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Carbs and Diets: How to Cut Through Diet Culture Without the Guilt with Dr. Cristina Castagnini | EU 7344 min read

July 12, 2021

You’ve decided you going to try something new, you’re going to eat right and eat healthily and you’re going to embrace this new life! It’s summer after all and all you want to do is fit into that damn bikini. But then you have a donut or some ice cream and you declare a war […]

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You’ve decided you going to try something new, you’re going to eat right and eat healthily and you’re going to embrace this new life! It’s summer after all and all you want to do is fit into that damn bikini.

But then you have a donut or some ice cream and you declare a war on yourself. Well now you’ve gone and screwed up the plan, you may as well just give up now…

Punishment and so much guilt wash over you, all of a sudden you find yourself in self-sabotage mode. Most of the time you don’t even realize you’re doing it, and it’s very difficult to snap out of it.

I feel you, I know exactly what it’s like and I understand the struggle. This is why I am so excited to be talking to a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist. Dr. Cristina Castagnini is a real doctor who really recovered from an eating disorder and today we talk about the real struggles women face with food, body image, and weight and what we can do to get out of that downward spiral and look at food for what it really is.

Meet Dr. Cristina Castagnini

Dr. Cristina is a licensed psychologist and is recognized as a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist. After overcoming her own struggles with having an eating disorder, it was always her dream to focus solely on helping women overcome their struggles with food and body image and to achieve a balanced life.

She now sees patients in her own practice and spreads information and awareness about eating disorders and body image struggles through her podcast, Behind The Bite.

Visit her private practice website and podcast website and connect on Instagram.

Listen to her podcast and sign up for her free course.

In This Podcast

Summary

  • Food is fuel
  • Kick the rules to the sidewalk
  • Learn your hunger cues
  • How to get to a good place with food

Food is fuel

There is no such thing as “bad” or “good” food. Food is food and is fuel: it is what we feed our body to give us energy and to maintain our immune systems and bodily functions.

Within that, there are certain foods that may be more or less helpful, but there is no external category that divides food into good or bad, only people do that.

Fuel and nutrition. That is all [that] the purpose of food is. [People] made it into a moral thing, like “if you eat this then you’re bad and if you eat this you’re good”. (Dr. Cristina Castagnini)

People tend to crave the foods that they deprive themselves of, and in that way dividing food into the “good” and “bad” camps can actually lead to someone worsening their eating habits. If you view a donut as a neutral entity then it loses its appeal to you as a forbidden item.

Kick the rules to the sidewalk

The imaginary rules that you have laid out, or have been told to use, can damage you. When you forbid yourself to eat something, you may want it more, which may lead to binging or fantasizing about that particular food item.

When you can view food and fuel without being morally categorized, you can eat the foods that you want from a place of health and from a place of satisfaction: these two avenues do not have to be in conflict with one another.

Learn your hunger cues

If you have been in a cycle of starving yourself or withholding food for so long that you are now unsure whether you are simply feeling hungry, or are actually hungry and your body needs food, it can be difficult to learn those hunger cues.

[Experiment] with your body at this point. What I like to say is [that] you want to feel better emotionally and physically after you’re done eating than you [did] before. (Dr. Cristina Castagnini)

Have hunger cue training wheels: try eating something small every two to three hours and notice how your body feels before and after eating. How do you feel? How does your body feel? Do you feel satisfied physically but want to eat more emotionally?

Noticing these small cues and slowing down can help you to get to know your body better.

How to get to a good place with food

You know you are in a good place with your relationship to food when:

  • You do not think about food after you have eaten and are satisfied,
  • Diets do not interest you,
  • You do not constantly bodycheck in the mirror after eating,
  • You do not punish yourself for having eaten – or not eat – something specific,
  • You do not use exercise as punishment for something that you did – or did not – eat, and
  • You can enjoy your food from a perspective of nourishment and satisfaction.

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Meet Veronica Cisneros

Veronica Cisneros | Empowered And Unapologetic PodcastI’m a licensed therapist and women walk into my office every day stressed and disconnected. As a mom of three daughters, I want my girls to know who they are and feel confident about their future. I can’t think of a better way to help other women than by demonstrating an empowered and unapologetic life.

So I started  Empowered and Unapologetic to be a safe space for women to be vulnerable and change their lives for the better before she ever needs to see a therapist.

Whether you listen to the podcast, join the free Facebook communityjoin the VIP community, or attend our annual retreat,  you’re in the right place. Let’s do this together!

Thanks for listening!

