The Psychology of Eating Podcast Episode 103: A Perfect Body Doesn’t Guarantee Happiness
How many of us have ever thought that if we could create the perfect body, everything else would fall into place? For Caroline, who was tormented as a child for being overweight, intense exercise became a way to ensure that she wouldn’t have to feel rejected for her appearance ever again. But when she had achieved the body she wanted and still didn’t feel happy at age 40, she knew something else had to change. Tune in to this powerful podcast session as Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating helps Caroline become aware of the hidden costs of her perfectionism and gives her some timely guidance to help her navigate a major transition period in her life.
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 Caroline. Welcome, Caroline!
Caroline: Hi, Marc.
Marc: I’m so glad you’re here. Glad you’re doing this.
Caroline: Well, thanks for having me.
Marc: Yay. And let me explain to viewers and listeners who are with us for the first time, here’s what this is all about. So Caroline and I have never worked together. This is a client session where we’re going to do our best to deliver the most impactful insights and information in a short amount of time – in less than an hour to really see if we can help move the dial and help you get to where you want to go, see what’s in the way, see what’s going to help you move in the direction that you want to be in. And, yeah, that’s what we do.
So, Caroline, let me ask you this question:
If you can wave your magic wand and get whatever you want out of this session—and I mean that, I really mean it—what would you come away with?
Caroline: Oh my gosh, I would come away being comfortable in my body, not in some other fictitious body that lives in my head, but in this one. And that’s it. That is what I want and never had. I don’t understand people who do. And that’s what I want.
Marc: So you want to be comfortable in your own body, comfortable in your own skin?
Caroline: Mmm hmm.
Marc: How does that show up with your relationship with food?
Caroline: I’ve been through many kind of different cycles with food. And so I have lost 50 pounds and kept it off over the last 14 years. And I did it gradually just by learning stuff. So I don’t have a history with yo-yo dieting. I don’t have a history with doing that because I like to eat, too much. So I love to eat. I love to cook. I love to cook for my family. And I love to eat healthily. I really do genuinely love to eat fruits and vegetables. I love to eat all the things that are good for you. I also really, really love brownies, and ice cream, and red wine, and some of the things that aren’t. And so I went through one period of being very, very strict with what I ate. I measured everything, I weighed everything, I counted everything, and I got pretty thin [for] me. It was never thin enough. And I don’t ever want to do that again because it was no fun for me and it was no fun for anybody else.
So, in general, I think if you look at me, you would say, “She’s got a pretty decent relationship with food.” But it’s fraught for me. I’m scared of it. I really wish that I didn’t like to eat. I wish I didn’t have to sometimes. And then I’m an athlete on top of it. So it’s figuring out the balance between what I need to do to fuel that and my not eating too much. And so I’m anxious. It’s like this weird thing of loving and [being] anxious.
Marc: So the anxiety about it is, “I’m going to gain weight,” maybe?
Caroline: Yeah, I’m going to get fat again.
Marc: Okay. And getting fat again, in your worst case scenario, what does that mean to you? What does that look like to you?
Caroline: It looks like I failed. I don’t ever want to weigh that much again. And it means being lonely and angry and fat. And I’m just terrified of it.
Marc: Yeah. And when was that period where you felt lonely and fat and unlovable?
Caroline: I was young. So when I was school age. I was a big, big kid. And just never felt like I fit in anywhere and I was teased and I was bullied and often I would lash out and get angry and then I would get in trouble but none of them would. So it never felt like I had friends or people around me. And then my parents were like, “Why don’t you have your friends over?” And what do you say? Because I don’t have any. And so I think I just associate all of that. And I would come home and I would eat because it was there.
Marc: What age was this?
Caroline: That started in kindergarten. So it started at age 5. And I look back at pictures and I wasn’t even that fat. But then I ate because I felt bad and got big. So it’s kindergarten through all the way through. I went to a private school for 13 years. So I was with the same people.
Marc: So when did you start to feel good about yourself socially? Like when did you start making friends?
Caroline: I’ll let you know. I’d say I did make some good friends in high school. I made some friends in middle school. I had some friends. And then they said, “We don’t want to be your friend anymore, our parents said we can’t.” And so I was kind of floundering and so I kind of made some friends. But what I will historically do is make friends and then I never trust those friendships and I will back away from them.
I have some fairly tenacious, beautiful, fabulous women who I befriended finally in college, who didn’t let me do that.
And so I would say that that foursome is a group that I have actually maintained those friendships with and then a couple from high school.
Marc: Good for you. So are you at the weight you want to be at right now?
Caroline: Yes and no. I don’t really care because I really intellectually understand. I have weighed in my adult life as much as 10 pounds less than I am right now. And I was still too fat. And it was still all wrong. And it is still…So it’s truly not about the weight for me.
