The Psychology of Eating Podcast Episode 45: A Personal Trainer Challenged By Weight Gain
For Lara, it’s hard enough being a single mom, but when you add in unexpected overeating, binge eating and a 30 pound weight gain, things can get challenging. What’s even crazier, Lara is a personal trainer and knows how to take care of herself, but she can’t seem to find a way through. Tune in to this great podcast session as Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating introduces some highly targeted and unexpected strategies to help Lara have a breakthrough. You’ll hear about some highly effective Mind Body Nutrition tools along with some important insights that help Lara see things in a whole new light.
Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:
Marc: Welcome, everybody. I’m Marc David, founder for the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. Here we are in the Psychology of Eating podcast. And I’m with Lara. Welcome, Lara!
Lara: Hi! Thank you.
Marc: I’m glad you’re here.
Lara: Me, too. Thanks a lot.
Marc: Yay! So for viewers and listeners who are tuning in for the first time, let me tell you how this works. So in the Psychology of Eating podcast, Lara and I are going to have a conversation. We’re going to have a session. And we’re going to look to sort of condense six months to a year’s worth of what would normally be great coaching sessions into one session to see if we can turbocharge this experience and give the kinds of insights, feedback, ideas, maybe even a breakthrough or two that will really help you, Lara, push things forward and help you get where you want to go.
So we’re going to go for about an hour. I’m going to ask questions. I’m going to bounce all over the place, so it seems. But there will be a method to the madness. And we will get somewhere.
So let me start by asking you if you could wave a magic wand and get whatever you wanted to get out of this session, what would it be?
Lara: I guess to find some way to overcome the circumstances of where my life is right now and find some easier ways to take better care of myself within what’s a rather difficult lifestyle and difficult situation.
Marc: So how aren’t you taking care of yourself that you would like to take care of yourself better?
Lara: My eating habits. And I’ve always been an overeater. But it’s been very difficult since my career changed midlife and my subsequent decreased income. I’ve been kind of struggling in poverty for the last couple of years. And that has really taught me a lot about poverty and the lot about eating in poverty and how difficult it is to do well with that and take care of yourself.
Marc: So then you’re over eating these days? Is that the challenge with food? Is that what’s happening there?
Lara: Yes. It seems to feel like a fear mentality, like a hoarding like I might not have enough. So I’d better quick, eat more or eat sooner, almost a competitive feeling like I might not have enough later. So I need to eat enough now kind of a thing. And the quality of what I’m able to afford is not what I wish it could be if I were in a better place financially. So that’s tough, too.
Marc: So when you overeat, how might that look? What does an overeating experience look like for you?
Lara: Ugly! [Laughs] Well, it varies. It can be simply a matter of portions that are too large from time to time. But it could be a pretty bad binge at times, especially right after a grocery shopping trip or if I all of a sudden have a lot of good food, I feel like, “Oh, it’s time to eat it all now,” kind of thing. So it could be anything, pastries, a lot of carbs, a lot of cheap food, unfortunately, and just about anything that I’m afraid won’t always be there.
Marc: Are there particular times of the day that you’ll find yourself overeating or binge eating?
Marc: Night, like what time?
Lara: Unfortunately, about an hour or two before bed. It varies somewhat because I work. I have several part-time jobs. And a lot of them don’t get me home until eight or nine at night. So that’s when I finally relax, let go, get to have an actual meal. And that’s a lot of time and that kicks in, as well.
Marc: So at night, what time? Give me a time range?
Lara: Let’s say nine, ten o’clock, like that.
Marc: And, again, it sounds like it might be some kind of carbohydrate food or
sugary food? Give me an example. The foods might be…
Lara: Right, right. Even like a delicious yogurt type thing or chips. I’m really big on chips. Bread or some pasta left over from dinner, that type of thing.
Marc: So how much would you eat? Like if you ate… I’m just really trying to get a sense because everybody has a different kind of notion of what overeating is or what binge eating is in different amounts. So if you ate chips at night, if you were binging on chips, how much chips might you have?
Lara: Most of a family sized bag on a bad night.
Marc: And how about on a not-so-bad night.
Lara: About half that.
Marc: Okay, okay.
Lara: I can eat less than that. But that’s what I would consider to be not in control, half a bag or more.
