Meet Kristie. Like too many other 31-year-olds, she has a history of an eating disorder, and a life-long journey with negative body image. As we learn more about Kristie’s story, Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, makes a distinction about the unique culture in which she grew up. A culture around which she went through some really tough life experiences, and it wasn’t something ‘talked about’ at home. She has, in a sense, taken her healing and growth into her own hands. Firstly, Marc encourages her to celebrate the success she has already had. Secondly, he invites her to continue the inner work. It’s about continuing to confront the lack of communication and avoiding uncomfortable conversations. True freedom may only be possible if she continues goes through, not around, her feelings. Check our this episode to see what Kristie can move into so that she can truly feel comfortable in her own skin, and be present in moments where she may typically freeze, judge herself, or try to fix. Hint: it doesn’t have to do with her body.
Below is a transcript of this podcast episode:
Marc: Welcome, everybody. I’m Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. We’re back in the Psychology of Eating podcast. And I’m with Kristie today. Welcome, Kristie.
Kristie: Thank you.
Marc: So, Kristie, let me just say a few words to viewers and listeners. And then you and I are going to jump in. So for those of you who are returning visitors to this podcast, thank you. So glad you’re here. So glad you’re part of our world. If you’re new to this podcast, here’s how it works. Kristie and I are having a first time session. And we’re going to get to have about an hour together today to see if we can push the fast forward button as best we can on a little bit of transformation. So, Miss Kristie, if you could wave your magic wand, and I mean this, and get whatever you wanted out of this session, what would that look like for you?
Kristie: To be friends with my body and just be comfortable in my body
Marc: So to be friends with your body, to be comfortable with your body. What would that look like for you, if you were friends with your body and comfortable with it?
Kristie: Just feeling like I belonged in my skin and feeling like my natural body, my natural shape, is okay.
Marc: So you would feel like, “Okay, this is my body. This is my skin. I belong here. And what this is, it’s good. It’s okay.”
Marc: Okay. So how long have you felt not that way?
Kristie: I kind of feel like it’s almost in two parts. When I was a wee kid, probably around eight or nine or so, I remember just feeling like I didn’t belong in my skin, and just little incidents. I remember getting a school photo taken, and I had my best friend sitting next to me. And she was a gymnast. And I remember looking down and thinking, “Why are my thighs three times the size of hers?” And then I look back at that photo today, and we were both like twigs. And it’s like well, there was something going on at that age where I just didn’t feel okay. And then when I was around 14 I developed an eating disorder. And that was quite a big part of my life. And that was when it really sort of took off and ramped up on a whole new level. And I think that sort of still lingers in terms of just not feeling like I’m finally through, that’s not a problem. I’m done with an eating disorder. But I don’t always feel comfortable in my skin.
Marc: When are the times that you actually find yourself feeling more comfortable in my skin than I usually do?
Kristie: Yeah, I work in the outdoors teaching rock climbing, kayaking, that type of thing, so when I’m white water kayaking, when I’m horse riding, being out in nature. When I’m cooking I feel like it’s such an act of sort of self care. I feel like, “Oh, I’m here in my body.” They’re probably the times I feel most in my skin.
Marc: When are the times you find yourself feeling worse? Is there anything that you’ve noticed? Do those times have anything in common?
Kristie: If I had to, say, I don’t know, go out in the beach and wear a bikini or something. I feel like it’s just this shame about my body, like it’s different to everybody else’s, and it’s not okay. If there was a weight pattern, it would be more in the evenings. And that’s like big picture stuff. I guess I feel better about myself when I’m up in the mornings before I’ve eaten. And then as soon as I start eating it can escalate throughout the day. But then I have entire weeks and months where I’m good. And then it just comes in all of a sudden. And I wish there was a pattern that I could grab onto, but I often feel like sometimes it just comes.
Marc: Yeah, that makes total sense. How old are you, Kristie?
Marc: Thirty-one. How long would you say that, “I, Kristie, have really been working on this, my relationship with food and trying to figure this out? I’ve been putting my attention on this since…”
Kristie: Yeah, I’ve been recovered from my eating disorder for four years, solid. In terms of working on my feelings about my body or my thoughts, I feel like that’s really been since I was 14. But then I feel like that whole process between 14 and, say, 27 was just all eating disorder. So I don’t know if I could really call it working on. It was all just messed up, if that makes sense.
Marc: Sure. Brothers and sisters?
Kristie: So I have a sister. She’s four years older. And then growing up my parents fostered children. So we had a ton of foster kids.
Marc: So your sister’s four years older. How’s her relationship with her body?
Kristie: She had an eating disorder too. We’re not that close, so I don’t know how she feels about her body today. I couldn’t tell you.
Marc: Tell me about your relationship with your parents.
Kristie: Dad and I get on really well. We definitely understand each other. We’re good. Mom and I have a difficult relationship. And I think we’ve done a lot of work on it. And I think we’re at a point where we’ve both done our best.
Marc: What’s the difficulty would you say?
Kristie: Good question. First answer is I just feel like we don’t understand each other. And I guess I wonder if she feels hurt by me or like she’s, in a way, to blame for my eating disorder. And she really blames herself. She’s never said that. That’s just sort of my intuitive feeling.
Marc: How old is your mom?
Marc: So if I was talking to your mom right now, and she didn’t know that you were listening in, and I said to her, “Tell me about your relationship with Kristie,” what do you think she would say?
Kristie: She would have a big pause while she thought about it. And I think she’d probably say, “I don’t really understand what I’ve done or why it’s so difficult.”
