The Psychology of Eating Podcast Episode 53: When Low Calorie Dieting & Exercise Just Don’t Work
Raquel has been concerned with her weight and body image since childhood and considers herself her own worst critic. The only successful diet strategy she’s had was a fat free and very low calorie diet, but it wasn’t good for her health. Now she’s on a paleo diet, and feels so much better health wise, but she still can’t lose weight even with plenty of exercise. Raquel is sick and tired of this up and down experience with health and weight and needs a new direction. Tune in to this great podcast as Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating helps Raquel see the specific places where she needs to change, and gives her the important but hard-to-hear feedback she needs to finally have a breakthrough.
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. And I’m here today with Raquel. Welcome, Raquel!
Raquel: Thank you. I’m glad to be here. It’s a privilege.
Marc: Yay! Yay! So let me tell you, for viewers and listeners tuning in for the first time how the Psychology of Eating podcast works. Raquel is going to be my client from one session. And we’re going to try to take six months to a year’s worth of work and condensate and distil it into this one-hour experience that we’re going to have together.
I’m going to spend about fifteen, twenty minutes asking her questions. And then for the last thirty or forty minutes, we’re going to just put it together and see if we can help create some openings or breakthroughs or insights or anything that needs to happen to further you along your journey, Raquel.
So if you could wave a magic wand and get whatever you wanted to get from this session, what that be?
Raquel: Just some breakthroughs in the way I see myself, issues with body image and that kind of thing that I’m still struggling with. So if I could get some guidance and breakthroughs in that area, it would be fantastic.
Marc: So issues around the body image, meaning? Be more specific. You’re not like where you’re at?
Raquel: I’m not liking where I’m at. I’ve picked up weight. I’ve lost weight, picked up weight. This has obviously been an issue with me all my life. But at the moment I’m just very unhappy with where I’m at. And I’m having difficulty with accepting the way things are the moment. And I’m frustrated because I seem to be doing everything right on the eating front, but not translating into weight and body and so forth. So that’s making me frustrated.
Marc: Got it. So you want to lose some weight?
Raquel: And unhappy.
Marc: Got it. So you want to lose some weight?
Raquel: I do, yes.
Marc: Okay. How much weight do you want to lose?
Raquel: Twelve kilos, approximately.
Marc: Twelve kilos. Okay. And when was the last time he weighed twelve kilograms less? When was the last time you were at your target weight?
Raquel: A year ago.
Marc: And what happened from there?
Raquel: Well, I started to get quite sick, problems with my health. So I was having digestion problems, some problems with bloating. I was reacting to everything that I was eating. I wasn’t sure what was going on. But that sort of lifted because I was training for comrades. And I sort of ignored the signs that were going on in my body.
So I knew that food was making sick. But I wasn’t sure why it’s making me sick. As I kept thinking, “Well, it’s just going to go away. The same way it came, it’s going to leave.” So I just kept ignoring it. And then after comrades, things didn’t get better. In fact, I was in so much pain all time that I was having difficulty sleeping because my tummy just used to blow up and be really, really painful and swollen.
Then I thought, “Well, look, I need to get help. I need to see actually what is going on.” And I wasn’t sure what was going on. I started taking out vegetables. I started taking out fruit because everything just seemed to be reacting in my stomach. So I then started seeking medical treatments and going from one doctor to another. The first port of call was my general practitioner. She wasn’t sure what was going on. She sent me for a sona. All they found on the sona was that there was a whole lot of gas in my tummy. And it was very difficult to see my internal organs.
So she said to me, “Look, I think maybe what you have is IBS.” Then somebody said to me, “No, you need to go see an endocrinologist because you sound like you got problems with your endocrine system.” So I went to see an endocrinologist. And he said I had an inflammation in my colon, put me on treatment and said to me, “Look, if you’re not better within a few weeks,”—we were going to have Christmas holidays at that time—“if you’re not better, you need to go for more blood tests and then come back to me.” I didn’t get better. Went back to him. He put me on more supplements, but nothing was working.
So I then moved to another doctor. She told me to do more blood tests. She said, “Yeah, there’s inflammation, same thing. You’ve got adrenal burnouts, all of these issues.” So, anyway, it was just a long procedure. Eventually I went to see an iridologist. Somebody said to me, “No, go to see this guy. He’s very good.” Because I started to get patches all over my skin, as well. And he said to me, “No, I had fungus in my colon.” And the fungus was now coming out onto my skin. And he suspected I had parasites, put the only whole lot of supplements, which actually started to work.
