Jo, almost 40, starts off this episode by letting us know she truly wants to heal her relationship with food. We learn that it has been a life-long struggle to look a certain way. Her mother would hint that she needed to be skinnier, and she started dieting at age 11.
From a nutritional standpoint, she has also noticed some shifts her body is calling for when it comes to diet. As a vegetarian for 20 years, she has recently been thinking she should re-introduce fish into her diet, and has become sensitive to some vegetarian staples, such as avocado.
Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, gives her some practical changes to experiment with in her diet. Jo also comes away with new insights on how to continue celebrating her successes along the way, and grow into her queen by accepting herself with love and confidence.
Real people. Real breakthroughs. This is a Psychology of Eating podcast where psychology and nutrition meet to uncover the true causes of our unwanted eating concerns. Your relationship with food will never be the same. Now, here’s your host, eating psychology expert and founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, Marc David.
Marc: Welcome, everyone. I’m Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. Here we are in the Psychology of Eating podcast. And I am with Jo today. Welcome, Jo.
Marc: Hello. Let me say a few words to viewers and listeners, and then you and I are going to jump in. If you are a returning visitor to this podcast, as always, thank you. I really appreciate you coming by. And if you’re new to this podcast, here’s how it works. Jo and I are meeting officially for the first time in this moment, and we’re going to spend 45 minutes to an hour together and see if we can move things forward for you Ms. Jo.
So if you could wave your magic wand and if you can get whatever you wanted to get from this session, tell me what that would look like for you, young lady.
Jo: What I would like is to heal my relationship with food, and what that means for me is being more relaxed around food and being able to regulate my appetite naturally so that I eat when I’m hungry, not when there’s food around. And I’d like to lose some weight as well because in the last 12 months or so I put on probably about eight kilos, and I would like to go back to the way that I was 12 months ago. So mainly so that I don’t have to buy all new clothes.
Marc: Yeah. Got it. So the weight that came on in the last bunch of months, why do you think that weight came on, if you had to guess?
Jo: See I’ve been thinking about it quite a lot because I don’t think I’ve changed the way I eat all that much. But as I’ve been reflecting on the past 12 to 14 months, I think quite a lot happened in my personal life, and whether it’s me not processing those emotions, I don’t know. That’s the only thing that I could think of.
Marc: So diet hasn’t changed for you much then?
Jo: Not really. No. I’ve been eating a plant-based diet for now three years, and that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing.
Marc: So when you say plant-based diet, are you vegetarian? Are you vegan? Can you be more specific?
Jo: Yes. I’m mostly vegetarian, so I eat eggs. I eat very little dairy. Very occasionally, I will eat some cheese, but generally I don’t. I still eat honey, but I don’t eat meat or fish.
Marc: And you’ve been eating like that for you mentioned three years?
Jo: So I’ve been vegetarian for 20, and then I dropped dairy about three years ago.
Marc: Got it. Got it. Got it. Okay. And can you tell me how old you are?
Jo: I’m turning 40 in February.
Marc: Yay! What a great marker. What a great transition.
Marc: Yeah, it is. So vegetarian for about 20 years. So you started when you were 20 years old.
Marc: What inspired you?
Jo: I’ve never liked meat is the honest answer. Ever since I was little, I would always say no to meat—obviously, I ate meat when I was growing up when you’re fed by your parents and you don’t really have much control over what you eat. But as I was growing up, and I was able to choose my meals better, I would always say no to meat and I would just eat salad and whatever else there was.
Jo: And then later on, I think I stopped eating fish maybe 10 years ago, maybe seven years ago. So it was gradual as well.
Marc: Got it. So how long have you been trying to lose weight?
Jo: I’ve been trying to lose weight probably ever since I was a tiny baby. But in the last sort of three or four, maybe five years, my thinking about the whole thing shifted, and I turned more into like healthy eating and learning more about nutrition. And that’s where my focus has been. And it’s worked for me really well up until the last few months when I gained a lot of weight. Like 12 months ago, I was at a really comfortable weight. Like most women, I still would probably say that I wanted to lose another five kilos, but I didn’t have to. I felt comfortable. I felt confident. My clothes fit well. And then the weight came back.
Marc: So you’ve been trying to lose weight for a long time, since you were young. What got that in your head? How did that start?
Jo: I grew up with a belief that in order for me or any person to be liked or loved or successful you have to be skinny. And my mother, bless her, she tried to make me skinny like really hard. I think from an early age I never knew when I was hungry. If there was food in front of me, I would eat as fast as I could and as much as I could. Because anytime I would say, “I’m hungry. Can I have some food?” My mom would say, “No, because dinner is in like two hours.”
