Weight Extremism & Shame: A 53-Year-Old Heals His Heart & Body – In Session with Marc David

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Podcast Episode 409 - Weight Extremism & Shame: A 53-Year Old Heals His Relationship with Food

When it comes to weight, many people can identify with the concept of “weight extremism” – otherwise known as yo-yo dieting. 

We’re “all in” with our health commitments, whether that’s daily exercise, a healthy diet, getting to bed early every night. We analyze, assess – and maybe even obsess about – every little morsel of food we put into our mouth.

And then, well – life happens. Tragedy happens. Stress happens. 

Our habits start to unravel, and before we know it: our healthy lifestyle is kaput.

We’re secret-eating in the dark and binge eating when we think no one is looking. 

The weight starts to creep back up, and before we know it, our weight has swung widely to the other side of the spectrum. 

And every bite of food is accompanied by terrible, self-attacking thoughts like, “I’m so disgusting. I can’t believe I’m doing this again, I can’t stand who I’ve become.”  

As we explore in this episode of The Psychology of Eating Podcast, the extremist mentality can go way beyond the realms of food and body. 

But in every case, our extremistic mentality simply isn’t sustainable – and when we fail to notice that, our heart, mind and body suffers.

That’s what’s happening with guest coaching client, Jeff, 53, who has gained and lost 100 lbs many times since he was young. Through extreme approaches like juice fasting and running marathons, Jeff has always been able to lose the weight.

But inevitably, something happens in life that throws him off. He gets divorced, his parents die, he moves. Grief arises, as does loneliness – and he turns to his familiar friend, food.

But Jeff is deeply tired of the yo-yo dieting, and of all the weight that piles on – and that’s so much harder to lose as he gets older. 

And he’s exhausted of all the shame-filled, hurtful thoughts his brain hurls at him about how he’s “weak” – a message that’s all too familiar from the childhood lectures his parents used to give him around his food and weight. 

Jeff wants to be at his natural weight, without all the extreme measures and negative self-talk – but he can’t imagine what it will take to get there. After all, he’s done every trick in the book to lose weight, and it always seems to come right back.

So how can Jeff and the rest of us move beyond weight extremism, yo-yo dieting, and the “all or nothing” mentality? How do we find the middle ground with food?

Find out in this moving conversation…

We’d love to hear your own experience or thoughts about this episode – please drop us a comment below!

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Podcast Episode 409 - Weight Extremism & Shame: A 53-Year Old Heals His Relationship with Food

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Weight Extremism & Shame: A 53-Year-Old Heals His Heart & Body – In Session with Marc David

Marc David
Welcome, everybody. I’m Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. We are in the Psychology of Eating Podcast, and I’m with Jeff today. Welcome, Jeff.

Jeff
Hi, Marc. Nice to be here.

Marc David
Same here. I’m glad we’re doing this. And for anybody listening in that’s new to the podcast, Jeff and I haven’t met before. And we’re going to dive in and have a session, and see if we can do some good work together. So, Jeff, if you could wave your magic wand and get whatever you wanted with food and body, what would that be for you?

Jeff
Just be able to get control of unhealthy eating patterns, basically. During stressful events in life, I can lose all control. I have lost and gained approximately 100 pounds seven or eight times in my life, I’ve figured out. And recently, I found myself back with 100 pounds overweight, that just adds on quick and stressful moments. Within less than six months, I’ve gained about 100 pounds.

Marc David
Wow. So what does that put you at now? Weight-wise?

Jeff
Well, I’m in Europe. So in kilograms, it’s 118 kilograms — about 260.

Marc David
Got it. And so, usually when this happens for you — so you’ve gained this amount, about seven times [inaudible] lost that amount a good number of times. How does the weight usually come off?

Jeff
It comes off because I get — I guess I go through extremes. I get very dedicated to exercise and like, hardcore nutritional– often, like, even juice fasts, or minimal 1000-calorie-a-day diet. And within a period of a year or less, it usually comes back off. But I mean, every time I’ve gone through it, it’s gotten difficult — more and more difficult every time, obviously, with age. I’m just about 53. So going through the cycle again every time, it seems it takes a little bit longer, a little bit more effort, to get that weight back off.

Marc David
Oh, it’s got to be. Yes. So when did you first start noticing that — hey, food is a challenge for me?

Jeff
I noticed it pretty early as a child, probably around the age of even, like, nine or 10. I noticed that the weight was coming on. And I went through a period in my mid teens, where I lost it all. And that was the first time. And that was because I was heavily involved in athletics — particularly, like, cross country running. And so that definitely helped. And then, just prior — like, in college, and about that time, it came back on again. And then, had a situation where I was overseas for two years and doing a lot of activity and other things, and then it came off there. And so it’s just kind of a repeating pattern.