Marc: I’m not clear about something. It sounds like, from what you just said, you guys haven’t really talked much about your relationship with food and body and eating disorders and kind of where it all came from. It just sort of happened. Give me a sense of what was the communication. What was the conversation way back when?
Kristie: There was none. It got really distant, really complicated when I was a teenager, just usual teenage stuff ramped up. And I guess there really hasn’t been a conversation. And I’ll be straight up right now. I think the relationship’s at a point where we’re not going to have those conversations. Our relationship’s pretty limited. We just email. And it’s kind of informative, like what’s going on in her life, what’s going on in my life. But it’s better if we don’t talk face to face. She lives in another country. So I really feel okay with the level of relationship we have in that I function really well when we communicate the way we have.
Marc: So at its worst, what would it look like?
Kristie: At worst I feel like she would probably be hurt by me. So there was an incident a couple of years back when I was just coming out of treatment for an eating disorder And she had a lot of her own food and body stuff going on, that’s for sure. And she also has terminal cancer, for the last 12 years. And she was talking to me on Skype and just saying how she needed to lose weight and how this food was bad and that food was bad. And I said, “Hey, Mom, it’d be really helpful for me if we didn’t talk about food and body.” And so we ended the Skype call. And she sent me an email and said that she felt really hurt that I didn’t understand her. She was going through cancer, and it was big for her. And so I felt oh, we’re really going to struggle to talk because her whole life is about food and body and weight. That’s what I feel. And I’m not into that.
Marc: Got it. So if you guys really started getting closer — let me see if I get this right — or talking more in depth, she’s going to kind of want to go into those conversations.
Kristie: Exactly, yeah.
Marc: She’s going to want to go there. And you’re like, “I can’t. I’ve got to move forward not move backwards.”
Kristie: Totally, yeah.
Marc: Yeah. So why so many foster kids? Was that something your parents liked to do? Was it a way to support themselves? Help me understand that.
Kristie: I don’t understand. I don’t know. I think my parents would say, or my mom would say, it was a nice thing to do. And I think it’s a really beautiful thing to do. They’ve got a really big heart. But I don’t know why there was that many.
Marc: Was it hard for you?
Kristie: Up and down. There was a time when I was probably 15 where there was probably four or five of us. And we’re all around the same age, so it was like boarding school. It was fun. It was just like this is cool. And then when I was younger we had a lot of older kids. And that was really hard. And then when I was older we had a lot of two and three year olds. And that was hard. So it was up and down.
Marc: Got it. Tell me about your experience with dating, with relationships.
Kristie: Yeah, I’ve dated. I’m currently single. If a relationship comes along, fine, great. But if it doesn’t at the minute, I’m just really living life. And I don’t feel like it’s a hole or anything. I’m not actively looking for a relationship.
Marc: What was your longest term relationship?
Kristie: Three years.
Marc: And when did that begin? When did it end?
Kristie: Early 20s and ended mid 20s, I guess, yeah.
Marc: What was one of the great things about that relationship?
Kristie: He’s just a really good friend. I just know he just loves and respects me for who I am. And I feel exactly the same.
Marc: Got it. How has it been for you and sex and sexuality given kind of how you’ve been dealing with food, with body? How’s that? What could you tell me about that part of your life that feels important for this conversation?
Kristie: I’m really fine with my sexuality. Sex has been a process. I was molested by a family friend kind of mid teens to late teens. And I feel like I’ve done a lot of work on that. It’s something that happened. It wasn’t great. And I think it’s a journey.
Marc: So mid teens to late teens, family friend. So mid teens to late teens, that’s a long time. What did you tell yourself? What went on in your head?
Kristie: There was a lot going on. I feel like I have a connection between what happened with those experiences and how I feel about my body.
Can I just redirect with a memory that just popped in? Is that okay?
Marc: Please, of course, yes.
Kristie: I feel like I loved my body before I hated my body. So, for example, I remember being probably 14 or 15. And I used to be a gymnast. And then, oh yeah, this is really important. I was a gymnast, and then I was an elite athlete for a long time. So I was a weightlifter. And I was representing my country. I started that at 14. And it’s very much about you always had to make weight for competitions. And there’s a body focus. And so I remember, yeah, probably being 14, 15. And I was in front of a mirror with one of my foster sisters. And she was like, “Wow, you’ve got the best abs ever.” And I really remember that moment now. It just kind of popped into my head. And I felt like in order to be recognized, for some reason, it was like that. It was all about the abs. And then it sort of went into weight lifting. And then I felt like I had to have that body. And anything other than that body was a bad thing. Does that make sense?
Marc: Yes, it does. It absolutely does. So that was a foster sister who said that to you.
Marc: How old were you when the friend of the family first molested you?
Kristie: Probably like 15.
Marc: How does that feel for you now that you’re looking back on the situation, and you’re integrating it into your life? What do you tell yourself these days? What goes on for you?
Kristie: About the molestation?
Kristie: Honestly, I feel like I’ve done so much work on it. I kind of feel done. I’m like it happened. And I’m 31 now.
Marc: So you feel like you’ve done work. And what would you feel like is some of the good work you’ve done? If you sum it up in one or two or three sentences, I feel like I’ve…
Kristie: I feel like I know it’s not my fault. That’s the biggest thing. I just know it’s not my fault.
Marc: Got it. So did your parents know? Did your mom know?
Kristie: She found out later, probably when I was 18 or so, 18, 19.
Marc: And when she found out, what happened?
Kristie: There was never a conversation. Yeah, my family’s not big on talking. I don’t remember how she found out, if I told her. I feel like a counselor came to our house maybe and told the family. I think that’s it. I think a counselor came to the house with me, told mom and dad, and then nothing was ever said about it. That was done in that session. And then no one ever brought it up again.
