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How Leslie Stopped Overeating and Started Being Her Healthiest Self Podcast Episode 138


Dr Orlena chats with Leslie Davis, author of "You Can't Eat Love".

Leslie shares her story.

How she changed her relationship with food, stopped overeating and became the healthiest version of herself.

Mentioned on the Podcast: 

Dr Orlena's Resources:

A woman dipping a peeta bread in white sauce #overeating #healthyeating #diet

Dr. Orlena: Hello and wel­come to the Fit and Fab­u­lous Pod­cast with me, Dr. Orlena Kerek, I'm su­per ex­cit­ed to­day be­cause we're talk­ing about one of my fa­vorite top­ics, which is our re­la­tion­ship with food. I am su­per ex­cit­ed to wel­come Leslie Davis. Leslie, thank you so much for be­ing with us to­day.

Leslie: Thank you so much for hav­ing me. I'm so ex­cit­ed! I love the fact that we've got tech­nol­o­gy be­cause I'm on one side of the At­lantic and you're on the oth­er side of the At­lantic. And yet we can still talk.

Dr. Orlena: I know it's ab­so­lute­ly amaz­ing, isn't it? So Leslie has writ­ten a fab­u­lous book called You Can’t Eat Love. But be­fore we dive into your book, Leslie, I'd love you to in­troduce your­self.

Healthy Living is about being healthy men­tal­ly, emo­tion­al­ly, and physically

Leslie: Again, thank you so much for hav­ing me. I love the mes­sage that you're get­ting out to your lis­ten­ers because it re­al­ly res­onat­ed with me. About six years ago, I went on this jour­ney to find my­self. I hate us­ing that term, but that's re­al­ly what it was.

I had reached a point in my life where it was ei­ther get healthy or con­tin­ue down a re­al­ly bad path. So I de­cid­ed I was go­ing to get healthy men­tal­ly, emo­tion­al­ly, and physically and part of that was los­ing weight. I was about a hun­dred pounds over­weight.

Healthy eating is about our re­la­tion­ship with food not dieting

Leslie: What I dis­cov­ered was it was not about di­et­ing, which is some­thing you re­al­ly speak about. It's about our re­la­tion­ship with food and what goes on in our mind that has cre­at­ed a re­la­tion­ship with food.

What I dis­cov­ered was that I need­ed to learn how to love my­self. Be­cause I was us­ing food as, to use the term, my drug of choice.

Dr. Orlena: Con­grat­u­la­tions because it is a big trans­for­ma­tion to make. For a lot of people, trying to lead a healthy life feels like you're on this ham­ster wheel that’s go­ing round and round and round, and you can't kind of get out of that ham­ster wheel.

What I’d re­al­ly love to hear about is, you talk about food be­ing your drug of choice, what did that look like for you on a dai­ly ba­sis?

We often reach out to food when we feel a heightened emotion

Leslie: When I would feel some­thing, whether sad or angry, the way that I would deal with it was not deal­ing with it. In­stead I would look for some­thing that would kill the pain. I would go for the chips or cookies.

At the be­gin­ning of my book, I talk about some of the lies that I tell my­self and among those where I'd go to the gro­cery store and I'd pick up a pack of 18 cook­ies. They were these really soft sug­ar cook­ies with this ic­ing on top and I would eat those. Then a wave of shame would come over me be­cause I was se­cret­ly eat­ing food. But as I also say in the book, it wasn't a se­cret be­cause the world could see the out­side re­sult of what I was do­ing “in secret”.

Even with happy emotions during happy oc­ca­sions, we cel­e­brate with food.

When we learn­ to name the emo­tions we feel, we release the pow­er that we have given food

Lesilie: I didn't have any boundaries on the food. In­stead of say­ing, ‘Right now I feel re­al­ly hap­py. I think I'm go­ing to cel­e­brate right now.’ or ‘I feel re­al­ly sad. I'm go­ing to sit in this sad­ness for a mo­ment.’

When I start­ed being brave enough to have self-discovery conversations with my­self that I rec­og­nized I didn't need to use the food. I didn't need to eat an en­tire bag of bar­be­cue pota­to chips or eat the cook­ies or the large pack of Reese's.

I rec­og­nized that I wasn't go­ing to die from sad­ness and anger. By learn­ing to name the emo­tions that I felt, I re­leased the pow­er that I had giv­en food.