Marc: Sure. And is this, would you say it’s daily, a day a week, five days a week? How often?
Lara: No, I struggle with its daily. I have thoughts and tendencies and instincts of that nature daily. But I would say really when I’m able to relax and I have a chance to eat—a couple hours off or even a weekend—that’s when I just kind of keep going and keep going and don’t seem to have any limitation of when to stop. And it’s almost like a little vacation for me.
Marc: Got it, got it, got it. So are the weekends different? Speaking of vacations, are weekends, do you eat differently then?
Lara: A lot more. It’s unstructured. Recently I have weekends off finally. And I almost wish I didn’t because it’s kind of a free-for-all, Saturdays especially.
Marc: And in ninety seconds or less, tell me what you generally eat during the day.
Lara: I do well. I have a great breakfast. I’ll have a couple of eggs and a whole bunch of spinach cooked up. Fruit maybe also for breakfast. I’ll usually have some vegetable soup, yogurt midday. I do pretty well. It’s kind of dinner is a little bit bigger, little sloppier. And it kind of slides downhill from there.
Marc: So when you said you eat something at midday, what time is midday? Do you have an excellent lunch?
Lara: I do. I’m able to usually have a good couple-hour lunch breaks. I teach yoga. So I’ll have morning classes, night classes, and then have little mid-day time to eat a good lunch. So between 11:30 and 1:00.
Marc: And what might be typical for lunch?
Lara: Like vegetable soup that I’ve made, a salad with salmon and thrown on it, something like that.
Marc: Got it. Got it. And you’re pretty consistent in terms of you eat a regular breakfast, a regular lunch, yeah?
Lara: Very good. If I could do what I do at breakfast and lunch all the time, I’d be in good shape. It just falls apart. As the day goes on and the stresses of life get to me and I get kind of tired, I kind of give up and let go. And there’s the food. So…
Marc: So then when does it all start going south? Approximately what time?
Lara: Sometimes I’m teaching classes during what would be dinnertime. When I’m done with my evening classes, and that varies. Anywhere from 5:00 to 8:00, right in there.
Marc: Okay, so in that time, are you usually then going home and eating dinner? Is that what’s happening?
Lara: Sometimes. Well, sometimes I’m not able to… Tuesday nights, I have five classes back-to-back. And I can’t eat much at all in between teaching classes. So I’m really hungry by the time 7:30 comes around and I’m done with that. So there are a couple nights a week when I’m teaching right through dinner and a couple hours after. So I get home really ravenous and empty and tired and really wanting the food. The nights that I’m able to be home at a reasonable dinnertime, I’ll have a reasonable dinner. But I also snack a lot afterwards. It’s a slippery slope.
Marc: Got it. I understand. And are you trying to lose weight, as well?
Lara: I’m not trying very hard. I would like to. I would like to be a little bit lighter. It would make my yoga career go a lot better.
Marc: Why is that?
Lara: I’m pretty heavy on my arms and legs. And it’s taking a toll. I have a need that’s been bothering me so I put on some weight. I’m guessing that’s related. So I’m not trying to be real skinny. But I think I’m about ten pounds past what would be healthy for me to function best in my life and what I’m trying to do.
So I would like to lose weight. But am I trying very hard? No. I can’t exercise any more. I teach fifteen classes a week. So I’m not going to add any workouts. It’s a matter of food. And it’s hard. It’s really, really hard. I can’t even seem to start trying.
Marc: You can’t even seem to start trying…?
Lara: To back off on the food.
Lara: It upsets me to not eat what I want to.
Marc: So when you say to try to back off on the food, I just want to make sure I know specifically what you mean. You mean to not overeat or binge eat at these specific times during the day. That’s what you mean?
Lara: Exactly. Exactly. Right.
Marc: Got it. And how long have you been challenged with this issue?
Lara: Well, really since two or three years ago. I made a huge career change
from being a schoolteacher with a secure income and a secure retirement to not doing that anymore because it was too stressful. And I really fell into the yoga. And I clean houses, too, to make ends meet.
So since my income and my security changed dramatically, everything feels different to me. I had a different level. I had adrenal fatigue for a year. I’m past that now. But I have a lot of fear. I’m almost forty-six. And I don’t really have a retirement. I’m afraid a lot of the time for my future. When my friends are retiring and feeling comfortable and traveling and I’m struggling, receiving food assistance and that kind of thing, it’s really hard. And I feel like my body is just kind of reacting in survival mode to what’s going on.