Marc: Wow. How was that for you?
Kristie: I think that’s just how we roll.
Marc: Yeah. How was that for you? I know that’s how things roll, but when you look back on it now, do you go, “I’m annoyed, wish she would’ve been different, no worries?”
Kristie: I feel like to bring it up would’ve been super awkward. I don’t think our family knows how to have difficult conversations. So I don’t feel let down or upset that we didn’t have that conversation at all because I can’t even fathom how that conversation would’ve worked.
Marc: Yes, understood. Okay. So let me ask this question. And I’ve asked you this already. So when you have the relationship with your body that you want, when you feel you’re in the sweet spot, tell me some more about who you’re going to be. Who is this person? Describe her a little bit to me, as if you’re describing her as if she’s a friend.
Kristie: Really present and focused and just comfortable in her skin, just has an energy that’s kind of tangible about really being okay with her body.
Marc: There’s an energy where you’re just okay with your body, got it. Do you know people who you’d want to model yourself after?
Kristie: Yeah, I’ve definitely got people in my mind. I meet them, or I know them, and I’m like, “Oh, that’s cool.” And if I’m having a rough time, I definitely tap into those people and think, “Okay, if I was that person, how would they be right now in their body?”
Marc: And if you could describe, just give me a few little nuggets, what is it about these people? What do you notice, anything specific that you kind of go, “Yeah, I want to be like that?” What is it about them?
Kristie: It’s just a visceral kind of feeling. They’re just there. They’re present. And the people that I role model myself after, it’s not like they have the perfect body. They’re just regular people, all shapes and sizes. They’re okay with that.
Marc: Yeah, so they have a sense of okayness with themselves that they just exude, no matter what shape or size they might be.
Kristie: Exactly, yeah.
Marc: Okay, I’m getting it. I want to go back to your past and to the experience you had of being molested. Do you have any recollection of where you went in your mind at the times it was happening, what you told yourself? “This is wrong,” or, “I need to just keep this secret.” Tell me some of the conversation in your head that you remember.
Kristie: I haven’t thought about that before. I’m just trying to grasp kind of—
Marc: Sure, that’s fine. It’s not an easy question. It’s not an easy question at all. So take your time, if there’s an answer somewhere.
Kristie: Just kind of like I wanted to shrink away and disappear. I think that’s the best way I can put it.
Marc: Yeah, so I want to shrink away and disappear. Do you remember anything else, any other words to put on your experience that you would’ve thought in the moment, feelings in the moment?
Kristie: I think I felt bad, for want of a better word. But I don’t really have a feeling.
Marc: Now when you say…
Kristie: Like I knew…
Kristie: Sorry, like I knew it was wrong.
Marc: So I knew it was wrong. Did you ever voice anything?
Kristie: In the moment?
Kristie: We’ve never had a conversation.
Marc: So these days, your relationship with food itself, are there times you enjoy food?
Kristie: Oh, sorry, you just broke up. Can you say that sentence again?
Marc: Yeah. These days, when it comes to your relationship with food, are there times that you enjoy food, you go, “Wow, I love this; this is great?”
Kristie: Yeah. Yes.
Marc: When does that happen for you?
Kristie: Yesterday. So at work they provide food for us. There was this tuna pasta bake. And it was raining. And I was kind of hungry. And I came in, and it was hot food. It was a cold day. It was like yeah, this is good. It was tasty.
Marc: Okay, I get it. So here’s what I want to do. Ideally I’d love to have about three more hours with you, but we’ve got enough to start to just kind of add to the picture and add to, I think, your body of knowledge relative to where you want to go. So let me just kind of free associate a bit and just say a bunch of things that are on my mind. And we’ll see just kind of how things land for you. I want to say in the big picture, you’re on a really good trajectory.
Kristie: Thank you.
Marc: Yeah, you’re on a really good trajectory. Based on where you’ve been and where you are now, I am very happy for you because you have had some difficult pieces to deal with relative to the challenges that you face. Difficult piece number one, you’re a woman being born on planet Earth. That is enough to make it difficult these days when it comes to the whole body image thing and the whole weight and the whole shape and the whole am I okay with this body. So right then and there, that’s a challenge.
Number two, my sense is you also come from a culture — I’m going to compare it to mine — that is not necessarily as expressive, potentially, as talkative, or a culture that had or has as much resource as others might have. So yeah, your story could’ve been a thousand different American women that I’ve spoken to. But quite frankly, there are cultural differences that go down.
And the reality is, when you come from a culture where no, we don’t talk about that, we don’t speak about that, yeah, a counselor came over the house and then that was the end of the conversation, that is very hard for a young person. It’s extremely hard for a young person because young people are observant. They see the world. They have a sense of how they feel. And when the adult world isn’t congruent, when the adult world isn’t showing up in a smart way, us younger people at the time go, “It’s confusing.” And it doesn’t make any sense.
And all of a sudden we end up feeling like we’re alone in the world. So even though you’ve got parents, and you’ve got a sibling, foster kids, whatever, one can feel really alone. So you had that challenge with your culture. You had the challenge of being molested repeatedly by a man that you knew. That by itself is a terrible offense that will throw anybody into an eating disorder or a disordered relationship with food and body. So that’s another challenge.
And no, wait, one more, one more that made it very free freaking difficult for you, extremely, even if everything else was perfect, the fact that you were a gymnast, the fact that you were, at a young age, in your body. And Kristie, I’ve got to tell you this. It’s mind blowing. I have worked with so many female gymnasts, former gymnasts, over the years.