Podcast Transcription

[DR. CHRISTINA CASTAGNINI]
And so that cycle of like, “Okay, I got this,” and then I’m a failure. It’s like, if people would just realize that diets are the failure and they’re setting you up for that and just perpetuates this low self-esteem and these feelings of low self-worth, I think that would help a lot.
[VERONICA CISNEROS]
Hey girl. Imagine a life where you feel supported, connected and understood. I get it. Being a mom is hard, especially when you’re spinning so many plates. We exhaust ourselves trying to create the perfect life for our family. You deserve to enjoy your family without the stress perfectionism brings. On this podcast, I provide practical and relatable life experiences. I teach women quick and easy to use strategies to help them reclaim their identity, re-ignite their marriage and enjoy their children. If you’re ready to be challenged, then pull up a chair, grab a pen and paper because it’s about to go down. I’m Veronica Cisneros, a licensed marriage and family therapist and this is the Empowered and Unapologetic podcast.
[VERONICA]
Welcome to Empowered and Unapologetic. I’m your host, Veronica Cisneros. Today’s guest is a licensed psychologist and is recognized as a certified eating disorder specialist. After overcoming her own struggles with having an eating disorder, it was always her dream to focus solely on helping women overcome their struggles with food and body image and to achieve a balanced life. She now sees patients in her own practice and spreads information and awareness about eating disorders and body image struggles through her podcast Behind the Bite. So please help me by welcoming Christina Castagnini. Hey Christina.
[DR. CHRISTINA]
Hey Veronica.
[VERONICA]
I’m so super excited to have you, because I feel like with everybody that I coach and even some of the clients I see in my own private practice, I feel like everybody’s talking about diets and it’s summer, do I wear the bikini? Do I wear a full body suit? Do I wear a turtleneck? Like, what the hell does this look like?
[DR. CHRISTINA]
No, it is so prevalent. It’s so out there and as an eating disorder specialist, just my head spins because it’s such diet culture out there. And I know my little voice compared to what is out there in social media and the loud voices of the diet and beauty industry, I’m like this little tiny voice. So it’s hard for me when I get people coming in to see me too, because they’re struggling with so much and, especially after COVID, I think people were just really struggling so much with a lot of issues with food and like, there were these terms out there. I don’t know if you heard them, but like COVID-15 and there was so much out there and promoting dieting. So there’s just a lot right now. I think people are struggling with, and it’s the first summer in a long time and people are really feeling the pressure to get out there and are still being self-conscious being around people. So, absolutely. I can imagine you’re getting lots and lots of noise on your —
[VERONICA]
Absolutely. Yes. So can you tell us a little bit about yourself? In your bio I read having an eating disorder, overcoming it and now wanting to help that population. Can you tell us a little bit more about that with your field?
[DR. CHRISTINA]
Sure. So I had an eating disorder starting in middle school and thankfully I was, it was years and years. I was probably the worst patient ever. I just didn’t believe that anyone was out there to help me because they didn’t relate to what I was talking about. So all my treatment providers were telling me what to do, but I didn’t really feel like they got me or understood me. And so they were telling me to do all these things. I’m like, in my mind, my eating disorder was telling me horrible things. Like they just want you to eat it, make you fat or they’re just lying to you or they don’t understand you. And I just felt like, gosh, when I became a clinical psychologist, I sat back and I actually didn’t want to specialize in eating disorders because I thought, oh, there’s this myth out there that therapists are wounded warriors and they just bring their own stuff into the session and they talk about themselves.

I was like, I don’t want to perpetuate that but I did realize I was far enough out in recovery that I wasn’t getting triggered. And I found that people really were coming in and I was relating to them and they was a lot they didn’t have to explain to me. And I just got it, I understood it because I had been struggling with eating disorder and body image stuff for so long in my past. So there are so few of us out there that are actually specializing in treating eating disorders that I feel like, you know what? I get it. And I think this is really important, the number one, deadly mental health illness and there’s so many people struggling and we just don’t talk about it enough.

So I started eating disorder, I guess clinic department, whatever you want to call it at a hospital for 15 years and realized I’m only doing so much at the same place. So in October of 2019, I left to start my well, I had done my practice for like a day while working at the hospital, but I just said you know what? I want to do something bigger. I’m getting older. This is my career. We’ve got to get more awareness out there, we have to get more information, hopefully more prevention. So just let me do this in my practice full time and like you said, I started my podcast, hopefully to get more information out there, be more vocal, get the right information out there, debunk these myths that dieting is good or you can never get over an eating disorder because like you said, there’s so much noise out there that’s so loud, perpetuating so much misinformation. And that’s why people are struggling. They’re confused.
[VERONICA]
Absolutely. So one thing I find with women is there’s a lot of punishment. There’s so much punishment. There’s so much guilt. And then we go into this self-sabotage mode and most of us don’t even realize that we’re doing it. You know, we go into, “Okay, I’m going to eat right nd I’m going to eat healthy.” And we’re on this kick and, “I’m embracing this new life, this new way,” and then the minute we go into maybe eating a donut or an ice cream, all of a sudden we then go into the fuck-its and screw it. I’m going to go ahead and since I already messed up, I’m going to go all the way. And there’s all of this, we shame ourselves. We go into so much negative thinking and it’s very difficult to come out of.

