Clara grew up surrounded by a dieting mentality and feeling shame about her body. She always felt that something was wrong with her and needed to be fixed so she could finally be lovable. The problem is, she’s forever trying to lose weight that just won’t come off. Tune in to this great episode as Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, reveals some surprising lessons that Clara must learn to put her body in the optimum state of calorie burning, and put her mind in the right place so she can stop fighting herself and discover her true power and her natural weight.
Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:
Marc: Welcome, everybody! I’m Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. And here we are in the Psychology of Eating podcast. And I’m with Clara. Welcome, Clara!
Clara: Welcome! Thank you, Marc!
Marc: I’m glad you’re here. And let me just to fill in viewers and listeners first who are new to the podcast what we’re doing here. So Clara and I are going to have a session together. And we’re going to see if we can condense about four months to a year’s worth of work to one session. How impossible will that be? But really, in a lot of ways, very possible.
And the idea is for you, Clara, to have some opening, some insights, some breakthroughs that will really make a difference for you in what ever concern you want to work with. So we’re going to go for about fifty minutes or so. And I’m going to ask questions. And we’re going to put it together and hopefully get all your feathers nice and smoothed out and sort of have an action plan for how you can get where you want to go.
So let me ask you this question. If you could wave your magic wand and get whatever you want from this session, what would that look like for you?
Clara: I would love to get some feedback on my lifestyle and health habits and to help me move into a place to really enjoy a sustainable lifestyle that possibly would allow me to lose some weight, but in general really what I care about most is to create sustainable habits, a sustainable lifestyle that allows me to move away from the diet mentality that I’ve grown with and more into something that really is about joy and loving myself. And I’m really curious to hear your feedback about what could be the areas that I could work on for that.
Marc: Got it. So how does it show up for you? So it sounds like you wouldn’t mind losing some weight. What happens with your eating? What happens with your body image? Tell me what goes on there.
Clara: So basically from when I have memories about it, I’ve always felt that there was something wrong with my weight and I weighed too much.
I grew up in a family where both of my parents were struggling with extra weight. So my mom’s been dieting on and off, again, since I can remember. Actually, the first memory I have is my pediatrician when I was a kid told my mom something like, “Oh, anyone would get fat in your family,” or something like that. So this idea that there was something wrong with that was almost following me ever since very early on.
So I think I dieted the first time when I was a teenager, when I reached what was like the highest weight that I had been. And then from there on, I kept going on and off with trying to control what I ate and then releasing it or relapsing a little bit. But in general, kind of never went on anything. Mostly it was about controlling quantities and feeling that it was about how much I ate, the issue.
And I feel like probably having grown up in Italy, my family, quality of food was overall pretty nice. And it was natural. My grandparents had a fruit and vegetable store. So we got good food in the house. But somehow I’ve always felt that unless I was able to control what I ate and to limit to that, then I would not be able to lose weight.
So I felt I always experienced a lot of shame and a lot of challenges with body image like until maybe I was twenty or something like that. I wouldn’t even go to the beach with my friends because showing up in a bathing suit was out of the question. And I grew up in a beach town, to make it clear. So I was very ashamed.
And then little by little, I started incorporating more exercise and got curious more and more about food. So I was kind of stable on and off around my weight until one last time that I went on a formal diet and lost quite a bit of weight, the most that I had. And then you can tell me if you need to know some more details about that. I’m fine talking about my weight, how much that is.
So at that time, I lost a lot of weight. It felt great in some ways. But in many other ways, it felt like it was not sustainable. I was measuring anything I ate. I was just feeling miserable in many other ways. And that was the point where there was something really changed with me and where I decided, “This is not working. I need something else.” And that was what brought me then to being interested in finding different tools.
Marc: So how much weight do you want to lose?
Clara: That’s a question that I’ve thought about a lot. There’s not a specific amount of weight. I weigh right now about 190 pounds. And I’m 5’8” tall. But there wasn’t really a time in my life where I was less than this, and less when I was growing up. So I got to this weight progressively as I was growing up. And then I just lost it by dieting and going on and off.
So something in me says I don’t really know how much I’m supposed to weigh. I have a feeling I would enjoy it maybe losing something around twenty pounds, twenty-five pounds. But I’m really curious to understand whether my body wants to lose that weight and why it’s not losing it, something like that.
Marc: So these days, are you dieting? Are you just eating? What’s your food these days? What’s your diet these days?
Clara: So I haven’t dieted for, I would say, over two years now. And by dieting I mean controlling quantities and really measuring things. So that I haven’t done. And overall, since I’ve been interested in learning about nutrition, I worked more on balancing the quality of my diet and balancing the different nutrients.
