Home » Psychology of Eating Podcast: Episode #247 – Letting Go of Rules and Obsessions

Psychology of Eating Podcast: Episode #247 – Letting Go of Rules and Obsessions

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Podcast: Episode 247 – Letting Go of Rules and Obsessions

Sarah, 32, feels her obsession with finding the right foods and having the ‘right’ body (which began when she was a teenager) is now taking up so much head space and daily energy, it’s got ahold of her. As the session unfolds with Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, we learn that this comparison and self-judgement stems from her teenage modeling days, during which she felt very real pressure from her parents and the modeling industry to be in a smaller body.

Marc’s insights lead her to recognize that her big work will be about not just accepting the body she’s been given, but owning it. Sarah knows that this challenge spills over into other areas of life, such as her relationship with her fiance. Listen to this episode to hear Sarah’s full story, and the big breakthrough she is committed to practicing!

Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:

Real people, real breakthroughs. This is the 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: Greetings everybody, I’m Marc David. Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. Here we are on the Psychology of Eating podcast, and I’m with Sarah today. Welcome, Sarah.

Sarah Hi, Marc.

Marc: I’m glad we’re here; I’m glad we’re doing this.

Sarah: Me too. Thank you so much.

Marc: Yay! So let me explain to viewers and listeners who may be new to this podcast how it works. Sarah and I are just meeting now for the first time, officially. And we’re going to spend an hour together, with you all. And you’re going to be in on our conversation as we look to help you move forward and get where you want to go.

So, Miss Sarah. Here’s my question for you. If you could wave your magic wand, and if you could get whatever you wanted to get from this session, what would that look like for you?

Sarah: If we could make miracles happen today, I would like to feel more confidence around my body. My body shape, my body size. And also just being calm around food. Eating food, what my choices are, feeling calmness. Those two things would be huge for me if I could tackle that.

Marc: Got it. So when you’re not being calm and collected and centered around food, what does it end up looking like for you? What’s your experience?

Sarah I become irrational. I’ll grab for things that I know won’t make me feel good. Maybe they’re easy, or I’m looking at what other people are eating. And then I go into this whole conversation in my head about; “Look at the size of their body, they’re eating that. I should be eating something like that. Is this going to be good for me?” It’s just a lot of internal dialog that is stressful. It takes a lot of my energy.

Marc: How long has this thing been going on for you, would you say?

Sarah: Probably since I was a teenager. But I don’t remember it being as bad as I was teenager. I feel like it’s just slowly gotten worse since then. Like it’s just progressed throughout the years.

Marc: How old are you now, Sarah?

Sarah: 32.

Marc: 32. Are there times that you end up overeating, or binge eating, or emotional eating?

Sarah: For sure.

Marc: Uh-huh.

Sarah I for sure feel like I binge eat from time to time. I feel like I did a lot in college. Because it seemed like it didn’t have consequences. I didn’t really gain weight from it. Nothing really happened from it. I don’t feel like I binge eat as much now. But yeah, there are certain times when I feel out of control when I’m eating. And I think, “I’m full, this doesn’t feel good any longer.” But I continue eating.

Marc: Mm-hmm. When does that usually happen? Does that happen for a particular meal? Particular time of the day? Could it be any time?

Sarah: It might not be for weeks, or it might be 2 or 3 times a week, but generally it’s going to happen in social settings. And usually if I’m doing it not in a social setting, it’s at night time. I’ve finished dinner, and I just kind of keep going back. I’ll either have two helpings of dinner, even though maybe I’m full from the first time, I can’t tell. And then I want to eat a sweet. And then I can’t even tell; “Am I actually craving a sweet?” I don’t know. I just feel the need to keep eating. But it’s usually after dinner.

Marc: Got it. And have you noticed times when you don’t do that. When your relationship with food seems pretty good, and you’re not having any issues. Are there periods like that for you?

Sarah: For sure. And it seems like the longer I have periods of that, it’s like that consistency makes me feel like I don’t need to binge. It’s like the longer I go without binging, the more I feel like I don’t need it. And if a random slip up comes, then it’s like, overanalyze. Why did this happen? But yeah, I for sure will have weeks. Maybe even months at a time where I feel like my relationship with my body and food is really healthy.

Marc: Mm-hmm. So when it’s healthy, how is life different? How are you different? What’s different, overall? Other than the fact that you’re not obsessing, that kind of thing. Is anything else noticeably different?

Sarah: I feel calmer. I feel like I’m in a better mood. I feel like I have a better disposition. Usually I’m in a good workout pattern; not too much, not too little. I’m meditating more regularly. It just seems like I’ve got a skip in my step and life just feels good and calm.

Marc: Mm-hmm. And then something happens; you get thrown off the horse a little bit, and you might go, “Ok, why did that happen?” Do you ever notice a pattern or an, “Oh, I’ve slipped up because umph.” Or. “I tend to slip up when this happens in my life. Or that happens.” Or you can’t really notice?

Sarah: It can be different things. Like I said, social settings are big triggers for me. I feel like there’s a lot of comparison between me and other females. I’m doing it in my head. I assume that my fiancé is doing it; comparing me to other people. And he’s probably not. So if we have several social times out, I feel like something like that could trigger it. Recently I’ve had a hip injury that has kept me from working out, and I felt like I was in a really good place until that happened. And I was fine for a few weeks into it; even a month. Telling myself I’m going to get better, I just need to rest it. And then two and three months of it, I can’t accept not working out. I have to also overeat, and eat bad. It’s like once I jump in and know that one wheel of the bus has fallen off, it’s like, “Well might as well just toss in the towel and start eating unhealthy too.” So that’s what’s thrown me off the past couple of months.

