The Psychology of Eating Podcast Episode 89: Followup – Are You Challenged By Poor “Belly Image”?

Amy is a bright, motivated professional who has a great life, a wonderful career, and a beautiful family. Her challenge is a poor “belly image” – she simply doesn’t like her midsection, and the fat that naturally occupies it. She feels good about the rest of her body, but her stomach fat feels completely unacceptable to her and it silently bothers to the point where it impacts her self-esteem and confidence. Amy knows she should change this way of thinking, but can’t figure out how. In her first session, Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, helped Amy with an unexpected strategy for success that has her inspired to move forward like never before. Tune in now as Marc does a follow-up session with Amy and hear about the great progress she’s made since her first session!


Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:

To see Amy’s first session with Marc, click here

Marc: Welcome, everyone. I’m Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. Here we are once again in the Psychology of Eating podcast. And I’m with Amy. Welcome, Amy.

Amy: Thanks, Mark.

Marc: Yeah! So for those of you who are new to this or if you’re returning to the podcast, Amy and I met many months ago. Gosh, I think it was about eight, nine months ago. And this is a follow-up session just to check in and say, “Hey, what’s been happening? How have you been doing?” And I’m wondering, Amy, if you can give people just a quick summary of some of the key pieces that you had wanted to work on and then what unfolded since then?

Amy: Okay, yeah. Well, the reason I wanted to do the session with you is because I was struggling with belly image. And I really wanted to just kind of be free of it. I was done being consumed by how my belly looks and just really wanted to embrace my full body.

And the struggle was that mentally, I could get it. And I really love the idea of seeing my belly as feminine and as a symbol of fertility and that I have two children. So it’s a symbol of motherhood and a symbol of womanhood, really. So logically I got that and I believe that. But I just really couldn’t put that into my heart because there was still struggled there and still wishing it to look different and be different.

So when I did the session with you, that was what I was hoping to get some insight on is how do I take it from the mental and really embrace it and put it into my heart.

Marc: Beautiful. So what did you come away with from that experience?

Amy: Well, it’s been up and down. That’s the truth. There’s phase where I’m totally free of it and I’m fully embrace my body as it is and who I am. And then there’s days, of course, when I’m looking in the mirror and I’m like, “Ugh, my belly.” And I’m wondering could it be flat or could I change it?
And, again, I want to be free from that. I don’t want to do crazy exercise and restriction to try to change it, if it will even change. So there’s those moments where I’m consumed with the thoughts, but I’m not looking to seek it any different anyway. So those are still the challenging times.

I’ve definitely noticed that when I am fully in my power with my work and things are going great with my kids and I’m busy and really feeling inspired, it’s not a concern. But I definitely am noticing that if my work is quiet and I’m just feeling a little uninspired by being with kids all the time, then that seems to be where I am playing in those head games again. So that, to me, has been a big connection.

Marc: Wow. So that’s great, by the way. As you’re sharing, I’m thinking of how unbelievably difficult it is for human beings these days just for us to love the body. It’s not easy. It’s not like it’s one person’s challenge. It’s not like this is your amazingly unique problem. It seems to be so much across the board with so many people these days and so many different age groups.

And it feels like it’s a daily practice. It’s kind of what I’m hearing from you is it’s this day-to-day experience: “Okay, how am I feeling today? Who am I today? What’s going on? How is my life doing?” That sort of seems to be the barometer for, “Well, if I’m feeling good, okay. I’m okay. I look good.”

Amy: Yeah. [Chuckles] Yeah. And I guess my question is is that normal? Is that how this game is going to play out? That’s what I’m sort of in struggle with right now. Is that just going to be my daily check-in? Or will I eventually really fully make peace with it and never be concerned about it again? I don’t know.

Marc: Mmm. I think that it’s probably a long-term relationship, is my guess, in a way that’s no different than, “I’m in long-term relationship with my body. I’m in long-term relationship with my arms and legs. I’m in long-term relationship with my digestion. I’m in long-term relationship with my mood. I’m always carry that around. With my kids…” You name it. We’re in this long-term relationship.

And right now here is where your relationship with your belly is at. Here’s where your relationship with your husband is at. And here’s where your relationship with work is at. So in my way of thinking, what if we just kind of hunker down and go, “Okay, this is a practice” because some days I love my relationship, whatever it is, whichever one it is. Fill in the blank: with my
friend, with my boyfriend, my girlfriend, or my husband. I love it. And then there’s other days I don’t.

And as you pointed out, isn’t it fascinating how it’s generally connected—your relationship with your belly—it’s connected to really kind of the rest of your life.

