The Psychology of Eating Podcast Episode 147: The Weight Just Won’t Come Off – Now What?
Mara is a self-described research junkie. She loves learning about health, wellness, and good nutrition, and she’s in tune with her body’s signals. But despite all her knowledge, she’s frustrated because she finds herself turning to food for comfort, and can’t seem to break out of a pattern of emotional eating. She dislikes her body shape and wants to lose weight, but hates how restrictive most diet plans are. In this thought-provoking session, Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, helps Mara to take a closer look at the target weight she’s chosen for herself, and prompts her to ask some deeper questions about what she truly wants to change in her life. Tune in as Marc coaches Mara to start putting her energy toward a different and more powerful goal.
Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:
Marc: Welcome, everybody. I’m Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. Here we are in the Psychology of Eating Podcast. And I’m with Mara today. Welcome, Mara.
Mara: Hi, Marc.
Marc: I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad we’re doing this.
Mara: Thank you. Me, too.
Marc: So let me just say a few words to listeners and viewers for a moment. If you’re new to this podcast, here’s how it works. We’re going to be together for about an hour. Mara and I have never met. We’re going to do a session together and see if we can put a year’s worth of coaching and counseling into one session and help turbocharge the experience and get Mara where she wants to go as fast as possible.
So I’m going to ask a bunch of questions. And then life will happen. So, Mara, let me ask you this: if it was up to you and you could wave your magic wand and get whatever you wanted from this session, what would that be for you?
Mara: I would say to end the war or the confusion around food and the ability to release the extra weight, the extra 20 pounds that I’ve carried for, I don’t know how many years, but to figure out why I can’t release that weight.
Marc: Okay. So how long has that extra 20 pounds been around? You said you can’t remember when. But when did you first start dieting?
Mara: I haven’t struggled with my weight my whole life. The first diet I actually did was probably 10 years ago.
And I just turned 45. But I would say I’ve probably been 20 pounds overweight, what I think would be overweight, gosh, maybe 15 years.
Marc: So if you lost 20 pounds, what with that put you at?
Mara: That would put me at 110.
Marc: And can you tell me how tall you are?
Mara: I’m only 5 feet. So I’m short.
Marc: Got it. And let me ask you this: when you last weighed your target weight, what do you think brought the weight on, in your opinion? Because you didn’t struggle with this all your life. And then all of a sudden here’s more weight. What do you think brought it on?
Mara: I think a big turning point for me was I was a single mom with my son, who is now 24. And when we moved from my hometown when he was five, I moved to Kansas City. And that shifted things for me. I felt kind of alone. I moved for a job. I felt lonely. I started eating more. So that kind of shifted. And then when I got married almost 13 years ago, that was a really big shift for me when I started eating more.
But I know when I started becoming more aware of healthy food, probably 11 years ago. My grandma died of cancer. And I began to explore food and healthy living and how our environment affects us. And when I started becoming more aware of that, it was like I started becoming a perfectionist. Or I really worried about food. And I didn’t worry about food before that. So it was wonderful and eye opening. And I started buying everything organic and just cleaning up everything in my house, house cleaners and stuff, which was wonderful. But then it puts me more in a state of stress because now I knew what those bad things do.
Marc: So this is your second marriage?
Mara: First, actually, the first marriage.
Marc: Got it. And how does your partner feel about your weight?
Mara: He doesn’t care.
Marc: He doesn’t care?
Mara: No. He just tells me I’m beautiful. He doesn’t care.
Marc: So what would happen if you lost the 20 pounds? What’s the big win? Why do it?
I feel like I would feel better in my body, lighter, more confident because I’ve been there.
I know what that feels like to not worry about my weight or to put on whatever pair of pants that I want to put on, feeling comfortable and not having my stomach hanging over the top of my pants. I just feel like I would feel more confident and lighter and just better in my body.
Marc: Okay, so you’d feel comfortable, more lighter, better in your body.
Marc: Would you say that would accurately describe yourself back in the day when you were at your target weight? Were you truly a more confident person and more comfortable?
Mara: I was, yeah. I really was. I was.
Marc: Fascinating. So this weight has really changed your perception of yourself?
Mara: I think so. Yeah, I think so.
Marc: So when you look in the mirror right now, what do you say? What do you say to yourself? What might be going through your mind when you look at yourself?
Mara: Well, I’m working on loving myself just recently, working on loving who I see in the mirror. But normally I look in there and it’s hard for me to believe that I got to this place. And as you get older, things just start shifting. And I’m not looking the same. I’m frustrated because of my knowledge on healthy eating, my knowledge of working out. And yet I’m not there. I don’t look like that. And it’s very frustrating to me. So I’m not happy with what I see in the mirror.
Marc: So in the last 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 years, has there been any point where you lost the weight and then it just came back on?
Mara: Let’s see, probably about six years ago I really started getting in a rhythm of going to the gym and going walking and really trying out—I think seven years ago—trying out different I was really high into raw foods, vegan. I tried it all. But yet I never could get below 127 no matter what I did.
And I didn’t see this big shift in my body like I thought, Ooh, I’m going to look really good, and all this working out. And I didn’t.
And that’s a huge frustration for me is that it seems no matter how healthy I eat it’s disheartening because it doesn’t give me the results that I would like.