Marc: Got it. So you’re engaged?

Sarah: Newly engaged this year.

Marc: Congratulations.

Sarah: Thank you.

Marc: When do you guys get married?

Sarah: Spring of next year.

Marc: Yay! Good for you.

Sarah: Yeah, we’re really excited.

Marc: You going to want kids?

Sarah: I don’t know. We’re both kind of on the fence about that. So it’s something we’re just going to have to figure out and see if the urge strikes us in a few more years.

Marc: And is he local to where you are right now?

Sarah: Yeah.

Marc: Alright. That helps.

Sarah: Yeah.

Marc: So, do you diet?

Sarah: I used to. I haven’t dieted probably in 2 or 3 years. Actually, since I found out about the Psychology of Eating. I found you guys online. I kind of threw out dieting and threw out the scales many years ago. I try to go by what feels good. But yeah, I used to be on a strict diet. A different one every couple of months in my 20s. I don’t do that anymore. It doesn’t serve me. It’s too much energy.

Marc: And how does it feel now that you don’t do that anymore?

Sarah: Amazing.

Marc: Oh, good for you.

Sarah: It feels like I just dropped a 20-pound weight I had been carrying for forever and just, it feels so good not to be on a certain diet.

Marc: Have you ever had a direct conversation with your fiancé about; wait, let me ask this a different way. Does your fiancé have a decent understanding of what you go through in your relationship with food? Does he get it at all?

Sarah: He can listen. But I think because he doesn’t experience it, he just has a sympathetic ear. But I don’t think he gets it.

Marc: Sure. Sure. That makes sense. It’s hard for guys who aren’t really in the field, or who haven’t really taken the time to study this. It’s hard for them to understand what a woman can go through. Or a man can go through. Unless they really explore it. Have you had an honest conversation about how he feels about how you look and what your weight is and what your shape is?

Sarah: He’s always over the top. “I love you, I love your shape. You could be 300 pounds fatter. You could be any shape you are.” And it seems genuine, but it’s almost like the voice in my head is much louder, you know.

Marc: Got it. Got it. Got it. But that’s good to know. It’s a good piece of information. Are you close with your parents?

Sarah: I’d say the relationship with my mom is a bit strained. I mean they’re 1000 miles away. We talk on the phone here and there. I love them. They love me. They’re not a daily part of my life.

Marc: Three sentences or less; why my relationship with my mother is strained is because…

Sarah: I find her to be judgmental and manipulative.

Marc: Mm-hmm.

Sarah: And toxic in my life.

Marc: Got it. Is she judgmental about your body, or your diet, or food?

Sarah: I briefly modeled as a teenager. Nothing big deal, but enough. I lived in Italy briefly. We flew around the United States a little bit for a few years, and she got very involved in it. I remember one time she signed me up for Weight Watchers and didn’t even tell me. And she took me. And I remember walking in, and I was actually underweight for my height. And the lady was so; “Sweetie, I’m sorry. Your mom has already left. Do you want to say that you’re shorter?” I remember that conversation, her asking me if I wanted to make my height shorter so that it would even out and make me weigh more for that height. So that I would be appropriate to be there.

I think they were very proud to say that their daughter was modeling. And for me, I felt at the time I just got to travel the world and meet cool people and go do cool stuff. I didn’t want to be on a diet. None of my friends were on a diet. So I don’t remember her being on my weight before then. Obviously, the modeling was a catalyst for her, and my dad, to monitor my weight. Because you know, sometimes I would get sent back from jobs, they’d say that I was too big. And my parents would be mad, like, “We flew you there.” Or, “We paid a lot of money for this portfolio.” Or, “We’re not going to fly somewhere next time if you can’t drop the weight that your agent tells you to drop.” So yeah, there was a lot of focus around my weight as a teenager. And I was thin; I look back now, and I’m like, “I was skinny!” I was a skinny teenager. I just wasn’t bone thin.

Marc: Sure. So when did all the modeling stop?

Sarah: 18, before I went to college. It was a really great job I had gotten. I remember I was flown to Cabo, and they wanted to send me back. My hips were too big. They were always very specific. My hips were too big, and they sent me back home. It was embarrassing. All my friends knew I was supposed to be out of town for this shoot for a month, and I had to come back for that. And I knew I was going to college, and not going to keep pursuing modeling, so that was it. After getting sent back. It was embarrassing to fly halfway around the world to get sent back because they told me my hips were too big. So I said no more. I’m like, this was just a fun thing. I traveled around. I didn’t have a career with it. So it stopped at 18 right before going to college.

Marc: And then how did your parents respond when you raised your hand and said no more?

Sarah They were fine with it. I don’t remember there being a lot of talk about it.

Marc: Got it. Got it. Got it. How is it for you right now with me asking you questions about this particular part of your life? How is it landing for you?

