Jennifer: Hey ya’ll, Elisabeth and I are back today to talk to you as a follow-up to our very first conversation, Bingeing and Survival. You know we love to talk about food as one of our favorite ways to regulate our nervous system! We have several episodes really about food, but it is no coincidence that Bingeing and Survival is our #1 episode. I don’t think that has any correlation to it being the first episode.
Elisabeth: Oh absolutely! I think food and our disordered eating was the portal to a lot of our healing. That was the behavior that exhibited and caused us enough pain- and stayed with us our whole life. And driven us into exploring all these different modalities of healing. It led me to a lot of insights about how the nervous system works and how to begin to heal and repair my own nervous system. Consequently, it led us to develop the Food Freedom Program where we help other people use disordered eating as a portal to heal and expand their lives. So, it’s a topic that we are incredibly passionate about and has really changed my entire life.
Jennifer: Yeah, it has changed our lives. And that’s what we want to share with ya’ll today. What does it look like to move out of disordered eating, into eating more intuitively, having a better relationship with our bodies. Stopping the loops- all those loops that come with food- when am I going eat, where am I gonna eat, what does food prep look like? All the spirals, the shame spirals that go along with binges. My God, I don’t miss that! (laughing) God, I was SO bad to myself!
Elisabeth: (laughing) Just as you were talking I was like ‘oh my God’! When I think about how much of my life, prior to doing this work and healing, was spent obsessing about my workouts, my next food plan, the next way I was going to “get on top of this” and fix this issue whether that was a diet or new type of therapy. Or taking medications to stop my obsession with it. I took diet pills, I did all the things in my 20s and early 30s.
Jennifer: I was gonna say, my obsession with losing weight- just that obsession with my body.
Elisabeth: Every event that I went to, the only thing that was important prior to the event was getting in good enough shape to feel okay there. Then whether or not I had a good time at the event, whether that was someone I loved wedding or my best friend’s birthday or a loved one’s whatever or a big work celebration because I launched a big project- I wasn’t present for any of it. I was just worried about getting my body in good enough shape so that I wouldn’t feel ashamed and miserable the entire time, beating myself up about how I look.
Jennifer: I have missed events, because I couldn’t leave my closet. I have completely not gone and just made something up. I hid so much of my life, because of the obsessiveness that came with food. Then it’s like the shame spiral that comes with missing an important event or the lying. Then it feeds more of a binge because I’m still regulating my nervous system through the shame, then shame of what I’ve eaten.
Elisabeth: It’s a never-ending loop, isn’t it?
Jennifer: That is gone!
Elisabeth: It is gone. I think about my life now. My very favorite things to do are to go swimming, to go to Barton Springs and go swimming, and be out in nature. Just really enjoying being active and connecting to nature and to my body. That used to be such a loaded thing for me- going to the pool, going swimming. I deprived myself of the things that I enjoyed most, because I was too consumed with this issue. Now I get to live my life. I really truly very rarely- if at all ever- I’m trying to think if it’s happened at all because I don’t want to lie people, but I feel like, no it hasn’t. Have I stopped myself from doing something because I felt uncomfortable in my body or because I was gonna binge? I live my life now. I’m able to show up and be present- go swimming, go to an event, be present with people that I love and not worry about the rest of it.
Jennifer: I think there are times where I will feel like I might have overeaten a little bit. For me, a binge used to look like multiple foods. I might have my Dark Passenger take over and get me to the grocery story- let me grab some chips and guac, I’ll grab this ice cream. It’s a very mix of foods, but now I might just overeat a little bit. It’s not anywhere near the same of what I would quantify as a binge.
Elisabeth: Yeah, healing for me doesn’t look like I’ll never overeat again. I think that’s not realistic, I think everyone overeats. Everyone has a moment where you feel stressed out and you just want some chocolate- and that’s perfectly fine. Healing for me looks like sometimes I overeat and I don’t care. I will overeat something and then the rest of my life just goes on. And you know what? It’s a wash. It doesn’t matter. My weight doesn’t change when I overeat something.
My weight did used to fluctuate a lot because I would go through very restrictive cycles. Like you said, I would actively plan for like ‘I’m gonna have this time of restriction here’ and then I’m gonna let myself binge for 2 or 3 days’.I would plan all the things I was gonna eat during the time I was allowed to binge, or having “cheat” day where I literally ate until I was in so much pain I couldn’t get out of bed. I would go to multiple restaurants. I would bake a whole cake and eat it.
Now I do not do that. And yes, sometimes I overeat. I eat a big meal and might get dessert or I get snacky in the kitchen. I’m working and I’m bored and I’m stressed out and I don’t want to deal with it anymore so I’ll overeat a little bit. Then I never think about it again, and it doesn’t impact my physical appearance, because you know what? It’s just not that big of a deal and it’s not enough of a change in my intake to really even make a difference.
Jennifer: The biggest thing, and I was not expecting this the first time I went through Food Freedom, I thought it was just gonna be about my eating behaviors, my cravings and my binges. I think the greatest reward for me, outside of everything we’ve talked about, is really how I feel in my body. We go swimming- I don’t compare my body to those other bodies. I’m not looking at myself and going ‘oh my God, your body shouldn’t be out here’. I don’t avoid swimming anymore. Whereas I used to avoid swimming. I used to avoid being in public in a bathing suit. Now it’s like “This is my Body” and, man, it’s been through a lot. I’m not going to deprive it of joy, of connection, of pleasure, because of whatever patriarchal oppressive standards have been put on me, on my body, on my food- diet culture, bikini industrial complex. No. No.
