The Psychology of Eating Podcast Episode #123: Letting Go of A Problematic “Belly Image”

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Podcast Episode 123: Letting Go of A Problematic "Belly Image"
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For many people who struggle with obsessive thoughts about food and body, a closer look reveals that food isn’t the real issue after all, but a distraction from something deeper (and possibly scarier). Cydney has spent the last four years feeling completely controlled by her relationship with food and her drive to obtain body perfection through diet and intensive exercise. At the same time, she’s frustrated by feelings of insecurity that she can never seem to shake: she worries about health, finances, her appearance, what others think of her, and more. In this moving session, Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, helps Cydney see that she tends to stay stuck in her head and does not let herself feel. Once she started shifting the focus from her diet to her larger challenge around finding security in life, Cydney came to understand that she carries that insecurity in her belly – but that it is possible to have a different experience. And when she realized that she already has some powerful sources of security in her circle of female friends, Marc coached her to start tapping into these resources and begin living life from a more empowered place.

Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:

Marc: Welcome, everybody. I am Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. And here we are in the Psychology of Eating Podcast. And I am here today with Cydney. Welcome, Cydney.

Cydney: Hello. Thank you for having me.

Marc: I am glad you’re here. I’m glad we’re doing this. Cydney, give me a moment to talk to viewers and listeners who are new to the podcast and let you all know that this a time for Cydney and I to really dive in. We haven’t met before and she’s going to share whatever she wants to share around food, body, health, etcetera.

And we’re going to see if we can do in one session as much work as possible. And really kind of push the pedal to the metal on moving things forward for Cydney. So we’re going to go a little bit less than an hour. And hopefully there’s going to be some good info for you, Cydney, and for people tuning in.

So here’s my first question for you:

If you could wave your magic wand, if you can get whatever you wanted from this session—and I really mean that—what would that be of you?

Cydney: I think it would be definitely to get more comfortable with some of the belly fat that’s come on. I’ve had adrenal fatigue, I guess. And then I found out I had hypothyroidism. And so I ended up with, I guess, the classic cortisol belly. And that’s a real struggle for me to deal with; just leaning into that and accepting that. So I find myself in the gym a lot. And I’d like to be able to become more comfortable with that.

And I would also like to be more comfortable in my relationship with food, that I don’t see things like fruit as an enemy because I’ve had that sort of told to me, “You can’t have too much fruit.” So that’s a struggle for me, as well. And just to learn how to relax around meal time even more. I’ve been working on it a little bit but I still notice the anxiety comes about it. So to lose some weight.

Marc: So what’s the anxiety that comes up for you around food? That you don’t know what to eat? Or it’s going to make you gain weight? Where is the stress, and the strain, and the tension? What goes on in your head?

Cydney: It’s kind of an all over battle. Because, yeah, there is the question of, okay if I eat this, is there going to be more weight gain from the thyroid issue? What is too much? That’s hard to know, especially since I lift a lot of weight, I have a lot of muscle mass. So that’s really confusing to me. How much does my body need to function the way it needs to function? But how much is too much? So, yeah, I get stressed over, “Am I eating too much?” because I eat a pretty clean diet. So it’s more or less too much.

And I have noticed over the past couple of months that it was not uncommon for me to hold my breath during eating. That was a big realization that I would just sit there and hold my breath while I eat, pretty much through my whole meal. So, yeah it’s a matter of, is it too much, I suppose.

Marc: When did you get diagnosed with this thyroid condition? Roughly.

Cydney: Let’s see, a little over a year ago.

Marc: Okay. And so, before that, how was your relationship with your body?

Cydney: Actually I think it was a year and a half ago, about a year and a half ago. Excuse me. So my relationship with my body has always been a struggle. I would say probably since college, definitely.

Marc: And what messages were you telling yourself back in college? What were some of the main mantras that you would say to yourself?

Cydney: I noticed it was, “I have to control what’s going in because that will control the body, [in] which I could control relationships.” Like I felt like I could control relationships that I didn’t have control over. If they could see that there was a problem or also just dealing with emotions, I didn’t know how to deal with.

Marc: So you wanted to have your body look a certain way when you were in college?

Cydney: Yes.

Marc: And what was that for you? Was it weighing less? Was it having a certain shape? I’m just trying to get to details of sort of what goes on inside your head.

