Leah is 23 years old, afraid to gain weight, eats healthy, and then has junk food blow-outs that put her back to square one. She wants to love her body, she wants to make healthy choices, but just can’t seem to get there. Imagine knowing exactly what you want to do, but constantly finding yourself doing the opposite when it comes to food.
Tune in to this breakthrough session as Marc David helps Leah with the exact advice she needs to learn how to love her body – and it’s a surprising strategy that starts and ends in the bedroom.
Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:
Eating Psychology Podcast with Leah-Jane
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 Leah. Welcome, Leah.
Leah: Thank you!
Marc: I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad we’re doing this together.
Leah: Yes, me, too.
Marc: You a little nervous?
Leah: Yes. But I think I will get into it.
Marc: Great! Great. Nervous is a good sign. It just means that, A, we’re alive, and, B, there’s energy flowing. And often nervousness, I think it’s another form of excitement that just hasn’t figured itself out yet.
Marc: So for people who are tuning in and listening or watching for the first time, how this works is this is a coaching session. And we’re going to try to take six months to a year’s worth of work and possibly shrink it down into one fifty-minute to an hour session together. So we want to get a ton of work done in a little bit of time. And for that reason, this is an unusual situation.
So, Leah, I’m going to ask you a bunch of questions. And you’ll see my questions might be bouncing all over the place. But there is a method to the madness. And I’ll ask you questions for about twenty minutes. And then I’ll start to give feedback and my thoughts and feelings about how you can shift, have a breakthrough, get things moving, find the right target to hit.
So if you could wave your magic wand, Leah, and get whatever you wanted out of this session, what would the outcome look like?
Leah: I think that would look like finding a way to have more confidence in my body. That’s a hard question. It is a hard question. Yeah, I think body confidence or having some kind of path that, some way that I can see through what’s going on in my head at the moment.
Marc: So you’d come away with more body confidence?
Leah: Yeah, definitely.
Marc: I love that term, “body confidence.” It feels like to me when you say that, it’s like, “Oh, I’m just going to be okay with what I’ve got and walk through the world and not be worried about it or constantly thinking.”
Marc: So can you give me an example of some of the ways that you’re not in body confidence? How does that show up?
Leah: I just feel like I’m consumed by thoughts about my body and the majority of them in the negative. And if I think about how much time that takes up of my day of thoughts and energy, it’s a huge amount of time. And if I could put that towards something else, I know that I’d be a much more powerful person. But at the moment, everything just seems to be focusing into that.
Marc: So do you imagine when you’re thinking about your body, when you’re having these negative thoughts, is it around weight? Is it around a specific number like, “Gee, if I could only weigh this amount…” Are you wanting to like, “Oh, I just want to change the way this part of my body looks as opposed to that part of my body.” Where do you go?
Leah: I think it’s a pressure to be thin. So that kind of plays into all of the things that you just said. So I’ve kind of tried to let go of the scales as much as I can recently because I was very critical and very obesessed. But I’m finding it pretty easy to let go of that.
But, yeah, I think just the age that I’m in now in the culture that I’m at now, a lot of the pressure is from the things that are around me. So that’s just playing into it a lot.
Marc: Can I ask how old you are?
Leah: I just turned twenty-four.
Marc: All right. Happy birthday.
Leah: Thank you.
Marc: Yeah. When was the first time—if you could remember—that you noticed yourself thinking, “I’ve got to change my body. This isn’t good enough.”
Leah: I probably would have been maybe around twelve or thirteen, just going into high school. I changed schools to an all-girls school. Yeah, I think that would have been the time when I started. That was the first time I started comparing myself to other women around me.
Marc: Got it. So these days how does your eating look like? If I was a fly on the wall watching all the times that you eat, what would that look like? How would you describe that?
Leah: I would describe that as half of the day, it would look like everything was fine and things were off to a good start. And then towards the afternoon and into the evening, it slowly falls apart. Yeah.
Marc: And what does falling apart look like?
Leah: Just completely checking out of any feelings of hunger and just eating for pleasure, almost just being numb and eating a lot and eating a lot more than I would during the first part of the day, and reaching for things that aren’t particularly nutritional.
Marc: Do you usually eat like a regular breakfast or a regular lunch?
Leah: Yes. I never, ever skip meals. And I find it really difficult to function if I don’t have breakfast. I always try and have quite a big breakfast. I don’t really snack very much. But then I’ll definitely always have lunch. But in the afternoon, I’ll be craving something sweet. And when it gets to dinnertime, I’ll be quite hungry. And then I always have some kind of dessert, as well.
Marc: So do you find yourself ever…would you say your binge eating?
Leah: I would say I have episodes of binge eating, depending on stress in my life. So I’ve found that there might be times where I’ll get to the weekend and I’ll just completely let go. And then afterwards, I’ll just feel really sick and my stomach hurts. And I’ll feel really guilty. But it’s a cycle. No matter how many times I feel guilty and promise I won’t do it again, I still find myself doing it again at some point.
Marc: So what might you binge on if you were going to have a binge? What would you eat?
Leah: Pizza is a good one. Cheesecake, corn chips, so obviously things that are quite flavorful. Those would probably be the main ones.
Marc: So if you had pizza, how much?
Leah: Maybe four or five slices.
Marc: And do you find yourself eating fast when you have a binge?