But I did feel good. I felt pretty good in my body six or seven years ago. But, again, I was still trying to lose weight. I was still trying to get below that 127. And it was really hard for me. The only time I’ve gotten below 127 was I remember I was 125 before. But that’s because I did a cleanse. So it’s like the only way I can lose weight is to be in a strict, strict diet or cleanse. And I’m just really burnt out on that. I’ve done many before. And I just can’t bring myself to do that again.
Marc: Got it. Have you had any kind of professional help, dietitian, nutritionist?
Mara: I’m a graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. I haven’t had any help per se, one-on-one counseling about it. But I’m a coach, a certified coach. And I don’t practice it. I don’t have any clients. Again, I have a wealth of knowledge. I’ve been following you for a long time. And that’s what’s frustrating to me is I can’t seem to break this or figure out how to lose this weight, despite what I know.
Marc: What do you eat these days for breakfast? What might be a typical breakfast?
Mara: A lot of times I don’t eat breakfast. I don’t get hungry till 10, between 10 and 12. I do have coffee. It’s three-fourths decaf. I’m very sensitive to things. So I’m very sensitive to caffeine. But it’s three fourths decaf, one fourth regular caffeine. It’s organic. I normally put milk in it.
Marc: Don’t give me that level of detail. I just want big picture. What does breakfast look like?
Mara: Okay. So I normally don’t eat breakfast. And I’ll eat anywhere between 10 and 12. And I’ll have a large chicken salad. I do a lot of chicken or rice and chicken. For whatever reason, I do a lot of rice and chicken. I don’t snack during the day. And then for dinner, we eat lot of a protein, again a lot of chicken or turkey, sweet potatoes, and always a grain, vegetable, always or brown rice and green vegetables.
So I feel like I eat healthy. But I can’t eat much. I feel like in order to lose any kind of weight, I really have to eat very little.
Marc: Do you eat after dinner or drink after dinner?
Mara: No. I drink wine at night. I have two glasses of wine every night. And that’s my treat.
Marc: And what time do you go to bed?
Mara: 10:00, usually about 10:00, 10:30.
Marc: And you wake up by?
Mara: By 6:00. I’m up usually about 6 o’clock every day.
Marc: Got it. And do you find yourself hungry during the day between your first meal and your dinner meal?
Mara: No. I’m really not.
Marc: So dinner happens at what time again? About six-ish?
Mara: Usually about 6:00, 6:30.
Marc: And that first meal that we’re calling lunch, it sounds like it happens between 10 and 12?
Mara: Yes, anywhere between then.
Marc: So you can technically eat at 10 o’clock and then not eat again until six?
Mara: No, if I eat something at 10, I probably eat something else again at one.
Marc: Got it. And what might that be?
Mara: Leftovers or, again…I’m trying to think. I’ll have just a little bit of protein and maybe an apple with it, something like that.
So have you ever thought to yourself, What happens if I never lose the weight? What would happen if you knew right now that you were going to stay at this exact number from now until forever more? What would you do?
Mara: I have thought of that. And I don’t like that thought. I would not want to be this weight for the rest of my life because I’ve been thinner. And I know what that feels like. And it feels better
Marc: Understood. So exercise wise these days, what are you doing?
Mara: I’m not very consistent with exercise. I’ll be strong, do it for two, three weeks and then don’t do it again for another month. I really like, I’ve been doing the rebounder, I think it’s called. And then I’ll do 10 to 15 minutes of the rebound and 10 minutes of strength training. So I’ll do some push-ups and squats and things like that.
But I’ve never done hard-core, hour-long class at the gym. I’ve never done super hard-core workout. I feel like I get winded very easily. I get tired very easily. So my 15 minutes on the rebounder and the 10 minutes of strength training is about my pace. Or yoga, I love yoga or walking, say, for 30 minutes outside.
Marc: Are you under a physician’s care, just a regular GP or a doctor?
Marc: Have you had your thyroid tested?
Marc: And how was that?
Mara: It was fine. It was great.
Marc: So it sounds like you have enough energy. It doesn’t sound like you’re lacking in energy. Is that true?
Mara: I find that I’m very, very tired in the morning. I was having adrenal issues last year. I’ve taken supplements and done some things, got off of a lot of sugar. So that’s helped tremendously.
I do have a hard time getting up in the morning, though. If I could sleep every morning until 8:00, that would be wonderful. That’s my sweet spot. I wake up at eight. I feel refreshed on the weekends. But I can’t do that. I get up and I have to take my daughter to school and get her ready. So I do find that I’m tired in the morning. But once I’m up, I can definitely get going.
Marc: How is your digestion?
Mara: It’s not very good. I have a hard time digesting raw nuts, things like that. I find that I’ll get a stomachache. So I know it’s not horrible. But I do have some issues with that.
Got it. Would you consider yourself a fast eater? Moderate eater? Slow eater?
Mara: Definitely fast. Definitely fast.
Marc: Okay. How old is your daughter?
Mara: She’s 11.
Marc: She’s 11. How’s her relationship with her body?
Mara: She has a good relationship with her body. She eats really healthy. I know I draw too much attention, though, to food. In school, I don’t allow her to have a lot of things that they pass out, candy or something. She knows that she can’t get it. And I feel like I’m drawing too much attention.
