MEET CASSIE CHRISTOPHERCassie Christopher is a body-positive Registered Dietitian who is passionate about helping women over 45 heal emotional eating by loving themselves well. Previously, Cassie spent her time translating personal genetic and blood data, along with the latest scientific evidence, to make her clients healthier. Cassie specializes in sustainable behavior change. She supports her clients in creating unapologetic self-care practices from a sense of connection to their bodies and desires. Her goal is to allow women to feel comfortable in their own skin, in control around food, and energized to live a life they love. Visit Cassie Christopher's website and read her blog. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. FREEBIE: Get Cassie's free roadmap, "You're done with dieting but still want to heal emotional eating"
IN THIS PODCAST
- Overcoming information overload
- Supportive tactics
- Morning and night
Overcoming information overloadSome people feel overwhelmed by all the facts, suggestions, and ideas that the medical and wellness industry has for them about overcoming their eating disorders. While it is vital for treatment to be aware of the cornerstones of the recent science, people need to learn about their own bodies as well, and what works best for them. For some people, three square meals a day is best. For others, snacking on six meals throughout the day works better. Taking the time to understand your body is your joy and your responsibility.
I don’t think anyone else can tell you the best way to care for yourself. What I try to do for my clients is to tell [them] what has worked for me, what has worked for other people, and what the current research says. [I encourage] them to experiment and see how [their] body responds. (Cassie Christopher)
Supportive tacticsFirst, it is important to distinguish that the holiday season and the food that is served over the holidays is not a different type of food from any other point in the year.
Food is food, and there is no moral value attached to it … When I talk about tactics around holiday eating, what I’m trying to help you do is to give yourself permission to indulge in the foods that you enjoy … You can give yourself permission to enjoy but I don’t want you feeling anxious, and there are things you can do to set yourself up to make supportive choices for yourself. (Cassie Christopher)Some of these self-care and supportive tactics are learning to regulate your stress response. By managing cortisol levels you decrease the likelihood of wanting to “use” food to give you an emotional boost during periods of stress. Eating protein regularly has been shown to help you maintain physical and emotional wellbeing.
Morning and nightMost people often experience cravings or make decisions that are not supportive of their overall wellbeing at night. It is important to realize that your morning routine and eating habits could be impacting your evening routine and desires for food. Simply by having – even a small – nutritious breakfast, you significantly cut back your chances of binging or giving in to cravings in the nighttime.
What you are eating in the morning is getting your metabolism up and running and giving you the energy you need for your day. Your body is starting to meet its energy needs. If you don’t eat much of a breakfast … after dinner they’re hungry but the hunger comes with more [cravings]. (Cassie Christopher)You naturally reduce cortisol in the body throughout the day by eating a healthy breakfast in the morning, or soon after you wake up.
Kindness:Practice kindness and self-compassion towards yourself to soothe and reduce the spikes of self-judgment. Learn how to regulate your emotions and care for yourself on a deeper level so that you can hold space for yourself without turning to the easy fixes.
Mindfulness:Be aware and practice mindfulness towards how your body feels. Notice which emotions you are experiencing, and what you are going through in life. Be your friend and provide yourself with some support structure from within by validating what you are going through.
Awareness of a common experience:This experience is shared by humanity. You are not alone in feeling these emotions.
BOOKS MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:BOOK | Amelia Nagoski and Emily Nagoski – Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle BOOK | Kristin Neff – Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself
- HOLIDAYS AND YOUR EATING DISORDER | EP 64
- Visit Cassie Christopher's website and read her blog
- Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn
- FREEBIE: Get Cassie's free roadmap, "You're done with dieting but still want to heal emotional eating"
- Sign up for the free Behind The Bite Course
- Practice of the Practice Network
- Email Dr. Cristina Castagnini: firstname.lastname@example.org
MEET DR. CRISTINA CASTAGNINII 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!
THANKS FOR LISTENINGDid you enjoy this podcast? Feel free to comment below and share this podcast on social media! You can also leave a review of Behind The Bite on Apple Podcasts (previously) iTunes and subscribe!
