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. In Dawn’s first session, Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, helped her to see that her food issues actually have nothing at all to do with food, and that by focusing on where the action truly is, she can finally find freedom. Tune in now as Marc does a follow-up session with Dawn. You’ll get a chance to see how she’s progressed since her first session, and the results will surprise you!
Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:
To see Dawn’s first session with Marc, click here
Marc: Welcome, everybody. I’m Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. And here we are in the Psychology of Eating podcast. And I’m here today with Dawn. Welcome, Dawn.
Dawn: Thank you, Marc. And pleasure. Pleasure to be here.
Marc: Yay! This is a follow-up session from, wow, nine months ago, maybe? It’s been a long time.
Dawn: It’s been about 7 1/2.
Marc: Okay. It’s still long. So the purpose of this conversation is just to fill us all in on what happened since the session. And maybe you can start by just giving us a recap of what you had wanted to work on and if the time was useful for you.
Dawn: Okay. Back when we first talked. I was struggling with binge eating and with overeating. I was kind of yo-yoing back and forth between dieting and just getting that under control. So that was the focus of our session. It was very useful. The takeaways were that I needed to learn to trust myself more, that I needed to get away from the dieting, trust myself, use the binge eating as a tool, and that that would help me find a more peaceful relationship with food.
And I remember one of the things you said is you said it wasn’t going to be easy and that it was going to take a commitment. And that is so true. So in the time that has elapsed, I would say I made a couple attempts at really not weighing myself anymore, not weighing or measuring my foods. And it was almost like I felt like I was kind of going off an addiction and then relapsing.
Putting the scale away, the first time I did it, I told my husband, “This is what has been recommended. We’re going to put the scale away.” And he’s like, “Fine, that’s great.” So I took the scale. And I put it in my linen closet in the bathroom. And I think I lasted about a week or so. And then I started sneaking it out and weighing myself and putting it back in. And when I realized that this was happening, I was like, this is not what was intended. So then I kind of went back into my old ways and did a little bit of back and forth there.
Another thing that you recommended that I try with my binge eating was to go out and kind of set up a situation where I could give myself permission to binge eat slowly and enjoy it and do all that and maybe even acknowledge with my husband that that’s what I was going to do. I will tell you I could not do that. I tried. I planned. I went to the store. And I was looking for the things to bring home that I could use for that. But there was just a part of me in my head that wouldn’t let me do that, that kind of knew that if I ate the food slowly, I wouldn’t like it. So I just couldn’t bring it home. And I just couldn’t do it.
And there are a couple things that happened in my life. I changed jobs. And that transition was a little bit stressful. But ultimately I wasn’t quite slipping back as badly as I was. I wasn’t binge eating as much as before. But I was still unhappy with what was going on. I actually sought out help from an Eating Psychology coach. And she really helped me trust myself or come to the point that she made me realize that I would be better off trusting myself. So she got me to hide the scale, not right in the bathroom, but I wrapped it up in a towel and I put it up in a closet totally in the opposite end of the house. And then I haven’t weighed myself for two months.
It took a while. My head would be saying, “You don’t know how much you weigh. Doesn’t that feel weird?” And then I say to myself, “You know what? It doesn’t matter how much I weigh. It doesn’t matter if I weigh this or 2 pounds more or 2 pounds less. I know how I feel in my clothes. And I know how I feel in my body. And that’s all that really matters. The number doesn’t matter.”
So it took me a while to get to that point where I could really say it doesn’t really matter whether I weighed this plus or minus 2, plus or minus 5, plus or minus 10. As long as I feel good and feel good in my clothes, feel good in my body, then the number just has to power over me. So that, for me, is a huge… It felt like a huge emotional weight lifted.
The other thing that she helped me do, which is kind of what you recommended, is to really trust myself with those kinds of foods that I was viewing as bad foods, trigger foods, those kinds of things. So she coached me into going out and having cupcakes is one of my big ones. Go into a cupcake store and having a cupcake and sitting down in the cupcake store and actually eating it slowly in the presence of other people. And I know that sounds weird. But I never did that before. I would always take the cupcakes home and eat them by myself because I thought I should be eating cupcakes. Well, why shouldn’t I be eating cupcakes? They’re cupcakes. They’re delicious.
So I started doing that. And what was interesting through that experience, in the beginning it was like I just kept wanting to go and sample the experience over and over again. So I would go to one cupcake store. And I’d sit down. And I would slowly and wonderfully enjoy my cupcake. And then a few days later, I would go to another one into the same thing. And I did that a few times.