The commercial comes on and I’ll make a comment like, “Oh, I’m glad we don’t eat that.” I draw too much attention to what we eat, I think out of fear of her eating the wrong things or feeling bad in her body. But she has a good sense of her body. She isn’t trying to diet or anything like that.
Marc: Does she notice you trying to do that?
Mara: Yes. She notices.
Marc: What does she say?
Mara: I think she just thinks, Mom’s really into health. Mom’s a health nut, I think. Now, she has mentioned before that if I say something like, “Oh, these pants are too tight. I don’t like how I look,” she’ll say, “Mom, you look beautiful.” And I think, Ugh! She’s got a better grasp on this than I do.
So she is noticing that I notice my weight, which I don’t like.
Marc: And you don’t like it because…?
Mara: I don’t want to give her a bad message. I don’t want her to be wrapped up in her weight in her body image. I don’t want her to struggle when she gets older like I am.
Marc: Interesting, interesting, interesting. And you mentioned your son is how old?
Mara: He’s 24. He is married. And he has a two-year-old boy.
Marc: Alright, congratulations!
Mara: So I’m a grandma.
Marc: Yay! So tell me once more just so I can get this straight. So when you hit your target weight, the goal for that is you just know you’re going to feel better about yourself. You’re going to feel lighter. Is there anything else that happens when you hit your target weight?
Mara: This just came to my head. When I’m around my girlfriends, all of them are very much in shape. They’re very thin. They’re very active. I’m probably the heaviest out of all of my friends. And I just thought about when I’m around my girlfriends. A lot of times I feel out of place. Or they know that I’m really into nutrition. And I eat healthier than any of my friends.
But yet I’m the one that struggles with my weight or whatever issues, like my knee hurts one day. I don’t have the energy like they do, which is embarrassing to me because, again, I’m the one that’s supposed to know all about the nutrition. I’m the coach. So I feel like I won’t feel that. Again, I will feel confident, more in who I am, I guess, when I’m not overweight.
Marc: Got it. Got it. Got it. So I think I have enough information right now for me to give you some thoughts and some feedback about my opinions on where I think you need to go and what I think you need to do to potentially get where you want to go. So I’d love to share those thoughts with you.
And my first thought is that we don’t know… And when I say we, I mean the collective we. We truly don’t know how much anyone should weigh.
And when you tell me, “I need to lose this 20 pounds,” I think, Huh, okay. People always have a target weight that they want to hit, or many people have a target weight or some people have a target weight.
But what I find is that we can get very religious about that target weight. And we can put it on a pedestal and worship it like it’s a God. And I think that’s a piece of the challenge for you right now. A piece of the challenge for you is the level of importance that you’re giving this relative to how important it might really be. And I’m going to explain that in a minute because the level of importance you’re giving it, to me, holds you back from having the best chance of actually losing it.
So right now, to me, the way you have the whole thing framed makes it harder for you to get what you want. And to my mind, until you change that frame, you will likely continue to have the same challenges because as far as I can tell from what you’ve just told me, you’ve hit a wall. And you’ve been at that wall awhile. And nothing quite moves you past that wall.
You said to me, “Okay, I hit 127. And I couldn’t change that.” So when I hear that, I go, “Huh.” What you say when you hit that wall is, “What’s wrong with me? How come I’m not doing this right? Why? I know all this information. I have all this stuff. And I can’t do this.” And you start making it about you. And you start making it about information. And you start making that very personal.
And you start making it about what does this mean about me? And what does this mean about me hanging around my girlfriends? And they’re going to look at me. And they’re going to say this. And they’re going to say that. But if I lose the weight, then I can show up and say, “See? I’ve got this great diet. And I feel good. And I have the body that I want.”
And, whoa, that’s a helluva lot of pressure, Mara, that you have on this number on the scale. And that pressure causes stress. And stress, anxiety, fear, pressure, it’s all the same word for how the body registers stress chemistry. And we put ourselves in a different state, in a different physiologic state when that’s the biological milieu that we create. That’s what I believe.
So whether I’m correct or not, what we do know is you hit a wall. And what we do know is that whatever you’re doing doesn’t move you past that wall. Your conclusion is, “I’m doing something wrong.” You go into frustration. You go into upset. You push a little here. You push a little there. You know you don’t want to be an exercise fanatic. That ain’t going to work. It’s not natural, for you and for most people.
You know you don’t want to be this intense dieter who eats one peanut every day. That’s not going to work. You’re smart enough to get that. Where I think you need to shift is to start deepening into the journey here because you’re not a 20-year-old girl trying to lose a bunch of weight. You are an adult doing your life, wanting to shape shift your body. I’m with you. Good for you. You want to be healthier. You want to take care of yourself.
But I want you to see where your goal and the way you’re going about it, the way to frame it kind of had you set up to not get where you want to go because you’ve hit a wall. And you’re trying the same strategies. And you are giving the goal so much power.
So when I asked you, “What happens when you stay at this weight forever?” And where you go is that’s unacceptable. Eh, and part of me understands that. But another part of me says, “Well, wow, if you’ve been at this weight for years now, then who you are is unacceptable.” And if who I am is unacceptable, then everything during my day is going to be colored with that, when I walk over here, when I go over there, when I carry myself here.