Sarah: It used to be really uncomfortable for me. It’s not anymore. Now I can talk about it like it was a past time in my life. In my 20s, it was very shameful. Like, “Oh god, I can’t even pretend like I modeled. I didn’t actually model. I wasn’t a big deal.” So I didn’t want to talk about it. And I thought immediately if I threw that word out that people were immediately sizing me up. “Is she pretty enough? Is she thin enough?” And something clicked in me in my 30s that I have kind of let go of a lot of insecurities that I had. Turning 30 was kind of a magic age for me. And this is one of those topics, I’ve probably talked about it with less than 5 people in my life, but it’s not uncomfortable for me now.

Marc: Mm-hmm. That’s great. So, what do you think holds you back from having the relationship with food and your body that you want to have? This is just an opinion question. There are no rights or wrongs here.

Sarah: Yeah. I feel like because I stay hung up about comparing my body to other girls. I think if I could just be smaller, I would just feel more normal. I don’t feel normal. I’m taller. My hips are larger. I have wide shoulders. And then that relates to food. Then I feel like there’s a direct correlation to, I’m larger than 90% of women that I come into contact with. I’m physically larger than them, and that doesn’t feel good to be an outlier everywhere you go. And then my head makes sense of that with, if I can control my food, maybe my body could be smaller and I wouldn’t have to feel like this.

Marc: Mm-hmm. Got it. Got it. Got it. Makes perfect sense.

Sarah: Yeah, I think that’s kind of how it comes full circle and my brain explains it.

Marc: Mm-hmm. Understood. So tell me what you’re doing work-wise these days.

Sarah: I travel a little bit. I actually work for a medical device company. I teach people how to use cardiac monitors.

Marc: Nice. So do you get to travel internationally, or just in the country?

Sarah: Northeast.

Marc: That’s still good.

Sarah: Yeah, it’s fine. It’s meeting a lot of people, not doing the same thing every day. It’s stimulating. I enjoy it.

Marc: Do you get self-conscious about your body when you’re in your professional zone? Coming into a new situation, you go, “God are they going to think I’m this, or that, or too big, or too whatever?”

Sarah: Sometimes. Oddly, I find I get more insecure around the people I’m closest too. It seems like those are the people I should be the calmest around, but it’s people I don’t know. When I meet someone that I don’t know, like in a business setting, it’s like I can fake a confidence. Or it feels real. I feel like have more self-confidence around those people. Maybe I’m faking it and they can’t hurt me because I don’t know them and I’m going to be off this site in a week and I’ll never see them again. I don’t know if that’s what’s going through my mind. But I feel it more with people I’m more familiar with, actually.

Marc: Mm-hmm. So, here’s a thought. I just want to kind of play with this thought for a moment. I’m going to put it out here, and just see how this lands for you. The thought that I had is, there’s a part of you that hasn’t quite decided yet if this should be your body.

Sarah: For sure.

Marc: As if we have the decision. But just overall.

Sarah Yeah.

Marc: “I’m not so sure about this thing. I’m not so sure A) I like it. B) If it’s mine. Let’s look at hers. Let’s look at hers. Uh-oh; hers is this, mine is that.” It’s almost, it’s like you just haven’t decided if this is ok for you or not yet.

Sarah: That’s exactly right. Or I feel like it’s unfair. Why do I have to go through life that I always have to look for the largest size when I go places and they may or may not have it? That’s not fun. This girl over here, she might actually be overweight, whereas I’m not; but they’ll have her size. Because I’m structurally larger. Yeah, it’s like, I’m like, “Is this mine?” It’s like I’m still in denial that this was my lot.

Marc: Mm-hmm. Yeah. That to me quite honestly is where the action is for you. You know? I think at the end of the day, Sarah, it’s going to come down that at some point, you’ve just got to have a reckoning. It’s kind of like saying, “This guy, I’m going to marry him.” Technically speaking, there’s a lot of guys you could probably marry. Technically speaking, maybe you know them, maybe you don’t. Maybe you know a few other guys you could have married. I guarantee you there’s a lot of guys you could marry, but you picked that one. So you made a choice. You chose. Now when you choose something like that, “That’s my guy.” That’s it. Granted, not going to be perfect. There are other guys who are taller, shorter, richer, smarter, this or that. But that’s your guy. That’s your horse that you’re going with. That’s who you’re betting on for you. It makes perfect sense.

There are some certain choices like that in life, where we’ve got to choose. There are also these choices where we have to choose something that we already kind of was chosen for us in a weird way. Meaning this. I remember there was a day when I first realized, “Oh my goodness. I have these parents I’ve been bitching and moaning and complaining and judging them, and I’ve never actually chosen that, ‘Ok, you guys are my parents. I agree.’” The day that I said, “OK, these are my parents. I’m choosing them.” They’ve already been given to me. They’ve already given birth to me. I’m already in my teens. But I’ve been resisting it. So the day I chose, “Ok, these are my parents.” Everything shifted. The day that I chose, “This is my sister.” Everything changed. Because all of a sudden, I’m not fighting it. It’s kind of what life is doing anyway. I could resist that these are my parents. I could resist that this is my sister. But that’s kind of silly. On the one hand because it completely takes me out of reality. It takes me out of the game.

So all I’m saying is, here there comes a time for me and you and us when you’ve got to choose. You’ve got to choose, “This is my body. This is my size. These are my hips. This is my shape. This is my thing that I’m going to go through every time I walk into a clothing store. And that girl over there, she’s got 25 more choices than I do.” At some point, you’re going to have to choose that, and go, “I’m cool. I’m cool. Could be worse.”