[CRISTINA] 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. So last week's podcast discussed holidays and your eating disorder. Today we're delving deeper into that topic and we're going to get a little bit of a different direction going on with it. I personally believe that the more correct information you know about food, your body and really, basically anything regarding how we as biological beings work the better off you're going to be in shielding yourself from the erroneous toxic messages out there that really only fuel and perpetuate your disordered eating and have you believing that you are somehow a failure or lacking the willpower when it comes to your behaviors with food. We're in the throes of holiday season right now, and I know many of you out there are facing the stressors of attending holiday parties, dinners, and events. So I thought it would be very important to just get down to the basics and discuss more about our bodies and about food. I know there's so many articles and so many rules that seem to contradict one another out there about food and it really just makes sense that with all that out there, many of you who are listening right now are probably at a complete loss about how or what to eat. So I'm very excited to have a guest here with us today to get into all this and discuss ways that you can best manage and navigate the holidays. Cassie Christopher is a registered dietician and health coach, a master trained, registered dietician nutritionist who has helped hundreds of clients reach their health goals. What I really love about her is that she never focuses on perfectionism. She believes that wellness and health have become a weird idle in our culture and she like me believes that diet culture has overlaid a layer of guilt and shame onto many women. In working with clients. She likes to normalize the imperfection of our bodies while seeking to care for those bodies in the best way possible. She loves making personalized, practical, behavioral changes based on science and date so any changes made are realistic and sustainable. She gets nerdy excitement from plans that are actually going to work for specific person's lifestyle. She is a huge proponent of having lots and lots of grace for yourself. What she's observed is that her clients who are the nicest to themselves, tend to be the healthiest and happiest people. [CRISTINA] Cassie, welcome to the show. [CASSIE CHRISTOPHER] Thank you so much for having me. I can't wait to talk emotional eating and the holiday. [CRISTINA] So I was talking to you earlier. I had done a show that just was on last week just about this topic, but what is so nice about you is we're going to have a completely different kind of bent on this whole topic because you are a nutritionist and you have more to discuss with this. And I know this is something just on the minds of people right now because we're in the holiday season. So, so excited to get your take on things, but could you just talk to us a little bit more about how you got into your field and what you do on a day to day basis with people you work with? [CASSIE] Yes, I'd love to. Thank you for asking. So I got into helping women with emotional eating as a result of my own emotional eating struggle, which I think is really common for a lot of us in this field. I really noticed that I was doing the emotional eating when I was actually in grad school studying nutrition. So at that time there was a lot of stress and, you remember grad school, it's stressful, intense time and looking back, you wonder why do I feel like that, but that's beyond the pale here. So I was going to the school cafeteria every day for my artisanal dark chocolate. That was really my main and perhaps only coping mechanism with all of the stress. And for anyone out there who can relate, who's used food themselves to numb or comfort their feelings. It can actually start to impact your quality of life because it doesn't work as well as therapy. The health impacts that can start to happen when you're eating all of those various things that we tend to do with comfort foods, and none of those foods are bad, emotional eating is normal, it's okay, but for me, and for the women, I work with it just become a point where we're starting to be in pain. It's impacting our quality of life. We're feeling really anxious about food and it's time to get some help. So that's what I do now, born out of that struggle again, that I noticed in grad school. For me, nothing, I was learning in school, which as a dietician it's diets, actually helped to solve my problem. I know so many people out there have this similar story where the kind of mainstream solution to your struggle with food backfires, makes the problem worse and I was just in that cycle of trying to control and restrict my eating, and then using food kind of solely for emotional reasons and back and forth. Until eventually as a dietician, I became a new mom. I realized I was not doing any self care for myself so it kind of became a second crisis in my life where I was really using food to cope. At that point I was diagnosed with some autoimmune issues and really a lot of pain in my body. I just decided no more. I want to eat in a way that supports me. I want to be able to indulge without feeling or ashamed and have kind of a normal relationship with food. I don't know if you've ever felt like that, but that's where I was. So I went on a journey of, maybe those even