Leah: I’m typically a fast eater. And I’ve been trying. It’s a slow process of slowing down. I’m seeing changes. But it is taking a while. But, yeah. I’m silly fast for even when I’m binging.
Marc: Are you living alone?
Leah: No, I live with my boyfriend.
Marc: And is he aware of what you go through with food and your body?
Leah: Yes. He’s completely aware of every single step of it. He’s more aware than anyone else in my life.
Marc: And if he was here right now and knowing him, if he was going to give you just three sentences of advice, what would he say to you?
Leah: He would probably say…wow, that’s hard. That he loves me no matter what I look like, that he wants me to stay positive, and maybe to just keep trying to fix whatever it is that’s going on. He’s really supportive.
Marc: How long have you guys been together?
Leah: We’ve been together for three years. But we met when we were about fourteen or fifteen.
Marc: Wow. How cool is that?
Marc: And how lucky to have somebody who’s so supportive in your life!
Marc: So when he says things like that like, “Hey, I love you no matter what,” how does that land for you? Do you think, “Oh, you’re lying,” or, “I sort of believe you,” or, “I totally believe you.” Where do you go in your head when you hear that?
Leah: I truly believe him. And sometimes that can be enough to kind of pull me out of it a little bit. Sometimes I can be a really good frame of mind where I’m like, “Yeah, you know what? I’m loving my body today, even the bits that otherwise I would be afraid of. I’m loving them.” And those days are good. But it’s just not consistent.
And then sometimes when I’m in that other state of mind, no matter what she says, it just goes straight over. I can’t take it in. It’s like that negative voice is just so loud.
Marc: Sure. What stresses you out these days? So if life gets stressful and you might have a food blowout, what might it be that would stress you out?
Leah: Probably my work situation at the moment. I opened the clothing store when I was twenty-one. And I’ve recently sold eighty percent of it to two friends of mine from England. So they’ve moved over here. They’ve bought the business. I’m still involved. But it’s a big process of letting go of something that I’ve built and then watching it change in ways where I have very little control. So that stresses me because sometimes I watch things happen that I feel I could’ve prevented but I can’t fix now. Sometimes not having control there is stressful.
Marc: What else? Give me another example.
Leah: I can’t believe I haven’t brought this up yet. So I exercise a lot. Probably two years ago, over the past two years, I’ve lost about fifteen kilos. I joined a boot camp. It was very intense. But I found I had an amazing result from it. And then I kept losing weight and kept losing weight until I got to a point where they said, “You should stop.” But every time they said, “You should stop,” I kind of was like, “Aww. I feel that’s almost a challenge. I need to keep going.” But I’ve managed to slow that down and until where that was going wrong.
But recently about two months ago, I really hurt my ankle. I can’t do any running. I can’t do any cardio. I can’t do any of the things I was doing before. I’ve had to completely strip back my exercise to just Pilates. Even yoga, which I was finding a lot of peace in and I found yoga was really, really good for me, I can’t do just because my ankle will lock. So it’s made me quite depressed not being able to move because that’s what made me feel alive before. So not having that has just put me so much more back in my head. So that’s been really hard.
Marc: Got it. How long have you had the ankle injury?
Leah: It’s been two-and-a-half months. That entire time I’ve been trying to see doctors and surgeons and get x-rays. And two nights ago, I finally saw the man who was meant to tell me how it was going to get fixed. And he said, “Just give it a couple of months and see how you feel.” And I just lost it because everything was riding on that appointment. And when he just said that so casually, I was like that means, “I still don’t really have an answer.” So I’m still in the same place.
Marc: Yeah. I get that this is hard for you. I really do.
Leah: Yeah. But I also feel like there’s been so many weird things that it’s almost like the world is saying, “You’ve got to slow down” because I even casually went and tried to play a game of soccer despite my ankle. And I accidentally got head butted. And I got three stitches in my head. It was ten minutes into the game. And I had to go to the hospital. And I was like, “That’s it! The universe doesn’t want me to do anything right now.” But it was just crazy, just things like that repeatedly happening.
Marc: Isn’t that interesting when life does that, huh?
Marc: So if this was all taken care of, if you didn’t worry anymore, if all these concerns were gone, how would your life be different?
What would be different? How would you be different? What would it look like?
Leah: I feel like I would be more pleasant to be around because everything that I’m doing and thinking is all just going back into me. And I think that I’d be easier to just connect with the world and to feel more alive if I wasn’t always thinking about this. I could experience things better instead of having these thoughts replaying in my head all the time.
I could see the good things instead of just seeing a weight issue all day because there’s so much good. And I just can’t see it some of the time. So I think I would be more present and just happier.
Marc: How is your mom’s relationship with her body?
Leah: I feel like it is pretty good. It’s actually exactly the same as mine. It’s pretty good sometimes. And sometimes she’s horrible to herself. Yeah.
Marc: Like mother, like daughter.
Leah: Yeah, really. Really.
Marc: What are you going to do now that you’ve sold the business? Are you going to stay in the business and just be a twenty percent owner? Are you going to do something else?
Leah: Well, I’m hoping eventually to start my own business again just doing eating psychology and hopefully working with women. I feel like these problems that I’m having are actually just going to be gold in the future because I’ll be able to empathize with people. So I’m definitely looking to do that.
I’m also studying nutritional medicine part-time, not so much because I think it’s necessary, but because I actually love learning. That was something that I never thought I could do. And then once I started doing it, it just felt great. So that’s why I’m doing that.
