The Psychology of Eating Podcast Episode 93: Follow Up – Body Image Holds Her Back
Bethany is in her 30s and has been hating her body since she was 10 years old – right around the time she went on her first diet. Though she truly loves to move, dance, exercise and be outdoors, Bethany has deliberately held herself back from doing what she loves most because of self consciousness about her body mixed in with some soul-crushing perfectionism. She knows it’s time for a change, but doesn’t quite know what to do. In her first session, Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, helped Bethany finally find the tools and insights to have the breakthrough she’s been looking for. Tune in now as Marc does a follow-up session with Bethany. You’ll get a chance to see how she’s progressed since her first session, and the results are inspiring!
Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:
To see Bethany’s first session with Marc, click here
Marc: Welcome, everyone. 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 Bethany. Welcome, Bethany.
Bethany: Hi there!
Marc: Hi. Glad you’re back. We met, I think, nine or 10 months ago or so. So for viewers who are new to this podcast or if you’ve tuned in before, this is a follow-up session with Bethany. And what I would love for you to do is just take a minute and fill us in on what you had wanted to work on in the session that we did together and then how things have been going since then.
Bethany: Okay. So originally I was really focused on body image, being more okay in my body and being more settled. So if I remember correctly, our last session we talked quite a bit about my upbringing and how I’ve been in my body, how I haven’t been in my body, ways I get caught up in things.
I’ve had digestive issues were quite a while. So that’s been difficult to want to be in my body because there’s just always this constant “ugh” feeling in my body. So basically since we last spoke, there were a number of things that I took away from that where I’ve really made it a point to eat slower and be more mindful of the way in which I eat.
I have noticed—and I’ve known this for a long time—I wasn’t spending the time being with my food. It was more of, “All right, let’s just get this over with and move on with life because life is moving fast and I’ve got to get on with the next thing.” So I’ve been more mindful and appreciative and thankful for what’s sitting in front of me.
I’ve made it a point to move my body a lot more. I have a semi-sedentary job. But I actually do really love exercise. And I do like to move my body. So I’ve been to a couple of different music festivals. And I just danced my heart out. And it was fabulous. It was what I needed. And I’ve been more in tune with myself. I noticed that when I get tired I just need to take a nap and not fight it.
So it’s been good, not only just in my physical body, but my mind-body connection. So loving myself in the whole as opposed to, okay, if you go work out, then you can be happy. And then you can be lovable. I had to reverse it and say I need to do these things because I love myself. So it’s been kind of a shift.
Marc: Yeah, I kind of want to say congratulations. And I want to ask you how has that shown up in, let’s say, just your day-to-day amount of mind chatter that can go on? Usually when we don’t like our bodies, there’s just a certain amount of mind chatter during the day. You look in the mirror. You don’t look in the mirror. “I don’t like this. I don’t like that.” There’s a conversation in the head that’s in the background. So I’m just wondering has that conversation relaxed any?
Bethany: Oh, my gosh. Quite a bit, as a matter of fact. So I’m a therapist and a coach, as well. So oftentimes what I teach people that I’m working with is compassion and loving yourself when you’re not having a good day and when things are hard. And I just kept saying it out loud to the people I’m working with. And a light bulb went on. And I realized, wow, I’m not really doing that for myself.
So, yes, the mind chatter has changed quite a bit. I’m much more gracious with myself and compassionate. And I haven’t worked out for three days. And I’m okay. And things are okay. And I still feel good. So it’s been a shift, I’ll tell you that.
Marc: Yeah. So I just want to echo what you said. So when I asked how you’ve been doing since the last session or what’s been up, you said you’ve been eating slower. You have more gratitude, it sounds like, for your body, for food, for the whole thing. And just that right there and you’re just attending to yourself more and loving yourself first as opposed to saying, “Okay, I will love myself if I do this exercise.”
And all it took was kind of a simple switch where you started being grateful for what you have instead of, “I’m not grateful for what I have.” And that shifting conversation kind of catalyzed a change, which sounds so simple. And it is simple in theory. It’s not always easy to do. But you’re clear proof that once we start doing it, it has an effect. And it happens pretty quick.
Bethany: Absolutely. It’s funny. I was talking with my husband last night. He said in a very sweet way, “The change I’m seeing in you is a little scary.” And I said, “Well, what you mean by that?” And he said, “You’re different.” So we talked through it. This was a really long conversation. But by the end of it, I said, “This change in me is going to be huge for us in our relationship and in our world together because I am realizing that I do need to take more time for myself,” because in my job, I hear some pretty traumatic stories every day. And I see human suffering every single day.