I started doing 75 hard, I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but I did the 75 hard challenge. It was all about working out two times a week, oh I’m sorry, two times a week, two times a day, every single day for 75 days straight, making sure you stick to, it was two 45 minute exercises, one indoor went outside, reading a book, 10 pages of a book. There were other guidelines, following a diet, any diet, and then not drinking. So I was like, you know what? I could totally do this and so I started doing it and with the diet part, it was like, well, I don’t want to embrace any diet. I just want to make sure I’m eating healthy. But what I found is, I discovered that, well, I should stay away from carbs. And it was like, it was that back and forth voice of, “No, you’re good. Like you’re working out two times a week.”

But then there was like that need for validation while you’re working out two times a week, so you can reward yourself with carbs. But I noticed in myself and, I’ve worked in a hospital setting, a partial hospitalization program, I’ve seen a whole slew of clients that struggled with eating disorders and so it’s like, I can’t say I specialize in eating disorders, but I’m familiar with eating disorders and helping treat them. So it was like, holy, shit. I’m doing some of the same things, and it was this back and forth kind of like tug of war with no, you can’t eat, you can’t do these things. And so where would you say all of, like, we all know it’s social media, we all know it’s society, but why do you think it’s so ingrained in us that there has to be some form of punishment or restriction or rule that we have to follow?
[DR. CHRISTINA]
Yes, and it’s interesting that, I’ll ask people, tell me about your labels for food, because there’s this typical thing that happens where people say good food, bad food, healthy food, unhealthy food. I’ll ask them list off what’s on your list. And by large, like carbs are on the bad food list and I’m still baffled by this. Like I’m old enough to remember the eighties where carbs were like king and eat all the carbs and don’t eat fat. Fat makes you fat. And like, I don’t even know what protein was. It wasn’t even talked about. Back in that day it was like eat all the carbs you want and there was like snacks that were like all carbs, low fat. Low fat this, don’t eat fat and that was demonized and then there was a split and all of a sudden it became like the zone and it was like 40, 30, 30.

And then it was like south beach and all of a sudden there was a shift where carbs were like the devil and it was then Atkins and paleo and all these things come out and I’m always just kind of sitting back going, all right, what’s the next thing? What’s the next thing? because it’s like 15 minutes of fame for every diet and it’s interesting just with like generations, how that slips, because I did grow up where it’s like eat all the carbs you want? How did that change? But, so I do, like you said, it’s social media. It’s what we are kind of programmed, I guess, by what we hear. But it’s interesting because if you think about the good food, bad food list or healthy, unhealthy, when you eat something on your good list, you feel good.

It’s like this moral thing. I am so good. And if it’s something on your bad list, all of a sudden it’s like, now you become bad. And it’s interesting what goes on there and it’s oftentimes based on if you’re on a certain diet. You can kind of make yourself crazy if you go on to the internet and look at different diets. One will say like, this food is awful. It’s like going to make you like gain all this weight. And then that same exact food and another diet is like, this is the one that you need to eat a lot of. It’s like going to melt fat. You could actually really go crazy trying to figure out like what? And so if we look at food as just fuel, fuel and nutrition, that is all the purpose of food is like, when it became this moral thing about us, like, if you eat this you’re bad, if you eat this, you’re good.

We tend to want the foods that we deprive ourselves of more. They become forbidden. So if you’re depriving yourself of say ice cream and you really like ice cream, what happens is you deprive, you deprive, you deprive yourself of it. And you’re eating all these “good foods.” Maybe you don’t even like them, but you’re told you got to eat these. In your mind you’re thinking really what I say, the good foods are the ones you tell yourself, these are the foods that won’t get me to gain weight or they’re safe. I can tell myself I’m okay. Somehow that got in people’s minds or the bad foods are the, if I eat these, I don’t know if that’s something magical that happens, like you eat these automatically, you’re thinking I gained weight and I got to go burn it off.

It’s kind of interesting. It’s like that doesn’t happen. Our bodies naturally need a certain amount of fuel every day just to exist and live. So why the mentality of, if I eat an Oreo or a donut, now I’m automatically going to gain weight. I’ve got to go burn it off. This is guilt instilled. It’s like, your body’s going to use the donut. You need the fuel. But it’s that fear that sets in from somewhere. So people, no, I’m not going to eat the donuts. I’m not going eat the ice cream. I’m going to put those in this forbidding category. I can’t have those in the house. I’ll eat all of it. And that’s the mentality that happens when you restrict so much things you love and enjoy because then when you do get around them, oh my gosh, I don’t know the next time I’m going to have these again. I better eat them all now or I got to get rid of them because of any part of this is still in the house, like it’s going to be calling to me and tempt me.

