Asking for a Friend - Health, Fitness & Personal Growth Tips for Women in Midlife

Ep.97 Breaking Free from Yo-Yo Dieting: Defining Emotional Eating and Mindful Wellness

March 25, 2024 Michele Henning Folan Episode 97
Asking for a Friend - Health, Fitness & Personal Growth Tips for Women in Midlife
Ep.97 Breaking Free from Yo-Yo Dieting: Defining Emotional Eating and Mindful Wellness
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Have you ever found yourself trapped in the endless cycle of yo-yo dieting, where each triumphant loss is followed by a discouraging gain? Margie Odom, therapist, author, and former yo-yo dieter, joins us to offer a lifeline to those entangled in this frustrating dance with the scale. Together we peel back the layers of emotional eating, exploring how our past shapes our eating habits and our relationships with food. Margie shares her evolution from a school counselor to a sought-after guide in the realm of emotional eating, providing a beacon of hope for sustainable change.

As we traverse the intricate connection between dieting, body image, and our emotional well-being, we discover that emotional eating isn't the villain it's often made out to be. From the joys of holiday feasts to the dark cloud of diet relapse, we tackle how to break free from the harmful patterns of restrictive eating and embrace a lifestyle that nourishes both the body and the soul. Listeners will gain insights into mindful eating, the celebration of food, and the cultivation of a positive body image, equipping them with the tools needed to chart a new course towards health and happiness.

The journey doesn't end with what's on our plates; our final leg takes us through the scenic route of personal wellness. We discuss the power of finding joy in physical activities like pickleball or yoga, and how emotional work is critical for those who've undergone bariatric surgery or are wrestling with weight maintenance. Margie inspires with success stories of clients who've embraced mindfulness and self-compassion, charting a path for listeners to uncover their own weight from within. Join us, and let Margie guide you towards a more content, balanced, and healthier self.

Margie's book:
The Weight Within: Healing Emotional Eating from the Inside Out

You can find Margie Odom at:
https://weightwithin.com/
https://www.instagram.com/theweightwithin/
https://www.facebook.com/weightwithin

I'd love to work with you!
https://www.fasterwaycoach.com/?aid=michelefolan

Have questions about my program? Feel free to reach out.
mfolanfasterway@gmail.com

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Michele Folan:

Health, wellness, fitness relationships and everything in between. We're removing the taboo from what really matters in midlife. I'm your host, Michelle Fohlen, and this is Asking for a Friend. Yo-yo dieting you lose 10 pounds, you gain back 15.

Michele Folan:

You lose 25 pounds, gain back 35. It is the most frustrating hamster wheel that many of us experience. There's the detrimental physical effects of the lost gain cycle as well, but the emotional component can also take a toll on us. But we first need to figure out why we keep doing this to ourselves. Margie Odom has been in your shoes and she wants to help people break the cycle of emotional eating and yo-yo dieting by exploring and healing from the inside out. Margie is a therapist consultant and also the author of the book The Weight Within. Welcome to Asking for a Friend, margie Odom.

Margie Odom:

So happy to be here. Thank you for having me, Michelle.

Michele Folan:

Welcome, welcome, and I would love for you to tell people where you're from and kind of how you got to where you are today, because I always think there's an interesting story with people's career paths. Oh, definitely.

Margie Odom:

Well, I started my career in Atlanta, where I grew up, as a school counselor and I have a lot of educators in my family, not a lot of therapists in my family. So my natural course even though I really wanted to do therapy, psychology counseling was to go into the school system. I quickly learned that I was not going to have the impact I really wanted on the counseling side of things in the school system. So after several years of that career I went back to school. In the meantime we moved to Louisville, Kentucky.

