Self-led Eating during Stressful Times - with Jeanne Catanzaro
Today, on IFS Talks we welcome back Jeanne Catanzaro PhD. Jeanne is a licensed clinical psychologist with 25 years experience in treating eating and trauma-related issues. She’s written articles about IFS and eating disorders and is dedicated to helping people develop self-led relationships with food and their bodies. Jeanne is a certified IFS therapist in private practice in Brookline, Massachusetts and she’s the Vice Chair of the executive committee for the IFS Institute. Jeanne, thank you so much for being here with us today on IFS talks.
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Today on IFS Talks we're speaking with Dr. Jeanne Cantazaro. Jeanne is a licensed clinical psychologist with 25 years of experience in treating eating and trauma related issues. She's written articles about IFS and eating disorders and is dedicated to helping people develop Self-led relationships with food and their bodies. Jeanne is a certified IFS therapist in private practice in Brookline, Massachusetts and she's the vice chair of the executive committee for the IFS Institute. Jeanne, welcome back and thank you so much for being here with us again.
Jeanne Cantazaro: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.
Aníbal Henriques: Thanks much, Jeanne, and welcome back. Last time we sat together, it was August 2020, it's about six months ago. How have you been, Jeanne, throughout these stressful and challenging times at so many levels?
Jeanne: I can't believe, first of all, that it was, you know, in August. It feels like it was last week. I've been really fortunate. I'm one of those people who have benefited in many ways from the shutdown. I'm blessed that the people I know who've gotten sick have recovered and having some time to stop traveling as much, so that I could really focus on some long, you know, waiting, awaiting projects and do some work on them. Things like that. I'm also an introvert, which I've, I think more parts of me are introverted than I ever realized. And so, I am that person who is like, you know, not been as bothered by not being able to go out. There's been, I've noticed an easing in my system, but also have a lot of compassion for people who are really feeling stir crazy. I have an environment that is conducive to my wellbeing. It's spacious, it's connected, I have a lot of people around me that I can be close to virtually and some, you know, with socially distant contact locally. So, I just feel very fortunate, but also very aware for how many people this is not the case.
Tisha: Has the pandemic changed the nature of your work with people around eating and eating disorders? Is there anything pandemic related that you're noticing that brings specific challenges either to you as a therapist or to your clients?
Jeanne: Well, first I'm going to say that one of the things that's been a lovely surprise for many of my clients is that working remotely has been a catalyst for their treatment in ways that they didn't expect. In the middle of March when I stopped seeing people in person, there was some people were really concerned that they wouldn't be able to do this work. And so, I think a lot of us are finding that, you know, just because it's remote doesn't mean it isn't good treatment. And actually, helps sometimes, people go to places that they felt it harder to go to when they were face-to-face. For some people that's because they see me on the phone and the phone allows... they're not watching me, and they're not being watched, that helps them divulge things that they felt more anxiety or self-consciousness about. But in general, you know, my focus is a lot on disordered eating and eating disorders, trauma and so, the pandemic has just laid bare a lot of the tensions, a lot of the polarizations that I see normally. But now are more prominent and observable on a cultural level. So, I think that that's, again, that's also been a catalyst for a lot of healing. You know, a lot of people who struggle a lot internally with polarities around restricting and bingeing can see that on a cultural level that's what we're seeing, you know, they're seeing that out in the media. So, it kind of normalizes some of what they struggle with normally, you know, typically.
Tisha: And is that a response to stress or a response to being limited, mobility limited access?
Jeanne: All of the above. Our lives have been so disrupted in so many ways, all the things, all the routines that we typically engage in to keep us feeling grounded, whether that is having access to movement or contact or certain ways of feeding ourselves, all of that has been disrupted. And so, people are finding that they, everything that they typically do to take care of themselves now has to be reconfigured.