Marc: Yeah. Do you eat regular meals during the day?
Clara: Yeah. I eat regular meals. I love breakfast. So I try to always have a mix of proteins and vegetables at breakfast, maybe eggs with vegetables and maybe a slice of toast. And I have a regular lunch. I have three main meals per day, and maybe a couple of snacks either mid morning or late afternoon.
The timing might be a little variable, depending on what I have to do, especially timings of my evening meals is quite variable because my evenings change because sometimes I teach in the evenings. Sometimes I have sports commitments. So that is a little more variable.
Marc: What might be a typical evening meal?
Clara: So if I cook it myself and if I’m home, it would be again some vegetables, maybe sautéed vegetables, either a piece of fish or some lentils and maybe some whole grain on the side, some kind of mix of this. Usually that’s how I like to cook. I like to have veggies and grains. And then, especially fish. If it’s animal protein, it would be fish most likely.
Marc: And if you eat out, what would you have?
Clara: If I eat out, I might grab something easy like a soup that’s easy to get, mostly a soup. Sometimes a sandwich, but not really that often. It hasn’t happened that often. And I don’t eat out regularly. I might wait until later and then eat something at home.
Marc: Do you ever find yourself overeating or binge eating during the day or during the week?
Clara: I don’t have binge eating. But maybe because of having used to diet so much, I almost always feel like I overeat. I always have the feeling that I’m eating more than what I should eat. So what I experience is that I notice is that I often eat more than what my body seems to need because I often feel myself a little slightly fuller than what I’d like. That’s something that I do notice. It’s hard for me at times to stop eating when I feel like I’ve had enough. Whatever is on my plate, I kind of want to finish it.
Marc: Are you a fast eater? A moderate eater? A slow eater?
Clara: I think I’m definitely more towards the fast eating, although I try to moderate it. But that’s a challenging thing to do.
Marc: How is your digestion?
Clara: I don’t have specific complaints, I wouldn’t say. I might feel sometimes lightly bloated, but nothing major that I notice at least that I know.
Marc: And you said your mom was dieting since you can remember. Do you have brothers or sisters?
Clara: Yeah. I have a younger sister who is six years younger than me who has also been struggling with weight similarly to me. It feels like me, my mom, and her very much are dealing with this issue. My dad doesn’t care that much about that.
Marc: Has there ever been a time in your life when your weight felt like it was more natural, when you weren’t struggling so hard and it just felt a little easier?
Clara: Not that I can remember. It might have been when I was very young. And it’s funny because I have a picture really close to me here on my desk from when I was like four or five. And all my family was kind of lean at that time. It seems like something happened at some point like after my sister was born. I don’t know. It changed a little bit of the balances maybe in the family. And my mom started to have some depression issues. Yes. Yeah.
Marc: So are you in relationship?
Clara: Yep. I live with my partner. We’re not married. But we’ve been together for the past three-and-a-half years.
Marc: And how does that work in terms of your relationship with your body and your weight? What does your partner think?
Clara: He’s the most supportive person on earth, I believe. He’s extremely supportive. And he personally has a very natural way of eating. He likes eating quality food and doesn’t struggle with weight and so has never felt like the need to diet or something like that. But he’s really, really, really supportive and very helpful in this.
Marc: Do you do any kind of movement or exercise that you enjoy?
Clara: So I’m a yoga teacher. And I do practice, as well. So I would say I might do three or four times per week practicing yoga. And I do play volleyball. So those are the two things that I enjoy the most, that I really do for pleasure and fun. So volleyball might be two times per week, a couple of hours, two hours of games.
And then when the season is [out], I enjoy using my bike a lot around here in Brooklyn. So I definitely move more when it’s warmer. And I like to bike around the city. In this village, specifically, I felt very much resistant to do anything more than just doing yoga or playing. Sometimes I do enjoy going to the gym and running a bit. But now not.
Marc: So I just want to remind you, by the way, I’m going to bounce around and ask a bunch of questions. It might not seem like it’s all related. But soon I’m just going to put things together here.
So let’s say you lost whatever weight you wanted to lose. Let’s think you lost twenty pounds or thirty pounds or however much it was. And you got where you want to go. How would your life be different? What do you imagine would be different? Who would you be as a person? How would things be different?
Clara: I imagine myself feeling maybe…I connect that with feeling may be more playful and lighter and really playing maybe also with clothing more, really expressing my body and my creativity more, maybe feeling a little more self-confident and energetic and vibrant. Yeah.