So, easier said than done, I know that. I’m just telling you just as your older brother here on the journey; I’m just raising my hand and saying, given my experience in this realm, that is what is going to need to happen at some point for you to get where you want to go. And it’s that reluctance that we all have to choosing the body that we’re given. To choosing the parents, the whatever it is that we’ve been given. Is that reluctance that puts us in the pain and the suffering zone. So in a way, you will never be comfortable in your body. You will never be able to let go of, “All of a sudden I’m obsessing about food. I’m obsessing about dieting. Or I’m comparing myself to her.” You’ll go through times, like you’ve been, where it’s not going to bug you. Things are good. And then all of a sudden, there it is. And it creeps up on you. And it grabs you again. Because it’s reminding you. So your challenges around food and body are reminding you something; it’s pointing to something. It’s not like there’s something wrong with you. No. I’m looking at it as your relationship with food and body is here to teach you. It’s a great teacher. It’s a brilliant teacher. One of the lessons it’s here to teach you, and many of us, is at some point you’ve got to choose.

Sarah: You know, it’s a scary lesson, as well. Or an ugly thing to have, because it spills over into other areas. It spills over into intimacy, right? So if I’m not feeling good in my body then that affects that area, as well. It seems like it kind of doesn’t just sit in one box.

Marc: 100%.

Sarah: It spills over to other boxes.

Marc: And it will spill over into every box in some way shape or form, because the message you’re living with internally is, “I haven’t chosen myself.” You know what that would be like? That would be like if you were with a guy. If you were marrying a guy who was basically saying, behind the scenes. “Yeah, I’m marrying her. But I don’t really know. If I find something better I’d take it.” That would suck. Right? You would not want to be with that guy. You would not want your best girlfriend to be with that kind of guy.

Sarah: Yeah.

Marc: You would tell your best girlfriend; you would tell any woman that you care about, “Be with a guy who is choosing you.” You would tell your best guy friends that. “Be with a woman who is choosing you. Who is not saying behind the scenes. ‘I don’t know, there could be better. I like that one better.’” So in a sense, you’re saying that to yourself. You’re saying, “I don’t really choose me. I’m not really owning this. There’s better. I wish I had that. How do I do that? What’s she eating?” So that keeps us small. It keeps us, in a sense, it keeps you back to being a 15, 16, 17-year-old girl. It keeps you in that zone. Where you’re kind of a young teenager who doesn’t have herself yet. And right now, you’re not that teenage girl anymore. You’re in your 30s now. Tell me how old you said you were again?

Sarah: 32.

Marc: 32. So you’re in your 30s now, and this is the time to own yourself. This is the time to start to say, “There’s my guy. Here’s my profession. Here’s the work I’m doing, for now. Here’s where I’m going to live.” You’re defining yourself. Part of the self-definition that wants to happen is you choosing you. And this is going to be one of the hardest marriages you’ve ever done. But I promise you once you do it, you’re going to be very happy that you did. Because you’re being tentative about you.

Your fiancé is not tentative about it. He’s clear. Granted, you said, “Yeah, I hear what he says. He loves me no matter what. But my voice drowns out his voice.” That makes perfect sense to me, because that voice is loud. Here’s what I want to say to you. And I’m putting myself in his shoes. And I’ve been there. I’ve been with women who their primary relationship is with their eating disorder or their body image disorder. And they’re not sleeping with me, they’re sleeping with their disorder. So I come second.

Sarah: Yeah.

Marc: And it’s hard. It’s hard. It’s understandable, so there’s no blame there. But what I’m saying is that you will not be fully available to him, to you, or to life as long as this package is not what you’re choosing and you’ve got your eye on thinking you can choose her body, her body, or her body. Like that’s a possibility. So what you’ve gotten, what you’ve figured out is dieting sucks, so that didn’t work. It’s a miserable undertaking. It doesn’t really get you where you want to go. And if it would have worked, it would have worked.

Sarah Speaking of dieting. Like I said, I had tossed it many years ago until I had spoken an Ayurvdeic doctor for acne about a year or two ago. I’m sure you know all the Ayurvdeic doctors; they have lots of rules around dieting. Two things I took away, though, to treat my acne that I got in my late 20s that I still battle with. No dairy, and no gluten. And it works wonders for me. I feel better. I look better. My acne is gone. I loved it for a year, but then it’s another rule. It’s another thing that; “Look how clear her face is. I bet she doesn’t have cut out dairy. Why am I dealing with this?” The diet was fun at first, because I saw the results. And then it stopped being fun because it’s a new set of rules.

Marc: Yeah.

Sarah: But they need to be followed. I’ll sit down with myself, like on an adult level. You can resist it all you want, and then you can look in the mirror and look at the results, of eating dairy or not eating dairy. I feel like I’m arguing, as we talk about it, with a teenager.

Marc: Yeah. And you are. So that’s a great observation. We have different people inside of us, for sure. So you are wife-to-be. You’re a fiancé. You’re a daughter. You’re a professional. You’re all kinds of things. And one of those things you’re also a teenager. And you’ve also got a little kid in there. And your young teenager is extremely rebellious, and she wants what she wants and she doesn’t like rules. That makes sense to me. I’ve got the same thing. There are certain rules I don’t like. And at the same time, what you’re also getting is there is a negotiation involved because life doesn’t care about your argument.

