Psychology of Eating Podcast Episode #157: Follow-Up: Letting Go of A Problematic “Belly Image”

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Podcast Episode 157: Follow-Up: Letting Go of A Problematic "Belly Image"

For many people who struggle with obsessive thoughts about food and body, a closer look reveals that food isn’t the real issue after all, but a distraction from something deeper (and possibly scarier). Cydney has spent the last four years feeling completely controlled by her relationship with food and her drive to obtain body perfection through diet and intensive exercise.

At the same time, she’s frustrated by feelings of insecurity that she can never seem to shake: she worries about health, finances, her appearance, what others think of her, and more. In this moving session, Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, helps Cydney see that she tends to stay stuck in her head and does not let herself feel.

Once she started shifting the focus from her diet to her larger challenge around finding security in life, Cydney came to understand that she carries that insecurity in her belly – but that it is possible to have a different experience.

And when she realized that she already has some powerful sources of security in her circle of female friends, Marc coached her to start tapping into these resources and begin living life from a more empowered place.

Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:

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

Marc: Welcome, everybody. I’m Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. And we are in the Psychology of Eating podcast. And I’m with Cydney again. Welcome, Cydney.

Cydney: Hello, Marc.

Marc: Glad you’re here. Glad we’re doing this.

Cydney: Yeah. Good to be back.

Marc: Thank you. Thank you for showing up. And so I just want to let you viewers and listeners know, this is our follow-up session. So Cydney and I met back in February, which, in a way, was right around the corner; but in another way, it seems like years ago. And we’re going to just get caught up and see how you were doing since our first and only session together.

So ideal universe, can you just give people like a quick encapsulation of what was the ‘oomph’ that you wanted to work on and make headway for yourself?

Cydney: If I believe correctly in my mind, it was working on a lot of body image stuff. In particular, there was a lot of concern about my belly, just hanging on to too much weight there and just knowing that probably the way I was approaching exercise was overkill.

And I know that what I was struggling was just eating habits to – I can’t recall, necessarily, if we went too much into any of the binge eating history per se, but I think majority of what the concern was, was getting to a really comfortable place with how I feel my body and how I am able to present my body to others. Yeah.

Marc: Yeah, just that little thing.

Cydney: That little thing. Right.

Marc: That little thing. Yeah, so that’s big. That’s a big undertaking. I just want to say, for those of us and there are untold many, many, many people who are not comfortable being in a body, not comfortable in our physical from. Because we’re always being told we’re not good enough and all these messages that we get from the universe.

So how have you been doing since our first connection? What’s been happening? Any headway. Steps forward. Steps back. Openings. Insights. Breakthroughs. Breakdowns. You tell me.

Cydney: Oh, that’s a lot of questions all in one.

Marc: That’s true.

Cydney: Right. Well, I think what’s pretty major for me was one of the assignments from the last time that we spoke was that I was pretty obsessed with going to the gym to transform myself or just morph into something different.

And I was given your guidance to say, “Hey, step back. Can you actually go into the gym or workout scenario without the need to have to transform yourself? Can you go in just to move and just be present in your body?” So not like the future results. And I can say that, that is much better.

I used go to like five to six days a week. I have cut it down pretty much to four days a week and then two days of yoga. And so that yoga, I think, has really helped me relax into my being more. And there’s not quite as much of the obsession of what exactly is changing, how is it changing, is it getting worse, is it getting better, but just going for strength and conditioning and just what is my body more capable of doing.

So my goals now are more oriented towards like stretching, mobility, lifting my body weight, those sorts of things. So the focus has shifted, which I feel is really good progress in one respect.

And then I think what comes with that is that I’m not quite as obsessed about what does the belly look like then, right? Because if I’m not trying to go into the gym with the preconceived notion of changing something; I’m actually just being. And that relaxes me a lot more, definitely.

And I don’t think I haven’t weighed myself, maybe since last September. So I couldn’t tell you what the shift is in weight, I have no clue. But there’s definitely morphing of body composition. And I notice it’s in a direction that I wanted to go in all along, if that makes sense. Like when I spoke to you at first, I wanted to change my belly, right? Like I want it to get flatter and it is moving in that direction, but I’m not nearly as obsessed. That’s not to say that, that doesn’t necessarily go away, right? Because I’m conditioned to that way for many, many years to be critical of body parts. But there’s more of an ease, grace, and flow about it.