Going back to the magic wand question; I can’t go shopping, I can’t buy pants. I try and then I end up in this like horrendous – I’m shaming and I’m anxious and I’m almost panicky. And so I would like to be able to do something as simple as go out and buy a pair of pants. And I am a regular size. There’s nothing so big or misshapen or horrible about me that that can’t happen. I just really have a hard time doing it.
Marc: So when I ask you, are you at the weight that you want to be at? You said yes and no.
Caroline: I guess I’m not concerned about my weight. I haven’t weighed myself in a while. I know that I’m heavier than I was. It’s not about weight or size at this point. It’s truly not.
Marc: So what do you think it is?
Caroline: Acceptance. And it’s never right. It’s never good enough. It’s never enough.
I’ve run a bunch of marathons and I just finished my first Ironman. I just swam 3½ miles on New Year’s Eve. And it’s never enough. And this is the body that did all of that. This one, not some mythical one. And it’s just never enough.
Marc: Other than food, what gives you the most pleasure being in a body? Like what do you find like, “Ahh, that feels so good. I love doing this.” It could be anything. It could be vacations. It could be swimming. It could be walking. What feels good to your body?
Caroline: I love being outside. I love it. I love hiking. I love being outdoors. I love being dirty, and mucky, and hunting for crawfish with my children. And being outside and doing things like that truly makes me happy.
Marc: Do you think about your weight when you are outside?
Caroline: No, never.
Marc: No? How old are your kids?
Caroline: I have a 15-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl.
Marc: Wow. Such sweet ages.
Caroline: Yeah, they are pretty awesome.
Marc: And you’re married?
Caroline: I am married. I’m married to my daughter’s father. And I’m divorced from my son’s father.
Marc: Got it. And how’s that all flowing and moving and working out for you?
Caroline: We’re in a pretty good rhythm with that. It gets complicated with them but it’s good. And they are my heart, those two. They are awesome.
Marc: So what do you imagine it would be like…? Describe the state to me, if you and I spoke next week and you said,
“Marc, I don’t know what happened but I woke up, and I just feel comfortable with my own skin now. It’s like all that nonsense is gone. I feel good about me, exactly as I am.” What would that look like? What would that feel like? What would be different?
Caroline: It’s an incredibly difficult question for me because I think that it translates across the board to everything I do. And so it’s not just, I’m not good enough, my body’s not good enough; It’s like everything I do is wrong. Everything I say is wrong. And so what would it look like? It would look like me getting up and just going about my life in a way like I belong here. And I constantly feel like I don’t belong here and like I’m not doing it right, any of it.
Marc: Interesting. So, do you have a sense—and maybe you’ve already answered this question, but I want to ask it again anyway—a sense of first when you might have said to yourself like, “Whoa, this isn’t my place, I don’t belong here.”
Caroline: I don’t ever remember a time when I didn’t feel that way.
Marc: So pretty young?
Marc: Did you ever speak it to anybody? Did you ever speak that to your parents? Did anybody ever give you feedback about that? I’m just interested.
Caroline: No, they did. And my parents were responsive in the way that they knew how to be. I was in and out of therapy. I was hospitalized a couple of times. I’ve really battled this for a long, long time.
And so I did speak it, but I think it was also hard because I’m a great faker. I think if anybody who knew me, saw this, they would be like, “What?!” And I recently have started to reach out to some people, I trust and know, to tell them this. And they are surprised by it. So yes, that’s a long answer. Yes I have told people.
Marc: Have you had moments or times or days or minutes where you felt like, “Oh, I belong here.”
Caroline: Sometimes. They are fleeting.
Marc: Any particular pattern when that fleeting experience might happen?
Caroline: Not really. It’s at random. So as a kid, I went to camp. And I’m convinced that camp saved my life. So 2 weeks in the summer I would be there and do that and had a good crew there.
Right now, in my life now, it’s oftentimes when the four of us, as a family are together, eating dinner, or playing a game, or doing something that’s usually very inconsequential. It’s not the vacations. We’re just hanging out. And it’s not lost on me, my role as mother, as wife, as kind of pivotal person in that family. It’s just easy for it to slip away from me.
And the language that it comes out is, “I’m fat.” So when I feel the most overwhelmed or the most caved in by all of that, what comes out is, “I’m fat. I’m gaining weight. I’m fat.” It’s just the catch-all bucket I feel like.
Marc: Yeah. That’s a great observation. I want to ask you a question. It’s a little more granular and specific. And maybe you’ll have some answers here, maybe you won’t. But when you feel like, gosh, I don’t belong here, other than where you might go with the weight, what exactly would trigger the thought, gosh, I don’t belong here? Like what are some of the things that you look around, you see, you experience, that are happening in your world? Because there is something that you’re observing, there’s something you’re seeing, there’s something you’re observing, there’s something you’re noting, where you go, “This ain’t my town. This ain’t my place. This ain’t my planet,” whatever it is. What are you noticing?