Sarah: {laughing}

Marc: It could care less. It’s like, “Oh, ok Sarah. We’re sorry. You want to eat gluten and dairy? Ok, we won’t make that cause acne for you anymore.” Is it a weird thing that you have to give up these two really great foods that comprise pizza and Italian food.

Sarah: Right.

Marc: Right? That sucks. I get it. I totally get it. And this is called life. It’s called adulthood. It’s called growing up. It’s called learning to live with restraints and parameters in making evolved choices for ourselves. Because you said it yourself. Sure, I could resist. I could fight myself. And then I just look in the mirror, I see the result. So it becomes a choice. You’re free to eat whatever you want. Anything. You can eat whatever you want. Or not. It’s literally up to you. That’s the beautiful thing, you have choice now. And choices have consequences. You can marry whoever you want to marry that wants to marry you. Whoever you marry, that choice has consequences. If you don’t get married, that has consequences. You just date; there are consequences to everything that we do, positive and negative and otherwise. So you’re learning how to mature into that experience. You’re learning that, yeah, there’s a rebellious teenager inside me. And if you want to let her drive the car, then there’s going to be some interesting results. So this is you growing up. Really. I mean, that’s what it is.

Sarah: Yeah.

Marc: This is you stepping into your womanhood. Your adulthood, in a whole new way. There’s nobody to fight here. There’s nobody to blame. Your parents aren’t making you do this. Nobody is making you do anything here. So the power comes from owning your choice. The power comes from saying, Ok. Here’s my lot in life. Here’s this body. Here’s this skin. Because the beauty of it is; yeah, maybe that stuff gives you acne. I promise you, if it’s giving you acne, it’s affecting your body on a deeper level. Over time, over many years, that can then impact your health in a deeper way. So what is skin deep now, years from now can become a different kind of issue. So all I’m saying is, there’s a wisdom to it all.

Sarah: Right. For sure. I just see it as inflammation. It’s just inflammation in the body. So right now it’s on my face, but that could be anywhere. Joints, organs. Anywhere, worse.

Marc: Yes. Here’s what I also want to say about acne. Especially as it relates to the face. I’m not saying this is true for everyone. But for a majority of people, when a human has acne on his or her face, there’s a natural level of shame and/or embarrassment. If it was on my chest and you couldn’t see it, fine. Ok, I take off my shirt; then I can feel embarrassed. But when it’s here, that’s not easy.

Sarah: No.

Marc: It’s not easy walking into the world in that way. So what we have to contend with is a sense of embarrassment. What I want to say to you is, I like to explore when that’s happening for somebody just how that particular person in general relates to embarrassment. What I’m meaning here for you; I’m going to be more specific for you. Let me just say it. Another way to language what we’ve been talking about; another way to language kind of how I see you, is there’s a place, not only where you haven’t chosen your body, but you’re a little embarrassed by it. And that embarrassment grabs you, and it gets you, and it has you doing thoughts and behaviors that don’t serve you. And you’re also overcoming that. So changing your diet is actually a form of empowerment. It’s like saying, “I’m going to empower myself to do something about this. I’m empowering myself to do something about something that embarrasses me. So wow. I’ve done something difficult. I’ve let go of wheat and dairy. And my skin cleared up.” That’s empowering. But at the same time, on a deeper cut, you have not graduated from embarrassment about your body yet, and that’s a target I want you to have in your sites. I want you to know that what we’re shooting for. What I would love to see you shoot for is the day when you’re no longer embarrassed by your body; quite the opposite. It’s like, “Here I am.” I was talking to somebody else; I keep thinking about Beyoncé.

Sarah: {laughs} Yeah.

Marc: I look at Beyoncé; I watch her attitude. I watch how she moves. I watch her body type. And I’m thinking; she couldn’t own it any more than she does.

Sarah: {laughs} Yeah. Very true.

Marc: Just watch Beyoncé. That’s an empowered woman. She’s a big girl. People are paying attention to her. She is charismatic and attractive; in large part because she owns it. She owns it. And it works. Such that, just at the pure level of sex symbol. She’s an international symbol of that, with a body type that isn’t traditionally a tiny, anorexic thing. That says something to me.

Sarah: Yeah.

Marc: That’s an interesting role model for you. Not to be rich and famous, so to speak, but to look at a woman who doesn’t have shame in her game around that. And she’s owning that.

Sarah: When I hear you say that, it’s like a double-edge sword. Because one part of me feels empowered to get this right, and then the other part of me feels a lot of pressure to get this right. Especially being engaged. Right? I don’t want to bring this into my marriage. So it’s like, the pressure of it can either motivate me or it can make me want to crumble and not do anything and feel self-defeat.

Marc: Got it.

Sarah: I don’t know which side of the sword I’m going to pick up each day.

Marc: Ok. Let’s figure that out right now. I want to handle this piece right now. You just said something to the effect of, “I don’t want to bring this into my marriage.” Let’s change that. You are bringing all of you into the marriage. And all of you is wonderful and beautiful and imperfect. He’s imperfect. I’m imperfect. Find me a perfect person; ain’t going to happen. So you’re bringing all of you. And all of you is worth it. Yeah, you’re bringing your challenges too. So is he. You’re going to stand by him. You’re not going to abandon him because he has this challenge, that challenge. He’s insecure about this, he’s insecure about that. That’s not what love is for.