Aníbal: Jeanne, nowadays, people are offered so many options and different ways to go when it comes to eat and have foods. So many different diet minds, it became a complex science and a complex learning process. We need to know not only the impact of different foods in our bodies, we also need to know when we are using food to medicate, not only our bodies, but also our minds. And we can find readings about eating healthy, eating to reverse diseases, eating clean, intuitive eating, mindful eating. So, so many paths and ways to go when it comes to food. How can we manage such complexities?
Jeanne: All of these things engage parts, right? There's a woman named Virginia Sole-Smith, who said, if something a lot, I'm not going to quote her exactly. But she writes a wonderful book called The Eating Instinct, which basically talking about how eating it's inherent in us, right. To know what our bodies need and how that gets, for most of us, anyway, there's some, you know, babies who come into the world with that not being online. And of course, eating involves a lot of social learning, but in general, our bodies, you know, there's a wisdom, there's a core wisdom. We would call it the Self that knows what we need, but then all these different parts interfere with that. So, she was saying at the beginning of the pandemic, “If now is not a time to eat pasta, I don't know when's a good time.” You know, like of course, you know, food is used to sooth, it's used to connect, for ritual, all kinds of things. It's certainly for survival, right? First and foremost. And then there are parts of us that have taken on these beliefs, extreme beliefs, these feelings of shame often and fear, and, Aníbal, what you just mentioned in terms of, “If I eat the right food, I'm going to live forever. If I eat the right food, I won't get sick.” Right? There's a certain way to eat. If I just try this, if I eliminate that food. And so, what happens is we progressively get disconnected for what our system needs because of all these messages that we get from so many different people. And right now, in the media there's always polarized messages, and at least in Western culture, about what we should be doing, you know, messages that are about excess consumption and how that's bad. And then, you know, the next time you look at the paper, there's something about the best recipe for this or that, right? So, there's very conscious, conflicting, contradictory messages that pit us against ourselves. And certainly, that's been true in the pandemic. And so, you have, you have a baseline way that food and the relationships with food and our bodies has always been complicated by these cultural legacy burdens around what we should look like, how we should function, right? There's a hierarchy of bodies in our culture. You know, that some are more valuable than others. Some are more acceptable than others. So, we have that as a baseline, which results in so much fear and shame for so many people, right? Anybody who's certainly living in a marginalized body, anybody who's not white, not able-bodied, you know, et cetera, you know, who's in a larger body, all of that. But now add to that, this pandemic where now they're even more messages around which bodies are vulnerable, which bodies are okay. Reports about excess weight being related to poor outcomes with COVID and then a headline that says even a few extra pounds...Well, most of us or at least 42% of Americans around that number are categorized as overweight. So presumably carrying what people would call a few extra pounds. So, the message they're taking is “Oh my gosh, I'm more vulnerable to COVID, we are not doing well with COVID.” So, then what do we do when we get scared? What do we do when we feel shame? We tend look, parts of us tend to look for comfort, right? And then we look for comfort and then other parts panic, because the comfort is resulting in our bodies shifting, and we hear reports about the COVID-19 and, you know, so it snowballs, right. It becomes a big problem.
And so, people lose a connection. They lose the sense of...they certainly lose compassion for themselves, but they lose a connection for what does my body really want or need in this moment, in terms of our capacity for interoceptive awareness, our ability to check in and sense our bodies. How can we possibly do that if we're in our head reading about how we could die, we’re more likely to die because we're carrying a few extra pounds, right? So, it's just taken what's a baseline problem on a regular basis and made it so much more heightened for people in the backdrop of a political climate. And, you know, the pandemic climate that's stirring up so many of our vulnerable parts who have to deal with so much uncertainty about what's going to happen, when will this end, in addition to all of the ways that they're getting triggered in their smaller home environments. Right? So, it just ratchets everything up significantly.
