The Psychology of Eating Podcast Episode 51: Breaking Free From Emotional Eating

Rhonda is in her 40s and cannot even remember a time when she didn’t judge her body. She has struggled most of her life with emotional eating and has been dieting for approximately forever. Rhonda has worked hard to understand herself, but she just can’t get to a place where she loses weight and keeps it off. And she continues to feel awful about herself when she’s not at her target weight. Tune in to this great podcast session where Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating helps Rhonda identify the surprising places where she’s stuck, and the steps she needs to take to finally find freedom.

Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:
Marc: Welcome, everybody! I’m Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. And here we are in the Psychology of Eating podcast. I’m here with Rhonda today. Welcome, Rhonda!

Rhonda: Thank you.

Marc: Glad you’re here. Glad you’re doing this.

Rhonda: Thank you. I’m glad to be here.

Marc: Yay. So let me say a few words for anybody viewing or listening who’s new to this podcast, here’s what this is about. We’re going to be together for about an hour. And Rhonda is going to be sharing with me. We’ve never met yet. She’s going to be sharing with me whatever concern or challenge she has about food, body, and health. And were going to probably take about six months to a year’s worth of coaching and work to squeeze it into one session.

So, in other words, this will be highly unusual. We’re going to try to hit the target as much as we can. I’m going to push the fast-forward button and see if we can get to the heart of things and give you, Rhonda, some ideas, some insights, some openings, breakthroughs.

So, with that in mind, I’m just going to be asking a bunch of questions. And after about fifteen or twenty minutes, I’m going to wrap it all together and start to give you some of my thoughts.

If you could wave your magic wand and get whatever you wanted out of this session, what would that be?

Rhonda: Oh, gosh. I want to get to a place where I can be just happy with where I’m at in my weight and in my body image and how I feel about myself. Just some tools, I guess… See, I find these questions really hard to answer. They’re not easy!

Marc: Yeah! But there is a goal in mind. You want to get somewhere.

Rhonda: I do. I want to look in the mirror and love what I see all of the time, not just sometimes. All the time.

Marc: Okay. “I want to look in the mirror and love what I see all the time.” That’s a beautiful wish. Do you want to wait a certain amount? Or you just want to love what you’ve got? What, what, what, what?

Rhonda: Well, loving what I’ve got would certainly be nice. But, no, I do have a goal. I do want to lose about twenty-five pounds. I’ve seen myself at a certain size and I’m happy with. But I’m definitely where I’ve come to understand that that might not be the right size for me. But, yes, would I like to be that size? Yes, I would.

Marc: And how would you describe your eating? Not so much what foods you eat, but how would you describe yourself as an eater?

Rhonda: Well, I actually think I eat all the right foods. And I eat a lot of good food. However, in between all of the good eating, there’s that occasional binging. And it’s so strange because at home, I don’t keep bad food in the house. And at home, if I never left the house, I would be absolutely fine.

But the minute I’m in an environment where there’s something put out, it’s like all bets are off. I don’t just have one of something. It’s like I’ve never seen that before. It’s ridiculous. So I’m a healthy eater. But I’ve also got the other side where, when it’s available to me, I’m not. So I don’t understand myself there.

Marc: Got it. Got it. Okay, so how often does an experience like that happen where, “Gosh, I’m now in a situation where I’m not home and I’m eating way more of this food that I want to be eating.” How often does that happen?

Rhonda: Pretty often because I work in an environment where we’re a small environment. So there’s always a birthday. There’s always someone coming or going. Or there’s always a reason for someone to bring a cake or snacks.

Marc: How often? Once a week? Twice a week?

Rhonda: Probably once a week for sure. And that’s just work-related. That’s not including the family birthdays. So if I added it all up, it’s probably at least twice a week consistently. But some weeks it’s more. And you go on holiday. It’s too much. I know that. It’s too much.

Marc: Got it. So how long has this been your experience?

Rhonda: Forever. I don’t remember it not being my experience, really.

Marc: So when you were a teenager, same thing?

Rhonda: Yeah. I would have to say yeah, for sure.

Marc: So do you consider yourself, “Wow, I’m dieting and trying to lose weight.” Do you do things that seem like, “I’m doing this so maybe I can lose a little weight.”

Rhonda: Yeah. Definitely.

Marc: Okay. How long have you been dieting?

Rhonda: As long as I can remember. For sure even as a teenager. As a teenager, I might not have called the time. But, yeah, I’ve been conscious and concerned with my weight my whole life.

Marc: Okay. Have you ever been twenty-five pounds less than you are right now?

Rhonda: Yes, actually. It’s only actually this last few years I have had a lot of changes in my life. I did lose almost thirty pounds. And I kept it off for 2-1/2 years. And I thought I was in the clear. I was feeling great. And then this last year, I have slowly gained back about twenty-five of it.

And I’m just so angry at myself because I felt like I had done it right. This time, I didn’t feel like I did it in a dieting, negative way. I felt like I did it in a very healthy way. And then I just…

Marc: Okay. So why do you think the weight came back on?

Rhonda: Well, when I say why, I feel like it’s an excuse.

