Leslie, 58, finds herself on a continuous hunt for happiness as she opens up to Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, about her use of overeating to disconnect. By digging deeper into relationship with Mom and Dad, the loss of her own child, and where all the past has brought her in the present, Marc and Leslie take a journey of discovery around what happiness might look like to her, some good practices moving forward, and letting go of past disappointments by starting with a true, deep self love.
Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:
Marc: Welcome, everybody. I’m Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. We are back in the Psychology of Eating podcast. I am with Leslie today. Welcome, Ms. Leslie.
Leslie: Thank you. Thank you.
Marc: I’m glad we’re here and I’m glad we’re doing this. And let me just say a couple words to viewers and listeners. If you’re new to this podcast, it’s real easy and real straightforward. Leslie and I have never officially met until a minute or two ago, and we’re going to do a session and see if we can push the fast-forward button on a little bit of change and transformation and try to do some good work.
So, Leslie, if you could wave your magic wand and if you can get whatever you wanted out of that time together, please tell me what would that look like for you?
Leslie: That I would be able to let go of a lot of things that I’ve held onto for a long time, just let go of some things that I haven’t—I’ve worked hard, tried to let go of them, and haven’t been able to do it.
Marc: Mmhmm. Is there anything that’s related to you in terms of food, body that you would like to see shift? Give me some information about that.
Leslie: Yes. I can eat a horrendous amount of food. I can eat and disconnect from myself. I didn’t know that’s what I was doing until now, but I disconnect from myself when I eat. I’d really like to be able to get through that. And I’m starting to understand it now but to really see where that comes from and understand where that comes from.
I’ve struggled with my weight. People will say, “Oh, you don’t look like you’re overweight.” To me, it isn’t about my weight. It’s about how I feel about my weight. I would just like to be able to put some of this behind me.
Marc: Mmhmm. So when you first answered my question and I said, “If you could wave your magic wand, what would you get?” you first said, “Yeah, there’s some things I would love to just kind of let go of. I’ve tried to let go of. I couldn’t.” I asked you about the food piece. You told me, “Ok, yeah. I could just eat a horrendous amount of food. I could maybe check out a little bit.”
Is there a connection that you’ve drawn between things you want to let go of and your eating?
Leslie: When I think of my past and started to relate how my past is affecting what I’m feeling when I eat, I don’t know how to let go of that, let go of those things. I start questioning now, is that why I’m doing this? Is that why I’m eating and overeating? I just question it constantly and haven’t figured out how to put it together. I haven’t been able to put that together, but I know it’s there. I know that that’s there, that those are some of the reasons I’m overeating. But I don’t know how to fight it. It seems like I need to fight it or figure out how to do it.
Marc: Got it. Sure. That makes sense to me. So, assuming you’ve fought it however you need to fight it, assuming you win, you’ve defeated, you’re the world champion here, what is the new Leslie like? What’s different? So let’s say you got where you wanted to go. Who is this person?
Leslie: This person would be someone who loves not just herself but every day. Loves—I can’t say I love to eat or I love food. I would like to be able to love it and not need it. Love it and be able to eat and not feel like I need to overeat. Okay, again, I would like to be able to love food, love life, love every day, and things would flow and I would be happy. I’ve seen it.
I’m thinking of someone particular that does this. She loves food. She never overeats. She’s happy all the time. Not that I want to be her, but I see that she’s got it. She has this peace about her that I would love. I would love to be able to have that peace. Does it take meditation? What is it going to take for me to be able to become that and have that kind of relaxation in my life?
Marc: Great question. I really like that question. We’re going to circle back to that at some point. Is this a person that you know personally?
Leslie: Mmhmm. Very much so. Yes.
Marc: Uh-huh. So in your opinion—I’m not looking for a right answer—if you had to guess, how do you think she got to this lovely place?
Leslie: She’s been that way forever. She’s been that way. She’s always been that way. I don’t think that there was one thing that all of a sudden she woke up one day and she’s just become this person. But she’s always been that way.
Marc: Got it.
Leslie: So I know that’s going to be a struggle, but I do think it’s possible to have that.
Marc: Got it. Got it. Got it. So let’s come back to a minute. You said, “Huh, maybe these things that I can’t let go of might be impacting my overeating.” Are you willing to share what you think those pieces might be that you think might be related? Yeah, tell me.
Leslie: My father. Let’s talk about father, mother really quickly. My father was an artist, very abstract artist in Denver. I never could live up to that. I could never live up to that. I never was artsy like he would’ve liked me to be. So I’ve always had that in the back of my mind, and then as far as my mother is concerned, I don’t remember my mother as a child. I almost don’t even remember her as a child. She was always disconnected, always distant. I always felt like I was the third child, and I was the third one out.
The oldest child got this. The next one because he was a boy got that. And here I was and then there was the baby. So I always felt that way. I’ve always felt that way. So I don’t think I always overate, but as I got older, I learned to cope with it with food. All those emotions, all those feelings, pretty soon I’m eating constantly. I probably was at one point 30 pounds heavier than I am now, but I’ve learned how to—I lost it and then I’ve learned how to gain and lose 10 pounds, 10 pounds, 10 pounds, which to me is not about the weight. It’s how I’m feeling. So again, so I had those pieces growing up.