And there’s a time, especially when you’re young, you have an extremely high functioning, high metabolic rate. You have the toned body. If you’re weight lifting, you’re strong. You’ve got it all. As soon as you stop that level of competition and of activity, especially when you start at a young age, the body never finds that place again that you had when you were 14, 15, and 16. And it ends up being like a benchmark in the head.
Yeah, and you’ve even shared that. You had that moment where this girl said to you, “Oh my God, you have the greatest abs in the universe.” And you were like, “Yeah, that’s me.” So that makes perfect sense that you would go there. So that by itself is hard. The amount of body dysmorphia and eating challenges amongst former gymnasts is shocking. It’s intense because of how high functioning your body is at some point. And then there’s always this weird comparison going on. So what I’m trying to say is given all that, you’ve overcome your eating disorder. You’re better with your body today than you were a year ago, two years ago, three years ago.
Kristie: A billion times, yeah. I feel like I’ve moved rugby fields, yeah.
Marc: Yes. So what I’m trying to say to you, I’m trying to help you get really present with the fact that you have succeeded greatly, I mean greatly. I really mean this. I can only imagine how hard you’ve been working. And I know a little bit about you. And you have a lot of energy. And you get very focused. And you’re very sincere. And there’s a part of you that doesn’t quit. There’s a part of you that just doesn’t quit.
Marc: There’s a part of you that just doesn’t quit. Yeah, you could be hanging off a cliff and hanging onto a blade of grass, and you ain’t going to quit. And I think there’s a part of you that knows it’s going to find its way out. You just don’t know how. So that to me is interesting.
Here’s what I want to say. Here’s what I’m trying to communicate to you. It’s a little difficult, but I think I could do it. There’s a part of you that feels you could be doing so much better. There’s a part of you that wants to hit the target and go, “Okay, love my body now, done, finished. Now I’m going to move on from this nonsense.” And what I want to say is I want you, highly suggest, I beg you to change that part of your religion, to change that part of your belief system, because there’s a place where you’re trying to win the lottery, win the medal. And this thing is gone. And what I’m saying is it’s going to be… go ahead.
Kristie: You did break up. Could you say that again?
Marc: Yeah. Thank you for asking me to do that. There’s a place in you where you’re wanting this to just be done, and, “I’m finished. I love my body. I’m comfortable. Okay, on to the next thing.” And what I want to say to you is it’s not going to look like that for a long time. What it’s going to look like is you’re going to do the same thing you’ve been doing, which is you’re going to get better and better and better. And it’s going to be step wise.
So I would love for you to take away the goal called I’m just going to feel comfortable in my body because here’s the thing. I know people who feel way more comfortable in their body, on average, moment to moment, than I do, than you do, or than anybody else does. So you and I could pick people from our worlds that oh, yeah, right. She’s comfortable in her body. He’s comfortable. I wish I had that.
But I promise you there are times when they’re not comfortable. There are times when they get sick. There are times when they’re not fully comfortable. It just happens. There are times when you’re going to get up on the wrong side of the bed. There are times when you got into an argument. There are times when the moon and the stars are in alignment, and you’re just not comfortable that day. So I don’t want you to waste time and energy going, “Oh my god, it’s this thing. It’s the boogeyman that I still can’t get rid of,” because any evidence right now that you get that you’re not comfortable in your body throws you into I’m not where I need to be.
Kristie: Kind of, yeah.
Marc: Yeah, so I am wanting to address that, first and foremost. And we’re going to talk about other stuff in this conversation. But if I can help you with that, you will have accomplished a lot in this conversation because there is a place I am getting where you go into a little bit of… it’s partly collapse. It’s collapse. It’s confusion. Things go haywire in here. You literally go haywire. And you don’t know which way to go.
And part of what happens, part of what triggers that, is that you get information. And the information is, “I don’t like my body today, okay. I looked in the mirror. I don’t feel good. I don’t like that. I want this to change.” You say something to yourself, something, whatever the trigger is, and you go down a rabbit hole. I want you to start to get more conscious before you go down that rabbit hole, that is, I want you to think of what I just said as weight lifting.
There have been times in your past when you got weights in front of you. And they’re a little bit more than you’ve lifted before. Or it’s at your edge. And you know, “Okay, I’m going to deal with this weight here right now.” You’ve got to be focused. You’ve got to have good technique. You’ve got to breathe. You’ve got to have your eyes open. You’ve got to have your mind clear. You’re focusing all your energy. You’re bringing all your energy to bear on that moment, on that activity, on that weight, same principle. There are times when you have to lift a little bit more weight in this process.
The weight here, the Olympic amount of weight that you have to lift, happens every time you go into the chaos mode because what happens is there’s a Kristie that you are naturally. There’s a person that you are naturally. And I believe that person happens to be very carefree, happens to be a lover of life. You love food. You love life. You love the outdoors. You love your body. You love feeling embodied. You love doing things in your body. You’re a happy person.
And you’ve gotten certain signals from your family. You’ve gotten certain signals from your upbringing. You’ve gotten certain signals from your life that that’s not okay. That’s not good. That’s not how we’re going to live. That’s not what it’s about. And you go into confusion mode. It literally confuses the bejesus out of you. There’s a place where it just feels like your brain goes into a storm. Now, follow me for a second here.
Marc: Two things, two events in your life, event number one, and it doesn’t have to be a specific moment, but I’m talking general when I say event.
Kristie: Can you say that again?
Marc: Sure, yeah, thank you. So there are two events in your life that I want to highlight. And when I say event it doesn’t mean a specific moment, more like two experiences, two pieces. Piece number one is there’s a disconnect in you as a child and how you’ve been communicated to. Your emotional body wasn’t well taken care of. Your emotional body wasn’t well communicated to you. You didn’t have good reflection. You mother, I wish I had another hour to dive into that relationship, but what I want to say is a woman’s relationship with her body often, and in your case I bet my life on it, tracks her relationship with her mother.