Cydney: Probably at that time it was more of weighing less and fitting into maybe certain size clothes. Yeah, because I didn’t then sincerely have a larger stomach or something. Maybe I was just too large overall.

Marc: Got it. So you’ve been on this ride for a while, trying to change “my body”, whether it was after the thyroid condition being diagnosed and the challenges with that or beforehand. How old are you?

Cydney: I’m 36.

Marc: Thirty six. Are you in a relationship?

Cydney: Yeah, I’m married.

Marc: You’re married. How long have you been married for?

Cydney: Let’s see. We got married in 2011. So we’ll be coming up on 5 years, yeah.

Marc: Congratulations.

Cydney: Thank you.

Marc: Do you have kids?

Cydney: No.

Marc: Are you going to have kids?

Cydney: That’s debatable.

Marc: Okay. How is your partner with your body?

Cydney: I think he loves it the way it is. I think he is delicate about his responses to how maybe I have historically had negative self-talk because he’s not sure how to navigate that. So he wants me to love myself so he has trouble with verbiage maybe.

Marc: Got it. But he’s not hitting you over the head, telling you, “Cydney, you better lose weight. Otherwise I don’t like you and I’m out of here.”

Cydney: No, he’s not like that.

Marc: Okay. So, you think this all began in college, not before?

Cydney: Probably before. I just noticed like the struggle with food, the restricting and stuff like that. And really trying to control the body really started to play it out in college. But I think it probably started a lot earlier than that.

Marc: When?

Cydney: I can remember, I was on a ski team in high school. And I remember feeling really self-conscious about being in a swimsuit and being in performance clothes. Because the other people my age were, what I felt was leaner. I remember at I guess 11 or 12, my mother wanted me to be presented a certain way with my clothing or having make-up a certain way. So it was just an image thing, I guess. So at least 12, I would say that I recognized something in there.

Marc: Have you ever felt comfortable in your body?

Cydney: No.

Marc: That’s an honest answer. When did you think you first noticed, “I’m not comfortable in this body?”

Cydney: Probably when I was very young. Probably even 4, because I remember having very, very difficult stomach issues at night and just that feeling really uncomfortable. A lot of fear when I was younger. So, I think I felt fear in my body. So that made me feel uncomfortable in my body.

Marc: What’s the worst experience you’ve ever had with your body? Most challenging. What comes to mind when I ask that question?

Cydney: Two things. An experience of a panic attack. And then one that is sort of paradoxical. I used to be a cutter. So it was like, you get some relief from cutting. But it was also a really horrible feeling at the same time.

Marc: How old were you when you had the panic attack?

Cydney: See, that was like 3 years ago.

Marc: Do you know what precipitated it?

Cydney: I was laid off from my career at the end of 2011.

And I’ve been on various different medications for bipolar depression anxiety since I was 15.

And so there was management of some medication. And I think it was probably one of those. It got too high and then my body just said, “Enough is enough. This is your warning and you need to get it figured out that these drugs are not the answer for you.”

Marc: So, did you go on those medications sort of with the help of your parents, trying to figure yourself out and just feel better?

Cydney: Yeah. Because my mother has dealt with the bipolar and depression. And I have been told by her that when I was very young. I would cry and say, “I can’t stop crying. And I don’t know why.” And then in high school, I would be sad or angry, and I wouldn’t know why. And so then that’s hence why I was evaluated and then put on medication. But I’m not on any medication now.

Marc: Got it. So, personal question. You don’t have to answer any of these by the way because I’m just trying to kind of gather information. Do you have any history of physical abuse in your family or sexual abuse in your life?

Cydney: No physical abuse in my family. Sexual abuse, just nothing overt. Just I think unwanted advances from men at various different points in my life. But nothing like a rape or anything like that.

Marc: So, when you’re hanging out by yourself. And you think, man, “how did I get here?”, what story do you tell yourself?

How did I get to this challenging relationship with my body, this challenging relationship with food? Like, what’s the story you say to yourself?

Cydney: I think part of it is a control of emotion. Being an extremely sensitive person and not knowing how to really manage my emotional body. That has been a big part of it. And also reflective relationship of how things played out with my mother and judgment and control, probably.

Marc: So you’re a sensitive person.

Cydney: Yeah, I think so.

Marc: So has anyone ever told you that? Or you just kind of figured it out on your own?

