Home » The Psychology of Eating Podcast Episode #137: Difficulty Gaining Weight – It’s More Painful Than You Think

The Psychology of Eating Podcast Episode #137: Difficulty Gaining Weight – It’s More Painful Than You Think

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Podcast Episode 137: Difficulty Gaining Weight - It's More Painful Than You Think

Chloe developed anorexia at age 14, and though she was able to pull herself out of the the restrictive behaviors, she never fully dealt with the feelings of unworthiness and unlovability that were underlying the eating disorder.

Before long, anxiety and obsessive thoughts about food and body grew into orthorexia (fixation on a healthy or pure diet), exercise addiction, and late-night binge eating. Now Chloe is struggling to regain some of the weight she’s lost, and finding it to be the toughest challenge yet.

Tune in as Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, helps Chloe map out a plan for weight gain that she can embrace with a sense of hope and dignity.

Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:

Marc: Welcome, everybody. I’m Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. Here we are in The Psychology of Eating Podcast. And I’m with Chloe today. Welcome, Chloe.

Chloe: Hi, Marc. How are you doing?

Marc: I’m doing good. I’m glad you’re here. Chloe, I’m going to just say a couple of words to viewers and listeners who might be new to the podcast. Here’s the deal. Here’s what we’re doing. Chloe and I haven’t met before. We’re going to do a session right now and see if we can pack as much wallop and insight and ideas and wisdom into one session so we can move her forward in terms of whatever’s happening around food, body, health. And from that place, Miss Chloe, if you could wave your magic wand and get whatever you want, what would that be from this session?

Chloe: It would be to forget about health actually. Oddly enough, I love health, and I love nutrition. And I love all of that, but I’ve seen how it has really controlled my life.

And I just want to get to a place where I am healthy and that healthy for me would not to be fixated on the health.

Marc: Mm hmm. How do you fixate on your health? How does that look for you?

Chloe: So I went through a period, high school, I was anorexic. And then that turned to, okay, I realize that I need food. I will eat, but I’ll only eat certain amounts or certain types of food. So very much orthorexia. And then I became very lenient on my food, and then it was okay, by controlling not what I’m eating, I’m going to control exercise. And then it turned into over exercise.

And then back to sort of orthorexia and all of that. I’ve done a lot of healing work myself. I went to France for two months in November and October with my mom and my sisters. And that was a time of absolutely zero exercise, absolutely zero food restrictions, all the butter, cheese, lard, bacon, everything, the gluten, everything. And I was able to do it, and it was great.

So I’ve come so far, and I’ve really been able to really stop fixating on it a lot. But here’s the thing. So I, one, I have an autoimmune disease. I have vitiligo. So I came back from France, and my skin, I get white patches everywhere. My skin was going insane. So I just know back off of gluten, all right. So I’m trying to incorporate this flexibility with eating and everything but keeping with the gluten free because it is obviously harming my body.

But lately I will gain weight, which is good for me. I need to gain weight. I’m underweight. I will gain weight. And I just I can’t keep it. So I’ll get up to like 110 pounds, which is so great for me. And then boom! All of a sudden I know three weeks later I’m 93 pounds again. So I need to stop that yo-yo thing.

And I know exercise still plays a big role in it. I’ve done really well at limiting my exercise. It used to be six hours a day, and now I try to never go over an hour and fifteen. I’m keeping it to an hour really.

So I’m just trying to incorporate just healthier exercise, healthier relationship to my body.

I want to gain weight so badly, but yet there’s something holding me back because the second I do I fear and I go back to old routines.

And I go back to old thought processes, not necessarily old thoughts processes even. I’m good. I’m healthy. I know that food is great and that exercise can be great, but that I can overdo it. But there’s something psychologically holding me back that doesn’t allow me to actually full on thrive and maintain a healthy weight.

Marc: So what strategies do you do when you, okay, you get to 110 and then something clicks. And you go oh my God, I got to lose this. What do you do so the weight comes off?

Chloe: So it’s not even like an, “Oh, I’ve got to lose this. A month ago I was at 110 pounds, and I loved it.” That’s the thing that’s weird. I absolutely I look in the mirror. I love my body. I love how my pants fit. I love how I look, how full my face is. It’s just then I start thinking like, oh, I’m normal again. I can start eating normal again because like every hour and a half, two hours, I’m eating something.

And so it’s been an issue, a challenge, to try and physically gain the weight as I’ve had a lot of digestive issues. So it’s like how do you eat so much food but keep your digestion well? And that’s been a really big challenge for me. So I’ve been doing small meals throughout the day, which if I do smaller meals, then my digestion doesn’t seem to hurt as much.

But that is making me fixate on food every hour and a half, two hours, which I’ve been trying to not. I pack food to snack. Just forget about it. But it does. It brings me back every single hour and a half/two hours to my body, I have to eat. I have to gain weight. And it’s becoming almost more of a chore and not something that is happy, you know?

Marc: Mm hmm. So still help me understand so when the weight comes off, how does it come off? Is it that you’re not eating these small, regular meals, and you just eat?

Chloe: I got back to regular just like three big meals a day, two snacks. And I go back to not excessive, excessive exercise, but exercise that would probably on the higher end for a normal person as in someone that doesn’t need to gain weight. And I think I forget that I’m still underweight. My body is still very fragile right now.