I got to get rid of it. And so people will eat in abundance of it or all of it just because it’s like, this is my one chance or I got to get all gone. And then I’ll be “good” tomorrow. I’ll start over tomorrow. And it is kind of that like guilt inducing the penance and I got to berate myself, beat myself up. I can’t believe I did that. And so looking at this and saying, what’s happening here? It’s just food. It became so much more, became this like I’m lacking willpower. I’m a failure. I’m not trying hard enough. But again, it’s just food and so if you think about it, say like donuts, like I said, we all need a certain amount of fuel energy just to exist and live. Even if you eat one donut a day, every day or two even right over the course of a week, that’s really not going to have really much of an effect on your parents or how you look right. 80% of how we actually appear as genetic.

So looking at your ancestors and kind of going like, what’s my body actually meant to look like? If you look at your family and they all have big bones and they’re broad and like they’re tall and you’re trying to be someone with small bones and tiny and shorter and like a size zero, good luck. I mean, it’s not going to happen. You’re going to have to really struggle and you’re never going to get there. And we don’t do that with any other species. We don’t have Rottweilers, looking at Chihuahuas going, “Hey if I starved myself enough, I could look like it.” We don’t do that. We do that with ourselves, have these expectations that are totally faulty and just unattainable and so trying to follow these diets that also are in like your 75 hard, you just can’t keep it up.

It’s not sustainable. So thinking about that, it’s like, well, if we put a hundred people on that same diet that you were on or same program, every one of those people is going to have a different outcome because every single person has different needs, activity level, stress levels, genetics, metabolisms, just everything. So to expect that everybody’s going to get a similar result is ridiculous, first of all, but also to think everybody needs the same amount of fuel every day and the same amounts is also ridiculous. Some days you are more active, some days you’re more sedentary, some days you’re more stressed. Some days your hormone levels are different. So you can eat the same amount as one person to the next, every single day for all these days is insane. It doesn’t make any sense, but maybe you don’t even like the food.

So you’re sitting there like, “Oh, I hate the food. Can’t wait till the 75 days or over.” So then by that time, let’s say the 75 days are over and you absolutely hated all that food. Now you’re so deprived. Guess what you’re going to go do?
[VERONICA]
Yup. Binge.
[DR. CHRISTINA]
Right. Because it’s like, “Oh my gosh. When can I have my donut?” So let’s say you had like eaten one or two donuts every day. And I don’t like talking calories. I really don’t. But let’s say, I don’t know, maybe it’s 300, 400 calories every day. You know, a typical woman needs anywhere from like 2000 to 2300, 2500 calories just to stay alive. That’s a drop in the bucket. That’s like nothing. So most women would be like, that’s so much, or I can’t do that. But if you think about it, when you deprive yourself, let’s say you have a cheat day, I hear people say this a lot. I have one cheat day. Or you finally have that mentality. You’re like, oh, okay. I had the one bite of the donut. I broke the damn, you know what, all bets are off. I killed my diet today. I’m just going to binge today. Now you’re talking thousands and thousands and thousands of calories in one sitting versus what, maybe 1200 over an entire week, 1500. I don’t know. But it’s like, if you have it in moderation, when you actually want it, it’s a whole different ball game.
[VERONICA]
So it sounds like what you’re saying is take the fricking rules out?
[DR. CHRISTINA]
Mmh.
[VERONICA]
Take the rules out, take the rules that you created out because the rules are essentially, what’s alluding to us gaining all of this undesired weight because we’ve set such strict rules, such strict expectations on ourselves. And with all of those restrictions, it’s not a matter of whether or not we’re disciplined. It’s just, we’ve deprive ourselves from so much. That makes so much sense. Okay. So let’s say we strip ourselves from the rules. We take out the rules. What’s next? What do we do next?
[DR. CHRISTINA]
I ask to get that, okay, I’ll get phone calls from the grocery store, like, I don’t know what to buy.
[VERONICA]
Okay. Now what? I’m just not going to eat because I don’t know what to do next and I don’t know what to make and I don’t know how to make it. Do I use avocado oil? Do I use canola oil. I’ve heard of this myself. I’ve been in that. So with your profession, what would you say is next? Okay, I let go of all of the rules and letting go of all of the rules is scary as hell. Now what do we do?
[DR. CHRISTINA]
Well, I think then it becomes down a list of your foods. It’s like, get rid of the other list, the external list, the whatever gurus list, the experts list, get rid of that and say, “What is Veronica’s list?” Like, what foods do you actually enjoy eating? What do you like? Because if you don’t have that list, you don’t even know what you want to eat. Like for so long people say, they’ve convinced themselves, “I don’t like carbs. I don’t like whatever. I don’t like chicken. I don’t like beef. I don’t like fried foods.” But it’s like, do you really not like it or have you convinced yourself that you don’t? And I think that’s an internal question most people struggle with. It’s like, no, I really like bread or I really love pasta. But for so long, they’ve just told themselves they can’t have it, so, “Nope. I don’t like it or I don’t eat it.”

