After being overweight most of her life, Dawn finally lost a significant amount of weight, about 90 pounds, for the first time at the age of 43. She was able to maintain that new weight for 5 years without much effort. Then she fell into an intense cycle of overeating, followed by intense calorie restriction and exercise, and the weight started to come back on. Dawn has tried counseling, along with different diets and exercise programs, but with no success. And worse, her overeating happens in secret and she moves through her day with far too much shame and guilt. Tune into this fascinating podcast episode as Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating helps Dawn see that her food issues actually have nothing at all to do with food, and how by focusing on where the action truly is, she can finally find freedom.
Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:
Marc: Welcome, everybody. I’m Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. Here we are in the Psychology of Eating podcast. And I’m with Dawn today. Welcome, Dawn!
Dawn: Thank you, Marc. Thank you for having me.
Marc: Yeah, I’m glad you’re here. And let me fill viewers and listeners in on what we’re doing for those of you who are new to the Psychology of Eating podcast. So here’s the deal. We’re going to be together for an hour today. And for the first twenty, twenty-five minutes, I’m going to be asking Dawn a bunch of questions.
And the idea is we’re going to work on whatever concern around food, body, and health that she’s interested in. And we’re going to condense about six months to a year’s worth of coaching into about one session, which will be an interesting thing to do. But it kind of works! And the idea is just to help you, Dawn, have some openings, some breakthroughs, some insights, and to really sort of push the fast-forward button on where you want to go.
So let me ask this question. If you could wave your magic wand and get whatever you wanted to get from this session, what would that be?
Dawn: Well, you asked me where I want to go. And where I want to go is to a point where I feel peace and relaxation around food. Definitely that is not the case now. As someone who has been overeating for a long time, I feel like I am sort of any battle with myself like there’s two parts of me. I have even named part of me as the demon part. There’s the good part that eats healthy.
And then there’s the good part that kind of comes out and engages in overeating to the point where it’s frustrating and has led to weight gain. But more importantly, it’s the behavior that I’m concerned with, even more so than the weight, the side effect of that behavior, but just the eating that I do.
Marc: Okay. So how long has this over eating piece been happening for you?
Dawn: Well, it depends. Technically you could say it’s been happening all my life. Ever since I was a child, that was one of my go tos. I was actually very overweight a long time ago. Well, I was overweight most of my life until about seven or eight years ago when I ended up losing over the course of a couple years about ninety pounds. And I was able to manage my overeating during this time. And most recently in about the past, I’d say, a little over two years, it has really come back with a vengeance to the point where it almost feels like a habit. It’s just something that I do three, four days a week.
Marc: What time of day do you find yourself overeating?
Dawn: Afternoon. Afternoon into the evening, depending on whether I’m alone because it’s always something that I do by myself.
Marc: So afternoon or into the evening. What might an over eating experience look like?
Dawn: I’ll make myself a really healthy salad for lunch. And then I just feel like I need a little something. And that little something can turn into nut butters are some of the things that I go to. I can go through a half a jar of almond butter, a quarter to a half a jar of oil and butter. Bars, any kind of bars that I have in the house.
And I’ve been trying different things. And I try, every once in a while. I convinced myself, “It’s okay. I can bring it back into the house now. I can sit with it and I can be with it and it’s okay.” And usually I will go through the whole box of bars in the amount of time that…
Marc: Okay, what kind of bars are we talking about?
Dawn: They’ll be these little ninety-calorie bars, about seventy to ninety calories. I’m not actually sure. I’m not sure. They come in packs of twelve, in boxes of twelve.
Marc: Just tell me what kind of bars.
Dawn: They’re made by Weight Watchers. Other bars are made by Fiber One, things that you can buy grocery store.
Marc: Okay. So there’s various kinds of weight loss sort of bars that you might overeat. And you might do some nut butter. What else might you be overeating during these times?
Dawn: Sometimes chips if there are chips in the house. Cereal. My husband has a particular cereal that I will turn to. I get very inventive because I’ve tried to keep things out of my house, which in some ways it protects me a little bit. But in other ways it makes me feel bad because why do I need to do this? Why do I need to prevent food from coming to my house? It’s kind of like, “Well, because I can’t handle it.”
And that brings out the whole feelings of shame around the food that this is something that I can’t deal with. And I will turn to even flavored yogurts. I can’t have any more because I will go through… If I buy like a sixpack of flavored yogurt, I will go through the whole thing.
Marc: So how long have you been married?
Dawn: Twenty-nine years.
Marc: Do you have kids?
Marc: And tell me what kind of work you’re doing these days.
Dawn: I do work for Weight Watchers. That’s how I lost a lot of my weight. And when I did lose the weight, I felt for the first time I was ever at a healthy weight as an adult. And the struggles that I went through to get there made me want to help other people. So I’ve been working for Weight Watchers for about the past five years now, leading meetings, helping other people.
Marc: Good for you. So you’ve lost the weight by joining Weight Watchers. And what were you doing? Were you exercising more during the time that you lost the ninety pounds? Were you just really working with your diet?
Dawn: I was counting the points. I was sticking to the points. I was motivated. I’ve always exercised my entire life. I’ve always exercised. So that was kind of a piece that was already in place that I just kept going with. And it sounds weird because I know now, seven years after doing this, restricting myself to a certain amount of food, learning the impact of different foods and having… Weight Watchers uses the point system. And the point system gives you some great information to help you make choices, that this food, it’s going to cost you a lot more. And it kind of makes you start to look at things differently. But at the same time, you’re following the system. And other people don’t follow the system. Why do I have to follow the system?
Marc: So did you gain weight when you started overeating again?
Dawn: Yes, yes.
Marc: Okay. How much weight did you gain?
Dawn: I’ve gained about fifteen pounds. I’m struggling between fifteen and twenty pounds.
Marc: And why do you think you started with the overeating, like if you had to assess yourself?
Dawn: I’ve put a lot of thought into this because I’ve been struggling with this for two years plus. I’m a kind of person that I hide my feelings. That’s what I’ve done all my life. And it takes a long time, I think, for me to get to the point where it manifests.