Marc: Mm hmm. So I’m just trying to understand one piece. So still there’s a part of you that when you realize you’ve realized you’ve reached a certain weight, even though I’m at 110. You look in the mirror. I like how I look. I feel great. You’ll change your exercise all of a sudden, or you’ll change your eating patterns. So I’m just saying there’s something in you that goes, oh, I am now going to change this way of eating that I’ve been doing, to this other way of eating. So that happens. There’s a shift in terms of eating and exercising, correct?

Chloe: Yeah, and I think what I fear is when does the weight gain stop? And I think that’s a big thing I fear, especially since I went through the anorexia and I’ve heard so many things of your set point will naturally rise higher. And I think I get to that point where it’s like, okay, I’m good now. Stop. I don’t need to gain any more. But if I’m not trying to gain, I’m one of those (my whole family is like this), we’re naturally really skinny. And if we aren’t trying to put on weight, we’re one of the 10% that when we’re stressed and everything, we lose weight.

Marc: Mm hmm. So do you have a number in your mind of how much you want to weigh?

Chloe: I know that I need to be around 115 to be healthy. My sister she is a couple inches taller than me, but she’s 120. And I look at her, and I go that’s the body that I was supposed to have. But she’s a couple inches taller so around 115 I would say is my ideal weight.

Marc: So what do you think would happen if you got to 115, in your mind? Would you be okay with that? Because you’re saying that you know that that’s your healthy weight. But I’m just wondering where you would go if you were at 115 right now. Would you be worried that oh, I’m going to gain more.

Chloe: See, I think that’s my thing. I fear being at that 115. As much as I want to, and as much as I, “Chloe, you got to eat, and you got to stop exercising as much,” all that. I have all these good intentions, but I feel like yeah, in the back of my mind, I fear it a little bit. And there’s something, that fear is holding me back from actually accomplishing it.

And I think that once I get to that weight, it’s almost going to be like I’m an adult now.

I’m not a little child. I step into my woman body, and that’s you know..

Marc: A little scary.

Chloe: Yeah.

Marc: Yeah. How old are you, Chloe?

Chloe: Twenty-one.

Marc: Twenty-one. Mm hmm. How are you doing right now? What’s happening?

Chloe: I don’t know. There’s some emotion. It’s something I want so badly, but yet for some reason, I won’t let myself have it.

Marc: Mm hmm. Yeah. We’re human, and we do that sometimes. There’s a couple of different parts of us that are sort of at war and fighting each other. And one part of me wants to be healthy, and one part of me sabotages it. And one part of me wants to do the right thing, and another part of me doesn’t. So I get that you’re in the battle right now, and it’s not easy. And the good news is you’ve identified the battle.

Chloe: Oh, I’ve worked so much on this, so much. Through myself, by working with myself, I went from six hours a day of exercising to one hour. I’ve gone from eating half a banana a day to I’ve never counted calories, but I probably get up to like 5,000 a day. So I do eat a lot, but I know it’s like no matter how much, because I went to France and I ate all. I had like four pastries a day, and I wasn’t exercising at all. And I lost weight.

So I know that really this is a mental thing for me.

If I tell myself that I’m going to stay small, I’m going to stay small no matter what I’m eating, no matter what I’m exercising.

Marc: So are you in school?

Chloe: I am in school right now.

Marc: What school? Where? What are you doing?

Chloe: I’m at Brigham Young University, and I’m studying psychology and French. I just went through a year program also. So I just finished that in January. And I’m a personal chef, a yoga instructor, and I am the vitamin specialist at a health food store.

Marc: And are you living in a dorm? Are you living at home?

Chloe: In an apartment.

Marc: By yourself?

Chloe: Two other girls.

Marc: Mm hmm. How’s that experience, rooming with a couple of girls and going through your journey with food and body?

Chloe: It’s funny. I’ve been through lots of apartments and lived with lots of girls. And it just amazes me that I am not the only one that has food problems. Heck, my roommates do not eat, and when they eat, they eat crap. Yeah so it’s been interesting. But my roommates this year are very, very I never see them. They’re really low key, and I’m usually never home. So not too much communication is going there. I’m not really living with friends right now. They’re more just acquaintances. Hi, how are you?

Marc: So where you do imagine you would like to be in five or six years if you were exactly, exactly who you wanted to be, where you wanted to be? Five or six years, what might that look like?

Chloe: I would be confident in my body. There would be no more yo-yoing in weight so I would be stable. I would have my period. And that’s a big thing I want to talk about you about also. I haven’t had a period in eight years. And so I would have my period. I would have good digestion. I would be living my passions. I would be teaching yoga. I’d be traveling. I would be really getting my business going which I’m doing a lot of that right now.

So I really am stepping and working towards that. So you really caught me at the really progressing and improving right now. I have a good mindset, a good, clear head of where I need to go.

But again, there is that something that is just blocking me from actually getting there.

Marc: Mm hmm. Are you dating?

Chloe: No, I used to date a lot. The past year, I’d say actually, I have just I’ve been too fixated on myself which is something that I recognize. And I hate it, but I’m putting so much energy on me, on I need to gain weight, I need to do this, I need to do that. It’s taking away my energy from just being me and giving love and receiving love. And I recognize that.

Marc: Do you feel lonely in that way? Or you’re just like hey, this is where I’m at, and until I’ve got the energy, I’m focused on me? Like what’s the feeling around that?

