Why do eating disorders promote a competitive culture? Can you have the courage to take a stand for yourself out of love rather than shame? What is the mark of holistic and real recovery? In this podcast episode, Dr. Cristina Castagnini speaks about replacing competitiveness against others and yourself for self-compassion with Susan Osher.


Susan Osher is the founder and clinical director of Connected Eating, a multi-disciplinary eating disorders treatment center, providing individual counseling, group treatment, an intensive outpatient program as well as training to other health care practitioners. She is a certified eating disorders specialist and supervisor, providing both nutrition and psychotherapy.

Visit Connected Eating and connect on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.


  • Eating disorders promote competition
  • “What is the competition for?”
  • Create courage from self-compassion
  • Understand that people are not judging you
  • Recovery

Eating disorders promote competition

Eating disorders can sometimes be created as a person’s maladaptive coping mechanisms in an attempt to help them feel safe, secure, or loveable in their community or society. The ideals of eating disorders are often based on looking a certain way or having a certain body type, and that body type is often about what “not” to look like.
If the goal is to be “thin” then you have to have someone who you’re “thinner than”. (Susan Osher)
Meaning, over time, there can develop a sense of competition to “achieve” the sense of validation or acceptance by looking the “most” correct, according to a set of standards designed by the diet culture industry.

“What is the competition for?”

If you have ever been wrapped up in the blind-chasing of the competition of an eating disorder, did you ever stop to ask yourself, “What is this for?”
Where are you heading? What is it? … Even if [you] reached [your] magic number … then what? You’re actually kind of in hell because then the competitiveness really kicks in with yourself. (Dr. Castagnini)
What is on the other side of achieving this nearly impossible standard? If you are chasing love, acceptance, confidence, or “beauty”, remember that these things all depend on how you see yourself. They can only be improved once you love yourself as you are because you cannot shame yourself into love. Only real, effective, and genuine change can come from a place of love, honesty, and sincerity. It may be tough but rather a tougher love than shame.

Create courage from self-compassion

Notice [yourself] with a lot of compassion and curiosity, right? [ED] is such a fixed mindset [but] people do recover from eating disorders. Most people actually do recover if [they] actually have the courage and are willing to take the risk of challenging it. (Susan Osher)
Understand that this is difficult to do, but have the self-compassion to be gentle with yourself and invested enough to truly give it a try, and take a stand for yourself against the eating-disordered voice and thoughts. It’s going to feel uncomfortable when you go against it but that is a good sign – it signifies growth, and that you are starting to make a good change!

Understand that people are not judging you

I hate to break it to everyone but most people are self-centered, they actually don’t notice you! … You’d think that everyone’s judging you [but] most people aren’t. They’re just doing them. They’re in their lives, they’re doing their world. (Susan Osher)
The people around you are not looking at you as intensely as they are looking at themselves. People are likely worried you are judging them as much as you are judging yourself! But in reality, everyone is too busy with their own lives and wondering what people think of them to actually be thinking about anyone else. So, who are you doing all this harmful work for? Additionally, if there are people that are noticing or judging you, then know this: they are not the right people for you. Whether they are friends or loved ones, people that truly care for you will not judge your worth based on your looks.


That’s a wonderful thing for people to focus on and hear … I love that you brought up connecting with the breath and connecting with the body and [its] motions, the signals. That’s really what it’s about, connecting with ourselves. (Dr. Castagnini)
Love your body, fully and openly. With recovery, you can learn again how to be present and aware of and within yourself. You can learn to regulate your emotions and handle stress in ways that are safe for your mental and physical wellness. You can allow yourself to live a full life without restriction, and in pursuit of nourishment in both food and memories and joy.



