Catherine is a capable, accomplished woman who feels happy with the way her life has turned out, except for one thing: the 98 pounds she dearly wanted to get rid of, but could never seem to lose, despite many years of dieting. In this potent session, Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, helps Caroline realize that she’s spent too much time holding herself back and apologizing for who she is. Caroline is now ready to stop spending her energy counting calories and fat grams, and start stepping in to her true power as a mature woman. From there, as Mind Body Nutrition teaches us, the body can find its rightful weight, whatever that may be.
Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:
Marc: Welcome, everyone. I’m Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. And here we are in the Psychology of Eating podcast. I’m with Catherine today. Welcome, Catherine.
Catherine: Thank you, Marc. I’m so grateful for this. I really appreciate it.
Marc: Yay, I’m glad you’re here. And let me say a few words. If you are new to this podcast, for sure, welcome. And if you’re returning, thanks for being here. Here’s how it’s going to work. We’re going to be together for about an hour. And Catherine, I’m going to ask you maybe 20 minutes of questions.
And the idea here is to just kind of dive in. And we’ll find out what you want to work on. And then I’ll be giving you some feedback. And we’ll be in dialogue. And we’ll ask each other questions and hopefully move the dial on where you want to go when it comes to whatever concern you want to work on.
So in your ideal universe, if you could wave your magic wand, what would you come away with from this session?
Catherine: I want to have a deeper connection between my internal self and my physical self. I think there’s a disconnect there. It hasn’t stopped me from following my goals in life. I think my heritage has a lot to do with that. I just want to be able to listen to what my body needs with accuracy and compassion, and follow through, really find that connection.
Marc: How does that relate to food?
Catherine: Well, it’s been a lifelong journey. And so to answer that in one sentence is difficult. But I would say that…
Marc: No, meaning if it’s the goal here for you, okay, here you want to have this better connection between the internal, external. What does that mean for you on the most practical level?
Catherine: I am losing – I’ve already lost 10 pounds this past month – so I’m on a good role. I’m really following a lot of your practises you’ve suggested. But I want to get to my healthiest weight and feel completely at ease within my body, which I don’t think I’ve ever felt, even when I was at a good weight. I’m about 80 pounds overweight at this point, I would say.
Marc: So if we were going to do numbers, how much do you want to weigh?
Marc: 145. And how much do you weigh now?
Catherine: I weigh 135.
Marc: No, no, you weigh now…
Catherine: 235, sorry.
Marc: 235, okay. And you want to get down to…
Catherine: 145. And I mean I think that’s quiet reasonable for a 5’ 6” frame, large bone. I’m not trying to go skinny, skinny. I’m trying to be healthy. I want to be healthy.
Marc: When was the last time you were at that target weight?
Catherine: Well, I would say 20 years.
Marc: And how long had you been at that weight for, would you say?
Catherine: I’d fluctuate 20 pounds, not down but up and down, my whole life, really. And then it started to go up 20 pounds. I think [at] 155 I was working out. I was lifting weights. I felt great. So 155 would still be good. But ideally I should’ve lost 10 pounds at that point. But I’d be happy at 155. I’d be happy at 165. I’m happy now, the truth is. But I think I could be more at ease in my body.
Marc: What do you attribute the weight gain to?
Catherine: Major, major stress, absolute stress from finances. I am the caregiver to my elderly mother, who has advanced Parkinson’s, who was diagnosed with deep depression. She and I are very different. But I moved her here to my town nine years ago. But I was care-giving for her long distance for 10 years before that, after my father passed.
Marc: So when you’re under that kind of stress, what happens to you? What happens with food? What do you notice other than you’re stressed?
Catherine: Well, I really let go when she moved here. And I did it consciously. I thought, “I’m not going to chastise myself for this.” And I don’t binge eat. On your list of good foods – I’m already doing that. We have a garden with fantastic, deep greens that we eat every single day. And really, I do it all. But I think I was just eating too much and catching some burritos at fast food things on the way. Obviously, I was eating too much because otherwise I would’ve been stabilized.
But I’ve found that I would reward myself with it. I just kind of gave myself room to let my body do what it wants. And somebody else might say I completely lost control. But I didn’t feel like I was out of control. But it came simultaneously with having absolutely no money. And really the whole downturn to the worldwide economy affected my husband and I as both self employed artists. And it’s been the most difficult ten years of my life. And some of the most wonderful things have happened in this time. So there’s been a balance to that. But I think I haven’t handled the stress very well.
Marc: So what are the foods that you will tend to go for or overeat that you feel might be contributing to that?
Catherine: Bread. I would have a couple of slices of toast in the morning. And I’ve stopped that completely. This morning I had a piece of toast. But I didn’t put any oil on it. I’m cutting out oils right now, just for the moment. I had been having coconut oil and olive oils and flaxseed oils. Those were my oils. But for the moment I’m letting that go just because I have a long way to go. I’m well on my way. I’ve started. And I don’t feel like I’m dieting. But things are going well. But I want to support that shift. I want to know deep down what was going on.
Marc: So then your intention for losing the weight, how do you imagine it’s going to happen?
Catherine: Well, a slow building up of loving my exercise again, [and] more me time. It’s taken me nine years to have a voice with my mother. And it’s a challenging relationship. I love her dearly. And I wouldn’t say we’re great friends. But I, just this week, found a voice with some of the issues. She’s not happy. But I feel much more content to have kind of stood my ground.
And I kind of feel that I haven’t had a voice. I haven’t been able to talk to my three brothers about it, how hard it is to care for someone who’s not like your psyche. She and I really don’t have similar… We come from the same background. She’s my mother. I love her dearly. But I’m not deeply depressed. So it’s been hard to not take that on.
Marc: How’s her relationship with her weight?