And there’s a fear there of like, what’s going to happen when I eat this? It’s really hard for people. And one thing is to sit down and just kind of say, “Okay, this is my list of things I like to eat now. How do I eat?” Because for so long, they’ve been told what to eat. But one thing to keep in mind is if you ever seen a baby, like we were all born with this innate ability to know when we’re hungry and to know when we’re no longer hungry. And babies are so in tune with that when they’re born and we all still have that. It didn’t go away. We just have shut it off for whatever reason. With dieting you shut off your hunger signals. I’m not hungry.

Or you’re told things like drink water or maybe you’re not really hungry or all sorts of things.. so getting back in touch with that ability to know when you’re actually hungry is really hard at first, because most people think, especially if they’ve been dieting a long time, they think starving is hungry. And when you’re starving, all bets are off. You’re like, “Give me anything that is ready to go. Just like, I need to feed now.” You’re not going to be sitting there thinking like, “Hey, I have time to cook a meal that I’m really going to enjoy.’.
[VERONICA]
Not a chance in hell. Not a chance.
[DR. CHRISTINA]
Grab whatever’s ready.
[VERONICA]
Yes, exactly, exactly.
[DR. CHRISTINA]
Yes.
[VERONICA]
So you were saying, so once we get to that point now knowing when you’re hungry and being able to identify that, how do we do that when we’ve gone to this place of completely restricting, waiting until starvation, like one we’re like, “No I need to eat now?” Because I’ve been guilty of it myself, skipping meals, not necessarily on purpose, but with our profession, being in back-to-back sessions and then going, “Oh, shit it’s like seven o’clock,” and I had those overnight oats, maybe a protein bar, but now I’m grabbing whatever the hell my husband likes to make, appetizers and things like that. So it’s like all of that is gone. Like all so how do we get to that place where it’s like, okay, knowing, and being able to identify when your body is actually needing that fuel to eat versus waiting for starvation?
[DR. CHRISTINA]
And I think that that is actually a hard thing to do and it’s experimenting with your body now at this point. So it’s figuring out what I like to say is you want to feel better emotionally and physically after you’re done eating than you do before. So if you try to eat, like I say, training wheels, if you try to eat like every two and a half, three hours, just something small, just to see how your body responds, because you got to get your body up and functioning and get your metabolism going.
[VERONICA]
Absolutely.
[DR. CHRISTINA]
And we do run on hunger cycles. So if you’re eating, typically, if you’re eating, when you’re hungry and starving, when you’re no longer hungry, that’s about the time when you start getting hungry again. And everybody’s signals are a little different. You might be thinking about food and you’re noticing your mouthwatering or civil stomach growling, or you just kind of notice different things, little nuances before you get to that starving part where you’re like lightheaded and grouchy and angry.
[VERONICA]
Yes, exactly.
[DR. CHRISTINA]
So it’s really starting to be in tune with yourself more, but also experimenting a little bit and saying, “Okay, if I eat,” and again, keeping in mind, it takes 20 minutes for us to register from the start of eating, if you’re hungry to no longer being hungry versus full. And there’s a difference between I’m no longer hungry and then I’m full. The problem is most people eat so fast that they bypass that and they get full. And so it is a matter of really kind of slowing down and enjoying your food and really taking stock for yourself of how do I feel when I’m eating this? How does my body respond to this food? How does my body shift and change? And usually the first bite is really the most, from your taste buds, your receptors are the most open the first bite and as you get down the hunger scale, your taste buds start to close off so the food will taste less potent.
[VERONICA]
I love that you said that especially the fact that it takes 20 minutes for your body to register, okay we’re good. I never knew that. And it’s interesting because, I’m making mental notes myself and you’re right. When we’re eating well, when I’m eating, I shouldn’t classify, I shouldn’t put it under everybody else, but like when I’m eating, the first bite is like, oh my gosh, it’s kind of like this high. Like, oh, this is so awesome and celebrating and there’s music going and dancing when I’m eating, like dance when I’m enjoying it. And then what I’ve noticed is after you’re eating, you’re eating, you’re eating, but after maybe the first couple bites, you’re looking for that high again. So I’m looking me personally, I’m looking for that, it’s going to be the last bite when I have that high again, like that last bit of enjoyment and that doesn’t happen.
[DR. CHRISTINA]
What is that? Well, that’s your body letting you know you’re no longer hungry. But that’s just biologically what happens. There’s just different signals, so everybody’s got to get to know their own body and how it’s responding. And it’s okay if you get past no longer hungry or to full or stuff, like that’s a choice. Of course nobody’s going to like beat you up over it but again, it’s like, how do you want to feel after you’re done eating? So that’s what I keep in mind, is there’s no rules. It’s just, if you want to feel better physically after you’re done eating, like, do you want to feel stuffed? Probably not. It’s not going to be very comfortable, but you also don’t want to feel still like you’re hungry because then you’re going to be more prone to being hungry later.