Caroline: I’m usually noticing other people. And I’m saying this out loud and laughing at myself because other people are putting their best faces on things. Last night, my son had a wrestling match. And so there were a bunch of parents there. And I sat with them. But I was just profoundly uncomfortable with being. And like I’m young to have a 15 year old and I feel like, it’s the conversation in my head, my lovely self-centered self that thinks everybody in the universe is looking at me and thinking what they must be thinking about me.
Marc: Yeah. So then, based on that, thinking about what all these people must be thinking about me, it’s usually what they are thinking about you, is probably what you imagine to be not so great. Correct?
Marc: What might they be thinking? Like what do you imagine? Like, say some words.
Caroline: “What is she doing with a 15 year old? I hope he turns out okay with her as a mother,” just all the little judge-y comments and other things. I’m having trouble verbalizing it. But it’s just this spiral of, just in my head I imagine someone saying that like that. And then it’s my own voice screaming, “Well, you are such, and such, and such.” And suddenly I’ve talked myself down into the bottom of the pit where I should be.
Marc: So, feeling like I don’t belong here. Imagining people are saying things. And you kind of taking that in, can I ask how old you are?
Caroline: I’m 40.
Marc: You’re 40.
Wow, and you think having a 15 year old, that you’re too young for that. That’s interesting.
Caroline: I’m not really. I’m the youngest one.
Caroline: Of his cohort. I’m right in the middle with my daughter. I was 32 when I had her. But with most of the parents of most 15 year olds where I am, I am the youngest by a fairly significant amount usually.
Marc: Okay. So, we started out, when I asked, if you can wave your magic wand, what would you get? And you said I would be comfortable in my own skin. And it’s kind of not about the weight, even though weight becomes sort of the bucket that you might go to when everything seems to be like, okay, well, it’s the weight now, when other things start to happen. I think it’s a great observation that you made that when this goes wrong or that goes wrong, or I’m feeling uncomfortable here, uncomfortable there, it’s easy to then drop into my weight. One of the reasons it’s easy to drop into that place, and one of the reasons you go there is because; there’s a few reasons. One reason is because that’s the place where we can control things. “I can’t control this crazy world. I can’t control all you crazy people out there. I can’t control what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling. But damn, I can control how much I weigh. Watch me!” And you’ve done it before.
So one of the ways that you have managed your life in this world, like when I listen to your story—and obviously there is a lot more to your story that just this one part of your story that we’re talking about—but this one part of your story, my relationship with my body, feeling comfortable with my skin, my weight, even though it’s a small part of who you are, it’s become a big part of who you are.
And that is not your fault because there are many, many, many, millions of people who fall into that category. Because you didn’t invent that. That’s what the world teaches us.
That’s what culture teaches us. That’s what the media teaches us. You’ve inherited a lot of fascinating mind chatter that you did not invent.
And, sure, at a young age, at some point, you figured out, “Okay, my weight is the problem because people seem to be making fun of me for that. That is creating separation. Then you figure out, oh my goodness, I can lose weight. I could learn things. I can learn about nutrition. I could exercise. I could do marathons. I’ve got some control here.”
And it’s your go-to place for control because you have enough drive, and enough willpower, and you have the right kind of body type that you can do some pretty intense exercise. And you could manage your diets for certain amounts of time, and get a result that you want. So it makes sense that we go to the place where we feel we have control, even though it might not have anything to do with whatever we’re dealing with.
Caroline: Yeah. Well, I’m struggling right now because I’m hurt. I’m tired. I actually am starting to recognize after a good number of years that it’s not a great strategy to use. I love it. There’s things about it that I truly love, like really and truly love. But it’s hurting me. And I’m getting that and that I can’t keep managing that with Ironman triathlons. I can’t do it.
Marc: You’re at a choice point in your life. It’s an inflection point. It’s kind of like a little bit of a fork in the road. You can continue in the direction that you’re going in, sort of. Or you can take a different direction. It feels like you’re kind of poised. If you’re not at the fork in the road, you’re pretty darn close, where you have the opportunity, I believe, like never before, to choose.
And what happens for so many of us—and I really mean this—a lot of times people get afraid of the word psychology and afraid of looking at my past. But like, forget about the word psychology for a moment. Forget about the past. We are a story. We’re a journey. We are each an epic movie. And the truth is, if I was a filmmaker, I can make the most fascinating movies about anyone’s life. Because people are fascinating. We go through this crazy life, and this crazy journey and you’re journey is no different. It has been extremely rich and full, and bizarre, and wonderful, and challenging. And what often happens is, the story that we live out early on, tends to hang with us. It becomes our story.
So even though you’re not that kid in grade school anymore that’s getting teased, there’s a part of you that needs to protect against that still. Because, “Oh, my God! What happens if I gain the weight again? I’m going to fail. And the fail means I’m going to go back to being that kid. I’m going to go back to being in that powerless place where life sucked and nothing worked. And I had no friends, no love, nobody really understood me. And I was alone. And I was fat. So I had nothing good.”