Marc: Sure. That makes total sense. How is your digestion?
Lara: It’s good. It is good. When I have those healthy breakfasts and lunches, I do well with that, thankfully. So it’s good. And the yoga helps, as well, with that. So I really can’t complain about digestion.
Marc: And are you a fast eater? A moderate eater? A slow eater?
Lara: Well, I was a teacher for twenty-one years. So I learned to eat in about three minutes. And I’m working on that. It’s a huge challenge for me. It really is. I eat faster that I wish I did. And I’m still trying to slow down.
Marc: Got it. Got it. Got it. And when you imagine your next twenty-five years, do you have sort of in your mind, “Okay, here’s my approximate game plan so I can feel more secure about my future, more secure about my finances.” What goes on in your mind about that?
Lara: That’s a great question. I have a plan. But there’s some risk involved because I want to be my own boss. I want to own my own yoga/wellness studio and maybe work with some other practitioners, massage therapists and so forth. Yoga is going very well for me. I need to clean up my credit and get my finances in order and get my children graduated and out of the house and get a business loan and find a place for me to be a wellness coach and a yoga instructor kind of thing. That’s what I hope to do.
Marc: Got it. So do you have a plan, like a timeline, “Hey, by this time I want to have this piece in place. And by that time, I want to have that piece in place.”
Lara: Yes. My youngest graduates in a little over a year.
Marc: Graduates high school?
Lara: Yes. And at that point, I’ll probably downsize my living arrangement, which will help me somewhat financially, hopefully have my credit improved enough to get a business loan at that point. And between now and then, I’m exploring locations. I’m finishing up some educational requirements that I want. I have several private clients, as well. And I want to keep doing that. I enjoy that. And that’s really good financially.
So I do have a rough plan. I don’t have still as much cash to be sure it’s going to happen. It’s kind of a dream. But it’s going well for me. And I feel like this is my calling. And I feel pretty good about it.
Marc: Got it. Are there any times during the week or the month or ever these days when you find, “Wow. My eating worked today. Wow, I didn’t binge and I did overeat today.” Does that happen?
Lara: Yes. Yes, it does.
Marc: What’s different about those days?
Lara: When I’m able to somehow find the time to start the day right, like with meditation—I learned to meditate last summer—that helps a lot. The pattern is kind of like the beginning of the week starts out really well. And then as I get closer to Friday and the weekend, it falls apart more. So earlier in the week before stress has really had a chance to build up and I’m not behind on anything yet is better. So that helps, as well.
Marc: Okay. So when you say early in the week before the stress has built up, so what is the stress? If you could describe it in a minute or less, what’s the stress that’s building up?
Lara: The stress is that I work at seven different studios. And I clean for different houses in a week. I put 300 or 400 miles on my car a week to make not quite a living. So I’m gone a lot. I’m on icy roads. I’m traveling. I’m driving half an hour to get an hour of work, that kind of thing.
And I’m just gone a lot. And things build up. I’m a single parent. There’s bills. There’s mail. There’s everything around the house to take care of. And I don’t get everything done in a day that I wish I could. And then it kind of accumulates. And I’m tired. I get physically very tired.
Marc: Got it. Is there a way to consolidate…? And forgive me for asking the obvious. But I just have to ask it anyway. Is there a way to consolidate your teaching so you’re not covering as much turf and miles?
Lara: I know. I have been fortunate enough to do some of that. For instance, the Tuesday nights, I have five back-to-back. But I have five back-to-back. And I don’t eat for seven hours. So it’s kind of a hard job to get several hours back-to-back and physically do that. So there is a little bit of that.
I would like to move more into the private clients so I can control my schedule better. And that is going also. That really is growing. And I’m enjoying that. And then I can give up some of the other classes or whatever on the outskirts of town. But it’s a slow process because I don’t want to give up any work right now. I can’t afford to.