Like you don’t want to get, you want to eat enough to get you throughout your day. That’s the whole purpose of food. Again, it’s like putting gas in the car. You got to fuel up and then go on. Like you got to get going but also when I was talking about emotionally, you want to feel better. You don’t want to feel deprived. So if all you’re eating is like salads or things you don’t like or telling yourself, I have to eat this, you’re going to feel deprived in that is going to build up the pressure to binge later. But here’s where people get scared. “Oh my gosh, I’m just going to eat brownies and cookies because I’m emotionally going to feel so much better.” But here’s the thing. You have to also factor in that physically you want to feel better.

So if all you’re eating for every meal are cookies and brownies, like physically, you aren’t going to be functioning very well over time. You’re going to be like lethargic and not concentrating well. So there has to be some kind of balance there. So like sure, brownies different. Great. And all of that, like emotionally, I’d be like, this is amazing. But if you do that for every meal physically over time, you’re not going to be feeling that great. So it’s like both. It’s like, okay, so what do you enjoy eating that you feel like this is great, but my body’s also responding really well to it and I can get on with my day and focus and concentrate and not feel sluggish.
[VERONICA]
So when we get into that emotional pattern, how much would you say confidence, the lack of confidence gets in the way of us maintaining a healthy lifestyle?
[DR. CHRISTINA]
Well, I guess that the definition for everybody is different, like what did they think of as healthy? And I think that is actually a big thing because I think the word healthy gets —
[VERONICA]
Yes, no, this is why I bring it up. It’s defined in so many different ways. Healthy could be okay, you’re healthy because you’re not eating carbs and you’re not eating donuts. And when we look at it clinically that’s not healthy, that’s not healthy at all. So if we look at it clinically healthy, I appreciate what you’re saying. It’s like, how does my body respond to this? Where am I emotionally? Where am I at physically? And in bringing those two together, because they are extremely important. There’s a lot of people that will emotionally eat and then feel like shit after and then they go into body shaming and then they go into all of the whole gamut of distorted thinking comes into play. So when we’re looking at staying away from trying to find validation and security and food, this is what I’m talking about when I bring in confidence, because I do feel like that lack of confidence that we have can attribute to us going into that emotional eating zone, where we’re trying to find validation and comfort with food.
[DR. CHRISTINA]
Yes, and that can be one form of coping, so people can turn to food for comfort, for companionship, for escape, for all sorts of things. And it’s really trying to figure out, like, what is your relationship with food? Like how did you start using food for that? Like what is the purpose of food for you, because it’s different for everybody. Not everybody turns to food to cope. Some people use it for all sorts of different reasons. Some people escape, they don’t have to deal with their problems or they come home to a lonely household and it’s been their companion or from a young age that has been the one thing that provides them companionship and comfort. So everybody’s got a little bit of a different thing, but I think the most detrimental thing is when people beat themselves up because of how they’re eating and they say, I am a failure, I lack willpower. I’m not good enough. I’m not doing this enough.