Of the things that you mentioned, the types of things that are suggested to us in terms of what we do with our eating, mindful eating and intuitive eating indeed can be very helpful, but they’re almost impossible to attain or sustain when we’re burdened, when parts of us carry burdens about our bodies or about food. And so, what IFS does really well is to help us, and they also, intuitive eating certainly talks about rejecting the food police and kind of pushing those thoughts aside so that you can check in with what your body wants and needs. But it's really difficult to do because, of course, what we know is that when you reject a part, it's going to fight harder to be heard. And so, what IFS does is it helps us get to know the parts who feel critical or hold certain shoulds, you know, some of the things that you mentioned, like if I eat this way, then my body will look like this or it will function like this. And so, what IFS does really well helps us unblend from the part and get to know it, get to know what it's trying to do for us and helps us establish a relationship with it so that we can address the concerns it has about what if it stops trying to get us to do things a certain way. And then it becomes much easier to eat in alignment with our body’s cues and our inherent wisdom about what we need.
Tisha: Yeah. It sounds like you're really highlighting eating from activation and how prevalent that is. And that term being pitted against ourselves around food it just emphasizes how challenging of an issue this is for people who are, a lot of people who are isolated right now. So, I'm curious what you advise or what we can do individually to kind of work to unburden some of that strong activation and then develop more Self when it comes to eating.
Jeanne: I think probably first and foremost, really having some compassion for all of the parts that are getting stirred up by this pandemic in the backdrop of the political situation, the climate here, and I think everywhere, right? The state of the world, climate change...I mean, there's a lot of political unrest in places outside the US, but certainly, you know, the state of the planet, you know, why is this pandemic happening? You know, triggering lots of parts. And then in your immediate environment, so many things are getting disrupted. Kids are at home homeschooling, when will they go back to school, spouses spending time together that is unprecedented. What is it like to live in a small home? You know, we had zoom problems at the beginning of this call, but other people have to figure out a way to get five different people on a device at the same time. And I think so it starts with what we know to be important, which is compassion, right. And getting to know the parts that make it difficult to have compassion. And then what I talk a lot about general and non-pandemic times is there's so many messages about what we should do with their bodies and how they should look, how they should function and about when you were listing the parts, it gets so heady, right? We get so disconnected from what really supports my emotional and physical wellbeing right now, because both of those are important, right? There's a reason why the consumption of processed food and snack food, nostalgic, there's some press about nostalgic processed food like Oreos or Cheetos or whatever Campbell soup and how those products are skyrocketing. And, you know, they're convenient, which is of course important right now when people are working at home and trying to juggle so many things, but also there's a connection to what may feel like earlier times, you know, or a run on flour last year in March, right? The sense of scarcity, and I've got to get grounded. And so, having compassion for that, and then considering in your...So in general, when I talked to people about how can you develop a more self-lead relationship with food and your body? Of course, it's getting to know, first and foremost it's getting to know the parts that hold extreme beliefs about your body, right? Who focus on food or your body as a way to distract from emotional pain. Because of course that happens a lot, or have some idea about how improving, what you do with food and your body is going to help, is going to compensate for shame that you have or make you less likely to be judged by other people. So, unburdening is first and foremost, having compassion for yourself and really checking in with your body as it is, as in terms of what it needs, as opposed to what somebody else thinks you need, right? Because somebody else can tell you that it would be really good for you to not eat carbs. But if you really, if your body really feels good, feels well when you have carbs, that's what you need to be giving it, right? So, that's the first and foremost, it's getting to know the parts who carry extreme beliefs about food and the body and helping them unburden. And, at the same time, because of course we can't wait until we're unburdened to kind of handle these issues, we handle them every day, right? We have to eat several times a day. We have to deal with our personal environments every day, in which there are likely to be many people who have biased beliefs about food and bodies. So, in addition to unburdening, I talk a lot about creating a Self-led eating and wellbeing practice, and the components of those start with, you know, the unburdening, that's, you know, foundational. But in addition, then kind of considering what are the types of practices that support your emotional and physical wellbeing, right? Is it a certain amount of movement, a certain amount of rest, a certain amount of connection? It's really been a discovery to me, in a way that I hadn't understood previously, how introverted parts of me are. I knew it, but I didn't really realize it and I didn't really realize the impact it was having on my system to be traveling so much, to be doing so many public engagements of a kind. And, when I got a break from that, I could really sense that in my nervous system, a real relief, it almost felt like, okay, we can get regrounded. And now what I want to do is kind of calibrate more carefully how often I'm putting myself out into the world in a more public way, right? So, it's getting to know my system and what my parts need. It doesn't matter what somebody else thinks I should be doing. Like go, it's not a big deal. It's you, you go to lovely places which I'm fortunate to do. It's about what, what is it, what toll is that taking on my system as I check in with it. So, and there are other things that I know made my body feel good from I get to be the expert on my body, more or less, right? I can take in information, knowledge that I wouldn't have about bodies in general, and I can consider it, but not let that become the expertise that overrides what I know is good for my body. Right? So, checking in with what are the things that tend to make me feel good, a certain amount of connection with people, a certain amount of rest and individual time, what kinds of foods work for me, what does it work for me. That kind of thing. And so, just more or less having kind of Self-lead vision, not one that's agenda driven. “I have to do this, or else I won't look okay or I won't age well,” but more like, what will help me feel good in this body as it is now, not a future body.