Then, as I got older, I got married and had children. Well, my daughter died. So it’s been 10 years, my daughter died in a car accident. And I’ve dealt with it, but again, every time I eat there’s those emotions of everything. Raising my son by myself. It’s just been a struggle, and I can overeat. I can eat a horrendous amount of food. But then the next day, I don’t eat. I can’t find a happy medium with eating three meals, feeling good about it. It doesn’t exist. I can’t do it. I haven’t been able to do it. I don’t want to say can’t. I just haven’t been able to do it.
Marc: Are there times when just kind of accidentally you have a good couple of days or a good week or it just seems like it’s been a little bit better for this day two or three? Does that ever happen?
Leslie: More so now because of what I’m doing with you. I do find myself being able to relax more where I haven’t been able to. I haven’t been able to relax. Relaxing helps a lot. And I work out all the time. I work out all the time. I’m always working out. I’m always looking for those endorphins to make myself feel better. And I can achieve that, but again, it’s not happiness. I’m constantly fighting it. I’m constantly fighting it.
Marc: Got it. So are your parents still alive?
Leslie: No, they aren’t.
Marc: How long ago did they pass?
Leslie: My dad passed away about 12-13 years ago, and my mom passed away about three years ago. My dad grew up a very orthodox Jew, a very, very orthodox Jew. And then as he got older and became an artist and went to school in Boulder and became an artist, he gave up all of his religion. And I struggled with that for a long time because my mother was very Catholic. So we had a real intense life between…
But as we got older, we did both. My dad’s parents accepted us, but it took a while. It took a long time. But I always fought that. I always struggled with that because I always felt like something was missing, that spiritual piece. And again, this girl, this friend of mine is very spiritual. Sometimes I feel like that spirituality doesn’t exist in my head. I try. I try to be this spiritual person, and I struggle with that because sometimes I just can’t find it. I can’t find that spirituality. I grew up Catholic and Jewish, so how do I deal with that?
Marc: Yeah. That’s a conundrum for sure. Are you in a relationship nowadays?
Leslie: No, I’m divorced as of last May. I’m divorced for the second time, so it’s my second divorce. And I’m living with someone right now. My son went to college. I sent my only son, my only child, off to college, and it was really, really difficult. Really difficult. That was last May.
Then, I wanted to do this with you, so I chose to house-sit for six months and not have a home so can afford to do this. So I’m house-sitting right now in someone else’s home. So there’s a lot of things going on right now, a lot of emotions, a lot of struggles. And that’s why when I have my own home and I can feel comfortable, I feel in control. Right now, I don’t feel any of that. I know I will eventually. I will. Once this is done, I’ll be able to move forward, and I know I will be able to move forward.
But there’s so many variables right now. It’s so emotional. Everything is so emotional, and I eat out of emotions. It’s not about hunger. It isn’t about hunger at all right now.
Marc: So what helps you in general? In general, what helps you feel good?
Leslie: I feel good when I’m—I don’t know. Do I say when I exercise? When I can be in nature? When I can walk? I can walk seven miles at a time, and I’ll keep walking. I’ll walk and walk and walk and walk. And sometimes I just feel like, “Oh, no. I’ve got to turn around sometime.” And all of a sudden, it’s seven miles later. I just am walking and walking. And it’s in a very rural area. I’m in a very rural area.
So there’s a lot of nature, and it’s beautiful. I do feel good when I’m in nature. I do. I work with kids every day. I love working with kids. So I’m doing that right now. And I love that. I love what I do. Moneywise, it’s not the best. That’s one of the struggles too. And nature is good.
Marc: So two years from now, where would you like to see yourself?
Leslie: I would like to see myself owning my own home which that’s a possibility. Being in control of my life, being in control of my eating, and just emotionally stronger than I am right now. I don’t feel stronger. I don’t know why I feel the need to be strong, but I do. There’s that, “I’m going to be strong. I can handle this. I can do this.” And when I don’t feel that way, I feel defeated. I feel defeated when I’m not feeling strong. I feel like a failure.
There’s a lot of that failure thing, huge. I failed my daughter. I failed this. I failed my relationships. There is a lot of, “I want to eat. I want to be fat so no one’s attracted to me. I don’t want anybody attracted to me.” That’s why I smoked for years to. I haven’t smoked in a long time, 27 years. But I remember putting that smoke—I didn’t want anybody around me. I wanted to be heavy. I wanted everybody to stay away from me, so I didn’t have to deal with relationships. I still feel that a lot. I still feel it.
Marc: Would you consider yourself—if I had to say choose one, are you an extrovert or an introvert? You’ve got to choose one.
Leslie: I think I’m an introvert. I think I’m an introvert. People I’m around say, “Oh, no. You’re not.” I have high anxiety being around people, high anxiety. I used to just leave parties. I’d walk. I’ve done that for my whole life. I’m not comfortable walking into somewhere by myself. I don’t want to go anywhere by myself. I’m so uncomfortable being around people in a group. I owned a kids’ camp, a kids’ horse camp. I can stand up—150 people and parents—and, oh, it’s great. I can do that. Put me in one-on-one going into a place, small, I’m very uncomfortable, very uncomfortable. So, no, I think I’m an introvert. I do. Not everybody feels that way. People say, “Oh, no. You’re not.” Yes, I feel that way. I feel an introvert.