Marc: Okay. So, Lara, I feel like I’ve got some good information here with which to put together some ideas, some thoughts, feedback. And let me start by saying that—and this is not going to be earth shattering for you—but from my perspective, you’re in survival right now in a very real way. So you’re in survival mode in your life, meaning you don’t have a lot of wiggle room. You don’t have a lot of wiggle room with money. Therefore you don’t have a lot of wiggle room with your schedule and with work. You have to earn. And you have to do it the way you know how to do it at this point.
And I get that you gave up a career that had a certain benefits and certain guarantees with it. And you did that so you can have something more for yourself that was better than that. So right now, you’re in kind of weird and not-so-fun transition place where you’re not where you used to be, i.e. being a teacher with your regular schedule and you know everything that’s going to be happening. So you’re not there. Nor are you in the new place you want to be, which is, “I have my studio. I’m doing this work. And I’m financially supporting myself in a good way. I’m out of debt,” all that sort of thing. So you’re in the place called running to survive.
So it sounds like you’re a single mom, you said. Are you getting any support from the dad?
Lara: Okay, that’s a great question. I pay support.
Lara: So not only am I not making enough money, the support was set at my old income level and wasn’t adjusted very much because the judge wasn’t happy that I resigned a higher paying job for a lower paying one. So I pay both child support and alimony. And that’s another huge stressor in my life.
Marc: I’m sorry. I come from a family of lawyers. I’ve got to ask this question. Have you tried going back to court with a different lawyer and updating the numbers here because that’s a little bit outrageous.
Lara: Yes, I went with an attorney and I had my child support modified fairly. And then I went back for alimony without an attorney and I lost. But I still owe my attorney. So I have to just wait till I pay him off before I fight it again or perhaps work out a settlement as time goes on, something like that.
Marc: Sure. Got it, got it.
Lara: And I’m trying not to always be resentful about that. I’m trying just to be at peace and say it is what it is and not live every day bitter about that. So that’s been a challenge. But I’m working on that.
Marc: Yeah. That is a challenge. So you’re in a fascinating situation. You’re in an uncomfortable situation. You’re in a situation that doesn’t quite sound fair. And here we are.
Lara: And food is my best friend.
Marc: Yeah. So first of all, what I want to say is it makes perfect sense to me that you’re spending time and energy, particularly in the evening time, overeating, binge eating, making food your ally so you can feel good and feel better. I just want to be super duper clear that what you’re doing makes perfect sense given your situation, given your life, given your crazy schedule, all the travel.
Plus you’re doing something that’s difficult on your body. Yeah, if you taught a couple of yoga classes a day, that might actually be very beneficial for your body. But if you are rushing around to teach a lot of classes in a day and you’re driving in your car plus distress, plus not making enough money at the end of the day, that takes a toll on you.
So we’re human. You’re human. And you need some goodies. You need some fun. You need anything that’s going to give you a little bit of pleasure and a little bit of, “Ahh. Finally, a little bit of relaxation!” And arguably nighttime is one of the best times for us to finally take a deep breath, especially if we’re living a lifestyle where we try to make ends meet. You’re working hard. Finally at some point, you’re off duty. You’re finished with cooking meals for your kids. And you’re finished with work for the day. It makes perfect sense to me that that’s the moment you would naturally turn to food.
It’s going to give you stress relief. So food is one of the most profound stress relievers we could ever want. It works. It works the way that it works. It works very temporarily. But it does work. It does give that sense of a little bit of fulfillment and a little bit of satisfaction. Granted, it causes problems and challenges out the other end. But the bottom line is I’m trying to underline for you and highlight why what you’re doing is reasonable, why it makes sense.
So I’m also saying that because if there’s any part of you that can have a little bit more compassion for you and understand like, “Gee, Lara, this makes perfect sense why you’d want to do that” because you’re not getting a lot of love these days. Plus you’re putting out a lot. If you’re still paying support to your ex, teaching is putting out. You’re constantly putting out to your students. So you’re front and center. You’re putting out to your kids. Are you dating anybody? Are you seeing anyone?
Lara: No. Everybody asks me that. I can’t imagine fitting it in or having energy for it. When I’m not working, I just need to rest.
Marc: I get it. I get it. So your tank doesn’t get filled a lot these days. So, again, food is a great place to go to to get those needs met. So really what I want to say is I want to help you with this challenge that you have with the overeating, with the binge eating because it doesn’t make you feel good at the end of the day. But it does make you feel good. But it doesn’t make you feel good, you know what I’m saying?