So my guess is, that that fear kind of looms large for you. And you’re now at a point in your life where you can look at that fear more in the mirror and see how it is imaginary. There is the part of you still, that 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade girl, going like, “Oh, my God, like I don’t want to be here anymore. I don’t want to do this. This needs to change.”
And you’ve changed that. But, oh my God, I can go back at any moment. And it’s like this threat that lives above your head like a sword about to drop in any moment. And that scenario lives in your own head, that scenario lives in your own mind. And that’s what wants to shift.
There is a piece about how you’re looking at the story of your life that you can now start to re-story and now start to change. So what I’m going to say to you is that, you will not step into being that girl again. And it’s the fear and the bracing against that, it’s the fear and the bracing against, “Oh, my God, I’m going to end up there again,” that’s kind of driving the show, a little bit.
Caroline: Well, I think too I’m incredibly fearful because this is what I do for a living. I talk to people about this very same thing. And I teach group classes based on your principles. And I get up and I’m very good at it. I’m very good at it. And I get up and I have really helped some people. And I think that thing that looms over my head, is the fear of being called out as just a giant fraud.
Marc: I get it. I totally get it. And that’s the place where the action is. That’s the place where you’re learning. And you have to kind of teach this to yourself. And it’s sort of a choice. And, again, the best analogy I’m coming up with right now is a fork in the road. You come to a fork in the road. If you want to stay on a road, you’ve got to choose a direction.
Previously what I think is, you don’t have a tremendous amount of choice in this place called, my relationship to my body, my feeling comfortable in my skin, my fear about going back to where I used to be, and gaining weight and feeling like a fraud. You don’t have a lot of choice there because there’s a lot of noise and a lot of confusion, and a lot of uncertainty – understandably so. So, it’s hard to figure out for you. You can’t figure it out by yourself. It’s kind of hard.
So, what I want to suggest to you is that, in a lot of ways, the choice, probably the key choice, when you said you want to feel comfortable in “my body”, I want to go back to that place. And you might have felt at some point at a young age, “Well, wait a second, this isn’t the right body.” Or you might have felt, “This isn’t the right life. I’m not the right person.”
Caroline: It’s like you got inside my head. That’s exactly right.
So it’s something deeper than weight. And what I want to say to you is that this is a core challenge that many people face.
So I’ve seen this many times before, what we’re talking about right now. I’ve gone through it myself. So I fully understand what you’re talking about. From the earliest age, I looked around me and I said, “I do not belong. This is the wrong place. This is the wrong planet. This is the wrong body. This is just wrong. Like, how the heck did I get here?”
And then, from that place, life becomes about managing. We just try to manage the pieces because, “I don’t belong here. But, okay, I’m going to try to make the best of it. I’m going to try and do whatever I can.” And then like, “Ooh, looks like I’d better be skinny,” or, “Ooh, looks like I’d better be pretty,” or handsome, or tall, whatever the hell.
So the deeper issue in a way, do you belong here? It’s borrowed time for all of us. As far as we can tell, none of us are here forever. We’re born and we die. So is this your permanent abode? No. So do you fully belong here forever? No. Is it a weird place? Is planet Earth weird? Of course it is. It’s a crazy planet.
Caroline: It’s pretty bizarre.
Marc: It’s a crazy planet. We have 100+ wars going on right now. Billions of people have died in war, in genocide, in democide, killed by their own governments in the last hundreds of years. We have pollution. We have death. We have cancer. We have nonsense. We have people attacking each other. We have poverty. We have starving humans. It’s a crazy place.
And kids are mean. Forget about parents for a moment. Even kids could be mean to each other. So it makes perfect sense to me that at some point, you or me or anyone of us might go, “Get me out of here! Bad planet.” I used to wait for the UFO to come and pick me up when I was in 3rd grade. I’ll be looking out the window like, “Where is it?”
So what I want to say is, the remedy for that, as far as I can tell, because I really looked at this one personally for myself and I’ve looked at it just in terms of working with others, the remedy is to choose this life, and to choose planet Earth and to really make the choice to be here even though I’m uncomfortable, even though it’s weird, even though it’s crazy, even though, fill in the blanks of all the things you don’t like about this world, which I’d probably agree with you.
You still have to choose to be here. If you don’t choose to be here, you will be in resistance. And if you don’t choose to be here, you will constantly be looking to find these ways to escape from being here. That still keeps you here, but then you think, “Oh, if I could just shift this. If I could make my body more this, more that, more muscle, less fat, more pretty, more fit, more tone, that will do it. Oops, no, that didn’t work. I’m still not comfortable.” So what I’m saying is that you can keep trying to make your body different in order for you to feel like it’s yours. And it never works.
Caroline: No, it doesn’t.