Catherine: She’s normal.
Marc: And how does your husband feel about your weight, your body?
Catherine: He’s been more than forgiving and kind and supportive. He would love me to lose weight. I mentioned in my note to you that his mother died in May. And she was over 300 pounds. And it was really hard for everybody. And he is worried about it. He wants to be able to pick me up off the floor. I’m in my late 50s. He’s in his early 60s. And it’s inevitable we’re going to get old, right? We’re heading that way. And I want to be as healthy as I can be for everybody’s sake, my family, and myself.
Marc: So what do you think is an obstacle that’s in your way of losing weight? What comes to mind when I ask that question?
Catherine: I want to go back to finding my voice. I know that sounds kind of a little esoteric, but time, having time. I work really hard. I run three businesses. And we need to have those three businesses. So I love what I do. I adore everything I do. There’s nothing I do that I hate. I don’t hate my job. I’m really blessed on so many levels. There’s a lot of it, though. And we live as frugally as possible. The money goes to really good food. We buy all organic. And we are careful. But, boy, I’d love to have time. I’d love to have time.
Marc: And with that time you would do…
Catherine: Hike. I would yoga. I would love to join some Pilates group, something where I’m really finding that connect with my body. I love to exercise. It’s not a drudgery. It’s just not feeling like I have the time to do it.
Marc: Sure. Are you a fast eater, moderate eater, slow eater?
Catherine: I would say I was super fast until I started listening to you. And I’ve really slowed down. I don’t eat in the car anymore. I sit down to meals, make it a time with my husband. We always cook. We don’t go out to eat very much. I’m a cook. I love to cook. And it’s all good foods. But he eats really slowly. So I’ve started to pace myself against him. And that’s been really helpful. It’s like, “Wow, man! You’re not even halfway through, and I’m done.”
Marc: So you feel you’ve been slowing down with food, is what you’re saying?
Catherine: Yeah, I started doing your psychology… I forget the program, the transform your body with food, or yourself with food. And this month has been a lot slower. And things have shifted tremendously. And I hope to just… it’s not dieting. I don’t feel like I’m dieting. I want to support this as a change, a life shift.
Marc: Now, when you sort of exercise or move, what do you like to do?
Catherine: Well, I just had knee surgery a month and a half ago. So it’s a little bit curtailed, although I’m going to physical therapy and doing a lot of biking. I love to hike. I adore getting out into nature. I’m a nature girl all the way. So part of the knee thing happened while I was hiking, coming downhill. And the first time it happened it was during yoga. So that’s one of my other goals for losing the weight is I don’t want to have bad knees. I want to be able to still hike and ride. And I travel a lot internationally. I want to be able to walk around without being curtailed by physical ailments.
Marc: So when you’ve lost weight in the past, you said at one point, “Maybe I fluctuated by 20 pounds,” how did you lose that 20 pounds?
Catherine: I counted calories. I counted fat grams. I tried Weight Watchers. That was kind of a no-go for me. But I did another program where I was eating six to eight times a day, which I lost weight on. And then I’ve been totally confused. I feel like I should be eating all the time because of that. But I wasn’t making the right choices that they were recommending.
But it would come on because it wasn’t a lifestyle change. It was a diet. It actually just really came on, plus. I’ve done it all, pretty much. But the last nine years, more like eight years, I really let go. I said you know what?, “I can’t deal with this right now.” It’s going to do what’s it’s going to do. I mean I’m food combining. Everything I’ve tried.
Marc: So when you say in the last eight years you’ve let go, you’ve just said, “Heck, I don’t want to have all these nonsense rules and just do whatever I want.” Is that what you mean when you say I’ve let go?
Catherine: Yes, let go of judgment. I really haven’t judged myself during this time. I’m not really the self-deprecating type. I lived in Paris when I was a young woman, young artist, for a year and a half. And I knew no one. And I became my best friend. So when I look in the mirror, I’m like whoa, hi, how are you doing? So I know that may sound a little strange. But I actually don’t hate myself at all. So when I say let go, I just said, you’re really under so much stress. You don’t have to give yourself more stress.
Marc: So in the time that you’ve kind of given yourself more space, do you feel like you’ve lost control? Do you feel like okay, I’m just sort of doing? Describe this to me. I’m still not clear because it sounds like there are fewer rules, fewer regulations, less shaming yourself, less guilt. You’re not judging.
Marc: But overall it’s looking like, “I’ve kind of lessened my restrictions around food because I’ve got all this other stuff I’m dealing with.”
Catherine: I couldn’t deal with it. I couldn’t deal with that. I mean caregiving to an 80 year old who does nothing for you, and you love her. But it’s not reciprocated. It’s a strange thing. That’s really hard. It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve done in my entire life.
Marc: So why, Catherine, would you say now a shift can be possible? Here we are in this conversation. Has anything changed between you and your mom? Or you feel you’re just ready now?
Catherine: Well, I went to counseling earlier this year just to help me figure out… For one, it took me three or four years to realize, oh, this is a pattern with our relationship. I just give and give and give. And I really get nothing in return. And I wasn’t keeping a tally. I was recording it with this really effective counselor to see that this is a pattern. And I’m not being heard by her or my brothers. So I have broached some very difficult conversations in the last three months. And I just decided I really can’t worry about what they feel. I have got to say these things and state my ground. I’ve tried to do it gently. I’ve tried to hint. I’ve tried to do things with my mother all these years. And she doesn’t get it. And I finally wrote it in a letter and said, “You know what?, I’m not financially able to support you.”