But with the business I can’t get out of it until their visa is approved. And we don’t know. It’s a huge process. So we don’t know when that’s going to come through or how that goes. So it’s just up in the air at the moment. And I’m trying to make sure they feel calm because they are very stressed. But that doesn’t leave much room for me to be stressed otherwise every person that walks into the shop is going to be like, “Oh, it feels horrible in here.” Yeah.
Marc: So since you hurt your ankle, when are the times that you feel best about your body?
Leah: Probably when I’ve actually been studying, like when I’ve been listening to your videos because I listen to them in the morning when I’m getting ready in front of the mirror. And then I just try and almost use that to coach myself a little bit. And then sometimes I can manage to break through. And when I look at myself and I see things that normally I would think, “Oh, I’m fat there,” or, “I don’t look good,” I’ll challenge myself. And I’ll go, “You know what? Today I’m going to wear this even though I feel uncomfortable. And I’m just going to own it.”
And then sometimes I can. I’ll get through the day and I’ll go, “Yeah, that felt really good.” And when I started doing Pilates, even though it was begrudgingly because I was like, “I want my intense cardio. I want my boxing. I want to do trampolining,” I was like, “Okay.” That still brought me joy. And I was almost a bit stubborn about it. I was like, “Oh, this does feel good, as well.” Yeah.
Marc: Well, I get for you that it’s not an easy road. And it’s not an easy road. It really isn’t. I have just a bunch of thoughts and comments that I’d love to share because I feel like I’ve collected a lot of good information and details from you. And I’m going to start just giving you feedback from a very big picture perspective. And then we’ll sort of narrow things down.
So I really appreciated when you said—and I’m going to paraphrase—it just seems like these different things are happening like hurting your ankle and then even with a hurt ankle, trying to play soccer and then needing stitches and bumping your head a few minutes into the game. And, “Life keeps telling me to slow down,” was essentially what you said.
And I think… I don’t want to say I think. I know when it comes to this kind of work on self, the magic happens when we’re listening for clues from life. I always go to life is more intelligent than us. It’s bigger than us. It’s smarter than us. It knows more. It invented us. And there’s a wisdom that’s happening that we can’t see and we can’t really know. But it’s guiding us.
And I think that’s what’s happening right now for you. Life is really giving you a clear path. Clear path does not mean easy path. But it means a clear path. It’s no different than if you said to me, “I want to learn Chinese. I want to learn how to speak Chinese and write Chinese.” My guess is that might not come easy for you. And it might be difficult. And there might be times when it’s really difficult. But you’d have a game plan. You’d know, “Okay, I’ve got to study a certain amount every day. I’ve got to push through my resistance. I’ve got to deal with the fact that I’m not perfect at this, that I’m a beginner here.”
So I think the same thing when it comes to loving our body and getting rid of the crazy thoughts that we’re being asked to practice. We’re being asked to just show up like you’re doing every day and add just a little dose of medicine into each day to see if we can make a tiny shift. So to me, you’re already doing exactly what you need to do.
And one of the things I’m really—I want to say—impressed by is really you’re a smart girl. And this is so difficult. We just can’t turn off the switch. So, Leah, to me this is hard work. And you’re already doing the right steps. And even though you’re smart and you’re educated, this shows us how hard it is to overcome the boogie man called negative self-talk about my body.
Marc: I want to say that it’s technically impossible for anyone to defeat that because it’s bigger than us. You didn’t invent it. I didn’t invent it. It’s a virus that circulates in the world. And we catch it. And it’s powerful. We catch it. And it’s so intense. We catch it and it’s huge. And it grips our mind. And it takes over.
And what I’m thinking is for you and for all of us, what we’re doing is we’re banding together. And we’re talking. And we’re finding ways to overcome something that is so difficult. And it’s difficult particularly for young women because from an early age, you remembered at age twelve or thirteen, “Oh, I want to change this. I want to do something about my body.” But you probably were getting the message even sooner than that. It just wasn’t conscious. You just weren’t aware of it, especially if your mother is similar to her body as you are to yours.
We’re going to model after our mother. If you’re a woman, you’re going to be in relationship with your body the way she’s in relationship with her body.
That’s just kind of how it works. So you will be your mother in that regard. We pick it up from them. So I’m just trying to emphasize you don’t have a personal deficiency. You don’t have something wrong with you.
It’s no different than if you were born into an environment that’s constantly raining and you’re constantly wet and you’re complaining to me, “What’s wrong with me? I’m always wet.” I’m going to just go, “Well, you live in a lot of rain.” You live, we live in a tight of nonsense that comes through the airwaves and comes into our visual field and our personal space all the time about, “Here’s how you should look. And here’s how you’re going to be loved.”
And even though you’re with a guy that loves you and you’ve been together for a while and you believe it when he says you’re great as you are, that’s still not enough to make us feel good. And I’m saying that only to emphasize how hard this is. So that’s important to get that, to my mind, you couldn’t be doing any better right now. I really need you to know that.
Sometimes we need to re-context our journey because you think you don’t speak Chinese perfectly right now that there’s something wrong with you. Well, you’re just starting out here. You’re just applying yourself here. Your learning is going to take however long it takes for you to get there.
But the only way to create a shift here in these unconscious patterns that run us. They’re literally like a virus would infect your computer and make it to do crazy nonsense that you don’t want it to do. That virus affects our own internal drive. It affects our brain wiring. It affects our own brain circuitry. It affects how we believe and feel about ourselves. And we’re trying to fend that off and get rid of it. So it takes time.