Marc: No, just…

Rhonda: My husband and I have recently separated. And it’s about a year since I made the decision to separate, not since the actual separation. And I just hate to say that that’s why I let myself stop caring or something. I don’t know. That’s the biggest thing that’s happened in my life in the last year. But my whole life has been the same. It’s not like this is new to my experience in weight gain, weight gain, weight gain, weight loss.

Marc: So then prior to this last time that you lost the thirty pounds, slowly gained back twenty-five, so prior to that, you’ve gained it and lost it. Have you ever had a time where… So in this last time when you lost [thirty] pounds and it slowly came back on, at some point you weighed thirty pounds less for a little while there. How was life for you?

Rhonda: Beautiful. That’s just it. It was so beautiful. I took up yoga and meditation, which, really, I think changed my life. That was kind of the start of it. So I’m definitely in a better place now than I ever, ever have been in this last 2-1/2 years where these bigger changes in my life took place. Sorry, I almost forget the question.

Marc: Okay, so I was asking you you’ve lost this weight. What happened? Who were you? How did you feel when the weight was off? How good was life? Because you’re expecting it to be good. You were saying, “Yeah, it was good.”

Rhonda: Yeah. I did feel great. I did feel great. And I felt healthy, healthier and stronger. Stronger than I’ve ever felt, healthier than I’ve ever felt.

Marc: So let me ask you this question. So previously you’ve also lost and gained this weight over the years. Why do you think you gained it back the previous times when you lost it?

Rhonda: Well, in previous times, I never actually lost that much. This was the most I had ever lost. So in previous experience, it was ten pounds here, ten pounds up and down. And that was more I was dieting. It was like go hard diet. See, what happens is I almost sabotage myself because I could feel myself, the minute I start losing some weight, I suddenly find myself hearing myself say, “Oh, it’s okay. You can have that now. You can have that. It’s just one cookie.” And then it just builds and builds and builds.

Marc: So how did you lose that weight?

Rhonda: This last time?

Marc: Yeah. How did you do it?

Rhonda: Clean eating, just healthy eating. I was eating foods. I wasn’t eating crazy junk foods like I normally do. I don’t know. This is what I don’t understand is that I do feel that I did it so well.

Marc: Okay. So I know you’re confused about what’s going on. So just pause that comment. Pause comment. Okay? So I got that. I’m just trying to gather information so I can help you here. So did you exercise more than you usually do in this last chunk of time when you lost the weight?

Rhonda: Yes, probably. I’ve always been active. But this time, yes, with the yoga I was doing a lot more. I was probably. Rather than an hour a day, some days were two hours a day. And I was enjoying it. I was doing things I enjoy. The yoga has been the best thing that has ever come into my life. I took up running, but not too much. I really don’t think I was overdoing it. But, yeah, I was definitely exercising more than I normally would.

Marc: And exercising is meaning yoga? Or meaning yoga and something else?

Rhonda: Yoga and running. I did Jillian Michaels workout videos, some plyometrics, and that sort of thing. A variety.

Marc: How many days a week?

Rhonda: Almost every day. There was a period where it was almost everyday. Now I’m not doing it every day. This last year, I had a hamstring injury. It’s kind of slowed me down. My yoga has been modified. Everything, all the exercise I’ve had to do this last year has been modified because of my knees, my hamstrings, just a few unknown injuries here.

Marc: Okay, so would you call yourself a fast eater? A moderate eater? A slow eater?

Rhonda: I am a fast eater definitely.

Marc: Okay, a fast eater. And do you have kids?

Rhonda: I have two kids.

Marc: How old?

Rhonda: Fourteen and fifteen.

Marc: Girls? Boys?

Rhonda: My son is fifteen. My daughter is fourteen.

Marc: How is her relationship with her body?

Rhonda: Well, so far I think it’s good except… No, I’m noticing occasionally she’ll say her belly as fat when she is the tiniest little thing you can imagine. So I’m very conscious, more conscious now than I was maybe as she was growing. But I’m definitely more conscious now about how I speak around her.

I try never to use the word “skinny,” “fat.” I use words like healthy. Sizes isn’t what’s important. It’s your health. So I’m very conscious of where she’s at. But I think overall she’s pretty healthy.

Marc: So what do you expect would be different? Who would you be? What would be different? How would you be different if you lost a twenty-five pounds? Tell me who this new person would be that we’re trying to get to.

Rhonda: See, a year ago when I was down to that weight, the person I was, I just felt awesome. Getting dressed in the morning was easy because everything fit. That sounds so silly. But it takes me forever. It can take me five minutes to get ready in the morning, but an hour to figure out what to wear because I look in the mirror and I don’t like what…

It’s those silly little things. All of that was gone. I just seemed accepting of myself in a way that I’ve never been. And I don’t know why I put so much emphasis on the size and the weight. But I’d just liked to myself. That’s not enough is it? I don’t know. Confidence. I had confidence that I had never had before.

Marc: Okay. So if you get there, you would be more confident. You would like yourself. You wouldn’t have to go through the tedious process of trying to look at all these different outfits that you don’t like. It would just happen really quickly. You’d feel good.

Anything else? I’m just collecting how life would be different because I get that this is super important to you. Let’s just own that. This is important. So I want to know why. And that’s fine. It’s fine to have your reasons. Anything else?