Marc: Might you like this body that you have better than another body that you had at some point in the past? Sure. Might you have had another body in the past that you might go, “Ooh, I wish I was there now. I wish I had that.” Sure. But all I’m saying is…
Caroline: But I wish I was there, but when I was there, I wished for something else. And I guess my question to you…And actually the agreeing to be here has been rattling around in my head, because that’s part of your training. And that’s actually what I have been thinking about this. That’s actually what I came up with. And my question to you is how do you do that?
Marc: It’s a great question.
How do I do that? Great question.
How do I choose life? How do I choose to be here? First way I would answer that question is first things first you’ve got to notice how you don’t want to be here, how you don’t approve of here. And this isn’t bad. You have to notice what your complaints are.
So I would love for you to do a journaling exercise, and list everything that I don’t like about being here. And nobody else has to see this list. It could be the silliest little things. It could be the biggest things. I want you to write down all of it, what I do not like about being here. Here’s my complaints. If I was general manager of this planet, here’s the nonsense that would change, for me to make this the kind of place that I would want to be in.
So you need to be aware of specifically what your complaints are because it might surprise you. And it also might surprise you to notice that once you start to write that down, you start to see how silly some of them are and how serious some of them are. Silly ones to me might be like, when you shared with me, “Oh, I think people are looking at me thinking like, wow, she is so young to be a mom.” I would have never thought that. My mother had my sister when my mother was 18. She had me when she was 21, for God’s sake. I wouldn’t have thought of that. So that lives in your head as a big thing. My guess is, 99% of people could care less and never have that thought in their mind.
So, anyway, all I’m saying is:
First step, create an inventory of that which makes it difficult for you to be here because you don’t like it.
It’s your protest list. It’s your complaint list, which again is not a bad thing. I just want you to be able to see it.
Next step is, every day, when you wake up in the morning, I want you to see if you can say to yourself, take a few minutes while you’re lying in bed, before you get up, choose to be here, today. “Today I choose to be on planet Earth. I choose to be Caroline who is 40 years old, who looks like this. I choose to be me. I choose this body that I have. I choose this life. I choose this husband. I choose these kids. I choose this world. I’m here. I’m doing this. Despite the fact that the stuff that I don’t like, I’m choosing to be here.”
Because what’s happening is, you haven’t put a lot of energy into making that choice clear. You’ve put energy into trying to change stuff, mostly your body, in order to feel comfortable. And you’re hitting the wall now. You’re hitting the wall after years of exercise and intensely pushing your body, 40 years old, your body is going to rebel against intensity of that nature, that doesn’t match where you are at.
So, 40 years old, you are a clear queen in training. From age 40 to 50, this is your opportunity to step out of being the teenager girl and step into your dignity and to sit on your queen’s throne and say, “Okay, I’m in charge here. This is my queendom. These are my children. This is my family. This is my home. This is my body. You’ve got a complaint about it? Here, fill out this form, and send it into my people. And they’ll make sure to look it over.”
It’s about you making the choice every day and just watching what happens. So you make it in the morning. And maybe when you’re lying in bed at night, you make it again when you go to sleep. And it’s just a self-dialogue that you have with yourself because there is the part of you that is still that grade school kid that is waiting for it to get comfortable.
Because as kids, somewhere inside of us there is this magical hope that it’s all going to get better. There is a magical fantasy that it’s all going to get better. And that magical fantasy hasn’t happened for you. It happens to, I don’t know how many people, not a lot, where the magical fantasy happens. And then I’m happy to be here. Now I love my life. That day doesn’t come. It comes because you choose it.
So it’s not that you are uncomfortable in your body, it’s really that you’re uncomfortable being in the world, and being alive on planet Earth, and just being you and just dealing with everything. And that then shifts into, “I’m uncomfortable in my body. I’m uncomfortable in my weight.” And we go to weight because I can control that. And we all can identify and we all could agree.
So as soon as you start to do Ironmans and triathlons or whatever it is, people are going to love you. “Wow, look at her! She’s in control.” You’re going to love you more because you think you’re in control. What are you controlling? There’s nothing really happening. Okay, great, you are running or you’re losing weight, or you have a certain body type. Okay, it’s interesting and it’s great and it could be really fun. But for so many people, their exercise life is driven by, “And when I have this ideal body, then I’m going to hit that sweet spot.”
Caroline: Yeah. Ironman, it took like a year for me to train for it. And I trained really hard. And I worked really hard. And I had a goal in my head and everybody kept saying, “Don’t have a goal on your first one. Don’t do it. Just go do it. Just go finish it.” But I had this goal in mind. And everyone that I talked to was like, “Oh, you’re going to be high as a kite. It’s the greatest feeling.”
And it wasn’t. It was truly this moment for me. Like there was no magic. I was just finished. And it was actually really horrible. And this thing that’s supposed to be the pinnacle of an athletic endeavor and an athletic career, it was the biggest letdown. And it wasn’t after I was prepared for after the race, when you are no longer training, but that moment of like, “No, that didn’t do it.”