Even though I may have some, you know, some light thinking, light attention being paid to, you know, I'm in my mid-fifties, I do want to be flexible. I know that doing more stretching and things like that is important to be able to have that more later, but it's not driving me. You know, I'm not doing a compulsive I have to stretch your else kind of practice. And then looking...one of the big things is creating an environment that is conducive to Self-lead eating and wellbeing, right? Because there's the internal environment, which hopefully I'm taking care of by help unburdening my own parts. But then I'm living with people with my immediate situation. And then in another system, the larger culture, right? And we get messages from the time we're born that really do disconnect us from our sense of what our bodies need. From doctors who tell us we should be at a certain weight, teachers or coaches who make comments about our bodies, right? Partners, friends, all of it, the media, lots of things that can get us disconnected. And so, when you create the conditions for a Self-led eating and wellness practice, you're really looking at that. You're looking at what's going on in my immediate environment, what's going on in my relationships. And certainly, some of that raises important trailheads. Like, if you have a partner who's keeping lots of treats out on the counter and it's making it difficult because right now, parts of you, understandably, are looking for some comfort and you don't want to ban the foods, but you really would like a little bit of a boundary around it, it can bring up, it can raise a trailhead when you find it difficult to say to your partner “It would really help me if you kept that in your own pantry.” You know, that would really facilitate my being able to stay connected to what I know serves me right now.
So, there's that, but all kinds of questions like, you know, what kind of food support your system, and that may be different now than it was six months ago, right? It's winter, it's not the summer and maybe different. And do you, does your body feel really good when you eat several small meals throughout the day, or does it feel better when you eat three meals a day at a specific time? What I do think does having some it's like when the Self can be like a good parent and do this kind of thing, make sure the environment...there are foods that are available, foods that support you and that there are these boundaries, also, a lot of people are hitting...Even people who cook. I love to cook. For me, it's a real connection with my heritage. It's a legacy heirloom for me that I love cooking and I think I mentioned this in the first podcast that when the pandemic first hit Italy, I'm on these Instagram accounts. I follow these women in Italy that are dedicated to cooking, and they started sharing pictures of their kitchens and their view from their kitchens because they couldn't leave their houses. And they would share a recipe a day that was based on ingredients that were pretty accessible. And it was just, for me a very loving, connected kind of experience. But I have friends who hate cooking, and this has been absolute drudgery for them. And they feel shame about it. I wish I could cook. Like, I wish I liked cooking like you. But again, if you're Self-led about your eating, you could just be present to the part that doesn't like to cook and then learn from it what it needs. Right? So, where do you want to get your food from? Is there a way to get it prepared in a way that is fairly easy, you know, or is there, you know, can you find a way to do that or are there things that you can combine the combination of things that are pre-prepared and things that you can whip together? You know, it's just...and it's individualized, is really the most important thing. And trying to see if you can remove the shame and the stigma associated with certain practices. You know, really essentially Self-led eating it's sustainable, it's achievable. It's not something that you have to work really hard to maintain because you're in consistent connection with all of your parts, not just the part who has some idea that if you eat enough broccoli, even though you hate broccoli, you're going to live a few more years, that kind of thing.