Marc: Yeah, it’s kind of an unfair question because it sounds like your experience is you’re an introvert. People experience you as an extrovert. That’s kind of what I would’ve guessed.
Leslie: Oh, okay.
Marc: Yeah. When you think of your parents these days—here’s another unfair question. Sum up in a sentence or less, when I think about my dad—a sentence or less—what I think of is…
Leslie: I think of a man that wanted my happiness, but at the same time, he wished I was somebody else or wished I would be something else. Everything I did he would say, “Are you sure you’re doing that for the right reason?” I went to Europe. “Are you sure you’re going for the right reasons? Are you sure you’re getting married for the right reasons? Are you sure you’re moving to Minnesota to run a kids’ camp—are you doing it for the right reasons?” He was never happy with what I was doing. I didn’t go to college right away out of school.
He never encouraged me to go to college. Never encouraged me to go to college. My parents didn’t. I didn’t go. My brother did. He became the artist.
Marc: So aside from, gosh, he never encouraged you to do this. He always asked you these questions, “Are you sure you’re doing this right? Are you sure you should do that?” Did you experience that he loved you?
Leslie: I experienced more that he loved my children or my daughter than he loved me. Once I had my daughter, oh, he loved me a lot because he loved her a lot.
Marc: Got it.
Leslie: A lot.
Marc: So when you think about your mom, same question. When you think about your mom, one sentence. What comes to mind is…?
Leslie: She was just cold. She was cold growing up. She was cold. But once I had children, it was a whole different grandma. I was a whole different person once I had children. But, yeah, she was just cold. And as I got older, I learned why. There were a lot of reasons why. She had seven brothers and sisters, and it was an Italian family in north Denver. And they didn’t have much.
By the time they had gotten to my mom, she wasn’t even wanted in the family. So my mom was always one of those you were to be seen and not heard. That’s the way I grew up. And again, she didn’t encourage me to go to school. When I think of what I’ve done for my son to encourage him to go to school is huge comparatively. And I never got that. Never got that. It’s driven me to be completely different. I push myself to be different than them with my children, and I have.
Marc: Okay. So, Ms. Leslie, I’ve got some thoughts I would love to share with you. I appreciate you answering all of my questions so honestly. And just a couple of general comments first and then we’ll sort of dive down a little bit more into what I’m going to call just sort of some of the architecture of what I see happening for you. In general, you’ve taken a couple of hard hits in life that are difficult to come back from, quite honestly.
One of the more difficult challenges I’ve observed as a human being when I have watched other human beings is sort of moving on and integrating from the death of a child. Our children are supposed to die after us, not before us. And there’s no explanation, and on a lot of levels, there’s never a true getting over it. There’s never peace in the traditional ways that I think we like to experience peace. It’s hard to come by that.
So from that perspective, adding that onto your start in the world feels like, from what you’ve said to me, it feels like, “I didn’t really feel wanted. I wasn’t made to feel wanted. Even when I was around, I wasn’t really made to feel that interesting or important.” If you’re important, you would’ve been encouraged to do this, that, and the other thing. You would’ve been encouraged to go to college. At least that’s the message that came through to you. That’s what you absorbed. Some of that is probably correct. Your parents had their minds and their attention elsewhere. Probably more important, their understanding wasn’t enough. Their understanding wasn’t enough to kind of give you the launch that you needed.
So you’ve had a difficult road, plus having an eating challenge that you’ve been dealing with for how long would you say?
Leslie: I’ll bet I’ve been dealing with this for 40 years.
Leslie: Okay. Because I’m almost 60, so probably 40 years.
Marc: You’re almost 60. How old are you?
Marc: 58. Okay. That’s 58. You’ve got a couple years. So given your difficult road, it takes a lot. It takes a lot at this stage to kind of make the journey be different than it’s been, and I know that that’s what you want. So the journey’s had a certain quality to it. The road’s had a certain quality to it, not fun, not easy, not good. You want to change that. And you’re working hard to change that. So far, little pieces of success, not the big success that you’re looking for.
Marc: In part, from my understanding of what you’ve said, you have certain measures, as we all do, of what success looks like. More importantly, way more importantly, you have a very strong idea of what success feels like. To you, success feels like “I’m happy! I’m happy. I’m not like this other lady who I can be which is depressed or morose or feel like, damn, grumble grumble. I’m just happy. In fact, it looks like this person I know.”
Marc: It looks just like that because she’s—of course I don’t want to be her. I want to be me, but I want to be like that.
Marc: I just want to be happy. And then if I’m happy, then it’s good. Now, there’s another piece for you that this feels like that’s important as well which is you believe that if I feel strong in this struggle, that’s good, because strong people survive. Weak people get eaten by things. So when you are not strong, that is kind of like a little bit of an alarm button goes off in your head. Danger, danger, danger. Bad, bad, bad.
Marc: When you’re not happy, there’s another alarm that goes off in your head: not happy, not happy, not happy. Do something.