It’s complicated. And I don’t want anyone to think that I’m not a loving daughter because I totally love my mom. I would never have invited her to move from across the country. But I didn’t know what I was getting into. Later on my brother said, “Oh, didn’t you know she was diagnosed with narcissism and deep depression?” I’m like no, I didn’t know that because it had been a long distance relationship. I moved out west from the east coast 30 years ago. And I visited her but…
Marc: So how would the relationship be different such that you would feel better?
Catherine: I decided I’m no longer going to be hurt. I just can’t be hurt by her anymore. I will care for her and do what I can. But I just can’t be hurt by her anymore. It’s the deep wounds.
Marc: Yeah, how does she hurt you?
Catherine: That gets into some big things. She’s well off. She’s well off. And we’re better now. But we’ve really, really, really struggled. And before we started struggling, she took on a mortgage for our studio at the highest percentage. We decided we’d rather give the money to someone else.
And then when the recession started, the new depression started, whatever one wants to call it economically, we lost our jobs. And we didn’t have money. I couldn’t pay her. And she insisted that I not only pay her, but pay all the other money. She goes, “Go to a bank. I don’t care. I need the money.” She didn’t need it. I’m doing her finances. And it was the deepest hurt I’ve ever had. But I started paying her. We had less than $1,000 in our bank account. And we owed her. It’s a tough situation. Yada, yada, yada. So that’s one example of many.
Catherine: There are some that are non-monetary too. So it’s not all money.
Marc: So then moving forward into the future, when you say you’re not going to allow yourself to be hurt by her, how do you do that?
Catherine: I still give. I still will be with her in love, and care for her. She’s dying. She’s 82. She’s got advanced Parkinson’s. She’s going to become bedridden very shortly. And so it has gotten easier just because her mobility has gotten less. I’m just going to care for myself first. The whole premise of putting on your own oxygen mask first has never been something I’ve done. I come after everything.
And I have to care for myself so I can care for those that I love, including her.
Marc: So let me offer a few thoughts about this, being that we’ve kind of…Here we are. We’re talking about you. We’re talking about your weight and your body. And we inevitably kind of move around. And then here we are talking about mom and talking about your relationship with her and some of what’s going on there. And you’ve made some connections there. So let me just offer some thoughts that are swimming around for me that might be useful for you, as you move forward here.
Marc: I’ve said this before. And it’s not true 100% of the time, but it’s useful a lot of the time, which is that a woman’s relationship with food and body often tracks her relationship with her mother.
Catherine: That’s interesting. I’ve never heard that.
Marc: So a woman’s relationship with food and body tracks, is similar to, will be symbolic of or reflective of, her relationship with her mother. And in your case, to me, that’s definitely in play.
And what I mean by that is that there’s a place for you where you kind of, a little bit, abandon yourself with your mother. “I’m with my mother. And I kind of leave myself. And now I’m hers. Now I do what you want me to do. And I give myself up. And I allow myself to be walked on in certain ways. Or I push my feelings aside over here.” You kind of become a little girl, on a certain level, with her. And part of becoming a little girl for you is you also disembody a little bit. Part of it is you check out of your body.
Marc: And that’s reflective in relationship with her. There’s a part of you that checks out. There’s a part of you that leaves yourself and discounts yourself. And I’m not blaming your mother for this. We all have our dynamics. And the parent-child relationship has a lot. It’s rich. It’s complex.
Catherine: It’s complex.
Marc: So this is not about blame and it’s your mother’s fault. It has nothing to do with that. It’s just looking at the dynamic. And this is your mother. And our parents, they’re the first gods. We worship them. We come from them. They’re these huge beings that take care of us. So on some level, our initial experience of our parents is that they’re gods and that they do everything, because they did. And then at some point they kind of fall off the pedestal a little bit. And then given everything else that happens, these patterns start to unfold between us and our parents.
But the bottom line is, for me, with you, is that there’s a place where you abandon yourself in relationship with your mother.
There’s a place where you abandon your own body. And those two are connected. So the more you can not abandon yourself with your mother, the more you can say, “Mom, okay, here are my boundaries; Mom, here’s what I need…”
Catherine: Right, here are some boundaries.
Marc: “Mom, here’s what’s going to happen. If you’re here, here’s what you’re contributing. Here’s the amount of money that’s coming out of your bank account to support the following aspects of you being here.” It’s not a big deal to ask for that. It’s not a big deal to have boundaries. It’s not a big deal to say, “Okay, now in this part of the conversation you can speak like that to me.”
So it’s about you starting to create boundaries, knowing that it’s about you. But I think more important, at this stage of the game, if you’re an adult, which you are, then your mother has to stop becoming your mother. Right now she is very much your mother. And what I mean by that is it’s almost like you’re this 19-year-old girl in relationship to her mother. You love her. You care about her. You’re realizing her dynamics. And you’re trying to fix this. And you’re trying to figure it out so you can feel better about yourself.
And there’s a level where, strangely, she’s not your mother anymore, or at least the old mother or the past mother who was taking care of you. And part of you is still looking at your mother wanting your mother to be what she hasn’t been or never was maybe.
Catherine: Or never was.
Marc: Never was. You with me?
Catherine: Yeah. No, I totally get this, yeah.
Marc: So as long as you want your mother to finally step up, however much that plays in the relationship. And I think it’s playing a little bit. It’s not very overt for you. But I think it’s still there, where it’s kind of like maybe a little swirl of a little bit of disappointment.
Catherine: Yes, yes.
Marc: It’s a swirl of disappointment. It’s a swirl of annoyance. And it’s a swirl of a beautiful, childlike hope that, “Jeez, is this going to work already? Relax, and let’s get this right. And now it’s happening. And, oh, goodness, she’s a little nicer to me. And she’s showing up better.”
Catherine: Or she’s saying, “Thank you for moving [me] six times in nine years.”
Catherine: Because she can’t get a grip on her… she doesn’t… well, she was living beyond her means.