So I basically learned to eat as fast as I could and as much as I could. And then the whole dieting started. I’ve been prescribed some diet pills when I was I think 11 or 12 as well. So I was on that for some time. That didn’t really work that well. And then I got older. I was like in my teens. Then I would do all the diets I could get my hands on. So I tried the powders, the meal replacements, one egg for breakfast and then salad for dinner kind of thing. I tried everything.
Marc: I get it. What country did you grow up in?
Marc: Grew up in Poland. Got it. And you’re living in England now, correct?
Marc: How long have you been living in England?
Jo: It’s going to be 14 years in January.
Marc: Wow. I have Polish blood in me.
Jo: Oh, do you?
Marc: My grandmother spoke Polish. Yes. Yeah.
Marc: Yeah, she was from the old country for sure. She spoke Polish. She spoke English. She spoke Yiddish. She spoke Russian.
So 20 years of vegetarian. Do you know what your blood type is by any chance?
Jo: Yeah, it’s group A, A+.
Marc: Yeah, that makes sense. By the way, for people tuning in, I ask that because in the blood type diet system, which is actually a very useful system for understanding some general nutritional proclivities, tendencies, needs. Oftentimes, people with blood type A, they seem to very naturally lean towards a non-meat or a vegetarian diet. It’s fascinating to watch, and they tend to fare well on that kind of diet compared to, let’s say, a type O who they seem to be more the natural meat eaters.
So, so, so. Are you a fast eater these days?
Jo: I’m a recovering fast eater. I have to make really conscious effort to eat slowly. It’s a process for me, and I basically learn this with every meal I have. I could say now that I’m probably moderate-to-fast. I’m still not moderate to slow, but it’s progress.
Marc: Sure, sure. That’s great. So you mention in the last year when you’ve had some of the weight gain here, yeah, there’s been some emotional challenges. Put the emotional challenges said. Put it to the side for a second. Has anything changed in this last year? Have you moved? Have you switched a job? Have you gone on any prescription drugs?
Jo: Yeah, I’ve changed jobs. I work as a contractor, so I work on interim contract. So I finished my last contract this time last year and then started new contract in March this year. But it’s pretty much the same job, just a different place.
Marc: Sure, sure, sure. Can I ask if you are on any kind of prescription medications?
Jo: Yeah, very recently, maybe for the last two or three months, I’ve been prescribed anti-reflux medication. But that’s because for a couple of years I felt like I had something stuck in my throat, so I went to the ENT doctor. And she looked in and she said, “I think it’s inflamed from the reflux.” So she gave that to me, and I don’t know if it’s making any difference. I’m going back to see her in January.
Marc: Got it. Got it. Got it. Okay. Give me a quick idea of a typical breakfast for you.
Jo: I’m very much a savory person, so usually I would eat a couple of slices of bread with eggs, with like a fried egg, or I would have it with hummus. Yeah, that’s pretty much usually. Sometimes I’ll have some porridge with like peanut butter or some hemp seeds and maybe a few slices of a banana. But that’s pretty much what I would do Monday to Friday, and then on weekends we would maybe have an omelet or something like that.
Marc: And how about lunch?
Jo: Lunch, I usually bring in with me. So I take my lunches to work, and I would usually have some sort of greens. So like now, I eat a lot of kale or cabbage or whatever is in season. Then I would usually have maybe like a sweet potato or a little bit of black rice. And then I try to have some protein, so I would have lentils or maybe beans, also maybe some tofu or something like that.
Marc: And dinner?
Jo: Dinner is challenging because I find that I do quite well during the day with my meals and how I eat and what I eat. And I find that oftentimes when I come home in the evening, that’s my time to like, “Aah,” like relax and unwind. And I think I tend to overeat at dinner, but I would probably tend to eat pretty much the same that I would for lunch. So I would have some greens, some starches or some carbs, and some protein.
Marc: And if you overeat, you would just overeat. You would eat more of any particular thing?
Jo: No, if I overeat, I just tend to eat whatever is there until it’s gone.
Jo: I don’t drink that much. Like I would have a glass of wine maybe if we go out to dinner maybe a couple of times a month.
Marc: How’s your sleep?
Jo: It’s good. I usually wake up a couple of times a night, but I don’t have problems going back to sleep.
Marc: Are you under a doctor’s care? Have you had any blood tests in the last year?