listening to this podcast are on that journey for themselves because I think these kinds of resources are a part of it where I saw my counselor and my naturopath and acupuncturist. I saw a dietician even though I am a dietician. You always need help. I read the research and really dug in and discovered that a lot of what I had learned was false. I had to unlearn a lot about having a healthy relationship with food and myself because dieting really disconnects you from your body. So I had to come back home to my own body and really the key for me has been self-care and learning specific areas of self-care where I can use food to be supportive. I can use what I'm doing in my lifestyle to care for my emotions and my nervous system, so that I don't need to use food to numb my feelings. [CRISTINA] I love that you said that like coming home to your body because that's really what it's about. There's all these external sources, like you said. You can go on the internet or just anywhere really. There's all these experts or gurus or programs telling you do this, just do that. It's very enticing because you can relate like, oh, that's my struggle. I can just do this. It sounds so easy. Oh, I'm so desperate right now. I'll just latch onto that. That sounds like the solution I need. It's not just. Like you said, it makes it worse. [CASSIE] You know, you reminded me of so many people come to me and they say they have analysis paralysis or information overload. I was thinking about this today too, because obviously every dietician has their way of doing things. I was thinking about how I'm someone, I'm really someone who thrives on that several small meals, a day kind of person. That's just works for my body. I am not providing that as a guidance for anyone. That's what works for me. But I remember this other woman was like three square meals a day. That's the key to live in your best life. That's what she teaches. I was just thinking about, we feel so overwhelmed because we're getting all these messages, what's the best way to care for ourselves, but I really don't think anyone else can tell you the best way to care for yourself. That's what I've discovered. What I try to do with my clients then is to say, "Hey, this is what's worked for me. This is what's worked for other people. This is what the research says, and now let's experiment and let's see, how does your body respond?" What does that feel like for you? And oftentimes there is a period of learning to even connect with our bodies and know how they're responding. So that works. If you're feeling like that, that analysis process, that information overload, I would guess that maybe the answer for what's the best thing for you, the best way to eat or lifestyle or whatever really has to come from within rather than externally. [CRISTINA] That's so interesting you say that, because I've talked about this in the podcast before, like my own experience. I just wanted someone to give me the manual, the magic solution, tell me exactly how to eat. I remember when I was in my disorder, I was looking at other people. I said, "Oh, I want to look like them. I wonder what they eat. If I could just be a fly on the wall and follow them for a week. Then I'll know the magic solution." It's crazy to think that because we're all so different and have different tastes and bodies and lifestyles and then I was looking to different diets, reading them, why I thought if I followed a plan, some other person route that it was going to work for me, I don't know. But I was so desperate and thought there has to be some one thing that works, that's perfect. It's not the case. We all have different sleep habits and work habits and schedules and commutes and tastes for food and things. It's like, what on earth? Why does somebody think there's one thing that's going to work for ever for everybody? [CASSIE] Kind of insider tip here, dieticians always joke because people want meal plans from us, "I want you to make me a meal plan." There's software now that dieticians we can have access to. I actually don't, I mean, I don't provide meal plans for the people I work with because in my experience, nobody uses them. Because like, if I tell you to eat carrots and hummus, but you think hummus is disgusting you're not going to eat it. It's just a waste of time really, because we all have different foods we like. Now that being said, we're talking about holiday eating. So there are some things you can do to care for yourself around the holidays, again, experiments that you can try to see what's going to help for you. So first of all, let's define the actual problem that we're trying to solve because I think that's going to help frame the conversation. So holiday eating, is that a problem? So the grand scheme of things is no. Eating and indulging, enjoying yourself around the holidays, not a problem. It's a fun time of year. I live in the Pacific Northwest. It gets so dark out so early. Getting a little joy from cookies is ok. So I just want to say that. Now when you become, so if you feel obsessed about holiday eating, you're thinking about all the time, you're anxious about eating, you feel like you can't say no or make supportive choices for yourself, then that's when, okay, this may be an issue. But I think we have to really define is holiday eating even a problem because diet culture would say yes, because anytime you eat a bad food and, people can't see on the podcast here that I'm