Marc: Yeah. That would be good! So energetic, vibrant. You’d play more with yourself, with life, with clothes. Absolutely. Okay. I’m there.
And why do you think…when you kind of play in your own mind of, “Wow. I want to lose this weight. It’s hard to lose it sustainably,” what do you think is happening? Or do you have a thought about it? And you might not. But I’m just wondering. Sometimes people might give their own self-assessment.
Clara: Can you just repeat the question once more? I want to make sure that I got it correctly?
Marc: Yeah. Why do you think your weight doesn’t come off easily?
Clara: So the feeling I get is that somehow it is connected with my self-expression and the expression of my gifts as a person and also of using my weight as a sort of emotional defense, like a padding to separate me from the outer world, like a way to defend really something to protect.
I sense it being connected with trust, a sense of self-value. And somehow I’ve been in the same job since I moved to the United States eight years ago.
And I have experienced a lot of challenges in the job like feeling very insecure at times and feeling very unable to express my own independence. So somehow I feel like most of my journey with the weight and the body connects with expressing myself in general, trusting that what I have to offer is valuable and just going with it.
Marc: And tell me about your parents. Are they still alive?
Clara: Yeah. My parents are alive. They live back in Italy.
Marc: Are you close with them?
Clara: I am very close with my mom. And my dad doesn’t really talk on Skype or on the phone that much. So I get to him through my mom. So I’m quite connected with my mom. I would say, yes, we’re close. We talk a little bit daily or several times a week.
Marc: When I say the word “shame,” if I use the word “shame,” what comes into your mind when I say that word?
Clara: It feels like something very, very familiar. I remember myself in these situations again, especially growing up, especially since I like to play sports and I started playing volleyball pretty early on that I could just see myself as, I don’t know, always been concerned about my weight, adjusting, having always large clothes to cover up and always feeling a lot of shame about it. Yeah.
Marc: Yeah. So I think I have a good bit of information that I’m collecting in my computer. So I would like to just start giving you some of my thoughts and feelings and opinions and feedback about what I think might be happening for you.
First let me start out by saying I’m very committed to the understanding that we truly don’t know how much someone is supposed to weigh. I really believe that. There is so much supposed science around, “Here’s what health is. And here’s what overweight is. And here’s how overweight is unhealthy.” The reality is you can be healthy at a wide range of weights. You can be unhealthy. You could be slender and have the perfect body and be extremely unhealthy. You could be what most people consider forty or fifty pounds overweight and actually be fit and healthy.
So I just want to say I don’t know the numbers for you. Neither do you. So really this conversation, to me, part of it’s about weight loss. Part of it is about you kind of learning to love your body. It makes sense that, “Hey, if my body would cooperate a little bit more and look the way I want it to look, then I could love it more.” So that makes sense, too.
So the question is do we try to make your body lose weight so you could love it more? Or do we just kind of love it more and just let go of the weight loss or try more? So I want to say that I’m going to come from two minds here. The two minds are how do we help you? How do we assist you without having to lose a single pound? And at the same time, if you really said to me, “Gee, I want to lose weight,” I would say, “Okay. Then here’s where I would explore to see if you can indeed shape shift your body.”
So I’m just saying this to you. I’m saying this for people listening. For me, I don’t care how much someone weighs. I just care, “Are you being the person you’re supposed to be? Are you fulfilling all of your potential?” Whatever the weight you’re supposed to be at is the weight you’re supposed to be at. Different people like different things. Society has all its rules.
So here’s my thoughts about if you weren’t going to lose any weight. So if you weren’t going to lose any weight…if we knew right now, if the intelligence of the universe that created all of us said, “Okay, Clara is not going to lose a single pound from here until the time she dies. What are you going to do?” I would say, “Wow.” You shared with me when I asked the question who would you be if you lost the weight and had the body that you want, you said you would be more playful. You said you would kind of be more you. You would try different things. You would sort of be you.
And I’m kind of paraphrasing. But you wouldn’t feel like you have to hold your self back. You’d be confident about who you are and what you have to contribute. And what I want to say is that’s something independent of your weight that you can work on right now that in truth is not dependent on your weight.
Are there people out there who are weight haters? Absolutely. There’s also people out there who hate beauty. You could have the perfect Hollywood good looks. And there will be a ton of people hating on you. You could be at any weight and there’s people that like you and don’t like you and they have this opinion and that opinion. So it’s kind of endless trying to make everybody like us based on the how we look, including ourselves.
So what I’m saying is I would love — now this is easier said than done for sure — but part of your homework assignment here is I would love for you to make a list, a very concrete list of who you would be, what you would do different if you had the exact body that you wanted to have. How would you be playful? Specifically, how would you be playful with clothes? How would you be playful with your partner? With your friends? How would you carry yourself differently at work?