Rhonda: Well, maybe they’re all just a vain reasons. I don’t know because as far as, I like why am. I like how far I’ve come. I like who I want to be. I’m proud of myself. I’m proud of my life. So that’s what doesn’t make sense to me is that I can reason out how lucky and happy and grateful. I have so many blessings in my life. So how can so much of how I feel about myself stem from what I see in the mirror? It’s just so hard to understand.

Marc: Okay, hold that question. Hold that question. It’s a really powerful question. I’m going to re-phase it for a second. How can my life be really pretty good on paper when I look at it. It’s like, “Wait a second. I’m a good person. I’ve accomplished these things. A lot of great things have happened. Life ain’t so bad. Why the heck am I putting all this energy into liking how I look? Why can’t I just accept it? Why can’t I just be happy? So how can I have these two sides to me?”

So, great question. We’re going to get to that. But I’ve still got a couple questions here. So you don’t have to answer this. A little more sensitive question. But if you are willing to answer it, if you were in your husband’s shoes right now and I asked him, “What’s your chief complaint about Rhonda that would make you want to separate?” what would he say?

Rhonda: That would make him want to separate?

Marc: Yeah.

Rhonda: [Long pause] That I’m too hard on myself, that I’m…Oh, gosh, his chief complaint.

Marc: Does he complain?

Rhonda: He doesn’t. He truly doesn’t ever. He’s never, ever, ever said a negative thing about me ever.

Marc: So than you’ve initiated a separation more so than he’s like, “I’m outta here. This is terrible.”

Rhonda: Yes. Yes.

Marc: Got it. Okay, So we don’t have to go there right now. But if you’re willing, what’s your chief complaint?

Rhonda: About him?

Marc: Yeah.

Rhonda: Communication.

Marc: Uh-huh. And specifically, “I want this kind of communication and I don’t get it.” If you could sum it up in two sentences or less.

Rhonda: Not the day-to-day communication, the hard stuff. When I need help or input with the kids, that sort of thing. When I want to have a deep discussion about something. I don’t get anything in return, I feel.

It’s the support of kind. He supports me with his presence. And he supports me with saying like I’m doing a good job. But I don’t feel like I’m getting the input I need. I’m summing it up poorly. But it’s those harder conversations I feel a sense of all the talking. And I don’t get any response.

Marc: Got it. So for the tougher conversations, you want a partner who is just more present and more aware and just has more to contribute to that. It sounds like he might get a little too quiet for your taste in those kinds of things. Yeah?

Rhonda: Yeah. Mmm hmm.

Marc: Okay. That’s helpful for me. One last thing. Are your parents still alive?

Rhonda: Yes.

Marc: Are you close with them?

Rhonda: Yes.

Marc: How is your mom’s relationship with her body?

Rhonda: Probably similar to mine. Yeah. I think she’s been a chronic type dieter are all her life, as well. That would be my guess. She might not see it that way. But she’s just this itty-bitty of a thing. So I think her relationship with her body has certainly improved and changed at the age she sat now. But, no, I think her whole life was similar to mine, the whole chronic dieting, that sort of thing, body image. I think she may have tied a lot to her body image, as well. Definitely.

Marc: Okay. Got it. Okay. So I’ve got some thoughts now that I would love to share with you.

Rhonda: Okay!

Marc: Yeah! No, this is good. This is good. You’ve given me a lot of good information about you. And everything am going to say is in the context of I might not deliver what I’m saying like this normally in a single session. But I’m trying to proceed as if this is the last session I’m ever doing in my life. So I want to make it one of the better ones. And this is the only time I might ever get to speak with you about your concerns. So if I was going to die right after this, I would want to deliver the best that I could. So that’s how I’m looking at this.

Rhonda: Great.

Marc: So here’s what I want to say to you. And we’re going to start a little broad. And then I’m going to narrow it down for you. And the idea here is I definitely would love to see you happier. I would love to see you being able to bring together all these wonderful parts of you that you know where they are that you know exists that you know have done good things in your life and in this world and help you find a place where you can feel good about what you’ve got.

So here’s the challenge for you. So the challenge for you in part is that take your brain, your mind, has set up a conundrum. And it’s an understandable conundrum, just so you know. So here’s the understandable conundrum. The conundrum—and you pretty much said this; I’m just using my words—the conundrum is, “Wait a second. I’m this great person. I’m wonderful. I’m not so bad. Wow. And there’s this part of me that absolutely doesn’t like myself and spends all this energy.” And it confuses the hell out of you as to why that is.

So what I want to say is right from the beginning that confusion that you go into causes you way more pain and suffering then the actual challenge itself. It’s almost like saying, “I woke up this morning and it snowed. But last night’s news reports said tomorrow’s going to be sunny and warm. And I get up in the morning. And I go, ‘But the weather report said snow. And it’s sunny and warm.’” And I lie in bed going, “I don’t understand this. Why did they do this? This doesn’t make any sense. Because they said this. But it’s really turned out to be that. Wait a second. I trust this. And I could spin off and a lie in bed all day and never get off and enjoy the sunshine because I’ve set up this conundrum.”

Now, is it a bit of a mystery? Sure. So I’m agreeing with you. This is an interesting mystery. But the way you frame it drains your energy. So I want to reframe this piece that you set up that you find so impossible and so almost unacceptable in your version of what reality should be. So you have your very humble version of how you think the universe should work. And we’re narrowing it down a little bit here.