Chloe: I’m a social butterfly so this past couple months has been weird that I’ve been more introverted. I have friends. I see friends a lot. I am working more on just school and work right now so I’m focusing on that. And I’ve sort of been okay with that actually for this semester. There’s a time to be super social and go out, and I do want to start incorporating of that, but I do recognize that right now is just a very big me time.

Marc: Mm hmm. So talk to me about your health one more time. What’s happening in your body health wise that you would want to change, not contexting it in terms of weight?

Chloe: So I’ve worked a lot. I’ve had terrible digestion for eight years and finally, finally this past couple months digestion is pretty much gone. But I think I do have a fear of it coming back. It’s something I’ve lived with for so long so every time I do eat, I would love to just go eat a huge Chipotle burrito and just down it all in a second. I can’t. My digestion will not let me.

So I want to get to a place where I don’t have to think about my digestion.

I don’t have to focus on it. Right now it’s like I have to make sure that I eat certain foods because it’s like otherwise I’m not digesting. If I’m not digesting, then I’m not sleeping, and then I’m not happy. And that’s usually when I try and over exercise is when I feel that gross food that I stuff in my stomach. So and then what was the rest of the question?

Marc: Yeah, I was just asking you to describe your health situation independent of weight, and you started talking about digestion.

Chloe: Yeah, it would also be to just I think a big thing is every single time I go home, I lose weight. And I think it’s because they see me, and they go, oh Chloe, she’s anorexic. She’s orthorexic. She’s still fixated on all of that. I’m like I’m I’ve changed so much. I’ve done so much healing and all of that. And I feel like every time I go home, I’m put back into that, “Oh, you’re broken.” And I’m just like, “No, just let me be me.’’

I want to be able to be like, “Hey, family, I’m going on a run. I’ll be back in an hour,” without it being a problem, with that being a healthy thing. I don’t want that to be, “Oh, she’s getting into the exercise thing again because exercise is healthy.”

And I think that’s something I’ve learned that I need to not be afraid of it. I need to incorporate it into a healthy lifestyle. Hiking with friends, going on a run, biking, swimming- that stuff is healthy, I don’t need to, just because I’m skinny, eradicate that and have that never be healthy. I need to find movement that is healthy and enjoyable and do it in the right amounts.

Marc: Mm hmm. Who’s most challenging for you when you go back home in terms of you feeling like wow, they’re seeing me as this person I used to be- sister, mother, dad, who?

Chloe: It used to be mom, but going to France really healed that relationship, and me and mom are really good right now. I’m really open with her. She knows where I’m going. She sees the progress that I’ve made. My older sister is I would say the biggest. I’m like oh, I don’t want to see her for Christmas like at all.

She’s very much on the you need to be on meds. You are anxious. You need like all this stuff. And I’m like that’s not me at all. You’re putting this perception of me that’s not me. And so then I get there, and they’re all staring, she’s staring at my plate when I’m eating at dinner. And it’s like stop it. Let me just eat my dinner. Yeah.

Marc: Yeah, I get it. So tell me how old you are again.

Chloe: Twenty-one.

Marc: Twenty-one. So a couple thoughts. It feels to me like you have a really great big picture view of where you want to go, and you have a pretty good big picture view of where you’ve been in the past. And at the same time you have a pretty good big picture view of wow, in the past, look at where I was then and look at where I am now.

And one of the things I hear you both kind of honoring and struggling with at the same time is this sense of wow, I’ve come so far! But at the same time, there’s certain situations, mostly family, where that can almost pull you back. And you know you’re on the up swing. You know you’ve come far, and it’s this weird place it feels like you’re in right now. I’m just trying to paraphrase some of what I think you’ve said to me.

Chloe: Yeah.

Marc: And you’re in this place where you do have momentum. You can see that you’ve made so much progress but still, in a weird way, you’re in this very new place right now. And this new place is wow, I’m a lot healthier and like whoa, so can I make these next steps?

Can I get to the place where I hit my natural weight, and it’s okay and I can relax and I can chill and I can be me, I can exercise, I could eat, I could just be me?

Chloe: I think that’s it. I’m struggling with I just want to be me. I just want to be able to go ride my bike if I want to ride my bike without having these guilty feelings of, “Oh, my gosh, if mom saw me riding my bike, she would be freaking out.” It’s like I just want to, you know, because I think it puts me in this regimented sort of life even though I am still going out and riding my bike and doing all of that. I feel regimented about it. It’s like no, I want this to be spontaneous. But I feel like other people’s judgments doesn’t allow that even when I’m away from them. I still feel it a little bit.

But when I gained the weight, 110 pounds, super excited to show my family, right. I’m healthy. All of that. My sister and my brother were coming to visit me. The two weeks before they came, dropped it down to 93. It just happens. And I was like, wait, what just happened? You should have seen me like two weeks ago. I was healthy. I was strong.

So it’s been a struggle for me to gain weight healthily.

I went through a lot of binging cycles of I would just like shoot, I’m so skinny and eat, eat, eat, eat, eat, eat and then just have bad digestion so then want to exercise it off. That’s all gone. I completely worked with that and everything. But so I struggle with getting enough calories in every day with keeping my digestion well and all of that.

Marc: Okay. So let me see if I can maybe help you with some insights by giving you or offering a different way of how to look at your situation, how to context it. So to me, we can talk about your relationship with food and body and what’s going on from so many different angles. We can talk about it from a health and a metabolic angle. We could talk about it from a psychological angle. We could look at it from your relationship to your family. A lot of different ways.