Elisabeth: Done with that. It’s one of those things that I wanted to be ‘done with that’ for a long time. I wanted to eat intuitively. I wanted to feel safe going to do the things that I wanted to do, wearing whatever I wanted to wear, but I just couldn’t- inside of my body- get to a place where that was safe. And I couldn’t stop myself from obsessing about it beforehand or hearing those inner critic loops while I was at the event while I was doing ‘the thing’. So intellectually I knew, ‘ok, I don’t want to participate in diet culture. I don’t want to be part of the bikini industrial complex. I don’t want to live in these loops of shame, but I couldn’t stop it.
It really wasn’t until I started making my nervous system feel better around doing those things and using applied neurology to create a new felt sense of safety inside of myself. So before I went to swim, I’d do some drills. After, I’d do some drills, I’d do some things that my nervous system liked. I continued to teach my brain and my body- this is safe, it’s okay. And less and less I would get dysregulated. The more times I could do ‘the thing’ without moving into one of the stress responses, without moving into Flight, Fight, Fawn, Freeze, the better I got at doing ‘the thing’ without moving into the stress response. So over time, it just changed. Now I don’t have to do all the regulation before and after, because I’ve had enough repetitions of it being safe. Now I just go do it. But it took some time, took working with my nervous system.
Jennifer: Yeah, you’ve gotten better at taking action when it feels safe. And so taking action just gets blanketed in as ‘it’s safe when I take action’. It’s safe for me to explore, to play, to connect. Then it just gets safer and then we just get better at doing those things. Then before you know it, our whole life looks different.
Elisabeth: Yeah, now it’s just something I do. I don’t think about it, I don’t experience intrusive thoughts when I do it. I don’t experience pain, migraine, dissociation, shut down afterwards. I just do ‘the thing’. And that just comes from continuously over time re-educating my body and my nervous system that it’s safe to do this thing. Then I think, too as you and I have gone into this issue, the more we’ve gone into this issue the deeper we’ve gotten into the nuances of it. And we’ve been able to see all these places where it shows up in our life and peel them little by little. Like the changes you made with your food prep, that was such a huge thing. It took awhile to get there, but then once you did- what a huge difference that made. Do you want to tell the folks about that?
Jennifer: Yeah, I used to spin out over food prep. In general I’m someone who, one of my loops is the control over my food. Where does it come from? How does it get to me? Who made it? Is it organic? It has to be all the things, free of everything. And so it really controlled me. I would often, getting back to the binge and restrict cycle, if I don’t have food prepared I would either not eat- I could go all day and not eat. Then I would, not binge necessarily, but just that restrict and binge cycle- that all or nothing. I would go all day and not eat, but it was a strong loop in my head- a big narrative in my head about me failing in my life because I couldn’t prepare my food. So I started subscribing to a service where I got food delivered to me. Whooo! Total game changer in my life! I mean a complete… I don’t think about food anymore. I just don’t think about it. When I cook food, you know I love to make soup, I freeze some of it. It’s not that big of a deal. (laughing)
Elisabeth: It’s incredible when we realize these things that have become so layered into our disordered eating. And how much stress and trauma that’s triggering. We don’t see it until we get deeper into the work. Then it’s like ‘oh man, when I think about food prep, I obsess about it all the time. Then it creates all these other loops that seem even unrelated- shame about your body, shame about not working hard enough, that you’re gonna be a failure in business and relationship and dut dut dut dut. The whole cascade of things, all those emotions come with it. And it’s like ‘oh, I could just not do this and not experience this whole thing’, but it takes awhile to get there.
I had a similar experience with understanding that baking was part of my trauma around food. I developed my love of baking actually as a trauma response, as a controlling mechanism with food. A way to put a lot of emotions in food. Then also when I bake it really triggers all my loops of perfectionism. Then before I know it, seemingly unrelated loops are going off in my head. Bad thoughts about my body, self abuse, all the ways in which I’m not good enough, I’m failing at my life. Panic, full on panic in my body. Really the deeper you get into the work, the more layers you can uncover and either rewire or just let go.
Jennifer: Both beautiful to do. Both really beautiful practices. It’s just years of self harm that I don’t have to move forward with. I can just let go and honor my body- how it has survived, what it has been through and then find a way back to myself. Like trusting myself, trusting that I know how to feed myself. Trusting that I know what my body wants.
Elisabeth: Yep. I would say we both, as do many of our clients who have gone through the Food Freedom Program, have a completely different relationship with our body. We listen to it’s signals, we honor those signals. We have a loving, not abusive relationship with our body. Most of all we have the freedom to think and do so many other things in life because our time isn’t spent on the constant hamster wheel that is diet culture.
Jennifer: Yeah, talk about freedom. It IS freedom.
Elisabeth: Yeah, it really is.
Jennifer: And the program is open. Food Freedom is open right now for enrollment.
Elisabeth: Food Freedom is open right now for enrollment. And it really can be a portal to changing all the areas of your life- your relationships, your work- everything. Starting with re-developing a new relationship with your body and with the way that you care for yourself. And just getting out of that obsession so that you have time, the headspace, the energy to do the things that you want to do in life.
Jennifer: It’s really life changing. You can easily book a consult and see if the program is right for you.
Elisabeth: We are always happy to help people on this journey. It really means a lot to us, we know a lot of different practitioners. Even if we’re not the right fit for you, we will help you find what is. The best place to get started is just to have a chat with us and see if this is what you’re looking for. And know that it is possible. It’s possible to never have to go through another binge, to never have to go on another diet and to not have to sacrifice your health and wellness goals to get that freedom.
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