I think the diet culture really perpetuates that because when you go on a diet and diets all fail, you’re not the failure, diets fail. And so everybody who comes off a diet, because you can’t sustain it very long, you come off and you say, “I failed again. I screwed up, I didn’t do it.” There’s all that self-deprecating language that goes on in here and it just sets you up for another diet to come along and say, “Hey, this is the one that’s finally going to work,” and everybody gets so excited, like, “Okay, this time I’m going to do it,” and they get outside and my quote unquote work the first week or two or whatever, but ultimately you get to the same place again and again and again and again. And so that cycle of like, “Okay, I got this,” and then I’m a failure. It’s like, if people would just realize that diets are the failure and they’re setting you up for that and just perpetuates this low self-esteem and these feelings of low self-worth, I think that would help a lot.
[VERONICA]
Yes. I love that you said that. So we take, we pay attention to our bodies and to how often our bodies need fuel. We pay attention to the foods that our bodies, whatever we want. So where do we go from there? So after we’ve retrained our bodies to go ahead and eat when we’re hungry and not eat when we’re good, where do we go from there?
[DR. CHRISTINA]
Well, I think it’s different for everybody. So again, we’re all complicated. I don’t think there’s a honey cutter approach. I think the thing is to really start looking at food as fuel and nutrition, like we kind of like we fuel up our cars. If you’re going to drive from California to New York, you’re not thinking like, “Oh gosh, I’m going to only put in like a quarter of a gallon,” and then try to get all the way there. You know, you’re thinking like I got to put in fuel tank then when it says empty, it’s great cars have fuel gauges, not fuel up again. Like we give, we maintain our cars and other things way better than we do ourselves. Like we are so poor in knowing when our bodies need more or when we need to feel up. If we could look at it that way and say, we don’t plug in like a cell phone Veronica. We keep our phones way more charged up and like ready to go than we keep our own bodies. So it actually has a purpose. It’s to keep our bones strong, to keep our blood pumping through our veins, our hearts, something, our lungs breathing, our brains functioning. I mean, it has a purpose. It’s not there just to like, worry about and go, is it going to make me gain weight or lose weight? Or it’s not there as like an enemy.
[VERONICA]
Yes. I love that you just said that right now because food does have a purpose and the purpose for food isn’t so we can fit this particular image, which a lot of us get so wrapped up in the food that I eat has to make me look this way. And there are so many things that interfere with us, our bodies looking sports model status. If we can become more accepting of who we are and who we’re not, how likely are we to live a satisfied, I don’t want to say balanced and I don’t want to say healthy, but how likely are we able to go out and live out our lives without this constant self-sabotaging pattern?
[DR. CHRISTINA]
Well, I think that’s a big key to it is really looking a lot of people, and I don’t know if you hear this too, people saying, I will only be happy once I look this way or weigh this amount or whatever it is. And really looking at the opposite of saying like, can you be happy internally first? Like what is it you’re really trying to get at? Like, why do you think you can’t be happy unless that happens? You’ll be waiting a long time, maybe forever, and even if you get there, like, are you, people find like that actually doesn’t bring them happiness. It brings a lot more misery. And so looking at really, what is it that’s not contributing to you feeling happy? What’s really going on there? So I think taking food out of the equation and like taking the emphasis off of food and the external and looking internally and saying, why is that such a distractor for you? Why are you focusing so much on that? And I know that’s the hardest thing in our society. That is the message out there, if you look like this and these people are happy and that’s like, that’s the message.
[VERONICA]
Yes. You’ll have a happier marriage, you’ll have more friends, you will be more popular, you’ll be more attractive. You’ll be all of these things if you’ve lost 10, 20 pounds. But the reality, I love that you’re saying that, the reality is no. That’s not the case.
[DR. CHRISTINA]
Look at people around you. I think we can all look at people in our lives and say, nobody looks like a supermodel walking around. I mean, I don’t know of any, like walking around my area and like, there’s plenty of halfway married people with kids and living great lives and it’s kind of like, well, isn’t that an interesting thing? Like who are these magical people walking around with these fantastic lives? I do see happy people and they don’t look like that. So what’s the key really?
[VERONICA]
Yes. Would you say that us focusing on diet culture is also, I don’t want to say an excuse, but just kind of hearing you out right now, it’s also a deterrent from us working on ourselves, like truly identifying what the real issue is. If I can put it on diet, if I could put it on my binge eating, emotional eating, whatever the hell you want to call it, well, then I don’t have to look at myself. I can say that the problems fixed because of my appearance. What I look like says the problem’s fixed, but in reality, we’re constantly chasing something else because the real issue hasn’t been addressed,
[DR. CHRISTINA]
Looking at the why, why are you turning to food to cope? Or why are you engaging in this behavior or doing this? Like what’s the why really? And that’s like a lot of what therapy’s about, really getting to the why is this a struggle for you? And again, there’s a difference between having a full-blown diagnosis of an eating disorder versus maybe disordered eating or struggling with body image issues. And again, that’s like something that therapists like yourself or me could really help somebody figure out how much of that’s actually an illness versus a struggle.
[VERONICA]
And a lot of people don’t realize that by them adopting this diet culture, you can easily slip into an eating disorder very, very quickly.
[DR. CHRISTINA]
Absolutely. No, that’s absolutely true. And I think a lot of times people don’t realize that like dieting is a precursor for many people to having an eating disorder and it’s a slippery slope. So oftentimes people are so into it for so long and they just think, well, everyone, I hear this a lot, “Everyone around me is doing the same thing,” because they hear people talking about dieting and this and that. But what they don’t realize is maybe somebody’s trying a diet for a week or two and they hear a few people talking about that, they see a few ads and they get this idea everybody’s doing it, but they’re not living it like that.
[VERONICA]
Yes. Well, because then it becomes extreme and it becomes really extreme and it impacts everything. So how do we know when we’ve been able to, I know this kind of sounds like, oh, that’s not a dumb question. How do we know when we’ve been able to truly embrace everything about ourselves and live a life without diet? Like how do we know we’re there? How do we know we’re like at the, at this clinically healthy spot?
[DR. CHRISTINA]
So it’s interesting people ask me, “How do you know you’re in recovery?” So there’s a few things like, I remember how much my mind was occupied with thoughts about food and exercise and it was like in 70 to 90 or more percent of my time when I was really in it. It was all consuming and my whole day, my whole, everything revolved around, like, what am I going to work out? Like I would skip sleep, I’d skip stuff, I’d make excuses. I was isolating. I wouldn’t go to events because I was like, I don’t know what kind of food they’re going to have. It was all encompassing and it ruined like relationships and it was expensive and it was everything. But also just, I think there’s a point now where it’s like, I don’t, after I’m done eating, I don’t think about it later, even as first second.