Jo: Yeah, I’ve had quite a lot of actually blood tests because a couple of years ago I think I did like a blood check-up. And they found that I was low on my white cells. So I’ve been going back every few months for a check-up. So they do all sorts of tests. And I’ve also done, on my own, I’ve tested for vitamin D. This time last year my vitamin D levels were literally on the floor. They were like so near to zero. So I’ve been on supplement for the last 12 months, and I got it re-tested a couple of weeks ago. And it’s still not within the good range, but it’s much higher on the bad range.
Marc: Yes. Yes. Yes.
Marc: Okay. That’s good to know. Did they talk about your blood sugar or your thyroid?
Jo: So I’ve done blood sugar last year as well, and it was normal. And I’ve done the thyroid hormones as well. And I’ve done one test that it came a little off. And then I had those repeated and it came back normal.
Marc: How’s your energy level?
Jo: It’s generally okay. I sometimes feel a little run-down. What I’ve noticed as well for myself when I’ve been playing with the food and experimenting with the food, I don’t do that well on wheat or like if I have… And I don’t do well with sugar. So I have no sweets pretty much whatsoever. I don’t eat cakes or cookies or anything. But I’ve been noticing it for years now that I don’t even eat that much fruit because I find I get that high for the first few minutes and then I get real lows even after I eat an apple.
Marc: Sure. So, interesting. You mentioned we. Are you in a relationship?
Marc: How long?
Jo: So four and a half years.
Marc: Married, living together?
Jo: No, we’ve been living together. We’ve been engaged for a couple of years now. We’ve been living together.
Jo: Thank you.
Marc: How long did you know each other beforehand?
Jo: We didn’t. We just met and then we started dating and we went steady. So, yes, it’s four and a half years.
Marc: Do you guys have similar—how should I say—approaches to food and health? Is there a lifestyle match there?
Jo: So, no. My partner’s name is Tony, and he’s completely differently to me like totally. He’s your potato and meat kind of man. He’s Irish as well, so like all he wants is just potato and meat. He’s got such a sweet tooth as well. When we go out and we order dessert, that dessert always ends up in front of me because everyone thinks it’s the woman who’s going to eat chocolate. I’m like, “No, thank you.”
Marc: So how does he feel about your body? Does he care about the fact that you might’ve gained a few kilos? What does he say?
Jo: He doesn’t care. He keeps telling me that I’m beautiful and he loves me and he loves my body. He always says it like, “You need to put on more weight.” It’s like, “Nah.” He’s not bothered.
Marc: Are you close with your mom?
Jo: Not really.
Marc: How is her relationship with her body and her weight?
Jo: My mom, she is super skinny, like super skinny. I think where it started for her, I found out only recently when she was in—I think it was in high school. She was told by one of her teachers that she was too chubby or something, and then she went and lost a lot of weight when she was maybe 17. And she kept that weight off, and she is very controlling when it comes to food. And she’s very restrictive. Yeah.
Marc: Got it. So when are you going to get married?
Jo: Well, we were meant to get married September gone, so three months ago we were meant to get married. But then Tony got really sick November last year, so we had to postpone it. So we don’t have a new date yet.
Marc: Mmhmm. Understood. So is that part of the emotional challenge of this past year?
Jo: I think so. I think it was one of the big things that was meant to happen and didn’t happen.
Marc: Got it. Anything else you want to share about the last year that would feel good and okay and safe to share now about what’s been happening for you?
Jo: So, yes. We had to postpone the wedding. Tony got sick. He’s okay now. He’s on treatment and everything. But it was scary at the time. And then my best friend broke up with me. So one of the relationships in my life fell apart. I think the other thing that has been quite big in my life in this year is that I think I came to realize that I’m not going to have kids because I am hitting 40 and Tony’s older as well. With him being on treatment, it’s unlikely that it would happen. So I think, for me, it’s a big part of what I need to process or let go of or grieve maybe even.
Marc: Had you planned on having kids in your mind?
Jo: Oh, yeah. Like in my mind, I was married and had two kids by the time I was 30. So not hitting that target.
Marc: Yeah. That’s big. That’s a big life let-go, for sure. Okay. I could keep going, but I think I’ve got a lot of good information. And I appreciate you answering all of my questions. I really do. So I’d love to put together some of my thoughts here, and we’ll take it from there and see where we get to.
