs you. So the idea is to pattern interrupt it with consciousness.
The way you change an unconscious automatic behavior—in this case, unconscious negative thoughts that run themselves and constantly repeat themselves, unconscious thoughts, automatic and repetitive—we introduce consciousness. “Is this how I want to talk to my children?” That’s a conscious question. And it introduces consciousness into the system, which starts to raise us up and starts to evolve the mind, starts to evolve our soul. It evolves us in probably the best way possible.
So thank you, Stefanie.
Stefanie: Thank you! I’m really grateful. Thank you.
Marc: Yeah. And thanks, everybody, for tuning in. Thanks for listening. Again, when I want to say is for those of you who are practitioners, feel free. Go over this again and really listen. Think how you would use some of the skills that you saw.
And for everyone listening in, notice how were using a positive psychology model. I didn’t say to Stephanie nor do I want to say to anyone else, “You’re such a jerk! How could you do that? What’s your problem? What’s your issue? Let’s go in and figure out what’s wrong with you and where your weakness is.” No. This is all about self-evolution. So were looking at your challenge as a vehicle for growth.
So this is not that there’s something wrong with you. This is something that lives in us, that lives in the world that we are taking in. And we’re trying to evolve. And by evolving ourselves, we become stronger. Just like when you exercise, you become stronger. You feel good about yourself. So this is us exercising.
So were using a positive psychology model to say, “We’re going to take any health challenge, any eating challenge, any weight challenge, any body image challenge, and we’re going to look and see what is the positive in it? How is it asking me to grow?” Because when we come from that place, I want to say over time, success is assured.
So once again, great job, Stefanie. Thanks, everybody, for tuning in. And lots more to come, my friends. Take care.
Stefanie: Thank you.
Marc: Thank you.
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating
© Institute For The Psychology of Eating, All Rights Reserved, 2014
Get Your FREE Video Series
New Insights to Forever Transform Your Relationship with Food
P.S. If you haven’t had a chance to check out our FREE information-packed video series, The Dynamic Eating Psychology Breakthrough, you can sign up for it HERE. It’s a great way to get a better sense of the work we do here at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. If you’re inspired by this work and want to learn about how you can become certified as an Eating Psychology Coach, please go HERE to learn more. And if you’re interested in working on your own personal relationship with food, check out our breakthrough 8-week program designed for the public, Transform Your Relationship with Food, HERE.