Marc David
Do you notice anything about the repeating pattern? What catalyzes — okay, here comes the weight?

Jeff
Yeah, it’s usually some stressful life activity. Recently, it’s a separation from a second marriage that kind of brought it on. And so that’s been the situation twice. Or just related with being on my own, or moves, or stressful life events, like the passing of a parent. That type of thing.

Marc David
Yeah. So when you first started noticing when you were young, nine or 10, that, “Hey, food is something — something’s going on for me,” what did your parents think?

Jeff
While they basically just kind of shamed me a little for it. They [inaudible] just, you know, “Go out and play.” They, like, banned me from eating outside of meals. That type of thing. But obviously, I found ways to sneak food, which I often, for whatever reason, do now. Particularly have late night binge-eating episodes, is when it seems to be the worst.

Marc David
So they would shame you for it, just in their words and their actions.

Jeff
Yeah. So yeah, more or less in their — you know. And then just kind of — you know, it’s more or less in both. But particularly in their words, basically to the effect — like, you know, “Stop being so weak.” It’s just, you know, “Don’t eat outside of mealtime.” That type of thing. Although my mom suffered from weight problems as well. But my dad was particularly shameful about it.

Marc David
Are both your parents still alive?

Jeff
No, no they’re both gone.

Marc David
Did things change for you at all, when your parents passed, relative to your relationship with food, your relationship with your body?

Jeff
No. I mean, it’s been — well, not, relatively recent. My father’s been four years. My mother, more like 12, at this point. But no, it’s pretty much seemed to be the same pattern with — both times, I began to put on the weight within a few months after. Also, often related to difficult relationship circumstances as well. And then, there were some kind of catalysts that kind of triggered the desire to lose weight. I remember one time, it was just seeing this film called Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead and getting inspired by juice fasts. I went through this whole thing, where I lost 100 pounds in a year. And I actually ran a marathon at the end, and people were so impressed. And it kind of became a big deal. And then I thought that it had solved all my issues. And then, within a couple years of the breakdown of my first marriage, all that weight started to come back on. So obviously, there was a big emotional component to it as well.

Marc David
Yeah. So if you could go back in time somehow, and get what you wished you could have had as a youngster, when you were struggling with food and struggling with weight — relative to your parents, if you could somehow go back and magically have them be better parents, what would have changed?

Jeff
I was the eldest of five. So I was [inaudible] left on my own. And because there’s so many younger kids in the house. And so I don’t really want to use the word neglect. My mom actually called it “benign neglect.” But, I mean, basically, not really felt listened to, not really felt appreciated much in any way. Just, kind of, expectations. And I mean, it’s kind of that idea of, like, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and I wasn’t the squeaky wheel. I turned to food instead.

Marc David
Right. So if you’re the eldest of five, you’re in charge, in a strange way. You have to be the adult. And you almost can’t be the squeaky wheel, because it just doesn’t fit.

Jeff
Exactly.

Marc David
So in a weird way your needs come last. And yeah, I’m imagining it’s easy for parents to want to lean on the eldest.

Jeff
Yeah, that’s pretty much the way it was.

Marc David
So do you have kids?

Jeff
No, I don’t.

Marc David
And are you working these days?

Jeff
Part-time. I’m doing consulting, piecemeal. So that’s another stressor, obviously.

Marc David
Where do you want to see your work go, your career go? If you can, kind of, paint your ideal picture, what do you want to be doing?

Jeff
Well, through the — I have a lot of years in IT experience, and I do some of that now. But my real interests and passions have actually evolved into something similar to what you’re doing. Something like coaching. Something like telling my life story and helping people — you know, helping overcome adversity. I’ve overcome amazing amounts of adversity in my life. Even with, kind of, the crutch of food. But I’m kind of at an age now, where I’ve kind of had a career [inaudible] forced on me. And I’ve had COVID twice, and I also have some, kind of, long-COVID systems associated with that. So it makes it very, kind of, difficult to go back to my old profession, that requires a level of concentration and memory that I don’t have so much anymore.

Marc David
Wow. So that’s a challenge. I understand, because I’ve had long-COVID. And I knew what it did to my ability to focus in my short and mid-term memory. So I can relate. Fortunately, I recovered fully. But a lot of people don’t so quickly.

Jeff
Yeah, and probably, nutrition does have some impact on recovery as well. Which, you know, probably has been one of my downfalls there, has been that part. So when I/ve eaten better, I’ve noticed some memory improvement. But obviously, when I don’t eat well, the symptoms, such as the memory and the tiredness and the — get much worse.

Marc David
Are you close with your siblings?

Jeff
Um, yeah, well, I’m living with my sister right now. So yeah, I’m close with her. And then I have three brothers, all in the States. We speak on occasion. There’s one that, particularly, we text back and forth every day that — he has some similar struggles to what I do.