Leslie: Yes, eat.
Marc: So we’re going to do a whole different strategy than you’ve been doing before.
Marc: The reason why we’re going to do a whole different strategy, the reason why I would like you to do a whole different strategy is because you’re a smart lady. You know yourself better than anyone. You’ve been through life. You’ve been through a lot. You’re 58 years old. You’re a qualified human being to know a lot about life. You and I can agree that if we do something for 40 years and it ain’t working, it’s time to do something different.
Marc: It’s just logical. So here’s the core of what we’re going to do different and just bear with me here because we’re going to roll out the details of this in a little bit. But I want you to start to consider that your measurements of success are holding you back. In fact, your measurements of success, because they’re not attainable in the way you think they should be attainable you keep on failing. And because you keep on failing, according to your own measures, then it gets worse and worse and worse. And you feel more and more like a failure which is going to make you more and more want to overeat because now you feel even worse kind of than when you started.
When you started, you feel bad enough, but then you put in this effort, you earnestly put in effort. And when you earnestly put in effort and it doesn’t deliver for you, that hurts. All of us. All of us.
Marc: If we work hard to do something and it doesn’t work out, it sucks.
Marc: Because I worked hard. Come on, God, like, give me some goodies here.
Marc: Yeah. So I’m with you. So one of the big challenges is that you have a concept of success that’s not quite accurate around the human existence and how we are. So what I want you to do is to consider letting go of being happy. Just hang in there with me for a second.
Marc: Hang in there. I want you to consider letting go of being happy. I want you to consider letting go of having to be strong. And I want you to give yourself—because you’ve already been working for 40 years, not quite getting where you want to go—so I would like you to give four months to put to the side, not to leave behind, just to put to the side for a little while. You can always pick this up again. Four months where you go, “I’m not going to try to be strong as a goal, and I’m not going to try to be happy as a goal.”
Because what happens is you keep missing that, and as soon as you get evidence that you’re not happy, you go down a bad tunnel. You go into a bad neighborhood.
Leslie: That’s exactly what happens. Exactly.
Marc: Okay. So I am trying to get you to stop going into the dangerous neighborhood because once you get into the dangerous neighborhood, it’s going to be bad for a little while until you get out. So what are you going to do? You’re going to eat. You’re going to stuff yourself. You’re going to come out of it. You’re going to feel bad. Okay. Tomorrow, I’m going to exercise, and I’m not going to eat. And then you’re out of it so to speak.
Marc: But you’re not. You’re in reaction to what happened. And what happened about the overeating and losing control happened because there’s a trigger in your mind that goes, “Oh, I’m not happy,” or, “Oh, I’m not strong,” or, “Oh, I’m not measuring up to this thing. Failure!” Ding, ding, ding, ding. Self-punish.
Leslie: Yes. And it’s usually about 4 o’clock every day, 4 o’clock.
Marc: So it’s time. So your system is ready for it. And human beings are creatures of habit. So we like repetition. We like predictability, so that makes good sense to me that it would happen in a similar time every day.
Now, what I’m asking you to do is going to be difficult. And it is going to be way more easy than how your life has been showing up for you in the long run. So what I’m saying is it’s difficult—what I’m asking you to do. But the benefits are going to be so good, and it’s going to take a little bit of time to unwind this. Why? Because you will start to feel more your struggle. You will start to feel more of your unhappiness. You will start to feel more of the moments where you feel weak.
Let’s talk about the moments you feel weak, i.e. Not strong. Great. We’re vulnerable humans. We have plenty of moments where I don’t know what to do. This sucks. I’m not strong. I can’t do this alone. I don’t know what the next step is. I surrender. Not I give up. I surrender, meaning I don’t know what to do. And to start to move in that direction as opposed to, “(Gasp), I’m not strong. There’s something wrong with me. I’m not superwoman.” The child in you thinks it has to be super-duper woman.
You invented that somewhere along—actually, you didn’t invent that. The world invented that. You absorbed it. Not your issue. It’s your challenge. You didn’t invent that. Lots of people have that. I’ve got to be superman, superwoman, fill-in-your-blank of what your definition of that is.So your particular definition of you as a superwoman is I’m strong and I’m happy.
Marc: And I know when I’m strong and I’m happy then I’m going to eat nicely, and I’m not going to overeat. And it’s all going to be good. So what happens is—and you use this languaging. You use languaging like, “I’ve got to fight this thing somehow. I don’t know how to fight it.” That’s what we’re unwinding because you keep trying to fight something that doesn’t go away by fighting it. That’s like if it’s snowing outside you go, “How do I fight this to make it stop?” There’s no fight that makes the snow stop. The snow comes. You shovel it. You drive in it. You dress accordingly.
So what I am saying to you is you have to start befriending you a hell of a lot more. You have to push the reset button. Here’s the hard part, and I mean this. You have to push the reset button on your life, on your life. We have to change your core belief, and the core belief is I have to be happy and I have to be strong in order to be okay in this world. And, no. You’ll be happy when you’re happy. Take it off the table. And just be who you are. You know something? You might have to go through weeks of feeling like garbage sometimes.