So I can tell you it started in fall of about 2012. So I was looking, “Well, what was happening at that time?” Well, nothing was really happening at that time. But if you go back a year or even another two years, my mother passed away in 2009. She passed away from cancer. And she died on Christmas Day. And that was a big deal. It’s a big holiday in our family.
And I was the person who was her executor. I took care of everything. I arranged her funeral. I sold her house. I cleaned it out. I did all that stuff. And that took about two years. I finally sold the house around December 2011. And I can remember leaving the closing and driving on my way home and stopping at some kind of store—I don’t ever remember what it was—and buying Hostess Suzy Q’s and something else because I just needed something to help me deal with the emotion of that.
I don’t remember manifesting regular overeating for another year. But I think it took that long for it to come out. And another thing that happened during that time is my husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. So that was kind of another stress or anxiety that went into the mix. So there you have it.
Marc: So there’s been a lot on your plate in the last few years is what I’m hearing you say. I know what that experience is like because I’ve gone through that experience with both of my parents. So I can get it in terms of dying, death, dealing with all the aftermath of that and then dealing with all the feelings of the aftermath of that.
Dawn: Well, it was almost like I put off—while I was dealing with all the stuff that you need to deal with—it’s like I put myself off from feeling anything because otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to do it. And there was no one else to do it. I have other family. But I was the one that was… I was the responsible one, so to speak.
Marc: So do you have brothers and sisters?
Dawn: I have two brothers.
Marc: So where are you in the birth order?
Dawn: I’m the middle.
Marc: Got it. And can I ask how old you are?
Dawn: I am almost fifty-one. I have my birthday in a couple weeks.
Marc: Okay, where have you been at in the menopause continuum?
Dawn: Approaching. I’m not quite there yet. But I’m assuming it will happen soon.
Marc: Sure. And why do you think that you had the extra weight that you had all those years?
Dawn: Well, one of the things I do want to mention is that I did—in the beginning of 2012 when this started; maybe it was 2012. I can’t remember—I did see a counselor for some time for a number of months to help me deal with the grief after all the technical stuff was done. And she helped me go back and look at some of the earlier issues in my childhood.
And it was a difficult childhood. My mother was a single parent. I was the only girl in the family. She was working two jobs to try to put up with us. My father was out of the picture. So it was kind of like I was a caretaker. I was the one who was trying to keep things together while she was working, taking care of my brothers, doing the meals as much as I could to keep things together there.
And what my counselor made me realize is that’s not something a kid should be doing. You can. But it kind of takes away part of childhood. I remember overeating back then. I remember when I have money—and money was not very prominent then—I remember going in the store and buying food and eating it, taking it back into my bedroom and eating it. So that’s why I said it started back then.
Marc: And how was your mom’s relationship with her body when she was alive?
Dawn: My mom was always very thin. I don’t know. She didn’t seem to have problems, any issues with body that I could tell. When I was growing up, I think she always wanted to be the strong person to. And she had a lot on her plate. But she always seems to be, I would say, fun-loving, outgoing, that kind of thing. I don’t think she was—I don’t know—depressed or withdrawn or anything like that.
Marc: So how did she feel about your weight?
Dawn: She never said anything. I don’t know what that means. But she didn’t. She was a very good food pusher. She wanted us to be happy. When she had an opportunity to cook, she would cook for us. And she wanted us to be as happy as we could, especially because food wasn’t always readily available. So when we had it, when we had the really good stuff, you ate it.
Marc: How was your relationship with her the last bunch of years?
Dawn: It was great. It was actually much better, I would say, than earlier. I
wouldn’t say we never fought. It’s not like we were at odds with each other. But sometimes there were certain personality things about her that I didn’t like. She tends to be a critical person and someone who always needed to evaluate things and make a comment, from the littlest things like, “Oh, I don’t like that house color. How could they ever paint that house that color?” It’s like, well, people have different tastes. It’s just the way it is. It doesn’t mean you should criticize it. She would be critical in that way. And then when she did get sick, she fought it for a couple years. And it’s almost like you could see her relax or open up into different possibilities.
Marc: Sure, sure. Do you tend to be a fast eater, moderate eater, slow eater?
Dawn: It depends. I would say when I’m overeating, it’s definitely fast. It’s fast and furious. I’ll be eating one thing and unwrapping the next thing while I’m still chewing. Most of the time, I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily slow. I would say I’m moderate. Moderate to fast, let me put it that way.
Marc: Okay. What do you generally eat? In a minute or less, what do you generally for breakfast and lunch?
Dawn: Breakfast this morning I had yogurt with strawberries and some bran cereal. It was a full-fat yogurt. Or sometimes I’ll have a smoothie. I make protein powder, almond milk. I’ll try to throw in a tablespoon of coconut oil or something.
Lunch is usually a salad. Lots of greens, lots of vegetables, some kind of protein. It could be tuna. It could be chicken.
Marc: How much protein do you put on your salad for lunch usually?
Dawn: Tuna, I do half a can, 2 1/2 ounces. It’s a five-ounce can. When I do chicken, it may be like three ounces or a couple ounces of turkey or something. And if I have avocado, I like to throw that on. And I do oil and vinegar, a tablespoon of oil, a tablespoon of vinegar.
Marc: And I’m bouncing all over the place here. But there is a little bit of a method to the madness here. So right now, if you could stop overeating and lose the weight and get what you want, how would things be different? Who would you be? How would life be different? Describe what would be better.
Dawn: I think I would be a more relaxed person. I think I’d be a more open person. I think I would be a little bit more outgoing and social than I am. I’m pretty outgoing. But in terms of going out to eat with friends and family, I wouldn’t stress about those situations. I feel like this battle or struggle that I’m in saps my energy. And if I didn’t have that, that energy would come out in other ways that would hopefully be bubbly and vivacious.