You say to me, “I don’t want to give my daughter those bad habits.” You are.
So it’s not whether you want to or you don’t. We model for our children. They notice stuff. She’s already noticing. So does she have her own relationship with her body? Sure. She might have the greatest relationship with her body when she grows up.
But I will say that children model themselves after their parents. A boy will especially model himself after his father. A girl will especially model herself after her mother. So she’s learning that even though my mom, who’s a god… We’re the gods of our children. From the time they’re crawling around, we are their universe.
And her mom is not okay with who she is. Her mom is not okay with her weight, not okay with how she looks, not okay. You mentioned to me, “Wow, my daughter has it together more than I do.” When that’s the feeling, you put her at a disadvantage because the reality is she’s 11 and your fortysomething. And that’s going to catch up at some point.
And it’s going to create discord in the relationship because you’re the adult. You’re the parent. You’re the leader. Yeah, our kids are going to have different talents than we do. She’ll be better on the iPhone or whatever. But I am asking you to notice where in this process of weight, I want you to step into a different part of yourself when you address it because right now, I kind of hear a 21-year-old girl talking when you’re talking a little bit, who wants the weight so she feels good about herself. And it makes perfect sense.
But right now you haven’t moved the dial for a while. And in my belief system, if I was getting paid millions of dollars to help you lose the weight, if I was going to get paid $100 million to help you lose 20 pounds permanently and sustainably so your had a normal way of eating and a normal way of exercising, this is exactly what I would be telling you because number one I don’t know nor do you…
And I’m being very firm here, I want you to know; I’m not going after you. I’m being strong because we have a limited amount of time together. And I want to share with you my experience, my learning around all this is that when the weight is not coming off because we’re doing everything useful and correct and necessary that makes sense, which it sounds to me like you’ve been doing, when people tell me, “God! And then after that, the only way I lose weight is if I hardly eat or if I exercise my brains out,” what I always notice from that is that a person needs to hang at that weight for a while.
If you continue to attack the weight, what will happen is the same thing most likely. Part of your mind wants this new strategy, like what’s the new diet or what’s the new oomph that I just need to do and it all fixes and then my life is good and I feel better about myself because I lose the weight?
The reality is weighing 20 pounds less is not the thing that’s going to get you to feel more comfortable because there are people who weigh a helluva lot more than you do who are way more comfortable with themselves and way more comfortable with their bodies. And I’m sure you’ve met them.
So losing the weight doesn’t equal, “Oh, I’m more comfortable now. And I like myself. And life is great.” How many times have I seen somebody lose weight? I was just talking to somebody yesterday who went from being a fat obese child for decades to, in her 30s, lost weight, became a fitness model, and ended up in a psychiatric hospital because she still hated herself.
And everybody loved her. And she had her picture all over the place. So we’ve heard the stories. You’ve probably met people. They can be the thinnest and the most perfect-est. And they can have all the Hollywood looks. They can be in Hollywood. And it doesn’t mean that they’re happy and confident and they feel good about themselves.
So all I hear is kind of a false expectation that, “This is going to do it for me.”
And it will then stop us from doing work on self. Because I think for you, your weight journey right now, you need to re-context it and redefine it. Previously you think that a weight loss journey equals, “I diet. I exercise. I do certain specific things. And then I lose weight.”
And it’s true, Mara. For some people, that’s their weight loss journey. “Oh, I was eating crap food, and now I’m eating better. And I lost weight. Wow, I never moved myself. And now I’m exercising. And now I feel better. Wow, I’ve always been unhealthy. And I went on a detox and have a better diet. And now I lost weight.” Great. Some people, that’s their journey. There’s all different kinds of weight loss journeys, gazillions of them.
This is your journey. Your journey is unique. To me, you have to get good at reading the signs of your own journey because it is talking to you in a very specific way, I believe. And sometimes weight is here to teach us about better diet, better exercise. Sometimes weight is teaching us to relax to slow down, to let go, and to mature like a fine wine.
I don’t think you’re going to get where you want to go by continuing to push yourself. So a couple of things I would suggest from that place, here’s what I mean. First and foremost, even if I had just said none of that, first and foremost until you can learn to become a relaxed eater and truly slow down with food… And by slowing down with food, I don’t mean just chew 50 or 60 or 100 times. I mean eat. Feel nourished, relaxed. Enjoy. Get pleasure. Pretend that life is good.
Mara: Which is really hard for me.
Marc: I get it. So if you can’t do that and you think losing weight is going to do it for you, I really mean this, you’re wrong. It’s not going to do it for you. I’m just telling you as your friend over here who’s done this with so many people, who has watched this so many times. And we do this. And this is not just you. This is so many people. We do this with weight. We do this with money. “When I find the perfect partner, when I find the perfect job, then everything really is going to be better.” And it’s a goal that never works.
So what I’m saying to you is losing 20 pounds is not going to give you this wonderful life that you think it will. And indeed what it’s doing is it’s putting your life on pause. It’s putting you within a narrow bandwidth of, “Well, I don’t really love myself when I’m not the real me. And I can’t really show up.” And you’re kind of on the defensive.