All right. He put me on treatments. He changed my diet. He said we have to do a specific diet to try and clear up what was going on. I was already off grains because I was trying to follow Paleo. He told me I had to continue off the grains. He took away all sugar, all fruit. And I started to get better. And the patches started to clear on my skin and so forth.
I then went to see a nutritionist because I’m still trying to train, if what I was eating was okay. And she did further tests with me. And it turned out that I was gluten intolerant, couldn’t digest casein, and allergic to egg whites. So she took me off all of that, which I have been off since October of last year. My colon has settled fantastic. I feel so much better. It’s not a hundred percent. But it’s a lot, lot better. But the weight has not gone. I actually haven’t lost anything at all. So it’s very frustrating because really I do want to lose weight. And I’ve now fixed the issues that have happened in my colon.
Marc: So let me jump in here, Raquel. Let me talk.
Marc: What’s your weight at now?
Raquel: Seventy. I hover between sixty-nine and seventy kilograms.
Marc: So even before a year ago when you were at your target weight, it sounds like your weight has been up and down for a while. Is that true?
Raquel: Yes, my whole life I’ve had issues with weight, since I was little.
Marc: So what’s the usual fluctuation that happens with your weight? What does it range between?
Raquel: It would range between, I would say, when I’m really well or good, it would be sixty-five. And then it would go back to sixty-nine, seventy. So that’s the usual range. I managed to lose all the weight. I was all the way down to fifty-six. Now, I don’t want to go to fifty-six. I want to just be at fifty-eight. I know it’s just a number. But I felt really good there. And I was really happy there. And my running was really good then.
I must also tell you that I had a stress fracture of last year and my sacrum. I wasn’t allowed to run for four months or exercise at all. So in January, I developed a stress fracture last year without falling. So I’m not sure how it happened. The doctor can’t explain it to me. It was just a stress fracture that suddenly appeared in my sacrum. So I had to stop training, which was also quite frustrating for me because I’m used to training quite a lot.
Marc: So how often have you been running? On and off for how many years?
Raquel: I’ve been running on. I’ve never been off, except for last year. For about eighteen years, I’ve been running. And I’ve never gotten a fracture before.
Marc: So that’s your main form of exercise. And it sounds like that’s what helps you lose weight. Is that true?
Raquel: It doesn’t help me lose. I do long distance running. No, I wouldn’t say it helps me lose weight. It helps me to control my weight. So I wouldn’t say I lose weight, even when I’m [inaudible]. I don’t really lose much. But it controls my weight. It keeps me happy.
I also do Pilates because I’m a Pilates instructor. And I also do Cross Fit. I haven’t done Cross Fit now in a while because I’m not allowed to because I’m not allowed to lift heavy weight. I’m lifting lighter weights at the moment at the gym. But I can’t do anything so heavy yet.
Marc: Got it, got it, got it. Do you have kids?
Raquel: Yes. I’ve got one child.
Marc: How old?
Marc: Ten. And you’re married?
Raquel: Yes, I am.
Marc: How long have you been married?
Raquel: It’s going to be twenty-four years in March next month. A long time.
Marc: Wow. Is it a boy or girl?
Raquel: It’s a boy.
Marc: It’s a boy. Okay. And how does your husband feel about your weight fluctuation? What’s his feelings about that?
Raquel: He doesn’t mind what size I am. He gets frustrated with all the different diet programs. And sometimes I can’t eat this. And other times I can’t eat that. The only way I would usually lose weight in the past is be on very severe calorie restricted diet. And that works really well me with all the training.
That part he doesn’t like. And that part is frustrating for him. So every time I would do that, he would cringe and say, “Now we have to go down this road again,” because I’m very pedantic. When I’m on a diet, I’m very strict, very disciplined. That is all ill eat. And I won’t deviate at all. And that’s that. That part he gets frustrated with, which now hasn’t been the case. Ever since I saw the nutritionist and she just said to me, “You need to stick to proper eating guidelines. Just eat within the food groups. But don’t worry about calorie counting.” She said, “I don’t want you to do any of that. We’ve got to heal the gut first.” So I’ve been following that advice. I haven’t been doing any of that.
Marc: So why do you think your weight goes up and down? Before this last year when you had the stress fracture, over the years it goes up and down. Why do you think that happens? Why do you think it doesn’t stay in the same place?