Lara: Right. It makes me wake up sad the next morning. Yeah, that’s the problem.
Marc: Yeah. I get it. So food is your symbolic way of grabbing onto some goodies, wrapping onto some pleasure, grabbing onto some fun, grabbing onto something you can take in that gives you a sense of fulfillment. So I would not want to remove that or fight it. I would want to figure out how do we do that so it works for you?
Lara: That sounds fun!
Marc: Yeah! Okay. So that’s my strategy here because honestly, I’m going to tell you right now, you can go to 500 different practitioners of all different kinds and tell them, “I want to get rid of this overeating or this binge eating thing that I do at night.” None of them are going to be successful with you. None of them are going to be successful.
And the reason is because right now you kind of have to do it. It kind of fills a need. So you can put a lot of time, energy, and effort into it. And it’ll end up being just a lot of time, energy, and effort, which you don’t really have.
Lara: That’s very true. That’s exactly how I feel.
Marc: Yeah. You don’t have a lot of energy to fight this.
Lara: Right. Right.
Marc: Quite the opposite, it’s kind of giving you some energy. So why would you stop it? Which means you have to fight it, which means it would drain you of energy. So that’s why I’m saying we have to find, and my opinion, a more elegant way for you to make this work for you. So here’s my suggestion for how to do that. And I want you to kind of bear with me here.
So this is all about making food work for you so it gives you what you want without the negative side effects. That’s what I’m looking for. So first thing is we have to, have to, have to, have to turn you in to a slow eater. Now, when I say slow eater, what I mean is happy eater, relaxed eater, sensuous eater, indulgent eater, pleasure eater. That’s what I mean by slow.
If you told me, “Yeah, Marc, I love massage,” and if I said to you, “Well, great. Go get a 30-second massage from someone,” you would say, “That’s not very fun.” We want our pleasure to last. We want that which feels good to last.
What happens is you are giving yourself a signal very consistently that this experience will not last. So you even said to me, “I go shopping. I have all this food. And this part of me takes over that’s like, ‘Oh, my God. The food is available now. So I have to eat it.’”
So part of that is a straight up survival instinct. You’re in survival right now. So it makes perfect sense to me that your brain would think that thought because you’re all about survival. If you were at animal in the wild, you would eat all the food available to you if there was starvation happening around you.
So what I want you to do instead of fighting that impulse, I want you to introduce another impulse. The impulse called slow relaxed eating lets your physiology know, lets your brain know, lets your unconscious mind know that it’s safe. A human would eat quickly for a number of reasons. A, because there’s other predators in the environment and they’re trying to take your food. So you’d better eat that stuff fast. B, there’s not enough food to go around. “I just found it. I’d better eat this food really fast because if I don’t eat this food really fast, God knows what’s going to happen. And I might starve.”
So you are constantly giving your body is signal every time you eat fast that, “I am not nutritionally safe. I am not safe from famine. I am not safe. The act of eating isn’t safe. My relationship with food isn’t safe. No safety.”
So the reality is if you can have on a bunch of days a nice, big lunch break, if you have time to eat breakfast in the morning, indulge. Eat the same foods. Put on some music. Put on headphones. Put on your favorite, most relaxing music. And you’re retraining your body. You’re retraining your body that eating and safety go hand in hand. Because the reality is right now when you’re eating breakfast and you’re eating lunch, you have breakfast. And you have lunch. And you’re not starving.
And maybe you’re in debt. But you still have a roof over your head. So let’s count our blessings here. The reality is when you’re sitting down eating breakfast and lunch, there’s the lions chasing you. You do know that you will be going off to work that day. You will be earning money. And you’re moving towards your goal.
So technically speaking, you’re actually safe in those moments. It’s when we go to the future that we start feeling unsafe. But in the present, you’ve been giving your nervous system a signal that says, “Stress response. Danger. Alert.” And that will impact your metabolism for sure. It’ll create stress chemistry, stress physiology, which will ultimately slow down your calorie- burning metabolism.
On top of that, the human brain requires taste, pleasure, aroma, satisfaction, visuals of a meal. We call that’s cephalic phased digestion response. Cephalic means of the head. So approximately forty to sixty percent of our metabolic power at any meal comes from the head phase of digestion, tasting the food, getting satisfaction, smell, the visuals of it.