When you’re in the world right now, your posture will have to be a subtle and silent defensiveness because in yourself, you feel defensive because, “Wait a second. I’m doing all these things right. And nothing is happening. Whoops, all these people are watching me. And they know I’m into health. And they know…”
So there’s a part of you that actually has to go, “Somehow I’m wrong. This is not working. But I’m going to figure this out. But I’m not figuring it out.”
And why postpone living? Why postpone your real life? Why model that for your daughter? You’ve got to empower yourself here. You really do.
Life is short. We don’t know how long we’re going to be here. There are people who weigh a certain amount their entire lives. Not so many. There are people who weigh one thing and then they gain a little bit more weight. There are people who weigh one thing and they gain a lot weight. There are people who weigh one thing and then they lose weight. Who knows?!
I think you have to stop putting your demand on the universe. I really do. I think you’ve just got to let go for a while and see what happens as an experiment to do something different because if you really want to shake things up… And, again, this is what I would say if I was going to make millions to help you get where you want to go. You need a shift.
And I do not believe — and I mean this — I don’t believe your shift is going to come from a nutritional strategy. Are there things I would do different with your diet to help you lose weight? Absolutely. But I don’t think it would make the difference that you want because what you’re putting into the goal, it’s unrealistic. It’s not natural. It’s not in alignment with your personal development, your personal growth.
Your personal growth at this stage of your life should be that, “Okay, if I can’t run as fast or jump as high, if I’m not as hot as I used to be,” you should still be able to stay in your dignity.
You should still be able to step into your adulthood and into your authority. You should still be able to be a queen for your daughter.
You should still be able to show her, “Yeah, you know something? Here’s how a woman walks through the world. Yeah, I take care of myself with food. Yeah, I like to eat healthy. And now I love myself. And now I enjoy myself.” Eating healthy food doesn’t mean loving self. Right now you’re eating healthy food. But you’re doing it because your brain tells you to do that. I know you know it’s the right thing. But right now, your mind, Command Central is trying to control everything.
Mara: When you keep saying, “You’re doing the right thing. You’re doing everything perfect,” I do. But I don’t. If I want to go out and have a burger… I like burgers. But it’s from grass fed. Or I like pizza. I’ll have pizza. So I do tend to eat those types of foods, as well. I don’t eat perfectly. And I know one of my downfalls is that night I definitely overeat. It’s at night… That’s why I have wine every night. And I do overeat that meal. And that’s probably why I’m not hungry in the morning.
Marc: So one of the reasons you’re eating a lot at night is because you’re hungry during the day and you don’t notice it. And you artificially skewed your appetite. And one of the reasons you’re not hungry during the day and you’ve artificially skewed your appetite is because your fear of the weight and your effort to try to lose weight.
So in your effort to try to lose weight, you’ve put your body into an unnatural state. And for your size, for a 5-foot woman, two glasses of wine at night is a lot. I have no issue with you drinking wine, zero. I love it. However, for you, in the big picture is what’s going to happen is because you don’t love yourself right now because you’re not at the weight that you want and you believe that losing this weight is going to change everything, then you’re doing your best based on your knowledge to do what you think you need to do, which is to eat a limited number of calories during the day.
And then by the evening time comes, you’re hungry. And you’re a little frustrated. So the wine helps knock you out. It makes sense that if you are a sensitive person, which it sounds like you are and you have a sensitive body… And I love people who have sensitivity like that because it just simply means, “I notice things. It means I eat something and it registers.” So that sensitivity is good.
So what’s happening is you’re very sensitive. And the alcohol is very much impacting you. But it’s part of the big picture. And once again the big picture is you’re creating a lot of tension that you don’t even notice. And that tension bottles up here. And you’re trying to do this. And it’s not working. And I just want to burst that whole balloon. I just want to take that whole show and end it because it will never get you where you want to go. And it will keep you small. And I mean small in your personal development.
Mara, I meet women in their 70s and 80s who are still trying to lose 10 or 15 or 20 pounds. And that’s what occupies their life. You do not want to go there.
And I know that I do live in a state of tension every day. I’m a perfectionist. There are a lot of things in my life I don’t like, I’m not satisfied with.
So I am in a constant state of stress, trying to make things right.
Like to drive my daughter to school one way 30 minutes. I hate that. I hate that. But I’m too scared to put her in the school system that we live in. It’s a constant stress and unsatisfaction with my life, with my marriage. So, to me, that’s kind of why I do wine at night. It numbs me out. It relaxes me.
Marc: And it makes perfect sense, understandable. Understandable. So what I want to say is that that’s where the work is for you. The work is not losing weight. The work is about you reclaiming your life. The work is about doing the kind of work on yourself so that you can start to live a life that feels more inspired, that you can relax into more, that nourishes you.
Losing weight will do nothing to make any of that better.
I know you think it does. That’s how the perfectionist parasite works. So you didn’t invent perfectionism. Perfectionism existed long before you were born. But it’s a virus. And we catch it. And when the perfectionist virus grabs your head, it has a very specific way of acting. And it makes us not think very smart about certain things. It makes us believe that when we’re perfect, then everything gets better.
And it distracts you from your life. It distracts you from the real work. And all the media and everybody is giving you the messages and the images. “Come on, Mara! You can do it! You can be perfect. You can have this hot body. See all these pretty people.” And we’re constantly fed this parade of nonsense that hypnotizes us that we believe. And we think, Oh, that’s going to make me happy.