Marc David
So there’s this part of you that that has this all-or-nothing type of mentality.

Jeff
Yes.

Marc David
So, I can be running marathons and eating 1000-calorie diet, and I know exactly what I need to do. And, previously anyway, I could apply myself and get regimented, and I can lose the weight. And I feel really good about myself. And then, something happens. Life happens. Usually, whatever it is, it’s something stressful, and healthy habits go out the window. And then the weight comes on. And then, I’m gonna imagine, it stays on for a certain amount of time, until you then build up enough, whatever it is — momentum — to go back into the all-phase of the all-or-nothing part of your brain.

Jeff
Exactly. Usually, periods of a year or so, a year or two.

Marc David
Okay. Yeah, so there’s a number of places to work here. And I’m going to start in no particular order of importance, but I did want to point out the all-or-nothing persona, that a lot of people have. I’m either eating perfectly, or I’m going to just eat crap, I’m either taking care of myself, or eh — just not going to do anything good for myself. And a part of that personality is a very young person. It’s a very youthful kind of strategy. And in a weird way, it’s kind of the “I’m all in” part is driven by a kind of perfection. Like, “I’m gonna show you. I’m gonna be perfect. Not only am I gonna be perfect, I’m gonna do things that are really hard.” It’s not easy to run a marathon, it’s not easy to eat 1000 calories. That’s not easy. But “I’m going to show you” — whoever you is — “that I can do this.”

So oftentimes, when we’re in an all-or-nothing personality, there’s an invisible audience that we’re displaying ourselves to. We’re proving something to somebody. Sure, you’re proving it to yourself, absolutely. Like, “Hey, I could do this.” So that certainly exists, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We like to prove to ourselves that we can accomplish. But the all-or-nothing personality is an extreme one. Now, if somebody met you, and hung out with you for an hour, and I asked them, “Hey, does Jeff seem like an extreme guy?” People would say, “Nah, seems pretty balanced. He’s pretty calm.”

Jeff
Yes, most people would say that. I am easy going on the surface.

Marc David
Yes. Not extreme. But inside, there’s a place where you go to those extremes.

Jeff
Yes.

Marc David
And the key place you go to those extremes, that I’m aware of right now that’s a challenge, is with food and with self-care in relationship to food. So just to point out — you know, it’s almost like if you got in the car, and you want to drive somewhere. And here you are, and you’re on a two lane road. You’re in your lane. The oncoming traffic is in another lane. And in order for you to get where you want to go, straight down the road, you’re swerving in your car in every direction. Now, you can swerve your car in every direction. As long as you don’t hit anybody, you’ll get where you want to go. It’s just not a very comfortable or safe or balanced ride. That’s the all-or-nothing personality when it comes to food.

So what I want to just put out as a goal, as a target to shoot for in the long term — you don’t know how to do this yet. But the target you’re shooting for is to be a middle-ground kind of a person. Because the all-or-nothing mentality is very sexy. It’s sexy. It’s compelling. Because when you’re in the all-part of your all-or-nothing personality — like “Look how great I am. Y’all can’t argue with me. I’m wonderful. I’m following my rules perfectly. I’m running a marathon. Everybody loves me.”

Jeff
Yes. And there was a lot of attention-seeking out of those activities.

Marc David
Yes. So that attention-seeking is the nine-year-old boy in you. So here’s what I want to suggest to you. We’re gonna just just just try this on. I want to suggest that the Jeff that everybody knows is 53 years old. Except, when you’re in relationship with food and body, you’re more like a nine or a 10-year-old. And you’re going about your business, making decisions as if you were that nine or 10-year-old child. And so the decisions are — “Wait a second. I’m on the oldest child. Benign neglect. Nobody’s paying attention to me.” You know, one thing you could do is gain weight. Unconsciously, that’s an attention getter. That’s us screaming for — “Hey, look at me. Give me some attention.” I’m not saying everybody does this, I’m suggesting —

Jeff
Yes, I’m not saying it’s actually wanted attention. Because I also go through, in my heaviest part, actually periods of isolating myself, where I really don’t want to be seen.

Marc David
Right. That’s the paradox. You don’t want to be seen. But you’re more seen than normal because your body is bigger than normal. And you and I know that, if anybody that you know gains a bunch of weight, we’re going to notice. We’re gonna see it. So yeah, I want to hide, because I feel bad about myself. But somewhere deep inside, the logical brain knows that, if my body is ballooning, people are going to notice. Especially if I’m young, my parents are going to notice. So there’s a place where I think, for you, on one level, it was an attention-getter. Now, not only is an attention-getter. It’s also a way — food — to eat and feel good about yourself. Because food is a good drug.