Cydney: No, I’ve been told that – yeah, I’m a very sensitive person. It doesn’t necessarily play out to people because I’ve had to learn to per se, how to manage it and shut it down so that it didn’t emanate too much to people because people seem to get really uncomfortable with people that have a big emotional body.

Marc: So if you were just being your real self and your sensitive self, how might you be looking and acting different?

Cydney: I think more continued exploration of letting myself cry because I haven’t let myself cry very much. And that’s been getting a lot better. So, being really comfortable in that and not worrying about how others perceive that, and having a better dialogue with myself with anger and rage that’s deep-seated.

Marc: “Having a better dialogue with myself with anger and rage that’s deep seated.” What would that dialogue be? How would it be different?

Cydney: To allow myself to go into those feelings. I would get caught up in a story of things, which would kind of prevent a full feeling of the emotional context. So saying you can let go of the story, you can let go of the attachment to that. And just be with it. And that’s okay. And express it in a context that’s not hurting anybody else but it’s fully making you alive within your body.

Marc: What tends to get you most angry?

Cydney: When I don’t feel heard, I would say is a big one. When I don’t feel like what I’m verbalizing is understood; heard, that gets me pretty upset.

Marc: Anybody in particular tend to push your buttons more than others?

Cydney: Yeah. My mom does.

Marc: Okay. Who could have guessed? Are you guys close?

Cydney: Yeah. Well, I think that’s all relative to the people within the relationship.

Marc: What do you think?

Cydney: For me probably not as close as she believes she is with me because for me that looks like when I want to express something, I don’t feel like it’s genuinely heard. Or if there is discussion, there tends to be a lot of judgment.

Marc: So if I would ask the question, what would you change about your mother, would it be true then that what you might change is she is a better listener and really understands you truly more. Would that be accurate?

Cydney: Yeah. And let’s say with the caveat that dropping some of the judgment.

Marc: “And dropping some of the judgment.” Got it. Yeah, it’s no fun being judged.

Cydney: No and I see that that plays out. I do that to myself.

Marc: Good connection.

Cydney: Yeah, absolutely. I’m aware of that.

Marc: Human beings are crazy in that way.

We will often repeat the very offense that was played out when we were younger at some point, an offense that we don’t like.

An offense that we are mad at someone for, that we want them to change. But we’ll continue to do it to ourselves. It’s a very strange human phenomenon. But in part we do it to help heal the very thing that kind of wounded us in the first place. It’s a way to keep replaying the scenario, to keep doing the movie, until you make the movie have a happier ending, is what I think it is.

Cydney, I’ve got a few thoughts here I want to start playing with. And one of those thoughts is that, having a healthy relationship with food and body these days on planet Earth isn’t easy. I just want to say that. So the fact that you’re trying to do this, is really good. The fact that you’re trying to do this having had a not so easy start with it all, and having had a history of a challenging relationship with food, a challenging relationship with your body, I want to highlight. I appreciate you sharing how at one point you were a cutter. You were cutting.

And for people who don’t understand it, there are those of us who will literally do self-harm. Who will cut ourselves, who will bleed, who will hurt ourselves, and in an odd way, it’s sort of a symbolic enactment of our own pain. In an odd way its tension release.

Oftentimes, you know what it’s like? If you’ve stepped on a thumbtack right now with your barefoot, it would really hurt your foot. But then all of a sudden while you’re screaming, “I hurt my foot! I stepped on a tack,” if I squeezed your wrist really hard, and dug my fingernails into your wrist, all of a sudden your attention will start to go to your wrist. And even though it’s painful, in a weird way it helps the pain in the foot go away.

So a lot of times, the way we harm the body, it’s calling attention to the fact that we are in pain, we’re giving that pain a voice. We are expressing it. We’re trying to sort of take some of the air out of it. And all I want to say is for you there’s a lot in your system. You’ve identified it.

So, to me, I trust you a lot when you give me insights, or thoughts, or feedback about yourself, like, “I’m a sensitive person,” I 100% believe you. And that’s why I even asked you, did somebody tell you that. And you go yeah. Well, do you believe it? Yeah, I am. So like, okay great. You’re a sensitive person. You have a lot of feeling. You have a lot of anger sometimes. You have a lot of rage sometimes. And you also mentioned, “I could be really sad.” And even when you were young, you would be sad. And what’s the reason? You didn’t even know. So, what we do know as a fact is that there’s a lot of emotion in your system.