I’m going to start with big picture first. And I’m going to say to you that usually in conversations like this I’ll have a pretty good idea of why I think a person has extra weight on their body or they put on weight. Usually, it’s not that difficult to kind of narrow down. I’m not so sure for you. I’m really not so sure for you. And that’s not a bad thing, by the way. It’s not a bad thing. I’m going to mention to you some possible factors that I see going on.
Here’s a possible factor number one. You’re turning 40, and you’re 40-ish.
Marc: 39. Okay. You’re turning 40. Got it. So that’s a big transition. It’s a big transition emotionally. It’s a big transition personally. Physiologically, I’ve noticed the same thing. I have no research to back this up other than observation, but I am convinced that especially when people turn 40 there’s a physiologic shift. There’s an internal shift. And whatever that shift is, for sure the inner shift that I’ve noticed is that there’s a part of us that incarnates at 40. There’s a part of us that’s born at 40. It’s sort of like the adult in us. It’s sort of like our voice comes through like never before. Who we really are starts to come through like never before.
It’s also a change place because you’re not in your 30s anymore. There’s something about the 30s. It’s a certain kind of youth. And 40 marks a different phase. It’s a different adult phase, and it’s also this thing where arbitrarily we say, “Whoa, if I’m hitting 40,” then for a woman it’s clearly like, “Wait a second. Is that too late for kids?” It’s right at that moment, really. And it is a big transition for you, given what you’ve been going through, given your partner’s health scare, given that you had big plans for a wedding. That’s huge. And also seeing that, “Whoa. Wait a second. Given the situation, my age, his age, where he’s at, where we’re at, it doesn’t look like kids are going to happen.” So that’s a lot.
It probably feels like a lot to you or maybe not, but I’m saying from over here, from outside looking in, that’s a lot. That’s a lot of life to digest. So to me, it would not be unreasonable for the body to gain weight for no apparent reason. If you tell me I’m eating the same and this weight comes on, usually what that means is that there’s a physiologic change happening in somebody’s body. Like, “Wait. I’m doing everything the same,” and now here’s this weight gain or, for some people, weight loss. Like, whoa.
So usually, it’s a physiologic shift in the body which happens. Sometimes we just change. The body just changes, and it doesn’t let us know. It doesn’t give us an email in advance. It just shifts. That’s a possibility for you. But also, when we have powerful life transition, sometimes the body responds by putting on weight. It’s a way to help us ground. And it’s just what the body does. It grounds us. It protects us. It keeps us more here in a certain way.
There’s another piece of the puzzle that I want to put into the mix that I don’t know if it’s true for you or not. Oftentimes, what happens is for a vegetarian diet, let’s say, for most humans a vegetarian diet, it tends to be what I call a genetic experiment. And I’m not knocking being a vegetarian. I was a vegetarian for many, many years. You don’t come from a lineage of vegetarians. Your ancestors were not vegetarians. So when you become a vegetarian, you are taking a genetic hard right or hard left. You’re going in a whole different direction.
Sometimes the genetic experiment works and sometimes it doesn’t. Again, this is with any kind of diet, whether you become a vegetarian or raw food, a meat eater. I don’t care what it is. Anytime you do something different than your genetic history, it’s an experiment. And it’s fine. I love experiments. So oftentimes, what can happen is certain diets have a timeline on them. And a diet might work for us for five years, 10 years, 20 years, however long. And then all of a sudden, body shifts, body changes, and we change.
So that’s a possibility. Do you ever find yourself craving more meat, more protein?
Jo: That is so interesting what you just said because I found in the last few months, maybe a year even, I’ve been really thinking of going back to eating fish. And I’ve been really thinking or feeling that I’m struggling with protein sources. So, yeah. So I’ve been considering going back to eating fish.
Marc: Yeah. So what I would say… And again, if you’re tuning in and you’re listening into this right now and you’re a vegetarian, don’t be mad at me. I love vegetarians. I love meat eaters. I love everybody when it comes to food and diet. I might not like what they eat all the time, but it’s all about what works and what doesn’t. And we have to be smart scientists. We have to be smart clinicians. We have to be smart observers, plain and simple. So I understand all the great reasons why one would be a vegetarian. They’re awesome. In fact, my bias is that the world eats too much meat. That’s my bias.
And for you, given what you’re saying and given that you’ve been thinking about this and considering it, that tells me that it’s your body wisdom kind of talking a little bit potentially. So from the standpoint called, “Huh. Maybe she’s having a physiologic shift,” which happens to people. We change. We get older. At different age group, at different times in your life, you could be all of a sudden more sensitive to foods you were never sensitive to.