Aníbal: Jeanne, do you find that people are becoming more and more aware of those goals or qualities you referred them as burdens? I mean, they become aware that those qualities like to stay young, white, attractive, thin, and the flexible are our burdens? I mean, do you see any change in our stigmatizing culture climate?
Jeanne: It's not obvious to me. I mean, pockets. I think there are pockets. The people I spend a lot of time with for sure, you know, are very interested in drawing attention to these things. But, when you think last week, there was an article published on cnn.com that said it's impossible to be fat and healthy and metabolically healthy. And that's a blanket statement. And a lot of the research I'm giving you air quotes right now, but a lot of the scientific information that comes out, the CDC reporting poor outcomes from COVID for people who are obese, overweight or obese, like I said before, even a few extra pounds that they say negatively impacts outcome. There's a lot of controversy about the research that's been done around this, but things are presented as blanket statements and, you know, our culture, one of the largest legacy burdens that present in our culture is this idea of, if you work hard enough, if you're just applying enough willpower, you can get the desired outcome. And more and more people are going on diets. Not for lack of trying. I think the, I don't have the exact statistics, but more than ever, people are going on diets and yet our weight as a population is on the rise, right? So, if willpower was going to work, if it was a matter of applying that, and then that would work, it would have done so already.
So, I think that, and I don't, I, so I don't actually see a lot of change in the stigma around bodies. I see more attention in certain pockets. Like I do think one of the things that's come to light again, if you're willing, if you're interested in this area is how, the way we treat black and brown bodies, larger bodies, disabled bodies, is a source of a lot of stress and also, a lack of resources that in itself could explain a lot of the differential health outcomes, you know, race...I think I did mention this in the last podcast, that in areas where there are a lot of BiPAP folks, they're not having the same access to testing centers, they're not having the same access to doctors. Certainly, a lot of people who live in larger bodies avoid going to the doctor because they don't want to be shamed or have their problems minimize. So, no, I don't think yet that there is as much awareness of the beliefs that we hold are actually contributing significantly to the way people are treated when they live in marginalized bodies. And for some people who have an intersecting marginalized identities, it just compounds the problem so much more. We just keep looking at what people...we keep placing the responsibility...I'm speaking broad generalizations, but if the answer is as a culture, are we becoming more aware? I would say, we're still locating the problem in individual behaviors rather than systemic change and looking at the structural racism that results in an unequal treatment and a lack of resources for people, unfortunately. And that's part of why I'm so dedicated to the work I do, because IFS is so clear about the importance of doing our individual work, so that as our system changes, we can then bring our Self-energy out to help shift external systems and heal the burden set that perpetuate them.
Tisha: Is there something that you see or perceive or hope for within the IFS community and the broader community in terms of addressing and healing these collective burdens around food and the body?
Jeanne: I'm hopeful that people can start really just thinking about how they've come to hold some of these beliefs, you know, as we do with all burdens, right? These biases that we hold, that parts of us take on, you know, how is it that I've come to take hold this belief and how does it serve me and what are my concerns if I don't keep holding onto this belief, like what comes up when you think about the fact that you can eat as much fruit and vegetables as you want, and we're still going to die, right? Our bodies are still going to, you know, at times we're going to get sick, even when it doesn't make any sense, any sense from that perspective of...I mean, I'm sure you've known people where, where people say he was, he's so healthy, he's always exercising, he eats really well. You know, there's some sense of this doesn't add up, right? And so just, I'm hopeful that IFS as a community encourages that kind of self-exploration and consideration. So, for all of us to start thinking about a little bit more, when we see a scientific report to start thinking about, let me just not swallow that whole, no pun intended. Let me, let me really keep careful, let me think about it. Like what, what did they really find in this study? And did they consider life's individual lifestyle factors? And, then also the other piece is if the fact is, if some of these research studies are correct in certain ways, then what do we do? Right. So, if you're in a larger body and you're more susceptible to something, then you're going to need a lot of support to take care of yourself as best you can, right? So, I am hopeful that people will start thinking more critically about these automatic knee-jerk assumptions they make about food and bodies and why, you know, how do they serve them? And maybe, hopefully, you know, what IFS is so good at is reducing the shame, right? You know, thinking, you know, helping us consider if I need more comfort right now, while the world seems like it's falling apart. And some curiosity, right? Wow, what is this scarcity, as I'm really thinking about how many rolls of toilet paper I can get my hands on, what does this bring up? What part is getting stirred up and what does it need for me? Cause it certainly doesn't need a heap of shame about my inquisitiveness or the fact that I ate some potato chips today.