Raquel: Sure. I don’t know. I wish I knew. I don’t know. Look, I’ve come from a family that’s that weight issues. I’ve always thought, “Well, it’s genetic. They’re all overweight. And I must be a product of my genes.” But I don’t know that that’s true, if that is the reason. Maybe the reason is I didn’t know I had the food allergies, and I was eating things that I shouldn’t. But then I look at it. And I think, “Well, now I’m not doing any of that. I’m not going down to my weight.” So maybe it’s not that. So I don’t know. I really don’t understand what’s been happening.
Marc: So what do you think… What’ll happen for you if you hit your target weight and stay there? What’s the payoff? What’s going to be different? How is your life going to be different? How are you going to be different? Tell me. Because obviously this is important. So what’s going to happen?
Raquel: Look, I think I’ll just feel happier about myself. I will be more confident in who I am. I work in the fitness industry. So I think for me, I feel I need to be an example to my clients firstly. People come to Pilates because they want to see a change in their lives.
So I don’t want to be a bad example like, “You’re a Pilates instructor. But you’re not looking too good yourself. So will Pilates work for me?” So that’s one of the reasons I want to look good, feel good about myself, and be a good advertisement for what I do as a profession.
But I know that I will just feel more confident in me if I am at the weight that I know. I’ll also run better. I’ll run much faster and much better if I’m at a lighter weight. My times improve, which is important to me. So all those things would be good for me.
Marc: So you’ve been at your target weight before. Did you have those feelings of, “Okay, now I’m more confident. And now I like myself better. And now I feel like a good role model as a fitness instructor.”
Raquel: Yes. I did have those feelings. I did feel more confident. I felt better that I was being a good example to my clients. Was I personally happier about my body? No. I was still very critical. I didn’t see it is good enough. So I was still unhappy with issues.
But I didn’t feel bad about myself every time that I woke up or walked past a mirror, whereas now every time I look in the mirror, I feel unhappy. I didn’t have those issues. But was I completely happy with the way I looked? No, I wasn’t. I must admit I wasn’t.
Marc: So how do you reconcile that when you think of losing the weight again knowing that, okay, when you had been there, maybe you felt a little better. But you still weren’t happy. When do you imagine that’s going to happen for you? When do you imagine, “Okay, I feel good now, really good. I can finally let go and enjoy myself.” What’s going to do that if it hasn’t happened before? What do you say to yourself?
Raquel: I don’t know. I was happier. I can’t say I wasn’t happier. So I know that if I get back there, I will be happier about myself personally than what I am now. Now I’m just unhappy with the way I look. So, yeah, I don’t know if that’s answered your question. I don’t know.
Marc: Yeah. That answers my question. So when did you first start dieting? How old were you?
Marc: Twelve. Uh-huh.
Raquel: Twelve years old, yeah. I was on cortisone as a child, as a baby. I was asthmatic. So I used to be a lot of cortisone. And my weight started to go up on the cortisone. That was always an issue that my mom raised with my doctors at the time. And they said the only way that they could control my asthma was on the cortisone.
So I used a lot of cortisone because I used to have very bad asthma attacks. In
fact, I had very bad asthma attacks until, shoot, even when I got married. The
first two years… Actually, the first year because then I decided to start running, which was a joke to everyone in my family. How could I, an asthmatic, decide to start running when I hadn’t been allowed to exercise at all because of my asthma?
And I decided I was going to try it because I wanted to lose weight. My asthma got very much worse when I started running. I could feel that there was a change in my lungs. And after three months, I managed to run a fifteem km race with my asthma pump. But I never used it once. And that was a remarkable feat for me.
So running has actually changed my life in that way. I’m an asthmatic. I still take medication every day. But I haven’t had an asthma attack in sixteen years, seventeen years. I haven’t been hospitalized for asthma.
Marc: What kind of medication do you take for it?
Raquel: I take an inhaler every day, a serevent inhaler. And then I take tablets, one tablet in the morning, one tablet in the evening. I’ve tried going off the medication because I really don’t use a lot. But the moment I go off it, I do start to feel might chest constricting. So I know it’s there. It is very well controlled.
And I know the running has really strengthened my lungs. And I do lung function tests. And the asthma specialist always tells me my lungs are almost like a normal person’s lungs. You can see any asthma damage. So running has actually changed my life in that regard.
Marc: Are there any other prescription medications that you’re on right now or for a while?
Raquel: No. No other prescription. Only asthma tablets.
Marc: Okay. Got it. Okay, so let me put together some of my thoughts about what you’ve shared and where you’re at. It’s an interesting predicament that you face because your weight has gone up and down. And how old are you now? Are you in your forties?