So you’re bringing this into the marriage. And what a beautiful thing. Because then you have the chance to grow. You have the chance to watch yourself deepen. You have the chance to watch yourself heal. You have the chance to watch yourself become more and more empowered about who you are. So please, bring it into your marriage. Feel good about that. I really want you to feel good about that. And I would love for you, at some point, to have, if you haven’t done this, have a little bit more of an open conversation with your fiancé. Like, “Hey, I just got off this podcast session with Marc. He suggested to me I speak to you. Here’s what’s going on for me. I’ve got some nagging little things that sometimes just get me. I’m afraid to bring in some of my insecurities into this marriage, but this is me. I want to love my body more, and I’m on that path. And I want to own who I am more. I’m not in the perfect place right now. Do you still love me? You still want to be with me?” I want you to hear his answer. Because I’m going to bet a lot of money he’s cool.

Sarah: Yeah. For sure.

Marc: But it would be good for you to hear him say that, and it would be good for you to own that insecurity so you can hear how wrong you are, thinking that that’s not ok. It’s perfectly ok.

Sarah: And I think there would be some relief in just admitting that that is a source of pressure for me.

Marc: Yeah.

Sarah: Not that I’m questioning the marriage, or him. That’s not what’s giving me pressure. It’s these issues about me. And I don’t know that I’ve probably put that into words for him.

Marc: I would love for you to put that into words in what I’m asking you to do in the big picture, is take the pressure off. 100%. Because this is something you, we, all of us are dealing with for a lifetime. Which is how to be better people. How to be more empowered. How to love ourselves. How to own ourselves. And you’re going to be doing it more and more. And at some point, you’re going to be owning your body and loving your body. And then you’re going to have to own and love some different part of you. And it’s going to get more specific and more elegant. And you’ll just keep growing.

Sarah: And I want to do that. Like, what a waste. I’m 32 now. I don’t want to be 42, 52, 62. It just seems so futile to go through the day in such a stupid way to spend your energy hating the vessel that you came into. It’s just; I can spend my energy elsewhere. And to me 32 years and one day is too long.

Marc: And the reason why it’s so hard to love the body that we’re given is; by the way, nothing you’ve ever done wrong. This is unbelievably common amongst women and men. Well over 9/10 women are dealing with what you’re talking about, and more and more men are dealing with it. It’s just less socially acceptable for a man to talk about it. But it particularly grips women. It is being fed by the world. By media, by culture, by images, by movies. Since you’ve been a little kid, you’ve been drilled. Not just by your parents. So we’re always give the message in a very subtle and not so subtle way that you should be looking like this, not like that. And so it’s difficult to overcome because it’s constantly in front of us. And, that’s the work that we have to do. Nobody said; there were no guarantees that the world was going to be all nice, and sweet, and easy. So you have to choose a world that ain’t always on your side about these kinds of things. Not always super supportive. So this is a place where you have to find support and find your own path. And understand that the task is a difficult one. Loving your body in this world as a person, as a woman, is an extremely difficult task. Because we are taught to not love it. And we are taught to buy things that help us love it better. Not loving your body is a big business. It’s a huge business. It’s a $500 billion dollar a year industry when it comes to weight loss; let alone, I’m not even going to talk about makeup and self-help books. And everything else that gives you the subtle message, “Here. Do this. This will make you acceptable.”

So your task is hard. Let’s admit that. It is very hard. But. The benefits are freaking huge. What’s on the other side is a rare person who is empowered, who is owning herself, and whose energy is going into being a creative human and not being a self-destructive human. So you already know intellectually. “Wait a second. I don’t want to waste all my time hating my body.” So you know that intellectually. That’s step one. Step two, you’ve been taking actions over the years as best you know how. And now you’re getting better at taking actions. And now you’re getting better at introducing and finding new concepts that help you move forward; new distinctions. That’s what this conversation is about. It’s all about the next step, and the next step, and the next step. So I guess what I‘m saying to you is, I would love for you to take the pressure off because you’re actually moving as fast as you can. You’re moving as fast as you can in this. And for most people, fast looks like slow here. Because there’s no one thing to do that’s going to snap us out of it overnight and all of a sudden, we love our body. This kind of love, it’s a courtship. You are courting your body. You’re dating it. You’re not quite sure if you’re choosing it yet. And what I’m saying is, you’ve got to choose it at some point. Keep dating it. Keep checking it out. But you’ve got to choose it.

Sarah: Once I choose it, I wonder, what does that picture look like? What does the picture of health look like? Will I still have bad days? How often? If I do have a bad day, do I think, “Oh god, I’ve slipped back?” What does it look like, I wonder?

Marc: Great question. What does choosing a guy to marry look like? Will we have arguments? Or will we live happily ever after? Of course. It’s going to be intense at different times. It’s going to be beautiful. It’s going to be wonderful. It’s going to everything. So choosing this body doesn’t mean that you’re not going to have challenges. It doesn’t mean that you’re not going to have days when you look in the mirror and go, “I hate you.” It just means you’re choosing to stay in the commitment and stand by yourself. So when you and your future husband get into an argument, the agreement is, I’m not going to just run out the door because we got into an argument. We have a commitment here to work through stuff. So when you choose your body, you are committing to work through the bumps in the road. So I meet people who, you and I would think, “Wow. You should be the happiest human in the world with that body, and those looks.” You’ve met them too, probably. Men and women who have the perfect this, that, and the other thing. And they’re as uptight, and unself-secure as anybody else might be. So looks don’t guarantee anything. So all I’m saying is, when you choose you, what it looks like is you no longer abandon yourself.