What else? I think the other thing that we went into depth about was just security issues and how that could be manifesting around the belly. Like the lower chakra system and just feeling insecure in many realms in life, in relationships, finances, just insecure in my body. So that was a major theme that was running through our discussion. This is still a really difficult one for me, I’ll be honest.

Marc: This, meaning?

Cydney: Security. Yeah. Like coming to a place of feeling secure. It’s not like the light switch went on and today I feel like financially secure, secure in my relationships. This is a really deep and intricate process for me to go through.

Marc: Sure. Sure, sure, sure.

Cydney: But one thing that I have had to do is connect with my parents and just be honest and raw with them about just where I am financially and have some discussions that are just really uncomfortable. I don’t like asking for things. I am not comfortable asking for help especially not with money.

So to be insecure and vulnerable and ask for help there was a huge challenge for me to get through. They’re very supportive so I know they’re there for me in whatever capacity I need. But that’s a big struggle.

I would say, another thing that I’ve noticed about security is – let’s see if I can contextualize this, like to feel secure with people means that I have an intimate relationship with people. And I don’t do well with intimate relationships. I’ve noticed because if I’m in an intimate relationship, there’s risk involved, emotional risk involved.

They’re going to see me for maybe complexities of me that I don’t want them to see or risking losing them, right? And so I noticed it’s easier for me to hug a stranger than it is someone that’s close to me because there’s less risk involved in being connected there.

So I see this interplay of security and intimacy all sort of playing together, if that makes sense.

Marc: Sure. Absolutely does. Why don’t you pause there, because that’s a lot.

Cydney: Okay.

Marc: That’s a lot that you’ve just shared. And I would love to just say a couple of things.

Cydney: Okay.

Marc: First of all, I want to say to you congratulations, because I think you’ve been doing some good work.

Cydney: Thank you.

Marc: And I think it’s important for us to acknowledge work well done, even if it’s a baby step. I think that’s super important because, oftentimes and probably more times than not, life is baby steps as opposed to big giant freaking steps.

Cydney: Right.

Marc: Because everybody always wants to like hit the target and win the lottery and just hit the big time. And the big things happen a handful of times in life or whatever it is and it’s baby steps.

First thing I want to mention, you said like, “Hey, now I’m going to the gym and I’m not so focused on ‘I’m going to gym to change my body.’” Because if I was constantly going to the gym to change my body, then I’m always looking, “Did my body change? Oh my God, it didn’t change. What am I doing wrong? I’m screwed, this isn’t good enough.”

Here’s the deal and I know you this, I just want to say this that anything we want to change, you can’t change it unless you own it and unless you occupy it.

Plain and simple, you have to master a medium to change that medium that way you want to change it to. So if you want to take a blank canvas and you have a bunch of paints and you want to make a masterpiece, you have to own painting, you have to know the canvas, you have to know your colors, you have to know your craft.

So when it comes to changing the body, it’s really less about getting to the gym and punishing it and pushing it and beating it up, which people can do and you can change your body that way. For some people that works, but they usually still end up in some of misery with a different body.

Cydney: Yeah.

Marc: Or they end up being a person with an interesting body, but they themselves are rather uninteresting, because they still live in that same kind of strange distorted ‘I’m not good enough’ place. And nothing’s really changed and who cares? Really, who cares?

So what I want to say is it sounds to me like you’re taking more ownership of your body and inhabiting it more and just, “Oh, this is me going to the gym because, yeah, sure there’s a part of me that wants to change my body. But honestly in order to change it, I just have to relax into it and exercise and then just feel what it feels like.”

So I think that’s super, super, super, super important because it’s a little bit of a paradox. The more you let go of the need to change it, the more your body actually has facility to change, because you can finally relax into it. Because, otherwise, your body is just getting beat up by you, you know?

Cydney: Yeah. And I would definitely get those signals when I was going hard before. I definitely got those signals that I was not right.