We often self-med­icate with food when we feel emotions

Dr. Orlena: I think this is a very com­mon pat­tern that I see in a lot of peo­ple. You feel your emo­tion then you self-med­icate with some food. And then you feel guilty afterward, which is an­oth­er emo­tion.

So re­al­ly you haven't even achieved your goal of get­ting to a neu­tral emo­tion, be­cause what you've ac­tu­al­ly done is replace it with an­oth­er neg­a­tive emo­tion.

Many peo­ple are scared of emo­tions

Dr. Orlena: We have this fear of neg­a­tive emotions. And nor­mal­ly what hap­pens when we feel big emotions, it doesn't ac­tu­al­ly last very long. It lasts like 90 sec­onds.

Now, ob­vi­ous­ly, if we've got a thought that's trig­ger­ing that neg­a­tive emo­tion, then that thought will keep trig­ger­ing that emo­tion and it’s go­ing to last longer.

How did you get from self-med­icat­ing with food to having a healthier relationship with it? How did you start to change that process?

Awareness is the start to having a healthy relationship with food

Leslie: First I be­came aware of what I was do­ing and the way that I had be­come aware was I start­ed track­ing what I was eat­ing be­cause I was try­ing to lose the weight.

I was also do­ing some jour­nal­ing. I would write down how I felt and just hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions with my­self not re­al­ly fo­cus­ing on the emo­tions. I start­ed be­com­ing aware that when I would feel cer­tain ways, this is what would hap­pen. I had to do things that were con­scious so that I could dis­cov­er what I was do­ing un­con­scious­ly.

Even if you just sit down and write three pages each morn­ing or at a cer­tain time each day and have a conversation with your­self, you can dis­cov­er, like I did, what is go­ing on in your head.

It’s like when you buy a red car, all of a sud­den you see red cars every­where. And so I start­ed to be aware of when I feel sad and what happens after that. I started to think what can I do to make a dif­fer­ent choice?

I started to experiment with dif­fer­ent things that I could do. I dis­cov­ered, as you said, the feel­ing lasts about 90 sec­onds. If I could sur­vive that 90 sec­onds, then I can make a dif­fer­ent choice.

Trying to run from a negative emotion is a result of not knowing how to deal with it

Leslie: I dis­cov­ered that I was try­ing to run from the feel­ing because I didn't know how to cope with the feel­ing.

So many times when we're grow­ing up, when we feel sad, we tell our par­ents that we feel sad and they tell us we should not feel that way. Then we don't know what to do with that, be­cause that is how we feel. That is our le­git­i­mate feel­ing.

We ei­ther feel afraid. We feel scared. We feel sad. We'd be a lone­ly. And these adults would tell us that we shouldn't feel this way. Then what do we do with that?

I had to learn to not be afraid, to feel those things, and that it was okay. I had to start hon­or­ing the feel­ings and becoming aware of how they affected me.

You talked about the ham­sters on the wheel earlier. When we don't al­low our­selves to ac­knowl­edge and be aware of those things, they do become ham­sters that are on wheels and they run around and around and around in our head and do all kinds of dam­age in their run­ning.

If we're try­ing to achieve a life­style of health­i­ness and hap­pi­ness we have to ac­knowl­edg­e and hon­or­ those neg­a­tive feel­ings

Once we’ve done that we can start mov­ing for­ward be­cause we've hon­ored it in­stead of try­ing to stuff it into a clos­et.

Dr. Orlena: There are three ways that we can deal with emotions.

Num­ber one, we can act from that emo­tion. For ex­am­ple, you're feel­ing an­gry, act­ing from that place of emo­tion looks like shout­ing, scream­ing, throw­ing things.

Num­ber two, we can dis­tract our­selves. You feel this emotion and think ‘I'm go­ing to do some­thing else.’ Some­times you can do that in a healthy way. For example, you put on some hap­py mu­sic when you feel sad and you dance for five min­utes to change your en­er­gy. But so fre­quent­ly we turn to those not so healthy ways such as eat­ing.

Then the third thing that we can do is sit with that emo­tion. And that sounds so scary and for­eign, be­cause as you say, we grew up with our parents telling us that we shouldn’t feel sad or angry. We have this cul­tur­al idea that we don't ever want to feel those neg­a­tive emo­tions. That re­al­ly what we want to be happy the whole time.

A plate of salad #overeating #healthyeating #diet

Negative emotions come in waves

You sit and feel that emo­tion and af­ter a pe­ri­od of time, it dis­ap­pears. It’s a much quick­er route to clear that emo­tion than go down the negative plug hole.