And just allowing myself to have compassion towards myself, I’m offering it to other people. So I’m so much more open. And I’m shifting in ways that I never knew could happen in such a short amount of time. So it’s neat because he and I, too, are getting really close as a result of my shift.
Marc: Yeah, what a beautiful thing. You guys can get closer because you are more intimate with you. You’re loving on you. And it’s just a direct quotation. The more we love self, the easier it is to connect with others. It’s just plain and simple, especially, especially, especially for the job you have. If you’re counseling people and you’re seeing a lot of problems on a daily basis, and it’s not like, “It’s the problem of my husband or the problem of my kids or my step kids,” it’s other people that you’re not even related to, for goodness sakes. But that’s your job. And it’s intense. It can be really intense. So I think it requires even more of an eye on self-care and even more of an eye on self-love.
And, again, I want to say you turned things around really fast by making a decision. And you didn’t change your body. It’s like, “Okay, I’ve changed my body. I’ve taken a magic pill. And now I can love myself. And we get stuck in that crazy, crazy belief that when this outer thing changes, then I can finally love myself, which is kind of like a terrible form of conditional love.
What if your husband said that to you? “Okay, honey, when you lose 11 pounds and your body is shaped just like this, then I’ll love you. And then I’ll stop torturing you with insults.” You’d divorce the guy!
Bethany: Right, yeah! Yeah, it doesn’t bring motivation. It would make me just kind of want to lay down and curl up in a ball and cry. That doesn’t motivate me or it doesn’t help me in any regard. It wouldn’t if it was true.
Marc: Bethany, here’s one of those things that’s more of an intuitive hit. And it’s not necessarily based on anything that you’ve said. And here’s my thought, suggestion. And it’s this. It’s to ask yourself a question. And I think this can be a powerful question. What does it mean for you? And I don’t need for you to answer this now. But I would just really love for you to hold this question for yourself. What does it really mean for you to be a woman? What does it really mean to you to be a female in this world and in this lifetime? So if you were just kind of saying, “Okay, here’s me, Bethany. I’m just going to kind of take a step back for a moment, I’m a woman,” what does that even mean?
I think it’s a useful question because we don’t always ask it. And it’s often tied into how we experience our body. I would encourage men to ask the same question of themselves. “What does it mean for me to be a man? What was I taught? What works for me about what I was taught? What don’t I really believe?” “How do I want to show up as a woman?” What does that mean for you?
I think there’s a piece there for you. How does that feel when I say that, when I suggest that? What happens for you?
Bethany: That’s a little nugget. That is something I’ve been trying to work out. I just started to delve into that not too long ago. I had never really considered it. But there’s a lot to work through in that realm for me especially.
I was talking to a friend of mine not too long ago and saying that I do feel much more comfortable in my masculine. I feel like I like to be directive. I like to be goal oriented. I’m very goal oriented to a fault. And I have a hard time with messiness and emotional pieces of me. But there’s just something really beautiful in the feminine energy. And I know that there is a lot in me. I just have to kind of sift through it and find it and use it.
Marc: Yeah, and just to kind of lay things on the line, it’s fine. Some of us are more comfortable in our masculine, in our feminine, in both, whichever. It doesn’t matter. And it’s interesting to just look at what our growth edge is. So if you are more comfortable in your masculine, hallelujah. It’s probably helped you tremendously in this world and made you the person that you are and the good professional that you are.
And then the question is, “Huh, what would it mean for me to be more in my feminine? What does that even mean? Is it even interesting to you? Is it attractive to you? Is it something worth playing with and exploring?” I think it is worth playing with and exploring. And it doesn’t mean you’re going to hit the nail in the head. It’s an exploration.
But I feel that that will help kind of take you to the next level of making peace with your body because you have a certain kind of a body. You have a female body. I’ve got a male body. Those are different bodies. And it’s sometimes useful to context like, “This is my female body.” And really embrace what that means, whatever it means for you.
Bethany: Yeah. Yeah, it’s an interesting topic. And, like I said, I’ve been kind of exploring it and figuring out what that does really mean for me. I can honestly say that there’s been only about a handful of females that have been pretty big impacts in my life.
You know how you just pick parts of other people and make them into your own. I think I’m on my way. But certainly I’d like to dig in deeper.
Marc: Yeah, yeah. What a good thing. And one way to explore that is also to involve your partner in that, involve your husband in that. And you can even ask him, “Honey, how do you see me as a woman? How do you see me as a woman?” Just see what he has to say. You can even ask him, “Are there things you would like to see different? Are there pieces that you really appreciate about me and my womanhood that you haven’t really shared with me?”