  I am a licensed Psychologist and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist. While I may have over 20 years of clinical experience, what I also have is the experience of having been a patient who had an eating disorder as well. One thing that I never had during all of my treatment was someone who could look me in the eye and honestly say to me "hey, I've been there. I understand". Going through treatment for an eating disorder is one of the hardest and scariest things to do. I remember being asked to do things that scared me. Things I now know ultimately helped me to get better. But, at the time, I had serious doubts and fears about it. If even one of my providers had been able to tell me "I know it's scary, but I had to go through that part too. Here's what will probably happen...." then perhaps I would not have gone in and out of treatment so many times. My own experience ultimately led me to specialize in treating eating disorders. I wanted to be the therapist I never had; the one who "got it". I will be giving you my perspective and information as an expert and clinician who has been treating patients for over 2 decades. But don't just take my word for it...keep listening to hear the truly informative insights and knowledge guest experts have to share. I am so happy you are here!


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Podcast Transcription

[DR. CRISTINA CASTAGNINI] Behind The Bite podcast is part of a network of podcasts that are good for the world. Check out podcasts like the Full of Shift podcast, After the First Marriage podcast and Eating Recovery Academy over at practiceofthepractice.com/network. Welcome to Behind The Bite podcast. This podcast is about the real-life struggles women face with food, body image and weight. We're here to help you inspire and create better healthier lives. Welcome. Well, hello everyone. [DR. CRISTINA] Welcome to the show. Eating disorders are complex illnesses that negatively affect the daily lives of the people who have them. In so many ways, the people just don't realize, even the people who have the illnesses themselves. Really eating disorders are so much more than about food and weight, which is what today's podcast is all about and I'm so grateful to have an esteemed colleague with me here today who specializes in treating eating disorders. So believe me, you won't want to miss what she has to say or any of the information she's here to share and discuss. Susan Osher is the founder and clinical director of Connected Eating, a multidisciplinary eating disorders treatment center, which provides individual counseling, group treatment and intensive outpatient program, as well as training to other healthcare practitioners. She's a certified eating disorder specialist and supervisor, and she provides both nutrition and psychotherapy. [DR. CRISTINA] All right. Well, Susan, I am so excited you're here. As we were talking a little bit before we hit record, I think the real purpose of us having this podcast today is just because there are so many people out there who you and I both we work with people and they don't really realize that the way they're living their lives or the way they are thinking is that they're suffering so much. [SUSAN OSHER] Right. I mean, so much of our behaviors and our thought patterns are just that, they're habitual. They're the way that we function in the world. We are so aware working with this privilege to work with this population, that we are aware of this, these ways of thinking and seeing the world and seeing themselves or seeing ourselves in the world is not normal, but it feels so normative. [DR. CRISTINA] There's like these, I don't know about you, but I see these light bulb moments when talking to somebody like in a session and saying, well, you do you realize that not everybody thinks this way or lives their life this way and it's like, what do you mean? So I'm hoping that is someone listening to the podcast today here's what we're going to talk about and some of the examples we're giving, maybe somebody's going to have some of those light bulb moments for themselves and go, oh my gosh, wait a minute. Like, maybe I don't have to live like this or think like this because it's really hard. [SUSAN] Absolutely. I don't know that this might be a funny place to start, but something that really just stands out as a real memory of a recovery story was one of my clients who had been helping for quite a while who was struggling with pretty severe anorexia nervosa. She came into session and she was like, Susan, I noticed the flowers. I heard the birds chirping. I'm in the world. When someone's struggling with an eating disorder, it's very hard to be present and really hard to notice that the world's a safe place because it's somehow dangerous. Every reflection is dangerous, every decision around food, about what happened previously with eating or a body checking or something can be really dangerous. So being in the world in that way is, feels very normal, but it's really not. [DR. CRISTINA] That's, I've had similar experiences where someone just, it's almost like these epiphanies of like, okay, this is different. Like, why wasn't, why was things so like muted before, or this is, it's nice, it's like there is this filtering of things. I remember going through that myself actually, because I've talked on the podcast about how I had my own eating