Marc: Okay, so the weight has gone up and down for a number of years. You hit your target weight at different times. You’re happier. Are you completely happy? No. But are you happier than when you’re not at your target weight? Yeah. And I get that you believe really strongly that once you lose the weight, life is going to be good. Or it’s going to be a heck of a lot better. Okay, so you’re a fitness teacher. So you want to look a certain way for your students so you can feel like a good example.
Here’s the challenge that I see. The challenge that I see for you moving forward is I don’t know that you’re ever going to find peace with a certain amount of weight. And the reason why I say that is because you haven’t in the past. I’m always basing what’s going to happen in the future in a lot of ways based on how things have been going. To me, your story, you’re unique. But the story is not unique from a standpoint of I meet a ton of people whose weight goes up and down. And when they hit their target weight, they’re temporarily happy. And then something else happens. And then they’re not happy again about it.
And for me, there’s a constant stress state that you’re under in relationship to your weight. There’s a ton of energy that goes into your life to maintain or manage your weight. And it feels like there’s a pretty strong background fear that, “If I don’t do all these things, then I’m going to be awful and I’m going to gain a lot of weight. So if I’m not running am going to gain weight. What if I’m not doing Pilates, I’m going to gain weight.” And it almost feels like there’s a part of you just a sort of fighting back what you think is going to be this tsunami of body fat that’s going to come if you’re not doing all these things.
And when I look at that from the outside, I think to myself, “Wow, is that how you want to be spending your life energy?” I know there’s a part of you that’s committed to that. But I really think that you have to consider, you really have to consider a different road for yourself. And I really mean consider it because I get that you’re very clear. You like to set your mind things. And you even said, “When I set my mind to a diet, that low-calorie, low-fat diet that I know I can lose weight on, I can do it.”
And it’s interesting how that’s the one thing that scares her husband the most, the low-calorie low-fat diet because he knows you’re not going to be fun to be around. When we’re low-calorie and we’re low-fat, it usually means were unhappy. We’re miserable. We’re regimented. We’re in over our heads. And we’re not in life. Were not in our flow. You’re not be in your feminine. You’re not going to be enjoying the world. You’re not going to be in pleasure. You’re in this constant military state. You might feel that it’s getting you somewhere. But it doesn’t endear the people around you. And I don’t think it reflects the best of who you are. I really don’t.
And here’s the other challenge. Again, your story is unique. But I’ve seen this so many times with women and men, but especially women, who they go into some kind of career or they have a semi-career as a yoga instructor or a fitness instructor or the aerobics instructor. And they use that as, “Well, I have to be thin for my class. I have to be since I’m a good example.”
And that almost creates this artificial pressure. It creates this, “Well, I have to do it. It’s not just me. It’s not just me and my body. I have to look good for my students.” And I don’t know that that’s true because the reality is there’s all different kinds of teachers. There’s teachers who are big. There’s teachers who are small. There’s teachers who are medium. And there’s people who, sure, they want to go to a fitness instructor who looks a certain way. And there’s people who could care less.
So what I want to say is when you set that up in your mind like, “Oh, I have to look perfect,” that’s like you saying, “Oh, I’m only going to hang around Hollywood actors and actresses. So I have to look even more beautiful and more perfect so I can impress my new friends.” It’s an artificial constraint that, to me, doesn’t bring out the best in us.
And it doesn’t truly speak to, it doesn’t really capture the place where it’s easy to use that as an excuse, which is then going to take up all your energy. And you have less energy available for your husband, for your son, for your life, for being happy. And there’s got to come a point where, especially for me, I think once we hit our late thirties, early forties, you’ve got to step into your queen. You’ve got to step into your royalty.
Right now, you’re still locked into, “I have to look a certain way to love myself.” Or, “I have to look a certain way for other people to love me.” And when does that stop? When does it end? To me, what I want to see you do is give it three months at least, and let go of losing weight. Just be you. Live your life. Eat food. Eat a sustainable diet. Eat enough fat. Eat enough protein. Eat enough vegetables. Enjoy your food.
What if this body was the body that you’re going to have for the rest of your life? What would you do? Would you hate yourself? Would you be miserable? Would you be cursing at the universe? It’s a maturing. It’s really you maturing into your womanhood in a whole new way because there’s only one person keeping score here when it comes to your weight and your body. And that’s you. Your husband would rather see you love your body, enjoy your body, and he doesn’t care. He doesn’t care if you’re fluctuating by five kilos or ten kilos of this key lower that kilo. He just wants you to be happy.
And I’m going to speak for the majority of men. I’m going to speak for 90 something percent of men. They just want the women of the world to love their bodies. They don’t want to be around the women who are constantly worried about my food, my weight, did I eat too many calories, did I eat too many fat grams. Because they’re not as fun. They’re not happy. They’re not in their body. They’re not enjoying it.