“Ok, now I’m going to hate myself for the next 6 weeks. Now I’m going to judge the hell out of myself.” No, because of your commitment. You’re going to rebound faster. Will you go into self-hate? Probably. Will you go into self-rejection? Probably. Will you bump into somebody on your travels, when you look at that woman and go, “God, I wish I looked like her.” Yeah. Probably. But you’re not going to give it that much energy.

Sarah Right. I don’t want to not enjoy my honeymoon because I’m in a bathing suit the whole time and I’m comparing myself to other women. I don’t want to do that on that week. It’s not how I want to spend it.

Marc: No. I don’t want you to do that either. So that’s where you have to help yourself graduate. It’s a self-graduating experience. Nobody. No one can give you a thing, pill, concept, thought, anything that’s going to get you to that place where you’re going to go, “Ok. Cool. I feel comfortable this week with this body in these clothes in this bathing suit.” Nobody can give you that but you. You grant you that. By you choosing you. It’s no different than choosing him. You made a choice. And it’s choosing that. And then taking actions that speak to the choice. So if you say to him, “I love you. And I’m going to be with you.” Then you demonstrate that love in different ways. You each have different ways that you demonstrate your love. How do you know he loves you? He probably demonstrates in ways that lands for you. He says things. He does things. He does actions. You feel things that are tangible for you. That’s how you know he loves you.

Same for you with you. When you are choosing your body, you then have to do tangible things that prove to you that you’re choosing it. It might not be easy in the moment. Example, tangible things that prove to you that you love your body. You look in the mirror and you go, “That looks good.” You look in the mirror, and instead of going, and judging; you go, “I like that.” You go, “That’s sexy.” You find that place in you. What it means is, I’m going to pamper myself and go get, I don’t know. A foot massage. A pedicure. A manicure. What makes you feel beautiful? I’m going to go buy that piece of clothes because that’s going to make me feel good. You know, when I go shopping, I’m going to go with this girlfriend because she loves me and so supports me and is so going to help get me out of my head if I go. That’s a tangible act.

Sarah: Yeah.

Marc: So whatever small tangible acts you know will register in your system as self-love. You practice those. Because then you start to give yourself the message. “Oh. I’m actually my words and my choices congruent with my actions and the things I say to myself.” So it means monitoring your dialogue. And when you start to go into comparison and self-hate, you catch yourself.

Sarah: Do you think that when I find more acceptance around that realm, do you think that other things will chip away and I will start to feel more calm around food, as well?

Marc: 1000%. Because the problem is not with food; the challenge is, there’s the part of you. And it’s an old part of you from way back when. There’s a part of you that still believes, and understandably so because that’s what you’ve been taught by the world. That food can help me fix all this.

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Marc: So you haven’t let go of that yet; which is understandable. So because there’s still a part of you that believes “food can help me fix all this” that you’ll get sucked into that every once in a while. All of a sudden, “Ooh, maybe I should eat this. Maybe I should eat that. Oh my god; I shouldn’t have eaten this. I shouldn’t have eaten that. I don’t’ want to limit myself, but I do want to diet, I don’t want to diet.” So that all gets generated because you still think that can save me from this challenge that I have called, “I don’t approve of this body fundamentally. I don’t want it. You gave me a bad hand, god, give me something different.”

So what I’m saying is we’re going underneath. If you go to a typical counselor or therapist for food issues, they’re going to focus on the freaking food and changing your behavior. Yeah, there are always little tweaks you can do. But it’s not ultimately where the action is.

Sarah: Right.

Marc: So will your behaviors around food change as you are able to step into some of the places we’re talking about? You bet. In a big way. In a big way. So what I’m going to ask of you is, first and foremost, be patient. I really mean that. See if you can, and I really want you to remind yourself of this. Take away the urgency. It doesn’t mean you don’t work diligently. You work every day. I’m going to guestimate that you work 40 hours a week. Is there an urgency around that? I don’t know. You wake up, you do your work. So every day, you’re going to do your work around this. You’re going to notice when you start to go into negative self-talk. You’re going to notice when you do loving acts that demonstrate love for your body, and you go, “Oh, good girl. Way to go.” You’re going to notice when you say something kind to your body. You’re going to notice when your fiancé is loving on you, and you’re going to take that in.

Sarah: That’s hard. That piece.

Marc: I know. Yeah.

Sarah: It’s really hard.

Marc: And what a good freaking problem to have.

Sarah: Yeah.

Marc: Of all the problems; check out this problem. “I’ve got a man who is wanting to marry me, loves me, attracted to me. I don’t love my body as much as he does; but man, would he love me to just relax into that so we could both have a good time together.” What a good problem. May you have problems like that throughout the course of your life. What a good thing. All problems should be that cool. So yeah, you’re right, that’s a challenge. But what I’m asking you to do is be in school. Be in the school of life in a slightly different way. That’s why I said patience; take the pressure off; be a beginner. And start to enjoy this journey a little bit more. Because you’ve already progressed. You’re already getting to a better place. If you look at your progression, you will prove to yourself that you’re moving forward. So a part of this conversation is me reflecting to you, “Hey. Job well done so far!” You focus on where you’re not at. You focus on the imperfections. I get it. I’m focused on, “Wow. Good job. Wow. You’ve grappled with some interesting stuff on your journey. And wow, you’ve created a good life for yourself. Wow. You’ve overcome some interesting challenges. And wow, you have some interesting challenges ahead of you, but you have the tools to get where you want to go.” It’s just a little more trust, a little more faith, and you’re going to get there. You don’t know how, 100%, but that’s ok. So, a little bit of forgiveness. Self-forgiveness, you know.