Jeff
Yes, I remember what you were saying about — like, actually kind of turning off your head, because your digestion is working so hard. And that’s certainly been my experiences of moments. It’s a way to calm those thoughts in my head. Because, basically, I eat a bunch of crap. And then I go into the food coma, and I don’t care for a while.

Marc David
So food can be can be a way for us to check out. You can also use food to check in. You know, if I go to my favorite restaurant, and if it’s a little bit more expensive, I am tasting every bit of that food. I’m focusing on it. I’m enjoying it — A: because I want to be there because I love the food, and [inaudible] money’s worth.

So we can use food to check in. You know, you eat your favorite food. You love it. You feel good. We could also use food to check out — meaning I eat, and I go unconscious. All the energy goes into my belly, because it’s got to digest all that food. And oddly enough, my mind relaxes my emotions relax. They’re not even present anymore. I’ve disappeared. My problems have disappeared.

So as children, we have that experience. We know — “Wow, I can eat a bunch of food. And if all of a sudden I don’t feel so bad, like everything — all my problems disappear. At least temporarily.” So that was your smart, wise, best childhood strategy to deal with some of the nonsense of your upbringing. To deal with the parts of your upbringing that didn’t work for you. The parts of your upbringing where — yeah, I didn’t get what I needed.

So, on top of that, gaining weight is an attention-getter. Unfortunately, the attention you got was shaming attention. So then, all of a sudden, the belief comes into the mind that, when I’m calling out for attention, I get shamed. So it’s almost as if, when I’m showing up with a need — when Jeff shows up with “Hey, I’ve got needs. I got things that I need. I need attention. I need love. I need somebody talking to me. I need somebody focusing on me. I need to be the center of the experience for some moments here.” What gets ingrained in your mind is, “Woops, when I’m calling for that, I get shamed.”

So it becomes confusing to the mind, especially to the young mind. Because you did the best strategy you can to feel better about yourself: eat food. You were also gaining weight, so you got attention. Finally, parents are giving you attention. And the attention isn’t fun. It’s shaming attention. So in a weird way, you as an adult — we as adults, will repeat the patterns, the childhood booboos, the childhood woundings that happened to us. We take them on. So even though you don’t live in your parents’ house anymore. But what happens is, something goes wrong, there’s a stressful event. And you need something in a stressful event. We all need something. I need to talk to friends. I need emotional care. I need understanding. I need some love. I need a good conversation with somebody. I need help. And I think for you, there’s a part of you that never quite learned how to get what you need, when you’re going through a difficult time.

Jeff
Yeah, I don’t really — one, there’s the kind of guilt and shame even for asking, admitting that I’m — you know, whatever, I’m not in control, and I need help. And then obviously, I lived my whole life not wanting to make waves or be the squeaky wheel.

Marc David
Right. Because that’s what you were taught. Your parents didn’t want you to be a squeaky wheel, because they had all these other squeaky wheels. They needed you to be the oldest. They needed you to be like the third parent. And when you did need attention, because — “Look, everybody, I’m gaining weight. That should tip you all off that something’s going on for me.” Instead, you got shamed.

Jeff
Yes.

Marc David
So it now becomes even shameful to feel like you have a need. Needs equals shame. So that was a little mantra. That was [inaudible] that got put in your mind. Needs, Jeff’s needs, equals shame. You are shameful to have needs. But you have needs. And you do what you always knew how to do best, which is well, “Damn, I’m not getting my needs met. I don’t know how to get my needs met. I’m gonna get shamed if anybody even thinks I have needs. So I’m gonna eat. Because that makes me feel better.” But eating is kind of a bad thing. Because gaining weight is a bad thing. Because you got shamed for that. So when do you eat? You do it at night? Do it in secret because that’s what a criminal does. You do your crime in secret. And you do it at night so nobody looking.

Jeff
Yeah, in fact, I’m very careful around other people, where I don’t ever overindulge, you know, in front of the public. It’s always in secret on my own.

Marc David
So let me just lay out what I think is the road for you to take. I’m not saying any of this is easy, but what I’m suggesting, if you were going to be my client, where I would be looking to work with you is to decouple eating and shame, to start to look at food as, “I’m an eater. Food is my best friend. You know, something? Yeah, sometimes I eat, and it makes me feel better. That’s what human beings do. We don’t feel good, we eat, we feel better. So there’s a place where you want to learn to make food your friend, You want to decriminalize it. And at the same time, I would want to see you start to work on this part of you that thinks you need to be perfect. This part of you that thinks you’re still living in your parents house, because in your parents house, you shouldn’t have a need. Don’t say anything. Don’t be a squeaky wheel. So part of you is still living in their house, thinking, “I’ve got to be that guy.”