The weird thing is when we don’t get that, the brain is looking for those sensations because we require it. Your physiology requires taste and pleasure and satisfaction. That is part and parcel of the nutritive experience. When we don’t have that, the brain often says, “I don’t remember eating. I didn’t get to taste. I didn’t get satisfaction. Hungry.”
The brain is not smart enough to say, “Hey, Lara, you ate too fast. You weren’t paying attention. You were multitasking. You were just whipping through the meal.” So this is you training you. And I know you said it’s difficult for you to become a slow eater. It’s way more difficult for you to be in suffering and misery and upset when you binge eat and overeat at night and then wake up in the morning not liking yourself. That’s more difficult.
This is not about torturing yourself, slow eating. This is about retraining yourself. So it is a practice. And like any practice, it’s like a training. It’s like your yoga student comes into your class for the first time and you want to work them into—name a posture—downward dog. And it doesn’t look very pretty because their body ain’t going there. So what do you do? Do you yell at them? No. You go with them. You see, “Wow, what little adjustments can I make? What little things can we do to help you be in this posture? Okay, this is as far you can go? Great. Take a few deep breaths.”
So I want you to be your own yoga teacher when it comes to slow eating. You follow me?
Lara: I do. It’s very hard to binge slowly.
Marc: Bingo. Bingo. But I want you to train yourself in the first at least two meals of your day because you can. It’s possible. You have time for those meals. You enjoy those meals. So I want you to practice eating slow.
I also want you to make sure that you have a consistently robust lunch when you can. I don’t want you just having soup for lunch. I don’t want you to just have a salad without much else on it, like just a bunch of veggies for lunch. I want you to not to do that only because, A, you’re doing a lot of your calorie burning in the latter two thirds of your day or the latter half of your day. You’re doing a lot of physical activity. And you’re going to be more nutrient deprived if you’re not eating enough food in the first two thirds of your day. You’re going to be nutrient deprived.
Your body keeps score. You come to the end of the day and you haven’t had enough. And the brain isn’t smart enough to say, “Hey, Lara, you really should’ve had a more robust lunch.” The brain is just going to come to the end of the day ago, “Hungry.” So one of the reasons why the overeating, binge eating at night is even more turbocharged is because you are literally oftentimes deficient in enough food. You are deficient in nutrition if you didn’t eat enough lunch. Are you with me?
Lara: Yes. That makes a lot of sense.
Marc: So in an ideal universe, a nice bunch of protein at lunch, whatever you eat, a piece of fish. I want you to have enough fat at lunch, olive oil on your salad. But I want you to think that for you—for you—the bigger the lunch, the better. Because that’s going to help you create nutrient density in your body, which is going to allow you to have more sustained energy throughout the day, which is going to take a little bit of the edge off of the binge eating and the overeating that could happen at night. Are you with me on that?
Lara: Yes, totally.
Marc: Next, I want you to see if you can have a consistent late afternoon, robust snack. Once again, I want to get more food into your system pre- dinner.
Marc: So, yeah, you had a nice lunch. Even on the days when you’re teaching like five classes in a row, is it possible to have a quick snack in between one of those classes?
Lara: Mmm hmm.
Marc: I would like to see you do that, something that you know for you is easily digestible. Maybe it’s a yogurt. Maybe it’s a protein smoothie that you make and take with you, something like that that’s easier to digest, but that has some nutrient density, some protein, some fat in it that’ll sustain you more because, again, I want to give your body the signal, especially when it’s working hard. You’re doing a bunch of classes. You’re putting in a lot of energy. So I’m trying to create nutrient density in your system so your brain isn’t screaming at you to reload with enough food in the evening time.
Marc: So if you have to eat fast, that’s the only time I want you eating fast during the day, which is when you have to cram in a robust snack in the evening time.
Marc: I want you to imagine for a moment that all the calories that you’re eating at breakfast, lunch, and a late afternoon snack or two, it’s all free. It’s not going to go into putting fat on your body. I don’t even want you to even think of that. I want you to eat enough food during the day so you feel nourished because that’s going to help you in the evening.
Now, next, when it comes to the evening time, I would like for you to consider this, to plan your evening after-meal snacks. Okay, so you’re having dinner.
Lara: [Laughs] Oh.