Part of the challenge, Rhonda, is you want the kind of experience, I think—and I’m not sure that you want this consciously—but you want to wake up. Well, you kind of said it: “I want to love my body every day. So what I want to say is let’s change the target. How about, “I’m going to love myself the matter what.” That’s a little different.

This is a what if. What if instead of looking near every day… “I love you. You’re so beautiful. Man you’re so hot today. You’re gorgeous. Who wouldn’t want to be with you, beautiful? I’m going to love myself though matter what. I’m going to love myself even if I get up and I’m tired. I’m going to love myself even if I get up and I don’t think I look good. I’m going to love myself even if I’m separated. I’m going to love myself even if I’m married and living with my…” No matter what.

So do you make it conditional with your kids? “Okay, sweetheart. You’re looking a little more chubby today. Don’t love you. Eh, not interested. When you lose weight, I’m going to wake up and really say I’m so glad you’re my kid. I’m so glad I have you because you look better now to me.” No, you wouldn’t say that. You’re going to love your kids so matter what. If your kid gains ten pounds, loses ten pounds, makes a million dollars, makes 10,000 dollars, you’re still going to love them.

So you have it set up for yourself where you have this kind of vision that has too many unicorns in it. There’s too many unicorns, meaning it’s a little bits to phantasmagorical. It’s not based in reality because the bottom line is you tell me do you know anybody, have you met people who have all the Hollywood good looks and are still don’t like themselves and they’re still self-critical and they still don’t love themselves? Have you ever met someone like that? Yes? No?

Rhonda: No.

Marc: Okay. I’m telling you those people exist. They’re all over the world.

Rhonda: Sorry, yes, I have.

Marc: Yeah. So there’s tons of them. So the looks guarantee you nothing. The most beautiful people in the world commit suicide. So what I’m doing is I’m speaking to a lifelong pattern that you have that you did not invent.

Here’s the other piece. You’re going, “Why me?” on a certain level. So, again, I want to say a ton of your energy gets drained. I’m not fixing the problem yet. I’m looking for you to reframe it. I’m saying your energy gets drained by how did you have this set up because you’re looking for this and result of, “I love myself every day.” And the way you set it up as if I look like this, if I lose this twenty-five pounds, then I will love myself every day.

So I ask you, “So, how was life when you were twenty-five pounds less?” You said, “Great! I loved it. I felt good.” So here’s what I want to say about that. You were on drugs. You were on two kinds of drugs. And you might as well have been doing crack cocaine as far as I’m concerned in terms of you’re on a temporary high. The temporary high is, “I’m exercising 2+ hours a day sometimes. I’m dieting. I’m controlling myself. And I hit my weight.”

And it’s a buzz. It’s a high. It’s an absolute high. So is alcohol when you do alcohol. So was cocaine. So is any other drug that gives you a rush. So is drinking for Red Bulls. “God, I drank for Red Bulls. I feel so great!” Of course you do. Guess what? You’re going to come down. And you’re going to feel very different.

So what happens is that that point when you lost the twenty-five pounds, you did something that you normally don’t do, which is you shut your inner critic off. And when you shut your inner critic off, you actually like yourself. But the thing is shut your inner critic off. And you shut her off because she had nothing to attack. Life starts to happen again… And things don’t get easy. And you’re not going to be exercising two hours a day. And all of a sudden the inner critic creeps back in.

So you actually had a good time in parts not so much because of the weight loss, because you stop attacking yourself. You stopped to setting up this conundrum where, “I’m only going to love you if…” and now, “I’m loving myself now.” It’s no different than if you said to your kids, “I’m only going to love you if you have straight A’s.” And all their lives they’ve been getting A’s and B’s. And you don’t love them. In fact, you nag at them. In fact, you’re not a very nice person. And all of a sudden they get straight A’s. And you’re like, “I love you!” Your kids are going to be so happy. But as soon as one of them gets a B, you’re going to hate on them, that’s kind of what you do to you.

And you think it’s the weight, you and everybody else. You and everybody else, I’ve heard this story. And you are a unique person. Trust me. And I’ve heard this story a million times before, which is, “And I lost the weight! I felt so good! I fit into all my clothes.” All I hear is temporary high, temporary high, temporary high. There’s all kinds of ways to do temporary high. Extreme weight loss, which for you I’m going to call that an extreme weight loss based on dieting and exercise that is not necessarily sustainable. And it wasn’t sustainable for you.

So you got on a temporary high. And because it wasn’t a permanent shift—it was temporary—it did creep back up because you didn’t change. What changed was various little outer behaviors. And what’s changed was the clothing. And I don’t mean the real clothes. Your space suit changed a little bit. But inside, that conditional person who does conditional love—“I’ll only love you if…”—she’s still active. And you’re conditional with yourself. That’s one of the biggest places, meaning, “I’ll only love myself if…”

So, again, I’m going to summarize here, in the big picture you, in my opinion training on of energy by trying to figure out why the sky is blue. Why is it? Well, guess what? Humans do that. Sigmund Freud back 100+ years, he said humans have a death instinct in the life instinct, Eros and Thanatos. There’s a part of us that wants to just destroy things. There are humans who take guns and shoot. There are humans who break things. There are humans who hurt other humans.