Jo: Yeah, that happened to me as well because there are three foods that I really can’t eat which is avocado, poppy seeds, and pineapple that I’ve never had problems with them. And then, I suddenly started having problems with them. So eating a plant-based diet and not being able to eat avocado is a lot of times it’s difficult.
Marc: That’s too bad. That’s my favorite kind of like substantial food. When I was a vegetarian, I probably had six avocadoes a day, so I understand. So this is telling me more and more that your body is shifting. So from that evidence, from that data that you’re presenting to me, I’m considering this an experiment. I’m considering your life an experiment, our nutrition as an experiment. It’s useful to say, “Okay. Well, here’s what’s happening. Oh, my goodness. Yeah, I can’t eat avocadoes anymore. I can’t eat pineapples. Can’t eat poppy seeds. Huh. Some weight is coming on. Huh. I’ve been thinking about going back to fish. Huh. I’ve been having problems with protein sources.” And then when I know your lineage and I know Eastern Europeans were—we ate meat.
Jo: That’s so true.
Marc: I would be interested to see you as an experiment for six months having more fish in your diet if that feels right for you. See if you could do it once a day. And start to notice what the difference might be. I’m also wondering where fat in your diet comes from. Where would you say you get fat from?
Jo: I get fat from olive oil. I use olive oil on all my salads. I use coconut oil for cooking. I eat probably too many, but I eat nuts as well. I snack on nuts.
Marc: Okay, great.
Jo: So nuts and seeds as well.
Marc: So I’m interested for you to start doing fish once a day and just begin to see if that makes a difference. If I was getting paid 10 million dollars to help you lose weight sustainably, I’d probably want to focus on increasing the amount of protein in your diet and, ideally, introducing a non-plant source base of protein, either meat or bird or fish. That’s what I would experiment doing. Just for the heck of it. Just because it makes sense. Just because it can work. It’s a good bet.
So I’m going to guess for you—and this is an educated guess—that there’s probably a number of factors going on for you that’s contributing to the weight gain. And I think part of it is personal. Personal, emotional. What you’ve been going through is a lot. You’re in a major life phase transition where you’re letting go on one level of a lifelong dream. You said, “Wow, I thought I’d be married and have a couple of kids by 30.” So that’s a big life dream to let go of.
Sometimes when we’re going through challenge, the body just wants to hang onto more weight because that’s what the stress response does oftentimes in the human body. Some people lose weight. Some people gain it. Some people, nothing. So I’m going to guess it’s a combination of that, and I’m going to guess it’s probably also your body shifting. Your metabolism is shifting, so we have to shift a little bit. That’s why I’m interested in for you experimenting and following your hunch, following your intuition here.
I would especially like to see you eating protein in the first kind of half of your day as opposed to just at dinner. I’d want to see you get more protein in during the day because that will kind of signal your body that there’s protein in my system as opposed to waiting at night when it’s our—kind of evening time is not as much of our nutritional part of the day. We’re winding down. We’re not out there hunting and gathering and doing all our activity.
Those are the pieces I would love to see you focus on. I think it’s also good to continue in the vein you’ve been working in and become a slower eater. Really, what that does and I don’t always explain this fully because it takes a little while. You’re training your body to take in food in the optimum state. When we take in food in the optimum state which is relaxation when there’s nobody chasing you, when you’re not running for your life, if I’m eating fast I’m sending the signal to the brain that I’m not safe while I’m eating.
At the same time, there’s a reason. It’s usually habit for many people, but the habit is driven by something. So the habit of fast eating is driven by, “Oh, my God, there’s not going to be enough food,” or, “Oh, my God, I’ve just got to eat this fast. Some other creature’s going to take it.” Or, “Oh, my goodness. I’ve just got to get this over with because food is really not good for me. Food kind of makes me fat, so let me just eat it quickly.”
So there could be a lot of information going on in your head that then causes this habit. But as we change that habit, you change your physiology. Literally, how we eat is just as important as what we eat. So I want to see your physiology getting finer and finer. Now, the challenge is as you and I get older things fall apart. So we have to work smarter and do the things that seemingly can make a bigger difference.
So even though the body gets older, we can train it in certain ways so that it functions finer. When you’re young, you could throw food in your body. You could eat a lot of junk and your body can recover. When you’re older, it takes longer to recover. So what I’m saying is we have to be smarter with the body as we get older because then the body functions smarter. So I think you’re at a point where—and I think you’re good at this because you’ve been paying attention to your diet. It sounds to me, from what you’ve said, your body talks to you. You listen to it. You notice, “Oh, this food doesn’t work for me, so I don’t eat it.” Even when you overeat, you’re not overeating junk.