Margie Odom:

I went back to school at Western Kentucky University for marriage and family therapy and was balancing that with a school counseling job all the fun juggling that we do and started Hung my Shingle as a private practice therapist not too long after, but really didn't get into working with emotional eaters, Even though I said I was working with emotional eaters. I was also an emotional eater. I guess I still would call myself an emotional eater, just a recovered emotional eater. But I started that practice kind of naturally, I feel like it. Just those clientele started coming to me and then I started to say I was treating that, among other things, and it became a specialty over time. Lots of research, lots of reading, lots of self-work got me into, and then I developed the coaching programs throughout the book. That was really the journey that got me to where I am now.

Michele Folan:

When you say you were an emotional eater, was this something that you dealt with your whole life, or was this that you recognized later in adulthood?

Margie Odom:

I would say I knew I was a yo-yo dieter, but I wouldn't say I knew I was an emotional eater. I think I would say all the time in some of my low points gosh, I mean, I'm the best dieter I know. I mean I can stick to this diet, I'm doing so good and then I have one slip up and everything kind of unravels. I don't understand why that is, and it wasn't until several years of doing that. I would say I really started doing that probably shortly after college is when it really geared up. But I had learned the behavior at home. Food and the meaning of food in your home really impacts your relationship with it.

Margie Odom:

I came from a diet culture household, constant diet, conversation, constant focus on people's appearance and weight, especially for my father, and so that really drove a lot of my own wanting to be what I thought I was supposed to be, which was a thin person, drove a lot of that behavior in me. But I always kept thinking okay, if I just find the right diet, this is all going to get better. But there's no right diet. There is no diet that fixes emotional eating. That I have learned. There are ways to eat better if you're an emotional eater, for sure, but really I would say I realized I was an emotional eater when I first heard the term emotional eater you?

Michele Folan:

know it was like what is that?

Margie Odom:

And I started to see it in the literature early counseling literature and I was like this sounds about right and it really wasn't recognized in the eating disorder. Realm was just kind of out there on the fringe and I started to see myself in a lot of that work, but I didn't like the treatment remedies that they were recommending and that is how I got into how do we treat this, because what's out there right now is not. It doesn't help me, so it's probably not helping some of the other people either, and I've always been the kind of therapist that gets into holistic practice, mindfulness. It's not just about what we talk about, but it's about our whole experience of getting well, and that's how I started to create programs that actually help people to recover.

Michele Folan:

I have to think that you have clients that come to you where your own story resonates, right. This cannot be a rare occurrence that people have their views of food and eating that are embedded in them from a very young age.

Margie Odom:

Absolutely. I mean, it's interesting because a lot of the other I would call emotional eating experts out there are the lucky ones, I think, that figured this out maybe at age 25 or 30. They're like I knew I had a problem, I went and fixed it and here I am now I'm ready to help you. That was not my story. I mean, well into my 40s I was still trying to get to the bottom of this and figure it out and I didn't have that one of those beautiful Tyabo on it stories where you're now I'm tiny person and, look, you can be a tiny person too. It's just that's not really my story.

Margie Odom:

So there's a lot more to trauma pieces, the history pieces, and I think one of the things that my particular clients are drawn to is the reality of the situation, that I will tell them the truth. I will tell them about real life situations where I'm like, oh, this would have been a moment where I would have been and we talk about it and they can share openly about their own experiences. What's gone well, like at the holidays. You know, we all struggled. We talked about it openly, what went well, what didn't. That's more my style. It's not oh, I've got it all figured out, now you can too. It's more like let's get real together and see if we can make some real progress.

Michele Folan:

No, no, I really like that, and you had mentioned before that previous modalities and methods of helping people with emotional eating. You didn't really identify with those or like those. What were those particular tactics?