Cydney: Yeah, absolutely.

Marc: And we do know that oftentimes this is not just you, but this is you, oftentimes when people, we have too much emotion in the system, it’s too much. Hence the definition, too much. I can’t handle this. So it makes perfect sense that a human that has too much emotion in their system, would do one of two things, if not both. One of them is, We will use food to regulate those emotions and that discomfort and that pain.

Food can push it down. Food can mask it over. Food can distract us from it. That’s one way we will use food. Another way we’ll use food and our relationship with our body, in relationship to food, is we’ll try to control food because, “Damn, I can’t control my emotions. I can’t control all this crazy energy that’s going on inside me. But I can control food.”

Cydney: Yeah, I would say that that on top of that I’d just like to add that, to that end, in my 20s I would also have the binge-purge cycle as well. So played out that way as well.

Marc: Yeah. So you’ve tried a lot to regulate your inner experience. All of it, any eating disorder, bingeing and purging, cutting, it’s all a way for us as human beings. On one level it’s really simple. And I mean this:

The simplicity of it is we are trying to do things that help us manage or regulate uncomfortable emotions, feelings, energies inside of us that we don’t know what the heck to do with.

Some people will use drugs, alcohol, sex, eating disorders, gambling, hard work, perfectionism, just killing themselves, anything to help me manage these things that are hard for me to manage. So, all I‘m saying is, number one, you are very human in that way. So even though you are unique and you are wonderfully you, this is a weird, crazy thing that the human family does. So I just want you to know that you are not alone in this. I think that’s an important piece of the puzzle.

And your journey is learning how to better regulate all the emotions inside you without having to turn to food and without symbolically playing it out in my relationship with food, meaning instead of dealing with my emotions, and my mother, and my this, and my that, what happens is, “I’ve got to change my body. I have to make it look perfect because even if I heal my body or make my body look exactly what it’s supposed to look like, then everything is going to be okay. I can’t deal with this intense anger, sadness, rage. Where does this stuff come from? Ugh, leave that over there. Let me do food and body.”

So we use food and body as a symbolic, unconscious, unknowing—we don’t do this purposefully—it happens. It is a feature of the human mind. It is the feature of the human nervous system. I don’t want to go into the whys of it. Nobody knows why. I have my own feelings and beliefs and theories about it. But the bottom line is we do that.

So, I think for you, Cydney, what’s important to realize is, “Okay, here’s my journey.” It’s kind of like, you learning how to be in your body and with your emotions is sort of like your spiritual path. It’s sort of the place in life that’s going to really help you, I think, find yourself and find out who you really are. So I want to say something that I believe you know. But I’m going to say it anyway just so the belief gets a little stronger.

It doesn’t matter what you make your body look like at this stage of the game. Until the inner world changes, the challenges are going to show up.

The pain and the suffering is going to show up. And it will all just keep morphing into more eating challenge this, body image that. “Okay I lost a little weight, but now I can be really toned, and really perfect.”

And how many times have I seen this with people, of all age groups, who have been trying to lose weight forever and they lose the weight and then it comes back? Because anybody can lose a bunch of weight. Sure, certain bodies might have certain challenges at different times, but anybody can lose weight. It doesn’t mean we can do it sustainably because it’s always connected to something else.

So I’m just trying to listen into your experience and get a sense of how your journey is here to teach you and how it’s here to help you learn because that’s what I’m getting. It’s here to teach you. It’s here to help you learn. And you’re in it right now. You’re like in the thick of it. You’re not at the beginning, nor are you at the end, in my opinion. I think you’re right in the center of the cyclone here.

Cydney: Yeah. I feel like I’m getting pulled between, like you discussed, the princess and the queen. Like I’m in purgatory right now, trying to figure all that out with all the emotion that’s going on with that.

Marc: Yeah. So what I want to say is it is a rocky ride for you right now. And I also want to say that you can expect it to be a little rocky for a while. I kind of believe that, just from sort of my experience, just guesstimating where you’re at in this journey.

And when you’re sort of in the middle of the house where you can hear all the conversations in all the different rooms. And you’re like positioned where you kind of notice everything. And that can be very overwhelming because you want to notice it and then you want to fix it. And you want to notice it and you want to figure it out. Okay, let me make a statement first, as opposed to saying what I’d love for you to do.