What I’d like to do is take the widest possible view sometimes because for you at twenty-one, I think that’s going to help. And what I mean is this. Let’s forget about food and body and weight for a moment and just talk about you for a second and what would be happening for you even if all the food and body and weight stuff wasn’t even there, if this was a non-issue.

You would still be a human being alive on planet Earth. And you would still be learning and growing chances are because we’re all out there learning and growing. Some of us have eating challenges. Some don’t. Some are obsessed about our bodies. Some are not. So we’re all going through stuff.

And my guess is that there’s a phase of life that you’re in right now being twenty-one, being away from home, but still being very connected and very close with your family. And there’s a part of you that’s individuating from your family. Individuating means I’m becoming my own person. Age twenty-one is right when that starts to happen.

So from a psychological standpoint when you study life cycles and for a long time we’ve had research on seven-year life cycles, and by the end of the third seven-year life cycle (seven times three, twenty-one), there’s an interesting transition. It’s why, I don’t know, traditionally in so many states you can vote at the age of twenty-one. You can get drafted at the age of twenty-one even though it’s all getting lowered, understanding that we become somebody different at twenty-one. We become a little more soulful. We become more mature. There’s a something that happens. A new part of us is born.

So to me what’s happening, independent, forgetting about the food and body stuff, what’s happening is the woman in you is being born.

Are you the woman in you yet? No, because you’re still twenty-one, and part of you is still a girl. And at the same time, part of you is like whoa, wait a second, there’s this whole other thing calling me. There’s this whole other destiny that’s happening.

And I forget what you said, but you kind of made this connection before of saying something to the effect of (and I’m paraphrasing) but if I gain this weight, then I become more of this woman. And I’m not that little girl anymore.

Chloe: Marc, you’re spot on because I definitely feel that. I know I’m moving. I’m growing. I’m progressing. And I am. But I think the one thing that I’m holding onto to keep me young, to keep me a kid, is my body. You look at my body, and I look like a teenage boy. And I think that’s yeah, I’m almost afraid of the power that I’m going to have. And exactly like where I’m going to go.

Marc: Yeah, so Chloe. It’s beautiful. Let’s pause there for a moment. And I want to say that if you’re afraid of that power and afraid of where you can go, that’s perfectly reasonable. What you’re expressing to me, there’s nothing wrong with you because humans are funny creatures.

Not only are we afraid of failing, but often times we’re afraid of success. Not only am I afraid of dropping into the worst part of who I could be, there’s a part of me that’s afraid of dropping into the best part of who I could be. So that’s a very human experience, and all I’m saying is that’s an understandable fear.

So in an ideal world, I would love for you to have a little more space for yourself around that and understand that that’s very human. It’s pretty common. And you are in that transition zone where your future is pulling you. Your future is magnetizing you towards it and your past, which is going to be represented by your family.

And I know they love you, and I know they want the best for you, and our families are family. And they often, often relate to us in the past us and because they’re not with you every step along the way, they don’t get the present you. They might not even get the future you. And it’s not their problem. It’s not their fault. They’re living their own life. Your older sister, she’s in her own experience. But all I’m saying is often times the weight of who our family thinks we are or who we used to be in relation to our family, you said something. You said, gosh, even when I’m away from them, I can still feel it.

Chloe: Yeah.

Marc: Well, here’s the thing. You might be right. You truly might still be feeling them wanting you to be this person who you used to be or thinking you’re that person who you used to be. And that’s your task is to free yourself of that whether that’s actually true or not because there’s a part of you where it’s you holding you in that place.

Like you said, like wait a second, if I become this new person, then I’m not the kid anymore. I’m not this young girl anymore. I’m not my parents’ child anymore. I’m becoming an adult.

So there’s a part of you that’s going to want to hang out in a 93 pound body.

I’m not saying that’s all of you, but there’s different forces.

There’s different personas inside of us. There’s Chloe a student. There’s Chloe the yoga teacher. There’s Chloe the daughter. There’s Chloe the friend. There’s Chloe the really cool chick. There’s Chloe who gets crazy sometimes. So we have all these people in us. It’s great! And sometimes one or two of them tends to take charge and tends to take over.

And right now there’s some voices in you, and this is all I want to say natural and normal as you’re progressing and stepping into your womanhood more, stepping into your power, even starting to intuit your power and feel what’s there. You’re going to get afraid. You’re going to want to move towards it on one hand, and the old part of you is going to want to pull you away, come back here Chloe.

So let’s just say that on some level that dance is happening. And your job is to freak out a little less when that’s happening. It would be no different than if your two roommates all of a sudden got into a war with each other. And all of a sudden they’re just bitching and moaning at each other, and then they come to you and each one complains to you. Now you could get sucked into that. Oh, my God, who’s side should take? Wait, is she right, is she right? And you could get all pulled in. Or there could be another part of you that goes huh, they’re doing their thing. Understandable. I could see her position. I could see her position. I’m not going to get super sucked into either one. I kind of want to take the high road here. How do I stay in my center when these two people are going at each other around me?

So all I’m trying to suggest there is for you to relax a little more into the challenge that you’re facing right now.

Your head is trying to figure it all out.

Chloe: Yeah.

Marc: You’re working really hard to figure it out, and I think what’s happening is you’re starting to hit a place because you’re a smart girl and you have figured out things. And you do figure out things. So there’s nothing wrong with that. And occasionally there’s certain things that are not figure-out-able by me spinning it around in my head and trying to solve it that way.