And that’s a tough way to learn a lesson. So I guess on top of feeling like, I feel a little lost because that’s been my identity for so long. And even in school, even when I still was fat, I was still playing lacrosse and hockey, and was actually that was the one place I felt that I fit in. I fit in on my athletic teams, because I was good. I was fast. I was pretty skilled. And so, it’s like, that’s been the only place. And so I think I very much have wrapped up my sense of worth as a human being wrapped up with athletic performance. And suddenly my body hurts. And I’m tired. And I don’t want to. And I know it doesn’t hold any answers. And I’m like, “Well, now what?”
Marc: Beautiful place to be.
Life is, in its grand wisdom, we forget that Life is so much smarter than us.
Life invented us, Life created us. Life has its own agenda, Life with a capital L. Because to me there’s such a clear wisdom to what’s happening in your life.
And it’s as if the intelligence of the universe is just saying, “Okay Caroline, this ain’t working.” This didn’t get you what you wanted and it makes sense when you say, God I feel lost because that was my identity. Correct. That has been your identity. And without that identity, you will feel lost. When anybody loses an identity that has been their primary identity, they will feel lost. So it’s understandable.
So what I want to say is, this is a great opportunity for you to manage, let’s call it a life transition. So instead of saying I’m lost, which I understand, another way to language that is, I’m in a life transition. I know where I’m coming from, the exercise, the focus and all that. I don’t know where I’m going. So, I would love for you to embrace that you are in a transition place.
And if you have been in other transitions in your life, you may recall that certain times in a transition, you don’t know what’s going to happen. And you’re moving from one house to the next. Okay, I know I’m leaving this one and moving to the other one. But you don’t know exactly what it’s going to be like. You’re divorcing your ex-husband. You don’t know exactly what that’s going to look like. Maybe you haven’t met someone else yet. You don’t know what your new life is going to look like. So there’s these transition times.
And in transition times a couple of things usually happen for people. They either go into breakdown because it is too unknown, it’s too uncertain, it’s too scary.
And we turn to food, we turn to distractions, we get afraid, we do all the things that we would do because we’re in fear.
And what I would love of you to do is, consider this transition a time when you are going from a caterpillar to a butterfly. And when that caterpillar steps into the cocoon, at some point if you open up the cocoon, there’s no caterpillar and there is no butterfly. The caterpillar becomes a bunch of mush. Literally, you cannot see a caterpillar and nor can you see a butterfly because there’s a stage where we’re mush, in a transition.
Caroline: Awesome. I love being mush. This is fabulous.
Marc: Yeah. So there’s a stage where you have to let yourself be mushy, and squishy, and undefined because that means you are growing and transforming because one of the hallmarks of personal development, of human growth, of spiritual growth, is to be able to manage the transition from the known to the unknown, to that new place, to that new expression, that you don’t know what it is yet, to manage it in a way that you trust.
Trust is a very important tool in your toolkit at this time, is trust. Another important tool in your toolkit is to trust in yourself. More specifically is trust in a greater power. Trust in a greater wisdom, that your life isn’t just this random bunch of activities, that there’s some organizing force that is much larger than we could ever understand, to trust in that.
So look at your own history. Look at your own life. And despite all the stuff that wasn’t great, here you are. Not so bad. We are the kings and queens of this world. We are not starving. We are not in warzones. You have a family. Life is essentially good. That’s the good news. So according to your history, it is reasonable to expect that life would continue to unfold in a good way even though you are stepping into the unknown and you’re letting go of the old you.
So, a part of your MO is you’ve been bitten by the perfectionist bug. And so you like perfectionism. You like control. You like to make sure you know where things are going. And this is your opportunity to be in a different classroom now and learn a different lesson, which is to not know, to not be in control, and to not to return to all the old places that you go to, to create imaginary control, which is weight, and food, and diet, and body, and exercise.
That’s the place you will traditionally go to to feel a sense of, I’m in control now. And it’s a waste of time. It’s no different than me, I don’t know, taking apart the table in front of me, and putting it together, and taking it apart. “I’m in control of this table. Damn, I could take this table apart. And it’s a bunch of rubbish. And I could put it together. Look at that.” That is kind of what you do with your body. Take it apart. You put it together. You take it apart. You change it. You morph it. You shift it. Okay, big deal.
Caroline: Well, it’s kind of what I do with my life. It feels like it’s forever been a search for the thing or the way or the system that’s going to finally make me feel right.
Marc: Doesn’t exist. I just really want to tell you from my neck of the woods here as the person who’s been on that same search, watched others go on that same search, studied others who talk about the things we’re talking about right now, doesn’t happen. We turn to drugs, alcohol. We turn to different systems. We turn to different philosophies. We can turn to different religions. Whatever it is. And I think what you’re looking for it’s not found out there.