Marc: And it’s okay. Can you love yourself in that? Can you stand by yourself in that? You get very cold with yourself. Who does that remind us of?
Leslie: My mother.
Marc: Right. You get a little cold.
Leslie: Yes. With myself.
Marc: With yourself. Okay. So what’s happening is that you’re—and we do this. We do this until we figure it out. We will continue to live in our parents’ house long after we’re adults and long after they are dead. So there’s the part of you that’s that little girl that came last and it’s like, “Hello?” And you’re functioning and experiencing yourself as if you’re that little girl that doesn’t matter, that’s not measuring up to people’s standards.
So the feeling was I’m not measuring up to my dad’s standards. I’m not measuring up to my dad’s standards. And then after that he doesn’t even have standards for me that would feel good for me.
So you’re continuing that offense. And he didn’t do that purposefully. That’s what he knew to do.
Marc: That’s what he knew to do. He truly didn’t know any better.
Leslie: He apologized. He apologized just right before he died.
Marc: And I want to say something to you. In this entire conversation, the time when you to me were most kind of relaxed in your nervous system was the time when you were talking about your dad. The time when you were most relaxed was the time when I asked you in a sentence or less, when you think about your dad, what comes up for you. Your whole energy changed. When you go back and watch this, I just want you to notice that there’s a place in you where there’s a strong connection to him because I think he really loved you in a way that got in, and you don’t always register it. He did the best he could.
Marc: He did the best he could. And you do the best you could. You do the best that you can. So we have to start giving credit when we do the best we can. You hold yourself up to such interesting standards that you never measure up. You’re never at a place where, “Oh, okay, I’m acceptable. I’m okay, because I’m not happy, because I’m not strong, because I’m eating like this, I’m eating like that.” And what I want to tell again—let me say this in different words—you keep using signs of unhappiness or weakness as you are failing.
The next time you overeat and you can stop yourself I want you to look at that as a sign that you’ve had a rough road, and you’re doing the best you can. And instead of reacting to this person, Leslie, who overeats and trying to fix that and fight it, it’s just like when your son is a baby and they’re learning how to walk and do what they do, you love them through all their falls and all their cuts and all their bruises and all their stuff. You just keep loving them. You have to give that to you. You have to.
You’ve been withholding it forever, and you keep thinking that if you can conquer this eating thing then you’re going to feel love.
Leslie: Exactly. Yes.
Marc: If I conquer the eating thing, I will feel love. The reason why the eating thing is there in the first place is because you are withholding love from you. You are giving yourself conditional love, and then this causes—so then the eating challenge is just a symptom.
Leslie: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
Marc: It’s a symptom, so then you think, “Well, if I change this symptom, then the whole thing changes.” No, no, no, no, no. The symptom is not the problem at all. The overeating is not the problem. I know you want to stop it. I want you to stop it. The way you stop it is you start to—you. This is not for everybody, but this is for you. The way you stop it is you start to make room for it. You stop fighting it. You stop hating the person who’s doing it. You stop trying to fix the person who’s doing it, and you just start to love her. Oh, you overate. Okay. Let’s come sit down on the couch. Let’s come play some music. Let’s go take a walk. Let’s talk to ourselves. Let’s forgive ourselves.
So why do you do it? You do it because you’ve been withholding love for a long time because that’s kind of how you got started out. That’s what it felt like for you. It felt like love was being withheld. And as kids, we don’t know what to do with that. So we try to think, “Well, what do I have to do to be loved?”
Leslie: Yes. Yes. Yes. And I struggle with it. I got in a lot of trouble. I did a lot of things when I was younger. And I grew out of it obviously. I grew out of it. But I did a lot of things to hurt myself over the years one way or another.
Marc: So one of your biggest challenges is going to get and consider this statement. One of your biggest challenges is going to be for you to get more into present time. Okay. There’s a piece of the work to get into present time. So, yeah, there’s a lot from your past that’s kind of got you a little bit. There’s different routes that you can take. You can do more intensive psychotherapy which is a very useful tool to dive into the past to unwind things. So that’s a fine road.
But for you, I’m going to say it’s not necessary. It could work for sure. So it works in my experience, absolutely, with the right kind of help, and it also works without it. It can work without it. So I’m saying to you if you want to not go that route, then you have to constantly breathe yourself into the present.
Marc: Because the majority of you, and majority might just mean 51% of you, is not in present time. It’s in the past.
Marc: We need to get 51% of you in present time so your head is above water, because you keep getting pulled back. And it’s one of the reasons why you have a hard time moving forward.
Now, what I want to say to you is in terms of different studies on life cycles. The 58-60 age is a fascinating transition. It’s a fascinating transition. It is a time when we surprisingly are often faced with looking in the mirror and looking back at our life and kind of looking at our suitcase and looking at everything that’s in the suitcase. And we sort of open up the suitcase and you start to look at, okay, what am I carrying here that’s just making this suitcase too heavy? I haven’t worn this in 40 years. I don’t need this. I don’t need it. I don’t need it. What’s not useful to me?
Marc: So this next two years, I want to say to you I want you to consider that it can be a time of transition, and transitions are a time often of chaos. We’re not grounded. If you can accept the nature of a transition, you can have more compassion for yourself. So you don’t own a house right now.