Aníbal: So, we should heal individually, but also collectively. How can we collectively heal? How can we help with that or organize that?
Jeanne: I think we have to start learning more about how other people are treated, how other bodies are treated in this culture. What is it like, for example, to live with a constant fear of being judged or hurt because of the body you live in. You know, what is the systemic impact of that? You know, there are so many things, we have this persistent belief that somehow calories in, calories out, putting in enough effort, doing the right exercise, an exercise that counts, for example, as opposed to connecting with our bodies and finding movement that we can sustain, you know, just really considering, you know, the beliefs we hold and considering what is it like to be in...live in a body that is attacked regularly? You know, I have clients who live in larger bodies, they go to the store and they are, you know, the contempt that they can feel, that they feel viscerally, you know, leads them to brace on a fairly consistent basis and to hide often to constrict their movement, you know, not go out to the world, but what is it like to be a black person who feels unsafe, unsafe to walk around and doesn't have the safety or the feeling of like, I will be protected if something happens, right? The police will help me out versus I could be attacked. I could be, I could be harmed. So, I think really educating ourselves and thinking, again, having compassion and part of, you know, when you're in Self, you have a larger perspective, right? Your capacity to have a larger perspective and see beyond yourself is much more available to you. So, really, really starting to consider what is it like for other people who live in bodies that are treated poorly in lots of different ways and who aren't given the same access to the things that keep us feeling and being well. Right? Adequate housing, adequate employment, adequate healthcare. Yeah.
Tisha: How does spirituality factor in to your work with food in the body?
Jeanne: Well, I think self-care is a spiritual practice. And I think that, I think I could tell you what that looks like for me, but it's going to be different for the next person, but I think Self-lead care of the body is spiritual.
Tisha: It seems like there's so many different ways of viewing self-care and it gets confusing. Like, is it self-care to take a bath every day? Or is that indulgent and not self-caring? Is it self-care to watch Netflix all afternoon? How do we work to feel into the difference of what is this type of self-care that you're talking about?
Jeanne: Well, just noticing, you know, your use of the word indulgent, right? There's a judgment there, right? So, there's a part coming in. And, you know, it's funny because I was just talking about this, that we don't tend to shame ourselves for bingeing on Netflix. We kind of get a kick out of it, right? Like what are you choosing to binge watch? Whereas if you're, if it's potato chips, that's a problem. Although there was this lovely, there was this, I liked this article recently, this guy was talking about making his way through a bag of Doritos, but just with some awareness, like right now, this is what makes sense. Kind of just an awareness that we're all doing lots of things to get away from certain feelings or manage them. I think the thing is, Tisha, I think checking in with what feels like it's coming, something's coming from a part versus more from your core Self, from your, your sense of right now, this is supportive of my system. So one of the things about Self...so I think what you're getting at is something that I talk about, which is Self-led eating and wellbeing really involves an ongoing negotiation, Self-led negotiation with your parts, because, you know, one day taking a bath or maybe one week taking a bath every night feels supportive. Right? But checking in with all of your parts, maybe there's one part that's like, I don't want to take a bath, you know, and if you're overriding that part all of the time, because there's some belief that taking a detox bath at the end of the day will be good for your system, then you're, you know, it's more parts driven because you're leaving, you're operating on the belief of a part rather than having more of a consensus from the whole group internally about what's really supportive. Does that make sense?