disorder and just realizing like, life was so different when the eating disorder voice and thoughts and all that was just gone. It's like so much more space and presence for everything. [SUSAN] An as you know Cristina, and I appreciate you sharing your story, but an eating disorder is something that is so powerful. It really is maladaptive and it's life-threatening but it is a brilliant psychological defense, brilliant, complex and involves so many different actions. Part of a psychological defense is that it's unconscious. You don't really realize that you're doing it all the time and it's so pervasive. And because it's linked into eating, which is such a biological drive and a necessity that most people don't think about it, they, I mean they do, but not in the same way, that you're getting cues to reinforce this all the time. You get a need to eat. So you are needing to negotiate. How are you going to deal with the food? How are you going to choose these things? Most people who develop eating disorders have got genetic predispositions or many have an anxiety or perfectionism and this really helps to feel predictable, in control and when things don't feel in control, they feel dangerous. We don't even think about it sometimes. It becomes a whole bodily sense, just like trauma. You feel that there's something not right if you go and make a mistake, so to speak, it feels really wrong and after a while you don't really remember what the right and wrong was. It just, you know that it's wrong. [DR. CRISTINA] There's such a need to follow all of the rules, the rituals, the routines just play into everything because then it feels safe, it's predictable, like you said. Then when you don't do it's like, okay, now what? As you and I were talking, we were going to specifically more talk about the competitive nature of the eating disorders and how on a day-to-day basis in multiple situations, people may not realize how this thought pattern they're being competitive in different situations is eating disordered. It's part of it. I have several ideas in my head to talk about where people might go, wait, that's eating disordered or people don't always do that. But I'm wondering for you, like what have you come across or what comes to mind for you? [SUSAN] Well, there seems to be, and part of it is sort of a hypervigilance, like, if you feel like you're saying rules and rituals to do what? I mean, it's a fear of weight gain. It's a fear of, so somehow not being thin feels really dangerous, which is reinforced by our society and media, that if you are thin, you will be lovable, you'll be worthy, you'll be all of those things that happy. And so if you're not protecting that, then there must be something really wrong. Noticing what's going on becomes almost necessary for living. Obviously, it's not, but you notice everything. You notice, if the goal is to be thin, then you have to have someone who you are thinner than, so you'll notice that I definitely can't be the one who eats more or I can't be the one perhaps that eats, finishes eating before someone else. And if I notice that someone looks thinner than me in a room or at a family event, then I've lost. There seems to be a real, for many people it's a real trigger, all these other things. It becomes controlling inadvertently. Of course, the person next to you may not notice, most people are not going to notice at all what, what you're eating or what you're looking like really as your primary thing, how thin you are, that you are noticing everything because that's how you become programmed. [DR. CRISTINA] It's, there's buzz as you're talking. It's like there's so much meaning given to that. So I've heard several patients over the years, well, more than several say things like, oh my gosh, I'm so worried about say Thanksgiving dinner or going out to dinner with friends because I want them to order, if they say they're at a restaurant, I want them to order the food first so I know what I can order or what I "should" order because I have to eat the least. Or they're calculating calories in their head about like, well they're ordering this so then I can order this because there is that competitive nature in their head. Or to your point too, it's like if people order plates of food, they're waiting and eating slower because they're waiting to see how much everyone else eats. That depends, that determines how much they allow themselves to eat just so I eat less than everyone else because it's really scary if somebody were to eat like their whole platon, they see someone else down the table who's left some on their plate, it's like, oh my gosh, like they beat me, or I didn't do good enough. I screwed up. [SUSAN] Absolutely. I find in your example, I find that that can be a really helpful thing in recovery that for some people going up with certain friends who are good eaters. It can actually give permission. This is actually totally fine. It's normal to go to a steakhouse and order a burger and fries and have it with a beer. That becomes actually a good comparison. Like, that becomes a thing that is reassuring this, all these fears are actually not true and this evidence that's gathered that these people having fun who are in life are actually eating in a normal, so to speak way. So sometimes comparisons and competitiveness can actually, that competitiveness of the eating disorder actually can be melled by the