Jo: No. Yeah.
Marc: So what I’m saying is you have trained your body to be smarter. Not everybody does that. What you just said to me, most people who complain about overeating or binge-eating, they’re eating things they know they shouldn’t be eating. Do you follow me? So I’m saying that you’ve been, to me, progressing well in this realm. And all I’m saying is you’ve got to get better and better in order to keep your body where you want it to be.
So with the weight gain, I’m going to say this is a bit of a mystery. We have some good ideas. We have good ideas, meaning there’s a good chance that it’s connected to what you’ve been going through personally and emotionally. There’s a good chance that it’s related to the experiment called “be a vegetarian for 20 years” now wants to shift a little bit. Because genetics talk to us.
Genetics will eventually catch up to us I find when it comes to diet. I’ve just noticed that over the years. So I think there’s a little bit of genetic pressure happening for you. And I also think your body is just changing. And when the body changes, we have to change along with it. If, all of a sudden, my elbow hurts, I’m probably going to not play as much tennis. That’s all. I’m just listening to my body. How’s this all landing for you so far, what I’m suggesting and what I’m saying to you?
Jo: I’ve got a practical question that I’ll park for now. But in terms of how it’s landing, it’s almost like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders because what you just said to me sounds like it’s okay. I’m not a total failure. I’ve not been doing everything wrong. Yes, there are potentially things that I need to tweak. But it’s okay.
Jo: And yeah, in that sense, I feel like, “Okay. Marc gave me permission to experiment or to do whatever it is.” I can relax and I can be even kinder to myself and take another step on that. I said earlier I stopped dieting and being on a diet a few years ago, and I think maybe old habits die hard. And every now and again, I would go back to self-attack or self-hate and everything and all that.
That’s another thing that I think I have been getting better over the years, and what you just said as well reinforced for me, it’s like, “Okay. It’s fine. Maybe you’re just 40. Maybe you’ll need to buy new clothes, but whatever.”
Marc: You mentioned another piece of the puzzle which is for most of your life you’ve been carrying around the belief that I have to change this, this whole thing. When we’re told, “You’re chubby. You’re fat. You need to lose weight…” When we’re young, even when we’re older, we don’t hear, “Oh, you just need to lose a bunch of body fat.” What we hear and what we’re really told is, “You’re not okay. You’re not lovable like this.”
Jo: Yeah, you’re a bad person.
Marc: Yeah, you’re a bad person. You’re a bad fat person. And that lives in us. And it’s an awful insult. It’s awful. And it’s a terrible thing to carry around. It’s a poison. It’s a toxin. It doesn’t belong in the system. And what often happens for people is we reach a point when we realize, enough. This doesn’t work. Carrying around such a belief and such an insult in our system which you didn’t invent. It was given to you by the world. It was put in your mind.
When we carry that around, it’s a burden. It’s a stressor. Stressors impact us physiologically. They impact our metabolism. They impact our digestion. They impact our calorie-burning. It might not affect a person in a great way, or it may. And it might not affect us in a big way physiologically until a certain time when the body just—the nervous system, it’s too much.
So I think what is also happening right now for you is you’re stepping into your womanhood in a different way, and it’s time to accept yourself.
Jo: And I do feel the change, the energy shift. I do notice that I feel differently. Even when I talk to my mom, I’m having different conversations. I’m not allowing it to affect me as much at least consciously. So, yeah, I do feel the shift. Yeah.
Marc: Yeah, that’s a great thing. It’s important. And here’s the paradox. Jo, here’s what I want you to remember which is on the one hand, I want you to lose weight if there’s weight that your body wants to lose, absolutely. Absolutely. But I really would love to see you relax into this like never before and make it not that big of a deal. Meaning, “Oh, okay. Huh. This extra weight came on. Huh. Maybe I shift my diet. Huh. Maybe I eat slower. Huh. Maybe I just kind of pay attention a little more to myself and see where I can just be letting go more. Oh, maybe I’m going to eat more protein.”
It’s having that goal but, at the same time, not making it like our religion that we worship every moment of every day and make it the most important thing in our life. Make sense?
Jo: Yeah. And that’s another thing that has shifted for me very recently because I’ve always wanted to be slimmer so I can be liked. In the last, I don’t know, maybe couple of years or maybe last year, it started shifting for me. As I said to you in the beginning, my goal now is to actually heal the relationship with food and be relaxed around food. And if that means me not losing that weight that I put on, I’m okay with that now.