So you do a lot of things to your body. You run your body. You Pilates your body. I don’t know that you are taking time to celebrate it and enjoy it. I get that you like running. I get that it’s changed your life. I understand that. There’s a place where we move and we exercise just for the pure joy of it. There’s a place where you have to be in your body just for the pure joy of, “This feels good. This meal feels good. I feel good sitting in my chair. I feel good in this moment.”
You’ve told yourself, “I will not love and accept myself until I look a certain way.” It’s no different than if you are ten-year-old walked up to you and said, “Mommy, I’m going to hate myself until I have six pack abs and I have six percent body fat. Until I get there, I’m going to hate myself.” Now, would you want your kid walking around hating himself because his body doesn’t look a certain way? No. You’d think that’s a bunch of nonsense. You’d think that’s crazy.
But that’s the example you’re setting for him. You’re showing him conditional—I’m going to call it conditional—love for yourself. “I’m not going to love myself unless I look a certain way or lose a certain amount of kilos.” There’s a level where, for sure, you want to look the way you want to look. I totally respect that. I’m the same way. I want to look the way I want to look. I want to have a certain amount of muscle and a certain amount of fitness.
And at the same time, you’ve got to take stock of life and look at how you’re using your energy and who would you be, who would you be if you let this go? What would you do with all that thought energy and about that mental energy and all that emotional energy that goes into losing weight? It’s kind of become your identity. And it almost has a grip on you.
And what I want to say is we don’t know—nobody knows—how much weight you should lose. Nobody knows how much weight you’re supposed to weigh. Like you said, it’s a number. We pick a number. And we don’t know. We really don’t know. But we get attached to a certain number. We get attached to a certain image. And I don’t know if it’s worth putting all your life force into that.
And it would be hard for you to let this go. It would really be hard for you. I get it because you’re very committed and you are very determined that this is what you have to do. But it feels like it’s become too religious for you, like it’s your church, it’s your temple, it’s your religion. And I don’t know if it’s a worthy enough religion to worship so much because it takes all your time and your energy.
Raquel: It does. It does. I agree with you. It’s depleting. It depletes your energy.
Marc: Is depleting. And when you deplete your energy, you’re going to deplete your immune system. And when you deplete your immune system, you’re going to deplete your digestion and vice versa. So it’s all connected.
So in a lot of ways, my educated guess is your body, just your body would be healthier, just healthier, and your metabolism would be better, whatever that means for you, when you start to drop more into a relaxation response on a day-to-day level. You are living kind of in a stress response because you’re in a constant state of, “I don’t accept my body. I don’t love my body. I should be running. I’m not running. I should be losing weight. I’m not losing weight.” You’re creating stress. You’re creating a body chemistry that’s very strong. And it’s day in and day out and it’s year after year. And when we are in stress chemistry, were producing more insulin. And we’re producing more cortisol and more adrenaline. And those hormones are signaling the body by themselves to store weight, to store fat, to not build muscle.”
So what’s happening is by the mindset that you are living in, you’re creating the opposite conditions that you would want in your body. So all healing into maintenance and repair of body tissue happens any relaxation response. It happens when you’re sleeping. Happens when you’re on vacation. It happens when you’re relaxed on the couch.
The bulk of your calorie burning, at least eighty percent of the calorie burning you do during the day, if not more, happens when you’re not exercising. The only exercise a certain amount of time during the day. The majority of our calories are burned with your resting metabolic rate when you’re just talking to me, when you go take a walk outside, when you go pick up your son at school. That’s when you’re burning the majority of your calories.
But if I’m in a stress response in that entire time, I’m basically saying to my cells that I’m running from the lion. And when I’m running from the lion day in and day out, again, I’m constantly producing stress hormones and stress chemistry, which impact the body. It impacts the immune system. It impacts digestion. It impacts assimilation. And over time, the impacts calorie burning.
So what I’m saying to you is that there comes a time in life—and I think you know this because you’ve experienced this—there comes a time in life where there’s places that we have to mature in. Like you have a baby. You have a kid. You’ve got to change. There’s ways that you and I have to mature when we become a parent. There’s ways that you and I have to mature when you get married and you have a husband or wife. Everything changes. Your psychic changes. Your attitude changes. You have to grow into that. You have to grow up more.
And what happens is when we don’t grow when life is asking us to grow, problems happen. And oftentimes health issues happen. And oftentimes our emotions and our mind gets the better of us because we’re fighting nature. And we’re fighting our own conscious evolution. So what I’m saying is, to me, you’re at a point in life where you can’t be putting your energy into this nonsense.