comparisons when someone's in a better frame of mind. But for the most part, the concept of horse blinders, you know how those racing horses, they have blinders so that you don't actually, they don't look to the left or right so that they can just do their work of racing. But in this context, we're talking about feeding yourself, nourishing yourself, being able to know that food is just that. With eating disorder so much gets projected outwards. So much is seen as numbers, what the scale is, what the number of your clothes are, what the number on the plate is in terms of portion sizes. We lose touch with actually the goal of eating, which is fulfilling. This is actually, you don't deserve to eat. You don't have to work to eat. Our bodies are brilliant. Actually, they know what they need to do and the more we feed them in a regular way and in a delicious sensuous, satiating, satisfying way, our bodies actually self-regulate. But we can't do that when it's all numbers we're all in our heads as to what these rules are. If you're not connected to your body and it's not coming from a place of self-care and your body gets, and food becomes weaponized as a way of dealing with things, you have to be in the arena of noticing everything that's going on in the outside. Noticing is, are your clothes fitting different? Is the number on the scale going up? What does it mean? What did I eat yesterday? Or even having self-competitiveness. Oh, I was sick so I didn't, I couldn't eat breakfast, oh, that means I don't have to eat breakfast the next day and the next day and the next day and I was at, so that, remember the competition usually only gets worse. It gets more and more and more competitive. You go from like, being on the school team to be wanting to be like the best Olympian, never actually becomes, it, never really quietens. Because it can always be better. You're always going to find a better way of being, but it's so self-distracting because Cristina, sorry to put it out there so bluntly, what is the prize? What is the competition for, from an eating disorder mindset really? [DR. CRISTINA] Eh, no, it's true. Like what, yeah, where are you heading? Like what is it where, even if, and I ask people this all the time, and I remember asking myself this, like, even if I reached my magic number, my goal, whatever, that's very goal oriented. I want to reach this number, this size, this whatever, then what? You're actually in hell. Because then the competitiveness really kicks in with yourself or the fear of other people judging you more because now you've reached this whatever, and it took hell to get there, a lot of rules restriction, whatever you want to call it and now you know you can get there and people have seen you there and you've seen yourself there and you've seen the number and now it's like you've got to maintain it or less. So now you've got to really up the ante. Now you got to do better. You got to do more and more of an eating disorder behavior, more of an eating disorder. Life is just worse. So if you see a higher number or you blip up, then it's, the punishment in the head is just, it's horrible. The things you say to yourself and the eating disorder, voice illness is so mean. It's just, it's horrible. [SUSAN] What she's saying is like, when you get that prize, you get to that next piece, it actually becomes a trap. Okay, great. I got there. Like, I was talking, I was working with one of my clients about, she was talking about needing to lose weight before a vacation. I was like, okay, great. So you get there, how much are you going to enjoy your vacation? If you've starved yourself and you've been in all these rules to like get to this place and you are now going to be with lovely food and lovely people and you're wanting to connect, but you can't eat because that's what this competition does. It's always when you're competing with someone, and I'm thinking about my daughter who tried out for the soccer team today at her school, and she was saying I need to make sure that I'm going to be a team player. I said to her, yes, but you also need to show that you've got skills, so don't pass up because, she tends to pass off the ball too quickly. She is such a team player. She said, yeah, you're right. I can't, I shouldn't be trying to be the striker all the time. Think about that, when you're doing competition across, you are alienating yourself. You are actually needing to climb over other people. You are not connecting to people. You are not actually vulnerable. You're not showing your flaws. That's actually what people find beautifully attractive, when we can connect to one another as human beings, not perfectionism, not wanting to be this hollow, skinny, angular being. We're softer, fluid actually reachable. What I was going to just say about the prize is what, we are talking, let's call it a spade a spade, we are talking about the mental illness with the highest mortality rate. In other words, if you get the prize, it actually means that you die. Sorry. But like that is actually, and most people that I work with at least are not actively suicidal. It is unfortunately a very, there is suicide that we see in anorexia particularly and eating disorders in general, but most people don't realize that that's actually where they're heading. You're starving your body. [DR. CRISTINA] Yeah. [SUSAN] You're starving what we all need to be doing to live [DR. CRISTINA] It gets lost. Because again, to your point, it's so normalized out in the world that you need to look like this. It's the competition's not just internal and it gets like solidified and valued and looking at the social media, looking at different things. To your point, like with the blinders, whatever somebody is looking at and reading and seeing, they're not seeing the whole picture. They're just seeing what they want to see when they're in it. Right there, they're competing with images that are not real or an idea. Out there it's like, oh, I need to look like all those images I'm being bombarded with consistently and bearing the messages but they're not able to have an open mind and see anything other than I guess what the eating disorder mind is having congruence with, right? [SUSAN] Right, because that's where, and as we know with the hot part is with starvation, and that can be, by the way, doesn't necessarily need to be anorexia, getting to a certain weight. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about just restricting your intake, comes a rigidity, which actually reinforces it. The way that you are seeing the world becomes incredibly brittle and it becomes so binary, it reinforces the good food, bad food, the okay weight or the not okay weight, which is part of the actual physiology of this, the brain changes. You're getting this reinforcement, as I said before. Multiple times a day when you're making the decision, no, I shouldn't be doing this, no, I shouldn't be doing this, no, I shouldn't be doing this, you are actually carving a neural pathway that tells you that if you go off that pathway, if you do enjoy something, it's wrong. You feel as if it's wrong and you compensate or do something or do some, but there's actually no danger, really. [DR. CRISTINA] But that's the fear. Even as you were talking, like, so what's your, for anyone listening and saying, well, no, come on, like there are good foods, there are bad foods. If I do this, if I eat this, then I am being bad. I should feel bad. Like, this is not okay. How can someone get out of that mindset or think differently? [SUSAN] I think the number one piece of advice, I mean, and it's such complexity, but noticing with a lot of compassion and curiosity. It's such a fixed mindset and people do recover from eating disorder, from eating disorders. Most people actually do recover if you actually or have the courage or willing to take the risk of actually challenging that. So having the compassion to know that this is really hard, this is a very, very difficult disorder and it's not a choice. It's not a choice. This is something that you've used to help just move through this world so that when we actually want to veer from it's going to feel really uncomfortable. But that means that there's growth. That means that there's change. When you start to wobble, you're on the edge. That is where change happens. When we are too comfortable, we're not growing, we're not changing. Even if there's a whole lot of difficult feelings, find the people around you that you know they appreciate the gray, they appreciate beyond the surface. Check in on your own values. Because most of what is drained down is something from rarely our society. If you think about the studies that have done of countries that have been westernized, before they got TV, they didn't have like eating disorders to the level that we are. Now we are in this crazy, sinister world of social media where you see images and there's algorithms, so if you look for something, then you get even worse ones and more accenture. So protect yourself. Surround yourself if you know that if you're on social media or listening to certain things that make you feel worse after listening to it or watching images. It's not actually that surprising. So clear it up. If you're going to, as you said, Cristina, that Thanksgiving dinner, find that one person. Hopefully there's at least one person in your family or friend who's going to be there, who you know is not going to be fact talking or body talking, in other words, saying, oh my goodness, I've eaten so much, I'm going to have to not eat tomorrow. Or my pants are hurting, blah, blah, blah. Sit next to someone who's actually enjoying the food, who you can talk to, who you can, so protect yourself within this world, which can oftentimes be completely feeding the, your insecurities or your worst fears. I went, I did a food exposure with my clients yesterday, and this was like a crazy thing that happened. We went out to a cookie store and I looked at the server and I thought, please don't look up my, to my client. I was singing to myself because she was wearing a t-shirt that said ruining diets since 2019 and on the walls, there was like a dieting, like it had a butter and it was saying diet, diet ruins us. I was like, this is the world we live in. For most people they'll say, ha-ha, funny joke. But actually, be kind to yourself. Be protective of yourself. Be soft and really, really make your world safer. Make, do the things that will calm and regulate your emotions. Make sure that you're taking time to be with the people who you care about, going to nature, that's coming to summer. Listen to the birds. Go out into the sunshine. Listen to be around the people that you want to be around. Also, our breaths, our breath is the most powerful thing to calm our system. So do some breathing