Marc: Got it. So all this energy wouldn’t be drained in the battle. And you would be more you. You’d be out there. You’d be energetic. You’d be vivacious. You’d be open. You’d be more free, that sort of thing. Yeah?
Dawn: Mmm hmm. I wouldn’t be worried about running into a situation where people are with me and they’re saying, “Oh, just have some dessert.” And I didn’t want to have any because I would be afraid that it would start a trigger and then when I would get home I would overeat, that kind of situation.
Marc: Got it. How old were you when your parents divorced?
Dawn: It’s actually hard to pinpoint. I would say I was maybe six or seven. And my mother actually was divorced twice. My older brother and myself have a different father. And they separated when I was very young. I have absolutely no memory of him. And, in fact, I didn’t learn of his existence until I was much older.
My mother remarried, had another child. And my other brother is five years younger than me. And I believe they were divorced probably when he was around one or two. I honestly don’t remember. My stepfather has since passed away. And he was an alcoholic. He was a very angry person. I did not like him at all. And even when he was sick…When they got divorced, he left. He fled the state and gave us the support. Never heard from him again except every once in a while when he needed something or he was back in town for some reason.
And then he got sick. He passed away a number of years ago, maybe like fifteen, twenty years ago by now. He also died of cancer. And, in the end, my younger brother, who was his real biological son, was by his side. And I said, no, I didn’t want anything to do with that. And when I inherited some money from him, I said no I don’t want it. I gave it to my brother. I said I honestly don’t want anything to do with him.
Marc: And did you ever have contact with your real dad?
Dawn: No. My sister-in-law, my older brother’s wife, tried to contact him a number of years ago because she has kids. I have two nephews. And she wanted to know, “What’s up with you? Is there anything we should know about in terms of family history, that kind of thing?” And she didn’t get in touch with him directly, but found someone related to him. And he did not want any contact.
Marc: Got it. And how’s your husband been in this process with you in your journey with food and body? Is he supportive? Does he understand? Where does he fall into this whole scene?
Dawn: He’s supportive. To say he understands, I don’t think anyone who has not been through it can truly understand it. I’ve sat down and talked to him and said, “Please hide the peanut butter from me,” those kinds of things. And there’s been times where he’ll come home and say, “Well, what happens to this?” whatever it was, whether there was ice cream in the house, whatever.
And obviously there’s only two of us in the house. It’s not like I can say, “Oh, the cats ate it.” So he tries to be supportive. And I tried to enlist his support. But I don’t think he truly understands the compulsion.
Marc: Sure. But he supports you as best he can?
Marc: He cares is what it sounds like.
Dawn: Oh, yeah. And he will do things for me. Like I said, he will keep things out of the house if I ask him to. He will rearrange things.
Marc: So, Dawn, I think there’s a lot I want to say.
Dawn: Are you going to fix me, Marc?
Marc: No, I’m not. But I’m going to give you some good insights, I think, here. Dawn, what I like to do is I like to start more big picture and give you some big picture sense of where I see you and how I look at your story. And then we’ll narrow down from there to more specifics. And the idea here is you’ve presented a story. You’ve been on a journey. We’re all on this powerful epic journey. In a lot of ways our life is like this pretty big movie. And when you can take a step back and look at the movie big picture wise, the story, the themes, it sometimes helps us understand some of the little smaller parts of the movie.
So I want to say from the big picture perspective, you don’t have a problem with food per se. So your issue is not food. It’s not about hiding the food, fighting the food. I know that’s what it feels like. And I know that’s what it seems like. And I know that’s how it plays out for you.
But what I want to say from my perspective—and I’m going to explain this—that in reality, the challenge you face has nothing to do with food. The challenge you face has everything to do with you being a human being alive on planet Earth and learning how to be the best you possible and learning how to digest and assimilate your life and your experiences and what you’ve gone through.
So here you are. You had all this way for a long time. You joined Weight Watchers. You lose it. You keep it off for a bunch of years. And then boom. Here comes—you call it overeating—I’m going to call it binge eating where you get these uncontrollable experiences where you can’t stop yourself and you just have to eat. And then you try to stop that because it’s not fun. You don’t want to be doing that. Who wants to do that? You can’t control it. It feels like it’s not you. It makes you gain a little weight. It doesn’t make you feel good about yourself. And it makes you live in this battle with food. So the question is, “How do I stop the battle with food?”
And usually what happens is we look at the food. And we say, “Okay, honey, hide the food. And I try to put myself in situations where I’m not around the food.” And it’s about the food. And it’s sort of not really. And it’s more than the food. Food is a small piece of it.
So let me say more about that. When you lost the weight, you did it through means that I’m going to say were not really sustainable because you didn’t really have the kind of inner shift that would permanently keep you in a certain way of eating. So what happened was you learn how to manipulate your metabolism. And you learned how to manipulate your metabolism by following a system where you counted points and you follow the system. And you followed it well. And it worked. And you followed it well. And it worked.
And the challenge is as soon as something was a bit of an upset your life and you had some big challenge with dealing with your mom and her illness and dealing with, you mentioned your husband and what he was diagnosed with, and going through your mom’s death, and that grieving, that’s not easy. And when that happens, when we’re going through life transitions like that, strong emotions come out. “Am I safe? Am I okay?”
When your mother died, on some level it’s like you’re an orphan now. And it’s a huge, huge, huge right of passage. If you haven’t gone through that, most people can’t understand it until you go through it when you don’t have both of your parents anymore.
And especially for you, your mother, that was your parent. So you’ve lost your genetic ties to the world. You lost the person that you came here through. So for you to turn to food to deal with that grief and that upset and that confusion makes perfect sense to me.
Dawn: I felt like an orphan. I even remember saying to myself, “I’m an orphan now.”
Marc: Yeah, yeah. And you are. And that’s a big shift. It’s a big transition. It’s an emotional transition. It’s a personal transition. It’s a spiritual one. And it’s not easy. And transition times, which you’re in right now—you’re in a transition time—meaning your parent who you’ve been closest with by far and away we were going to call you only parent, has gone through her disease and died. And you were there. And you’re there for the aftermath and doing all the things you need to do.