So you’ve caught that bug. And it’s your job to see that. It’s your job to see that you have to reclaim your life. When you reclaim your life, to me, that will give you the best chance of losing weight if you truly have weight to lose. But I believe that as long as you’re sitting here thinking, this 20 pounds, I lose it, it changes my life. It changes everything. I’m happier. And I’m going to drive to work. And it’s going to be the greatest drive in the world. And everything is going to fall into place.
As long as you believe that, your weight will not budge. And it will budge if you just eat a peanut that day or you go on a fast or you do all the nonsense. But you know deep inside that that’s not quick to work. So what I’m saying is there is a bigger lesson that you’re here to learn. And life with a capital L ain’t going to let you off the hook.
So I’m being direct and strong here because I care. I want to see you able to overcome this. And, to me, the overcoming is not the extra weight. The extra weight is not your problem. It’s not holding you back from anything. It’s not doing anything to you. Okay, it’s not your preference. I get to it. It’s not your preference. Understood. Okay. Put it aside and deal with the real business at hand.
Mara: And it’s like I know that. But just because of all the books I read in studying, I know that. I so know that. It’s just a matter of I don’t do it.
Marc: Yeah, so this is all about you claiming your life and doing it because otherwise we could be in this conversation 20 years from now. And you will be in the same place. And you’ll be saying the same thing. And you’ll go, “Well, yeah. I know you’re right. But I just don’t do that.”
So this is about you making an adult choice because the person who’s telling me, “I just don’t do that,” to me is the 21-year-old kid inside you that’s just going, “Yeah, you’re right. But I don’t want it. I don’t want to have to work at that. I don’t want to have to do that. I just want to lose the weight. I don’t want to hear that nonsense. I get it. I understand it. But I just don’t do it.” Really it’s the part of you that’s rebelling against doing it because it’s going to cause you to grow up in yourself in a different way.
It’s going to ask you to mature out of a pattern that has been gripping you for a while. It’s going to ask you to be a whole different woman. Right now, to me, you’re committed to being a girl and all this. “I want to lose the weight so I can have what I want.” Done. And the adults will say, the elevated adult, the Queen and you will say, “Okay, not my preference. I’d rather be weighing 20 pounds less. Who do I need to be in this world in order for things to fall into place, in order for me to reach my true naturalness?”
Sometimes we have to work on diet and exercise and our body and our health. Sometimes we need to focus the work on self. Sometimes it’s a swirl of the two. Sometimes it’s wine and then it’s the other. So that’s why I’m telling you from the beginning I said you need a different context for this whole weight loss thing. Your context is, “I lose the weight. I feel better. How do I manipulate my diet better to lose this weight? Why can’t I figure it out?”
Well, I’m telling you why you can’t figure it out because the places you’ve been looking for the answers, those answers don’t exist there. That’s like you digging in the dirt over here and sayin’, “Why can’t I find the buried treasure?” Well, there ain’t none there. And then you dig over here and you say, “Why can’t I find buried treasure there? I’m so frustrated.” And I’m going, “There ain’t none there.” But that’s what you’re digging is telling you. So you’re digging in the wrong place.
The next place to dig is your development as a person growing in maturity, growing in your character, growing up spirituality, whatever you want to call it to learn the next lessons that you’re here to learn.
And what I’m saying to you is that’s a choice. That’s a choice that you have to wake up with. When you tell me, “I just don’t do that. I get it. I know it,” really what you’re saying is, “I refuse.”
Mara: I think what keeps coming up as I’m listening to you is more not about the refusal, but about this major, major fear. I have walked in a lot of fear. I have since I was a little kid. My childhood was kind of crazy, alcoholic parents. We moved a lot, blah, blah, blah. So I always lived in a lot of fear because my childhood was chaotic.
And so what keeps coming up when you’re talking is it’s all about fear. I’m not living the life I want to live. I’ve created this safety. My daughter’s in this Christian private school because it’s safe there, even though it’s an hour commute and a round trip. The neighborhood that I am is not where all my friends are in this cool urban area that we used to live in. I moved out because it’s safe here.
Everything is safe in my world. But yet it’s killing me. I’ve poured all of my energy into raising my kids and giving them the right diet and eating right and making our house beautiful and decorating it. And all my energy has gone into that. And it’s slowly like it’s killing me. Yet in my head I picture who I want to be. I want to do what you’re doing. I want to help people. I want to put myself out there in the world. And I am scared to death.
So I stay in my world, in my house. And I can control food. I love to cook, love to be in my kitchen. I can control that. It’s a creative outlet for me. And so, again, at night when I sit down at that table and I look at this beautiful plate of food, it just makes me feel good. I drink the wine. I eat the food. And so that’s what keeps coming up for me is fear. And it’s not that I don’t want to do with it. I am scared to death to live this life that I know that they could be.
I used to dance when I was younger. And my dream was to grow up in New York and be a dancer. My life looks so far from that, what I’m doing now. My life is just safe. And I just am this overprotective mom. And all I do is cook and clean every single day. And it’s driving me crazy. And I don’t know how to break that cycle. I don’t know. I don’t even know who I am anymore. I don’t know what I want to go after. I want to do coaching so badly. But how can I coach somebody if I don’t have this thing figured out, if I live like this?