I just go home hungry, I got to eat and then I move on with my life. Like I don’t even think about it anymore. There’s no fear, like I don’t look at the scale. I don’t body check and look in the mirror. I’m not like, oh my gosh if I look in the mirror and like freak out, there’s just the total difference. And I’m not looking at other people at comparing myself at mind. But I think the other thing is when I hear people talk about dieting, I go, “Oh God, that sounds awful,” versus before. I was like, “Oh, tell me about that. I just want to hear everything that you’re saying.” And I was like, “Oh, maybe this is the new one. Maybe this is finally the one that’s going to do it for me.” I mean, it’s just such a different world.
[VERONICA]
Yes. So it sounds like what you’re saying, if we’re inherently in this constant, bad eating, unhealthy eating, whatever cycle, it’s not necessarily bad. It’s not necessarily unhealthy. It’s more of our mindsets and our perspectives on how we label our eating habits.
[DR. CHRISTINA]
Well I think that’s part of it. It’s really like, how did you get to, why is that person going at like that? Everybody’s individual. So everybody’s got their own reasons for why they label things good or bad or healthy or unhealthy. Like that’s their journey and path, because I think it’s different for everybody. But really it’s, if you want to say food neutral, I don’t know a better way to say it, but really not putting so much value on your own self-worth based on what you’re eating or not eating. Don’t become good or bad based on what you just eat.
[VERONICA]
Take that out, take those labels out. Awesome. So the two questions I often ask the people that intervie,w the first one is what are you doing right now personally, to live the life you want to live?
[DR. CHRISTINA]
Well, let’s see. Well, COVID kind of threw a wrench in things. It was interesting. I’d like to be traveling more, but we’ll see what happens. As I’m spending a lot of time with my kids, they’re teenagers and that’s a fun and getting away from the hospital was a huge thing for me. I just felt like I couldn’t practice the way I wanted to and so now that’s just wonderful that I’m able to do that and able to kind of get creative with my career. So that’s a great place to be at right now.
[VERONICA]
Okay. Awesome. And then my last question, what advice would you give to the mom who feels stressed and disconnected?
[DR. CHRISTINA]
Wow. So moms, I think as moms you’ve put so much into taking care of everything and everyone else, and you’re trying to wear so many different hats and just kind of going back and saying like, “Who was I before as a mom?” And what fueled you and what replenished you and asking yourself, are you doing any of those things anymore? Because I think a lot of moms just kind of get lost and forget who they were and that’s important to reconnect with, you don’t have to wait till your kids are grown or older to like become you again, because you’re a fantastic person. The reason you became a mom was because you met somebody and like had a child and like you were this great person beforehand. You had all these years where you were yourself. So the kids are going to love that person too. And it’s not selfish. I think a lot of moms have that mom guilt. Like, “Oh, if I do something for me, it takes away from my kids or I can’t do that.” And it’s like, no, it’s important to take care of yourself and fill your own bucket because then you have the ability. When you’re spending time with other people, the quality of time is so much better.
[VERONICA]
Yes, absolutely. So where can we find you?
[DR. CHRISTINA]
So I am online, at behindthebitepodcast.com or freedomtowellness.com. So one’s my podcast and one is my private practice.
[VERONICA]
Beautiful. Thank you so much, Christina, for jumping on.
[DR. CHRISTINA]
Oh, thank you. This has been great Veronica.
[VERONICA]
Oh, one last thing. I understand you’re giving our audience a freebie.
[DR. CHRISTINA]
Yes. I have a free nine-week email course and if you go to my Behind The Bite podcast website, you can sign up for that for free. That will help you not only kind of understand more about your relationship with food and your body, but also understand a little bit more about how you can get past your struggles. So it’ll start you on your journey.
[VERONICA]
Beautiful. I know a lot of us women need that. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you.
[DR. CHRISTINA]
Thank you.
[VERONICA]
Many women lose their own identity in the shadow of being a mom and a wife. We are a community of women who support each other. We leave perfectionism behind to become empowered and unapologetic. I want to personally invite you to join our girl gang. It’s a free Facebook community for women just like you. Go to www.facebook.com/groups/empoweredandunapologetic. See you there.

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Empowered and Unapologetic is part of the Practice of the Practice podcast network, a family of podcasts that changes the world. To hear other podcasts like the Bomb Mom podcast, Beta Male Revolution or Imperfect Thriving, go to practiceofthepractice.com/network.

This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regards to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, Practice of the Practice, or the guests are providing legal, mental health, or other professional information. If you need a professional, you should find one.

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Empowered and Unapologetic is part of the Practice of the Practice Podcast Network, a network of podcasts seeking to help you thrive, imperfectly. To hear other podcasts like the Bomb Mom Podcast, Imperfect Thriving, or Beta Male Revolution, go to practiceofthepractice.com/network.

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I’m Veronica, your new Boss Woman Mentor with no filter and no BS. 

I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, women’s coach, course creator, and retreat host. Married for 23 years, raising three kids, and I'm also the host of the Empowered and Unapologetic podcast. My jam? Helping high-achieving women thrive both at home and in the hustle of work. 

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