Sarah: It’s funny how some of the simple things you’re saying are so profound. I guess I’m in the mindset right now that I needed to hear it, but hearing the word “choice” was very powerful. I can already hear myself saying that to myself during the day. I choose you. Maybe just self-talk like that to my body. “I choose you.”

Marc: Yeah.

Sarah: And talking about the urgency and pressure. Sometimes I think the urgency and pressure are worse than what it is I’m actually battling.

Marc: Bingo. Because there’s no urgency and pressure. And as soon as you take away the urgency and pressure, what’s left is possibility.

Sarah: Yeah.

Marc: What’s left is these beautiful materials called your life that you have to work with. And that’s a good thing. You know? So it’s like, you’re going to learn self-love. You’re going to learn how to love more, and how to receive love more. That’s a damn good undertaking. And you have a willing partner to do that with. And you yourself are willing. You’re just a little scared; understandably so. But you’re willing. What a great thing. And it is the simple things. That’s also what I’m here to remind you of. We try to look for all these complex answers, and these complex diets, and we get distracted away from the real higher truths. The more powerful truths. The aspect of this that is more of a spiritual journey for us. And this is about us learning how to love what we’ve been given. Because you’ve been given what you have for good reason. And we can’t always understand and know. And sometimes it’s just about being a little more humble. It just humbles us. The body humbles us.

Sarah: Absolutely.

Marc: So I super appreciate how you’ve shown up, and how you’re dealing with this. I’m very impressed. Honestly, I’m just impressed. It’s not that I’m hopeful for you, I just totally believe in your journey. So I know you’re going to get where you’re going. Where you want to go. And you just have to keep doing what you’re doing. And you’re tweaking. It’s like, oh, ok. Take a little pressure off. Oh, relax a little bit more into this. Start to choose myself every day. And you know, I don’t always believe in what I’m about to say, because it’s not always good. But a lot of times it really works, and it’s “Fake it till you make it.” This is a good place of fake it till you make it of just going, “Hey. I choose you.” And even though you might not feel it 100% in the moment. Even if you feel it 20% or 80%, that’s good enough. Because you’re feeding yourself something good and healthy. Which is, you’re reminding yourself of a mantra and a belief and a choice that’s been the opposite of what you’ve been doing. Because what you’ve been doing subtly is, “I don’t choose you. I don’t choose you.” In fact, you’ve been saying, “I reject you. But I like her. I like that. I want this. I want that.” And by you starting to choose you; whoo. That’s going to gain momentum and only good things will come from that. I promise you that.

Sarah: It seems so simple. I wish it wasn’t so hard. It seems like something so basic that humans get dropped into this world and you start day 1 hating what you got put into. It seems so odd.

Marc: Yeah.

Sarah: I do think I’m on the path. Like you said, I don’t feel lost. I don’t feel completely scattered. I feel like I’m on the right path. And I feel like people like you, that come into my life, and other things and journaling and putting my mind in the right place. I know I’m going in the right direction. I’m just being impatient.

Marc: Yeah.

Sarah: You hit the nail on the head.

Marc: Yeah. And it’s fine to be impatient. It’s a smart thing in a lot of ways. Impatience is good. Why? Because it inspires us to get stuff done quicker. So there’s a useful reason for impatience. Sometimes impatience is the right response to things. What I want to say for you, in this case, it’s not.

Sarah: It’s just not.

Marc: In this case, impatience ain’t going to work. In other cases, absolutely. Nothing wrong with impatience. But in this case, patience is your friend and it is your ally. Because I know you’re going to be diligent. Because you have been diligent. So that’s super clear to me. It’s just giving yourself more space to be human, to be imperfect, and to be lovable who you are right now. You’re imperfect. I’m imperfect. And we’re still lovable. There’s still people that love us. What a good thing.

Thank you so much. Thanks so much for being such a good sport. Thanks so much for jumping in and sharing your world and your journey. It’s very beautiful and it’s very inspiring. Again, I just want to say I think you’re in a great place. I really do. And you’re going to get where you want to go.

Sarah: I think so. Thank you so much for your kind words and your encouragement. You have a big heart. And it does not go unseen. So thank you. Thank you so much.

Marc: You’re welcome. God bless. And we’re going to follow-up in a bunch of months and just kind of see how it all rolls out. Thank you, Sarah.

Sarah: Thanks.

Marc: And thanks everybody for tuning in. I always appreciate you, checking us out and tuning into the podcast. More to come my friends. Once again, I’m Marc David. On behalf of the Psychology of Eating podcast. 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 IPE.tips. That’s I for Institute, P for Psychology, E for Eating, dot tips, T-I-P-S. 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, mind, body, and health.

Podcast: Episode 247 – Letting Go of Rules and Obsessions

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