Jeff
Yeah, well, and then I also went through two marriages, where I was, kind of was that guy as well. Repeating a lot of the same patterns that we talked about going through with my parents as well. So it’s been ingrained for for a long time.

Marc David
And this is — you’re at the ideal age to change that. I look at, for a man, 50 and up is the time when you step into your king archetype. The king archetype is the evolved man. It’s the part of you that claims your throne. That says to the world, “This is who I am. These are the gifts I have to give. This is the course I’m charting for myself. I’m independent. I’m free of anybody’s opinion of me. If somebody, even if somebody thought badly of you because they saw you eat, or they saw you overeat. If somebody sees you overeat, and thinks, “Oh, my God, that guy’s overeating.” Who cares? That’s their issue. Not a problem. If you want to overeat, you could overeat. If you don’t want to overeat, you don’t have to overeat.

But it’s the king stage in you that is finding your center, your voice, your value, and individuating from your past. So really getting in your cells that you are no longer that nine or 10-year-old boy, living in your parents house, who’s not supposed to have needs, who has to be perfect, and because he does turn to food, he has to hide it and be a criminal. So food is, eating is a criminal act. So we talked about the all-or-nothing piece. It’s starting to find balance. Meaning, how do I take care of myself on a day-to-day basis? Without having to run marathons? You could just exercise. How do you exercise in a way that feels good for you? How do you eat in a way that’s relatively healthy for you? And yeah, you don’t have to eat 1000 calories. But how do you eat enough? So part of it is, if eating is a crime — are you a fast eater, moderate eater, slow eater?

Jeff
Very fast eater.

Marc David
Okay, so your job, big homework assignment, is to train yourself — it’s going to take time — to become a slow eater. And by slow, I don’t so much mean a speed, even though it is like a speed. By slow, I mean present. By slow, I mean here. I mean aware. I mean relaxed. I mean you’re enjoying your food. If you’re doing anything you’d love to do, then be there and love doing it. What happens is, because you’ve made food a crime, because eating leads to the crime of body fat —

Jeff
Right. And often during these binges, I’m also engaged with something else in my head, whether it be surfing the internet, watching a video — you know, something else distracting at the same time.

Marc David
Yes. So that’s the way to check out. That’s a way to escape from my reality. And therefore, I eat. And you’re escaping. And sometimes we need to check out and escape. So checking out and escaping is not a bad thing. You know, if I have a long, hard work day, and I’m not feeling good about myself comes evening time — yeah, I might want to sit down and watch a good movie or watch a funny TV show. I escape. I might have a nice little dessert. I escape. But it’s a pretty healthy escape. I’m there, I’m present, I’m paying attention to myself. I’m acknowledging I need a little bit of goodies. So it’s you learning how to manage your emotions in a whole new way. And it’s about managing your emotions, not by escaping and checking out. When you eat and surf on the web, you’re checking out.

So the remedy for your worries here, the remedy for the things you don’t want to do, is to stay checked in. That’s a practice. Meaning, “Oh, man, I just had a rough day. I’m not feeling good about myself. I just want to eat and surf and eat really fast and shovel food down. Oh, wait a second. That’s me about to check out. What else? What else can I do?” And it might be helpful for you to write a what-else list. Everything you do in life that can give you some sense of relaxation, peace, nourishment, pleasure, let go. It might be listening to music. It might be taking a walk. It might be eating something, but eating it really slowly and being present and being there.

Even if you can’t stop yourself — “Gosh, I just want to eat.” Even if you can’t stop yourself, what I would love to see you do is to stay present while you eat, and not check out. Because you’re eating. And you’re eating for a reason. Because it’s going to give you pleasure, it’s going to give you stress reduction. So I want you to eat, slowly and sensuously, and enjoy what you’re doing. Because then you’re acknowledging to yourself, “I am staying awake in the places that I normally go to sleep.” And that’s where you change the unwanted habit. It’s not sexy. It’s not like, “Take this pill, and you’re gonna be all better.” Or you do this one little simple technique and everything is fixed. It’s learning how to bring light into the places where we usually go dark.

So ultimately, I see your path as individuating from your parents’ house, as strange as that sounds. Realizing that you’re not that nine or 10-year-old boy, that’s not allowed to have needs, and that has to turn to food in order to feel better about yourself. Nobody’s going to judge you. Except for you. Nobody’s judging you. And if anybody judges you for anything that you do, they don’t belong in your world. They’re not your friend.