A woman’s relationship with her body tracks her relationship with her mother. Your relationship with your mother is okay, here’s who she is. Here’s what it’s about. We have a certain comfort zone. You stay there, Mom. I stay here. We’re not going to talk about this kind of stuff because it really gets me upset. I want to move beyond this. Mom, you’re still worried about food. You’re worried about your body. You’re worried about weight. You really don’t know how to talk to me. Plus in the past, whether you realize it consciously or not, your mom was not able to support you. Your dad is less important to me in this conversation. Your mother’s more important.
So if you’re a female, your model is your mother. If you’re a male, your model for being a male is your Dad, just how it works. So you have half your mother’s DNA. You’re modeling after her. You’re matching her as a child. You don’t even realize that you’re doing it. You’re tracking her. And your relationship with your mother is kind of like this. It’s not comfortable. She’s not comfortable in her own body, so you never had a role model for somebody who’s comfortable in her own body, in her own skin. So for better for or worse you are now trying to discover how to do that on your own.
Kristie: Totally, yeah.
Marc: Yeah, so you are. Now, here’s what I want you to say as a punch line into the future, into the future, into the future, way into the future. Where I want to see you able to get to go is I want to see you feeling more comfortable with your mother. The more comfortable you get with your mother, the more comfortable you’re going to be with your body, plain and simple. It doesn’t mean you have to be best friends with her. It might be a lot of inner work that you do. But quite frankly, I think there are some steps to take there in terms of how you’re being with your mother because I promise you every baby step that you move forward in your relationship with your mother will be a giant step in relationship with your body. Did you catch that?
Marc: I really mean that. I really, really mean that. So right now you’re still a girl with your mother. You’re disappointed with her a little bit. And you don’t even want to go there. There’s a place where you don’t want to go into some of the feelings. And I think what happens is there are some feelings there, some feelings around Mom. There are some feelings around like hey. “That hurt”. And you kind of want to just go, “Okay, it happened. It happened. I want to move on.”
And I get that you want to move on. Sometimes what moving on looks like is moving in. Sometimes moving on is diving in. Yeah, sometimes we’ve got to let people go. I don’t know if it’s your time to let go of your mother like this. I don’t know. I honestly don’t believe so. If I am 100% being your advocate, and if I want to see you get where you want to go the fastest, this is what I would harp on. If you were my client, and we were talking once a week, I would be on it with you and your mom. You would so not like me. And I would do it because I care about you and where you want to be.
I really get a good picture of where you’ve been. And you’re trying to manage this without having to go into a lot of chaos. You’re trying to manage this without having to feel a lot of shit and without having to feel a lot of stuff. And what I want to say is I don’t know that you can escape like that. I don’t know. I’m curious in my own mind what would happen if Kristie was like, “Okay, whatever I feel I’m going to feel, especially when it comes to my mother,” because the discomfort in your body is all about discomfort with life. It’s not about your body.
Yes, it’s about your body. Yes, it’s about your body. It’s about being here. It’s about being alive. It’s about dealing with people. It’s about what the hell is going on? Who are these people? How come I’m not being taken care of? Why am I not being communicated to? Who are all these kids around me? There’s a lot of stuff that happened in your life without any conversation and any communication. And there are all these gaps. And you’re trying to constantly regulate yourself without a lot of information. No wonder you don’t feel comfortable. Nobody would in your circumstance.
So what I’m saying is definitionally when you tell me I’m not comfortable in my own skin, what happens for you is because of your past, gymnast, weight lifter…
Kristie: Sorry, you broke up. Can you say that again? I heard if you’re not comfortable in your own skin.
Marc: If you’re not comfortable in your own skin you’re going to think it’s about my body. The truth is, it’s snowing out here today in Boulder, Colorado. I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin because I don’t like the cold anymore. So I’m not comfortable in my own skin when I walk outside. Now I could easily turn that into a body issue. But no, it’s an uncomfortable with life as it is. I’ve got to get used to the cold. I dress warmer. I try to look at my attitude.
So what I’m saying is we translate discomfort about life into discomfort about the body. You do that. You make the common mistake of defining discomfort about the world, about my past, about my experience, and you immediately focus it on the body because to our mind, to your mind, to my mind, to the human mind, oh, okay. Well if it’s just about the body, I can fix that. I’ve just got to exercise. I’ve got to run. I’ve got to lose weight. I’ve got to weight lift. I’ve got to diet. I could fix that uncomfortability.
So we want something we could fix. We want something that’s physical and tangible rather than the more difficult thing, which is like my mother. Okay, let’s just talk. Ultimately, when you’re able to feel like you belong in a conversation with your mother, and you could talk adult, you can be an adult in your conversation, what happens is, here’s what I think is the difficulty with you and your mother. You’re not quite her little girl anymore. You don’t live with her.
She doesn’t tell you what to do. You’re not her little girl. You’re your own woman, clearly. But there’s another part of you that when you’re talking to her you go back in time. You time travel. The moment you’re in her sphere, whether it’s on the phone, computer, whatever it is, you go back in time. And that’s natural. We all do that. But I need you to start catching yourself. And I need you to learn to stay in present time with your mother and stay in your adult.
Kristie: Can I ask a question about that?
Marc: Oh, 100%, please.
Kristie: Because we don’t really talk — we probably talk at Christmas, maybe a birthday — I don’t feel like I time travel so much because we don’t actually talk. If we were to, sure.