And it got to the point where I didn’t really want the cupcakes anymore. It’s like now that I knew that I could trust myself with them and that I could enjoy that experience, the drive—not that I don’t want them anymore—but the drive to have them kind of dissipated. And so I’ve experienced that with other foods that used to be a challenge for me that I used to eat in secret, those kinds of things, where just by slowly doing that, I find that they don’t make me feel good. So I think for me that’s huge.
Marc: Well, I want to say congratulations. It does sound huge.
Dawn: My husband is very happy. He thinks I’m a happier person.
Marc: That’s usually one of the best barometers for how a person is doing. Really you ask their significant other.
Dawn: Oh, I didn’t ask him. He just said. He just said it.
Marc: It’s so true, I think, that when we start to trust ourselves, things fall into place. We get into this weird, strange belief that this food holds all this power over us. And, yeah, okay, fine, certain foods can be addicting to us. But there is a place that we go to inside where we can get so caught up in feeling powerless and we can get so caught up like, “Oh, my God. I’m this tiny little thing compared to this huge cupcake, which controls my life. And therefore I will eat it in secret. And therefore I will crave it and desire it and want it all the time. And nobody is going to know. And I’ll live with this intense secret.”
And it’s a wonderful little drama that keeps us, I think, in a small world. We don’t really step outside of ourselves as much as we could when we are habituated to the scale and habituated to our little food affairs. It’s almost like having a secret affair, except it’s with a cupcake or a doughnut or food or whatever it is.
Dawn: Yeah. Another thing that I experienced is I feel like I’ve been on this exploration of learning about myself and how to trust myself. And so trying to use the idea of giving myself permission to eat whatever food I want as long as I do so in a fashion that allows me to enjoy it, to actually taste it, to be with it, to experience it.
So I found myself, when we go out to restaurants, I could still hear the voices in my head saying, “Oh, you should order this because it’s, quote, the healthier choice or whatever.” So there was a time when I was going out and something on the menu would strike me, I’d think, “Am I gravitating towards this because of the part of me that thinks it’s the healthiest choice, it’s the lowest calories, whatever it is, or is this something that I really want?”
And it has taken me some time to realize that what I really want most of the time tends to be what one would be considered the healthier choice just because that’s what makes me feel better. I went out and ordered lasagna at a restaurant for the first time in years. And it wasn’t very good. So I didn’t eat it. But just to give me permission to make that choice was something that I wouldn’t have done before.
Marc: Yeah, the mind gets grabbed by these strange symbolic games that we enact. And food is always like this playground. And we play out so much of our psychology, so much of our personality. So much of our inner world gets played out with food. And it’s really not about the food. So when you and I met, you had had really a long, long time where you had been trying to lose a bunch of weight.
So you spent a long time in your life not trusting your own body and not feeling like your body was safe because, “It’s not the right one. I have to get rid of this thing.” And then when you finally lost it, you still at some point reverted back to, “Oh, my God. I can’t trust. I’ve got to binge eat. But I can’t eat this. But I can’t eat that. And I have to do it in secret.”
And if we look at it as just learning how to be the best version of me, food is just teaching us. Our relationship with food is just teaching us, “Don’t make it about food. Make it about the relationship.” And see, “Okay, so now what do I need to learn? Oh, my goodness. I have a hard time not weighing myself. I’ve got to see that little number because it’s going to tell me a lot.” It sounds crazy.
Dawn: It does. I never realized how ingrained that was in me. I didn’t think the number affected me that much. But the thought of not knowing how much I weighed for some time, there is a period of a few weeks there that it was kind of disturbing, which in and of itself is disturbing.
Marc: Yeah, because we do literally get addicted to a certain state, to a certain mental/emotional state and pattern. We get these grooves. We get this place where we get locked in because, “If I know that number, now…” And there’s a chemistry that happens in the brain. And it’s usually a combination of stress and excitement. And if the number is good, then it’s more excitement. And if the number is bad, it’s more anxiety and stress.
And that chemistry kind of a strange way feeds us because it kind of pushes us or it motivates us. And there’s another way. There’s other kinds of brain states called pleasure, called trust, called self-respect, called letting go that until we try those out, we don’t know what they feel like.
And when I said to you in our first session, “This is going to take a while,” for me, I saw, just because of dealing with so many clients over the years, I kind of saw where you were at and I saw, wow, you’re going to be on a journey here. And the journey is still happening for you.