Marc: Yeah, so there’s a place where she’s a petulant child. And you’ve
become the parent. And you haven’t quite figured out that you’re the parent yet. On one level you know you are. But in essence you’re the parent. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing because it’s…
Catherine: It’s a natural—
Marc: Yes, it’s part of the unfoldment of life oftentimes. But you have to catch up in your own soul. And you have to start to find that place inside you where this little girl is still wanting approval from her mom and still wanting her mom to finally be a good mom. And being a good mom for her means, “Hey, honey. Hey, Catherine. Thank you. You’re amazing. You’re this great daughter.” I’m with you. That would be so great.
Catherine: It would be wonderful.
Marc: Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t that be the right thing to do? But people are people. And humans are humans. And we’re strange creatures. And we don’t always comply with maybe what we ought to do.
And so all I’m saying is I feel that there’s a place where you have to graduate into your own womanhood. And the difficulty is in order for us to become adults, we have to be out of our parents’ house. You can’t become an adult when you’re in your mother and father’s house. By definition you’re a child. We move out of the house. You start to date. You go to college. You get married. You have your own kids. Whatever it is, you become an adult independent of being in your parents’ house.
In a strange way it’s getting mixed up for you, understandably so because your mom is now in your house.
So now wait a second. Who’s house is this anyway? Wait, my mother’s helping me with a mortgage on this space over here. And she has more money than I do. And she’s my mother, but I’m taking care of her. And I’m the adult here. But now I’m kind of acting like a daughter and falling into these old patterns because she’s in your house. And it gets confusing because you’re not sure who’s in charge.
Catherine: Well, she’s not physically in my house because I can’t handle her inability to move with the Parkinson’s. But it’s funny that you’re saying that, if you don’t mind me interjecting, because I moved out when I was 18. I was ready. I went off to college, and I never moved back. And I have lived pretty far from her my whole life.
So it’s interesting because maybe it is that I didn’t… I thought I’d resolved things. I am an adult. But that’s an unfolding. It’s not just like, okay, now I’m initiated into womanhood. I mean I wouldn’t consider myself not mature. I know you’re not saying that. But it is unfolding. It is peeling away the layers. And when you’re kind of enforced back into that relationship… because I’m compassionate. She needs help. I want to help her. And I love her. But it has switched back to earlier modes that I didn’t really know or realize that it was doing that. So, interesting, Marc.
Marc: Yeah, and that’s my sense. And what’s going to happen is it’s going to put you back into a younger, less mature version of you. And, again, to me, a part of that version is you will disempower yourself in relationship to your mother. You will be waiting for her to finally step up and, fill in the blank again, say thank you, do this, just finally show some modicum of what you want her to be.
And that’s what I’m picking up here. It’s where you go into your childhood in yourself. And you give yourself up. There’s a part of you that had to give yourself up in relationship to her.
You give up your body in relationship with her.
So I want to put mom aside for a moment. And I want to ask you to consider having a different context for your weight and having a different context for losing weight because part of the issue is that here you are. And you’ve been in a longer-term kind of dance with your weight and struggle with your body.
And what happens is it becomes about the next diet. It becomes about losing weight. And then it becomes about looking at the scale. How much weight did I lose? How much am I gaining back? Oh, my God, how do I keep the weight off now? Oh, my God, it’s coming back on. So when it gets contexted as me and my weight, we’re not really identifying where the action is.
And what I want to say, what I want to suggest—and hang in there with me for a second—is that I get that you want to lose the weight, and that’s the goal, understood. What I want to suggest to you is that weight loss will be a side effect of doing the work that wants to really be done here. And the work that wants to be done, in large part, is about you and your relationship with your body. So this is not about you losing weight. This is about you embodying in a whole different way.
Marc: And it’s maybe embodying in a whole different way for the first time ever.
Catherine: I’d agree.
Marc: Because you’ve never been at this stage of life. This is the first time. So here we are. And all of your life has led to this moment.
And I am not interested in you losing weight. I am not interested in that conversation for you.
I’m interested in you being in the kind of relationship with your body that has you in your body, that has you connected to your body, that has you occupying yourself.
And, yeah, so now I’m connected. And now I know me. And it’s not about forcing myself to exercise or forcing myself to be on a diet because when I start to be more embodied, more checked-in, as opposed to checked out, then you start to do the right things for yourself. But as soon as you make it about the weight, then you start to look at food. You start to look at calories. You start to look at fat grams. You start to look at pounds. And is that stuff important? Sure. But it diverts way too much attention.
Catherine: I love this. Thank you.
Marc: Way too much attention. And you get caught up in nonsense details. So when you say to me, at the beginning of this conversation, “Well, yeah, normally my oils might be coconut or flax or whatever, but now I’m not going to do those”, a little alarm button goes off in my head because I say to myself yeah, dietary tweaks are important. And if this was somebody else, I might be in a whole different conversation about, okay, you need to tweak your diet in the following ways.
There are dietary patterns that I might want to see you do. But those patterns have to be an outgrowth. They have to be a natural extension of your first and foremost commitment, which is stepping out of your metaphoric mother’s house, owning that you’re an adult and that she will never be the mother that you want. She will never be the mother that you want. She will now be this person that you’re taking care of who used to be in the role of taking care of you.
Catherine: Got it.
Marc: And as best as humanly possible, to let go of any expectation that she will rally at any point and give you what you want. You have to feel the kind of compassion that understands that she’s this little girl also who’s stuck where she’s stuck.
Catherine: Who didn’t have the love that I’ve had in my life.