And I think you very accurately assessed yourself. It’s like, “Okay. And now on starting to feel.” Sometimes we have to push the pause buttons on feelings because we have to. So, to me, you did what you needed to do. I wouldn’t necessarily say you should have done things any different. You had to kind of bear down and take care of business before you start, in a certain way, fall apart a little bit and feel what you need to feel.
So transition times… Like when I see transition times, I mean a transition might mean you’re moving from one state to another. You’re changing jobs. You’re leaving a relationship. Transition time is when kids graduate and you’re not really a parent anymore. There’s all kinds of transition times. You’ve been in a big transition time.
And just hitting fifty is a big transition time. And being poised for the menopausal shift, to me you are likely already pre-menopause. And just going through that sort of preparation, which is in part physiologic. But it’s more psychic and spiritual, meaning it’s a huge life transition where you have to become your own woman. Once you hit fifty, you’ve got to become your own woman. Otherwise things start to hurt and fall apart quickly. Things get messy. And what I mean is you can get caught up in habits that feel like, “They’re not me,” like compulsive binge eating.
And right now, to me, I’m going to say that the binge eating, it’s like a placeholder. It’s the place where you act out emotional story and experience in a symbolic way. So instead of you being able to sit down, look in the mirror, embrace yourself like, “Wow, here’s what I’m experiencing. Here’s what I’m feeling. Here’s the grief. Here’s the pain. Here’s the sadness.” When your mom dies, is going to bring up a lifetime of everything that did and didn’t work.
It all comes up. People don’t always realize this experience. It’s a huge life transition. I’m going to call it, it’s a huge life rite of passage. A rite of passage is a challenge, an ordeal that we have to go through in order to come out the other side a bigger and better person. We go through different life passages that are not always so easy. But this is how life strengthens us.
And what happens is because you don’t totally trust yourself, you don’t trust yourself around food, you don’t trust yourself around eating, you don’t trust yourself around how you actually take care of yourself around food and eating and your emotions, so then you have to say, “Okay, honey. Hide this from me. Okay I can’t put myself in this situation or that situation” because you’re not trusting yourself.
That’s no different than saying to yourself, “Don’t put me around—I don’t know—“money because I steal. So then I have to constantly not be around money because and I’m going to steal your money or my money or somebody else’s money. I don’t trust myself.”
So part of what you have to do, part of your rite of passage is learning how to trust yourself. There’s only two ways to trust one’s self. You either grant yourself trust or you earn the trust or combination of both. So there’s certain people you might meet today. And maybe if some guy was going to go clean your car and he’s going to go drive it to his place where he cleans the car, you don’t know him. Are you going to trust him? Well, yeah, okay. He’s got a website. He’s got a location. You’re granting him your trust. Or maybe you know him for years, and he’s earned it.
So you have to see that you’ve earned some of your own trust. You’ve made it this far in life. Life ain’t so bad. It’s not so bad.
Marc: And at the same time, you have to start to grant yourself trust around food. That’s going to take you a little time. But you have to commit to it. You have to get what your journey is. So your issue is not that, “I’m compulsively overeating or binge eating and I need to stop.” You don’t need to stop. You shouldn’t stop. You should keep doing this, honestly, until you hear the message and the wisdom and what it’s trying to tell you because it’s there for a reason. So symptoms are divine. Symptoms are symbolic. Every symptom has a message and it has a wisdom to it.
And when we’re able to listen to that message and hear it a little more closely, we can take that message and go, “Oh, I’m getting it.” That positions us to graduate from the symptom. So the symptom is simply life’s symbolic way of talking to us. It’s the body symbolic way of talking. It’s the psyche’s symbolic way of talking to us. The mind works in symbols. The mind works in metaphor.
Dawn: Mine talks in a loud voice.
Marc: It does. And it’s talking in a very loud voice. And I’m glad it is because that’s how life gets our attention. So the fact that you then go for counseling, go for help, speak to a guy like me, do the best you can, you think about it, you’re doing what you needs to do, which is you’re listening. And you’re exploring because you have a symptom that is very uncomfortable. You don’t like it. And it doesn’t work for you. And I understand why you don’t like it and why it doesn’t work for you. You shouldn’t like it. That’s the whole point of it. It’s there to be in the long clock.
So that alarm clock is going off. And it’s letting you know that, “Dawn, this is the time in your life when you step into the role of parent for yourself.” You have to now become an adult woman. And you can no longer be the daughter of your mother. You have to be the woman of your queendom, which is very different. So there’s a place where, for many years, you’ve still been a daughter.
And, of course, you’re always going to be your mother’s daughter. That’s true, whether they’re alive or our parents are dead, we’re always the child. But there is a psychic transition. There’s an inner transition. And this is why we often do counseling and we do therapy because we often do have to make a strategic strike and understand, “What habits, what patterns, what ways of thinking am I bringing from my past, bringing from my childhood that worked then, but they don’t work now?”
So what happened was, yeah, as a kid you had to mature fast. You had to hold certain responsibilities. You had to take care of things. There was no father figure. So in a weird way, you might have been the peacemaker. You might have been in the middle. You might have been the second mom. You took on more than the average kid, especially if you didn’t have both your parents.
And there were probably all kinds of things going on that you didn’t realize. So you had to take things on. And oftentimes what that looks like is we have to be more solid and grounded and we have to weigh more. And at some point, you wanted to lose weight. And you figured out a way to manipulate your metabolism.
But really the weight is the weight. And whether you have ten more pounds, five more pounds, two more pounds, fifteen more, it almost doesn’t matter. What matters is you reclaiming yourself. I don’t want to see you waste a moment of your life trying to lose weight. Might you lose a bunch of weight? Sure. Might you gain weight? Maybe. We don’t know how much you’re supposed to weigh. So this is not about you stopping overeating so you don’t gain weight.