Margie Odom:

Well, I hate to call them out because I know for some people these tactics are excellent, so I would never want to say these don't work across the board. I want to say they didn't work for me, but things like cognitive behavioral therapy, solution focused therapy, some mind food journaling, which is not a bad technique, it's just a tool, though. It's not a solution those kinds of things are what existed. You write down what you ate and what mood you were in when you ate it. And if emotional eating was that simple, it'd be like well, every time I'm angry, I eat potato chips and therefore I just need to, when I'm angry, stay away from potato chips and everything will be fine. That's not really how emotional eating works. So we've come a long way since then, but at the time it was really they were not equating mindfulness, stress, reducing techniques, boundaries. These are really the things that we need to get into if we're going to heal from emotional eating.

Michele Folan:

And you're really talking mindset. So really working on the mindset first and then get into the behaviors, exactly.

Margie Odom:

You're not going to change the behavior until you change the relationship with yourself and your relationship in your mindset around your worth and your ability to heal. And also just around, I would say, like people pleasing and those kind of behaviors of rescuing and things that we do that kind of put us in a state of mind where we need something to sue this. All the time it just so happens to be food for emotional eaters. It can be lots of other things for lots of other people too.

Michele Folan:

Back to the unraveling, the things that are part of our childhood. Your clients ever kind of go back to their families and say, hey, I am trying to improve my relationship with food and I have to tell you that some of the things you said to me as a child have been detrimental to that said relationship. Do people ever go back and kind of? It's kind of like AA, where you go and you apologize to people?

Margie Odom:

Yeah, except you're looking for an apology. I think yes, absolutely. That's definitely part of the healing process for some people and that can go a number of ways. I mean I want to say, oh, it's this wonderful healing experience because these people are able to admit the error of their ways and it's a wonderful healing. And that does happen sometimes, especially if the parent or significant adult has done some healing work of their own. If they haven't, a lot of times what's going to happen is you're going to get I did the best I could, or I was doing it for your own good, or I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. And it can even make things worse sometimes because they get back into that cycle with that person in a way that they had successfully avoided previously. So it's a very case by case basis whether that is a good piece of healing work to do and when.

Michele Folan:

When you use the term negative eating episodes, what exactly do you mean by that?

Margie Odom:

Yeah, I don't like to call them binges. I don't like to say you know you had a binge, because not everybody binges or something we traditionally sometimes words get overused. When I say a negative eating episode, I'm talking about the way in which you ate, not the food that you're eating, because you can actually overeat on really healthy foods to trying to make yourself feel better with food. So a negative eating episode would be where you're eating for emotional reasons and you feel like your eating is out of control. It's not just to fuel your body or just to have some comfort food every once in a while, which is totally fine, but it's more like oh, that was an out of control eating episode where I couldn't stop myself. I would call that a negative eating episode.

Michele Folan:

Do we consider emotional eating in the realm of disordered eating then?

Margie Odom:

So what we would say is that certain eating disorders do include emotional eating, but emotional eating in and of itself is not an eating disorder, because some emotional eating is fine. You know, if you think about rituals and traditions like Thanksgiving I mean not that I'm saying like stuff yourself so you have to unbutton your pants, but I'm saying like if you eat all the traditional foods that you've come to eat every year and you look forward to your mom's pie or some specific kind of casserole or something, that's emotional eating too. You know we're eating out of tradition, we're eating for comfort, it's loving, the preparation is love. All of those things are emotional eating too, but more on the positive side.

Margie Odom:

So not all emotional eating is unhealthy or disordered.

Michele Folan:

Do you find that your clients with the yoyo dieting that we talk about, that they tend to gain back more than they lost? Is this something that your clients express frustration?

Margie Odom:

with. Yeah, I think the statistic right now is 98% of all diets like restrictive diets fail and that 72% of people gain back more than they lost. So that's a really high percentage. So if you go on a diet you know I always say eating plans and diets are not the same thing, right? So if you're eating a certain way for your health I don't want you to hear that this is the statistic supplied to you but if you're on a restrictive diet with the goal of weight loss, then what typically happens is our brain will know it's in a state of restriction and all of our ancestry and our DNA stuff kind of goes online.