Amy: Yeah, it seems to be. It really seems to be, yeah.

Marc: So it’s almost like it seems like we sometimes have these default places that we go to. Instead of being with “the thing” that’s really the challenge, we’ll go to the next easier thing. It’s way easier to look at her belly and go, “That needs to change.” Or it’s way easier to look at my hips and go, “That needs to change,” than to be not plugged into mothering today and go, “Oh, my goodness…”

Amy: Yes.

Marc: You can’t get rid of that.

Amy: Right.

Marc: But, yeah, I could exercise away some body fat then. I think we tend to symbolically focus on places inside of ourselves that seem like that’s where the action is because somewhere the mine says, “Oh, I could have control over that.” So there’s still this place were some part of you says, “I could have control over this particular thing.”

Amy: I think that makes sense for my life because I like control. I like things to be in order. And it reminds me a couple weeks ago I was talking with my husband about it, the issue again. And it’s this idea of perfection. He’s like, “Why can’t you just be okay with average? Or you’re even above average. Why do you have to have this issue be perfect or have the belly look perfect? And what does that look like, anyway, right?”

So maybe that perfection, that control, it’s probably all tied in there. So that resonated with me because it was like, “Yeah, what if I just let that go, that need for the perfect body, whatever that’s going to look like?” And maybe this is the perfect body for me right now. So can I just be good there?

And I like what you said about being at a daily practice because it also helps to let go of the perfection that this issue needs to be solved today or three months or at the time of this follow-up call. So it’s the daily practice, which is yoga, which I practice, as well. So that feels good.

Marc: And it’s not that sexy, “Oh, wow. Here’s the new pill. Or here’s this really great exercise that’s going to do the trick. Or here’s this really unique diet.” That could be really interesting or fascinating if there’s some new discovery that’s going to fix all this. But then to say something is a daily practice, “Oh, I have to face that tomorrow and the next day in the next day.”

And I think that’s us maturing more and more to what life is. And there’s certain places where we are mature. There are certain places where we’re really adult-like as adults. And there’s other places where we’re still in fourth, fifth, sixth grade sometimes. We’re still learning.

And I think relationship with the body can be one of those places where it’s like, “Okay, here’s where I’m going to learn about control. Here’s where I’m going to learn about perfectionism. Here’s where I’m going to learn about unconditional love.” Because chances are you unconditionally love your kids. Chances are you’re not looking at them and saying, “Okay, well, if only you were 2 inches taller, then I’d really love you.”

Amy: Right, yeah.

Marc: That would sound absurd. But we do that to ourselves. So the only way to undo that if you just slowly practice love and acceptance.

Amy: And I think with the idea of maturing, I think, too, is just a maturing body. Two kids, getting close to 40, absolutely my body is changing. And, in fact, I looked in the mirror. And it wasn’t even that my body. I just looked at my face. And I was like my body and who I am, I’m becoming more of a woman. So maybe this shift is just more of a woman’s body. So that felt good to me. I made peace with myself a bit more that day. Yeah, I guess it’s just the journey, right?

Marc: I really think it is the journey. And part of that is exactly that. Part of that is us being able to say, “That’s the journey.” That takes a certain amount of maturity. That takes a certain amount of character growth to say, “Wow, okay. It’s not going to be perfect today. It might not be perfect in the future. Or here’s how life works. And here’s how aging works. And here’s how being a teenager works and being a 40-year-old works.” It’s humbling.

Amy: Yeah, it is. And I’ve been thinking about, too, it seems to be that I really was never consumed by it at all. I was always quite happy and comfortable. And I was thinking, “Well, when did this all start?” And I think in our first session, I think it was just two years ago after I had my second child.

But, yeah, why did I become so consumed by it in the last few years? And, again, maybe it’s because as I had my child, my second, work got quieter. It was less time for my practice, which I love, in just all the changes in less time for me and the stress increases, etc. So there’s obviously that connection there, too.

Marc: Yeah. I love asking those kind of questions. “Okay, well, when did this begin? Why do you think it happen?” And, to me, it’s kind of strange because on the one hand, it’s important to ask that question. And on another hand, I think it’s important. And I think you’ve done this to ask it and then kind of let it go because then it can become, “Oh, why me? Why me? Why did this happen? Should I have done something different?”

I don’t think it’s about second-guessing. And I think you know this. It’s not about, “Oh, where did I go wrong?” Sometimes things just come up when they come up.

Amy: That’s true, too, right?

Marc: Yeah, they have their own timing. And maybe it’s come up now. See, here’s something else. Maybe it’s come up now because on a certain level, it’s always been there. But it just hasn’t been quite conscious. And it hasn’t quite come out into the light of day. Maybe it’s expressed itself in other ways that you might not have noticed.