Marc: Yeah. And the signal being, “I disapprove of you, body. I’m attacking you with exercise. I’m punishing you with exercise.” And that way of being in dialogue with self and dialogue with the body is a form of insanity. You didn’t invent it. You inherited that form of insane thinking from the world, from the culture, from the media, from the experts. I want to be really clear about that.

I also find fascinating, this thing about safety and this piece about intimacy for you. You said, “You know, in order for me to feel safe with someone, I kind of have to be intimate with them. But if I’m intimate with them, you sort of don’t feel safe with them.”

Now, here’s the thing. Here’s what I want to say. I want to reinvent that little formula there. I want to say in order for you to feel safe with anyone, you have to be intimate with yourself first, self-intimacy above all freaking else. Now, that sounds odd. It is not about you just kind of sitting in front of a mirror and touching yourself and saying how wonderful you are, even though it could be that.

When I say self-intimacy, it’s the kind of intimacy where we can be with ourselves. You can lie in bed and deep breathe and just lie there and create a good feeling. You can lie there and just feel what you’re feeling. Whatever it is, like, “Oh my God, I’m feeling really sad. Oh my God, I’m feeling really nervous about tomorrow,” and be able to hold yourself in that place or, “Oh my God, my mind is crazy and my mind is torturing me. Oh, can I have a little bit of compassion for myself, it’s tough being me.” That’s being intimate with yourself.

Being intimate with yourself is seeing yourself and still loving and accepting yourself. Being intimate with yourself is seeing yourself and still loving yourself. Now, we are not intimate with each other when we’re not seeing each other, like, “Yeah, okay, here’s a stranger, I’m not intimate with you because we’ve never gotten close. You don’t know me, I don’t know you. We haven’t gone to those places where there’s potential tenderness and where we touch those little soft spots. And if we had gone to that place and if you hurt me in that place, I would probably have punched you and we’re not intimate anymore,” so you want to see that person.

So what I’m trying to say is intimacy starts with you, and I really mean that. And the more you are intimate with you, the more you start to feel safe, because you are not safe with others if you self attack.

If you self attack, imagine what other people who aren’t even you could do?

Cydney: Yep.

Marc: Here’s what I think, this is observation, we tend to think that other people think like us. We tend to believe, until we start to figure it out, we tend to operate as if the world thinks like us. Criminals think everybody’s a criminal. They think everybody just has a criminal mind. A lot of times, if you think people are out to get you, it’s often related to the fact that you’re after yourself, you’re out to get you.

Cydney: Yeah.

Marc: So we kind of project onto the world what we’re doing to self. So all I’m saying is it’s not as scary as you think out there.

Cydney: Okay.

Marc: That’s all I’m saying. It’s not as scary as you think because you’re making friends with Miss Numero Uno, which is you.

Cydney: Right.

Marc: I mean, really, Cydney, on one level it’s as simple as that. And I think we look – we, the collective we – we look for these crazy complex answers with complex diets and complex exercise to fix it all.

Cydney: Right.

Marc: And complex crazy interesting exercise is good if it can be done from a place of freedom.

Cydney: Yeah. It makes sense.

Marc: What do you think about that intimacy piece? Does that ring true for you?

Cydney: Yeah. I would say that definitely does ring true, because part of what we discussed last time was dropping into the emotional body, getting out of the rat race in my head, which it’s really always been uncomfortable for me to drop down into my emotions, right? And that’s being intimate with myself. If I’m up in my head all the time, I don’t have to get into my emotions. And that’s part of the thing, it’s like letting go of the crazy town that’s happening in my head and just feeling what’s coming up.

Just like this morning, just having some feelings of overwhelm and doubt about certain things in life. And then I’m in yoga and that’s moving energy and I’m like, “I don’t care if these people next to me know I’m crying, I’m just going to cry this out,” that’s just what I have to do. So it’s slowly inviting more of that in and just being my caretaker.

Marc: That’s good news. I’m glad to hear that. I think we have to be more daring. I think we have to be more daring with ourselves and, in relation to ourselves, daring in terms of daring to treat ourselves a little better internally. Daring to love ourselves more even though I don’t have the perfect body and I don’t have the perfect belly and I don’t have the perfect body composition. Okay, fine.