Chloe: I love that. This is my thing. I’m always trying to think okay, I got to eat right because I got to gain weight. And yeah, I am doing that. Okay. Before when I’ve gained weight in like November, I finally was like okay, very intuitive. Let’s not think about it. I forgot about food. I literally did. It was glorious. It was gone. I was having fun with friends. I was going out. I was doing all of that because I wasn’t, again, on those meals and all of that, I lost weight.

My body will just naturally lose weight unless I am like forcing it. Like last night I come, and this is where I struggle. It’s like I come home, I eat dinner, and then it’s like an hour and a half later I’m like I’m not hungry, but I know I should eat before bed. And then so I will eat, but it’s like my body is not calling for food. So if my body is not calling for food and I eat, I’m not going to digest. And that’s something I’ve learned.

But yet I still do it because I feel like I’m not fixed until I gain a certain amount. But it’s like where is that balance of letting go but then having my body be healthy? I really just need that period. I need weight on me. They get that.

Marc: So I think I understand. So let me make a couple of suggestions there. Right now the way you’re framing is I want to be intuitive. I want to be natural. I want to be in this flow. And I got to fixate on food, which is exactly sort of the problem in the first place. I was fixated on food. So I want to be unfixated on it, but if I unfixate on it, then I’m actually not going to be doing myself a favor.

Chloe: And I’m not progressing. Yeah.

Marc: Okay, so that’s the dilemma so now we’re going to reframe the dilemma so it’s not as much of a dilemma anymore. And here’s what I mean. Right now the way you’re framing it, the way you’re naming it, the way you’re describing it to me is that you needing to attend to your body is you getting pulled back into an old pattern of fixating on food.

And I could see how it would feel that way because you’re focused on food. What I would like to suggest is that in the past the way you were in relationship with food was very different than it is now. In the past you were less healthy and less conscious and less aware. There were things/forces in your mind, in your body, in your emotions, in your heart that were operating that were pulling you into some darkness around food and body.

Now you’re a lot smarter. Now you have progressed. Now you have left certain patterns behind. So it is possible- it’s possible!- that one could be attending to one’s body and one’s diet and how one eats regularly and quite a bit but not from a place of obsession.

<h3It’s a place of I’m loving myself and taking care of myself because the truth is there will be times in your life and my life and all of our lives when we have to attend to the body a little more.

I got a cold. I got to attend to it more. Whoa, I broke my bone. I broke my foot. I got to really attend to my body. Whoa, I have to recover and be in physical therapy because I was in a car accident. You got to do exercise. You got to tend to your body. Does that mean you’re obsessive? No, it means you’re attending. If you ever have a child, you will be attending to that child and all its little needs. Are you obsessing over the kid? No, you’re doing what’s called for.

So what I’m trying to say to you is I think for you there’s a place where you could be eating your regular meals, and it’s not a burden. It’s not an obsession. But it’s, here’s me, Chloe, loving my body. Here’s me putting attention on it. And yeah, you’re right. It’s not this intuitive flow because right now if my arm is in cast, I just can’t be in an intuitive flow with my yoga. Ain’t going to happen! So do I beat myself up for that? Or do I just go okay, arm is in a cast, if I’m going to do yoga, I’m going to be lifting up this arm. Not this one.

Chloe: So here’s my thing with that. I love that. And I’ve been really working on that. With the regular meals though, if I’m not hungry, I still feel like it’s not okay to not eat. And I feel like that’s anorexic thoughts that come back. So here I am. It’s been two hours since I’ve eaten. In my mind, I go I should eat. My body is not saying eat at all. It’s not at all. What do I do in that situation?

Because I feel like my body can sometimes go for hours without eating. But I haven’t felt that. And I’m sort of missing it. I haven’t felt that I’m hungry let me eat in forever. And I want that feeling almost. I want that wow, I’m hungry. Now this food tastes so good. And I almost put food on me way too much that I just yeah…

Marc: So here’s—

Chloe: Sorry.

Marc: Another way to frame that challenge, yeah, I’m totally with you. Very commonly what happens is after we have dealt with certain eating disorders in our life, the body can become imbalanced so it is quite common for people who have been anorexic or bulimic to be recovered from it, so to speak, and their digestion is awful forever sometimes it feels like because it’s been offline for so long, and it’s been pulled in so many crazy directions.

So our digestion can be off. Our hormones could be off. Our appetite regulation is off so we don’t have our natural appetite. So right now to me where I place you on the map of things is that your body, your metabolism, your natural weight, and your natural appetite, and your natural digestion is not with you yet because of the patterns that your body was in in the past.

You are moving in the direction of recovering natural weight, natural health, natural appetite, natural digestion.

So you’re moving in that direction so I have every ounce of confidence that that is what you are doing, given what you’ve told me about your past, what you’ve told me about your present, and what you’ve told me about where you want to go.

So just so you know, I am supremely confident that you, Chloe, are on the right path because you’re doing the right things. So that challenge is you are not yet where you want to be. You are not yet where you know intuitively your body could be and ought to be. It’s no different than saying, I don’t know, you’re taking a road trip and you’re driving somewhere, and you’re halfway there. And you know something, you’re tired of driving. And you know something, you still have another four hours. And you know something? There’s no hotels on the road. So you’re going to be driving four hours. And you might have to stop and get a cup of coffee. You’re not where you want to be yet. And you’re not going back. You’re going to still stay on your road trip and head where you’re going. And you know where you’re going. And you know you’re going to get there, or you certainly hope you will, but you’re not there yet. And it kind of sucks.