And now all of a sudden, you can handle this now. You can actually address it. You could approach it. So it sort of comes out. It’s like okay here’s me judging my body. And it’s almost as if, okay, now we are working on this piece because now you’re mature enough.

Amy: And I think… Sorry to interrupt. I think it also is giving me the teaching, the wisdom that I can use now with my clients, as well, because obviously my female clients are going through the same thing. So perhaps my own personal experience to help create an authentic conversation around it with my clients.

Marc: I want to say one other thing about this. Part of wanting the body to look different for us… “Okay, I want my body to look different.” And it’s fine. A lot of us, we do our thing. We go to the gym. We do whatever we do to sculpt ourselves in shape ourselves and change ourselves. And it’s a pretty popular past time. And I think it’s great.

And here we are looking at, “Okay, here’s where it can be challenging,” it kind of puts us out of the present and into the future when I’m like, “Okay, I want this to look different.” So I’m kind of focused on the future because when it’s looks different, then something’s going to happen. There’s a promise that we make ourselves.

But the stance that we’re in in the moment now, it’s almost as if we’re not quite 100% here. If I’m wanting stuff to be different, especially if I’m wanting my body to be different, by definition there’s a part of me that can’t really be present here. So it almost has me like one or two steps ahead of myself. And I can be less grounded when I’m constantly worried about the future. “If only I made more money. If only I,” whatever it is that I want in the future.

So I think part of the lesson of learning to love the body is it helps get us in the moment. It really gets us here because there’s a part, I think, of the human condition that we’re always promising ourselves something when life’s going to be better like, “Here’s the glorious future.” And right now the glorious future is now. This is the good old days right now. You’re never going to be as young as this ever again. [chuckles]

Amy: It’s true! And I’ll eventually look at pictures of now, 10 years from now, and be like, “What was I so worried about?”

Marc: And then 10 years from now you’re going to wish you looked like this.

Amy: Yeah, exactly.

Marc: And then 10 years from that, you’re going to wish you looked like what you’re going to be 10 years…It’s kind of strange and silly.

Amy: Yeah. I like that. That sits with me very nicely, just loving it now. And I actually had a beautiful moment with that over summer holidays. I was just going for a really nice jog and just felt fully present in my body and actually came to a lot of gratitude and peace with my belly, my body in general. And it felt good. I took that power and I just rode with that for a while. And then something happened that this set me off again and brought me into more of the mental place with it all.

Marc: But that’s perfect. It’s really perfect because in a weird way, it’s no different than learning to ride a bicycle for the first time. You’re going to fall a few times. Or it’s not going to look good. Or you’re going to be really successful for a little bit. And then you fall off again.

So I think we as human beings have to get accustomed to the idea that certain things in life are going to be a practice and/or discipline, meaning it’s the kind of thing that you hunker down and go, “Okay, this is going to be my work. This is going to be my relationship. This is going to be my particular place or places where I’ve got to face this every day and be present and be alert and check in with myself and be conscious and not fall asleep and go into the old pattern and just pick up the cigarette again and chain smoke.”

Because in a way hating on the body is kind of like chain-smoking. If you don’t manage it, it just does itself. It just takes over. Chain smokers have to get present. They have to get away her. “Oh, my God. I’m doing this. Oh, my goodness. How do I address this on a day-to-day basis?”

So we’re all learning to monitor our own thoughts. In a sense, it’s like gaining control of your own mind. Is the mind as a tool, is it torturing me? Or is it serving me? Sometimes the mind gets a little out of control in certain places. This is one of them. It gets out of control when it comes to body love or body hate. And we’re learning to manage it.

Amy: Yeah. So what do you recommend then when I’m in those mental place with that? Is it just a witnessing? Is it just acknowledging where I’m at? Do you have specific recommendations for what I can do when I’m in that lower minded state?

Marc: Sure. I have ideas. But let me ask you this question before I answer that. Have you noticed if there’s any particular thing that you do that helps you elevate out of that in the moment? What have you seen when you think about it?

Amy: It’s probably just talking myself down. “It’s really not that bad. You’re fine,” then assessing the rest of my body, which I’m quite happy with. And then probably just also being conscious about what’s going on with why it showed up. Is it because I’m frustrated with the kids? Is it because I didn’t have any clients today? What is it? So that’s probably it. I think maybe I answered my own question.