So it’s really about you starting to find other ways that you can regulate your internal experience. So you’re learning how to become the king of your kingdom. And the kingdom, a man’s kingdom, begins in the mind. That’s the first part of your kingdom. It’s in between the ears. And I have dominion over my kingdom. And that doesn’t mean you do everything perfectly. It means that you work towards doing your best so you stay awake. So you stay awake, if you’re going to eat at night. You take your time. You eat slow. Because when you do that you’re giving your brain the signal: eating is not a crime. In order for us to commit a crime, a part of us has to go to sleep. In order for us to go against our own moral code, a part of us needs to check out. Eating is not a crime. Eating is just what you and every other human being, when we’re young, knows to do to feel better. Every kid knows — feel bad, eat some sugar, feel better. Not guilty. You know, that’s what we do. That’s the best strategy we have when we’re young.

Jeff
It just never went away for me.

Marc David
Right. So, but you can change that because you’re aware of it. And I want to suggest to you, rather than focus on losing weight right now — I know you want to lose weight. Rather than focus on losing the weight, I would love to see you focus on the things we’re talking about. Which is finding new ways to regulate your inner world, and your emotions, other than food. I would love to see you find ways to create support for yourself. So when Jeff is needing support, who do you go to? Who do you ask for help? Who do you say, “Hey, I’m not feeling so good about myself today,” or, “Hey, I can use somebody to talk to,” or “Hey, I need some attention.” Like, identify those people in your life, who you can get what you weren’t able to get when you were young. Which is somebody just listening to you, and unconditionally accepting you.

Jeff
Yeah, well I’ve felt that’s probably the thing I missed most in my life is the feeling of unconditional love and acceptance. Because not having it at home, and then going through a series of relationships not feeling like I had it either. And so, food offers that, I guess, to some degree.

Marc David
Yeah. Yeah, food loves us. Food never complains to you. Here’s the thing. It’s a nice bonus when we have people outside of us, particularly a primary relationship, where you feel unconditional acceptance. That’s really good medicine. If you don’t have that in your life in terms of a primary relationship, especially in your age group, as a 50-plus-year-old male, the attention shifts, to giving it to yourself. Giving the unconditional acceptance to yourself. Meaning, “God, even though I just gained a bunch of weight, and it’s still on my body right now, I still unconditionally accept myself. I understand myself. My journey hasn’t been easy. I’m a learning growing human being.” If somebody came to you, if a good friend came to you, and say, “Jeff, you know, I’ve been having trouble. I’ve been binge eating at night. I’ve gained a bunch of weight,” you wouldn’t yell at them. You wouldn’t judge them. You wouldn’t tell them you’re not gonna be their friend. You wouldn’t say, “Well, you got to be perfect.” You wouldn’t shame them. You’d love them up.

Jeff
Yeah, and I’ve been in those situations. And I have, of course, reacted with sympathy and understanding and support, and all of those things that I haven’t given myself.

Marc David
Bingo. So you know what it feels like to give it to another human being. You got to give it to yourself. That’s the key. That is what will set you free when you can start to have the feeling called, “I accept myself, even though I’m not perfect. I want myself, even though I’m not perfect. Even though this body doesn’t weigh what I wanted to weigh right now, I actually want this body.” Because it’s the only body you have. Granted, your preference is for your body to have a different weight.

Jeff
Right. And amazingly, I’ve never had really any type of health symptoms with all the, you know, yo-yo weight gains and losses I’ve had. Miraculously, my health has always been relatively decent, except obviously now, for the COVID. But I guess that’s a miracle in itself.

Marc David
Yes. So it’s about wanting this body and claiming your body. Because you got the message when you were young, that we, the big people, the parents, whoever — we don’t approve of this body. Now, in a perfect world, if you gained weight when you were young, your parents would have given you a big hug, listened to you, tried to see what was going on, what you needed, and you would have felt unconditionally accepted. And you wouldn’t have felt shamed for the body that you had. They would have loved you into transforming your body into its natural weight, not shamed you into it. So that’s what you’ve got to give to yourself, you have to be a better parent to you than your parents were.

No blame against your parents. They did the best job they could, given the information that they had. There’s just a lot of weight shame and fat shame and fat hate that circulates in the world. We just pick it up. It’s like a virus. So it’s you, embracing you, and realizing you don’t need anyone out there to give you unconditional acceptance. It’d be nice. It’s nice. It’s a preference. I like when the people that I feel closest to unconditionally accept me. It’s a good feeling. And when you give that to yourself, magic happens. Because all of a sudden, the need for food to help you escape becomes less. Because what am I escaping from, when I’m turning to food and going unconscious? I’m escaping from, “I don’t like myself. I don’t like my existence. I don’t like my life.”

Jeff
Exactly. Those are the feelings I have when I do it.