Tisha: Yeah. And it does feel as though there's going to be polarities, I guess, internally in terms that are so challenging and really coming back to that faith of trust and consensus seems important.
Jeanne: Well, I think that the issue is that even when times aren't stressful, it's very, it's a complicated business to have and maintain a body. Right? I mean, you know, sort of like I did my laundry yesterday and wished that it was done now forever. Like that could be it. I would never need to like, you know, “Oh God, I got to do it again tomorrow.” It's, you know, we have to feed ourselves, we have to move ourselves, we have to work to get enough rest, enough connection. What are we doing with our screens? Are we, you know, are we using them too much, not giving our eyes a rest? So, on a day-to-day basis, that's why the Self-lead negotiation is so important. The Self negotiating the polarizations that emerge in these moment to moment, day-to-day decisions with the idea that we're not going to get it perfectly because there is going to be a part that may be disgruntled because today we didn't move in the way that usually other parts like to move. Right? But in that case, developing more collaboration, right? So, the goals of IFS are really to unburden the parts, restore connection with the Self, right? Help parts collaborate and get along more harmoniously and then bring Self-leadership to external systems. So, this part about, we have so many different parts like today, there was a part that said, “You know what? It would be really great to exercise before I do this podcast.” And another part said, “Don't do that because...” you know, I had all kinds of reasons why it would be good to wait till later. And they kind of, I allowed them to have their little conversation and then worked out a compromise, which is I will do it later. You know? And, but in this case, it wasn't really a very difficult negotiation. There are other times where the negotiation is more pitched and in general, there are times when, you know, what I like to say is when we give the parts, when we extend some compassion and gratitude to the parts who step back so another part can have its way in a given moment, it goes a long way to stimulate or encourage a collaboration amongst the parts, because there's a real sense that the Self is going to step in consistently and be there to help negotiate these difficult decisions and not privilege one part who's driven by some idea of what will happen if we do this thing every day and to the exclusion of the other parts wants and needs, right? Sometimes eating for emotional reasons is the best thing you could do to take care of yourself. You know, in that moment, that may indeed be the best thing you can do.
Aníbal: Jeanne, one of the things I miss the more in these pandemic times is the freedom to hang out with friends and colleagues and have a meal out together. Is there any relevant role for the unburdening process for eating together and socially versus eating isolated?
Jeanne: You know, for some people eating with other people is actually something they hate to do. Right? It feels very uncomfortable for them to eat with other people and for other people it's sustaining. And, I think it's been very hard for people. I find more commonly people like, they really enjoy eating together. Right? That's really how culturally, most of us grew up eating and enjoying eating with each other. It's been a really, this has been one of the...when you talk to people, when I talk to people, that's been one of the biggest hardships. So, I think if you're eating with people who are Self-led in their relationships with food, it's easier.
Jeanne: Right? So one of the, when I talk about creating the conditions for Self-led eating and wellbeing, eating with somebody who is actively restricting, or has a lot of rules about food can actually feel very stressful and it can pull the parts of you who still haven't unburdened to join in that kind of a restriction or a diet talk or whatever it is. So, I think that, considering who you're eating with is important and are setting some, you know, speaking for your parts. Like, I am not shy about speaking for part who doesn't want to spend the meal talking about what I'm eating and why I should be eating this, or somebody's new diet. And, you know, like that, to me, doesn't feel supportive. So, I will speak for my parts or if the talk turns to body criticism or weight.