My statement, my belief right now is that it might be really good for you to start feeling a lot more and stop thinking about what you’re feeling. I think one of the ways that you manage your feelings is that you have a feeling and then you think about what that feeling is and then you start to analyze it. You start to break it down. And then you start to ignore it, in the best way you can or you find a box to put it in.

And that is a very, very good coping strategy. It is particularly an excellent coping strategy for young people, for kids, for adolescents, for toddlers even. However, it is not a good coping strategy for an adult. That coping strategy helped you survive. It helped you get to this moment.

The coping strategy called, “let me take all these things that I am feeling, and put them over here because it’s too much”. I don’t know how to figure it out. I don’t know how to untangle them, what does all this nonsense mean? So you wisely have put it aside and you’ve done your best to regulate your body and your emotions and your experience.

So you’re born with this packet of energy, and feelings. Your job on planet Earth is to learn how to get comfortable so you’re driving your own car. So you’re being in your own body going, “Okay, here’s Cydney being happy, here’s Cydney being sad. Here’s Cydney wanting to kill someone right now. Here’s me being hungry. Here’s me being full.” It’s how to be with all that and not let it freak you out. That’s really your task. It’s you’re learning how to not freak yourself out.

A panic attack, on the one hand for most people—and for sure I have no doubt that it was related to kind of the movement of prescription drugs and side-effects—but it’s a sign of where we just lose command of our experience because it’s so overwhelming. So I’m just looking at that as a metaphor because even though it is related to prescription drugs, it’s related to your journey that had you on drugs, to try to manage your experience.

Prescription drugs, I am sorry, but in the long-term not good for a human to learn how to manage their emotions.

Short-term, it can potentially be helpful for certain people. Long-term, no way, no how whatsoever. Bad side effects, they get addictive. And they don’t evolve us. They don’t transform us.

So again I want to say I think you’re learning how to be with your emotions and be with the intensity of your feelings. And that’s your task. So you can say to me, “Okay, I’ve got this thyroid issue. And it’s causing this kind of cortisol belly. And it’s causing this belly fat. And I can exercise all I want.” And I was like, wait a second, what’s going on here? You can focus on that.

In a weird way, having that belly for you is another crazy challenge on top of all the other crazy challenges you have. It’s kind of like adding a big insult. Like, I’m getting it. It’s like, “wait a second. Your journey has been hard enough. You have enough internal stuff to deal with. You don’t want to deal with this external thing, which is a pain and you don’t want it.” And you don’t like it. You don’t like the way it looks.

So you are going through the fire right now. So I’m just acknowledging what I see. I think sometimes it’s important to acknowledge, right now your journey is not easy. There will come a time, I believe, when it gets easier. In this moment, this is not the easy part of your movie. If your life was a movie, this is the part where the audience will be really tense. And the main character is going through a lot of hardship. And everybody is munching on their popcorn, really hard. This is that time in your movie where you’re just stuffing the popcorn down because this is really intense. So, I’m just saying, yes, that’s where you are. No wonder it’s difficult. No wonder feelings might be coming up for you.

Here’s another thing I want to say. And it’s kind of an affirmation. Which is I firmly believe that whatever we are given in terms of our emotional content, we can learn how to navigate and manage. So you are not you and completely unable to manage your own experience such that you have to jump off a bridge. You’re born, you are here, you have the tools to learn how to be a successful woman in this life. And when I say successful, I mean happy. I mean learning to be you in such a way that you could relax into you and wake up in the morning and go, “Good to be me. Glad that I’m me.” Right now, you are not glad that you’re you.

Cydney: Yeah, I feel really insecure on multiple levels.

Marc: Yeah. So when is the times that you feel most secure?

Cydney: That’s a good question. Because I feel like I’m in an almost consistent state of insecurity, like insecure in my body, insecure with financial things, insecure with the emotional realm of other people. So maybe the security is around, I have a group of women that I feel are really empowered, conscious women. And I think I feel the most secure when I’m just within their energy, when I’m with them.

Marc: How often are you with them?

Cydney: Fairly frequently. I usually see somebody at least on a weekly basis from that group. And we try to get together every couple of weeks.