And then I’m going to ask you to start to do that stuff in bite-size pieces. Like what would you do first? What outfit would you go out and buy? Playing at the weight you have now and the body you have now, how would you carry yourself different at work? Would your posture be different? Would your conversation be different? So it’s almost like being an actress. I’m asking you to play a role. So you’re going to kind of have to fake it.
Now, in America, I don’t know if you’ve heard this phrase. We say, “fake it until you make it,” meaning I’m going to pretend that I’m the person I want to be. And eventually you start to become the person that you want to be because it’s in the actions. And here’s the other piece. So that to me is extremely important, that it has to be a practice.
And you’re smart lady. And it sounds like you have a really wonderful partner who loves you for who you are. Wow. What a beautiful thing. I know people who have all kinds of wonderful weights and fitness. They ar where they want to be personally, physically, financially. And they’re alone. And they can’t find someone. And it’s just kind of interesting how all of our problems are different, and on the other hand they’re all the same. But you’re in a great position because you have a lot of support. You have love in your life from which to experiment with sort of loving yourself more.
So here’s what I think you would have to do if you want to lose weight, number one, and if your body did have weight to lose. So I’m saying this because, again, I don’t know. But here’s what I would do with you. On a level of actual food, I would have you continued to eat quality food. I might have you focus more…and it sounds like you’re already doing this. It sounds like your diet tends to be focused more on protein and vegetables. So I would have you do that as firmly as possible.
And eat enough food. So I wouldn’t have you dieting per se, trying to portion control. But I would have you slow down with food, like really become a slow, sensuous, relaxed, true Italian-European eater where you enjoy it and you love it and you savor it and it’s wonderful. And it’s great. And aren’t we lucky to be alive and have good food?
So that slowing down process will allow your body to drop into a physiologic relaxation response because what’s happening is probably every time you’re eating, there’s a part of you that goes into a little stress response because food for you is kind of the enemy.
It’s what keeps your body not losing weight. So even though you love food, there’s a part of you that you can’t love it because it’s not giving to you exactly what you want, which is a thinner body.
So a lot of us — I mean a lot of us — have this. We don’t even realize it. We’re coming to food and were creating a biochemistry inside of us. Biochemistry as you know, it’s subtle. It changes quickly. It changes with thoughts, with feelings, with beliefs, with emotions, influences from environment, talking to my partner, hearing something on TV. Our chemistry is going to change fast.
And I’m absolutely convinced after doing this for three plus decades that the subtle beliefs and the not-so-subtle beliefs that we come to the table with impacts our metabolism. And in your case and in this case, it’s about making food your friend as opposed to making food this thing that I fight.
So you mentioned that, “Oh, I would trust myself more if I was truly being the person I wanted to be and I was at the weight that I wanted to have. I’d trust myself more.” Well, it’s odd. Does that mean we can’t trust people who have extra weight? Does that mean skinny people are more trustable? It sounds silly, right? I know a lot of skinny people who are not trustable. It doesn’t matter. Trustability has nothing to do with weight.
So what I’m going to suggest to you is I think you kind of nailed it. Part of your path to help you become the person you’re supposed to be, which will help your body become more what it’s supposed to be…see, my operating assumption is as you, as you, as we become the person we’re meant to be, your body has the best chance to become what it’s meant to be. So that’s why I’m interested in, “Who’s the person you’re supposed to be here? What are the lessons that life is asking you?”
Some people can go run a marathon and do this diet and take this pill and they’ll lose weight. But that’s less than you think. It’s not always sustainable. And in this case is not you. Sometimes the weight comes off in the way that it needs to. Weight is different for everybody. And that’s what I want you to really get and everybody tuning in and listening. The way each of us loses weight if we truly had weight to lose is so unique to our journey. So we have to let it teach us.
So I think one of your lessons is trust. One of your lessons is trust. And closely tied in is this piece of around shame. And the human condition is oftentimes steeped in shame. We carry shame for being alive, shame for having a body, shame for not having a perfect body, shame for not making enough money. You could think of shame as guilt or is sense of, “ I don’t feel good about myself,” but really magnified by a thousandfold. Shame goes very deep inside of us.
It’s an emotion that we are only beginning to understand in terms of its impact on the body. Science generally doesn’t spend a lot of time studying the very specifics about specific emotions and how they impact biochemistry and how they impact neurochemistry. It’s not something we do a lot. So we have to go on observation. And we have to go on a little bit of intuition here with what little research we have.