I also want to point something out, that if you place yourself where you are at this age, this is when it’s most intense for young women. You are mostly going to be getting feedback from the world. And young women and young people—young women and young men—are very aware and sensitized to the world telling them, “You’re okay.”
So the more the world tells you you’re okay, the more okay we feel. At some point as we get older, if we’re growing and evolving, it doesn’t matter as much. So the older you get, the less you’re going to care about what other people think about you. It just happens. I’m just telling you. Because when I was your age, I’m worried about what everybody’s thinking about me. And for me it was, “Am I good enough athlete? Am I good-looking enough? Am I making enough money?” that kind of stuff. For you it might be, “Do I look right? Am I carrying myself right? Is this body skinny enough for you?”
So it makes sense to me that you would have reached for exercise to change your body. And it makes sense to me that even when you started losing all that weight in boot camp and they said to you, “Hey, Leah, stop,” you wanted to keep going because losing weight, especially once we’ve hit a natural place where we ought not to lose any more weight, it can become a little bit addictive.
Leah: Definitely, definitely addictive.
Leah: One hundred percent because I was getting addicted to when people’s faces came into the store and they’d go, “You’ve lost so much weight. Wow.” And then I thought if, “I don’t keep losing weight, I’m not going to have that anymore. So it was addictive. I thought, “Well, I’ve got to keep losing weight. Or otherwise it won’t happen.”
Marc: Right. And if people are coming into the store and saying, “Oh, my God. This is the best store ever. And, Leah, congratulations. You’re making so much money,” then if you didn’t make enough money the next week, you’re going, “Oh, my God. I’d better keep making a lot of money.” It’s always going to be something.
Leah: Yeah, definitely.
Marc: When it’s not looks and weight, it’s something else that the world seems to assess us or judge us by. But that just shows you how dependent we can get on the opinions of others.
So the ultimate target here—I’m just telling you the ultimate target. And this is easier said than done. But I’m just telling you what you’re shooting for—is to get to the place where the opinions of others matter less and less, and less and less and less. And it’s all about how I feel in my body. And it’s all about learning to love your body. Period, plain and simple.
And, to me, what’s happened with your ankle, it seems like you’re getting a universal message of life is asking you to slow down because not only do you have to slow down your body, but oftentimes when we slow down the body, especially when we’ve been intense exercisers, we’re left with our mind. And that sucker is moving fast. That’s churning out a lot of thoughts.
And the mind can be a torture chamber. It really can. And this is why we have fields of psychology and psychiatry and personal growth and transformation and spiritual practice. It’s because since time began, all the smart people have been saying, “We have to learn how to harness the mind.” When you harness the mind, you can create things.
You harnessed your mind and you created a clothing business. You didn’t create a clothing business because you didn’t pay attention when you were unfocused. Your energy was going here and here and here. No. You focus your mind. And you took all the steps. And you created a clothing business because you focused your mind. You harnessed. If your mind was completely out of control, you never would have gotten anywhere. And you wouldn’t be able to dress yourself in the morning.
So there’s a certain way that we are able to harness our own mind. Some of us have different ways we can harness our mind than others. Some people are more detail oriented. Some people our big picture oriented. They really see the big picture. Some people have a little of both. So all I’m saying is there’s places where you harness your mind very well.
Leah: Thank you.
Marc: And there’s places where you’re learning like all of us, like all of us, all of us. And the place where it’s perhaps most difficult for a ton of people to harness their mind is when it comes to negative thoughts about food and body and weight and looks. So literally you can think of all those thoughts as foreign hostile invaders. You can think of all those thoughts as, “Eh, not what I want in my system. A little toxic.”
So you’re learning how to, as you said, “Wow, first thing in the morning. Look in the mirror. Am I speaking negatively? Wow. Catch myself.” That’s perfect. That’s the best you can do in a way because those programs in the mind, they’re automatic. And they’re unconscious. And they’re playing themselves. You don’t even have to think to do them. They just do themselves.
So the only way to stop that automatic repetitive mind chatter is to introduce awareness and consciousness, which is what you’re doing. And life is forcing you to slow down. And you’re going to be kicking and screaming because I think you are kicking and screaming a little bit like, “Nooooo!”
Leah: Oh, you have no idea. It’s just turns me into a bit of a brat.
Marc: Yeah. So that’s completely fair. I want to say that. That it is completely understandable that you’d be kicking and screaming and want to become a brat because life is interfering with your way that you’ve found kind of control things.
“Okay, wait a second. I know how to control my body. I could just exercise. And I can kind of make myself thinner that way. And then if I exercise enough and make myself thinner, everybody’s going to come in and say, ‘We love you. We love you. We love you. You look so great.’” And you’ll get your little drug hit. And you get dependent on the drug hit.
And it would be great for you—and this could be a nice homework assignment, and it’s kind of a practice—that every night before bed you sit in bed with your boyfriend or you lie in bed or you sit facing each other. And he takes a minute or to and he just compliments you. And he just lets it rip with compliments about how you look and who you are and what you’re about. So it has to be compliments about your physicality and compliments about who you are as a person.