Catherine: I really get what you’re saying because that is kind of where I finally, in nine years, have realized, oh, my God, she can’t do that. She’s never experienced it. She’s never had compassionate, loving relationships the way I’ve been blessed with in my life. I mean, yes, to some degree, but not with her parents, maybe not with my Dad. So I finally realized, oh, she can’t do it because she’s never gotten it. It’s a big shift. It’s a big A-ha.
Marc: It is. And from that place you become your own best parent. And the way you become your best parent is you stay by your side. You don’t abandon yourself. You be with yourself with a meal. You be with yourself around food. And there is no need to let yourself go to take care of anyone or anything. So you’re still in that equation.
Might things get more difficult? Sure. Might the schedule be rough? Sure. Might you have a little more stress? Sure. And how do you stand by yourself? Because the complaint on some level is my mother’s really not there for me. I’ve done all this stuff. Give me a thank you. And clearly on paper she’s not there for you. And what happens is you repeat that pattern. Then you become not there for you.
Catherine: Oh, that’s interesting.
Marc: So you’re repeating the insult.
Catherine: Wow, wow, okay.
Marc: So this is the work:
The work is you standing by yourself because there’s a place where you check out, where you rationalize your checking out, because you’re going to use your smart brain to say okay, “I love my mother.”
And all this is good. And man, this is just a lot of stress. And I’ve got to just let go of all these rules because it’s too much. I understand that. I really do. And that was the best coping mechanism that you had given the situation. And that doesn’t work for you anymore.
Catherine: No. Good, thank you.
Marc: And a better strategy is that I stand by myself. I don’t abandon myself, even though my mother this, my husband that, the world this, the world that. Everything can be crumbling around you, and you can still like yourself. You can still love yourself. You can still be respectful and not take somebody’s insufficiencies as a reason to not stand by yourself.
So from that place, what I want to say to you is that I don’t want to see you weigh yourself on a scale. I don’t want to see you dieting and trying to start to all of a sudden move all these pieces around. In order for you to find a sustainable weight, you have to find a way of eating that sustains you. So right now, you and I have a sustainable way of breathing. You’re not even thinking about it.
There’s a way that you breathe that’s not labored. It’s natural. It works for you.
You don’t talk about it much. Now granted, food’s a little different. But there’s a way of eating, theoretically, where I eat. I reach for food that I have some idea this is relatively healthy for me. This makes me feel okay. This nourishes me. This is good for me. I’m present with it. I eat it. And you have to let go of well, is this too much fat? Is this too little fat?
If you’re already focused on high quality food, which it sounds like you are, if you are clear that you’re not going too low fat or too low protein or too low carb, and you’re not going to an extreme, then yeah, fine. It’s going to be easier to lose weight for a majority of people if you’re going to eliminate a lot of the junk food carbs and focus on more healthy fat and protein.
So I want to caution you against limiting your healthy fat. It’s not going to get you where you want to go. And eventually, if you’re low in essential fats, it’s going to start to have you craving fat. Or it’s going to start to have you craving food. And you think you’re doing something good. So in a weird way I want you to de-focus on the food a little bit.
Marc: And I want you to focus more… Yes, you know what kind of quality food to eat. The food is not going to make you lose the weight. What’s going to help you reach your natural weight, is you staying present with yourself.
Catherine: I agree. That’s wonderful.
Marc: And you not checking out because as soon as you check out, you go, “Oh, I should be eating this. I should be exercising more. But I’m not. But I can’t do this. But I can do that. But I can manipulate this on my plate.” And you go here to figure it out. You have to drop in here. I don’t even need you to do a lot of exercise right now. Can you just do basic walking right now?
Catherine: Oh, sure. I’m doing that.
Marc: So even that, for you, if you can walk and be with yourself…And I mean that. Really start to practice and play with… You’re an artist. So use your relationship with your body as kind of like a canvas. And how do you want to paint this new relationship in such a way that it’s creative?
So this is not about you figuring out the science of your body. This is you being an artist with your body.
And an artist is thoughtful. And an artist looks at things. And an artist sees things. And an artist is in a flow a lot of times. Yeah, you’re going to be in your head. You’ve got to pick your paints. You’ve got to do this.
Catherine: But you come prepared.
Marc: And I’m assuming here. But I have no idea. But all I’m saying is that there’s a creativity that I think is inside you that I want you to bring to your relationship with your body because then it’s more authentic. It’s going to be more fascinating to you.
Catherine: I love that.
Marc: Because there’s another way to be in your body other than, “Okay, well now I have to commit again.” Yeah, for sure. But there’s a place of flow that I think you want to be experiencing. And that flow comes with a little more ease. And it comes with sometimes less of the mind-chatter about all the little specifics. Now, again, I’m going to say. This is what I’m saying for you. For somebody else I might be saying something very, very, very different. But I want you to focus more on your experience of your body. How does this food feel? Am I nourishing myself? Am I sustaining myself? Am I limiting myself?
As soon as you find yourself going into fat grams and fat amounts, and is this too much, and you’re living there, then you know you’re in the wrong neighborhood. And you need to step out of that neighborhood and take a few deep breaths and drop into your body. How’s all that landing for you?
Catherine: Well, we’re back to what I said my initial goal was, which was dropping into my body. So I think that it definitely resonates. I mean I must say that I went onto a popular website where you can just type in what you’ve eaten. And it does give your calories. But I’m not looking them up in a book. It’s actually fun for me. And I know you’re not wanting me to do that now.
Marc: I’m still saying I want you to give that up 100%.
Marc: Not 90%, 100%. It’s kind of like if you said to me, “Marc, I’ve been getting these headaches.” And then I start to notice you’re banging your head against the wall. And I might say to you, “Catherine, let’s, for the next couple of months, you not bang your head against the wall. And let’s see how your head feels.” And you go, “Well, how about if I just not bang my head against the wall 90% of the time?” Oh, well, okay.