Margie Odom:

All the evolutionary process is like oh well, wait a minute, it's feast or famine here, and so if we're in a state of famine, we're going to bank that and the minute food comes along, we're going to eat as much and store as much of that as we can. In fact, last time we did this we obviously didn't store enough, because we're back in another famine state now, so we're going to need to store even more, and that's why the body will naturally cause you to gain more weight than you lost, because it's making up or compensating for because in the past we lived in feast and famine. Now, of course, we have food at our fingertips at all times, but evolution has not caught up, so yeah, no, we are still programmed for being cave people and hunter and gatherers, for sure.

Michele Folan:

And this is just kind of as an aside, a personal note. When I got into my fifties, I realized the way I was eating was no longer working for me because of menopause and metabolism changes and hormones and whatever. And I did get some coaching on better ways to eat and fitness and all that. But what I realized was I was way under eating and now that I am eating more, I'm in better shape because I'm giving my body fuel. But it's so counterintuitive. How do you break the cycle? Because this is hard. People are hardwired.

Margie Odom:

Yes, we believe that hunger is the answer to weight loss. We were trained that way and because a lot of diets, especially in the past, you had to be hungry to lose weight, and we know now that that is not the answer. In fact, just like you said, in order for your body to metabolize correctly, it really needs all the fuel sources, and so we've got to rethink that. Think about quality over quantity and what types of foods we're putting in our body to essentially fuel us. And being hungry is not a requirement for weight loss by any stretch, but you are right about that.

Michele Folan:

So then, how do you convince your clients to just adopt a healthier lifestyle, because it really is a lifestyle. Diets are blah, you know. We know that if they just they don't work If they really worked, we wouldn't be trying the next one, and the next one, and the next one. But for that client, how do you convince them that it's okay not to be hungry?

Margie Odom:

Yes, that's a great question, because hunger is really one of those deep psychological things that can be tied to feeling empowered and all kinds of things which you don't want to take away from people. You don't want to take empowerment feelings away from people, but you do want to take the hunger away. Usually, with my clients, we break down their foods and it's a very individual process, but we do a very simple red, yellow and green list of foods, and green is foods you could eat in any quantity. They're always good for you. You don't have any digestive issues or sugar instability when you're eating these foods.

Margie Odom:

And that's different for everybody. Some people metabolize sugar different than others. Some people can eat a lot of protein, some people are vegan, some you know all these different things that we do for our health. So people establish their own green list and we really tried to say, okay, I'm going to build my day around this list and then I'm going to add in some yellow foods which are like I can have a little yellow, but not like all the time every day. And then red foods are more like special occasion treats. So if you really like ice cream, for example, and you can digest it, unlike me, then you can have.

Margie Odom:

you can have ice cream, but not every day and you know once in a while. And when you do have it, I really want you to enjoy it and be fully present with it. And we go through that side of mindfulness too, like how can I really enjoy this ice cream and not distractedly eat it while I'm watching television and then want more because I didn't even pay attention to what I was?

Michele Folan:

doing.

Margie Odom:

So we're really learning about how to work with food instead of against food or restricting food, so that people start to enjoy food again and feel good about what they're doing and in control of what they're doing.

Michele Folan:

I would like to address positive body image and setting realistic goals based on your body type, because I think we can get a handle on, maybe, how we eat, but then does part of your coaching come with. Hey, what is realistic for you in regard to your fitness and overall health?

Margie Odom:

Yes. So I always say body image is the hardest thing to get over. I say it's the hardest because we are bombarded constantly with messages about not being good enough right. So as much as we work on it, we still have to keep working on it. It's not one of those things you heal and move on so, and we're getting older and our bodies are constantly changing, so you may accept one thing and then it starts to look a little different. What we work on is really starting to gain body appreciation, and I always say with fitness it has to be fun. If you don't like what you're doing, it's going to feel like work. And guess what? We like to take vacations from work as often as we can, so that's not a good idea.