So the human being is capable of damage to self or others. That’s who we are. There’s parts of us that work for us. There’s parts of us that work against us. There it is, simple as that. So your job, my job, all of us are here to try to figure out and help each other, “God, how do I marshal all of my forces? How do I gain more and more control over my mind so it doesn’t torture me? How do I learn how to have more unconditional acceptance and love myself so I’m not kicking my own butt every day?”

So that’s the idea, not, “Why is this? Why am I doing it?,” Which is like, “Why is the sky blue? Why was I born a woman? Why?…” So you get stuck in philosophy, which ends up kind of making you crazy. And it ends up making you miserable. So I want you to take that question off the table.

And I got a little short with you because there were a number of times at the beginning when I was asking you questions and you kept returning to, “Gosh, I just don’t know why I do this.” And I wanted to stop it because I didn’t want you to drain your own energy. So if I was a little bit harsh, my apologies. But it was coming from the place of don’t do that.

It would be no different if I watched you banging your head against the wall. I would say, “Rhonda, stop! Stop banging your head against the wall.” So it’s kind of to me what I see you do. I know you’re not intending to do that. But you’re trying to fight a battle in a way that it can’t be won.

So you have this because you adopted it from the world and the culture. You did not invent the body hate. You did not invent perfectionism. You didn’t invent this thing called, “We’re going to now program you young women to think that you need this perfect little body in order to be lovable and okay and feel good about who you are.” So that toxic belief will exist long after you and I die. And it’s been around long before you and I showed up. Not too long, but definitely a while. So it’s bigger than us. It’s bigger than you.

So the reason why this is hard to change is because it’s bigger than us. So it’s hard to change the world. But the world is living in us, meaning all this perfectionism. So that’s the challenge. That’s why it’s so hard on the one hand. So it is hard. So I want to acknowledge this is difficult.

But what’s going to make it easier for you is to, number one, let go of adding in more misery when you don’t need it into the challenge, which is stop trying to figure out, “How could this be?” Get rid of the philosophy. And just hang onto this is the way life is. Life has good and bad. Some animals you could sit and pet them and they love you. And some animals, you try to pet them and they’re going to bite. When you could go, “Why is that?” Or you could just accept, “House cats and house dogs, good. Lions, not so good for a pet. Just the way it is.”

So the next piece here is that you’ve kind of spent a lifetime yo-yoing up and down. And this is, Rhonda, what I’ve seen is it’s the last place people tend to go to solve their challenge. And, to me, you’re there. You’re going down what looks like a dead end. It’s the same road you’ve been on, which is, “What do I have to do to lose this weight?” You lose some of it, all of it. And then something happens. And it comes back on again. And maybe you had a temporary hide. Maybe you didn’t.

So what I’m saying is that’s the pattern. The only thing that changes at all that is your body. You don’t change that much at all of that. So the real change has to happen within. And I mean that. I really, really, really mean that. The reason why it’s hard for change to happen within—one of the reasons—is we get stuck in here. So when you try to mentally problem solve, you live here. And that’s not a fun place.

So when I asked you, “What’s your husband’s chief complaint?” you said, “Well, he doesn’t really complain that much.” But when you sort of guessed, you said, “Well, maybe I’m hard on myself.” Well, for sure you’re hard on yourself. There’s no doubt about it. You know that. Fortunately, you’re a grown woman. And you’ve got a say in that.

And this is where it is time to mature. This is where it’s time to take the fork in the road. So you haven’t been able to get where you want to go because your problem can’t be solved at the level of the mind. You keep trying to figure it out. And I know you’re smart. But you haven’t been able to figure it out. And the reason you haven’t been able to figure it out is because it can be figured out with the brain. “Oh, well, maybe if I just do this, this, this, and then that’ll happen. But then if I do that, that, that…” So you haven’t figured it out. Nor will you ever if you try to keep solving the problem at that same level.

So what I want to say is the problem is solved here in the heart. The problem is solved in the body. And the problem is solved on a more soul or spiritual level. Those three places. That’s where the action is. If you stay in the level of mind, which will have you dieting and exercising and trying to figure out, “Which diet? Which exercise? How come I sabotage myself?”

It’s not really that you sabotage yourself. It’s just that you are playing out the same game, which is conditional love. “I will only love myself I look a certain way.” Because that is not acceptable in the eyes of the universe, because that’s not acceptable to higher consciousness, because that’s not acceptable to a higher soul’s growth, there will be irritation in the system.

So you know what? If you started inappropriately screaming at people, not acceptable. If you started cursing at your kids, not acceptable. There’s certain things that in our growth in character and in our personal evolution, it’s just not in alignment.

So it’s great when a lot of people discover healthy eating. They realize, “Oh, my God. That’s in alignment with who I am.” And things start to fall into place. And you discover yoga and meditation. And you go, “Wow. That’s an alignment with who I am. It’s natural. Wow, this is taking me where I’m supposed to go.”

So what’s happening is there’s places where you’re not allowing yourself to grow by staying in the conundrum of, “Well, if I don’t lose this weight, I’m not going to love myself.” And what’s really happening is that life with a capital L, in my opinion, is going, “Rhonda, time to grow up, plain and simple. Time to mature. Time to step into your adults, big girl phase here and let it go.”