Marc: Okay, so what if you woke up tomorrow, and you got a call, “Mom died peacefully in her sleep last night.” Would you feel there was anything left unsaid?
Kristie: No. And I’ve thought a lot about this. And I’ve wondered is it cold of me? But I really feel complete with my relationship in the sense that when I say I’ve worked to the best of my ability, and I think she’s worked to the best of hers, I really feel we’ve both given it our best shot.
Marc: Nice. Interesting. So we’ve both given it our best shot. So you’ve reached a point where you feel like, “Okay, I’ve done my work over here with this lady.” I want to think about this one. What would she say if she knew she was going to die peacefully in her sleep tonight? Do you think she would say to me, “Yeah, I’m complete with Kristie. I don’t have anything else to say.”
Kristie: I don’t think she’s complete. I feel complete.
Marc: Got it. Okay.
Kristie: And I hope this doesn’t sound rude of me, but I don’t feel like it’s my job to make sure she’s complete. That’s her job to make sure she’s complete with the people that she needs to be with. And I sense that, but I feel like if I were to hit her up about it, I don’t know that I would get that honest answer because I don’t think she knows how to. And I don’t judge her for that. It’s just the whole family. You look at the generations, and you’re like, “I get it. I get where it comes from.” And I’ve done a lot of thinking about it. And I don’t know that she’ll ever get to say what she wants to. It’s just where it is.
Marc: Yeah, okay. I hear you. So I guess what I’m looking for is the inner shift then. So there’s an inner shift that I’m looking for. Here’s what it looks like when it happens, in my experience. When it comes to a parent, when it comes to graduating — I’m calling it graduating because in my experience, and I’ve gone through this in my own life personally, and I’ve walked this journey with so many people, and I’m not just talking about clients, just friends, family, loved ones — there’s a place where we make peace with our parents, and we make peace with our past, and where we can see our parents like we see any friend, any other human. “Oh, God, yeah, that was you. That must’ve been hard being you. God no wonder you did all those behaviors. No wonder you acted like that. Here’s your context. Here was your upbringing. Here was your life, deep breath. And I get it. And I forgive you. And I understand. And I’m complete.” Right now, to me, your completion, what it feels like is it feels like the end of a chapter. And it don’t feel like the end of the book.
Marc: You with me?
Marc: In the end of a chapter it feels like you needed to just draw this line for your own sake. Makes sense to me. That’s another smart thing you’ve done. For you on your journey, and I’m just getting this now, for you on your journey there was a piece where for you to move forward you actually needed to create some separation, really. Get these people out of my system.
Kristie: Absolutely, yeah.
Marc: I have to get these people out of my system. Who am I without their noise, their nonsense, me talking to them, working with them? Enough. Okay, so I want to say brilliant move. So I am not saying you have to go back there into the trenches in any way, shape, or form. But what I am saying here, and this is a subtlety that there is a heavy weight here to lift. There is an Olympic amount. And it’s different than the previous work that you’ve done. And it’s an inner shift where you become an adult in relationship to your parents, in this case specifically your mother. Right now in this conversation I am still talking to Kristie, the young daughter of a mother. I’m not talking to 31 year old you. I’m talking to, I don’t know, sometimes it’s 15 year old you. Sometimes it’s 30 year old you. We’re just trying to get it right contemporary because as you’re able to look at that from more of a big picture, there’s going to be a little bit more comfort for you. That’s all I want to say about that piece.
But I want to cycle back for a moment to this place where you go into confusion. So you, to my mind, suffered a kind of trauma. I’m going to call the molesting a form of trauma. It might not occur to you as that. It might. I don’t know. But a trauma is a stressful event that is hard to metabolize. Okay, you have done very well in metabolizing that experience, no doubt. No doubt you’ve done amazing at metabolizing it. We’re not done. You’re not done. You’re not done.
And that’s okay because this is your new Olympic training. And in the Olympic training there are days like I thought I did this already. I thought I did this work. And this is a very human dilemma. We often work very hard at something, and we think we’re done, and we are at that time. And then we circle back again. So there was a trauma that was committed. And in the moment of that trauma, in those moments, something happens in your mind.
So I was asking you questions, where did you go in your mind? What were you saying to yourself? So there’s not a lot of information that you were able to give me, which is understandable because a) it’s going to be in part memory challenge, b) because a part of you had to check out. A part of you had to not be there. What you were able to say was, “Yeah, there was a part of me that wanted to get small and disappear.” You said two things, “A part of me that wanted to get small and disappear,” number one. Number two, “There’s a part of me that felt like this is wrong.” So you knew enough to know that this is wrong. You also knew enough that you were in a stress response. One aspect of stress response is you fight. You duke it out with the attacker, you run from the attacker, or you freeze with the attacker, fight, flight, or freeze. You wanted to freeze.
Kristie: I froze.
Marc: You went into freeze. So check this out. You go to that place. You go to that freeze place. Every time you hit confusion zone about I’m comfortable in my body, whoops, I ate food, there’s a place where certain things trigger you. And we don’t have time to go into it now, but probably a number of different things trigger you where you go into freeze response around your body. And in that freeze response, what’s happening is confusion. It’s just confusion. You don’t know what to do, which is what was happening years ago when you were being assaulted. You didn’t know what to do. So you did the best you can do, which is disappear as much as you could.