And I think it is time for a whole different part. And I don’t know what the best words are to speak this to you. But for a lack of any better terms, it’s time to deepen into your personal, spiritual journey in a whole different way and for you to really start to create a different kind of relationship with the universe, with a greater intelligence and begin to see where you stand with all that because if you don’t believe that there’s something helping or guiding you, if there is a greater wisdom, then you will feel lost.
You’ll feel lost anyway because it’s scary. It’s scary when we transition.
But when we transition, when you’re wandering in the desert, you need a lot of trust. You need a lot of faith. You need allies. You need people who are standing by you and going, “Yeah, Caroline, I get it. You’ve given up this whole part of your life. That part of life doesn’t work for you anymore. We don’t exactly know what the new part of your life looks like. But you know, I’m right behind you here. I’m right alongside you.” It’s you choosing to kind of let go of this old consciousness of looking for the thing, looking for the lottery ticket.
I was just reading online…I don’t follow the news that much, maybe once or twice a week, I like, check in. And there’s like this billion dollar Powerball lottery, I don’t know. And it’s all over the news and people are talking about it and writing about it. And I think, ugh, that annoys me so much because it puts into our consciousness, “You can be a big winner.”
And your chances are kind of one in about 400 million, that you are going to win the goddamned thing. And we have the same consciousness with, we’ll diet, we’ll use this diet and this is going to do it. Or here is this new nutritional system. That’s going to do it. We have to get out of lottery consciousness. And this is your time. It’s your time.
Caroline: Okay, yeah. Though the notion of the higher consciousness or higher power, or God, or universe, that one is hard. And when I was growing up, my older siblings all went to church. And then my mom got grumpy with church dogma and left. And then that was right when I came along. I’m convinced that I absorbed that in the womb.
And I’ve never found that place. And you’re just telling me to get out of lottery consciousness. And then I’m going back again to, like I’ve never found the one answer. But I struggle with that. And at 40, I recognize the importance of that. So, how do you find that? I feel like I need to go on some kind of vision quest or something, as cheesy as that sounds. And it’s like, well, I’m 40 with 2 kids, who have stuff. And so it’s hard for me to think about how to even take a first step. And I hear you that wake up and say, “I’m going to be here. Here I am.”
Marc: I’m choosing it. So that’s the first step. I think another first step is to ask the question. Hold the powerful question of, hey, how do I explore this? Exactly how you asked. How do I do this? How do I do an exploration, given the fact that I’m a mother. I’ve got 2 kids. I’ve got a life here. It’s not like I can go on a 3-week vision quest somewhere to really hold that question as if it’s important, as if it’s important as running a marathon. Or you’re putting as much oomph into it as you might have put into any of the exercising or the dieting you’ve done in the past. It doesn’t mean that you have to be fanatic about it. But it means you’re earnest about it. It means it’s an earnest question.
And you don’t have to have an answer. And this is part of the journey is just learning how to hold powerful questions that are bigger than us because this is not your dilemma.
This is an age old dilemma, that humans have been facing forever, is who am I?
Why am I here? What is my relationship to a higher power? Is there a higher power? Is there a greater intelligence? Are we just a bunch of random molecules slapped together and everything is meaningless and you die?
So, there comes a point where you have to, in a weird way, choose more of what your religion is. And when I say religion, it doesn’t necessarily have to fall into traditional religions. What’s happened is, for so many people religion has not kept up with who we are in this world today. Not all religions, the way they are taught, or the way they are given to us, feel applicable. So then we end up wandering away from religion. And we throw out the baby with the bathwater, where we’ve had bad experiences in the temples, or in the churches, or wherever, and we go, “Oh, religion sucks. Higher power, nonsense,” because that’s not it. And you’re probably right. That’s not exactly it.
But it’s about you going on your journey now and starting to find that place, which means asking the question. And it’s your unique journey. And this is a hard one for people to get sometimes because we think I have to join the club, whatever the club is. Join this religion, that sect, this cult, whatever it is. Or this system that’s going to do it for me, whether it’s a weight-loss system or a religious system.
And it’s a very personal relationship that you have with your own body. It’s a personal relationship that you have with your kids. It’s a personal relationship that you have with a greater intelligence. So, the relationship has to be developed in a way, on your terms, in relation to who you are because then that makes it uniquely you.
So I’m just saying, how do you do it? Hold the powerful question called, how do I do this? Really ask the question. And notice the answers that might come at unexpected times, in unexpected places. Notice the coincidences. Notice the books you are attracted to read. Notice people you might be drawn to or someone online that you want to listen to more. Just start to notice that.
And I think it’s less about finding the one thing and it’s more about finding the clues, a piece here, a piece there. Because I think that puts you more in an empowered place. Instead of looking for something outside you, now is your time to step into your adulthood like never before. You follow me?
Caroline: I do.