Some­thing not great hap­pens and instead of work­ing your way through it, you push it aside, but then it creeps up a lit­tle bit but you push it aside. You're sort of mulling it over and in­stead of clear­ing it. A cou­ple of weeks lat­er on, it's still with you. It’s still eating you up and that's not where you want to be.

Acknowledging negative emotions will help prevent yourself to reach for treats

Dr. Orlena: So I'd like to ask you, what does your life look like now?

Leslie: Well, life is sig­nif­i­cant­ly bet­ter be­cause, I have learned what I call putting my own oxy­gen mask on first.

I have learned that de­spite the fact that I am around peo­ple who don't know how to ac­knowl­edge emo­tion, that I now had the lan­guage to say ‘I hear what you are say­ing. How­ev­er, at this mo­ment, this is how I am feel­ing. I'm not ask­ing you to fix it. I'm not ask­ing you to do any­thing. I'm sim­ply ask­ing you to ac­knowl­edge that you hear what I'm say­ing.’

For ex­am­ple, just yes­ter­day, I had to say to my hus­band that I'm feeling sad be­cause of these things that are hap­pen­ing and he tried to start fix­ing it. I said, ‘I'm not ask­ing you to fix this. I just need you to hear what I'm say­ing.’

So I've learned to not be afraid to ver­bal­ize to oth­er peo­ple how I'm feeling, but at the same time, I've learned to be kind to my­self and that it’s okay to feel upset.

When I do rec­og­nize that I'm feel­ing sad and in­stead of go­ing for the cook­ies or the can­dy or the chips, I cel­e­brate by telling myself, ‘You felt re­al­ly sad, but you didn't do these things. So that is amaz­ing and I am so proud of you.’

We need to cel­e­brate the things that we want to con­tin­ue and ig­nore the things that we want to stop

If I do hap­pen to eat can­dy, when that re­al­ly wasn't a great choice, I ig­nore that. I say, ‘Okay, this is what hap­pened. You made a choice. We're mov­ing on.’

Like yes­ter­day when I made the choice to not go for the can­dy and in­stead to feel what I was feel­ing I cel­e­brat­ed af­ter I felt it and I felt much bet­ter. I said, ‘I'm so proud of you. You al­lowed your­self to be sad. You al­lowed your­self to ex­pe­ri­ence it. You shared that with your hus­band. That is so amaz­ing. I am so proud of you.’ Then I'm re­in­forc­ing those habits.

If you look at our so­ci­ety, when some­one feels sad or they feel an­gry, or even if they feel hap­py, we tend to shove food at them

My least fa­vorite com­mer­cials over here in the U.S. is a Kit-Kat com­mer­cial where a child is in the bath­room with the door shut and they feel sad. The then moth­er push­es a Kit-Kat un­der the bath­room door and I'm think­ing a bet­ter com­mer­cial would be the mother saying ‘I'm sor­ry, you're feel­ing sad. Can you tell me more about it?’

Or the mother giving the child a hug. If you're hap­py and you're cel­e­brat­ing, let’s do high fives. Let's do something oth­er than turn­ing to food.

Dr. Orlena: I to­tal­ly agree. And I think that cel­e­brat­ing our wins is ab­so­lute­ly the way to move for­wards. We set our­selves these goals and we start mak­ing progress to­wards that goal but we're al­ways so hard on our­selves.

Celebrating our wins is the best way to keep on going forwards

Dr. Orlena: We get to a new lev­el but we don't con­grat­u­late our­selves. We don't cel­e­brate. We just push our­selves for­wards. So I love that your big piece of ad­vice is to cel­e­brate these things and ig­nore the things that don't go well. Of­ten peo­ple eat candy, they beat themselves about it.

If you're go­ing to eat can­dy then be a hun­dred per­cent in and en­joy it

Dr. Orlena: That’s the point, we only eat can­dy for en­joy­ment, it doesn't re­al­ly have any nu­tri­tion­al val­ue. If you're go­ing to do it, do it know­ing that you are going to enjoy it and don't beat your­self up af­ter­wards.

Do you have any oth­er ad­vice for peo­ple who are planning to improve their relationship with food and know that they've got this emo­tion­al con­nec­tion to food and their voice is talk­ing to them in a harsh way? What would you say to those peo­ple?

If you're try­ing to lose weight, re­move the word cheat from your vo­cab­u­lary

Leslie: I would say to those peo­ple, that first thing to rec­og­nize is you don't fall off the wag­on. You do not cheat.