And that has been probably the biggest shift I’ve had in the, I don’t know, however many years.
Marc: Good for you. Good for you. As part of moving in that direction, I’ve just got to tell you the thought would’ve never entered my mind, “Huh. If only she would lose about eight kilos, I’d really have a much better time in this conversation. I’d like you better.” I would never think that. Who thinks like that?
Jo: I have been told that if I was slimmer or skinnier I would have found my partner earlier. And because I am fat, I had to wait until I was 36 to meet him.
Marc: I see. I see. Well, let me tell you something. I know a lot of skinny girls, and they ain’t any better off at age 30 or 40. It doesn’t matter. So all I’m saying is, yeah, it’s kind of silly on the one hand. And if there’s anybody that is not interested in you because they think you should be skinnier, if anybody doesn’t want to be your friend for that reason, which you’ve probably met few people like that in your life, you don’t want them as your friend. That’s a god-awful friend to have. That’s like you saying, “I don’t want to be in a relationship with somebody who’s going to get old and get sick,” because those people are going to get old and get sick. Whatever.
So you’re in a big transition here. You’re in a big life shift. There’s a lot happening. Again, I’m going to say—I want to be super clear with you—I think you have made so many smart decisions along the way. And the way this conversation has gone, you’ve really demonstrated to me that you’re paying attention to yourself. You’re listening. You’re tuning into your body wisdom. Yeah, it’s not all perfect. But whose life is perfect? Whose work is perfect? Whose relationship is perfect? Whose eating is perfect? Nobody really.
So the goal that you want, which is to love your body, that goal is the kind of goal we work at every day. It’s not the kind of goal where you win a lottery ticket one day, and you go, “Oh! It’s all gone. I got the winning lottery ticket,” and it disappears. It’s the kind of goal that is daily effort. And I think you’ve been doing that, and it’s not easy. If it was easy to love ourselves and have an easy relationship with food, we’d all do it. It’s very hard because we get programmed with absolute nonsense from a young age.
So we’re on a journey of reclaiming our power. We’re on a journey of reclaiming who we are in this world as human beings. Our power gets taken away from us in many different ways. We get many messages that tell us we’re not good enough and we’re not loveable as we are. It happens with food. It happens with body. It happens with money. It happens with size, shape, height, skin color. There’s a million things. At some point, we detoxify.
So you’ve been detoxifying all that. And so far, so good. So far, so good. I think you’re in a very good place. I really do.
Jo: Thank you.
Marc: I really do. Yeah, I think you’re in a really good place, and I would love for you to think of this time in your life as you’re embarking on a new path of your womanhood. Age 40 to 50 I call it queen-in-training. You’re not a princess anymore. You’re not a young lady anymore, but you’re not yet a queen. But all of a sudden, your womanhood is more present. It’s born. It’s here. And you’re learning how to be more and more of a woman, of a queen. A queen sits in her throne. A queen knows who she is. A queen is giving to the world. She gives her gifts.
She’s not sitting there saying to her subjects, “Do all you guys love me? Am I okay as who I am? Should I be eating peanuts instead of almonds? Will you like me better if I lost a pound or two?” A queen doesn’t say that. She doesn’t care. Of course, she cares about her looks and her dignity, but they don’t define her. And for that reason, she has a different kind of beauty that moves from within.
So you’re on that program right now. And I really want you to look for evidence that life is calling you into your womanhood because I think it is.
Jo: I think so too.
Marc: And I think you’re rising to that occasion. I think you are. And this is one part of it. So you’re looking to take care of your body. I think this conversation is perfect. You’re like, “Wait a second. My body’s doing something. This doesn’t make sense. I want to understand this more. I want help.” That makes perfect sense. A good queen will turn to her allies and turn to her advisers for help.
And then she takes in the information and she goes, “Okay. That was useful information to me. This piece wasn’t. I’m going to try this. I’m not going to try that.” That’s what a good king or queen does when they get advice. They measure it. Does that work for me or doesn’t it? Whether it’s something I say to you or anyone says to you. Because you’re the authority of you ultimately.
How are you doing?
Jo: Good. It makes so much sense what you’ve been saying. Thank you. So, thank you for that. It really means a lot. I think it’s one of those things that I probably will be thinking over the next days, weeks, and months and probably get more insights. It’s like, “Aah.” Yeah.