Catherine: It’s progress.
Marc: It’s a lot less. It’s progress. But you’re still going to have that headache. And I want to go a little cold turkey with you because I want you to feel the drasticness. I want you to feel the difference. And, honestly, you’re in your 50s. Now’s the time. Let’s go there. Let’s go right to the target. So the target is you don’t need to count a freaking calorie. There is no animal in nature that counts a calorie.
Catherine: It’s true.
Marc: Okay. It was never necessary throughout human history for any being to count a calorie. I don’t care if it’s interesting to you. There are a hundred other things that are more interesting than that, okay. So find something else interesting. Do not count calories. Do not count fat grams. I don’t want you to count anything when it comes to food. I don’t want you to count around your body in terms of pounds.
I would love to see you let go of the scale. And I mean that 100%.
I mean that, not weight yourself for six months because then you can feel your body. When you stand up on a scale, you’re looking at a machine. And you’re giving the machine the power to tell you how you feel. Oh, she lost a pound. “I feel good.”
Catherine: Yeah, right.
Marc: Oh, you gained a pound. “Oops, I feel bad.”
Catherine: I feel bad.
Marc: And you get jerked around by this wind that can blow in any direction. Scales are not accurate. They change every day. Move your scale around to five different rooms in your house, you’ll get five different readings. Some days you retain water. Some days you don’t. The scale means nothing. You want to be in touch with your body? Get rid of the scale.
Catherine: Well, I haven’t weighed myself for nine years.
Marc: Oh great. Okay.
Catherine: So this month is the first time I’m counting calories. And I’m finally losing weight. So it’s kind of hard to hear you say this because it’s like well, when I didn’t count calories, and when I didn’t weigh myself, and when I didn’t chastise myself, and I tried to be present, as much as I could at that time, I gained weight.
So to hear you say now that even though I’ve lost ten pounds in the first four weeks, where I’ve been more observing a balance of my meals… I don’t feel like I’m on a diet at all. I’m not on a diet. It’s more like oh, that’s how much I should be eating. It’s a portion understanding. So to hear you say don’t do that anymore is a little freaking scary to me, pardon my French.
Marc: Okay, so then let’s do this. So let me make an adjustment. Because what I’m getting now from what you’re saying is that that strategy is helping you embody, in a lot of ways, because it sounds like you need to really get a good sense of what amount of food works for you.
So what I want to suggest to you is I want that to be a goal for you. I want the goal for you to be let go of counting calories. I want the goal for you to be to walk to your refrigerator and be able to open the refrigerator and to start to consider how do I feel? What am I hungry for? How much am I hungry for? And be able to figure it out that way.
And it is just to be able to figure out… like you take a sip of water. How much more water do you need after that sip? Maybe you need ten more sips, maybe one. Do you have to read a book? Do you have to figure out how many grams of water you just drank? No. There’s a naturalness to the process. So I want you to get to the naturalness of that process.
That is the goal. So there is never a single number that you have to crunch when it comes to food. There’s not a number.
Now, if you need to ease your way into that, so be it. That’s absolutely fine. I want you to trust yourself. So if this is what’s working for you, then I want to stand behind what empowers you, as long as it’s empowering you. But I’m suggesting to you I would love to see you work towards letting all that go. Does that make sense?
Catherine: It does. When I wanted to learn to pay my credit card in full every month, I used my checkbook. And every time I used my credit card, I wrote it like it was a check. And when it came time to write the check for my credit card, I didn’t have to deduct it because it was already deducted. I did that for about six months. And now I’ve got a sense. I pay it in full. I’ve never had an outstanding balance.
But I had to train myself to go okay, that’s enough for now. Because it’s like oh, my gosh, I’m really eating tons. When I started doing this, like, oh, my, I do not need to eat six meals a day. I’m really satisfied. I’m slowing down. I’m eating with my husband. We’re still cooking and making beautiful foods. And I will incorporate a little of the fats back into my diet because I thought, oh, well I cannot have 100 calories.
Well, I’ve been eating chocolate. I lost two pounds at Christmas. And I ate coffee cake and pumpkin pie. And I let myself celebrate, eat with family and go hey, “I don’t care if I’ve gone over my calories on this day.” This is a celebration. And I didn’t curtail myself the next day. And I still lost two pounds.
I’m not having a scale at home. I’m going to one place. And for the moment I had committed to doing that. I mean I can stop it if it’s not healthy to weigh myself. But I hadn’t weighed myself in nine years.
Marc: I would love to see you not weigh yourself. I would love to see you work towards letting go of the numbers and the calories, so you can get to a relationship with food very simply that’s empowered, so you can get your relationship with your body that is empowered.
I want to say one more piece, which is that there’s a place where I would love to see you… let me say this differently.
It feels like there’s a place that you have inside you where you’re apologizing for your body, that, yeah, where my body’s at is not where I want to be.
And I want to get to this other place. I understand that. I have goals. I am not there yet. I want to get to this other place. So that’s fine for me, that you want to lose x amount of weight. But there’s a little bit of an apology in there. There’s a little bit of yeah, I know I’m fat right now. There’s a little bit of I’m fat but, and it has a quality almost of a very subtle insult to self.
It’s fine that you want to lose weight. But you don’t have to apologize for where you’re at. It’s fine that you want to make more money. You don’t have to apologize for how much money’s in the bank right now, to anybody. It’s fine that you want new clothes. But you don’t have to apologize to anybody for the clothes you have now.
So what happens is, when there’s an apology, we tend to hold ourselves back a little bit because we’re trying to please the invisible masses. On one level we’re trying to please our mother, our father, our parents, the world, all men, all women, all people, all fat haters, all whoever, whoever the hell it is. No apologies please. No apologies.