So what is happening now is we always repeat an offense until we heal it. We repeat an offense until we heal it. So you will repeat that offense. How do you repeat it? You go to a similar place, the similar place called, “Oh my God, this is not okay. This doesn’t feel right. I don’t know what to do,” freeze response. And in that freeze response you lose your brain. You lose how smart you are. You lose your power. And nothing works. That’s where I want you to catch yourself because these days, for 31 year old Kristie, the truth is, ain’t nobody touching you that shouldn’t be. You’re still the smart, powerful woman that you are. You just go into forgetfulness in that moment. And you time travel into a past. And that past is also similar, I’m guessing, to moments when you were a kid growing up. And input doesn’t make sense to you because the world is not making sense. The world is not being congruent. And you see that. And you know that. And it causes breakdown.
And in those moments, these days you have to catch yourself and deep breathe because there’s a place where when you abandon yourself part of you eventually goes into problem solving. Part of you goes into, “Oh my God, why is this here? Why am I doing this? What’s happening? What do I have to fix?” And those are the wrong questions. I mean that. Those are the wrong questions. That’s where you go because that’s what’s helped you. Over the years you’ve started breaking it down. You’ve gone, “Okay, wait. Wait a second. This isn’t good. How do I fix this? How do I address it?” So that strategy has worked for you. And it does work. And it’s a great strategy when it’s a great strategy.
So there’s another strategy. When you’re in those moments it’s not what do I need to fix. What do I need to do? What do I need to not eat? What do I need to eat? What do I need to tweak in my brain? How do I love my body better? When am I ever going to be comfortable with myself? How come I can’t be like her? Instead of problem solving, it’s time to feel in those moments. It’s time to be your best friend and be with yourself and breathe and be in freaking chaos, be in extreme discomfort. You want to get out of the discomfort. I am asking you to breathe in that discomfort.
Previously you could not get out of the discomfort of sexual abuse. You could not get out of the discomfort of an upbringing where people ain’t talking to you in a good way. You couldn’t get out of that discomfort. You were trapped. Agree, you were frigging trapped. That’s not a good situation. Now you’re not trapped. So now you can start to feel. And you don’t have to worry about your parents. You don’t have to worry about an attacker. You’re safe.
And this is your time to then be with yourself, be in the discomfort, be in the pain. It’s no different than, I don’t know, if you’re walking, and you sprain your ankle, and you drop to the ground. That hurts. And when you sprain your ankle, it’s good that you’re on the ground. And it’s good that you’re hurting. And it’s good that you’re yelling because you need assistance. And that hurts. And that’s a sign that I’m in pain. I’m in discomfort. I need to be with myself until help comes. So it’s kind of like the same thing.
I’m asking you to get present in a place where you normally start to do stuff and start to figure stuff out. And that’s your signal to be a good mother to yourself. If you’re a good mother to yourself, it would be Kristie, I love you. Take a deep breath. I’m going to be with you as long as you need me right now. I’m not going to leave your side. This hurts. This is painful. I’m hating my body right now. She has a better relationship with her body. I feel so bad about myself. I want you to feel the feelings as opposed to trying to fix the feelings or get out of the feelings. Are you with me?
Kristie: I’m with you.
Marc: Because your environment taught you how not to feel.
Marc: And you’ve been learning how to feel. I know you give yourself that. I’m not saying you don’t give yourself this, and you haven’t taught yourself that. I’m just saying let’s keep going. Let’s keep doing this. And here’s the place to really start to bring your awareness and your attention. This is what your mother couldn’t do for herself. The reason why you hit a wall with your mother is because there’s a place, God bless her, where she can’t move beyond in her own self. So if she can’t mature herself, she actually can’t be a good mother to you. At best what she can be is your girlfriend. And honestly, she’s probably like your younger girlfriend. And you’re pissed because you want her to be your mom not a girlfriend with all these issues.
Kristie: Yeah. I don’t feel mad at her.
Marc: Yeah, but it would be nice if your mom was just more of a mom and a lady and a woman instead of just this person who can’t move beyond where she’s stuck.
Kristie: Exactly, yeah.
Marc: Okay, so what I’m saying is for you, then, you’re picking up where your mother, in a weird way, left off.
Marc: Where your mother couldn’t break the barrier was to be with her own feelings and to take care of her own emotions and to learn how to be with herself in such a way that then she could be with other people. Now for sure I know you do this. I know you can be with yourself. And I know you can be with other people. We’re just talking about going deeper. That’s what this is because you’re getting better and better. And you want to have a better relationship with your body. You could hold steady right now where you are. And a lot of people do. And it will have been a tremendous accomplishment given where you’ve been.
Kristie: Yeah. And I don’t feel done.
Marc: No, you’re not done. So given that you’re not done, given that you’re not a quitter, given that there’s this part of you that just doesn’t want to quit, that is so beautiful. It’s so amazing. And that part of you is going to see you through. I know it. I truly believe that. But here’s what I want to say. That part of you is also I don’t want to say a liability, but it gets in your way. And the way it gets in your way is that you are such a bulldog for busting through stuff that you forget that sometimes actually busting through isn’t what gets you through. Sometimes it’s a little bit of finesse.
Kristie: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
Marc: And the finesse part is the part that I’m talking about, which is to start to catch yourself in the moment where you go into the stress response called freeze. And freeze for you looks like your mind is going in 100 different directions. So as soon as your mind starts to go in 100 different directions, I want you to deep breathe. I want you to call up a girlfriend, a boyfriend, a best friend and go, “I’m in that spot. And I just need someone to talk to. I just need to regulate myself. I just need to breathe. I just need to calm down. I need to yak.” You could just yak for 20 minutes. Blow off some steam, move the energy, talk about your feelings. You don’t have to make any sense. You don’t have to fix anything. This is not about fixing anything. This is about in the moment catching yourself when you’re in the freeze and breathing yourself back into your body as if you were about to weight lift. When you weight lift, you embody.
Kristie: Yeah, I’m like, yeah.