using my favorite little air quotes, bad food, you're bad or everything is ruined. You have no self-control, cetera, cetera. We know that's not true. Food is food, there's no moral value attached to it. So I just want to kind of start the conversation there. So when I'm talking about tactics around holiday eating, what I'm trying to help you do is to give yourself permission to indulge in the foods that you really enjoy. Indulging could be indulging in an apple, one of these "good foods," unless for whatever reason, you're on some crazy diet or an apple isn't a good food, which is distancing, but I digress. But it's out there. It's vilified somewhere. The point here being you can enjoy the holidays. You can enjoy food, you can give yourself permission to enjoy, but I don't want you feeling anxious. There are some things you can do to set yourself up, to make the most supportive choices for yourself. Okay, is that making sense? [CRISTINA] Absolutely. [CASSIE] Excellent. Good. So the first thing, like I shared in my story is self-care around some really key areas is what allowed me to heal emotional eating. The first one is around my nervous system, that's stress response. And during the holidays, oftentimes our stress is much higher, whether we recognize it or not. I mean, sometimes there's a lot to do and for some people still kind of living in COVID times, there may not be enough to do. You may be dealing with some grief around that and then there's the family dynamics and even the food anxiety, all of these things that get rolled up. What happens research shows that when your stress hormone cortisol is elevated, you are more likely to make choices with food that are maybe less supportive of optimal wellbeing. So again, those aren't bad foods, but they're foods that may make you feel tired or low in energy or sluggish. They may be foods that give you a blood sugar boost and then a result in crash and that crash actually fuels more cortisol. So you can kind of get on this, I call it like the frappuccino cycle where you have that frappuccino, you get that boost of energy and then you crash and you need another one. There's some really good frappuccinos off this time of year. It's an easy one to fall into. So what can you do? Obviously there are a lot of things that you can do for your stress response, like lifestyle things, like moving your body and meditating and breathing and all of these things. But from a food perspective, one of the things that's really supportive of calming your nervous system is eating regularly, in particular eating protein regularly. So here's how this plays out for the holidays. So many people think, oh, I'm going to have this huge meal later on. I'm going to let myself go crazy so I'm not going to eat much during the day. That's the mistake. There it is. If you are eating protein regularly that can actually keep your blood sugar balanced to avoid that frappucino cycle and you are able then to just feel more calm and grounded and centered going into a meal, and that's going to allow you to enjoy the heck out of the foods you want to enjoy. If there's things that you don't want to enjoy, you don't care for them you can not eat those without feeling like you're out of control or anxious around those foods. It just gives you, you can operate from a grounded and logical state. Does that make sense or consistent with things that you've seen before? [CRISTINA] Well as you were talking, I'm wondering if anyone listening's going okay, so what does that look like? Am I only supposed eat protein before the big meal or do I not eat other things? What does that actually look like? So if somebody is thinking about Christmas dinner, maybe they're going to eat at like four or five o'clock what do they do from the time they wake up till that meal? [CASSIE] I love that. Thank you so much. I am not a big food rules person. I'm a lot more loosey goosey, but I know that so many people aren't operating like that. So I so appreciate that question. When I say eat protein regularly I mean, just make sure you are getting protein with whatever else you're eating. So if you typically have like cereal for breakfast, maybe you even go the extra mile and you put some berries on top add some protein into that, maybe some eggs, maybe some nuts on your cereal or some nut butter. Some people like to do a shake in the morning. Just make sure it has a little protein powder or some go crazy chickpeas. I don't care what you put in there, but get the protein because that's going to help balance blood sugar. So that's a great example where dinner's at four, I would say when you wake up, try to eat within an hour of waking up. That's going to help balance your blood sugar for the day. And for some people, if you're not used to breakfast, that can feel kind of uncomfortable. So just make it a little snack if you need to make a little protein snack with a hard boiled egg or two or some Greek yogurt. It doesn't have to be huge. Then four hours-ish later, again, this is so -ish, you have to find what's going to work in your life and for your body, but again having like this starting point that I'm sharing may be helpful, have some more protein. And again, not protein on its own. I mean, if you have to fine, but adding it in with a meal. So if you do have like a salad or something, put protein on it. When we're talking about protein, if you're going to do chicken or beef or something like that, aim for