Marc: Yeah, right? Because you’re doing it anyway. You are doing it anyway. So I want you to plan it. You’re doing it anyway. You might as well plan it. If you’re going to get in the car and go on a road trip and get lost every night, I would say, “Hey, Lara. Take a map with you. Take a GPS with you.” Plan on it you’re going to do it and get lost anyway. What’s happening is after dinner, you’re getting lost with food.
Lara: I know!
Marc: So we’re going to do lost and found. We’re going to find you. We’re going to go, “You are here.” And where here is is I want you to plan your snacks. And you can even make a journal for the weekend go, “Okay, Monday night, here’s what I snack on after dinner. Tuesday night, here’s what I snack on after dinner.” And I want you to choose the foods. I almost don’t care what they are quite frankly.
But I want you to choose them so you know that your nutrition guy said, your Eating Psychology guy said I could do this. I’m planning it out. So when you plan that, you know what you’re going to do. And what I want you to do is start out with a certain amount that you feel comfortable with. Put it in a bowl. Put it on a plate, whatever. But when I say start out with an amount you feel comfortable with, I don’t want you to shortchange yourself and, “I’m just going to put three chips into the bowl.” No. No.
Lara: No, that’s not going to work.
Marc: No. I want you to put in an amount that you go, “Okay, this could work for me.” And then when I want you to do is I want you to really enjoy that food. Why are you eating that food at night? Because you want to feel good. So let’s feel good.
What’s happening is when you binge eat unconsciously, you don’t feel good because you’re not present to the feel-good feelings. You check out. You go somewhere else. The reason why you can’t eat an entire family size bag of chips is because a part of you isn’t there.
So the more you know what they are, the more you are present to your body and its needs. And I’m simply saying, I’m not asking you to limit yourself. I’m just asking you to do the thing that you’re doing. You’re going to food for fun, for stress relief, for pleasure, for nourishment, great. So do it, which means eating slow, relax, enjoy it, taste it. Do whatever else you need to do. Turn on nice music. Put on a candle. Turn on TV, Whatever helps you feel, creates an experience of, “This is me, Lara, feeling good for a change.”
Lara: That’s a really fresh idea because then I would know what I’m looking forward to earlier in the evening instead of having this fight with myself, “Am I going to binge tonight or not?” And then disappoint myself. I would actually know that I’m going to and look forward to it. And then it kind of makes more sense.
Marc: A hundred percent.
Lara: That’s a great idea. Great, thank you.
Marc: I know! That’s why I’m doing this job! [Laughs]
Lara: I can see that! [Laughs]
Marc: At the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, this is how we train our professionals, in very exquisite skills and protocols that work. So I’m going to give you a little hint here. Here’s what might happen when you start to do this. What might happen when you start to do this is you’re going to notice that you’re going to be eating enough as opposed to too much. Why? Because you’re there. And you’re present. And you’re enjoying it. And you’re getting what you want.
It’s no different then, I don’t know, let’s say your best friend called you up and said, “Lara, I really want to speak to you.” And you said, “Great!” And she started talking to you. And all of a sudden you started texting you started multitasking. And you’re really not paying attention. And she’s talking. And you’re not paying attention. Your friend is going to come away unsatisfied, unhappy, and hungry for more because she didn’t have her needs met. So it’s an empty experience.
And what’s going to happen is the same with food. If you’re going for food at night and if it’s an empty experience, you’re going to be left feeling empty. So we’re training your body to do the thing that you want, to do the thing that you’re doing anyway. And you might find that you start to develop your awareness muscle and your presence muscle. And you start to have more mastery over the food product and it having mastery over you.
So right now by planning out your week, “Here’s the foods am going to eat…” And, again, I’m not even talking what foods you should eat. I want you to pick the ones that you eat anyway that are going to make you feel good. I want you to start out with a reasonable amount. But I want you to enjoy it. This is it. It’s all about your enjoyment here. And pleasure happens slow. If you said to me, “I love sex. And I like to get it over with and fifteen seconds,” I’m going to go, “Huh. Do you really love it that much?” If you love it, you want it to last. Same with food.
And from there, I just want you to watch what happens and just let things unfold. So you’re looking forward to having your eating experience. It’s yours. It’s where you make you feel good. And I want you to be very deliberate about picking out foods that you really like, that you can afford, that work for you.