So I’m going to say that shame is a soul crusher. Shame – it limits metabolism. Shame limits us. And it’s something that we’re here to help transform.
I’m not even saying shame is bad. I’m saying we have it when we have it. It’s great to identify it. And then it’s great to begin to work with it so we can start to elevate it.
So your shame started when you were young. A little bit got passed on by your mom because she was feeling shame about her body. So I’m not blaming it on her. I’m just saying you grew up in that atmosphere. You grew up in an environment where the woman you were modeling after feels shame towards her own body. So it’s only natural that were going to model after our same sex parent and feel shame about ourselves. Because, “If my mommy feels that way, then I should feel that way, too.” So we adopt that.
And to me it’s almost as if there’s a part of you that’s still that little girl who has shame about who she is. And you haven’t quite shaken that off yet. You are no longer that little girl who is going to the beach with her friends. You think you are. You think you are because you don’t have the body you want to have.
But what I’m saying is, yeah, that little girl felt shame. It’s totally understandable. And it’s time to create a different experience inside yourself because, believe it or not, we have some choice here. This is not easy work. It’s not simple. But it’s completely doable. So I’m going to tell you in my opinion what I see your job here as in the long term, the job here is to begin to rise above your shame. Hard to do.
But that will free us because when we’re walking around in shame, were essentially saying, “I don’t deserve the goodies. I don’t deserve to be happy. I don’t even deserve to be here. I don’t deserve. I’m not okay as I am. If I was different, then I’d be okay.”
And that will seep into all parts of life. As you mentioned, it seeps into your workplace. You know you have value. But maybe the workplace doesn’t recognize you. So, “How do I find value in myself?” There might be people who look at you and go, “Yeah, you need to lose weight. I don’t like your body.” And how do we disengage from the opinions of others and find our own dignity and find our own place inside of ourselves.
So I think what you’re trying to do is to find your sense of home inside you. I don’t think you’ve ever really found the place where Clara feels safe with herself. A lot of times what happens to girls who are carrying more weight than their friends is they become overly nice. And they become people pleasers. And, “What do I have to do to please you and be nice so you like me? Because I’m fat. And people don’t like fat people. But if I’m really nice to you, then you’re going to like me.”
And I’m wondering if you’ve done a little bit about that. And, of course, I want you to be the sweet person that you are. But I don’t want you to be sweet when you’re not feeling like being sweet. I don’t want you to be nice when you’re really not feeling like being nice. It’s kind of like we compensate for, “Oh, my God. The world is not going to like me because I look a certain way or weigh certain amount. Therefore, okay, I’m going to be super nice.”
So part of trusting yourself is being the real you. There might be times where you are pissed off at someone at work. Can you say something? Or at least can you come home and share with your partner, “Okay, here’s what’s really going on for me.” I think there’s a place where you need more of an outlet for the emotions and the feelings inside you that are not pretty, the places where you get mad, angry, where you’re upset. And it’s fine to be mad, angry, and upset. You don’t have to justify it.
And the reason I’m saying that is that when I asked you the question, “Well, why do you think you’ve kept on the weight?” you said, “Oh, maybe protection.” That’s possible. I’m not saying that’s true. I’m saying it’s possible. But in a way, as the real you starts to come out more, your body has more room to shift into what it’s supposed to be. Yeah, maybe you are protecting against the world. Maybe you’re protecting the world from you. That’s another possibility.
Do you get angry? What makes you angry?
Clara: I don’t think I even allow myself to be. I think what you described before is kind of the perfect description of me. To compensate the look, I suppressed any anger or strong reaction, becoming someone that has to be nice all the time. So I don’t even know how to answer the question because that’s the extent of it. I don’t even know. Yeah, it’s a hard question in itself, just what makes me angry because I don’t think I easily allow myself to be.
Marc: Yes, so thank you. That’s very honest. And what I’m about to say is less scientific. But it’s more coming from a place of different schools of psychology, different schools around emotional release work around, and also different schools of somatic psychology. What often happens, the body holds. The body is repository of memory. Your brain remembers. Your cells remember. Your muscles remember. We’re a collection of memories. Memory lives in different ways in different parts of the body.
Also, we are constantly metabolizing our environment. So I’m taking in food. I metabolize it. I break it down. So if my body is not properly metabolizing food, I will get bigger. If my body is not properly metabolizing water, let’s say, I can get bloated. As I could gain five or six pounds in the day of water if my body is not metabolizing water.
When we don’t metabolize different emotions and different life experiences like a past event, like our childhood, like my relationship with my brother, my mother, my father, whatever it is, when certain pieces of life aren’t metabolized, we can get bigger.