the size of your Palm, also the size of a deck of cards. You want to make sure that you're really getting enough protein because that protein is the building blocks of everything in your body, not just muscle. It's the building blocks of skin. It's involved in bone repair and all of these great things. So you do need the protein, but it's helping to balance your blood sugar. So, like I say, if you were going to eat at four, maybe you'd have lunch at noon. Maybe you'd have breakfast around eight. You could get in a full day of eating and then by the time four rolls around, you'll be hungry. But you're not going to be starving and you're not going to be ravenous. I mean, if you think primarily when you are starving your brain is not functioning correctly. Your body's whole ambition when you haven't eaten for a long time due to an increase in the appetite hormone ghrelin, G H R E L I N for anyone who's like, what did she just say, that is an appetite hormone. It's a very strong stimulant. It makes you just feel like I got to grab anything. I don't care what it is. I'll just like, I imagine somebody just like ripping the leg off the Turkey and biting into it and shocking their family. That's apparently never happened, but in my mind, that's what happens when ghrelin is high. Yes, you get very, very hungry when you haven't eaten for a long time and it's harder to make choices that may be supportive of your nourishment. [CRISTINA] I'm glad you brought this up too, because I hear so often and maybe people listening can relate. I hear I'm never hungry for breakfast. I don't want to eat if I'm not hungry. So when you just mentioned, like eat within an hour of waking up ish. What do you say to people? I'm sure you hear that too, like, I never want to eat breakfast. What do you say to people who say that to you? [CASSIE] Oh my gosh, I hear it all the time. I think this is really common, especially now that fasting is more important or more, I'm sorry, popular, fasting is popular. I joke. This is how everybody knows I'm not a robot. My brain just does most random things. People forget their breakfast or they're not into breakfast. So I work predominantly with women in their forties and up who are struggling with emotional eating and in particular for most of these women that manifest at night. So they think often that what they do in the morning has nothing to do with what's happening at night. But actually, so for me, I just start with education, what you do in the morning, I mean, honestly, if as a dietician, if I could get more people eating a balanced breakfast, people would have a lot less issues with food because what you're eating in the morning, it's getting your metabolism up and running. It's giving you the energy that you need for your day. Your body is starting to kind of meet its energy needs. So what happens is if you don't eat much of a breakfast and oftentimes people don't eat much of a breakfast, maybe they don't eat much of a lunch either and their kind of biggest meal the day is dinner and then after dinner, they're hungry. They're legitimately hungry, but the hunger comes with more of the ghrelin that we just talked about because they hadn't eaten much or it's been a long time since they ate. They're like, well, I just ate. My perfect portions or whatever, like I had a normal meal and now I want to go eat everything in sight. When you don't eat, you get ghrelin, you get that stress hormone cortisol, and you end up with this primal drive to go eat something. And it's not, it's one that a lot of people say, "Oh, I need more willpower. I need more self control." You cannot fight a cortisol fueled craving with willpower and self-control because cortisol is that fight, flight or freeze hormone that kept our ancestors safe from saber tooth tigers on the open lanes. I mean, I'm not an anthropologist. I'm making that up, but you get the idea. It's kind of that primal survival instinct. So sweet little you you're not going to be able to fight that with your willpower or your force of mind. So how we solve that problem is by stopping the cortisol from getting so high in the first place and how you do that is by eating that good, solid breakfast with your protein and some fiber so your produce, your whole grains just something very nourishing and filling. I love the idea of intuitive eating and these things where we go by our body cues. Also the truth is most of us are not connected enough to our bodies that that actually results in a helpful signaling. Does that make sense? [CRISTINA] Absolutely. I do hear this all the time and I love what you said too about people saying after they've experienced that eating at night, that's like primal that's the emotional response. That's the critic in the mind of, "Oh my gosh, I don't have enough real power. I failed. Something's wrong with me." Because that's so damaging. Me as a psychologist, I hear that all the time and it's just so horrible to hear because you're just so awful to yourselves. It has, like you said, nothing to do with the fact that you are a failure or you don't have the willpower. It is your body trying to survive and trying to keep yourself alive because you need food as your only source of fuel. [CASSIE] Exactly. That is exactly, exactly it. So when you can eat regularly, I think the other thing that comes up, and I want to mention this for people who aren't feeling hungry in the morning, so what I see with the women I work with is