Margie Odom:

Like I used to be, I was very into fitness in my 20s. I taught fitness classes. I was into weights and not that that's bad. It's wonderful, especially as you age, to do weights. But I realized later, when I was trying to get back into it after having my kids and kind of getting away from it for a little while, that I really did not enjoy going to the gym. I don't like the gym. And so I was like, well, what am I supposed to do? I can't walk every day, the weather is not always going to allow me to do that, and so I started to find things like pickleball and yoga and things like that and really shake it up and only do what I truly enjoy doing.

Margie Odom:

And if I don't want to do it, then I start thinking about why not. What is going on? Am I bored with this routine? Do I need something new? Is it just emotional today, like I just need a day of kind of not moving my body that way, or is 10 minutes enough? You know, I try all these little. I have lots of questions that clients can ask themselves, like to sort of have a relationship with exercise. But if we don't enjoy it, we're not going to do it. That's the bottom line. And with body image, if you're not spending time in appreciation, your body is no different from a second person. If I told you all the time gosh, I hate you, I really don't like you, and you're so ugly, by the way, I don't think that person would want to perform for me, be very kind to me or even be around me. So how are we supposed to work optimally with our body if we're constantly?

Margie Odom:

shutting it down in that way.

Michele Folan:

That's a whole another ball of wax, right? So it's really a two-prong process for your clients. I do want to talk about bariatric surgery, and I'm not even sure why I thought about this question, to be honest. But I know, with bariatric surgery, either you've had it or you're planning on have it. I know, if you've had bariatric surgery or you're planning on having it, that there's this fear around gaining your weight back. What kind of work would you be able to do with someone that's in those shoes?

Margie Odom:

Well, I think that's a great question and it's something we need to be talking about a lot more because, just like anyone else, bariatric surgery is basically a physically forced diet and, unfortunately, some people do gain the weight back because they're not doing the emotional work, they're not coming to discover what caused them to have the relationship with food that they had prior to the surgery. Some bariatric doctors require a certain amount of counseling, or insurance companies require a certain amount of counseling prior to surgery or as a follow-up to surgery. But again, if that particular technique doesn't really agree with you, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, like I was talking about before, then it may not be effective enough and, of course, lots of bariatric doctors do not require counseling. So I have seen over the years lots of people who are previous bariatric surgery patients who have gained their weight back and then some, and it's very heartbreaking for them and it takes a tremendous physical toll on your body. So I think you're asking some really important questions.

Margie Odom:

I feel like people that I've worked with who have had the surgery previously. They are in a state of acceptance, like, ok, I know I can't do that again, my body can't handle that again, but I need to do something to have a better relationship with food and my body and find that happy medium where maybe I'm not going to be as small as I wanted to be, but I can get to a healthy weight that I can maintain. And I think that's really hard for people because we always have this fantasy of being like, oh, I'm going to be tiny and I'm going to. You know, I've always wanted to be small, and I'm not saying they don't, they don't look great. But this fantasy they have in their head versus what they can really maintain and the way their body is really structured may not align. And so we want to make sure that what we're asking of our body is realistic in the long term and that you can be who you're meant to be as beautiful as you are because we're all different and be happy.

Michele Folan:

Exactly, that's the piece it's. There's that self acceptance piece that we have to be gosh. We've got to be kind to ourselves, right, right. Could you share one or two client success stories? Absolutely.

Margie Odom:

I just completed a group and we were together for a long time. Many of my clients will go into a recovery process with me called community, where after they've done the 12 week online program, they like to enter into group with other people who've done weight within program. It's wonderful, it really fills my bucket. But I had a client just recently who I knew from the past, from therapy, who sort of reengaged with me, went through my program and I don't like to talk about weight loss very often, but in her case she really was physically needing to lose the weight for health reasons. She lost 42 pounds. She looks amazing but she feels amazing and she's really steadily working on her mindfulness.