exercises, even if it's a few box breaths, which is, because meditation for many people feels really, really unmanageable. Just let them be calm when you have racing thoughts, but make sure that you find those things that are going to make you feel a little better, a little easier in the world, and notice without judgment. Just collect these things, these experiences that give you a little bit of hope, give you a little bit of calm and nourish them, feed them, feed those moments. If you can only breathe three box breaths, which is breathe in for three or four and hold for three and four and exhale for three or four counts, and then holds for three or four when I say box breath, do that. If you can only do it twice, do it three times the next day. Just build on things that are going to make you feel grounded. If you're going to, if you're going, can't manage to change everything at once, which most people can't, allow yourself to wobble every single day, just a little bit. Feel uncomfortable. Choose that one thing that doesn't feel like you're going to topple. But yeah, you should wobble because there's completely a different world outside of this, wery, very dangerous, I mean, not dangerous, but like, just awful, quite frankly, world to be in. It's such a torment. [DR. CRISTINA] Well, yeah. Just as you were talking, I think another thing just along the same lines is people existing in the eating disorder mind with food and weight and appearance and all this, but I wonder how many people listening to are not only struggling with that, but the competitiveness. You and I were talking a little bit beforehand earlier today that the competitiveness in this nature is pervasive in all areas of life, pretty much. Like this need to be perfect with grades, the best employee, like the best this, the best, like everything is like the bar is set to perfection and that the fear of if I'm not perfect and I'm not the best, and I don't get the straight A's, like there's no gray. You said that before, there's no gray areas, like all or nothing. Like I'm either perfect or I failed. That too is all part of this and. I don't think a lot of people who struggle with eating disorders really think about how that's all part of their nature? [SUSAN] As you say, competitiveness, it makes me think of what an individualistic society we live in. If we were in a more socialist and we're all working together, and it wasn't, who's the richest, who's the prettiest, who's the thinnest, who's the most successful and we all worked towards something together, very different experience, but we're not primed like that in our society. But at the end of the day, most people want connection and that isn't about being perfect or the thinnest. Like that deep attachment and being able to deeply relate to another human being is where most people find fulfillment. And that's not being perfect. That's allowing yourself to be with flaws. When you're ready and you find the people who you can open up to and be vulnerable to and allow their vulnerability without judgment that's where we get real authenticity. The thing is also, I find most, and not everyone, some people will be perfection, like perfectionists that are outward focused or perfectionists that are inward focused. Like most people with eating disorders will tend to be inward focused, perfectionist. They're only worrying, like they're mainly worrying about themselves, but part of that also involves, for many people, unfortunately, a real judgment of others, which most of my clients will actually catch themselves doing that, that they'll be so judgmental of someone eating a lot or looking a certain way. I'll say, I'll like reflect like, is this actually the person that you're wanting to be, that you're wanting to sit across a room from, someone and be so nasty? Look at your thoughts. And most of the time they get a bit of a fright that they've become this really judgmental person, which is not in line with the way that they're actually are when they think about their values. They're not, they don't want to be this critical, horrible person, but when you're doing it to yourself, it's really hard to not project that onto the world. [DR. CRISTINA] Well, right. I think that perpetuates all of this because people go out and they think, well, if I'm thinking this way, then everyone else must be thinking this way. Of course, everyone's judging me and looking at me, so I need to eat perfectly, be perfect and do all the right things because I know what I'm thinking and doing. So everyone else must be too. [SUSAN] Exactly. I hate to break it to everyone, but like, most people are pretty self-centered. Actually, don't notice. They don't actually, you think that everyone's judging you. Most people aren't. They're just doing them. They're in their lives. They're doing their world. They're going to work, meeting people, noticing, I don't know, whatever that they're, they need to scratch their air. They're not actually noticing what someone is looking like. That's what you're doing to yourself to make yourself feel accepted in this world. But most people aren't even noticing [DR. CRISTINA] People won't believe that. They're like, no, they are. You know, that's the fear that brings up a lot of anxiety, right? [SUSAN] Absolutely. The truth is that the people who are judging are oftentimes the ones that are also as tormented. Like they're also in