Of course, I want you to be healthy. And I want to eat well. And I want you to
exercise. And then that the chips fall where they may. See what happens. But I’m saying that I think life is calling you into a place where you’re not being the nineteen-year-old teenage girl who wants to have a hot body. Okay, that’s a wonderful wish. But I don’t know how deeply that wish is serving your growth and your evolution and your relationships and your future.
Because I’m going to tell you, Raquel, I meet women in their sixties, their seventies, and one even in their eighties who, they’re still trying to lose five kilos or ten kilos. And they still don’t love their body. And they’re still dieting. And these are people who should be wise women. They should be sharing themselves. They should have people around them. They should feel love for themselves. They should feel love for others. And they’re going to go to the grave wanting to lose a couple of kilos. And then what?
So there is a place where we tap into a whole different part of who we are, a kind of happiness, a kind of wisdom, a kind of inner peace, essence of pleasure in our body when we stop trying to beat the body with the stick. And when we surrender a bit more, let life be what it is. Look at the people. Do you know women? Have you met women—and I bet you have—particularly African women, a lot of the real African women, they’re big bodied. And they’re happy.
Raquel: Yeah, absolutely.
Marc: They smile all the time. They’re not walking around worried about, “Oh, my God. I’ve got to lose five kilos.” I’ve been to Africa a number of times. And I was always impressed at some of the big-bodied African women and how much they’re in their bodies. They love their bodies. They’re happy. They’re smiling. They have energy.
Raquel: It’s true. And they eat and they don’t worry about what they eat.
Marc: Yeah. And they are doing fine. They’re doing absolutely fine in how they feel about themselves. And I know people from all colors and nationalities and sizes who find that place. And they’re simply happy.
And your challenge is that you have the same virus that so many people have caught. It’s not yours. You didn’t invent it. It’s literally like a virus. But it’s a virus in the realm of mind. It’s a virus in the realm of thought. And that virus has us thinking very poorly. It has us hating ourselves, rejecting our body unless it looks a specific way, which then has us dieting, and exercising. And then we injure ourselves. And we worry that we can’t exercise. And then we go off our diet. We worry that were off our diet. And it’s never ending. It never ends because after you get better and you don’t have a stress fracture anymore, then you’re going to exercise again. And then something is going to happen. Maybe your kid gets the flu and you have to be in for a bunch of days. Then you don’t exercise. So there’s always going to be something.
Raquel: Well, I’m exercising again. I started running.
Marc: Got it.
Raquel: Not long distances yet, but I am running.
Marc: But to me what’s happening is there’s a large part of you that’s running, not because you love running, but because you don’t want to gain weight or you want to lose weight. So I get that you enjoy it. I get that you feel better. But there’s a lot of it that comes with, “I have to do this, otherwise something bad is going to happen.”
Raquel: Yeah, I’ll pick up weight.
Marc: Yeah. So I don’t know that that’s true for you. I really don’t because I’ve had plenty of clients over the years who, they go off extreme exercise, and they start to lose weight for the first time. What happens is there’s a huge number of people out there who are doing the kind of exercise—especially I’m going to tell you running—that is not suitable for their body. I don’t know if this is you. But what happens is there are people who do a lot of running. And certain kinds of exercise will mimic the stress response. That’s not bad. But there are certain people who run and they don’t lose weight.
I know people who run marathons and they don’t lose a single kilo. They don’t lose a single pound. And they have weight to lose. And then they don’t lose weight until you take them off of the running and you put them on yoga and you put them on walking up with them on dance because the stress of running is too much on their system.
And the body goes into a survival response, which means it hangs onto weight and hangs onto body fat. And it seems scientifically impossible that they’re not losing weight. But this happens all the time. I see this so often. Our whole concept of calories in, calories out is antiquated and it doesn’t work the way we think. It’s more, how to say, complex than that. It really is. So what I’m saying is I don’t know at the end of the day at this stage of the game how much running truly serves you.
Raquel: Sorry to interrupt you. I didn’t run for four months when I first got diagnosed with a stress fracture. I wasn’t allowed to run. And yet I didn’t lose weight either without running. But then I was stressed because I wasn’t running. So it could have been that. But I started to gain weight because I wasn’t running. So I don’t know. I don’t know where I fit into all of this. But I certainly didn’t lose weight because I wasn’t running.