Marc: Bingo. That’s what I’m looking for. You have that freaking skill. You have a tremendous skill, tremendous. That’s a tremendous skill, especially if you’ve been a world class athlete. That’s a tremendous skill to have. And all I’m saying is we’re taking that skill and translating it.
Kristie: I like that, yeah.
Marc: Okay, it’s that kind of focus. You’re calling yourself into your body. I kid you not. Do you have weights in the house? Do you have dumbbells in the house?
Kristie: I’m done with lifting weights.
Marc: Okay, so if there’s a physical thing that you could do that’s simple and easy, that helps you get into your body in the moment, even if you had two 15 pound dumbbells that you just, I don’t know, breathe yourself back in. I don’t care what it is. I need you to find that trick or two or three. I need you to find an easy trick that oh, that just focused me and got me into my body. And then from that place you’re in your body. How am I feeling? Where am I feeling? Don’t fix anything. Don’t fix anything. Being with yourself is the fix. You’re trying to figure out something. Stop it.
Marc: You’re torturing yourself by trying to figure out a fix in the moment. And then what happens is you don’t get the fix in the moment, and you think you’re wrong. You get frustrated. You think you missed the target. And meanwhile all you’ve been doing is having one success after the next over the years. That’s why I’m trying to paint a different picture about your story, about your journey, because part of you has it in your mind, freak, I’m still not there yet. I want to get there. I want to get there.
And that in part holds you back because what you’re not seeing is you’ve already won, as far as I’m concerned, six gold medals here. And you think that you’ve still got like a bronze in the closet. And it’s not enough. And I’m saying you’ve got a lot of medals. You’ve accomplished something. You are on a path of success. You have to start seeing it differently. I mean that.
As you start to see your past a little differently, and you start to acknowledge where you’ve come from, how well you’ve done, and that you’re still in progress, and you’re still in play, and that it’s not hit the target, wake up one morning, I love my body, I’m comfortable in my body, done. This is a lifelong relationship. It’s going to get better and better and better. And then at some point you’re going to be 90 percent there most of the time. You’re going to be in comfort most of the time.
And then you’re going to have the 10 percent discomfort that anybody else has. No biggie. You’re not going to let it throw you off your horse the day that you go into discomfort because you meet somebody who looks hotter in a bikini, in your opinion, than you do. Okay, discomfort, fine. It’s really not a big deal at some point. So you’re learning how to not make it a big deal.
Marc: You’re learning how to say to yourself, “Hey, I’ve been making progress. I don’t have to derail myself because I’m not where I think I should be,” because the goal you’re setting for yourself sets you up for failure.
Marc: So therefore I’m saying change the goal. And change it to a goal honestly that is more accurate to hit, that is more about what life actually looks like. And what life looks like is it’s a journey. It’s a process. It’s an unfoldment. It happens step by step. You’ve been doing this step by step. I know that you want to get this thing done with. That’s good. So I’m with you. That’s good. I get it.
And now I want you to put that right to the side. So it’s alongside you like a good buddy. “Okay, yeah, I want to get this over with, and I’m doing it,” as opposed to, “I want to get this over with, and I’m not there. Oh my God. And here I am in this moment where it’s not working, and I’m collapsing. And I’m going into freeze response. And my head’s trying to figure it out.”
Breathe yourself back into your body and you go, “No, this is my opportunity to be with myself, to feel.” And you’re learning to be with yourself because that’s the moment of discomfort that your soul is hungering for, you to be with yourself. That place when you learn how to be more comfortable there is what’s going to save you. You try to get out of that place because that place is where the offenses were committed. You were molested in that place.
And you were brought up in that place of we’re not communicating to you. We’re overriding your moments. They don’t count. We just want you to disappear, be small and just whatever. And now you’re learning to stay awake in that place because you’re a woman. You’ve learned some things. You’re safe. And you’re raising yourself now. So we are at that time. But I am wondering, has any of this been helpful and useful for you?
Kristie: I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck and need to sleep for a week. There’s a lot to digest. But it’s well on the Mark, I think. And I like the idea of changing the goal because I think, yeah, I’m asking the wrong questions. It’s not about fixing it. It’s just about being with it.
Marc: Yes. That’s going to change everything for you, Kristie. I mean that. I truly mean that. I really feel like I have a sense of you and your earnestness and your motivational force, your inspirational power. And all I’m saying is we’ve got to adjust some of these dials here so that you could use that force and that power effectively by setting a goal that is reasonable, asking the right questions, being more in alignment with how life actually works, which is step by step by step.
Marc: I am so glad we had this chance to connect and talk. I really am.
Kristie: Me too. Thank you.
Marc: You are welcome. And I threw a lot in your court. I really did. So if you’re feeling like you got hit by a truck, I get it. I just wanted to put out there my best that I have to offer.
Kristie: It was a good truck.
Marc: All right. That’s great. Miss Kristie, so we get to have a follow up session in a handful of months. And feel free to email me and just kind of let me know, give me an update. But we’ll do a follow up. Somebody on my team will reach out. And I thank you so much. I really do.
Kristie: Thank you.
Marc: All right. And thank you, everybody, for tuning in. I really appreciate you being part of our world. Once again, I’m Marc David on behalf of the Psychology of Eating podcast. Take care my friends.
I hope this was helpful. Thanks for listening to the Psychology of Eating podcast. To learn more about the breakthrough body of work we teach here at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, please sign up for our free video series at IPE.tips. That’s I for Institute, P for Psychology, E for Eating.tips. T-i-p-s. You’ll learn about the cutting-edge principles of dynamic eating psychology and mind/body nutrition that have helped millions of people forever transform their relationship with food, body, and health.
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