Women, Food & Criticism

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A woman sits on a couch with her arms around her legs while holding two fingers

When someone makes a comment about your appearance, how does it make you feel? And how long does the feeling stay with you? Praise and criticism, comparison and ranking can all send us on an emotional roller coaster ride, especially when it comes to how our body looks.

But as it turns out, these critical or complimentary assessments aren’t just small talk – they actually have an evolutionary basis that helped early humans survive. Today, our physical and psychological responses to positive or negative feedback tend to happen on an unconscious level, but it’s extremely important to understand these processes if we want to experience the happiness and self-love that we deserve.

In this new video from #IPEtv, Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, presents a mind-bending new perspective on the impact of criticism on our metabolic well being. This will change the way you talk to yourself forever!

Here is a transcript of this week’s video:

Greetings friends, this is Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating.

Today’s Topic: Women, Food, and Criticism

I think this is a hugely important conversation.

The goal here is for us to have a happy, empowered, nourishing relationship with food, the highest expression of a metabolism that we’re meant to have, and a sense of dynamic pleasure and turn-on when it comes to the experience of our own body.

So we’re going to focus on women.

Yes, men and women are equal in the eyes of the universe, and women certainly ought to be equal in the eyes of the law and be privy to the same rights as any man.

And, women and men are different.

I’m going to speak in generalities about women, so not everything I say applies to all women.

If you’re the kind of person who thinks men and women are exactly the same, then this isn’t the conversation for you.

But if you’re open to looking at the distinctions between masculine and feminine psychology, then let’s get rolling.

Here’s the first important observation I’d like to make when it comes to the topic of women, food and criticism:

The masculine mind loves numbers and loves to be ranked. Men are fascinated with sports statistics, batting averages, and all kinds of ranking systems when it comes to any competitive endeavor. The masculine mind wants to know where it stands, and wants a target to shoot for.

The feminine psyche is quite vulnerable to criticism of body, beauty and weight. It just is. Perhaps one of the worst insults you can subject any woman to is to rank her or grade her on her looks by giving her a number from 1 to 10. This is an awful affront to the feminine psyche. I know girls who’ve been crushed at school or in college when a group of guys starts yelling out numbers as women passed by – five, six, seven, eight – I think you get the picture.

That’s why when women get too attached to the scale and the fickle way that the number on the scale doesn’t always go down when we want it to – their day is ruined.

The feminine psyche clearly responds to praise.

That’s when it rises to the occasion. That’s when it glows and gets all happy. That’s when the feminine psyche can relax into its own beauty and radiance and feel seen and appreciated.

I’ve met so many students, clients, friends, and loved ones over the years – in particular women – who have been hurt and even traumatized by the memory of someone telling them when they were young that they were fat, or unattractive, or would never find a man, or nobody would want them because they’re too flabby. These are like evil curses from some storybook tale where the words of the witch can cause us to fall into a permanent state of imprisonment, or worse, an unconscious sleep where we never wake up.

The fascinating thing about humans is that we will often take insults, mean criticisms, and downright nasty feedback about who we are and what we look like – and we internalize it.

We don’t need the offensive person to insult us anymore. We take over their job. The mind grabs on to the poisonous belief and reproduces it again and again and again. We look in the mirror and repeat to ourselves that we’re fat, unlovable, not good enough, and our looks will keep us unwanted.

More specifically, one of the most pernicious forms of criticism is comparison. Perhaps you’ve heard the term “compare and despair.” No matter how beautiful you are, rich you are, strong you are – there’s always someone who surpasses you. Comparison is a soul killer.

But it’s actually useful to notice where it comes from.

Comparison is actually a primal and genetic experience – from a standpoint of evolutionary biology and psychology, it’s 100% necessary for survival. You need to know if the creature you’re about to fight with seems bigger than you, faster than you, or stronger than you. Compare, and then make your choice from there. It could mean life and death.

Now what happens is that many women make beauty, or a certain weight, or a certain shape – a matter of survival. They literally drop into their survival brain – which means stress physiology and stress chemistry – and believe that if they don’t have the right looks, then somehow this means our demise. No love, no relationship, no protection, no security, no intimacy, nothing. Might as well be dead.

And this physiologic stress response, especially when constant and chronic – can lead to digestive woes, weight gain, inability to lose weight, nutrient excretion, and decreased calorie burning capacity – largely driven by insulin, cortisol, and inflammation.

So if you’re going to do lots of comparison and make yourself miserable in the act, then consider that the stress chemistry you’re creating is taking you in the opposite direction of where you truly want to go.

So I’m suggesting that the worst of all criticism lives inside of our own minds, and it operates like a nasty parasite eating away at us.

So if you’re a woman who does battle with weight, your shape, your looks, your beauty, if you compare and despair, if you have challenges around body image – then you owe it to yourself to understand that you’re attacking self in a very vulnerable place. You’re hitting where it hurts. You’re using the kind of measurements that will likely never leave you happy. You’re affirming that who you are right now is not lovable – and if you can only morph your body so it’s perfect – then and only then can you be happy.

This day never comes.

You deserve better.

It’s time to begin to take greater and greater responsibility for decommissioning the outdated criticisms that live inside your mind, torturing you, and keeping you from your happiness and your destiny.

The antidote:

More self-love.
More kindness.
More compliments to self.
And gratitude for what you have.

Be as kind to yourself with your words and your thoughts as you would to any of your friends or loved ones.

I hope this was helpful, my friends. Please email us at info@psychologyofeating.com if you have specific questions and we will be sure to get back to you.

In the comments below, please let us know your thoughts. We love hearing from you and we read and respond to every comment!

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