Literally we hold. There’s a holding. There’s something built up. So I’ve met people who they have so much grief, there’s been so much loss. But they’ve never got to express their loss. They might have families killed in war. And they’re holding this grief and it comes out as weight. And they don’t lose weight until they’re able to move their tears. There’s other people who – they’re holding back their sexuality. They’re holding back their playful side. And they can’t lose weight until they metabolize that excitement and actual passion. And it could be combinations of those.
So what I’m guessing for you in the short time that we have based on how I read people is what I’m getting about you is that there is anger in you. There’s protest in you. There is a part of you that’s just wants to say no to a lot of bullshit that you see. And you don’t because you have to be good. You think you have to be good.
And what happens is you’re really not being congruent with yourself. So then your body can’t be congruent because your mind is not being congruent. Your emotions are not being congruent, meaning it’s not being in alignment with who you truly are. So it makes sense to me that you could even diet or follow a healthy way of eating and eat the right foods and be like, “Why isn’t this coming off?”
So when that happens, yeah, we can look at issues like thyroid. You can go have your thyroid checked. You can go have your blood sugar metabolism checked. You could have your trails checked. I’m not getting that that’s a big thing for you, quite frankly. But either way, there’s always the deeper work no matter what’s going on metabolically. There’s always deeper work that will support whatever diet or medical intervention we’re doing.
In your case, I want to see you…so here’s homework assignment. I want you to, at night, before bed, sit down with pen and paper maybe or sit down at the computer. And I want you to see if you can go back in time, as far back as you can, and start to write. I’m going to call it an anger inventory. And I want you to write down everything that you are angry about.
And it could be the littlest things. “I remember when my uncle gave me vanilla ice cream and I asked for chocolate. And I got mad at him. But I never said anything. So I’m mad at my uncle from fifty years ago for not getting me…” The littlest things, the biggest things. You could have seen something on television that made you angry. I don’t care. It could be minor. You don’t need justifications when you write this list.
Just like you don’t have to justify to me why you love flowers. I don’t need you to justify that. If you love flowers, you love flowers. If you love birds, you love birds. If you love penguins, it doesn’t matter. You love what you love. You’re angry at what you’re angry at. There doesn’t have to be a justification. But I want you to start to inventory and come up the present time in that inventory.
And you might do this over a bunch of nights. Even if you sit there and you can’t think of anything to say, try your best. You might even ask your partner. This would also be an interesting extra exercise. Tell him that I gave you this homework. And ask him, “Honey, what do you think I’m angry at? You know me really well…what do I get angry at? What are the things you think I’m angry at?”
What’s going to happen is as you get more intense with all of who you are, our chemistry shifts. Our body shifts. I would love for you to not have to please everybody. When you become a people pleaser, when we become a people pleaser, we actually can’t trust ourselves because then we’re not going to truly take care of ourselves. Somebody could be doing something that’s harmful for you. But you’re trying to please them. You’re not taking care of yourself. So you can’t trust yourself.
And if I can’t trust myself there, then that’s going to spill into, “I can’t trust my body. I can’t trust into how I eat. I can’t trust myself at work.” It’s going to spill into other places. You’ll trust yourself more. You’ll love yourself more when you start to stand for yourself more. Does that make sense?
Clara: Oh, very much. Yes.
Marc: So tell me how this is landing for you so far. What’s happening for you?
Clara: I resonate a lot with all of what you said. And I believe it’s part of an ongoing healing journey that I feel like I’m on especially over the past years. As you said, it’s not easy. But it’s nice to hear from you that you’re kind of like confirming things I was feeling. And I love the certain ways in which you describe it. I love the idea of the alignment and the alignments between who I am and what I might show outside and the fact that if there is not alignment between that, then the body also has a challenge aligning or expressing its health.
And I love your initial suggestion of the acting. That feels really interesting for me to explore, and the playful inventory of what would it be? I feel like I could totally benefit from visualizing more and really envisioning how I want to be instead of seeing the limitations. Yes.
And the pleasing, yeah. It’s really an ongoing journey of trusting that I can have my opinions and I can hold my space and I can stand with conflict in a healthy way. Conflict doesn’t mean that I am unlovable and that I’m going to be abandoned or rejected. So that’s a whole, yeah, deep issues that I can totally relate with.
Marc: And you can start. Thank you for saying all that. You can start working with this piece around conflict and being willing to share what is really going on for you. And just because you have a dissenting opinion or you’re mad or you’re angry or you’re unhappy with somebody doesn’t make you unlovable.