Marc: You’re not super settled.
Marc: You’re getting your act together financially.
Leslie: Right. Yeah.
Marc: You are still dealing with this food stuff. That’s okay. Good for you. Good for you for taking actions where you go, “Hey, okay. I’m housesitting so I could afford to do certain things that I want to do for myself.” Good for you. Good for you. So all I’m doing over here is I’m raising my hand and saying, “Great step.” That’s a risk. You are taking risks. Why are you taking risks? Because you want some reward.
Marc: And that’s a good thing. I’m saying good for you. And what I’m saying is that process—I need you to get this. This is the adult in me talking to the adult in you. You’ve got to understand that this shit ain’t easy. So stop this happy nonsense. Stop this happy nonsense. If somebody else is happier than you, good for them. Okay. I’ve got friends like that too. I’m a more watery, inward. I can get really melancholy. I have to have friends around me… I have friends around me specifically who are the ones that find the fun, and they find the parties. And they create good events because I’m not that guy.
Leslie: Exactly. Exactly.
Marc: I’m not that guy. You are not that girl. You are not your friend. You’re not her. You will never be like her. You will be like you. And I think it’s time to start celebrating that you as a person who you just have a different bandwidth. You’ve experienced grief and pain and loss and challenge, and that affects a person. And that’s okay. You don’t have to be happy all the time. You’re tyrannizing yourself by making yourself try to be freaking happy when you’re not happy.
Leslie: I know. You’re right. That’s exactly right. I should be happy.
Marc: That’s like feeling like you’re an introvert, and you go to yourself, “Gee, I’m at this party. I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be around all these people. Leave me alone.” You take a walk. What you do is you’re respecting yourself. You’re honoring who you are in that moment. Now, if you said, “(Gasp), I should be an introvert just like my friend,” you’re going to make yourself crazy. “I should be an investment banker just like this one. I should be a 7-foot-tall basketball player.” Come on. You’ve got to stop that. You’ve got to stop that, and you have to start being you.
And you are a very specific package. What happens is because you fundamentally don’t want to be you, you fundamentally want to be this strong, happy person who had a different upbringing. What happens is your brain translates that into “I don’t feel comfortable in this body.”
Marc: And you think it’s about your body. It has nothing to do with your body. Of course, you don’t feel comfortable being in your body. You don’t feel comfortable being you.
Marc: It has nothing to freaking do with your body. Does it show up as a feeling in your body? Absolutely. Does it show up as not knowing how to regulate food? Absolutely. We can focus on the food, focus on regulating that. There’s probably some few little tricks you can do just to help, but that’s not where the ultimate, ultimate, ultimate action is. The ultimate action which you need to focus on I believe in these next two years while you’re in this powerful transition time where you can give birth to a whole new you.
The thing you’ve got to focus on is starting to embrace who you are and what your journey has been. And even though it hasn’t been easy and even though there’s certain parts of your journey that you object to, you can still love the person who’s been on the journey: you. You have to love the person who’s been on the journey. I love myself even though, even though, even though all this stuff happened.
You need to start making acquaintance with you and befriending you as you are on your own terms. Stop trying to be happy. Nobody cares. The people that love you will love you for who you are. The people that want you to be somebody different. “I don’t like you. I like you when you’re fake happy.” They’re not your friend. They don’t care about you. Cross them off your list. So if you’re worried about what other people think, great. If they think poorly of who you’re being because you’re not feeling super happy and super strong, cross them off your list. Not your friend.
Leslie: Because there are those. There are those.
Marc: Yes. Yes. But this is a gift you have to give to you, to you, to you, to you. And I say this is hard because it is hard because it’s the complete opposite of what you’ve been doing.
Marc: I’m asking you to drive your car in a whole different direction. Do you get a sense of what I’m asking you to do?
Leslie: Yes. Yes. And to have someone actually validate what I know… I haven’t been able to love myself. I’ve read a lot of books. I’ve gone through a lot of therapy. I haven’t been able to do it. I haven’t had anybody break it down this way. I haven’t had anybody break it down this way. I’ve always know that love factor is there somewhere, but I’ve never been able to feel it either.
Marc: Yeah. So here’s the other important piece about that. Loving oneself when one has difficulty loving oneself is a practice. It’s not something that you wake up one day and, “Aha! I speak Mandarin Chinese,” or, “Aha! I am now wealthy today. Yesterday, I was not.” It doesn’t work like that. You keep trying to win the freaking lottery, the happiness lotto. I won. I’m happy now!
Leslie: Wake up and go, “Why do I not feel love for myself?”
Marc: Right. So that question right there throws you down a bad rabbit hole, bad neighborhood because it’s the wrong question to yourself. It’s the wrong statement. It would be no different than me waking up every morning and saying, “How come I’m not 21 years old?” That’s what it sounds like. That’s how crazy that is. And then if I ask that question and I get frustrated, I’m getting frustrated for this silly reason. So instead of waking up, saying, “How come I’m not happy?” I want you to wake up and go, “This is me today. How are you doing? How are you feeling?” Oh, yeah, there’s that lady who’s kind of a little bummed. Might be a little depressed. Might have to push herself a little bit today. You know something? Big hug. That’s okay. That’s okay. We go through stuff. Humans go through stuff.