If this is what it’s about for you, you’re going to have a very, very, difficult time getting where you want to go. In fact, you’re not going to get where you want to go. I’m just going to tell you right now. You won’t get you where you want to go if you make this about, “I need to stop binging so I don’t gain weight.”
What this is about is, “I need to understand myself. I need to understand binge eating. I need to listen to it so I can get the teaching from it so I can use that teaching to elevate myself so I can move to a different place in my growth as a woman, my growth as a human being. So then when I grow, I don’t have to deal with the same problem that was trying to stimulate my growth because I graduated.” So that’s what’s happening here.
And on one level it’s time now, I think, to let go of what Weight Watchers did for you. It doesn’t mean you don’t work at Weight Watchers anymore. But you told me before there’s this part of you—I don’t know if you used the word “rebel”—but it’s this rebellious part of you that just doesn’t want to count points and doesn’t want to follow any rules. And it’s such a separate personality that you gave it a name.
So here’s what I want to say about that. And it’s funny because it is funny. It really is. Because we’re funny human being. When not a single person
Dawn: I’ve got to tell you, I’ve tried other diet systems since this started. And it’s the same thing. As soon as there were rules, I would last a couple days. And then it’s like I would rebel.
Marc: Great. So let me tell you what’s happening there. Let me explain to you exactly what’s happening there. The human psyche, the human mind, is not occupied by one person. It’s occupied by a crowd. You’re a crowd of people. I’m a crowd of people. Who lives in your psyche? You’re a wife. You’re daughter. You’re a friend. You’re a professional. On some days you’re a little girl. On some moments, you’re a queen. Sometimes you’re a bitch. Sometimes you’re a scientist. Sometimes you’re a caring voice.
So there’s all these different people in us. You might have certain hobbies. You might have certain sports that you play. Maybe there’s a tennis player you. So we have these different personas. There’s also the part of us that’s a judge. There’s a part of us that a critic. There’s a part of us that the teenager. There’s a part of us that the rebel.
Well, parts of us, I’m aware of the parts of me. And there are some parts of us that oftentimes we don’t seem to have control over. And the reason why we don’t have control over those parts generally speaking is because we’re hyper controlling someplace else or because were not seeing the full spectrum of who we are and what’s going on.
So, in other words, the rebel in you is basically saying, “Gee, Dawn, stop with the nonsense. I don’t want to be on another freaking system. This is boring. I hate it. It doesn’t work. You might as well put me in a ball and chain. This sucks. And it’s not really who you are.” And the rebel in you right now—
Dawn: I’m laughing because it strikes home.
Marc: Yeah! Because the rebel knows that’s true. It’s like, “Stop the freaking nonsense.” It’s a bunch of baloney. And the rebel just sits there and the sabotages the whole thing and then laughs at it because the rebel in you and me knows how dumb the stuff is.
But in the other part of me, it’s like, “Oh, my God. I’m gaining weight. I’ve got to follow a system. I’ve got to lose this because if I don’t lose this, all these terrible things are going to happen to me.” And we play out this strange, silly drama that makes sense actually. But on another level it’s silly. So you have to get where the rebel is teaching you. The rebel is letting you know this doesn’t work anymore.
So you have to listen to what the rebel has to say. Does that mean I’m telling you to eat whatever you want, wherever you want, how much? No. But what I’m saying is the rebel is delivering a message, which is that it’s time for you to just eat like a human being. It’s time for you to eat like a natural human being, which is totally possible. There’s a part of you that doesn’t think it’s possible because you don’t trust yourself and you don’t trust your body.
Trusting one’s self and trusting one’s body is, in part, called growing up into adulthood. If you’re freaking out about your own appetite, if you’re freaking out about your own relationship with food, it’s almost no different than freaking out about, “I breathe in the morning and every two minutes or every minute or every moment.” It’s freaking out that, “I have to go pee.” It’s what your body does.
So you’re in a phase in life where you have to learn how to mother yourself. You have to learn how to be a really good mother to yourself. You have to get out of your head. And you have to start eating food. And you have to start enjoying food. And you have to slow down when you eat. And you have to let yourself be nourished by food. And you have to join the human race.
Every animal does this. Animals in nature, they just eat. And then they’re finished. And they don’t worry about it. They’re not obsessing about it. They’re not binge eating. They’re not worried about their weight. They eat and they’re time. And they’re natural. And there’s plenty of humans to do that. They eat. And they’re done. And it’s natural.
And in order for you to do that, you have to start being with yourself. And you have to start noticing an understanding that there’s a part of you that hasn’t been trusting yourself. There’s a part of you that like a little girl in your own body. And you’ve got to do all these things so you don’t harm yourself. And stepping into your womanhood, stepping into your queenhood, means you start to feel your feelings more.
And that might mean regular counseling. It might mean regular meetings with a friend where it’s all about you and you can start to be with your feelings. I think that’s a big one for you. Just be with them and to constantly be able to talk about them in service to you stepping into your adulthood, in service of you becoming your own mother.
It’s the image of you know something? You might overeat. But you know what I want you to do after you overeat? I wanted to sit down and be your own mother and go, “Dawn, wow. That was really tough. I wish you didn’t do that. But I still love you.” Because what happens is as soon as you do that behavior, you automatically go into fixing yourself. And in your head it’s like, “Okay, what do I have to do figure this out? Why do I do this?” And you start living up here. And you start to solve it at the level of your head.
Dawn: And Google is a horrible thing at those moments.
Marc: Yeah. You’re not going to learn anything on Google. You’re not going to solve it in your head. You solve it in your body, in your being, in your heart, which means he starts to feel your feelings because you escape to your head and you think you can diet this away or find another system or count more points or figure out something else. It’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen. It’s really letting go of the goal of, “I need to do this to lose weight.” And I mean that. And starting to live your life. And being in relationship with food.
So creating a new relationship with food. And that relationship with food is, “I eat food.” I don’t want you to be on any diet system. This is my suggestion, my homework assignment for you for the next four months, no diet system. No counting any points, any calories, any fat grams. I don’t even want you to count a tablespoon.