So what I’m saying is that there’s a place where you have to really get right now that I am a young woman who is working hard to get where I want to go. There’s a place where I’m just going to ask you to step into a more mature place in you where you get oh, I really want to be where I want to be. I really want to get to where I want to get to, and I’m not there yet. So there’s a discomfort there. And there’s an anxiety, and there’s an anxiousness because I want to be there already. And a lot of your challenge, I think, is coming from just the stress of not being where you want to be.

Chloe: And forcing myself to try and be there.

Marc: Bingo! So understandable because you’re twenty-one. You got a ton of energy. It’s like, let’s do this! Let’s do it. So that makes perfect sense to me, and that’s a wonderful attribute to have. And alongside that this like come on, let’s do this already; let’s be there. You also have to understand that this is a process, and this is a journey. And that is a very adult distinction call. Deep breath. I’m not there yet. Deep breath. I’m working on this. Deep breath. I am uncomfortable right now. My digestion is not exactly where I want it to be. My appetite is not where I want it to be. My weight is not where I want to be. My thing with my family. And it’s not where you want it to be. And it’s in play.

So I’m all I’m trying to say is there’s a maturity piece in here.

There’s a personal growth piece in here where you step back just a little and look at your life and go okay, I’m not there yet.

What happens is you will jump out of your body into your head and keep trying to push yourself into the future. And it frustrates you because you end up living up here. And then what happens is the body isn’t exactly coming along because you’re doing a lot of thinking about this.

Chloe: Yeah.

Marc: So part of the next, I think, evolution for you, a piece of it, is to drop into your body just a little bit more. And what that means is to be more present with yourself, to be more present with how you feel. Do you tend to eat fast, moderate, slow?

Chloe: I’ve been slow and small is my thing right now. So I’m naturally, yes, super, super fast eater. After your training I have really come to slow down, chew my food. And so my digestion through that has improved so much, so much. So right now I’m a slow eater.

Marc: Beautiful. So here’s the thing.

From a very practical standpoint, in order to bring your digestion back online, you can’t overload it.

So eating small meals makes perfect sense for you because it’s going to take time. We don’t know how much time for your digestive system to begin to get accustomed to what it needs to do. So small meals, great. Eating slow, great. Just think every day that you do that practice, your body, your metabolism, your digestion is slowly getting stronger.

Now the weight thing, you naturalizing at your normal, correct weight, my very educated guess is it will come as you mature into this next phase of your life. Yes, there’s all these things about well, what should I eat? What should I eat? How should I eat? And oh my God, all these different factors are influencing how I eat and how I’m- I get that. We’re going to put that aside for a second.

And what I’m saying here is you’re in a time of your life, again, where you’re discovering who you are independent of your family, independent of your parents. You’re becoming a woman. And it’s a little scary. It’s a little scary because you’re not going to be that little girl anymore. And a part of you wants to be that little girl. So let’s have some compassion for that. It makes sense that you would want to stay that little girl. It makes sense that you want to stay connected to a certain kind of love and protection and past experience that felt good.

So you’re not quite ready yet to step into the woman’s body that you’re moving towards. And that’s okay. That’s perfectly okay. And you know something? You’re doing it at your pace. That’s what I hear. You’re doing it at the pace that works for you even though you want to get there, even though you push yourself, you’re actually going at the pace that’s most comfortable for you because you’re not 100% ready to be there. So that’s why I’m saying to you please, please, please Chloe don’t get down on yourself and don’t get sucked into the perfectionist part of you that’s I should be there already. How come I’m not there. This is holding me back. Man, actually no, you’re moving pretty fast for the kind of eating disorder you had and for where you’re at now, I’m telling you from my experience, you are moving fast. So you’re like in the top 5% of fast movers when it comes to transformation and healing and moving through eating issues and eating challenges.

Chloe: Well, and I never went to therapy or anything. This is all my will of I want to change. I want to get better.

Marc: Yeah, so that’s why I’m supremely confident in you. And what I’m saying is the strategies that you’ve used to get to this great place that you’re at right now aren’t exactly the strategies that are going to take you to the next place. What I am suggesting is yes, we are bringing along the strong-willed Chloe. We are bringing along the smart, motivated, I’m going to make this happen kind of girl that you are.

In addition, we are also looking to bring along a new part of you which is the part of you that relaxes for a moment and says, “Wait a second. I’m still twenty-one. I’m still figuring this stuff out. I’m not perfect. And today I just need to be a mess a little bit. Or today I need to cry. Today I need to be upset. Today I need to not know what the hell I’m doing. So I want you to have a little bit more permission to not be perfect in all this and to not have to be an A+ student. You get an A+. And for the whole course, but within that sometimes you just have to just be pass/fail a little bit. And you’re going to pass, but it might be with really you’re sort of average, or you’re sort of struggling to get to that pass point.

Chloe: Yeah.

Marc: So I’m asking you to hang out a little bit more there because when we’re in the princess stage for a woman, and when I say the word “princess” for people listening here, that’s not a negative or pejorative comment. It’s the archetype of the young woman which is where you’re at, Chloe. And in the princess stage, a young woman is discovering herself.