A lot of people have it a lot worse than you and I have it, a lot worse than you have it.
Marc: You know what I’m talking about.
Leslie: Yes, I do.
Marc: So you’ve got to give that lady that wakes up next to you—you—you’ve got to give her some love in the morning, because she was never getting the love that she wanted growing up. So let’s correct that. Now you can’t correct that by bringing back your parents. There’s nothing to do there.
Marc: Nothing to do there. You correct it by giving it to yourself, and that is difficult. It’s difficult because if it was easy you would’ve done it.
Leslie: Right. Right. Right. I didn’t think it would be possible. That’s where I’ve been lately. I’m almost 60 and haven’t been able to grasp it, haven’t been able to find it.
Marc: It’s not possible because what you’re shooting for is this unattainable bulls-eye called, “I’m happy! And there’s no more badness. Huh.” We actually think we’re going to live there. People don’t live there, and the ones that do, God bless them. They’re rare. They’re rare. And plus, you don’t always know what’s going on behind the scenes anyway, and we’re all different. We’re all different. We’re all different. You have to own your own journey.
Leslie: Yes, yes, yes.
Marc: You have to own your own journey, and you have to be okay ultimately. I know this is not easy. But you have to love yourself even though you get depressed, even though you don’t want to continue sometimes, even though this is too hard for you. Even though, “I don’t know how I’m going to get where I want to go.” You have to love that person as if your son called you up and said, “Mom, I’m confused. I don’t know what I want to be. I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.” You love him. Yeah, you might give him advice. You might give him a hug, whatever. But you would love him through that experience as best as you can. That’s what I’m asking you to do.
You wouldn’t say to him, “Oh, my God, you don’t know what you want to do with your future. Well, once you know what you want to do, you’re going to be so happy. You’re going to wake up, you’re going to be the happiest guy ever. There’s not going to be any problems because you’re going to know this is my future, and that’s what we’re shooting for.” And then every day you get on the phone with him and you go, “Hey, do you know what you want to do now? Did you get there?” That would drive him nuts.
Leslie: Yes, yes, yes, yes.
Marc: So you are on the path called practicing self-love, and it happens in these tiny amounts. Sometimes medium. But you have to celebrate the little, little bitty victories that you get when you treat yourself well, when you love yourself. Loving yourself could look like, “I just overate.” And loving yourself might mean sitting on the couch and taking a few deep breaths and go, “I’m going to forgive myself for this. And you know something? I’m not going to work out like a maniac tomorrow. I’m just going to take a walk.”
You don’t have to work out like a maniac. In fact, if you stop working out like a maniac and start loving your body and how it moves, you will start to get where you want to go so much quicker. Your body is starving for love from you. Your body is starving for you to stop pushing it. Your body is starving for you to stop making it not okay. It just wants to absorb a little love and go, “Thank you.”
Leslie: You’re so right.
Marc: How’re you doing, Ms. Leslie?
Leslie: I’m good. I’m good. I’m good. You hit the nail on the head. Right on the nail. That’s right. It’s been a tough road. It’s been a tough road.
Marc: Yeah, and you’re at the age now where you must be an adult. You must be a queen. You have been functioning in a certain realm in your life as a princess. A princess just wants it all to be nice. I just want to live happily ever after.
Leslie: Exactly. Those were my exact words.
Marc: I know. Nobody’s living happily ever after. Nobody that I know. No one I know, and I know a lot of people.
Marc: I know people who have all kind of goodies and everything. Nobody’s living happily ever after.
Marc: It’s okay. It’s not what planet earth is about. We have moments of happiness. We have days of happiness. We have places in us where we can access happiness. That’s just one piece of the human experience.
Marc: So I want you to remember let go of the tyranny of happiness. I want you to let go of the tyranny of having to be strong and just notice when you’re happy, notice when you’re strong, notice the conditions around that, and let yourself be who you are every day and love that person. And I would love for you to notice what are the small, the smallest acts of kindness that you can do for yourself each day that demonstrate that you’re being loving towards yourself. How would you demonstrate it?
I don’t know what that means for you. It might mean cooking a meal. It might mean taking a walk outside. It might mean speaking to your good friend. What makes you feel, “Oh, I just did something for myself, no matter how small”? I want you to do that every day.
Leslie: Okay. I’ve spent a lot of time taking care of everybody else, and I haven’t done that for myself. It’s always been for Ethan, and it’s always been for somebody else, always.
Leslie: I’m here, and it’s time to do something for myself.
Marc: It’s your time, and it’s hard because we’ve built up such a habit. Your habit has been “I serve, I give, I do. I’ve been a mother.” That’s a huge role to play in life. And now, here you are at 58, and it’s harder to teach ourselves new tricks.
Marc: Because we get set in our ways as we get older and that’s the work. And that’s what makes life interesting. And that’s what makes life exciting, and that’s what makes life worth living if you now have a new goal, a new target, a new dream to shoot for. What I’ve been trying to do—I’m just going to remind you again in this conversation. Sometimes we need to hear things a few times. I want to remind you that we’re letting go of impossible standards that you’ve set for yourself that come from a child’s mind that when I’m happy all the time or when I’m strong in all these moments that I’m weak, that’s the measure of success.