Marc: So your adulthood means you’re kind of driving the car of your own life.
Caroline: Yeah, that’s really scary.
Marc: Yeah, it is.
It is because there is the part of you that still is the kid that sort of wants it different from that. It’s like, “Wait a second. Somebody show me the way.”
Marc: So that’s a big let-go because you’re going to show you the way. And Life is going to help you along the way. And it’s you finding out and learning on your own that you’re not alone. And you’re not alone because we know for sure you have family that loves you and you have people that love you. So we know that you’re not alone on that level. And it’s you discovering that, you finding that place. And which means you’ve got to do a little bit of searching.
But you happen to be a very good researcher because you figured out how to transform your body from a young age. You figured out how to make your life better. You figured a lot of things out. You’re a smart lady. So it’s applying those same smarts and that same diligence to your relationship with something greater. And it’s applying those same smarts to you choosing life. How else can I choose life today?
Sometimes it might mean going to the event with your kids and you notice, gosh, I don’t belong here. And sometimes it’s good to just hang out feeling that. The feeling of, well, I just don’t belong here. It’s not my thing. I don’t feel comfortable in this, which is understandable.
And then you could ask the question, “What would make me feel more comfortable right now? How can I find more comfort in this situation? Granted, it’s not my first choice. I have no other choice. I would rather not be around all you people in this experience.”
Caroline: Yeah. Recently I’ve avoided things, like avoided them completely. Because it felt like such a time of upheaval that it was too much. So unless I absolutely must, my strategy of late has been to just not do it. And I also understand that that’s not really sustainable over time either. But, okay.
Marc: So, what in your mind right now feels like a big juicy takeaway from this conversation?
Caroline: The biggest thing I’m coming away with is, it was the one thing you said of somebody going to somebody and saying, “Show me how.” And that’s exactly what I do, and that I’m really the only one that can show me the way. And not that people can’t help or it’s not that I need to go do it alone. But that those answers that I’ve been constantly seeking externally from whatever, actually are answers that probably live somewhere in me, if I stop long enough to pay attention.
Marc: Beautifully put. Again, I think, Bingo! So, I want to share one more, I’ll call it a practice, an assignment, something to play with if it feels useful to you. Spend some time—and it might just be journaling—and write a letter to you, back when you were younger. That younger part of you that was fat and being made fun of, and being ostracized, that girl. I want you to write a letter to her from you, from this 40 year old, empowered woman who’s got a couple of kids and a husband and a life, and you’ve got your act together. As much as it doesn’t feel like it to you, because you don’t fully know how to give yourself a lot of credit, things are good.
So I want you to write a letter to that little girl saying,
“Hey, here’s me, your future self, and I want to give you some advice that’s going to make you way more confident and happy.”
“I want to tell you some good news. I want to tell you some things you can learn right now that’s going to help you.” So from this place of your adult, I want you to speak into your past, to that little girl. You follow me? A positive, empowering place as if she was your daughter, and you’re helping her manage all these challenges.
Marc: Because that little girl is still inside you and she kind of takes over a lot.
Caroline: Yeah. She drives the bus a little bit.
Marc: Yeah, she does. So this is a way for you to get more conscious with her and put her in her proper seat so she’s sitting on the bus and you’re driving. That’s what this kind of dialogue does with that part of us which I think could be helpful. And I think for you it’s just a question of practice and a little bit of perseverance, and a little bit of time and really embracing your spiritual journey and asking what that is for you, and how you can find that place in you.
And it might be fleeting, it might be moments, and that’s okay. It’s totally okay. It doesn’t have to look perfect all the time. “I’m totally confident and everything’s great. And I never have a bad mood or a bad thought.” No. It’s just having a connection that you start to forge based on the evidence that your life is good. Yeah?
Caroline: Yeah. Do you have a book that you recommend for that particular stage of life?
Marc: I’m not sure. Do me a favor, email us at Info@PsychologyOfEating.com, and ask that question because nothing pops into my mind. Just email info@ and say, “Hey, Marc. You asked me to ask this question.”
Caroline: Okay, I can do that. All right.
Marc: Yeah, goody. Caroline, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.
Caroline: Thank you. I appreciate it.
Marc: Yeah, good job. I really appreciate you opening up, and sharing, and being real about your journey, and I have a good feeling for you. I really do. I think you’re closer to where you want to be than you imagine, is what I want to say.
Caroline: Okay, all right. So, my marching orders are to just go develop a spiritual life. Got it.
Marc: There you go.
Caroline: No, I’ll do it. And I will write that letter. I think that would be an interesting thing to do.
Marc: I think it would be.
Caroline: So, thank you.
Marc: Okay. Well, thank you so much. And thank you everybody for tuning in, being part of our world, and this world, and this work, and this journey. Once again, I’m Marc David, on behalf of the Psychology of Eating Podcast. And there will be lots more to come, my friends. Take care.
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating
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