Marc: Okay, so let’s handle that one right now. I just want to say once again you’ve set up a conundrum that has you value the weight loss above all else. Here is what I mean. You say to me, “Wow, my dream is to become a coach and help people and be out there.” And you have this vision of yourself. “But I can’t do it because I don’t have the weight. So then the weight becomes even more important. And your health becomes even more important. And it’s a false setup.
So you know what? Let go of that dream for now. Just let it go because really what you are letting go of is the impossible conundrum once again where you say, “Oh. Then when I do this, not only is my social standing contingent upon losing this weight so I feel comfortable around people and they won’t talk about me and they’ll be okay about me and I’ll feel good about myself so my social standing, how I feel about myself…And then my career is dependent on it.”
Really?! That’s what you’re going to do? That’s what you are doing right now? And then you can make something else in your mind up. “Oh, my God, if I don’t lose this weight, my daughter is going to be fat!” You can continue to make up nonsense.
Now, it makes sense what you’re saying. Oh, it sounds interesting. It sounds correct. But what I am telling you is it’s a clever little psychological setup that the mind does. It’s the games that we play to once again put this one thing as the thing that’s going to do it.
So what I would do is I would put that on complete hold. I would let go of that dream and focus on what is right in front of you. Focus on the next step, not all the way into the future, my career, depending on my weight loss. As long as you do that, then that’s more stress. And that’s more anxiety. And it’s more insanity.
And then you have an excuse at the end of the day, “Well, I really couldn’t be who I wanted to be because of the weight.” Really?! I know people who weigh a helluva lot more than you do who are very successful health coaches, who are very successful practitioners. People do this at all weights, shapes, and sizes.
So, I’m sorry. It’s just not true. It just literally isn’t true. I know some health coaches who are fat. There’s a woman who calls herself The Fat Nutritionist.
Marc: Yeah! So there is a movement called health at every size. You could be healthy at any size. You could be unhealthy at every size. There are people who only want to work with people who look more like them. There are people who don’t want to be body shamed. And they still want to learn how to eat healthy. And maybe they’ll lose weight. Maybe they won’t. But they don’t want to be shamed. And they want to work with someone who is going to have compassion towards them and not be judging the hell out of them when they’re sitting there. Huge market!
So what you’re telling me isn’t true that, “Oh, I need to lose this weight in order to now be successful in my career.” That’s a bunch of nonsense.
I’m telling you. So as long as you keep holding that, you’re holding yourself back. And this is your clever mind inventing scenarios to once again stop you from doing the thing that is right in front of you, which is beginning to look at how I change my day-to-day in this moment, how I embrace my life, and how I start to do the things that I need to do to be me, not to lose weight, but to be me.
So you have to ask yourself who do you want to be? And what do you want to do? So right now you might not have answers to those questions. But I mean really in your relationship, really in your day-to-day, how are you going to reclaim your day-to-day life, such that it’s a life worth living, independent of how much you weigh, and independent of what the heck you eat? How are you going to reclaim your day-to-day? How are you going to finally live a life where you can relax into your fears and not be run by your fears all day? That’s the question.
You may not have an immediate answer. But I would love to see you attack that question with half the amount of passion that you’ve attacked weight loss. You put a helluva lot of energy into trying to figure out how to lose weight. You went to a coaching program. You’ve studied books. You’ve tried all different kinds of things. Do the same effort with work on self because when you start to become the real Mara, then your body has the best chance to become the real it and its natural weight.
So specifically about food, until you become a slow, relaxed, nourished eater, you cannot shape shift your body with food. You cannot heal the body with food or shape shift the body with food until one’s biological container is actually doing what it’s meant to do when it comes to food, which is to eat in a state of physiologic relaxation, which isn’t just about meditating.
It’s about you learning how to love food, love life, love yourself, and have a moment, and not be fighting food in one part of the day and then completely cutting loose in another part of the day. You have to cut loose, so to speak, at breakfast, at lunch. Eat a meal. Ideally speaking for you in my guess, to earn my millions of dollars, you need to be eating a regular lunch, a regular breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner. I would love to see you work it to where you can cut down your wine to one glass. I would be interested to see if you could do that only because the evening time, you totally let go, which I get. But I want to see a little bit more let go happen during the day and start to train yourself to have those moments throughout your day because you have to wait till right before bed. And at that point, you haven’t had enough food. You haven’t had enough nourishment. And now’s the time you’re finally relaxed. So you’re like, “Food!”
Regular breakfast. Regular lunch. Regular dinner. You have to slow down. You have to relax with food. You have to train your body to not see food is the enemy. Right now you’re seeing it as the enemy. So I’m just giving you the target right now because we don’t have enough time to figure this all out and do it in a session. This is a journey and a process. But I’m laying out the map for you as I see it.
My belief is that if you don’t start to do the work on yourself and put aside the weight loss, personally I think you should put aside weight loss for six months and forget about it and focus on reclaiming yourself.
Focus on happiness. Focus on happiness as a choice.
If you’re going to read a book, read a book on how to choose happiness. Read anything about how to bring moments of peace into your day.
And begin to do the very simple things in front of you, relaxing into them, as opposed to having these grand visions, “Well, someday I want to do this. And someday I want to do that.” Great. Then take the first step. The first step is not, “I lose the weight!” The first step is you actually let go of losing the weight and you mature yourself in a whole different way.