How can we make you fine as you are? And you want to lose x amount of weight. How can we make you respectful with whatever amount of money you have right now and still, yeah, “I want to have more money come into the bank account.” So you’re worthy of respect. So are you going to be worthy of respect more when you have $10 million in the bank account than if you have $10,000? I don’t know. I don’t really think so. So are you going to be worthy of more respect, love, kindness, when you lose weight? So there’s a little bit of a hidden promise in there.
I get that you want to lose the weight for health. I get that, yeah, your husband doesn’t want to have to worry about, if you’re on the floor, picking up somebody he can’t pick up.
Catherine: He’s very positive though. I mean he doesn’t denigrate me.
Marc: I get it. But all I’m saying is within yourself, I’m talking subtlety here, so we’re getting into subtleties, the subtlety is that you can start from a place of empowerment and do a weight loss journey. One can also start from a place of apology. I’m not good enough. Here’s me. I’m going to lose this weight some day. And when I lose this weight some day then I’m going to be this really cool person. All these great things will happen. All these little things will happen.
But I’m going to get there. But I’m not there right now. But I know I can be there. And meanwhile, while I’m not there, I’m not all that I can be. And by definition I’m not as lovable as I can be. So that’s happening for you. And when that’s going on, there’s every good reason for a person to sabotage themselves.
And there’s every good reason to go around in circles because you don’t have yourself. If I don’t have myself, then all these little dietary details and nonsense, wow, well, should I have eaten a half a cup of popcorn or two thirds of a cup of popcorn? It doesn’t matter. There’s no difference in the universe between any of that. Your body doesn’t keep score in that way because mind and emotions are creating our metabolism.
The more we denigrate ourselves, even on a subtle level, and this gets important for you at your age only because things get more specific as you get older, you have to be more elegant. You have to make the right moves, especially internally. I’m not even talking about nutritionally, even though that’s the case. You have to make the right internal moves. And for me, a very useful internal move is to begin to see where you live in apology. And the apology is often unspoken. And it’s hi, this body’s not okay.
Catherine: Boy, is that subtle. That’s really interesting.
Marc: And I want you to check in with yourself. I just said that I think it might be true for you. You have to feel into that.
Catherine: Okay, I think you’ve hit on something major there.
Think about it, “How do you introduce yourself?”
Marc: It feels like how you introduce yourself. And it’s unconscious. It’s not purposeful. And it’s what happens to people, especially to women. It happens to men but especially women. I’ve noticed this. Women who, in society’s eyes, carry “extra weight”, I’m putting that in quotation marks. Women who, in society’s eyes, in the media eyes, in the culture’s eyes, carry too much weight.
Because there’s so much weight hate, the way we deal with that is oftentimes we become apologetic. And we become the good little fat boy or the good little fat girl where we do stuff for people. We abandon ourselves. How can I make you like me? How can I be nice enough to account for the fact that I’m fat? So it feels like you’re trying to catch up in the niceness piece because I’m fat.
Because then people like me better. That’s a learned behavior that we teach each other. And we teach children because we shame people around body fat and our arbitrary amounts. And then we start to go, “oh my goodness, how do I be lovable in this world?” Well, I’ll be nice to people. And I bend over backwards for you. And then you won’t notice that I’m fat. Or at least you’ll like me for it. So what I’m saying is stop. I’m saying stop.
Catherine: Cold turkey.
Marc: And easier said than done. But I want you to start to notice that part of you because there’s a part of you that is not nice. And there’s a part of you that wants to spank somebody back. And there’s a part of you that wants to make a boundary. And there’s a part of you that gets really irritated. And that’s okay. And the fact that you have weight to lose has nothing to do with that, two separate equations. So I’m just saying you don’t have to apologize for anything.
And you can be on a weight loss journey. You can be empowered you and be on a weight loss journey. What’s happening is there’s a little bit of a promise that I will be the empowered me when I get there. And everything’s going to come together. And all these other little pieces are going to come together. And what I’m suggesting is that that’s the false hope. That’s the false carrot that has us moving in that direction with all the wrong strategies because you have to have yourself first.
If you want to have a long-term, sustainable shift with your body, of any kind, you have to occupy. You have to be here. You have to be present. You have to own yourself. And in this case owning yourself means, yeah, not abandoning your body, not checking out, not living in your head. But it also means you affirming to life that this is okay. This is honorable. If you stop right here at this weight, you can be the most empowered you for the rest of your life. And you would have this weight.
There are plenty of people who are way bigger than you, who are way more empowered around their body and their weight. They’re fine. They’re totally fine. They love themselves in a huge way. And they’re in your face about it even. So all I’m saying is the size doesn’t matter. I get that it feels like it matters.
But I’m saying walk to your weight loss journey as if who you are right now is great.
And on this journey I’m going to do things that make me feel even better about myself, which is different from I apologize until I get to this place. Excuse me, while I’m not the real me right now, I’m working on it. You see where I’m going with this?
Catherine: I do. I do. I think it’s subtle. And I think it’s interesting. I mean I haven’t let my weight keep me from doing what I want in my life. And I feel empowered. But of course we’re talking about something that’s on the subtle end of things. And I remember things I’ve said apologetically – I’m a teacher – in front of a class. And it is self-deprecating. I didn’t think I really did that. But I would say, yes, it is. And I really have to ponder on that. I think it’s rich. It’s potentially rich. And it will help me get to the more subtle aspects of what my goal is, which is to embody.
Marc: I think it’s very important. I think you have to let go, for a little while, well, I am empowered. I’m not apologizing. I’m being me. I’ve done all these things. And I’m going to say to you great. I agree with you. You have done all these things.