I mean that. Stop measuring. Stop measuring anything. Numbers haven’t done anything for you because, “Okay, I lost weight counting points.” But here you are. You’re battling yourself. You’re battling yourself. And this is taking all your life energy. Okay, so now you have less weight for a long time. And you’re in a constant battle. And you’re not free.
So, yeah, you’ve rearranged a few things. You rearranged the furniture in the house. But it’s the same floor plan. It’s the same setup. So what I’m saying is the goal here is for you to be free. You said when I asked you, “If you got what you wanted, you stopping this binge eating and you are where you wants to be, what would that look like?” And he said, “I would be free. And I would be more me. And all this energy wouldn’t go into the battle.”
Well, you can stop the battle today. Essentially what you said to me was,” I’m going to battle and battle until I somehow win the battle. And then when I win the battle, I’m not going to be in a battle anymore. So I can finally relax because I’m not in the battle.” But meanwhile, you’re the one that’s in the battle. You’re the one that’s fighting the fight. And we think we’re going to win. It’s kind of like one hand fighting the other.
So what I’m saying is that calling a cease-fire is the key. And a cease-fire means for you you don’t weigh yourself. You don’t count calories, fat grams, points. And you don’t measure out tablespoons of oil. I want you to eat food. I just want you to eat. And I want you to experiment with being an actual human being, getting more into the feminine approach to being in your body.
The masculine approach to being my body might be, “Okay, I did fifty reps of this exercise. And then I’m eating twenty-five grams of protein today. And now I’m going to go run for seventy-five minutes. And I’m going to burn X number of calories.” That’s the logical, linear approach, which is not bad. It’s fine. It’s useful. For you, it’s not useful. For you personally, that doesn’t work anymore. And it never really has.
For you what’s going to work is to start to find your natural flow and to start body, maybe for the first time in your life. And that, I think, is one of the gifts when our same-sex parent dies. For a guy, when his dad dies, for a woman, when her mom dies, we sort of step into their shoes in a way. We occupy their space in the circle of life. So you have to step into your adulthood.
Worrying about, “Can I control my appetite?” that’s not stepping into our power. That’s not stepping into adulthood. So, yeah, you might fall on your face. But then you forgive yourself. Just like if your best friend has a bad day, do you yell at them and say, “I don’t want to be your friend anymore.” If you had a little kid and your little kid is learning how to walk and they fall down, do you smack them and toss them out? No. You give them a big hug. And you encourage them to start again. You go into your head and go into this crazed, “I’ve got to fix this.” And that strategy doesn’t work anymore for you. You have to change it.
So I want you to eat a breakfast, which it sounds like you’re doing, a breakfast that has some protein and fat in it. I want you to consider, if you can, eating a little bit more of a robust to lunch. I don’t know. I wonder if you’re getting enough protein and fat at lunch because oftentimes what’s happening is when the body is nutrient deprived, it will want to binge later on in the day.
So you’re going for food later or in the afternoon or in the evening, there is a certain level your bodies literally hungry. Is that the whole story? No. But it’s a small part of the story because there’s a part of you that still trying to limit your food. So I don’t want you to limit your food at breakfast and lunch. Don’t limit. Whatever you limit is going to add on in terms of a binge later on.
Marc: It’s going to add on to your binge and make your binge worse. I don’t want you to limit breakfast, limit your lunch. I want you to think, “Breakfast and lunch our calories that I’m going to burn so easily, it’s not even funny.” Because you will. When you limit those, which I believe you’re probably doing, you’re going to be ravenous at some point.
Next what I want you to do is I want you to become a slow eater at your meals as best you can. And here’s where you’re going to do something that’s big girl. And I mean this because for you this is about stepping into your womanhood. I want you when you’re going to do a binge, I want you to slow down. I want you to say, “Okay, I’m binge eating because I want something. I want to feel good.”
There’s one reason why you binge eat. One reason why you binge eat on one level. And that’s because there’s tension building up in your system. Tension building up in your system for you means there’s all this backlog of emotion getting built up that you’re not really in touch with really, this grief, this anxiety, this life transition, this excitement of moving into this next phase. All these bubbling emotions, “Who am I? Where am I going? It’s time for me to grow up. Man, was that a hard childhood! Wow, is this hard, what I’m going through in my life, now being an orphan. My husband has been diagnosed with an illness.” So, wow. That’s a lot.
Binge eating provides stress relief. It gives you stress relief. And honestly it’s a smart strategy because it relieves your stress temporarily. But then it stresses you out more after. But it’s relieving your stress temporarily. So what I want you to understand is that it does that. And it’s perfectly legitimate. It’s understandable. So the way you start to switch that habit is you slow it down. And you acknowledge it. And you give it a big hug because it makes sense.
So I don’t want not to binge eat. I want you to binge eat because you’re going to do it anyway. You’re going to do it anyway. So this is how you get control of the horse. If you’re on a horse and the horse starts going crazy, you’re on the horse anyway. The only way you’re getting out of this without falling off the horse is if you stay on your horse and you get grounded and you hold the reins you take a few deep breaths. And you do what you need to do to get control over that creature who got a little spooked.
So what happens is you go into the binge eating and you disappear. You completely disappear. You go. You’re gone because it’s too difficult in those moments to be you. The feelings are too much. “I want to go into relaxation response.” So we gorge really quickly. And as soon as you get a lot of food into your system, minutes later, fifteen minutes, two minutes, the body starts to relax. So you’ve actually successfully done some stress or tension relief.
So the way you’re going to start to change that and retrain your body/mind is too slow down when you’re going to have a bench. And you go, “Okay, I’m about to binge. And that guy told me to relax. Take a deep breath.” And I want you to welcome whatever you’re going to binge eat. Put it in a nice bowl. Take those little bars. Start out with three or four. Put them in a nice bowl. Play some music. Slow down.