And your job is to sit there, lie there, and do what you just did. Take it in and smile and not say thank you even, just not say anything. Just take it in and breathe it in. And ask him to do that slowly instead of saying, [talks hurriedly] “Oh, you’re so pretty. You’re so smart. I love you so much.” So take it in any way that’s nice and slow. So he has to deliver it slow. And your job is to absorb it because you know on some level he means it. And on a certain level, the person that walks into your store and buys some random piece of clothing, you might never see them again. Who cares what they think about you? You know?
It’s more important what your boyfriend thinks in this case because that’s who’s closest to you and that’s who you are in deeper connection with. So that’s a great way for you to just practice taking it in and absorbing, “Huh. I can feel good about myself. I can take this in.” Because the more you increase your ability to take in the compliment, the more fulfilled you’ll be, the less you’ll be needy for more.
Leah: Yeah, that makes sense.
Marc: And if you know it’s coming every night before bed, it might give you something to look forward to. And it’s coming every night. And it’s regular. So that’s one suggestion for a practice that will allow you to step into your feminine in a different way.
So here’s the other piece. In this case for women — you’re a woman — many women want to be feminine, whatever that means to them. Oftentimes we collapse. And I’m not saying everyone wants to be feminine. But a lot of women do.
And often times we collapse the definition of feminine into thin, skinny, weigh a certain amount. And feminine is really a state of being. It’s not a look.
Have you ever met women who you consider really feminine and they were big girls or they were somebody somebody else would describe as fat?
Leah: Mmm hmm.
Marc: So their femininity does not depend on their weight or their look. Feminine is feminine. It goes deeper than a physicality. Some of the most feminine women I’ve ever met were in their sixties and seventies. They had it down. So I’m just saying that because I want you to start to notice your definition of what’s feminine.
What else does feminine mean to you other than a look or a shape? If I said, “Do you want to be more feminine?” what does that mean to you? What else does feminine mean to you?
Leah: I think it means nurturing and kind of gentle and caring and connected. Yeah.
Marc: I like the word “connected.” Connected to…?
Leah: Just connected to life and connected to other people, and open, as well. Almost motherly in some way, and just easy to approach and easy to speak with and open. Yeah.
Marc: Beautiful. So those qualities that you just mentioned, would your friends describe you as some of those qualities? It doesn’t have to be all the time. But would they describe you as that type of person?
Leah: Yeah, definitely sometimes, yeah.
Marc: Yeah. So sometimes you are like that. And then sometimes you’re not. Maybe a lot of times you’re not. And the times that you’re not feeling that connected, your mind goes into torture and thoughts about, “I’m no good. I’m not enough.”
So what’s going to happen is there’s kind of two places in your head and in all of our heads, whatever our issues are, especially when it comes to, “I love myself. I hate myself.” “Ah, today I woke up! I feel good today.” And somehow we get up on the right side of the bed. And we’re okay with our bodies. And that if one little silly thing happens that stresses you out, all of a sudden you look fat. And you look in the mirror and you hate yourself. So we bounce between these two extremes.
What I want to say is when there’s extreme bounces going on in our head…“I love myself. I hate myself.” “You know, you look pretty good. Ugh, you look terrible!” we will reproduce that in the outer world. We will reproduce that drama in the outer world. So we will reproduce that in our eating. “Wow, I eat really good. And I eat really good. And then boom! It could just blow up.”
Or, “I exercise and I exercise. And then, ugh, I stop. And then I hurt my ankle. So there’s these extremes happening. Extremes are, I want to say, part of being young. It’s part of being, let’s say, zero to thirty-ish. We’re in a lot of extremes. We’re going back and forth. So this is a time in life where you’re learning how to in a strange way manage those extremes. You’re learning how to notice them.
And one of the ways to notice it and manage it is to not give the extreme that you don’t like so much energy. So, in other words, when you have like a big junk food blowout, the sooner you can go into, “You know something? There’s me going into my extremes. That sucked. I feel terrible,” instead of promising yourself you’re not going to do it again, I would rather, after you have a big blowout, I’d rather you say to yourself, “Leah, I still love you. Leah, that was really rough. Leah, I’m going to give you a big hug and wrap my arms around you. And you’re not perfect,” as if you were this little baby who was screaming and crying. If there was a screaming and crying baby and it was your niece or your friend’s baby, you wouldn’t pick up the baby and yell at it and say, “You’d better not cry next time ever again. No more crying ever, crazy baby.”
No, you would hold the baby. You’d rock the baby. You’d talk to the baby. You’d soothe the baby. I want you to do that with you.
I don’t want to promise yourself you’re not going to do it again. In fact, I want to say to yourself, “You know, this is probably going to happen again. This is probably going to happen again. And that’s okay because you’re going to still be with yourself.”
What happens is in those moments we tend to abandon self. We tend to judge self. We tend to prematurely jump to, “I will never do this again. I’m going to commit to umph.” And it’s not about that because the real lesson in here—and here’s the gold—the real lesson is you learning how to be with yourself no matter what.
If your boyfriend started having trouble at work, if your boyfriend started having issues with, I don’t know, his health or his weight, would you abandon him? Would you say, “Okay, I never want you to feel this way ever again! Stop it. No more feeling stress about work. Or no more being sick. Stop having the flu right now. Ever!” No. You’re going to love him up. You’re going to be with him. You’re not going to abandon him. You’re going to encourage him.
So when you’re able to start doing that, what happens is magically it becomes easier to not do the binge because one of the reasons we do the binge—one of the big reasons you’re doing the binge and one of the big reasons, not for everybody but for a lot of people—one of the big reasons their binging is because the level of tension in us and stress in us for self-rejection or, “I don’t love myself,” or, “I don’t know how to deal with life,” that level of tension builds up so much that binging actually kind of blows off that energy and relaxes us.