the world. The people who have eating disorders or disordered eating or prized body image are the ones that are also in this like, obsession about eating and or not eating and exercising or whatever it might be. But that becomes the focus. It's all about our bodies. Sadly, whether we like it or not, our bodies change. The three-year old's body is not the same as a 10-year-old, they're not the same as a 20 year old, they're not the same as a 30th, a 50 year old or an 80 year old. No matter how much Botox and surgery you have, the body changes because it's physical. It's there to hold your soul, your spirit. That's really what the body is for. So look after it, we got one in our whole lives. [DR. CRISTINA] That's so true. I think people forget that. Like the body is not just meant to be manipulated and starved and shoved into some mold that society says is what it's supposed to look like. When people don't have that body, they're like, oh, something's wrong with me. I'm not doing something right. Like there it goes. [SUSAN] What I find fascinating is where people, when people actually develop eating disorders, it's when the body is changing so you become competitive with yourself. Like, oh my goodness. Like I saw something recently about like, what is my pre-covid body like and what is my post-covid body like? I'm like, seriously, we're doing benchmarks even against ourselves? And there was a picture of Cindy Crawford who, there was a, forgive me for butchering her quote, but it was something to the effect of, I wish I could look like my own picture. Like even the, Cindy Crawford, for those of you who are younger, was like a supermodel who like really represented beauty ideals. Even she said that's not real. We are looking at perimenopausal woman where there's a body, like the body's meant to change for health reasons. We're meant to change and yet when we like reject that and we see that as a mistake and that something's wrong and we need to control that, or you've let yourself go, like, no, actually the body is shifting and changing and aging graciously. That's what it does. We're meant to be in it and look after it because this is, we want to be, I don't know if you anything like me, I want to be strong and robust and healthy when I, however long I live. But we starve ourselves with putting ourselves at risk at that. So this competition is a really, what pervades an eating disorder. It's really not life-affirming. [DR. CRISTINA] No, no. I love that you brought that up. No, I love that you brought that up because we do not. And I've talked about this on previous podcasts to some degree, but we do not normalize body shifting and changing, just like, the thing that irks me so much is the tooth phases when body shifts the most, one is post-pregnancy and perimenopause, menopause. We don't normalize and say these are the things that are naturally going to happen to your body. Because what I typically see is these magazine covers with, oh my gosh, three weeks later and they're looking better than before they got pregnant. It's like, this pressure is now on, this is like competition created in media of like, now all women who are just had a baby, like they feel like they did something wrong because they don't look like that three weeks later. Or even a year later, whatever, the body changes so much. It's like, what is this notion we put out there that like, you did something wrong if you don't look better than before you got pregnant or you got your pre-baby body back. Like, it is a lot of pressure on women that's put out there. So if someone hasn't eaten disorder to boot, this is just like enormous. It's horrible. I also see things about like, oh, you don't need to deal with the weight gain or the body changes during menopause. Like I see it all the time and it drives me nuts. It's like, oh, I have the solution. Come work with me, I'll coach you. It's like, ooh, what are you coaching? What's happening? This is the body's natural way of going through things. [SUSAN] Absolutely. I heard at an eating disorders conference a number of years ago that like the three Ps are the high-risk times for developing eating disorders, puberty, pregnancy, and perimenopause. Why? Because there's hormones, which also affect mood and there's body shifting. And it's normal. It's very normal and I love that you're talking about pregnancy as well, Cristina, because one thing, when you're having a child, and I know that you have children, children are super smart. Like if you don't actually work on your own eating stuff, guess what, you're passing it along to something. You're going to have a really hard time having children who trust their bodies, having children who trust food, who like embrace and love and love to take in the goodness of this world. That's for me, a huge motivation to get better. And there is hope. There's absolutely hope. The body --- [DR. CRISTINA] No, I'm with you. I mean, that's why we do the work we're doing. We have hope and know this therapy can help. I think that the myth out there that people can't recover from all of this is I've felt this, is part of why I do the podcast, is say, no, that myth is wrong. You can overcome this, you can get into recovery. And I don't know if you have people that come and say, no, I'm always going to have this and have this idea about things but [SUSAN] Totally. I had a friend say to me a couple of years ago, she