And she is largely referenced by other people- how other people feel about me, what their opinions are, do you love me, am I okay? And you’re stepping out of that very slowly into wait a second, I’m my own person. It doesn’t kind of matter what you think or it shouldn’t really that much that it ruins my day or ruins my life.

But you’re not quite there yet because up until twenty-one everybody’s telling you what to do and telling you who you are and who you should be. And now you’re slowly taking that on for yourself.

So you’re in this transition period where you’re not your own person 100%, but wow are you moving fast in that direction.

And you’re not there yet so your body is not going be there yet because part of your body is still the girl. And part of your body wants to be the woman. So it makes perfect sense to me. All I’m saying is it makes perfect sense that you would say to me, Chloe, wow, well I get to 110 but then I go back to 90 something. It’s almost like you saying, I start to step into more of my power as a woman but then I go back to being this little girl.

Chloe: Yeah.

Marc: So I go to myself, oh, it makes perfect sense. So I don’t want to fault you for that. And it’s less about fixing your body, even though that’s a piece of it, and it’s more about you really focusing on the places where you are growing into your own person and letting go of the opinions of others and finding in yourself when am I going to be ready to step into this other body. And if you’re not ready yet, that’s okay.

And you might be struggling a little bit. You might notice the weight gain and the weight drop and the weight gain and the weight drop. And I almost want to say to you, that’s okay. You should do that as long as you need to do that until you’re ready because sometimes we have to sit in our chair and go okay, I want to do this. I don’t want to this. And then we get up and we do it.

Chloe: That’s so true. I was telling my mom the other day, I was like, “Look, I wasn’t ready when I gained all that weight before.” And that’s why I went back because there was still more things I needed to learn and work through before I could have that body. I get a little bit frustrated right now though with I feel like it’s unhealthy that I’m this small and with that I need to have a period and all of that. And that’s what gets me in this whole take your time. And I’m like yeah, but I want to have kids one day.

Marc: Okay. So you’re going to have kids one day. So are you unhealthy at this weight? I’m going to say you are becoming healthier and healthier. That is your trajectory. So you can show me any human being, and I could probably show you where they could be healthier. So I wouldn’t phrase that you’re unhealthy at this weight.

I would phrase it as you have been gradually strengthening your body.

You’ve been making your body healthier. You’ve been making you healthier.

So where you are at right now is not an emergency. Where you’re at right now is not something that we need to bring you to the hospital. Where you’re at right now is not a fire alarm whatsoever. Where you’re at is where you’re at. And it’s the stepping stone to the next place.

So I would love for you, and I really mean this, to let go of the notion that I’m unhealthy. Okay. You are a young woman on a very fast moving line into getting healthier and healthier. You can’t be moving any faster. I’m telling you this. So you might as well relax because you’re still going to move at the same pace, maybe even a little faster when you relax. It’s a bit of a paradox. So but what I want to say about that is you have your eye on the prize. Yeah, you want to be healthier. Yeah, you want to have kids. Yeah, you want to have a baby. You have to make sure you have enough essential fats in your diet right now.

Chloe: Lots. Overloaded.

Marc: Okay. So that will slowly help your body get the signal that you’re safe and you’re okay. Your body is not ready to step into the woman body yet. But you are moving it in that direction. So having your period on the one hand is for you as a soul as a human being, that will be completely symbolic of you stepping more into your womanhood again. And you’re not 100% ready for that; therefore, your body won’t be 100% ready for that. And that’s no fault there because this is your unique journey. This is your development. I can find other girls who don’t have these issues. I could find girls who are way worse than anything you’ve ever dealt with. So we all have our own unique journey, and in your unique journey, your period is going to come back online when you’re ready to step into a different part of you.

And that different part of you is a little more patient. It’s more understanding. It’s a little more relaxed. It’s more trusting in who you are because right now even though you’ve had successes in healing yourself and transforming yourself, you haven’t quite gotten to the place where you’re trusting your body and where you’re trusting your life. You don’t trust those. And that’s what wants to happen.

Chloe: Well, they failed me before.

Marc: Yes

Chloe: But I think that’s why.

Marc: Understand.

So what I want to suggest is your body has never failed you, it’s only responded to how you have treated it and how it’s been treated by the world.

So the eating disorders and all the challenges that you face around body and body image you didn’t invent that, it’s actually not personal. You inherit that from the world. It’s like catching a flu. There are so many humans who deal with these same issues about food, body, weight, what’s going on, how do I control this, how do I manage this, why am I doing these behaviors, why can’t I control my thoughts? That’s because it is not personal.

So all I’m saying is you are trying your best to transcend a pretty fantastic challenge and in order to do that more and more at this stage of the game requires trust. Now you might find some more of that trust from a more religious place, a more spiritual place, you might find it just by beginning to look at your life and this is a big girl strategy.

You look at your life and go huh this is me Chloe I’m a smart girl let me look at the evidence; let me look at the facts. Here’s what’s happened so far, here’s how far I’ve come, here what happens when I effort. Look at the successes I’ve had based on where I was. Based on all that, it would be reasonable to assume that you will continue on a positive trajectory, based on how life has treated you in the past. So as you begin to trust more your body and your life and realize your body has never failed you. In fact, man has it held up!

Chloe: Yeah, I know right?

Marc: Your body has held up under extreme duress and it’s still with you and is still being nice to you.