Marc: Okay. And when you are with them and you feel more secure, can you just say a few more words about what that means for you, “I feel more secure.” Like, just give me more words to describe that experience.

Cydney: I feel like the outside worry of financial things seems to dissolve. I feel fully accepted with every emotion that I’m feeling. I don’t feel like if a weird thing came up, a weird experience came up, and that needed to be expressed, there was no judgment. And I can be fully embraced, hugged energy-wise, whatever that is. There’s just no judgment with them. And I think that that is what feels really secure is that I can feel listened to and heard, as well.

Marc: Great. I like this word or this term, feeling secure because I think it’s an important feeling for you because like you say, you generally do not feel that. You are living in a heightened state of insecurity about a lot of different things. So what I’m looking for right now in this part of our conversation is some good medicine for you that works.

I’m looking for good medicine.

And I think we found it. And what the good medicine is, is because your emotional body has been living in the state, the zip code, the country called insecurity, that’s what you know. And that’s what you go to. That’s your home base in a strange way. You don’t really know anything different. You’ll occasionally lapse into security here and there. But it’s infrequent. And it’s not what feels like your normal state to you.

So oftentimes – many times on the road to transformation, on the road to healing, instead of focusing on the thing I want to get rid of, attack my binge eating, attack my overeating, get rid of my emotional eating, instead of focusing on the thing that we don’t like, it’s oftentimes very helpful to focus on that which replaces the thing that we don’t like, that which is a major improvement on the thing we want to get rid of.

So, instead of focusing on everything that doesn’t work for you in terms of food, and body, and weight, and health, I want to focus on what actually does work and begin to help that expand. So what does work, is when you feel secure. You have a place where you feel secure. It is with this group of women, or different women from that group.

So what I would love for you to do is to make it really conscious with them and let them know, “Hey, I really want to work on feeling secure in my life. And I really want to work on being able to hold that feeling.” It is all about holding a feeling so it lasts longer.

I might all of a sudden be relaxed because I took a nice walk outside and then I sit down, and then I look at my email, and I start to get freaked out again. So what can I do to hold that feeling of relaxation more? Do I wait till I look at my inbox?

Or do I look at my inbox and take some deep breaths and remind myself to hold this feeling that I just got from walking outside and see if I could bring it into my email?

So what I’m simply saying is I want you to have that feeling more and more and highlight it so that your friends know, “I want to work on security”, so when we’re together, I would love to just play and practice with feeling secure. And once I get to that feeling from the conversation that we have, I would just love for you to help facilitate me and just take a few moments and breathe. And do nothing but feel secure. And feel the pure feeling of what that feels like. It’s a feeling that you’re not used to holding.

So I want to help you help yourself train yourself to feel that a little longer. Instead of feeling it for 10 seconds, feel it for 20. Instead of feeling it for 2 minutes, feel it for 4 minutes. Instead of 10 minutes for 30, to keep on upping how long you can hold that frequency for, you can hold that state. So part of holding that state more is putting intention into it. Part of putting intention into it is noting, “Oh, I have this feeling in these circumstances. Let me make it more deliberate, more conscious, enlist my friends in supporting me. ‘Hey, I don’t even know how to do this. Give me some ideas, ladies. What do you think?’”

So just make it a creative kind of exploration. And within that, I want you to be able to have a moment where you can be silent, close your eyes, take in a deep breath, and feel what it feels like to feel secure in that moment, and to breathe and relax into that because that’s the feeling that we’re going for.

Because the reality is there’s going to be all kinds of craziness from now until the time you die. They’re all sort of problems, challenges, surprises, emotions, even for people who have no eating issues and have the perfect body. Life still has its ups and downs. So this is about you learning that I can still have security within a world that’s insecure. It’s learning to have those moments. It’s kind of paradoxical. But all of a sudden they start to balance each other out more.

And one of the reasons why you’re confused about what to eat and you don’t know what to do, what’s right, what’s wrong is because really you’re confused about you. So it’s less about the food quite frankly. So you’re not going to be less confused about food until you get less confused about being you. Makes sense?

Cydney: Yeah.

Marc: And what I’m saying is, to be less confused about being you is to understand that it’s natural to be where you are right now, learning how to regulate difficult emotions. You’re learning how to manage your own kind of stormy waters because you have a lot of energy and a lot of power, and a lot of emotions. And it really scares the bejesus out of you. So at some point it will not scare you because you will begin to see it’s power.