Once you have enough food in your body, you’ll literally drop into a relaxation response. The digestive system needs to be relaxed in order to digest a lot of food. So when you’re binging, technically what you’re doing is you’re looking to regulate your emotional metabolism. You’re also looking to regulate your physical metabolism, which is in a stress response.
So emotions are in fear, tension, stress. The body is literally in physiologic stress. So you’re doing the best thing that you know how to do, which is binge eat, to, whoa, take in a lot of food, body relaxes, ahh. There’s a weird kind of relief, right? After you binge, there’s a weird relief.
Marc: And then at some point, the guilt creeps in. And the guilt creeps in because there’s a part of us that realizes, “That activity did not actually do what I wanted it to do in the long term. It didn’t actually provide the proper medicine for whatever was ailing me. It was a temporary drug.”
It’s no different than if you’re having relationship issues and you’re having work issues. Instead of dealing with relationship issues and work issues, you just go away for the weekend and you just have an alcoholic binge or a cocaine binge. And you feel great. And then you come back and you feel miserable and lousy. And your body is not okay. If you go, “Oh, God. Why did I do that?”
So you’re looking to regulate your emotional metabolism when you overeat. That makes sense. Or when you’re stressed. So all I’m saying is start to notice that. Start to be aware that this is a reasonable strategy. What you’re doing, there’s technically nothing wrong with it. It’s your brain, your system, your psyche, your emotional intelligence, that’s what it knows what to do to deal with all the stress and the tension and the anxiety in your system that we all have.
And especially in your teens and twenties, there’s a lot of that because we’re defining ourselves. We’re figuring out, “Who am I in this world? Do I belong? Who loves me? What am I going to do for the rest of my life? What kind of work is meaningful for me? What do I stand for? Why the hell am I here? And what’s going to make being here feel good?” And, “Oh, my goodness. What’s all this nonsense about I’m supposed to look like this and look like that for people to love me? Oh, my God.”
So it’s not easy being a human being alive on planet Earth. It’s not easy. So the binge eating is our way — your way— of going, “Tension relief. Ahh.” So what I want to say is it makes sense. Part of the challenge you’re having right now is that you’re so committed to defeating this thing and you so want to get better and also a part of you is really convinced that there’s something wrong with you here, and you’ve just got to fix it.
And what I’m saying is this is just your natural growth. It’s no different than when you were nine months old and learning how to walk.
There’s nothing wrong with you that you don’t know how to walk. You’re learning. So there’s nothing wrong with you that you binge eat like this. You’re learning. There’s nothing wrong with you that you’re speaking all these negative thoughts. You’re learning how to own your own mind in a world that doesn’t give us that right from the beginning.
From the beginning the world is trying to steal your self-dignity and self-respect and make it outside reference. The messages we get in media is powerful. Media is amazingly powerful. Companies pay hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions of dollars to have a thirty-second commercial on TV because it programs people’s minds to buy stuff. So everything we see in the media is powerful and it sinks in.
And you’re learning how to undo that so we can be free human beings. We can be free of the media, free of what it thinks, free of what it says, free of anybody else’s opinion and live your life and be in that feminine part of you that’s connected. You’re connected to yourself. You’re connected to your own body. You’re connected to people. And you’re not sitting there worrying about, “Oh, my God. What do you think? Am I okay? Am I too thin? Am I too fat? Am I too this? Am I too that? What do you think?” Wow. That disconnects us.
So you’re learning how to master getting control of your thoughts when it comes to food and body, which, I want to say, is difficult. And not enough people are doing it because it’s too difficult and because they don’t have the right tools and awarenesses. So what I’m trying to do here…Trust me, Leah. If I could get the one pill or push the right button and we could fix this right away, I would do it. And I’d give it away for free. I mean that.
But what you’re engaging yourself with is a process. And I promise you — and I mean this as a promise — if you keep at it in the way that you are, you’re going to get there. You’re going to actually get where you want to go. And along the way, you’re going to have moments where you take a leap and you go, “Wow. I’m not a hundred percent there yet. But now I’m fifty-five percent there. Now I’m sixty. Now I’m seventy.”
You’re going to feel yourself kind of climbing that spiral of getting to a healthier and healthier place. But the key is in those moments when you are going, “Oh, my God. I did this. I screwed up. I ate too much,” I want you to go into absolute forgiveness. I want you to pretend that you’re the baby and you’re the mother. And the mother in you has to mother this little baby in you that’s kind of screaming and kicking and crying. In that moment, that’s your job.
Think of it this way. You also mentioned when I asked you the definition of feminine, you said, “Yeah, feminine kind of has a motherly quality to it.” And it kind of does. That’s one of the qualities of the feminine is a motherly quality. Your mother – and this is no blame whatsoever because she didn’t learn – she couldn’t give you that kind of confidence because she didn’t have it herself.
There’s a lot of mothers who have a ton of body confidence and their daughters still don’t get it because they go to school and they hang out with their friends and other people. And they get programmed by a crazy world.
So your mother couldn’t really impart to you, “Leah, here’s how you really feel
good about your body, just by yourself with no other input. This is me. Oh, this feels good!”