And the more, the more you do your own work, and the more clear you are about how burdened the external environment is, and the more committed you are to not living in a way where you, you know, I often say to people, which is not my, it's not a question unique to me, other great people who've done so much good work in this area. Like what would happen if like the b??? folks who are doing amazing work, you know, what would it be like if you weren't constantly criticizing your body or what you ate? Like, what would your life be like? You know, I think when you get clear about the importance of that question, if you weren't always trying to fix your body or how you eat, I think then it becomes easier to be in environment. It's like, it provides you with a little bit more resilience so that you can speak for the parts that don't want to have diet talk at a meal, or you can decide not to eat with people whom, you know, have funky eating patterns or extreme eating patterns. But I think that's been the biggest, one of the hardest things for people has been that their access to a very basic aspect of human life to, to break bread with each other, right? Has been disrupted. I think that's a very big heartbreak for a lot of people with, you know, a ripple effect, you know, kind of in terms of their sense of wellbeing and feeling increasingly depressed about being shut in and disconnected. It's just not the same on zoom. You know, those initial zoom cocktail hours, you know, I don't know if you had them, but certainly we had, you know, we'd have zoom calls in and meet up for a meal or a drink, but, you know, they get tired pretty quickly when you're not sitting across the table from somebody and really feeling their energy and the energy of the food. And so...
Tisha: I had to, through the pandemic, learn to enjoy cooking for myself because it's just me [inaudible] I love to cook. I love to cook for people.
Jeanne: Yes, exactly.
Tisha: If it was just me, I would like make popcorn.
Jeanne: Yeah, no, that's true.
Tisha: I'm like, I can make a meal for myself. And just put that energy and effort into...a lot of parts to kind of step aside or give that value or to not, not be feeding and including and sharing.
Jeanne: Right. Absolutely. It's very, I have sent out a lot of food gifts while I've been in the pandemic, you know, because that's just my way. I really like giving I'd like cooking for people. So, I understand what you're saying.
Tisha: It's a love language.
Jeanne: It is for me it's a love language. It's a real connection. And I also really, I really know that for people, for whom it's not a love language, it's so helpful when they cannot shame themselves for that and really just get “Wow, this is hard. You know, I don't want to cook for myself and I don't have an option to go out.” Very difficult. Yeah. So, a lot of trailheads being laid bare by this pandemic, right? In this way.
Tisha: And that's good for that to be illuminated. And it's so wonderful that you're plotting the course for all of us offering guidance.
Aníbal: Jeanne, you just did with Diana Richards a workshop on Self-led eating and wellbeing during stressful times.
Aníbal: How was it and are you going to keep doing this? Or what else in the future?
Jeanne: Yes. One of the things that the pandemic has allowed me to do is finally write a book. I am probably close to being done with the draft of a book on Self-led eating and wellbeing. And then Diana and I are going to work on a workbook, a companion workbook that will be more hands-on exercises and meditations and reflections opportunities to map out parts, things like that, that we'll, you know, we'll get into next. So, and it was really nice to work with Diana because she's a dietician. So, we come, we come from slightly different perspectives, but sharing the same IFS lens, and a lovely group of people who joined us, it was really a nice experience.
Tisha: I heard some great feedback from some of the participants.
Jeanne: Oh, that's so nice.
Tisha: Yeah. I got so much...
Jeanne: That's great.
Tisha: So, you'll continue...potentially.
Jeanne: I'm sure. I mean, you know, it's, again, it's interesting. It would've been nice to have everybody in the same room, but it was interesting to see that we could feel really connected despite, you know, working remotely, which is such a relief, you know, because we don't, you know, we're still living in this backdrop of uncertainty about exactly when things will shift. So it's good to know that we will have access to these resources because certainly at this point, people, you know, in heavy duty panic about, you know, changes they've seen as a result of all these changes and in terms of their access to different food and movement practices and people are, there's a lot of alarm, especially in January when we're all supposed to start working on ourselves and do something to be improved. Right? New and improved. So, yeah. So, we're going to keep doing this kind of work in, in various ways. And I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you again more directly about that, about this.
Aníbal: Yes, we are very grateful, Jeanne. And thank you again so much for having us. It was a joy to be here with you and Tisha.
Jeanne: Thank you.
Aníbal: And I hope we can keep meeting and sharing this model, our work and some meals and movement.
Jeanne: I look forward to that very much, very much, and I know things are hard in Portugal, so I hope things improve there very soon.
Tisha: Take care. Thanks so much.
Recorded 29th January 2021
Transcript Edition: Carolina Abreu