And, once again, it’s all about subtleties. As we get better and better in certain places in our life, at a skill, at a craft, at a job, it’s all about the subtleties. So you’re getting more masterful in your life. And now you’re saying okay, I’ve accomplished in all these other ways. And now I would like to have the kind of shift with my body that makes me feel good, that makes me feel I can handle that. So all I’m saying is got it. I’m with you. What a great idea. There’s a subtle piece here that is big. Might other people have that same subtlety? Maybe, maybe not. Is it common? It’s a little less common. But it happens for people.
So when you start to look at how can I be more in my body, how can I be more present, how do I not abandon myself, one of the ways you abandon self, or one of the ways we abandon self, is through subtle make wrong, is through…
Catherine: Subtle make wrong?
Marc: Make wrong, subtle making myself wrong, subtle apology for who I am, which means that I’m not okay. I’m not enough as who I am. And if I’m moving into the world with I’m not enough as who I am, I’m not enough as who I am, I am sorry, it’s going to be hard for you to get where you want to go because basically the basic structure is I am an apology for who I am. And you’re not really working on that piece. You’re thinking I’m going to shift this body so I will no longer be saying I’m sorry for who I am.
And people lose weight all the time and gain it right back. 98 to 99% of them gain the weight back. You’ve gained the weight back. So the moving around the deck chairs on the Titanic and moving around my diet and moving around my exercise, yeah, it works sometimes. But most of the time it doesn’t because we don’t have the inner-shift. And is there an inner-shift for everybody? No, different people. Some people it’s a nutritional issue. Some people it’s a metabolic issue. It’s a dietary issue. For you, we’re just going for where I think the action is with you. So there’s a lot to play with here.
Catherine: Indeed. Indeed. Wow. I took notes.
Marc: Good. I’m glad you did. I’m kind of taking mental notes. And I think we hit on some important places. And I think there’s going to be some very personal work for you to do here and some real self reflection on how do I be my empowered self and not apologize and be on a weight loss journey. So literally that’s the question, “how do I be on a weight loss journey, feel good about my weight loss journey”, but at the same time – and it’s kind of like a paradox – “live with and I’m enough right now.”
I’m sure you want to make your relationship with your husband better. And it’s enough right now. You have moments with him, I’m sure, where I love you. And this is great. And what else is there to do. And there are things you work on.
Catherine: We’re doing pretty well, though, I must say.
Marc: Yeah, so…
Catherine: I’ve got a great husband.
Marc: Same thing. So that’s applying that to your body. I’ve got a great body. This has gotten me amazing places. And yeah, do a want to make a little shift? Sure.
Catherine: And there is a self-healing modality in one’s body that is incredible. I mean the body heals. I had a major accident in my arm. And I am actually blown away by my body and what it can do. And I’ve been thinking I need to tap into that respect and awe as I’m on this journey.
Catherine: But do it within.
Marc: As opposed to, yes, the healing of the arm, the wrist, the hand. Wow, that’s a miracle. And also, it’s the same with the body. The body can shift. The body can shape shift. The body’s magnificent. Not oh my God, I’ve got to do this to my body so it doesn’t carry so much of this bad body fat, which is going to be bad for me and bad for my health and bad for this and bad for that. That context weighs very heavy.
And I’m going to say this in just one other way, which is oftentimes, not always but oftentimes, when we want a big shift with the body, we need a concurrent big shift with self.
If you want to go to Las Vegas and win big you, generally speaking, have to bet big; win big, get big; win big, risk big.
So to have a big shift with body, oftentimes we need to have a big personal shift.
So I’m saying consider that. Consider what that personal shift might be for you. I think it has to do a lot about the apology piece, being an apology for your body, which in part has to do with my mother not fully accepting me. If you got the message that you are loved, Catherine, from day one, you’re loved, we accept you for who you are, I love you for who you are, you’re great, you’re great, you’re great, you wouldn’t be walking around apologizing about anything, really. You wouldn’t be apologizing for who you are.
Catherine: It’s been conditional.
Marc: So you’re re-parenting yourself now. You’re finding that within. And I think that as you incorporate that with just awareness around your food and your appetite, and you start to treat yourself with dignity even more and more and more, you’ll get where you want to go.
Catherine: What a rich conversation. Thank you so much.
Marc: You are so welcome.
Catherine: I am really grateful. Thank you.
Marc: Yeah, and thanks for being such a great sport. And I’m just so honored to be in this conversation, especially because you’ve been so thoughtful with yourself on your own journey. And you care. I get that you’re a caring person. And you’ve really looked at this from a lot of angles. And I think that’s what we have to do with ourselves. And I believe for you that this is more than about just a bunch of body pounds. I know that you know that. And that, to me, is what’s going to really help you get where you want to go. So I know you’re on the right track. And I feel good where you are.
Catherine: Yes, thank you. I do want to add that having been around the block and looking at different things, what you and Emily are doing is such a pertinent, rich offering to people. I’m like whoa, that’s kind of what I was thinking. And here you are saying these things. I’m like these are right on. They’re illuminating. I mean I’m talking about your books, your podcasts, your teachings, they’re very, very to the core. And I just think it’s going to help and is helping a lot of people. And I have found tremendous richness in it. And I wanted to thank both you and Emily for that, Marc. Thank you.
Marc: Catherine, thank you so much.
Catherine: I mean that from the bottom of my heart because I’ve looked a lot. And I think it’s a true gift what you’re doing.
Marc: We do our best. Thank you so much. That is well received. Great work, great job.
Catherine: Thank you.
Marc: And thank you, everybody, for tuning in. Once again, I am Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. We have been in the Psychology of Eating podcast. Catherine and I have been having some fun together. Great work to everyone. Thank you for your time and energy and for tuning in. And lots more to come, my friends. And you take care.
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