Do you know people in your life or people that you’ve met before who are very confrontational? Or they’re willing to go into conflict. And they’re still lovable. And everybody loves them. And those people are just not afraid to say their thoughts and feelings.
Clara: I’m not sure. But I imagine there are. Yeah, yeah. I’m kidding. Yes.
Marc: So all I’m saying is it’s possible. I see it all the time. And it’s you learning how to begin maybe for the first time ever to engage in conflict or be willing to engage in what feels like it’s conflict for you. Really what it is is you learning how to be comfortable with feeling emotions that are uncomfortable for you.
So you’re not comfortable when you’re angry, upset, mad, when you have a different opinion, or when you are seeing things in a way that may be people other see them. You get uncomfortable because you kind of probably go to, “Oh, my God. If I say just, people are not going to like me. So not only will I be unlikable because I’m engaging in conflict, but I’ll be even more unlikable because I don’t have the perfect body. So then I’m a really bad person.”
And those two, believe it or not, somewhere inside you — this isn’t conscious — but those two are coupled together.
The belief that the combination of not having this perfect body, so having this body look the way it looks and having it being at the weight that your are at somehow “I have to be really nice. Otherwise I’m screwed.” And I’m saying not true. They have nothing to do with each other, absolutely zero.
So you will be trustable to yourself. You’ll be more interesting to yourself when you start to be the real you here. And when you say, “Wow, I don’t even know what I’m angry about because I haven’t really gone there,” it’s true. So now you get to go there. So I’m going to say it’s new territory for you. This doesn’t mean that everything is going to change overnight. But you now have a new road to take that I’m saying to you without a doubt — I’d bet millions of dollars — that if you starts to follow the truth that lives within you, which is, “Hey, here’s what I’m experiencing, my reality right now. Here’s what’s going on at work. Here’s what’s going on with my relationship. Here’s what’s just happened with this person I just interact with on the streets of Brooklyn. I’m going to say what I want to say.”
You might come off sounding like a jerk. You might come off sounding like a bitch. But what I don’t want you to do is bury it and pretend to be a good little girl so people like you. So what I guarantee you is that’s going to make you feel so great about yourself. It’s going to make you feel so great about yourself. And it then positions you to have the right experience to lose weight if your body truly has weight to lose.
Because then the weight is more free to go. Right now, if the weight is truly being held on, it’s not free to go because you haven’t read all of yourself. You follow me?
Marc: So as we free the parts of you that want to be free, then the weight will come off as almost like a side effect of that.
But the first step is to kind of not really worry about the weight. So what I want to say to you is I would love for you to take the next three months and let go of weight loss. Just really let it go. And focus on you reclaiming parts of you that are ready to come out. And I think it just has a lot to do with you…how old are you now?
Marc: Okay. So I want you to be thirty-three. Thirty-three, by the way, is considered a very powerful age in different traditional systems. It’s considered in a lot of ways one of the heights of our incarnation. We have our greatest amount of potential health, potential power. All the cylinders are clicking. This is a great age for you to start to claim your power, to start to claim, “This is me. This is Clara. I’m a woman in the world. I’m accomplished. I have some good things going for me. Is everything perfect? No. Is everything perfect for everybody else? No. And I’m okay as who I am.”
At the end of the day, only you can give yourself the permission to be okay and not be ashamed of yourself. There’s nothing nobody else could do where you’ll go, “Oh, now I love myself. Now I’m not ashamed.” See, we grow up with shame. So many of us grow up with shame. And when we try to do things…“If I do this, if I make more money, if I get the perfect partner, if I have the perfect body, then I won’t be ashamed. I won’t have to take any criticism from any of you. I’ll be perfect. And then you’ll all love me.” And it doesn’t work. Those strategies are awful. They never work for people.
And even if you push yourself to lose weight based on trying to people please, you’re still going to be a people pleaser. You’re still not going to trust yourself. And the weight will cycle back on. Or if it doesn’t, you’ll just still be unhappy. And trust me, it won’t make much of a difference.
So what I’m saying is now is a time in your life, I believe, where you’re ready to make the shift. And I think it’s a shift, in a way, it’s from you being a girl to you being a woman. A girl needs on the outside approval. A woman knows who she is. It doesn’t mean you don’t want to change some things. That’s fine. It’s totally within your right to want to have a better apartment, make more money, lose weight. It’s totally your prerogative. Great.
So do that from a place of your womanhood, which is, “I’m lovable right now as who I am. I don’t have to pretend to be somebody I’m not.” You could spend a whole week being a bitch at work. Are they going to fire you? I don’t know. Will they if you’re speaking your mind? Maybe. So you have to play it right. But there’s certain people you might not be as nice to. Or you might just be quiet and not go out of your way to please them when that’s not what you feel like doing.