And let it go. And eat a sustainable diet like you do. Start to find a sustainable ways of moving that has nothing to do with you losing weight and everything to do with you loving your body because your goal is to love your body. So the only way to love your body is to actually love your body.

Again, it’s no different than you saying to your kids, “I’m only going to love you with the following conditions are met. I need you to wake up at five in the morning. I need you to do fifty sit ups when you get out of bed. I need you to sing hallelujah…” You can make all these conditions. And if they don’t fulfill the conditions, you’re not going to love them. That’s what you’re doing to yourself. And it drives you crazy. It drives all of us crazy when we do that to self.

So you have to begin to pick apart the places where did you go into conditional love and finally start to address the challenge where it lives. So what that’s going to mean from where I’m sitting here is you taking three to four months and letting go of the goal for the first time ever. Just let go of the goal. And finally be you.

And learn how to say, “Okay, I might not have the perfect body right now. Even though I don’t have the perfect body, I still love myself. Even though my marriage is not going perfectly, I still love myself. Even though I’m still a work in progress”—me, too!—“I love myself.” That’s different from, “I will only love myself if I’m perfect.” You’re not perfect. I’m not perfect. Find me the perfect person.

I don’t know if you heard this old joke, this guy is sharing with his best friend. He travels all over the world. And he’s trying to find the perfect woman to marry. And he’s just going through all kinds of dates. And he meets hundreds of women. And he keeps rejecting them because he hasn’t found the perfect woman. And he’s a mean, exacting kind of person.

So finally one day he gets back to his friend. He’s so excited. He says, “I can’t believe it. After all these years, I finally found a perfect woman.” And his friend goes, “Well, where is she?” And he says, “Well, we broke up.” And his friend was like, “Why?” He says, “Well, she was looking for the perfect man.”

We ain’t perfect. So the new game plan that I want to suggest for you is called I love myself even though I’m not perfect. I’m not at the weight I want. I’m not at the looks I want. Because otherwise I can pretty much guarantee you you will have a life of misery. You will never get this handled. And you’ll feel more and more sour as the years go on. And you’ll feel less and less empowered. And you won’t fulfill your potential.

When I see women, I meet women in their 60s, 70s, 80s who were presenting the same challenge to me that you are. My heart is crushed when I speak to them because this should not be. Because I know what empowered women look like in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, especially when you get up there. Especially when you start to hit your 40s, it’s time to turn it around. It’s just time because life is short.

So when I say we’re not solving the problem at the level of mind anymore and it’s more level of heart, that’s what I mean. So you can’t figure it out. You haven’t figured it out, nor will you figure it out. It has to be your heart just going cease-fire. Not going to hate you anymore because you don’t look a certain way.

As soon as you set it up again, “Okay, but I felt so good,” I would say to you, “Yeah, and I had three shots of tequila on New Year’s. And I felt great. And the next morning I had a little bit of a hangover. So I only do it on occasion. I know it’s not the end-all and the be-all.”

So you had a temporary high. Weight loss will do that for people. A lot of jogging will do that for people. Certain kinds of exercise will do that for people. You go on a vacation. That’s a temporary high also. Then you come back, “Man, I wish I could always feel that way!” Well, so do I. And back to work. You know what I’m saying?

So can you love yourself when you’re working as much as you loved yourself when you’re on vacation? Or add a little more love into the system. So what I’m saying is I want you to leave the old story behind and start to adopt a new story. The new story is, “I’m not perfect.” The new story is, “This is life. It is paradoxical. Parts of me loves myself. Parts of me don’t.” Every other human is like that, too.

“I’m going to let go of the perfectionism. I’m going to let go of the weight, of the scale. And I’m going to start to feel myself exercising and feel myself eating as opposed to make it all centered around losing weight so some magical thing is going to happen.” Here it is. This is your life. You’re not going to feel, “Oh, I love myself unconditionally, amazingly perfectly every day.” It’s not going to happen. It could happen a hell of a lot more. But it doesn’t have to have conditions.

So how are you doing so far? Because I’m yakking a lot here. And how is this landing for you?

Rhonda: Well, it’s definitely landing. I think the part that hits me is stop trying to figure it out because it’s like you said. I have spent all these years trying to figure it out because knowing something intellectually… I just recently understood the difference between knowing something and believing something. Because you can believe something. But do you truly know it? Am I saying that right?

Marc: Yes.

Rhonda: Yeah. I need to stop trying to figure it out. And I think I keep insisting that I need to figure it out. So that kind of resonates with me, just stop trying to figure it out.

Marc: It’s as simple as that. It exhausts you. It exhausts you.

Rhonda: It does. It really does.

Marc: It exhausts you. And it trains your energy. And it will make you less available to others. So one of the things I asked you, I asked you, “So what was your chief complaint about your partner?” And your chief complaint was there’s a place where he doesn’t kind of go a little deeper. And in conversations where it counts, he doesn’t really show up.

There’s a place where in your way you do that with you. There’s a place where you don’t show up for yourself and you don’t go deep enough with yourself. This is that place. And, yeah, there’s certain things you believe in your head. You might not know them in your bones in your guts and your cells in your heart. But when you don’t know it on that deep cellular level but you believe in your head, the way you get it into your cells and your bones and your heart is you practice it. That’s the only way. The only way is you practice those principles.

