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: https://www.drorlena.com/resources
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 www.youcanteatlove.com/fitandfabulous
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.
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.
Purchase her book on Amazon: here.
Down load her workbook here : https://youcanteatlove.com/fitandfabulous