What I Learned at The Institute for the Psychology of Eating.

Many of you know the passion I have for helping people get healthy. It’s my life mission and one that I plan to expand and pursue more fully over the coming months as I look at going into full-time health coaching and educating. I am always looking for opportunities to do this, so when I had the chance to expand my knowledge/education through a live event at The Institute for The Psychology of Eating here in Boulder, it was an instant “hell yeah” for me! I had been following the journey/teachings of Emily Rosen and Marc David for years on Facebook and loved everything I had heard/read about this institute and yet nothing could have prepared me for how life-changing this event would be for me. In fact, ‘life-changing’ would be a massive understatement. To say that I learned a lot would be a disservice to what actually happened, and how transformative this event truly was. It rocked my consciousness in ways I never expected and helped me get really clear about what it is that I want to bring to the world, myself and others.

We talked a lot about the current atmosphere in the health industry and the false beliefs many of us have around diet and eating. We unpacked many of the theories floating around concerning weight, diet, and exercise and the reasons many of them haven’t worked. A lot of questions were asked and even more were finally answered for me. These are some of the things I came away with.

WHAT’S NOT WORKING. One of the things we must recognize whenever we are trying to help people/do better, is to first understand what’s not working. And we don’t have to go far to see this. Marc works in Boulder, an area that is known for their near-perfect Hollywood lifestyle and their pristine diets. If you were to look up the current industry buzzwords (i.e. vegan, keto, HIIT, dophin-safe, gmo and cruelty-free) you would find them ALL in Boulder. They are the ideal image of health. At least on paper. And yet when you delve a little further into the REAL lives that live under those standards, you will find many of the same stress levels (if not, higher!) and unwanted outcomes that exist in the rest of the world. Even in this mega hub of “health and fitness”, Marc sees an unprecedented amount of dissatisfied, unhappy people at his clinic. Even amidst the poster board displays of perfect health, we are still seeing some of the most astounding levels of frustration, depression, and dysfunction when it comes to the subject of eating. Why is this??  you might ask. Well, let’s explore a little….

Religion vs Satisfaction. For 50+ years now we’ve been antagonizing ourselves with rules about food. We’ve practically beaten ourselves to death with things like “Calories in, Calories Out” and “Fat Makes us Fat” through every possible means we can imagine and we’ve been “watching our weight” like our life (literally) depended on it for decades now and yet, statistics show that it has only made us fatter and more frustrated. Not only have these theories proven unhelpful over the years, they have kept us glued to the scale and fueled our obsession with perfection.

Perhaps we have been focusing on the wrong things! Perhaps we have made it about formula, we have turned the art and beauty of it into a religion, a confusing and overwhelming one at that, and we have traded in our satisfaction for a set of rules that have for the most part managed to make us feel even worse about ourselves than we originally did. This is not the way it’s supposed to be! Somewhere in our quest for perfection, we have turned the experience of eating into a science, an unreasonable, un-enjoyable act which we must now control and perfect and obsess over, instead of simply enjoying and receiving what we need from it. Somewhere along the way we have forgotten how to just ENJOY our food and our lives and to honor this most basic need/avenue of satisfaction and pleasure.

This is important to remember, because

How we eat is how we live. We learned early on at the Institute that our relationship with food is probably the most important relationship we will ever have and it will follow us around (like a sibling) for all of our lives. You will never NOT be in relationship with food. Food is essential to our existence which is essential to our happiness and personal development. Some may have heard the saying “how we do one thing is how we do everything”. This couldn’t be more true in the area of EATING. Marc pointed out that how we view food is usually how we view life and relationships. Food is life, people! It’s time we treat it as that and start cultivating a positive, healthy view of it. It’s time we return to our primal instincts and the philosophies that work for us, not against us.

One of the ways we can do that is by returning balance to the masculine/feminine and to

Stop living in a masculine world. We know the male psyche is driven by facts and numbers, and motivated more by the bottom line (what looks good on paper), whereas the female is more fluid, more open, more experiential. Marc pointed out how that we need both and that ideally we have a nice balance of each one, but in the very real world of fitness and nutrition, we have somehow ditched the feminine ‘feeling and experience’ (which changes btw) for the masculine manipulation of macros and pushing of numbers. That’s why he believes women in general are more frustrated than men in this arena.

We’re tired of doing all the right things, but not FEELING all the right things. We must start balancing these polarities. We must get back to listening to the feminine side of us and returning more to the nuances of eating and the experience of it vs. just DOING IT and checking it off our list. Because in the end,

It’s not about the calories you eat, it’s about the happiness you feel. This is one of the biggest things we learned from Marc and his work at the institute. We learned that attempting to manipulate our bodies with nutrition facts and formulas has not only NOT served us, but it has in fact sabotaged what we really want, and what no ‘perfect body composition’ or  ‘number on the scale’ can bring us. And that is pleasure. That is JOY in our lives. Marc tells countless stories of people who have come to him after years of dieting and counting calories or “watching their weight” and yet were extremely unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives. He has found that when he finally addresses the underlying reasons and psychology behind their frustration and discovers what they REALLY want or what they may have felt jipped out of  (i.e. intimacy, connection, acceptance, happiness, etc.) at some point in their lives, people often break through and start seeing results, which leads me to this.

Don’t make the small stuff your life goal. It can be tempting to think that a certain number on the scale or looking a certain way is going to bring you happiness, ads and media inundate us with this after all, but research has shown that this is simply not true. In Marc’s practice, he has found quite the opposite and often more hopelessness and disappointment at the end, because the person has made the small thing (losing weight, getting the body or the abs they want) their life goal instead of what they REALLY want which is often connection, helping others, telling their story, finding love, purpose, etc. Goals are good but they need to be kept in check with our higher calling, our deeper desires. Marc often asks his clients, “so what are you going to do with your life when you reach that goal?” And I think that’s a good question, because that is where we need to focus our energy. As health advocates and educators, that is where the real work is, and that is where we will truly begin to help people.

Finally,

Have some fun. We’re all just experimenting anyway! We learned that there really is no one expert on nutrition, and there is not just ONE way to eat. We are all growing and learning what works best for each of us. The important thing is to keep growing, keep experimenting, and keep finding joy along the way. Health and happiness to you, darlings!

(Many thanks to Marc, Emily, and the team at IPE for putting on this powerful event and helping us all find a better way to look at eating and living. I know I will be forever changed and inspired by it. Much love for you guys!)

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