Marc David
Yes. So instead, we’re shifting that to, “You know something? My life might not be easy right now. It’s not easy right now. And I’m still choosing this life. I’m still choosing to make myself a better person.” That’s how you king your self. Nobody makes a king into a king. Nobody makes a queen into a queen. Nobody walks up to a woman and puts a little wand over her head and say, “Okay, you’re now a queen,” or puts a wand over your head and says, “Okay, you’re now a king.” No, we ascend the throne, we claim the throne. So it’s a self-initiation. It’s where you dig deeper than you’ve ever dug before. And you find your dignity. And you find your self-worth. And you find your self-respect, even though you’re not perfect. This is not about being perfect. This is actually about being imperfect, accepting your imperfections, and committing that you’re going to do the best you can, to be the best person you can. Even though you’re not perfect.

So you don’t need a perfect diet. You don’t need perfect exercise. You don’t need to perfectly run perfect marathons. So put weight loss to the side, and focus on self-care. Focus on, what kind of food would sustain me every day? What kind of movement or exercise just feels good, on a daily — or however often you move your body? Like, what would feel a good way to move your body while you’re not trying to be a champion?

Jeff
Yeah. Or pushing it to the extremes, and then not doing anything for a week, or 10, because I’m going through recovery.

Marc David
Exactly. So it’s learning how to sustain yourself. So you’re literally learning, maybe for the first time in your life, “Here’s how I sustain myself on a day-to-day and a week-to-week basis. So I’m in this for the long haul.” All-or-nothing doesn’t work for the long haul. You could live to be 90, doing all-or-nothing strategies. But the mind will be chaotic. You won’t be able to be your best. You won’t be able to feel your best, because you’re constantly moving from one extreme to the other. In nature, extremes are not the norm. Yeah, every once in a while it gets extremely cold. Yeah, every once in a while it gets extremely hot. Humans don’t do well, long-term, in extremes. We need middle ground. So it’s good to not place ourselves in extremes when we don’t have to. Because extremes tell the body, “I’m in a stress state. I’m running from a lion. Something extreme is going on here.”

Jeff
And you said stress actually makes it harder to let go of weight. Your body wants to keep it on.

Marc David
Exactly. We find our natural weight when we relax into our weight loss journey, not stress into it. So this isn’t about you losing weight. This is about you finding your natural rhythm, that works for you. This is about you letting go of shame that you don’t need to carry anymore. This is about you embracing you have needs, you have desires, you need to be heard, you need to be attended to. And that’s all okay.

Jeff
Yeah, actually I don’t know if you’ve seen the new movie The Whale that’s been out, but the amount of shame that character was going through — I related to that so much. It just seemed that — I mean, obviously, I’ve never gotten to that level. But just the shame, and the feelings it provoked, and what it led him to do is exactly my story.

Marc David
Yes. So one of the ways to begin to heal shame is to acknowledge to yourself — not guilty. There is no crime that you have committed. Legitimately, you have not committed any crime. You have done nothing wrong. You have been a human being doing the best you could to learn and grow, given the circumstances that you found yourself in. Not guilty.

So it’s you, starting to — and I focused on the past a little bit for you. Because there’s a place where, I believe, you need to rewrite your story. You need to notice your story. And see how that story is still operating beneath your awareness. So you are not that 10-year-old boy anymore. And you don’t need to feel shame about your body. You don’t need to be Superman to prove to everybody, “See? I’m really great.” That’s a child’s strategy. You need to step into your adult kinghood, where, “I take care of myself on a day-to-day basis. I love and accept myself, and I accept — yeah, have certain shortcomings. Certain things I’m working on. Nothing to feel ashamed about. Everybody’s working on something.

Jeff
I agree. Of course, it’s easy to say, you know, I agree. But obviously it’s, you know, in the moments of the day-to-day that kind of the proof is in the pudding. You know, like you said, you have to step up at some point, like you said. This idea of self-initiation, self-coronation. You know, it’s a process, I think.

Marc David
it is a process. And it’s just committing to that process, committing to that journey. It doesn’t happen overnight. And a good king is patient. So it takes a certain amount of patience. It takes a certain amount of diligence. It takes foresight to understand, “Yeah, I’m embarking on a new road. And this road takes time.” What might be helpful for you is to do some thinking, or do some journaling about, “Who do I wish to be as a man?” And really define it in terms of you as a man, whatever “you as a man” means for you. Whatever is important for you.

And it’s really asking yourself, “How do I want to show up for the rest of my life as a man? What do I want to do with my time? What do I want to do with my energy? What would make life worth living for me? From now into the future, what’s my purpose here? And on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis, how do I wish to show up as a man in the world?” I don’t care what the past looked like. For you to start really giving thought to defining yourself as a man, as an adult man, as a king, as a sovereign person. Because again, you don’t live in your parents’ house anymore. So you can now rewrite the rules. And part of that is understanding that — not guilty. Nothing to be ashamed about.

Jeff
Yeah, if I want something, I’ll just eat it consciously and slowly, and make the most of it.