It takes a certain courage to say, “You know something, I’m not going to buy into the programming.” And it’s really a practice. When you say, “Get out of crazy town in my head.” My mind translates that as to stop buying into the thoughts that my mind does that pull me down.

Cydney: Exactly.

Marc: Because it’s your mind that exists in your being, it’s yours. It’s yours. It’s yours. So our job, really, is to figure out how to unlock that door to get into kind of the back room of the mind where all the little buttons are and start to operate it to our advantage. We especially want to push the stop button on these things called ‘self-attacking, self-hateful thoughts,’ because those have never been shown to advance the state of humanity. I’m sorry.

Okay, maybe self-hate or self-attack might teach us that self-hate or self-attack doesn’t work. But this, overall, is an awful strategy.

Cydney: Yeah.

Marc: And it’s not yours, it’s humanity’s. It’s like we seem to have been born with this as a planet. And I think that’s what we’re doing here. We’re kind of addressing it as head on as possible.

Cydney: Yeah.

Marc: Where are you hopeful?

Cydney: Where am I hopeful? I am hopeful that I can be my best friend. I am hopeful that dipping into that and just owning that will create more security in my outer world. I am hopeful that my body will continue to relax and show up as it’s really truly meant to be. And then I can embrace what that looks like.

I know that right now, what it is, is what it’s supposed to be right now, yeah. So if it’s going to whatever it’s going to do, that I can continue to embrace whatever it’s going to do.

Marc: I got to ask you this question, because it just popped up and it feels important. I noticed that I didn’t get your definition of what security is and you just started sharing. You said, “So I can feel more secure in the outer world.”

So what would feeling more secure in the world kind of look like for you? I feel more secure means the following has happened or is happening.

Cydney: Secure in the outer world is having people show up for me when I need them to show up for me in ways that I need to be supported, I guess. Just kind of dancing around what that looks like in my intimate relationship with my husband, it’s just we’re trying to figure that out.

And I think, well, because we’re human beings and a huge exchange in this world is money, it’s like creating that security of I don’t have to worry about paying for X, Y, and Z or relying on somebody else to help me pay for X, Y, and Z. Does that fit the definition or help you?

Marc: Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes. Yes it definitely helps me and I’m totally on board with that. I’m like, “Yes, I love that.” But I want to just put an end on there to make sure that you round out your definition of feeling secure in the outer world. What I want to say is the outer world is not a secure place.

Cydney: Right.

Marc: It’s not.

Cydney: No, it’s not.

Marc: There’s death. There’s destruction. There’s war. There’s challenge. There’s fast moving cars. There’s large vehicles. Shit happens. Stuff happens. It’s safe when it is and it’s not when it’s not. So we can never guarantee security is what I want to say. Security is an odd duck, just a little odd. Can’t guarantee that we’re going to get it. So a little part of me kind of goes, “Hah,” when somebody says I want to feel more secure. Because it’s usually attached to very specific things that we want, “Well, when I get this then… I can relax and feel secure with my husband does this or the numbers in the bank do that,” makes total sense to me, I get it. I feel more secure when I have more money, mostly. But the weird thing is I watch that change. I’ve watched it change because then you hit a point where you’re like, “Oh my goodness, I have this that I thought was going to make me more secure of that,” and then something else pops up and life changes. And all the sudden, “Well, I’ll feel more secure when I have more energy or when I’m more healthy.”

There’s always going to be something that’s showing up for us as it makes me not feel secure. What I’m trying to say here is I get that there are certain goals that you want to reach in terms of finances, in terms of relationship with your partner, and that sort of thing and I’m totally behind that. And I also want to say, be careful about letting your sense of security rest on what’s happening in the outer world alone. Because quite frankly, you could feel way more secure now without the numbers moving and without your husband doing anything different. You could feel more secure.

And the way that happens is it’s a little bit more about trust and faith as opposed to security. Security usually means for us I have this tried-and-true thing I can lean on. I have this thing. I have this bank account. I’ve got this house. I have these gold bars, security. I have this partner that always does this, this, this and this, just so, secure. Instead of that, we can feel secured trusting and having faith that, “I will be okay no matter what the outcome. Even if I don’t have enough money, even if my husband does this or doesn’t do that, I will be okay. Why? Because I will pivot somehow. I will follow another path. I’ll move in another direction. I’ll reach out for help. I will do this. I would – something.”