Dawn: Oh, definitely. Definitely still happening.
Marc: Yeah, and it’s all about liberating yourself. That’s all it is. It’s all about you liberating yourself from the internal nonsense that has us believing that a number on a scale or the food we eat has this huge importance. Now, okay, so the food we eat does have a huge importance. Great. Good food equals good health for most people. Okay. There it is. And occasionally you have a food that’s not the perfect food. Eh, you probably live because you’ve made it this far.
Dawn: Oh, I’ve eaten a lot of imperfect foods. [Laughs]
Marc: Right? I mean, the first 15 years of my life I was raised on virtually nothing real. And I survived.
Marc: Right? So there is a place where we are learning to deprogram ourselves. It’s really like it’s self-deprogramming.
Dawn: And I do want to mention, I think in my case having the support of another coach as I was working through the process—and I am still working through the process—for me that was really important because I know that as I’m learning to trust myself, I have gained weight. I haven’t been on the scale. But I know that my clothes fit tighter.
And the coach stepped in and just reminded me of what the larger goal is and helped keep me from falling back into a little mini freak out of, “Oh, no! I’m gaining weight.” So I’m in a place now where I know I weigh more than when I first talked to you. But I’m okay with that because I’m much happier. And I think I’m kind of over the hump in the sense where I think now I’m at the place where I can just eat naturally, to eat the foods that my body wants more often than not and that the weight will adjust itself in time.
Marc: Yeah, beautiful. I really want to underscore what you just said. And for viewers and listeners, for all of us, this is probably the hugest fear that people have when they begin the work to unpack their relationship with food and body and to see the places where we are insanity. The last thing we want in that process is to gain weight.
Now, here you just shared with me that after 7 1/2 months since we first spoke, you said, “I know I weigh more. But I’m happier.” Now, I know there’s a lot of people listening who go, “That ain’t me. I would not be happier.” And the point is, no, if anybody is listening and thinking to themselves, “No, I wouldn’t be happier if I gained weight,” you’re right. It’s really about becoming happier first.
And then you watch what happens because it takes time for mind and emotions and body to find its new place and to find its new happy medium because sometimes we spend a lifetime in our stress chemistry in really skewing our metabolism in strange ways with dieting, with exercising, with fear and self-loathing around how much I weigh. That creates a chemistry. That creates a physiology.
But what I want to say is there’s a certain amount of time that it takes for the body to balance out. But in that time, and lot of people, a lot of us need to learn a lesson. And I’ve just observed this. I wish it wasn’t true. But a lot of people need to learn a lesson. And the lesson is called, “Yeah, you know something? If I weigh 5 pounds more, I’m still okay. I’m still lovable. It’s a bunch of nonsense to go elsewhere” because our weight fluctuates no matter what.
No matter what, your weight is going to fluctuate by at least two or 3 pounds, the average person. If you weigh anywhere between 140 and 160, you’re going to fluctuate by about 3 pounds throughout the year. Some people more, some people less, wintertime, summertime, that sort of thing. But if you could learn the lesson that I can love myself no matter what, then the happiness part sets in. And then the self-confidence sets in. And then the trust sets in.
And then all of a sudden the body can find its rightful place because we are finding our rightful place. The body can’t be its best self and it’s truest expression until we are our best to self and our truest expression. That’s kind of how I see it. So I think you’re on the right track in a big way.
Dawn: Yeah, me, too. I’m so happy to be on this journey.
Marc: Any final thoughts you’d like to share?
Dawn: Just to keep in mind, like I said before, keep in mind the bigger picture that the number on the scale shouldn’t control you. It shouldn’t scare you. It’s really how you live your life, how you put your best self forward.
Marc: Well, Dawn, thank you. Thank you for being so open and honest and for really sharing your journey, your process, your story. So important that we can listen to each other and share, “Wow, this is really happening. This is what’s going on for us. And it’s real.” And at the same time, it’s crazy. And when we can start to talk about it and unpeel it and look at it and dissect it and break it down, we realize there’s really nothing wrong with me. And we’re on a journey. And we’re here to set ourselves free and be the best possible versions of who we are. And that’s what you’re doing. So, once again, thank you and congratulations.
Dawn: Oh, thank you Marc.
Marc: And thanks, everybody, for tuning in. Once again I’m Marc David on behalf of the Psychology of Eating podcast. As always, lots more to come, my friends. Thank you, Dawn. You take care.
Dawn: Thank you, Marc.
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