And then also if you find places where you want to explore your feminine side more, whatever that means, enroll him in that if there’s a way to do that. So it becomes something that doesn’t just live in your head, but it’s something that you’re playing with in the world because I think part of being in a body, we started out talking about body image. And so many of us, as you know personally and as you know as a professional, so many of us are freaked out about our bodies. It’s crazy. It boggles my mind about how pervasive that is.
And I think the ultimate expression of being okay with our body is to be able to play, is to just be that kid again and show up in the sandbox because at some point, you and I couldn’t care less if we were running around naked. We couldn’t care less if we had a bunch of baby fat. We didn’t care. We were free. It was easy. We weren’t worried about, “Are you going to like me? Is she going to like me? Do I need to diet?” We didn’t care about that stuff. So we were in play.
And you kind of grow up and stuff happens and things get weirdly complicated. And in a strange way I think it’s useful to return to that state of childlike innocence or just to be able to time travel back there now and then.
So how do you get to a place where you can just have more play with your body? And that can mean exercise. That can mean rest. That can mean vacation. But just so that it’s fun… “Oh, wow. It’s fun for me to sleep later. It’s fun for me to explore more intimately with my husband in places where we haven’t gone before.” So what would make it fun and interesting and edgy for you?
Bethany: That’s excellent advice. I need to hear that because I work too much. And play as hard for me sometimes.
Marc: Yeah, yeah. And I think it’s so true for so many of us. And part of it is really learning, I think, also, to embrace the opposites. There wouldn’t be work without play. And there wouldn’t be play without work. They both define one another. Love and hate define one another. Night and day define one another. And we need a balance of both, I think.
So some people are playing too much and they don’t work enough. And they’re not getting down and being serious. So we all have our places. But I’m feeling like you’re in a pretty good place here.
Bethany: Yeah, definitely feeling in a much better place. I had shared a little earlier that this summer I’ve been playing more. And I can’t tell you how much that’s been helpful to my work. I feel so much more clear. I feel present. I feel more open and expansive. I feel like I’m giving more, as opposed to before where I was quite depleted and didn’t feel like I could give much. The play was absolutely necessary.
Marc: There’s a simple formula that I will say sometimes. And I’ll say it to you. And I’m really saying it to anybody who’s listening who’s interested that play heals body image. Play simply heals body image. Fun, same thing. Fun heals body image. Again, it sounds so simplistic. We don’t have to necessarily do a deep dive into my sordid past to figure out how to fix my body image. So much of it happens right now in the present moment. And you’re doing it. So, once again, congratulations for really making the effort and making the shift.
Bethany: Thank you.
Marc: Yeah, it’s something to be proud and to really celebrate and to be grateful for. I would love for you to keep reminding yourself that you made that leap because for so long, you hadn’t made that leap. And it’s kind of nice to go back and remember wow, okay, there’s something you did right.
And sometimes we work, we work, we dig, we dig, and we’re working on self. And then finally one day there’s some daylight. There’s an opening. The results don’t always come right away of our hard work. It doesn’t. You could be in college working really hard. And the results for your career don’t show up right away.
Part of it is trusting that our good work will eventually be rewarded and really playing a longer game. So now I think you are playing a longer game, meaning you’re in this for the long haul. You’re not just looking for a quick fix and, “Oh, let me go on the chicken soup diet, or whatever the heck it is and fix this and lose the weight and the love myself.”
Bethany: Yeah, I certainly feel like this is much more sustainable and much more manageable than any other dietary tweak or any other kind of quick fix, like you put it. It’s a whole lifestyle. And it was an a-ha moment to move into another part of my life.
Marc: So do you have any closing words, thoughts, suggestions just for people listening in that comes to mind?
Bethany: Well, I’ve shared this before. But anybody who is a recovering perfectionist, just be patient with yourself and give yourself some grace.
Marc: Thank you so much. That’s perfect. And I want to close with one little bit of advice, too. And that is that it doesn’t matter who you are, how old you are, what you look like, how much you weigh or don’t weigh, you don’t have to wait a moment to step into play and to step into gratitude about what you have. It can happen right in the moment and change everything. So thank you for being such an inspiration. I really appreciate it. I’m sure a lot of other people do, too.
Bethany: No problem.
Marc: Okay. So, everybody, thank you for tuning in. Once again, I’m Marc David on behalf of the Psychology of Eating podcast. I’ve been speaking with Bethany. And there’s lots more to come, my friends. So you take care.
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