Marc: Sure. I get it. So here’s what I want to say. Until you take time and stop trying to create conditions that will finally make you happy and just let the body be what it is and that it do what it does, until that happens, you’re not going to know. And you’re going to continue in some version of struggle and suffering and never hitting your target.
The reality is, yeah, you stop running. You’re going to gain weight. And maybe you’ll lose it again. Maybe your metabolism will readjust. The bottom line is in my ideal universe for you, you don’t do anything more than light exercise and light running for a while. And you start to give your body a break. And you start to give your body a rest.
A stress fracture, that says something. That’s your body was speaking. I don’t know, again, that long-term running is making you happier, is getting you where you want to go. And I think there’s a place where it would be interesting and instructive to just trust your life and to trust your body. And if it gains a little weight, it gains a little weight. Yeah. Yeah. And just like, “Okay, here it is. Here it comes.” You’re pregnant. You gain weight. You stop exercising. Maybe you can little weight. Who is going to kill you? Who is going to hurt you? Who is going to hate you? Just you.
Raquel: Just me.
Marc: But the amount of energy that’s going into fighting this… See, you don’t know what it’s like to just be you. You don’t know what it’s like to just, “Okay, this is my body. And I’m going to stop trying to make my body be something that it’s not and just watch it, just observe it, just let it be what it is” because your system has never really had a chance to naturally be what it is in your adult life. It’s just never had an opportunity to just be.
I know tons of people who just go about their life. And they eat. And then they exercise when they exercise. And they don’t when they don’t. And their body does what it does. And you don’t know what that is until you allow it. But it’s all about you giving up control. So it’s all about control for you. And you want to control things. You want to control what the body looks like. You want to control exactly what it is. And you can’t because you haven’t been able to.
And all I’m saying is that commitment to control takes your life force and puts it into this one small place. And who would you be if you had all that extra life energy? What would you actually do? What would you actually do with all this extra energy if you weren’t worried about weight and worried about exercise and worried about having the perfect body? What would you do with all that energy?
That, to me, is a very useful question because then you have to look in the mirror and say, “Who do I want to be? How I want to grow? What’s truly important to me?” If there’s nothing else that’s truly more important to you, then go back to diet and exercise and don’t like your body and constantly try to get there. But I’m telling you from what I’ve seen over the years, it’s a dead-end road. People never get there.
People who are doing what you do when doing a long time, what I’ve noticed is they never get there. And when they do get there, it’s not sustainable because it’s always been in this artificial context. In the wild, you see animals. They eat. They’re not worried about losing weight. They’re not worried about gaining weight, exercising. They’re very natural. I’m wanting you to find your naturalness.
But in order to do that, you need to give up control. And you need to trust that you’re going to be okay no matter what happens. And, yeah, your body might gain a few pounds. Your body might lose a few pounds. But I think there’s a place where it would be great for you to confront that fear and take three or four months and say, “Okay, I’m going to love my body to matter what it looks like,” just as an experiment. “I’m going to love my body no matter what it looks like. I’m going to enjoy no matter what it looks like.”
And then three or four months afterwards, if you really want to start to exercise your brains out again, great. But to have a time finally when you just go, “Timeout. I’m not going to do anything.” Because that gives your life and your body and your mind and your emotions a chance to just be.
Raquel: That’s true. Just rest from the worry and the thinking and the planning. Ugh, it just drives you crazy.
Marc: Yeah. It does drive you crazy. It’s too much nonsense. And it’s a waste of life. It’s a waste of life energy. It’s that much less life force that you have available to, again, your son, your husband, your family, your work, and what’s truly most important to you. So you have to look at what’s really important to you.
And I really want to say it’s like making the transition. It’s like crossing over a bridge. On one side of the bridge is the part of you that just wants to have the body you want and is going to diet and exercise and put all your energy into it. And that’s where all your energy goes. And everything else in your life is kind of secondary. Even your work is centered, your fitness instructing, is centered around you losing weight. So your work, to me it’s less your work and it’s more you losing weight and you looking good.
So that’s where all the life energy is going into. And to me, you’re better than that. You’re more interesting than that. There’s more to it. And you don’t know who you are yet until you let it all go and start to be Raquel for the first time and go, “Okay, I’m going to love this body or matter what it looks like, no matter how much is weighing.”
Get off the scale for a while. Don’t weigh yourself. And just pretend that it’s going to be me for the rest of my life. For four months just pretend, “This is me. Can I be like one of those women, no matter what she looks like, she loves on herself and smiles?” Because it’s a feeling inside. It’s a feeling. It doesn’t matter what we weigh. And this is about you giving yourself a new experience that you haven’t had before is what I’m suggesting.