Marc David
So you’re not that young man anymore. You did the best you could. So it’s looking back on your story. And sort of blessing it. Sort of saying, “Okay, that’s all understandable. That’s all understandable. I turned to food to feel better about myself. And part of us believes, because the world teaches us that, “Well, if you have the right weight, all your problems are gonna go away.” It’s an illusion. It’s a false belief. Ah, you know, if I’ve been in this conversation with people in my lifetime, thousands of times, maybe — I can’t even remember, maybe there might have been one person who said, “I lost the weight, and I lived happily ever after.”

Exactly. Food is not your problem. Food is your solution. Feel bad, eat food, feel better. So food is your solution. It’s not the problem. The challenge is, “At a young age, I learned to turn to food, like many people do, to feel better about myself. There were reasons I wasn’t feeling good about myself. Legitimate reasons I wasn’t feeling good about myself. An upbringing. I didn’t get what I needed. I didn’t get the attention that I needed. I called out for attention in ways that might not have been the healthiest. But I did the best I could. I gained weight instead of getting love. I got shamed.”

Jeff
Yeah, I was convinced that running a marathon would just change everything. And I would finish, and it would be like stepping into a whole new world. Everything would just be perfect at that point. And that’s not what happened at all.

Marc David
No. And that’s good news. It’s good news. It shows you — okay, that’s not the way. A bunch of pounds of fat on your body doesn’t guarantee anything. Whether you have them, whether you don’t have them, you can have the perfect body and be miserable. You can have a big body and be the happiest guy. People of all weights and shapes and sizes are happy or depressed, or healthy or unhealthy. So it’s all about you imagining, “Oh, who’s this person I think I’m going to be when I reach my ideal weight? Like, what do I actually think is gonna be different? How am I going to be different?” And whatever the answers to those questions are — I’m gonna be more confident. I’m going to be the real me. I’m going to show up. I’m going to stand in my power. Whatever you think the results are going to be of having a perfect body, start to be that guy today.

Jeff
Yeah, why wait?

Marc David
Why wait? And do that, and go about the business of finding your natural weight. No need to wait anymore. No waiting. 53? Well, you’re kind of at the top of the hill there.

Jeff
Yeah. It’s not much time left.

Marc David
Yeah, so let’s make the best of it. How’s this conversation been for you, Jeff?

Jeff
It’s been excellent, Marc. This is — I mean, none of this is completely new. But this is all kind of put together in a way, I think, that can be really helpful to, like you said, get rid of the shame. And I think that’s — I said, like 90% of my problem is just learning to like myself. And if I do, and learn how to do that, and learn how to be the person I want to be, I don’t see food being that much — both as, like you said, like a wonder drug, but also like an excuse as well.

Marc David
Yes. One more thing about the shame. You know, shame might never leave us 100%. Because we’re human, and we’re imperfect. And shame seems to be a little bit built into the DNA. So shame can come up. It’s just — it’s all about giving it less and less airtime, noticing when it comes up, loving ourselves in that moment. So if shame comes up for you, instead of saying, “Oh my god, I’m feeling shame right now. That’s not good. I’m not supposed to feel that.” No. When shame comes up, you do what you would do for anybody that you love, who was feeling shame in the moment. You love them. You love yourself, even though I’m feeling shamed. “Oh, of course, I’m feeling shame. Because I’ve had this long, crazy journey. Lots of shame is coming up. Okay.” And you give yourself a moment to actually feel the shame. To have compassion for yourself. To give yourself a hug. To not judge yourself for having the shame. Because that’s what you needed when you were young and feeling ashamed. We just need to be loved. That’s the antidote for shame. Like no, you’re loved. You’re not bad.

Jeff
Yeah, that’s what I felt like I missed.

Marc David
Yeah, so you’re giving yourself — you’re being a better parent to yourself than your parents were. So you’re letting shame exist. But when you love on yourself, even though you’re feeling shame, just pretend you’re another person. Pretend you’re your best friend. And you’re just giving your best friend love, even though they’re feeling ashamed. The shame can then relax a bit. It doesn’t last as long. It can resolve a little sooner. And even if it takes a day, or two or three or four, you still learn to stay with yourself: “Oh, I really need to nurture myself. I’m going through a shame period. I need to nurture myself. I need to treat myself well.” That’s what you do in moments and times of shame. You double-down on self-care and self-nourishment.

Jeff
Rather than doing the opposite, and hating myself, and going and check out.

Marc David
Exactly. Well, Jeff, I really appreciate the conversation. I think we covered some good turf.

Jeff
I agree. Thank you, Marc.

Marc David
Thanks for being such a willing — thanks for being in a great conversation, and just being willing to go to some good places. And just being real, being honest. I really appreciate you, my friend.

Jeff
Thank you. I appreciate you too.

Marc David
All right. Jeff, you take care. And thanks, everybody for tuning in.

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