Lara: That actually sounds fun! I didn’t expect to be saying that. But it does, yeah!
Marc: And that’s the whole point. I want you to have that fun. I want you to experience it because right now you need that. And you need to have some fun. You need to have something to look forward to, especially at night when you’ve put out a ton of energy. And you need to feel some kind of nourishment. So right now, if food is going to give it to you, let food give it to you.
And at some point, you’ll start to keep your eyes on the radar for, “What else? What else can I do at night that’s a ritual that would serve me, as well?” And it doesn’t mean you have to give up eating at night. But you might add in something else. You might sit in a warm bath with some bath soaps and oil. I would love for you to keep your eye on, “What else in addition two food at night would really be something I could look forward to?” Does anything come to mind when I ask that question?
Lara: Just ways to relax. Because that’s really what I need to do without doing harm to myself like with all the chips and such. So any of those things, yeah. Like a bath or even just sitting and working a puzzle or something without having to eat at the same time while I’m doing it. Just being able to just focus on one relaxing thing would be a step for me. I really don’t do that.
Marc: But I want you to do what’s doable for you. As soon as you start to fight yourself, you know that we want to go in a different direction. Now, it may be difficult sometimes for you to eat slow at night with your fun food. But, again, there’s your practice. As practices go, it’s not so awful. It’s not like I’m asking you to lift thousands of pounds of weights or something. I’m asking you to slow down with food and enjoy it, which on paper is not such an unreasonable request.
So, again, find some other pieces that you could do at night, some other practices in addition to having a favorite snack that help you relax, that help you feel good so you’re starting to create a new ecosystem for yourself in the evening time and doing something that feels good for you. So then when you wake up in the morning it’ll be a little bit different. You could have a little fresher start.
Lara: Exactly, and not just be sad.
Lara: That would be great.
Marc: So it all starts with training myself slowly. You’re not going to get it perfect. You’re going to take a few steps forward and a few steps back. But it’s training yourself during the day to eat more at lunch. It’s training yourself to slow down with your meals during the day.
And then it’s training yourself the plan your evenings. Plan it out in advance. Know what snack food you’re going to have every night. Make sure you have it in the house. Make sure it’s something you love and enjoy. Ritualize it. Make it fun. Make it pleasurable. Eat it slow. Get what you want out of it. What you want out of it is fun, is pleasure. So go for it. Make sure you get that experience.
Marc: There it is.
Lara: That sounds like a huge green light for more fun. I didn’t expect that at all. So this is good news.
Marc: And this is all about you loving you through a challenging time. And there will come a time when you might have more wherewithal to say, “Okay, now I’m ready to shift that. And I’m ready to not eat at night after dinner.” And that will be a different conversation. But you’ll be ready for it.
Right now it’s not where you are. You really need to have things that feed you and that help you survive through a challenging time right now. And we’re just making food work better for you and make it not work against you. Make sense?
Lara: Yeah, that sounds great. Really good news. I appreciate it.
Marc: Yeah. And what we’ll do is will follow up in several months. We’ll have another session. We’ll do an update. We’ll see how you’re doing. And I have confidence that this is going to work for you.
Lara: Me, too! Even if I fail, it’ll be fun! That’s what I think! [Laughs]
Marc: [Laughs] Yay!!
Lara: I really appreciate it. This is exciting. Thank you very much.
Marc: Good for you, Lara. And thanks for being a good sport. And thanks for sharing openly and honestly about your attorney. And I know there’s a lot of people who can relate.
And I also want to honor you for being brave. What you’re doing right now isn’t easy. You’re handling a lot. And you’re embracing a lot. And you’re juggling a lot. And I get that you’re putting out a lot of energy. And I just really wish for you the best. And I trust you’re going to come through this.
Lara: Thank you. You’ve really helped me a lot. I’m excited.
Lara: I just feel lifted up.
Marc: Okay! Thanks so much, Lara!
Lara: Yes! Okay, I’ll talk to you later.
Marc: You will. And thanks, everybody, for tuning in. I’m Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, on behalf of the Psychology of Eating podcast. There’s always lots more to come, my friends. Take care.
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating
© Institute For The Psychology of Eating, All Rights Reserved, 2014
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