Marc: Yeah, I think you did. And I think you answered it well. And let me just phrase it in my own words. So you asked, “Okay, what do I do in that moment when I catch myself going there?” And, yeah, step number one, catch yourself. Step number one is noticing it because a lot of times this self-defeating talk and the self-hating talk can become so normal for us that we just keep doing it. We think it’s normal like, “Oh, this is normal.”

So first we have to notice and go, “Hey, wait a second. This is something I want to attend to. So that’s number one is just witnessing ourselves. So you’re watching yourself as if you’re on the movie screen. That’s uber important. Second step to me, which you are doing is once you are witnessing yourself doing that kind of thought process, doing that kind of conversation that’s not good for me, then all of a sudden it’s kind of about, I want to say, having a moment of acceptance, having this moment of, “Oh, there’s me, Amy, doing this thing I wish I wasn’t doing once again.”

Can you in that moment just throw yourself a little love? Like, even though I’m doing this, I still love myself. Or even though I’m doing this, I still respect myself. I’m still okay. It’s kind of like giving yourself a little bit of a psychic invisible hug. Oftentimes when we catch ourselves doing something we don’t want to do, one of the first moves we do is go into a little bit of judgment or blame or, “How could I have done that different?”

In that moment you’re not loving yourself. In that moment we are in judgment. So how could I interject a little love in the moment? So, “Oh, there’s me doing it again. Here’s me trying to learn.” Can you just have a little compassion for that? Just plain and simple, just like you have compassion for anyone else who is struggling with anything. Have a little compassion. Have a little love. That’s the next step.

And then, yeah, if there’s little adjustments you could make, “Oh, you’re going to be okay, Amy. You don’t have to be perfect.” You find whatever languaging and you tell yourself that helps you feel better and that helps you step into a place of growth. So you’re looking to create a feeling. You’re looking to create a different feeling. And oftentimes it’s the words that we speak to ourselves that help generate that feeling.

So it’s a very conscious act. You can make up a mantra: “I love myself for who I am.” That might work for you. “I love myself even though my belly is not perfect.” That might work for you. So there might be a little bit of a mantra or an affirmation that you can say. But the words have to feel right for you.

Amy: Yeah. I also think just—which I haven’t really practiced too much—even just looking in my eyes. So instead of the fixation on the one area there, just looking straight in my eyes would probably be smarter.

Marc: There you go. It’s connecting with yourself. And that’s it because when I’m connecting with me, then I’m home. When I’m judging me, there’s a part of me that’s absent. So it’s kind of like landing in the present and, “Here I am.” And it’s learning to love yourself in that moment. And you can love yourself even though your body is not perfect. You can love yourself even though you’re not perfect. That’s really the message that we are looking for is loving us in the imperfection that we are as opposed to waiting to where we’re perfect so I can finally love myself.

Amy: And what’s that, anyway, right?

Marc: Exactly.

Amy: Is this not the perfect for now?

Marc: Wow. So I really appreciate you being so honest and open about your journey and your process. It’s just very beautiful to watch you in this. And it’s interesting. I think you’re in a way better place than you think you are is what I imagine. Sometimes a part of our struggle is the fact that we think it’s such a struggle.

And, again, when you frame it as a practice, then this is not a struggle. It’s a practice. Then every day when you face being a mom, it’s not a struggle. It’s something that you do. “This is me. This is what I do. This is my practice. I get up. I attend to my children. And this is me. I get up. And I attend to myself. And I look in the mirror. And here’s how I relate with myself. And sometimes I’m the greatest mom in the world. And sometimes I need to chill out a little bit.” So same thing.

Amy: It’s true. It’s absolutely true that the daily practice really hits home for me. I love that. It’s just relieving now to talk with you. It’s like this issue didn’t need to be solved. It’s the journey. It’s the practice. That feels good.

Marc: Well, Amy, thank you so much for your time. And thank you for your willingness to do this. So appreciate it.

Amy: Thank you, Marc.

Marc: and thank you everybody for tuning in. Once again I’m Marc David on behalf of the Psychology of Eating podcast. Lots more to come, my friends. You take care.

The Institute for the Psychology of Eating
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About The Author
Marc David
Founder

Marc David is the Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, a leading visionary, teacher and consultant in Nutritional Psychology, and the author of the classic and best-selling works Nourishing Wisdom and The Slow Down Diet. His work has been featured on CNN, NBC and numerous media outlets. His books have been translated into over 10 languages, and his approach appeals to a wide audience of eaters who are looking for fresh, inspiring and innovative messages about food, body and soul. He lectures internationally, and has held senior consulting positions at Canyon Ranch Resorts, the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, the Johnson & Johnson Corporation, and the Disney Company. Marc is also the co-founder of the Institute for Conscious Sexuality and Relationship.