And you’re alive. And you’re young. And you’re on an upward trajectory. I’m just giving you the good news right now.

Chloe: Mm hmm.

Marc: I’m just trying to paint the other side of the picture. I know it’s a challenge. Being in your twenties is turmoil. It is challenge. It is upheaval. It is exciting. It is amazing. It is magical. It’s all of it. Being in your twenties is the most bizarre package of energy, explosion, expansion. And what the hell is going on? Who am I? How do I fix this? How do I deal with this? Who are you people? It all happens at once.

So I’m just over here saying I know that because I’ve been you. I’ve been through this, and I’m just an older guy, older brother, who’s been down the journey, waving to you from the future, saying you’re going to get through this. And if you were me right now, if you were in your fifties looking back, you’d be saying the same nonsense that I’m saying to you right now.

You’d be telling me the same thing, which is this is a time of turmoil. And the more you can know that in the back of your mind, the more you can say to yourself in a subtle voice, oh this too is going to pass. I’m not where I want to be yet, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to get where I want to go.

And the piece about your period, and the piece about you maintaining your weight in a natural way, that will come to you as you learn more and more to relax into your womanhood, which will take some time. Nobody does that overnight, no woman or no man. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a journey. So everything I believe that happens in your life right now will be pointing you towards you stepping into the woman in you, which means the woman’s body in you, which means your period, which means your right appetite and your right weight.

So I just want to suggest, because I need to finish up here, that continue with small meals if you can. Maybe see if you can strike a balance between maybe a meal or two less each day so you don’t feel like you’re doing it all the time, but when you eat those small meals and you’re not hungry instead of going into negative mind talk about it, see if you can say this is me taking care of myself, this is me and you know this is not ideal. Some day I’m going to be in a flow with this, but right now it’s like if I had a sprained leg and I’m just taking care of it and I have to give it extra attention.

So this is a time in your life when you do have to give your body extra attention, but do it from the place of you being your own good parent and watching over yourself as opposed to, oh I’m obsessing about food.

No, you’re actually not obsessing about food. You are doing something good for your body. Does it feel a little weird? Yeah. Does it feel a little uncomfortable? Yeah. Do I wish I wasn’t doing this? Yeah. But you know something? It’s what I’m dealing with right now.

Chloe: I don’t think people realize how uncomfortable gaining weight is.

Marc: Yeah

Chloe: No matter how skinny you are.

Marc: Yeah.

Chloe: I look at like a dumbbell and I’m like that is so much weight. It’s like fifteen, and that’s what I have to put on my body.

Marc: Yeah

Chloe: Yeah, but I like all that you’ve been saying.

Marc: Yeah so it’s really just relaxing a little bit more with all this, giving yourself more space and more time that you don’t have to be there tomorrow and spend some time, be twenty-one. Be confused. Be excited. Be a girl. Let yourself have that.

And at the same time, I know you’re going to work hard and I know you’re going to get where you want to go, but also give yourself space to just be confused and be in breakdown and to cry and to be upset and to yell and to do whatever you need to do just to feel like you’re a person and you don’t have to be perfect and have this all figured out and have it all under control because none of us are ever there really.

We never have it all under control.

And I get you really want to have this under control right now and I’m just saying give that a little bit of a rest because you don’t have it under control. If I could tell you how to have it under control I would, but I’m over here saying it doesn’t exist.

So when you relax around that, you let go of all the stress and when you let go of all the stress there’s a natural evolution that starts to move you forward in an even stronger way. So let’s just sum up here for a minute. How are you doing? How’s this been for you Chloe?

Chloe: Great. I really feel like this has been a perfect time in my life to talk about this because I am working you know towards that and I am stepping into everyday my womanhood in other areas and stuff and so I love this idea of just trust my body, stop trying to force myself to be somewhere and I need to just be where I am right now.

Marc: Yes. Yes. And your body knows it’s not ready to procreate right now. Your body is actually smart. Your body is saying, man, if Chloe had a baby right now, this would be a disaster. So you know what? We’re not even going to give her a chance. You can’t even have an accident because it ain’t happening. That’s the wisdom of your body saying not ready. You could look it and say there’s something wrong with me.

Chloe: Mm hmm

Marc: Okay, that’s reasonable. I’m looking at it from a different way.

I’m looking at the wisdom of your body based on where you’ve been and your body is waiting for you to be in alignment with stepping into your womanhood.

So it’s all going to happen naturally.

Chloe: Yeah.

Marc: And I just really, I just commend you on how far you’ve come and the great work that you’ve done on yourself. And it’s tremendous. And I have no doubt that if you want to help others at some point who’ve gone through similar things or are going through similar things, you’re going to be amazing at it. And just be a little more patient with yourself and be a little more patient with life and you’re going to get there.

Chloe: Thanks, Marc. And really a lot of it was thanks to your training and thanks to your books and everything. That really is how I spared my own health and your videos and everything. So I just wanted to say thank you personally for that. It really has been amazing, and I have given it to so many people and shared it with so many clients and everything. So it’s been great.

Marc: Yay Chloe! Thank you so much! Thanks for being so real and so honest and I know there is a lot of young women who are going to really benefit a lot from this conversation and from listening to you so thanks a lot. And thanks once again, everybody, for tuning in, I’m Marc David on behalf of the Psychology of Eating podcast. Always more to come, my friends. Take care.

Podcast Episode 137: Difficulty Gaining Weight - It's More Painful Than You Think

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