So your job is going to be to really monitor your internal experience and really access and ask yourself, “How am I truly feeling right now? And am I being congruent with myself?” Granted there are moments when…I was at a business conference past weekend. And somebody did something at a dinner that annoyed me. It wouldn’t have been socially correct for me to say something and get all upset in that moment. So I didn’t say anything.
But I least allowed myself the experience of, “I’m upset at this person. I get that. I’m not going to pretend to be nice. I’m not going to pretend that I like him. I’m not going to take care of them in any way.” I might say something to them afterwards when there’s no one else around, when we’re in private and keep it between us. But I was able to stay congruent with myself and not just throw a plate at the person.
So obviously I know you’re going to have to do a little bit of negotiation and dialogue. And I want you to be clear with yourself. Ask yourself the question, “Am I being congruent with what I’m feeling and how I’m expressing myself in the world?” That’s so important.
You might find that you’re not as nice as you think you are. That doesn’t mean you’re not nice and sweet. But you don’t have to be that all the time. And I think you’re going to discover some interesting things about yourself.
Clara: That sounds very interesting. Yes.
Marc: So let me just recap a few of the pieces here. Doing the inventory about how you want to play and how you want to be the real you, what are those specifics that you actually do to just be playful? Just make a list. And then start to do some of that. Start with one thing. And start to be that play for you. So now you’re moving towards your goals. And it’s not off in the future. You’re doing it now.
There is the anger inventory that might be an ongoing inventory. But I want you to start as young as you can imagine. Start with little things. What made you angry? What are the things in general that get you angry? Maybe you believe in animal-rights and you hate when people are abusing animals. What gets you angry? So when you write an inventory because there’s a lot of power in our anger.
And when we get in touch with our anger, believe it or not that often helps us better manage our shame. It’s a weird thing that happens. And I also want you to think about how this is a turning point in your life right now. This is a turning point. And it’s a turning point if you say it’s a turning point. I think it is for you. But you have to embrace it as a turning point.
And what I’m saying is that turning point is you’re going from girl to woman. You’re going from, “I need your approval of me,” to, “I need my approval of me.” If you approve of me, great. If you don’t, fine. Then I don’t need you as a friend. But my approval of me counts more than anyone else. That’s what’s important because then you’ll start to reclaim your power more. As we reclaim our power, we reclaim our metabolism. It’s the same thing.
How does that feel for you? How does that land for you?
Clara: It feels really good. I feel something that I would be really, really curious to work with and explore. That goes with the slowing down that you suggested. I would love to really commit to embrace that as an experiment for some time because I feel like on and off, the weight loss has always been in the background. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to really say, “Okay, this is going to be my main focus. Forget about the weight for a minute and see.” So, yeah.
Marc: So that’s what we’re doing. What we’re doing is we’re taking our focus off of weight loss because you’ve had your focus on weight loss for a long time. And that kind of focus hasn’t worked. If it did, we wouldn’t be here. So what I’m saying is this is a different strategy than what you’ve tried, than what most of us have tried.
And the strategy is we are going to let it go for three months instead of all that focus going, “Oh, my weight, my body. I don’t like this. What do I do?” That’s a lot of energy. Now the focus is on you as a person. Now the focus is on you coming out. The focus is on you flowering. The focus is on you going into some of the places that aren’t always uncomfortable. It’s easier to obsess about my weight than it is to ask myself, “What am I angry at? And how do I start to learn how to be with my anger?” That’s way harder than just dieting. Really.
Clara: Oh, yeah.
Marc: But that’s what I’m suggesting in my experience is going to be the way through for you. And I really believe this could be life changing for you.
Clara: Sounds great.
Marc: So, Clara, here’s what we’ll do. We’ll reconvene in three months and see how you’re doing and kind of get a check in. So I think you’re clear about what the road is for you right now. Yeah?
Clara: Yeah, I’m very curious to take some steps over there.
Marc: Great. Thanks so much. Thanks so much for being so willing and being so honest and being so real and sharing yourself. This is about you. But to me, everything you’ve shared, I’ve seen these same basic challenges and concerns in so many people. This is what so many of us are dealing with. So I know that this is going to be a great service for people who are listening and tuning in. So thank you.
Clara: That’s great. I’m so happy to be able to contribute to myself and to other people. Thank you so much, Marc.
Marc: You’re welcome, Clara. And thank you, everybody, for tuning in. I’m Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. There’s lots more to come, my friends. Take care.
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