said, "Susan, doesn't everyone really have an eating disorder?" I was like, "Actually not." I was like, I was like, "Really? Really?" No, no, actually not. We don't need to go through this world believing that we have to control ourselves and control the body. The body actually doesn't get out of control. Like, it doesn't actually need controlling. It's not this animal, this beast that somehow is going to like, just get, just start. Like, if you just let it go, it's going to just take over and get bigger and bigger and bigger. Like, no, actually it doesn't. When we get connected to ourselves that we really are able to feed ourselves and regulate and know that there isn't danger when we can go through recovery to get to that point and also same sentence, same thought, deal with our feelings to not be able to take and play out our feelings through our eating. That we actually learn that emotions, even negative emotions, which are most of our emotions, are actually there as a compass to help us see what our needs are, what we are wanting in our lives. And that if we're there, if we work on this, on them not being completely overwhelming, we can feed our bodies enjoy food and also process emotions. That's true recovery when those two things get separated out. [DR. CRISTINA] I love that. Actually, I think that's a wonderful thing for people to just focus in on and hear loud and clear. I love that you brought up like connecting with the breath and really just connecting with the bodies, emotions, the signals. That's really what it's about, is connecting with the cells and other people. [SUSAN] Absolutely. I mean, my practice name is called Connected Eating. It came from a lot of thought because that is what I believe when we connect to the earth, that is where our food came from. Most people live in an urban society now, but food has actually grown from the earth. If we connect to where the food came from, and we're connecting to people because that's, besides nutrition, that's why we eat. That's why we, that's one of the main like waterhole that mammals come together and we're all together enjoying connecting around food, and we connect to our breath and we connect to our bodies. When we're hungry, we eat. When we are full, we stop. And we're connected in our body and our soul with our physical and our emotional worlds and we are able to integrate that. That's really what we are aiming for. Not to be disconnected. We're going back to competitiveness. That's where we actually disconnect. When we disconnect and we hating ourselves and we competing with people and we are looking at people not about, like, not even listening to what they're saying, but looking what's on their plate or what their bodies are looking like, we're disconnecting and what's what an eating disorder does. It cuts us off and it's a really lonely place to be. [DR. CRISTINA] So you brought up, I love your name, and so you brought that up so people listening to you probably going, okay, I want to find out more about Susan. I want to find out more about her practice. Like how can they find you? [SUSAN] Well, I'm not trying to do a plug. It's called Connected Eating. I'm here in Canada in Toronto. But I've got a website www.connectedeating.com and also Instagram which is by the same name. I love hearing from people and I love like just making, as I said, social media and make sure that what's coming through would, is making you feel more positive about recovery. So I would invite you to just have people who are positive about what it's like to not have an eating disorder, to be in this world, to recognize things that are toxic, surround yourself with positive voices in every realm. [DR. CRISTINA] So great messages. I know that's hard for people listening to take in. So maybe if you're, if this is something you need to listen to again at a different space, if any of you are really in your eating disorder right now, I really encourage you, come back, listen to the things been said, they're powerful, really meaningful. So I thank you for everything you shared. You really can get over these eating disorders and live a life where you're not struggling and suffering so much. [SUSAN] Absolutely. I really want to, besides you, Cristina, for having me as a guest on your podcast, I want to thank you. I also want to thank you, thank all the, really the privilege that I've had to work with the community, the people that I serve, because it's such a window into people's souls hearing about food and the torment and helping people through this journey, which does, that can be really, really fully, full recovery, like, is totally possible. So anything that I've said, yes, some of it I've read in books and been at a university and blah, blah, blah, but the vice, my biggest, biggest teachers by far is the generosity and the trust that people have given to me and that's really sacred and precious to me. So thank you to all the people out there who take the real brave steps of trying to recover. So thank you Cristina, and thank you everyone out there for listening. [DR. CRISTINA] Thank you for being here. It's been wonderful to have you. [SUSAN] Thank you, thank you. [DR. CRISTINA] This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regards to the subject matter covered. It is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or any other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.