I want you to eat sensuously. I want you to say, “I want to get everything I want out of these little bars, everything I want” out of whatever it is you’re eating. I don’t care what it is. If it’s chips, eat it. Enjoy it. Relax. What’s going to happen is it’s going to keep you present instead of checking out. And the more you stay present, the more you’re present. The more you are present in that moment that’s really like a hell for you, the more you learn how to manage that moment so you can transcend it and eventually graduate it.
If you don’t learn how to ride the horse, the horse is going to throw you off. So right now, you’re getting thrown off the horse. And it hurts. And at some point, you’re going to get real sick and tired of it. Or at some point, it’s just going to crush you. And I know you can transform this. I know that. You’re really close. Actually you’re closer than you think.
It’s just you’re at a fork in the road now. In this conversation, I’m going to suggest you’re at a fork in the road here. You can either continue as you’re doing and be as confused as ever. And that’s one of your default mechanisms right now. You go into confusion. “I don’t know why I do this. Why is this happening? I don’t know how to stop this.”
I just told you why. It’s happening because you’re in a transition. It’s happening because binge eating is a message that’s divine it is giving you information and it’s telling you that you finally need to step into your womanhood, step into your adulthood, learn how to trust yourself, learn how to trust your body, create a whole new relationship with your own body. Stop all the old ways. And adopt a whole new way because that’s what’s going to help you be free.
It’s not, “I stop binge eating. And then I’m going to be free.” No, the binge eating is teaching you how to be free. The binge eating is teaching you how to be free. And I’m just kind of detailing it out as I eavesdrop on what the binge eating is saying because I’m going to be your interpreter here. It’s asking you in this case on a very practical level the slowdown when you binge eat. Taste it. Feel it. Get pleasure from it. Be there. Take long, slow, deep breaths. And then afterwards, I want you to practice forgiving yourself.
I’ve got a better one for you. I want you to try this. If your husband is in the house, I want you to let him know, “Honey, ugh! I’m getting triggered. I’m going to go in the next room. I’m going to be eating.” Normally you do it in secret. I want you to raise your hand. I want you to stop being a criminal. Why would you do it in secret? Because you think it’s wrong. Why would you do it in secret? Because you’re ashamed of doing it.
Well, if I think I’m wrong and I’m ashamed of who I am and my behaviors, then that’s the child in me not knowing how to elevate myself, staying in my childhood pattern of, “I’m a shameful thing. Let me hide here because I’m alone. And I’m bad.” It’s like, “No. I’m a human being. I’m in development. I’m growing. I’m healing. I’m learning.
Dawn: But I think part of what triggers me is being alone.
Marc: So then I want to reach out. So then I want you to reach out and have an accountability buddy. That could be your husband. It could be your friend. It could be somebody that you work with. I want you to have an accountability person that you can reach out with and be like, “Hey, I’m about to do this thing.” And that’s fine.
And again, if you binge eat, it’s great. I’m not asking you to stop it. I’m just asking you to shine a light on it. It’s very different. I’m not asking you to call your friend and your friend says, “Don’t do it, Dawn!” No. No. I want you to call your friend and let them know you’re about to do it. Here’s the setup. You’re just reporting to them. You’re just reporting to them, “Here’s what I’m about to do. My expert guys that I’m allowed to do this. But I have to call somebody, let them know. And I have to slow down in the process. So I’m just doing my due diligence now. And I’m going to eat a bunch of chips. And I’m going to start out with a small bowl. I’m going to eat that it enjoy it. And then I might have another bowl.”
So you’re shining a light on it. You’re making it conscious. You’re taking it out of the realm of a criminal act. And you’re saying to yourself and the universe, “This is okay. I’m learning and I’m moving through this.” If you continue to want to do it in secret and you continue to stay in that shame place, then it’ll keep you down.
So this is you learning how to manage and experience the shame that you have because humans come locked and loaded with guilt and shame. You’re not the first person to feel guilt and shame. The binge eating helps you feel the shame that you already feel anyway. If it wasn’t binge eating, you’d do something else. You’d go gamble. Or you’d go have affairs or whatever. You’d find a different way to feel the shame so that shame can be brought out.
Oftentimes what happens is we have feelings that just need to be felt. That’s what feelings are for. They need to be felt. When we don’t feel those feelings, they come out as symptoms are unwanted behaviors. Right now, binge eating is in part an unwanted behavior that is pointing to feelings that want to be felt. In part, it’s pointing to you learning how to manage and be with and metabolize and embrace your own shame.
So when the shame comes up, it’s just this pure experience. Yeah, it feels like it’s about the binge eating. But it’s really the shame of being a person alive on planet Earth and being in a body. It’s just pure shame about the body. You go back to the first story we ever learn, Adam and Eve. They eat the apple. And five minutes later, there in the garden. They’re covering of the naked parts. They feel shame about the body. So what of our primal creation myths is about shame about the body.
So all I’m trying to say is this concept ain’t new. We live it out. I’m giving you keys how to navigate it so you don’t stay stuck in the same spin cycle. So you said, “Okay, I’ve been here. I need to get out.” I’m telling you how to get out. There’s no push this button and get out. There’s no take this pill and get out. There’s no easy way out. There is the way out that’s, I’m going to say, the correct way out, which is to follow the guidance that life is giving you to see it all is a higher teaching, to do the strategies, the ones that I’ve been mentioning, that can help you unwind this and help you start to drop into your body, your feelings, your sensations.
Retrain yourself around food so you can step into a place of power. You won’t
get to the place of power by stopping binge eating and then wake up, “Oh!” So I could tie your hands behind your back. And you’ll never binge eat. Does that mean you’re going to step into the real you now?
Dawn: I can binge eat with my hands tied behind my back! [Laughs]
Marc: There you go! So the rebel and you will always find a way because you’ve got a very smart rebel. And the rebel in you will keep sabotaging because it knows that what you’re doing isn’t the road that’s going to get you where you ultimately need to go.
So, a quick summary. Four months, no more numbers, no more calories, no more fat grams, no more counting points, none of that, no more tablespoons. I want you to eat. No more weighing yourself. Give up the numbers. Give up the goal. I know it’s not going to be easy all the time. I’m not saying this is easy. This is you training yourself. This is a practice. Practice makes perfect.