Marc: Yeah. You have been consistently living in the message that “I’m not good enough.” That message is a lie. It’s not true. Most humans live with that for different reasons. So that’s starting to leave your system. One of the ways we help it leave our system is instead of fighting that negative message we simply look to the other side of the coin which is, “Wait a second. Where am I good enough? Where can I celebrate my efforts? Where can I celebrate my successes? Where can I acknowledge myself?”
If you’re going to push yourself—and, Jo, this is for you. This is for anyone listening in. If you’re going to push yourself and push yourself and push yourself and try to make yourself better, fine. But you’ve got to balance it out with celebrating your successes. Otherwise, when you get a success, you’re not even going to know you’re there. And then people who get their goal, they hit their goal, and then they’re onto the next one. And we never relax. We never enjoy. We never feel the victory. We never allow ourselves to have the feeling that we think we’re going to have when we get where we want to go.
That’s just me saying to you it’s time to start celebrating some of the successes that you’ve had. And really, I think that means acknowledging yourself because you’ve worked hard in this realm. You really have. And you’ve done well for yourself.
Jo: Thank you.
Marc: Yeah. Good job, young lady. I’m pretty proud of you.
Jo: Could I have a question?
Marc: Of course.
Jo: Just going back to what we talked about earlier about me experimenting with eating fish. Do you have kind of any practical advice or thoughts on me transitioning into…? My concern is that I’ve not eaten meat for like 20 years and probably not eaten fish for seven or more. And the reason I haven’t done it yet is that I’m worried that I’ll eat that fish and then I’ll have digestive issues and get sick. If you have any advice on transitioning, that’d be really helpful.
Marc: Sure. Sure, sure, sure. I would look to eat, A, the kind of fish you’re most attracted to. See what literally you’re attracted to. What are you drawn to? I would start out with a small amount. I don’t know how to measure… Two ounces. Half the size of your hand would probably be two ounces. And start out with a small amount with the kind of fish that you’re attracted to. And take it from there.
What I will say to you is I will bet you that you’re not going to have a bad reaction especially with that amount. Most of what you’re going to probably feel is more the emotional piece of like, “Oh my God, I’m eating this thing that used to swim and move that I haven’t eaten for so long.” So I think it would be useful to be aware of if there’s any personal, emotional, moral piece happening for you to do whatever ritual you need to do to make good with planet earth, to make good with the fishes and the animals.
Like whatever ritual you need to do, whatever prayer, whatever affirmation, whatever it is for you to get clear that you’re not eating a fish because you’re a murderer or you don’t care. You’re eating this because we live on planet earth, and everything eats everything. There is not a single thing that is not eaten by another single thing, at least in its death. It’s like a whale dies, and fish are going to eat it. And bacteria are going to eat it. And sharks are going to eat it. Everything gets eaten. Your body dies. The worms are going to eat it. We get eaten. And we eat. And it’s how life works on this planet.
So we have to get good with that. Is it a sweet and pretty thing all the time? Absolutely not. It’s like whoa. It’s a crazy experience. So we have to understand this is what planet earth is and how do you make good with that? How do you participate in that so you can feel good about yourself, so you can feel empowered? So those are the pieces I think are important. Start out with a small amount, the kind of fish you’re attracted to. Eat it more either at breakfast or lunch as opposed to late in the day.
Marc: And figure out what you need to do inside your own self to ritualize this experience so it feels like you’re stepping into it with more authority and more dignity, as opposed to eating the fish and going, “No! I really shouldn’t be doing this. This is bad. Oh, no, I have to. But, no, I really shouldn’t.” I want you to find a way to do it so you’re doing it. So that you’re getting behind your choice and getting behind your decision. Does that make sense?
Jo: That makes perfect sense. Yeah.
Jo: Thank you.
Marc: Yay. Did you have another question?
Jo: No. I just wanted to say thank you because I’ve been following you for some time. The work you do in the world it’s lif-echanging, and it has been for me as well. Thank you.
Marc: I so appreciate that, Jo. I really do. And I appreciate our conversation, and I have a ton of confidence in you. I really do. I think you have everything you need to get where you want to go. I’ve got no doubt in my mind.
Jo: Thank you.
Marc: Yes, you are welcome. And thank you, everybody, for tuning in. I so appreciate it. I so appreciate you being on this journey with us. Please, if you enjoyed this, share it with a friend. Let other people know about it. Find out more about what we do and lots more to come, my friends. I’m Marc David on behalf of the Psychology of Eating podcast. You take care.
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