So trust and faith is a little bit more of a fine kind of set of values. They’re a little bit more intangible. Because you can’t bank on it. You can’t quantify trust and faith. You can quantify money. You can quantify, to some degree, people’s behaviors. So you may not hit the security points you want or you might or you might surpass them dramatically, who knows. But all I’m saying is security is an inner feeling and when you can back it up with trust in a higher power guiding you, in faith that your life has a bigger purpose other than to torture you, then I think you’re on the right path. You know what I’m saying?

Cydney: Yeah. Definitely, trying to press trust button more often.

Marc: And I think that’s true, it is like a button. It is something we access. You have to summon it. It doesn’t always just happen.

Cydney: No. No. Yeah, you have to – well, you have to kind of – for me, I kind of have to calm down and just say, “Well, okay, we should trust,” because when you trust, I mean, you do calm down. So it’s kind of like this circular thing that happens, “Okay, calm down. Trust. And then you calm down a little bit more.”

Marc: Yeah.

Cydney: Yeah.


So, it’s really about sinking into self. And while you work on your outer goals, financial security, relationship security, while you work on that, you also, at the same time, work on that, “I will be okay no matter what.”

That’s the ultimate security. Because then, it doesn’t have conditions around it that you have to constantly jockey for to figure out how to get those conditions in place, “Well, wait a second, I’m going to feel comfortable with this amount of money. I don’t have that much amount of money.” So if you know your parents are a safety net, then just feel the trust in that. And use that to your advantage. It doesn’t mean you have to ask or anything. It’s just allow yourself to relax into that and let that give your wings a little bit of wind to move forward with yourself.

Cydney: Yeah. Makes sense.

Marc: How are you doing? What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What’s happening?

Cydney: I guess I always thought that I really had to stand on my own two feet for everything. I thought success as a woman meant like I could fully support myself and just be sort of this one-woman-show, but I’m realizing that, that’s just kind of not it. Like when I put those pressures on myself, there’s a lot of misery. So those are discussions that I’ve had with my parents as well. Because just kind of the way the earth is spinning right now, it’s not necessarily the nicest place for twenties or thirty-something to try to stand on their two feet right now. And I think a lot of us are having to swallow our pride and ask people for help to make it through.

Marc: Yeah. I totally agree. And it is the way of the economic world right now. It is harder. I firmly believe that. I’ve been around the planet enough to see like, “Whoa, these are some interesting times.” It’s not easy to have your own job, to have your own place, and to pay off your college loans if you have them.

There’s a lot of people struggling in that regard. More to the point, humans throughout history have needed each other. It’s just the way it is. We need each other. That’s why God made – or whoever created all this, made all of us not just one of us. Didn’t just make you, didn’t just make me, there’s a lot of us, because it takes a lot of people to make the circus work here.

Cydney: Correct. Yeah, it’s kind of thrusting me into recognizing that it isn’t just me having to step up and be everything. I have to trust those around me and just – higher power and everything, that’s part of this whole lesson in this time frame, I think.

Marc: Cydney, good for you. I know you’re working hard. I do, I do, I do. And I appreciate you and I appreciate your efforts. And I know you’re going to get where you want to go. And it’s all about enjoying your journey little bit more and a little bit more and knowing that we’re all a work in progress. And I think you’re doing great, I really do.

Cydney: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure to connect with you and get some great insight.

Marc: Yay. Thank you so, so much.

Cydney: Thank you. Have a wonderful evening.

Marc: Yeah. I intend to. And thank you, everybody, for tuning in. Once again, I’m Marc David. On behalf of the Psychology of Eating podcast, lots more to come as always, my friends. You take care.

I hope this was helpful. Thanks for listening to the Psychology of Eating podcast. To learn more about the breakthrough body of work we teach here at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, please sign up for our free video series at You’ll learn about the cutting-edge principles of dynamic eating psychology and mind-body nutrition that have helped millions of people forever transform their relationship with food, body, and health.

Podcast Episode 157: Follow-Up: Letting Go of A Problematic "Belly Image"

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