Dawn: I’m going to ask my husband to hide my food scale.
Marc: Great. No, definitely. I want you to get rid of all that. I want you to absolutely get rid of all that and be a person for the first time and just eat. And just eat. And trust yourself. I want you to slow down with food at regular meals. And I want to especially slow down your binge eating, your overeating experience. Slow down, relax, enjoy. Taste it. Get all the pleasure you want from fast food because that’s what you’re trying to do anyway. So you might as well do it.
Dawn: That’s going to be an interesting one just because in the past it’s been so fast and so automatic.
Marc: I know. But this is you getting control of you. And it’s less about getting control, but it’s getting present with you. This is you creating a moment of self-evolution. So you are choosing to consciously evolve. Otherwise you’ll continue the same automatic habit.
So I’m asking you to be present in a moment when you are normally not present. I’m asking you to check in at a point where you usually check out. The reason why you can’t stop what you’re doing is because you check out. So I’m saying time to check in. As you gradually practice checking and in those experiences at those times, you get better and better at it. And then you learn to have compassion for yourself.
Dawn: You know what’s one of the weird things? Is a lot of the food that I did binge on, I don’t think if I ate it slowly I would get much pleasure out of it.
Marc: That’s also why you’re going to do it slowly because you can now start to see what works and what doesn’t. So in order to assess life, you need to be present. In order to see if the article you just read is any good, you can’t speed read it in two seconds. You have to read the whole article. In order to see if the house is a house that you like, you have to walk through all the rooms. You can’t just run through it and not pay attention.
So I’m asking you to be conscious in a place where you normally go unconscious. That’s the only we we’re going to get more conscious. That’s the only way we’re going to grow and evolve is if we stay awake at the wheel. So I’m just pointing out the place where you go to sleep. And I’m saying to you and him making the bold assertion that this is the only way you’re going to get where you want to go is you have to be conscious in the place where you normally go unconscious.
That’s why when somebody is addicted to a drug, they go into rehab. They’re being forced into getting conscious in a place where they normally go unconscious. They’re getting a helluva lot of help. But they’re getting the light of consciousness, of attention, of awareness shined on their challenge. So in this case we are having to step into your adulthood, become your own parent, become your own good mother and start to parent yourself so you can grow up in a whole new way. And I mean that in the positive. So you can grow up in a whole new way because I believe in this life transition, that’s what’s happening.
You’ve hit your fifties. You’re stepping into your mom’s role now in the circle of life. So you have to get out of the part of you that’s a little kid that hides when you eat that wants to figure everything out and just read the instructions and figure it out, and go through some of the uncomfortable feelings that are yours. They’re your feelings. They’re your uncomfortable feelings. I have my uncomfortable feelings. You have yours. So this is your opportunity to start to be with them. And the more you do that in the more you just feel, it’s just you being a feeling being, the less you’ll need to compulsively eat. It’ll slowly die because it doesn’t Need to be there because you’re being present with yourself and you’re not running around trying to solve the problem where it isn’t.
So how is all this landing for you, Dawn?
Dawn: It’s definitely landing. The big thing about trusting myself is the one that I’m struggling a little bit with. But I guess I’ve just got to go in and do it. I’ve just got to go in and slow down and check in and get out of my head. I know I’ve been in my head with this whole thing.
Marc: And it will be hard. To your point, it’s not going to be easy. But it’s going to be harder for you to not do this. It’s going to be harder for you to continue in the same spin cycle.
Dawn: Oh, I know that. I don’t like that.
Marc: Yeah. So it will be hard. It will be challenging. It will be unnatural. And it will be uncomfortable. And that’s what growth and evolution is a lot of the times. It ain’t comfortable. It doesn’t feel good. And I have the confidence that you can do it.
Dawn: I feel this is definitely the way to go. Nothing that I’ve tried so far has worked, has felt intuitively like it’s going to get me there. And I’m just tired of grasping. There’s so many things, people out there saying, “Just do this. Just to this. Follow this. Follow that.” And none of it’s me.
Marc: No. And your rebel knows that, which is why you’ve been rebelling. And it’s time to listen to a deeper inner voice. Again, what I’ve asked you to do is not easy. But life isn’t easy. And it’s time. It’s simply your time. That’s kind of how I feel about this.
And, granted, I’ve also thrown a lot at you. So this is the work I would have done with you over the course of six or seven or eight months. So I’ve given you all the punchlines here based on your story and based on what I can see. Granted, I would’ve liked to ask 1,000 more questions. But the reality is I think we’ve hit the target for you. So I just kind of laid out six months to a year’s worth of work.
But you asked for it. I think you can do it.
Dawn: I think so, too.
Marc: Yeah. Congratulations. You’ve been a good sport here.
Dawn: I’ve been a good sport? You’ve been a good sport!
Marc: Yay! We’ve both been good sports.
Marc: Okay. So you’ve got all your good homework assignments.
Dawn: Yeah. I wrote it down.
Marc: Thanks so much, Dawn. Thanks for being so open. And thanks for being willing. You were going to a lot of challenging places. You’ve had a lot of challenging life experiences. And I feel that you’re already on the path that you need to be on because you have been getting help and you have been really doing a deep look in the mirror. And this is deepening yet even more onto the journey that I think you need to be on.
Dawn: I think sometimes when I look in the mirror, I don’t want to look very deep. That’s why this is very, very helpful.
Marc: That’s where the answers are found. Sometimes you’ve got to dig for the treasure. You’re not going to find a treasure just lying there. Like life asks us to follow the treasure map and to be a little adventurous and to be brave and to go out on a limb and to dig. So you’ll get the jewels if you dig. Yeah.
So thanks, Dawn!
Dawn: All right. Thank you very much, Marc.
Marc: And thanks, everybody, for tuning in. Thanks for being here. I hope this was helpful for you, my friends. I’m Marc David on behalf of the Psychology of Eating podcast. Lots more to come, my friends. Take care.
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