So I can say, “Yeah, I believe in self-love.” But if I don’t practice it in little baby steps, it’s useless. I could say, “I believe in being a good parent. But every day I wake up and smack my kid for no good reason,” who cares what I believe? So practice now. Practice not smacking my kid. Practice elevating my children. Practice speaking kind words to them. So take the belief and a look at what are the little practice places, the little baby steps that I can do that a firm that concept that’s in my head.

So you train yourself. It’s no different than running. You could say, “I believe in running.” Okay. Well, are you doing it or not? “Okay, well, yeah.” Okay, great. So you ran. So you took that belief in you practiced it. Is it easy? Not all the time. There’s some days you don’t feel like running. But you did. There’s some days you might not feel like meditating or going to yoga class. But you did because you chose to practice it. And you chose to train. And training often means there’s a little bit of intensity there. There’s a little bit of effort.

So where I’m asking you to make the effort is beginning to practice these things that you know. But where you go is you go, “I know them. But I’m just not doing them.” Okay, that’s an accurate observation. But there’s no mystery there. So I’m saying there is no mystery. You’re presenting it like it’s a mystery. And I’m saying it’s so simple. And you do this all the time in other areas, meaning there’s tons of places in life would you believe something and you practice it.

My guess is you believe that it’s good to be a good person and to uplift others and to spread love. And you do it. So you don’t sit around thinking, “Oh, boy, am I a lousy person because I believe this but I don’t do it.” It sounds like you do that. So there’s no mystery here. There’s certain places where you don’t practice what you believe.

Rhonda: That’s right.

Marc: And then it becomes about you practicing. It doesn’t become you figuring it out, why is a human being like that, such as me? Because that actually doesn’t get you close to resolving things. It actually spins you out into a whole other territory where there’s no solution. So I’m showing you where you lose yourself. You follow me?

Rhonda: Yes, I do. Yeah.

Marc: So what I’m saying is this isn’t easy stuff. I’m trying to get in there with you. And this is all of us. We have certain places where it’s just hard to see myself sometimes unless I look in the mirror or unless somebody gives me feedback about the parts I can’t see so clearly.

So that’s all I’m doing for you here. There’s certain parts because I’m not you that I can see more clearly. There’s certain things if you got to know me, you would be able to pinpoint things for me, like “Hey, Marc. Let me raise my hand and say what I see here that you might be missing.” So that’s all that’s going on here.

So do you have a sense of what your homework is here?

Rhonda: Well, practicing. I do a lot of mirror work. I really do. I have affirmations written all over my house. There isn’t anywhere I can’t sit where I’m not reading. So that’s a start.

Marc: Yeah. Here’s what I want to say is as important as the practice of having all these positive affirmations about how good you are and how good you look and how you can love the body that you have right now. I’m all for that. Equally important for you, I want you to be able to say to yourself, “I don’t like my body today.” And then take a deep breath and go, “But I’m still going to stand by me. I still love me.”

It’s a little switch because there’s still this part of you that wants to just… “I want to just look at my body and say I love you. This is perfect.” Actually, I want you to look at your bodies some days and say, “You know, there’s some imperfections here. I don’t look like the perfect Hollywood model. I’m not perfect by those standards. Eh, kind of a bummer. That would be so nice. And I still love myself. I’m not going to let that ruin my life. I’m not going to let that stop me.” Do you see the difference?

Rhonda: Yeah.

Marc: So I want you to be able to embrace that voice in you because you know something? We are taught to compare ourselves. It happens. Is that a good practice? Honestly, no. The more we can let go of comparison, the better, Especially when we compare ourselves and then draw conclusions that drain our energy.

For you, I would almost rather you compare yourself and then go to the place where you go, “Yeah, I’m not that person. And that’s okay.” So it’s letting go of a dream that you probably had long before you can remember. It’s the dream of being the perfect little princess. And you haven’t quite let that go yet. And at some point, we have to let that go to see what else is there.

So part of letting it go for you is actually acknowledging that voice when it comes up. “I still have that voice me.” So I would truly rather you own that voice and identify it rather than try and pretend it’s not there. “Oh, no. I love myself.” Actually you’re not loving yourself and how you look right now. You’re not. You have an image of how you should look. And it’s perfectly understandable why you have that image because it’s you and just about every other nine out of ten women. So this isn’t a mystery.

So all I’m saying is I want you to love the total you, the woman who has this difficult challenge. You can still love her just like you would love your kids when they have difficult challenges. Make sense?

Rhonda: It makes sense.

Marc: So it’s letting go of the goal and just letting it go, letting it go, letting it go, just dropping it and seeing what that’s like. Are you going to do that perfectly? No. Trust me, there is going to be days where you let it go in and you go, “This is the greatest thing ever.” And then something is going to happen. You’re not going to like yourself. And you’re going to go, “No, that’s a bunch of baloney.” And you’ll take three steps back. And when that happens, I want you to love yourself and go, “This is me being an imperfect human being.”