Even anger, when you want to kill someone, you want to kill your mother, you’re so angry at her, that is really potential energy for creation. You just haven’t figured out how to point it in that direction yet. So, again, a great place to start is to begin to invoke a feeling that you’ve never really had to a great degree, which is, “I’m safe, home base. I’m secure right now. Let me bask in that for a moment”, because you have to give yourself that gift, otherwise you’ll never have it.

And it’s a spiritual kind of journey where you really have to seek it out.

You have to seek it. You have to be a little humble. You have to be willing to go through more fire. And I know you’ve gone through a lot of fire already. But the fire is not making your belly thinner. It really isn’t.

In fact, what I would love to see you do is to start to feel secure with that belly. Believe it or not, you can actually feel secure with that belly. It might not be your ideal body for you. But there’s a place where you can go, “Okay, let me just relax into this for a little while. And not have to change it. My husband loves me. My friends love me. Okay, I’m not loving me. That’s one person. Is there anybody else I’m trying to impress? Yeah, it would be nice if maybe everybody looked at me and thought I was really hot.” Okay, I give you that. Yeah, sometimes you have it, sometimes you don’t.

But what I’m asking you to do is to start to notice where you can bring in a sense of security to places that you feel previously didn’t deserve it. What if you went and you just worked out? And you weren’t working out to burn fat or build muscle, you were working out just to feel good about being in your body.

What would make you feel good about being in your body, when you moved? Without trying to fix something, shape-shift something and change it, I don’t know that you’re there yet. I don’t know that you’re at the place where you have the wherewithal to make the body what you want it to be right now. Body is not cooperating right now with your desires. What I think it is doing though, is your body is being a very interesting teacher for you.

Cydney: Yeah, she is.

Marc: And in a weird way you can relax into that a little more. And go, “Oh, my body is teaching me.” Because the truth is, your body has been teaching you forever and you’ve learned some good lessons so far. You’ve learned a lot of things that don’t work for you. So, my assumption is you’re continuing to learn. And the learning is heating up right now. So I’ve been talking a lot, and I’m wondering kind of what’s going on for you. Any thoughts, feeling, insights? What’s happening?

Cydney: I feel myself like getting internally emotional thinking about creating security with my women tribe and what that’s going to look like. Because you’re right. I go just into the sort of rabbit hole of, okay, I have these emotions now. I’m thinking about it. And I guess I was just feeling a little bit emotional because, to recognize what true security feels like, I know it’s going to be really foreign and at the same time, it’s eventually going to feel really good. And I’m sure I’ll cry about it.

Marc: Good!

Cydney: And it will be interesting to see how that pans out because I know that my friends will want to help me with that for sure.

Marc: Lucky lady.

Cydney: Yeah. Good spiritual group. So definitely. And, yeah, the working out thing, yeah I get pulled back and forth with, “can I just be in the gym to just drop into my body and move”. I would say that there has been very slight incremental progression towards that over the past year, away from extreme lifting and running. I have let go of the running because it was too much. So it was just trying to find the joy in what I did like doing in the gym and dropping into that, but learning to let go of how it’s going to morph me because I still have that attachment of, can it morph me into something else?

Marc: Sure, I get it.

Cydney: Yeah. What else? Let’s see. I know that I’ve just always had fear on the backburner. And it comes forward a lot in life in various ways. So it’s learning to:

Continue to relax into being more comfortable with being uncomfortable…

which I think goes hand-in-hand with like learning security, as well, because I have to have the experience of both of those. I have to have sort of the yin and yang of security and then what it’s like to be in a state of insecurity, but not flip my ship.

Marc: Exactly. Well put. So I want you to think of your emotions as your guru. I want you to think of your emotions as your gold, as your beautiful little children. They’re just great, they are wonderful. I don’t care what it is. Could be anger, could be fear, could be resentment, could be excitement? Sometimes you’re going to use the word emotional and you won’t even know what emotions you’re feeling because there are a lot of them going on at once.

And your job is to make your emotions your guru by feeling them and not thinking about them or not thinking about what to do with them, or not thinking about why they are there or why they shouldn’t be there. It’s you just starting to drop into feeling. Because as you drop into feeling, you’re training your body to properly metabolize because emotions need to be felt. Food needs to be eaten and digested. Emotions need to be felt and processed, just in a very natural way oftentimes.