So how is all this landing for you, Raquel?
Raquel: It’s sounding hard. But it’s sounding good. It’s just a matter of getting the mind right. But, yeah, it does make sense. It will be very freeing if I can get there and just let go. Like you said let go of the control. Let go of the planning. Let go of thinking. Let go of the self-abuse and self-judgment and self-criticism and all of that. It will be extremely freeing and liberating.
Marc: It will be about you setting yourself free. And in order to set ourselves free, we have to let go of control. Some people try to control their weight. Other people are trying to control their finances. Some people want to control everybody around them. Some people have control at work. And they just want to micromanage everybody. We all have the things that we like to control.
But when we’re too controlling, we are generally uptight. And we’re not fun to be around, not even for our own self. And we literally become a different person when we start to let go of control. And you know people like this who, they’re not trying to control everything. There’s an ease to them. There’s a welcomeness to them. There’s a sense of restful and peace in pleasure.
And you’re right. This is hard to do. If it was easy to do, you would have done it already. It is hard to do. But I promise you what’s on the other side is so worth it. And it’s about putting in as much effort into letting go of control and trusting your life. It’s putting as much effort into that has you put into effort when you go low-fat, low-calorie, high exercise. It’s the same kind of commitments like, “I’m going to get there. I’m going to do this.”
It’s that same kind of commitment. But it’s in a different direction. And it’s going to make you feel vulnerable. It’s going to make you feel vulnerable, chances are. It’s going to perhaps show you the places where you don’t love yourself. It’s going to show you the places where you do get afraid. It’s going to show you the places where you need a lot of care and attention. And you need to feel loved. And that’s okay.
But I think it’s going to bring out the place inside you that’s more vulnerable and more sensitive, which is often the place that we get afraid of. We tend to like the part of me that’s stronger and more resilient and more the tough gal or the tough guy. So it’s going to bring out a different personality in you, I think.
Raquel: Sure. Okay, good.
Marc: So, easier said then done what I’m asking you to do. And really what I’ve been speaking is trying to give you a big picture. If you had been my client, I wouldn’t have said all this in the first session. I would have gradually moved us in that direction because what I said to you today honestly is kind of intense given where you’ve been. And I’m asking you to do something completely different then what you want to do.
You want to lose weight and get where you want to go. I totally understand. And I’m saying the complete opposite. And I’m saying that based on years of working with people in this regard and wanting you to have yourself and find yourself and have peace and not waste any years of the prime of your life right now. We can call this the prime of your life. And you should be enjoying and celebrating it and feeling good about what you have and feeling grateful for what you have.
So I would love for you to see, try on what I’ve been saying once we get off the line here to really kind of consider what I’ve put on the table. And ask yourself, “What would it take for me to let go of control? Would I have to be? How would I have to be different? Can I show up and teach my classes and go, ‘This is me. Here I am. Take it or leave it.’”
If someone doesn’t like you for what you look like, that’s their issue, not yours. Because there’s plenty of people who don’t want to see a perfect human teaching an exercise class. They want to see someone who they can relate to more. And some people do want somebody with a perfect body. So then let them go find that. Who cares? You don’t need to please that person.
So I think you can do it.
Raquel: I think so. I just need to get around to it. But I think so. I think I can do it.
Marc: You feel a little bit like a different person from the beginning of this conversation to now. You feel a little bit more softer. You feel a little bit more vulnerable.
Raquel: Yes. I do. I see what you’re saying. And it makes a lot of sense. And I’m willing to try. I’ve tried everything else. So I’m willing to try.
Marc: And it’s almost like when you’re caught up in all this, it’s kind of like your living here. You’re living from the neck up. And right now it feels like you’ve dropped down a little bit more into your body. And the reason why you’ve dropped down more into your body is because there’s a part of you that relaxes thinking of, “Oh, my God. I don’t have to work so hard.”
Raquel: Yeah, absolutely.
Marc: Because you’ve been working hard for a long time to make something happen. And it’s just time for a pause, time to push the pause button and take a little break and just watch and notice and let life teach you without having to have an agenda and a goal and a number and trying to lose weight. Just time out and see what happens.
Raquel: Sure. Yes. It sounds hard. But it sounds doable. It’s not something impossible.
Marc: Good for you. Thanks for being such a good sport.
Raquel: Thank you. Thanks so much for your time. It’s been a privilege. And I appreciate it really very much. Your advice and your insights are amazing.
Marc: Thank you so much, Raquel. 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. Always lots more to come, my friends. Take care.
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