You can cheat three ways. One is on tax­es. The oth­er is on a test and the third way is on your sig­nif­i­cant oth­er. Any­thing else is not cheat­ing. It's a choice. They're good choices, great choic­es and not so good choic­es. I don't even have the word bad.

Healthy eating is all about making choices 

Leslie: If you make a choice, which is what we de­cide to do when we are having a bad time and we de­cide we're go­ing to eat can­dy or cook­ies or what­ev­er, we are mak­ing a de­ci­sion. It's a choice.

Say to your­self, this is what I chose to do. Take your pow­er back. Be­cause when we say that we cheat­ed or we fell off the wag­on then we are giv­ing away our pow­er to some­thing else.

Take your pow­er back. I made a choice. Was it a good choice? Maybe not, but you know what? Next time I'll make a dif­fer­ent choice.

Set tiny goals and reward yourself with small rewards

Leslie: I also dis­cov­ered that if I set lit­tle tiny goals, then I would set small re­wards for my­self each time I achieve those objec­tives.

The re­ward could be any­thing from get­ting a new lip­stick or just, danc­ing around like crazy to my fa­vorite songs on the ra­dio, to tak­ing a walk, or watch­ing a movie.

I would write down what my goal was but not all of them were re­lat­ed to weight loss. Some of them were re­lat­ed to behavior be­cause truth­ful­ly, when we go on this jour­ney, we've got to change the behavior that got us here in the first place.

If we re­ward the be­hav­ior that we're trying to tran­si­tion to, then it makes it eas­i­er to re­peat that be­hav­ior.

Reinforce the behaviours that we want to continue 

Leslie: One of my fa­vorite books is ‘Don't shoot the dog’ and it's about train­ing an­i­mals, but it opened up my eyes to how we re­al­ly work. If we re­in­force the be­hav­iors that we want to con­tin­ue and ig­nore the stuff that we don't want to con­tin­ue, then it makes it eas­i­er to tran­si­tion to those healthy be­hav­iors be­cause re­al­ly los­ing weight is not the end game.

A plate of healthy pasta #overeating #healthyeating #diet


The end game is to change our re­la­tion­ship with food so that we're not constantly on a diet

Leslie: I don't even talk about di­et­ing re­al­ly. It’s all about lifestyle. This is the life that I choose to live now. I make these health­i­er choic­es. I take my pow­er back some days, I make a choice to have can­dy. Some days I make a choice to have cook­ies. 

As you've men­tioned, if we're going to make the choice to have it, let's be all in on it. Don't lie to your­self. Because we do that too. And when we're ly­ing to our­selves, they're re­al­ly, there are three people. There's me, my­self and I.

Me and my­self like to lie to us and I is sitting there say­ing, ‘I see what's go­ing on.’ But as I men­tioned ear­li­er, when we make these choic­es to not live a healthy life­style, the out­side world sees the re­sult. So the only per­son we're fool­ing is our­selves.

Making healthier choices entails change but it's going to be worth it

Dr. Orlena: Do you think it was worth it? Think­ing about those peo­ple who are stand­ing there go­ing, ‘I know I could make changes and I could be more healthy, but I also know that that means do­ing things dif­fer­ent­ly.’ Is it worth it? Was it worth it for you?

Leslie: It was worth it 100%.

To tell you the truth, to­day is my 64th birth­day.

I'm 64 years old. I'm in bet­ter health, bet­ter shape, bet­ter con­di­tion, bet­ter every­thing that I was five years ago. It is ab­so­lute­ly worth it. I am liv­ing a bet­ter life than I was. My joints don't hurt. I can move up and down. I do weightlift­ing. I scu­ba dive, hot air bal­loon­ing, all this stuff be­cause I'm able to move bet­ter in the body that I have.

When we as in­di­vid­u­als de­cide to go on a dif­fer­ent jour­ney, the peo­ple around us of­ten­times don't like the change

Leslie: When I be­gan my jour­ney, I didn't tell any­body that I was go­ing on the jour­ney because I didn't want the diet po­lice to be­ com­ing out.

I did fol­low some guide­lines and pro­grams but I didn't tell any­one I was go­ing on the jour­ney. Now peo­ple start­ed notic­ing changes, but they couldn't fig­ure out what was go­ing on. And some­times I would get pushed back be­cause I start­ed mak­ing health­i­er choic­es in the food that I ate.