Now, part of you gets a high by exercising, which I totally understand. And a lot of the high that people get from exercising doesn’t exactly work for them, particularly when it comes to someone who is very intensely trying to lose weight or very intensely trying to maintain their weights because the exercise has the added burden of, “It has to do something for me. It has to, A, make me feel good, and, B, make me lose weight.”
For a lot of people, the exercise doesn’t even feel good. But as long as they’re losing weight, they feel good. I want you to learn to use your body and movement and exercise purely from a place of, “This just feels good to me,” and it’s not driven by weight loss. So this is a perfect opportunity for you now that your ankle is where it is to relax into Pilates, to relax into…I don’t know what else you can do. Relax into walking. Relax into being outside in the breathing and exploring a different way to just feel your body that doesn’t involve moving fast and doesn’t involve intensity. And it’s almost perfect.
And I know it’s hard when a doctor says, “Eh, Just hang around for a few months and you’ll see it getting better.” You want to know, “I’ve got this ankle. We’re going to fix this ankle so you can exercise and you can burn some calories and you can make sure that you have all the ability to get where you need to go.” And life ain’t giving you that. It’s not letting you off easy. It’s not giving you the answers to the test. Do you know what I’m saying?
Leah: That’s true. Yeah, yeah. It’s true. It’s a hundred percent true.
Marc: So I want to say one more thing. And I know that you know this because we talked about this a little bit earlier on when I asked you, “Are you eating fast or moderate or slow?” So I want you to do as best you can and really make it a practice to have all your meals be slower and have your binge time — even when you eat the five slices of pizza — I want you to do as best as possible to say, “Marc gave me permission to eat this really slow and enjoy it.”
Slow to me means only one thing. It means enjoy it, get pleasure, get what you want out of it. If you want to spend time with your best friend because you love them so much, you don’t say, “Hey, best friend. Let’s spend thirty seconds together.” No. You want to hang out with them for lunch, for dinner, for a couple of hours, for whatever it is. We want the things we love to nourish us and to last a little bit.
So with the eating experience, you’re wanting something from that eating experience. You’re wanting to be nourished.
Even when you binge eat, you’re wanting to feel good. So what happens is if you do it too fast, the brain doesn’t have enough time to register pleasure. It’s doesn’t have enough time to taste. The brain and that gut needs time to register taste and pleasure and aroma and satisfaction. We need time to do that.
So the more you slow down and enjoy… I’m not saying slow down and be miserable. I’m saying slow down and enjoy. The more you do that, the more you actually get what you want. And you will notice particularly if you’re on a binge that something changes when you slow it down and just go, “Oh, I’m doing this anyway.”
When you’re about to binge, I want you to actually binge if you know you’re going to do it. “Okay, here I am. Here I am with the pizza.” If you know you’re going to do it, then choose to do it. Actually choose to do it. “Okay, here’s me. Here’s Leah. Here’s the pizza. I know I’m going to do this no matter what I tell myself.” So do it. So eat it. And enjoy it. Create an experience that really works for you. Relax. Put on some music. Light some candles. Enjoy the pizza. Slow. Sensuous. Take your time. There’s plenty more there. Don’t limit how much you’re going to eat. And let your body tell you.
So what we are doing is taking the behavior. Here’s what we’re doing. And this is for anybody listening in. We are taking a behavior that we’re previously labeling is bad. “Binge eating, bad. Overeating, bad.” And we’re saying, “No, it’s not bad” because as soon as you make it bad, you fight it. As soon as you make something bad, it becomes the enemy. And as soon as the brain perceives enemy, we go into fight-or-flight chemistry. We go into to increased insulin, increased cortisol, increase adrenaline.
We’re producing more stress hormones, which creates a sense of further anxiety, tension, hyperalertness. “Oh, my God. What am I doing?” And those stress chemicals down regulate our ability to experience pleasure, which means you actually need to eat more food and do more exercise to feel the natural good feelings you’d be feeling from them anyway. You follow me?
So we’re taking a behavior that we normally label it as bad. And we’re giving it a big hug and saying, “Understandable behavior. Makes perfect sense. We’re not going to fight it into oblivion and fight is out of existence” because that doesn’t work. You haven’t been able to do it yet. I know people who are in their seventies who are still trying to fight those kinds of things. And it doesn’t work. You can’t beat it by fighting it. Believe it or not, you beat it by loving it.
And it’s not so much that you’re loving the behavior. You’re loving the person who’s doing the behavior, in this case you. You’re saying, “I understand why you would do this behavior.” I explained to you it makes sense because it creates tension relief. Your body needs to relieve the stress and attention. Every human body, as soon as it feels stress, it wants to review that somehow because a prolonged stress response is counterproductive to health and longevity and life and reproduction and wisdom and thinking and intelligence.
Prolonged stress response is the worst thing a human can do for health and wellbeing. Short spurts of stress response, great. Mild bursts of stress response, great. It builds up our system. It makes us stronger. Stress is normal and natural to life. I’m particularly talking about the kinds of stresses we do that are self-chosen. “I hate myself. I’m no good. I suck. I’m terrible.” That’s a self-chosen stress.
So what we’re saying here is you’re learning how to take away some of the stress and the fight from these habits that you don’t want to do. And you’re saying, “These makes sense. I’m going to have compassion for myself.” Just like if you ever do this work professionally, you’re going to love your clients even though they’re binging. You’re not going to go, “Oh, God. I hate you! And I’ll like you better as a client as soon as you stop binging.” No. That’s not how you help somebody.