And this is going to require some hard looks in the mirror and some hard looks at life. And you might need a little coaching. You might need a little help with this. I don’t know that this is easily done by yourself without some good coaching and counseling of a great friend, a great mentor, a great professional, any one of those.
So I’ve been coming at you a little hard. And you’ve been a very good sport. I just want to say, I want to remind you that I’m not over here saying these things because I’m being mean. I’m saying them because I’m trying to help you with what I think is a wake-up call here that you need.
So I’m wondering how all this is landing for you.
Mara: It’s resonating. It’s definitely… I think you’re spot on. I really do. There’s a lot of things in my life that I’m not happy. And I think I’ve been just giving way too much energy into, one, thinking about how wonderful it would be, just like you said, if I lost the weight, and, two just way too much energy into food and what I’m putting into my body because it hasn’t been working.
Again, six, seven, eight years ago I was doing raw food vegan and all of that that you’d think that I would just drop the weight. And I didn’t. Yeah, I think you’re right on, which what you’re talking about doing is so much harder than just the diet.
Marc: It’s way harder! It’s way harder, which really requires us facing feelings. It requires us feeling feelings. It requires us feeling uncomfortable feelings. And it will be predictable that after we finish the conversation, later on you might go, “Oh, yeah. Okay. That was interesting. But I just want to lose the weight.” So you’ll go there. You’ll want to return there because that’s your default place.
And, again, I want to say you did not invent this conundrum. This conundrum exists in the world. I can tell you there are so many people out there, Mara, who believe that, “Everything will change when I have the body that I want, the weight I want.” And it’s a virus that’s given to us by society. The body you want in the weight you want guarantees you 100% absolutely nothing. With time and time again.
It looks like it guarantees you something because that’s how your mind has been hypnotized. The media has hypnotized us from a very young age. Culture literally hypnotizes us. And this is me and you right now. And I’m over here really kind of saying you’ve been hypnotized.
And I’m trying to say break the heck out of it because otherwise you’re going to continue this nonsense. You’re going to put all this freaking energy into food, into food, into weight, into eating this, not eating that. This is going to help me. Is that going to help me? And it’s a massive distraction from where the real action really is, which is your life, your beautiful life, your beautiful family, your beautiful daughter. And this is your opportunity to model something amazing for her.
But you have to get there yourself. Otherwise my guess is our children tend to have to finish the work that we couldn’t do, generally speaking. So she’ll eventually take on this piece, probability wise, if you don’t work it out before her eyes or in your own life.
So I’m saying there’s yet another motivation for you to step into your adulthood here in a whole different way. And I think you can do it. I really do. It’s just you have to grab this one and be willing to be uncomfortable because part of your perfectionism is you want to be comfortable. Comfort equals safety. And you might have to let go of that a little bit, which then means you have to trust more.
And that’s not easy. I get it. If it was easy, you would have done it. If it was easy, we all would have done it.
So it’s the last place we tend to go because we are not taught to go there, quite frankly. It’s not easy to go there. And that’s why I said to you I would love to see you get some mentoring or guidance or support ongoingly that helps you in this direction. And those are my thoughts, Miss Mara.
Mara: Good. What I was thinking, what’s fascinating to me is that when I was a single mom, being a single mom is hard, and raising my son, I felt much more alive, did not struggle with my weight, didn’t even think about dieting. I just didn’t even think about it.
And now here I am knowing what I know. And I have a great husband. And I’m more stressed now than I was, and more overweight. I don’t know. I just find it very, very interesting.
Marc: Yeah, life changes. Life changes. You have to take away the judgment and just, okay, life changes. “Yeah, and when I was five years old, I was running around. I didn’t have a worry in the world. I wasn’t worried about money. Oh, God. I wish I could go back to those days.” Well, no. Yeah, you’re more innocent then. Got it. Okay, great. Now you’re more seasoned. You’ve lived more life. You’ve had more challenges. You’ve faced more nonsense in the world. The more you’re alive, the more you have to deal with.
So it’s not an easy road. Stop comparing yourself to way back when. We compare ourselves. “Yeah, well, when I weighed that much, I felt so great.” Okay, good. That’s no different than somebody saying, “Yeah, when I do drugs and when I do crack cocaine, I feel so great!” Whoopdee-doo! Okay, got it. And that’s a state addiction. You can’t live there.
So what I want to say is consider the conversation. Consider what we’ve talked about. Really mull it over. And I’d really like you to dig deep. I’d really like you to dig deep inside yourself and make this a bigger journey. Don’t make this a weight loss journey. Make this your life journey. Make this your spiritual journey. Make this your journey to really find yourself, your power like never before.
And we’re at the end of our time. So I have to wrap us up, Mara. I want to say thank you for being such a great sport and for just being so willing to just lay yourself out there share with us your story and your journey. And I’ve got a lot of hope for you. And you’ve got a lot of work to do.
Mara: Yes, thank you so much, Marc. It’s so appreciated.
Marc: Mara, thank you. And thank you, everybody, for tuning in. Once again I’m Marc David on behalf of the Psychology of Eating Podcast. As always, lots more to come, my friends. Take care.
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