And what I’m saying to you is it’s not a measure of success. That’s like you saying, “When I have a billion dollars, that’s the measure of success.” Meanwhile, you might have 100 million, and you feel like garbage. You might have 400 million, and you feel like garbage. And I would be sitting here, thinking,
“Oh my God, this is not good.”
So you don’t have to be happy. You don’t have to be strong. Be those when you are and don’t be those when you’re not.
Leslie: That’s huge.
Leslie: That is huge.
Marc: When you’re tired and you want to go to sleep at night, go to sleep. Don’t talk to me at one in the morning and say, “I shouldn’t be tired. This friend has all this energy. She stays up till four in the morning.” Great. Not you.
Leslie: I’d rather sleep. I can go to sleep. I’d rather sleep. I’d rather sleep and I do. I force myself to sleep just so I can quit thinking about things. I’d rather sleep. But you’re right. I think about, “Oh, I should be over there. I should have a lot of energy. I should be happy. I should be over there, but really I’d rather sleep so I can forget about it.”
Marc: So we’re trying to take the wind out of the part of you that is setting these impossible standards and then punishing yourself when you’re not feeling this way. That is in part what keeps the mind chatter going. Your mind is obsessing and attacking you because it’s noticing that you’re constantly falling short. So you’re constantly trying to scan yourself and scan the environment to figure out how to do it better which makes sense. But in the scheme of things, it keeps you going around in a circle.
Marc: You will start to notice that the thoughts don’t tyrannize you as you begin to notice the way some of these key beliefs set up failure. Having to be happy all the time as a measure of success, of a life well lived, is a form of tyranny, I’m telling you. It is inaccurate. It is not in alignment with the human experience. Do humans get happier when we become more aware, more conscious? We definitely have that potential, 1000%, because we let go of nonsense. You’re going to actually get happier when you let go of the need to get happier.
Leslie: I’m counting on it.
Leslie: I’m counting on it.
Marc: It’s a practice, Ms. Leslie. So I really want to encourage you to feel what normally feels like failure to you. I want you to feel that is your humanity. I want you to join the human race. We feel grief. We feel pain. We feel hardship. We’re not happy all the time. We’re happy when we are; we’re not when we’re not. It’s okay. It’s okay.
Leslie: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much.
Marc: You’re welcome. You’re such a good sport. Sport’s not the right word for you. I know you’ve worked really hard. I get that about you. And now, believe it or not, what you’re going to do is you’re going to take your foot off the gas pedal a little bit because the engine’s a little overheated. And it’s tired from pushing so hard in directions that don’t yield results.
As you stop placing these impossible standards on yourself, you’re actually going to slowly find your energy more. You’re going to slowly find momentum, but what I want to say is it’s going to be a little bit of time. Your system has to reorganize. I really want to consider this next year-and-a-half, two years, it’s a transition time. It’s kind of like a caterpillar creating a cocoon for itself. It comes out a butterfly at the other end, but you’ve got to spin the cocoon first. You’ve got to go a little bit inward.
Leslie: Okay. Okay. I will. I will. Thank you very much.
Marc: I’m so glad we had this conversation.
Leslie: Me too.
Marc: I really am.
Leslie: Me too. Glad to meet you.
Marc: I have a lot of hope for you. We get to have a follow-up session in a bunch of months.
Leslie: Okay. Perfect.
Marc: So somebody from my team will reach out to you.
Marc: And I really, really, really appreciate you being so willing because I laid down some heavy stuff here.
Marc: But it’s heavy with the intention of helping you lighten up.
Leslie: It was a tough decision whether to do this or not. I knew I was going to have to put myself out there. I haven’t done it in a long time. I haven’t done therapy in a long, long, long time. But I knew that the possibilities that I was going to take advantage of it. I just needed to take advantage of it. Coming up to this day was really rough. I went through a lot in the last couple of days, knowing I was going to do this. But I did it. It’s done. It’s a big step. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you.
Marc: You’re welcome. One last suggestion. And consider this. This might be useful to you; it might not be. Instead of happiness, instead of happiness maybe focus on this thing called gratitude and maybe keep a little gratitude journal by your bed at night. And just before you go to sleep—three, four, or five minutes—everything I’m grateful for that happened today, even the littlest things.
Leslie: Okay. I will.
Marc: I bought new pink Post-It notes. They’re so pretty. I don’t care what it is: small, medium, large. What you’re grateful for. It’s a different quality from happiness, but it builds some soul muscles. It builds some heart muscles, and it builds happiness muscles but in a whole different way.
Marc: It’s an adult way. It’s a woman’s way. It’s a queen’s way. Do you know what I’m saying?
Leslie: Yes, I do. I do. Thank you. I do very much.
Marc: Leslie, thank you.
Leslie: Thank you. All right.
Marc: And thanks, everybody, for tuning in. Yeah, once again, I’m Marc David on behalf of the Psychology of Eating podcast. So appreciate you all tuning in. Lots more to come, my friends.
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