Margie Odom:

I always say you're in the best position when you do not need me anymore, like I hope you don't need me anymore, because that means you've integrated this routine into your life and you're happy with what you see in the mirror and you're just really moving and changing a relationship with food to the point where you know you're never going to go back. So that's one. Another one was a male client that his was really very stress based and he was really hard on himself and was constantly. He has a very high powered job and was constantly beating himself up, not good enough, didn't have enough time for his family, just going around the circle constantly and so just taking that 30 minutes to an hour every week, devoting that time to himself and really unraveling the stress through meditation and some tools that I teach, like haven techniques and tapping and some other things, he's like a completely different person His wife.

Margie Odom:

I got to see them at a restaurant. I just ran into them at a restaurant. It was a coincidence and his wife was like, oh my gosh, thank you so much. Like I have my husband back again, like he's happy again. You know, I just never thought that he was going to calm down. And so is it about the weight? Not always. Sometimes it's just like all that stress, all that build up in your body, and then what we know to do is eat right, and so it's like, okay, if I can get to the root of this, which is stress, then I don't need to soothe myself with food and I can learn new ways to soothe myself when I do have a stressful day.

Margie Odom:

So those are just a couple of examples.

Michele Folan:

That's really great. You think about food. Food is universal it's. We gather around food, we have celebrations with food it's, and so no wonder we use it in a way that maybe we shouldn't Exactly.

Margie Odom:

Yeah.

Michele Folan:

So this has really opened my eyes. Good yeah, I appreciate this so much. I would like for you to share with the listeners one of your own personal pillars of self-care, because you teach the stuff. What do you do for yourself?

Margie Odom:

I will say my big rule is you have to have something in your morning routine that is the way that you start your day. That has to do with mindfulness and release, and, yes, I would like to share with you one of my core things in my morning routine. So I go through a few things, I can be an active self-love, and it can be very short, but I change it a lot. Right now, I'm in a yoga thing, so I go through different because, again, I don't like to get bored, I want to enjoy it. So, right now, I follow an app, a yoga app, and I just do it in my home. I get, I roll out of bed, I go right down the hall to my daughter, who's in colleges 10 to 15 minutes of stretching and yoga, and it ends with a quick meditation. I absolutely love it.

Margie Odom:

Some mornings I don't want to do it, but soon as it's over, I think, wow, I don't know why I wouldn't want to do this. I mean, it feels amazing. So my real pillar, though, is the morning routine, because if you don't have a morning routine where you start your day out right, I always say the morning is where you make space between you and trouble and so whatever typical stress as we wake up with, you know we roll over. We look at our phone, we see 20 emails and a to-do list and the stress and cortisol immediately it's like like we're going to shoot right back up. And so if you can go and do something in your morning routine whether it's meditation, stretching, a walk, petting your dog or your cat or reading just something that really calms your nervous system then you can start your day out in a better space and really move through your day better. So I would say that morning routine is the pillar.

Michele Folan:

All right, love it. And that is the first guest that has talked about that early morning routine, which I think is great advice. Thank you, Margie. Where can listeners find you and your book?

Margie Odom:

Yeah, so my website is weightwithincom, and weight is spelled like the weight on your body, and I also have Facebook, which is weightwithin, or Instagram, the weightwithin, and I do lots of public speaking, so usually I try to put that media on my website as well, but I'm happy to be here and sharing this information. My book is on Amazon it's available via Kindle or paperback so and there is a free chapter download on my website as well as a quiz, and the quiz really gets into some of the foundations of emotional eating and kind of gets you on the info track to my events and all kinds of other weight within info.

Michele Folan:

Wonderful Margie Odom, thank you for being a guest today. It was really nice to meet you.

Margie Odom:

It was great to meet you too. Thank you so much for having me.

Michele Folan:

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Breaking the Yo-Yo Diet Cycle
Emotional Eating, Dieting, and Body Image
Prioritizing Personal Wellness for Long-Term Success
Finding Weight Within