You help somebody by loving them into where they’re going. Now, that’s love could sometimes look like tough love. It could look like sweet love. There’s different ways that we love each other. But love is love is love. And the love I’m thinking you’re needing right now from you is a little more the gentle kind, not the, “Come on, Leah! You can do a hundred more push-ups. Go! Go!”
Sometimes you need to do push yourself a little bit. This is a time in life, it sounds like it’s about slowing down with yourself in all of this as opposed to pushing more.
Leah: Yeah. It makes complete sense.
Marc: So how is all of this landing for you? What are you thinking here so far?
Leah: I actually feel really good about it. I feel like thinking of it less as something that needs to be fixed, it kind of almost makes me appreciate when it will be bad because it does mean that I’m learning.
So it’s just part of the whole thing. Yeah, it’s kind of liberating in a weird way because it makes me not want to get rid of the problem because the problem will be the answer. Yeah.
Marc: Bingo. The problem is there for a reason. It’s here to teach us. It’s not the enemy. It’s teaching you to be a better person. It’s teaching you to grow. It’s teaching you to be a stronger woman. It’s teaching you to be a stronger human being. It’s teaching you to be a more liberated human being because you, me, none of us deserve the nonsense in our head that tells us that we’re not good enough. It’s dumb. It doesn’t make sense, especially when it’s about looks into shape and weight in about our character. It’s not necessary. It doesn’t need to be here.
So it is about liberating yourself. And the way we become liberated and free and happy is not to attack self. The more we attack self, the more we will end up at the finish line beat up. And the finish line might be ninety years old and you’re on your deathbed. And you’re beat up because you’ve been beating yourself up for ninety years. So we don’t want to do that. We want to turn the tables and start the love now.
And here’s the weird thing. So many people think, “God, if I do that, then it’s just going to stay. And it’s not going to go away. How could you tell me to love this terrible habit?” And that’s exactly what I’m saying. If anybody out there is listening in and you’re thinking, “How could you tell me to love my binge eating? That’s not going to work,” I guarantee you your strategy hasn’t worked yet. Whatever strategy you’re doing and your binge eating is still there, this is probably why because there needs to be a shift in the love, the acceptance.
So there’s two homework assignments for you to remember. Important homework assignment number one, evening time with your boyfriend, a couple of minutes, more if you want. He just gives you slow, sweet compliments about you, the relationship, your looks, all of it. Your job is to just take it in. And you have to ask him, say, “Honey, make sure I take this in. If you notice me squirming away is not listening, raise your hand.” So that’s one homework assignment. And I want you to see if you could do it for a couple of months.
Next homework assignment is, again, every time…actually, two more pieces. Every time you find yourself doing a binge, I want you to slow down. Relax. Take your time. Get pleasure. Get what you want. And when you go into guilt afterwards, I want you to hold yourself, whatever that means for you. It could be physically. It could be emotionally. I just want you to say, “It’s okay.” I just really want you to mother yourself in that moment as if you are like the best mother, as if you were your daughter.
Marc: And just be the best mother in that moment. Just encourage yourself. And just love yourself even though you feel guilty and ashamed. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to feel guilt. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to feel shame. But you’re going to love yourself nonetheless.
Third piece is start to slow down in general with food because that’s going to help slow down everything for you, slowing down the mind a bit, slowing down with eating, slowing down the nourishment process. It allows things to fall into their rightful place. Sometimes speed gets a little too fast for us. We let life get out of hand when it comes to our mind and when it comes to our eating. The two are very connected.
When you’re eating too fast, it’s going to agitate the mind. If you’re thinking really, really, really fast when you’re involved with your food and your body, it’s going to agitate your digestion. And it’s going to agitate you metabolism. So we are looking to create more of a synergy there between mind and metabolism, between thoughts and gut. And one way to do that is just slow down the eating process, which means enjoy it, which means be present for it, which means get what you want from it and just to make it worth the experience and the time.
Leah: That’s just sounds great. I feel really good about this.
Marc: Yay! Me, too!
Leah: Thank you.
Marc: Me, too. So this doesn’t have to be heavy. And it doesn’t mean you’re going to live happily ever after after this. There’s going to be setbacks. But you have a roadmap. And the roadmap is, “Even when I fall off the horse, I’m going to get back on. And I’m going to forgive myself as best as I can and love myself and get back on the horse again,” no different than if you’re learning how to walk and you fall down. Your mother, your father picks you up again. They don’t spank you for falling down when you are learning how to walk. They don’t yell at you.
They’re like, “Here’s some encouragement. Here’s some love. Try to walk again.” So that’s what we are all learning much to do with self is to involve ourselves through a little more love, as opposed to evolve ourselves through self-attack. Really it’s as simple as that.
Leah: Yeah. Thank you.
Marc: Thank you, Leah. Really good job. I’m so glad you were just honest enough and real enough to share your life and your inner world with us because I guarantee you there’s a lot of young women in your age group and younger who are tuning in and listening to this who are going to get a lot out of it because oftentimes we hold these things in secret. We think, “It’s just me.” And, yeah, you’re doing this for you. But you’re also doing it for others. So thank you so much.
Leah: Thank you very much.
Marc: Yeah. And thank you, everybody, for tuning in. This has been Marc David, founder for the Institute for the Psychology of Eating in the Psychology of Eating podcast. And there’s lots more to come. Take care.
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