And sometimes human beings take two steps forward and three steps back. But then they take a couple of steps forward again. And the net result is your moving forward. It’s kind of how life works for a lot of us. It’s not just a straight up trajectory into heaven. We have setbacks. Some days the sun is really bright and shiny and the roses are popping up. And other days, it ain’t so pretty. Stop making it have to be perfect. Let it be imperfect. Yeah, it’s not so easy.

Rhonda: No, it’s not easy.

Marc: But I think you’re agreeing with me. We’ve kind of hit the target here for you.

Rhonda: Yeah, for sure.

Marc: Yeah. So, again, so this was me in one session identifying the core areas that if I was working with you for six months, this is what would unfold. And I would have slowly worked our way towards that in three or four months to go, “Wow, here it is.” So there’s a lot coming at you at once. But the point is you can handle it.

And it’s time. You’re a big girl. You’re a big girl. And it’s just time. And that is maybe your most important affirmation, way more important than, “My body is beautiful.” Way more important is it’s time. It’s your time now. And your time means it’s your time to stop the nonsense, to stop the conditional love, to stop draining your energy, and to step into more of your queenhood, more of your royalty, more of your adulthood, to step into your woman with a capital W and let go of the princess dream up just to being the perfect little thing.

Rhonda: Got it.

Marc: Easier said than done, I know. I know. I know.

Rhonda: But it does all makes sense. It does.

Marc: So I’m going to give you one suggestion. If you have a friend who is close and who you can share things with, I would love for you to have some kind of check-inpartner. And let him or her know, “Hey, here’s what happened. Here’s what came through. Here’s what was shared. Here’s what landed for me. Here’s what I want to do. Here is my goal. And I just want you to be my buddy and make sure that I stay on my path here.”

So somebody who has their eye on you who you can report to every once in a while and say, “Hey, let me share with you where I’m at with this. Man, is hard. Man, I just want to go back to dieting and working out two hours a day,” or, “Wow, I feel…” whatever it is. And let it be okay. Wherever you are, it’s going to change.

But by and by, more and more you practice this, as you practice letting go of the goal because it’s a small goal and it’s never really gotten you what you want and as you shoot for the higher goal, which is unconditional self acceptance to matter what, self-love even though you’re not perfect, once you start shooting for that goal, things will start to take care of themselves in an entirely different way. And you may lose weight from that place or not.

Honestly, if I was going to get paid $20 million to help you lose weight sustainably for the rest of your life and I got one shot at this, this is what I would be doing with you, exactly what am saying. And if I had a year to coach you, this is what I would be doing. I would coach you to let go of the scale, stop weighing yourself. Stop having a goal. Just do movement and exercise that’s fun. Eat the kind of diet that’s natural for you.

And you know something? When you’re at the party and when you’re at the experience, give yourself a little permission to say, “I’m going to have a little bit,” instead of saying all or nothing. It’s either, “I’m going to gorge on that,” or, “I’m not going to have any.” I want you to have a little bit. I want you to say, “I’m going to have a little bit. I’m going to slow down and relax and enjoy it.”

That’s your other homework assignment. I want you to become a slow eater because you’re actually not taking in food really. It’s the enemy. If you are fast eating, by definition you are not in your optimum relationship with food. So it’s no different than if you say, “Well, I only talk to my kids for thirty seconds a day. And it’s really fast.” Really? Okay.

So same with food. You have to get in relationship with it, with your body, with how it tastes, with how it feels. And once you do that, you can start having a little bit of the party food. But you eat it. And you get present with it. And you get what you want. And you’re not going to have to eat a ton and completely rubber band and go boom and then you just gorge all of it because you’re being all or nothing.

Instead were going to look for the middle ground for you. That’s a sustainable strategy. And I promise you you start to adapt that. And in a year, based on everything I’m saying within a year, depending on you, depending on life, depending on fate, it could be in two or three months it could be any year. You will feel so good about yourself. It will blow your mind. And your body will feel better. And it’s very possible that you hit your natural weight, whatever that is. We don’t know what it is. We really don’t know what it is.

Rhonda: That’s right. I don’t know what it is.

Marc: But you have to get out of the way for it to happen. So, Rhonda, you’ve got your work cut out for you. But what a good thing.

Rhonda: For sure, yes. Definitely.

Marc: So we’ll follow up in several months to check in and see how you’re doing. But I would really love for you to start to practice what I’ve been sharing with you.

Rhonda: I will.

Marc: And I’ve got a lot of confidence in you. I really do.

Rhonda: Thank you.

Marc: Yeah. Thank you. You’ve been a good sport. Anything else you want to share before we finish up?

Rhonda: Well, no. I don’t think so. No. I think part of me knows, knew what you were saying. Sometimes you just need to hear it from a different… Yeah. You just need to hear it from words other than your own, I think. You know?

Marc: Yeah, a hundred percent agree. That’s why God made other people. That’s why it’s not just you want planet Earth or me. We need other people.

Rhonda: For sure.

Marc: Okay. Rhonda, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Rhonda: Thank you so much, Marc. Thank you.

Marc: Yeah, great work. 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.
Hope you enjoyed, everybody. I hope you can see yourself in all of us. I hope you can see each other in each other. That’s what this is all about, elevating each other, playing a bigger game in life where we can all grow and heal and transform. Thanks again, Rhonda. And lots more to come, my friends.

Rhonda: Thank you, Marc. Thank you.

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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.