Cydney: Yeah, I know there’s a lot stuck below the heart chakra for me. I know there’s a lot of the anger and things because when I started working on some chakra work and I went into my solar plexus, that kind of cracked it open. And then I just started crying. And it was kind of like I got that feeling like, “thank you”. As if that part of me was saying, “Thank you so much for coming to serve me now, to come to recognize that this is happening, that we’re going to go through this now.”

Marc: Yay, good for you. That’s what I’m saying. Your body is a genius.

Our bodies are geniuses.

And we literally aren’t given the keys to the kingdom or the queendom. We’re not given the real manual about how to operate it so well.

And sometimes we just have to learn it into our later years, meaning once you graduate out of your parents’ house and once you’re more self-aware and once you are an adult, then we can begin to figure things out in a whole different way. And that’s what you’re doing right now. And I would love for you to just have some compassion and love for yourself on this journey and know that, “Wow, I’m going through the gauntlet right now in my life.”

Emotions are going to come up for you. They could be very intense. I want you to think that the more intense your emotions are, in a strange way, the better. Because it means the more power you have, the more deeply you feel. People get scared of the intensity of their emotions and then they judge it or they put a story around it. “Oh, my God. I’m going to kill someone.” And we try to literalize it. “Oh, my God, this means that this person is really a jerk because I’m so mad at them.”

Whereas, okay the anger is intense, we’ll be with it, we breathe, and then we do our best to explore it. Okay, what just happened? Is this for me? Is it about the other person? Is it about both? And maybe you talk to one of your friends and you start to dissect it a little bit more.

But the feeling itself means that you’re alive, that you’re human, and that you pack a lot of energy. And energy transforms. It’s neither created nor destroyed. It morphs. So that’s what the laws of thermodynamics tell us, that energy is not created or destroyed. It’s there. It morphs. It changes form. So your intense emotions that seem unmanageable to you will change form into fuel for your power and your growth and who you want to be in this world. And I think it’s slowly starting to happen for you. This is that time when you’re turning that corner. And it feels like you have some good pieces in place. I am thrilled for you that you have a good community of support. That’s worth its weight in gold, for sure.

Cydney: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, I feel like that there is so much power within me that I do fear that because sometimes I see somethings come out and I’m like, oh, man. The potential energy that is in me is immense. But because the history of learning how to navigate or push away the emotional context, that’s almost too big, I’ve got to push that away.

Marc: And you’re learning how not to do that. You’re learning how to not shortcut yourself and start a whole different part of your journey, which is to allow your emotional life to be part of your life.

Cydney: Yeah.

Marc: And that is a rich place. And as you let that rich place be what it is, as you water that garden, as you let it grow organically and let it be organically, what happens is your relationship with food and body will naturally start to find its rightful place. It will naturally start to heal because you’re putting first things first.

Changing the body so I can be happy, I see it work one out of a thousand times for people. And I mean that. I wish it was more. It’s such a failure of a strategy. It’s pretty much akin to buying a lottery ticket. Someone’s going to win, but not a lot of people. It’s just not good odds.

So the good news is you’re on your journey. You’re on the road. And I think you’ve got some good tools. You’ve got some good skills. You’ve got some good people around you. You have a good relationship. So the pieces are in place for you to just start to give birth to yourself in a whole different way. I’m excited for you.

Cydney: That sounds good. It’s exciting.

Marc: It is. It really is. So, I would love to have a follow-up session with you in a bunch of months and just kind of check in and see how life is unfolding for you. And, Cydney, I just so appreciate you being so real and so honest about your journey and letting us in and sharing some of the juicy details. Because so much of what you shared is so much of who we all are and what we go through. So, I just want to thank you for your courage and your generosity there. Very, very, very much appreciated.

Cydney: You’re welcome. Thank you so much for your generosity. This has been a pleasure.

Marc: Yay, same for me and hopefully for everybody else listening out there. So, let’s wrap up. And I will say, thanks for tuning in, everyone. There’s always more to come. Once again, I’m Marc David, on behalf of the Psychology of Eating Podcast. And we’ll see you in the next episode.

Podcast Episode 123: Letting Go of A Problematic "Belly Image"

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