If we de­cide why we are go­ing on the jour­ney, I tell peo­ple to get re­al­ly crys­tal clear on why they're go­ing on the jour­ney and it needs to be about your per­son­al, why, and have noth­ing to do with your weight or any­one else.

Being crystal clear on the goal you want to achieve will keep you focus on your journey towards a healthy life

Leslie: The rea­son that I say to get so crys­tal clear on it is be­cause on those days, when it's a strug­gle, when you feel like it's not worth it, you cir­cle back around to why.

That’s go­ing to keep you mov­ing for­ward be­cause just like when you travel down the free­way, the road is not straight, the road is not flat. You run into traf­fic jams, you'd go up and down Hills. You go around curves and some­times you have to back­track in or­der to get where you're go­ing. But the rea­son that you stay in that car, the rea­son you keep mov­ing for­ward is be­cause of where you're go­ing and why you are go­ing there.

Dr. Orlena: I love it. Tell us about your book.

The book ‘You Can't Eat Love’ tells a journey towards healthy living

Leslie: I start­ed writ­ing it be­cause I kept re­peat­ing my­self. The book ‘You Can't Eat Love’ is about all of the lessons that I learned on this jour­ney. I re­al­ized that oth­er peo­ple could prob­a­bly ben­e­fit from the mis­takes that I made, from the sto­ries that I told my­self that were not true.

I'm very hon­est in it and I'm very raw. I talk about the lies that I told my­self. I talk about how I used to play games in my head.

The main theme that runs through the whole book is dri­ving in a free­way. When you're on the road, you hit a traf­fic jam.

What do you do when you hit a traf­fic jam? You do not park your car. You do not get out and you do not walk home. I re­peat that theme through the en­tire book and en­cour­age peo­ple to rec­og­nize the traf­fic jams that you run into.

As we are try­ing to change our life, we've got to prac­tice so that we're pre­pared

Leslie: I talk a lot about how to plan, pre­pare, and prac­tice. How to prac­tice for these things that are go­ing to come up. Even actors, when they go onto a stage, they do a lot of prac­tic­ing. 

Now we may not be per­fect. And that is okay. I also talk about how we drive down mud­dy roads because of those old habits. When we are build­ing new habits, we're dri­ving down that mud­dy road. So we've got to go slow­ly and as we go slow­ly and we keep do­ing it over and over, we build more ruts and we start fill­ing in those old ruts.

Bad habits don't go away, they are just waiting to return

Leslie: One thing that I did dis­cov­er, much to my cha­grin, is all these old habits that we built and we cre­at­ed, doesn’t go away. They're sim­ply wait­ing to re­turn. And that's why if we lose sight of why we are on this jour­ney, it's easy to fall off into those mud­dy ruts.

Now, one thing that re­al­ly spoke to me and I kept play­ing it over and over in my mind, the other day you were talking about how you lose 10 pounds.

Part of that is mus­cle and part of that is fat. If you're work­ing out, you're gain­ing a lit­tle bit of mus­cle, then you go back to your old ways and you put on 10 pounds of fat.

That was extremely eye-open­ing to me be­cause it ex­plains so well why when we give up the healthy life­style that we be­gan, we put on so much more than the amount that we lost.

Healthy living is a journey

Leslie: Rec­og­nize this is a jour­ney. Yes, you may slip. You may go back to some of your old habits but pick your­self back up. Don't give up on your­self. Think about that traf­fic jam. You do not park your car. You do not get out and you do not walk home. So give your­self that same gift.

Download the You Can't Eat Love Workbook

Dr. Orlena: You have a gift for peo­ple so that they can con­nect with you. Do you want to tell us a bit about that?

Leslie: Yes. For your lis­ten­ers, you can get a free down­load of my work­book and that's on my web­site. Go to

Dr. Orlena: Any last words of wis­dom for peo­ple?

Leslie: Well, the main thing that I learned and that I usu­al­ly share with peo­ple is to under­stand yourself just as you are. You are enough. You don't need to be any­thing else. You are enough just as you are.

Dr. Orlena: Thank you so much for com­ing and chat­ting with us to­day.

Leslie: Thank you so much for hav­ing me. I en­joyed it.

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Dr Orlena Author Bio

Dr Orlena is a health coach. She helps busy mums go from "I can't lose weight" to feeling fit and fabulous. Find out more about her here.

Connect with Leslie Davis

Purchase her book on Amazon: here.

Down load her workbook here : 


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