they usually, if they're not very hungry, they'll start with like a small snack. And eventually over time they're able to turn that small snack into more of a meal and then their body gets used to that, enjoys it and starts to crave it. But the other reason morning time eating is hard for people is because it can stimulate the metabolism and make you hungry sooner. So if you continue into your fastened state and when you sleep, you won't get hungry until you break your fast. So that could be lunchtime or whenever, but if you eat first thing in the morning, you're going to get hungry a lot faster, because your fast has been broken. A lot of people are afraid of their hunger and have anxiety around feeling hungry. So I don't want to gloss over that. I think that is a very real and very valid fear that can be common in recovery situations. Yet from my perspective, the fact that you are hearing you're hunger and the fact that your body is signaling hunger to you, that is a win. That is a good thing. Your body is recognizing you have given it nourishment and energy and now it needs more to do what you're asking of it. So if I could just reframe what that hunger may mean, as opposed to kind of what you may have been told from diet culture at large. [CRISTINA] Absolutely. So as we go back to the whole topic of emotional eating during the holidays or holiday eating, are you getting a lot of people in right now coming to you discussing this? What are, I guess for you, what are the big hot topics that you're dealing with right now, or people are coming to you wanting to work on? [CASSIE] So I think a lot of it goes back to, and I'm sure this is your area of specialty as well, there's a lot of feelings at the holidays and emotional eating at its core is using food to numb your feelings or not have to feel your feelings. And of course anyone who's done this knows if you numb the difficult feelings, you also numb the good feelings. So this is not something that people really want to be engaging in and yet it also is a protective mechanism because the holiday season is one often where you feel grief because there's not the people around you want to be around anymore, or you are triggered by complex family relationships or past trauma or a lot of these things that can result in kind of starting the emotional eating habit in the first place. So how having that reminder that feeling is okay and having some tools to safely feel is really what I'm finding is helpful for a lot of people I work with. In particular, I use Dr. Kristin Neff, Self-Compassion model which if anyone is familiar with it is not a therapy, but it certainly is therapeutic. This idea that when you are compassionate to yourself, in my experience, you create a safe place to feel. You mentioned that self critical kind of tape running in people's minds. And one of the elements of self-compassion is self-kindness. So when you can practice some self kindness, it creates a safe space to feel. Other elements of self-compassion are mindfulness versus over-identification, which in my experience leads to allowing you to accept that you maybe having a difficult time. It's supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, and yet there's a lot of difficult emotions that can come with this time of the year. So when you can be mindful of how you're feeling and accept and be okay with those difficult feelings and those uncomfortable feelings being present and hold space for that then you don't need food because you are doing the work of feeling and the beautiful thing about emotions. I really love, in the book Burnout, Amelia and Emily Nagoski talk about stress as a tunnel. The thing about a tunnel is you drive through, you get through it and then the stress is gone if you've felt the stress. And it's really, you can think of that for other emotions as well, grief, loneliness, sadness, whatever someone may be experiencing, even "good" emotions here, celebrating and enjoy. When you feel them, you get through the tunnel. They dissipate and they go away. But if you emotionally eat and you numb it, you actually end up parking in the middle of the tunnel and you have to continue, your body continues to feel the effects of those emotions and then we're getting into research around repressed emotions and the impact that has on your body. So that's why I really love if someone was saying, how can I support myself around eating this holiday season? Yes, your nervous system. Yes, self-compassion. That kindness, that mindfulness. Then the third element is recognizing that what you are experiencing is common to humanity versus isolating yourself and really kind of taking refuge and peace and the fact that you're not alone. This can be a hard time of year around food. The fact that we're doing a podcast episode on this, you've done one last week, I mean, podcast after podcast on this topic, because it is one that many people struggle with. [CRISTINA] I'm so glad you mentioned all of these things, because I know so many people can relate to this and just to normalize that it can be very difficult with all of these messages. They're like the hallmark channel, there's so many positive movies and there's all these messages that even the commercials. Everyone's so happy and it's joyous and just to hear for anyone out there is like, yes, it can be very hard if you're feeling lonely or sad. There's a lot of other emotions that go along. Like you said, family dynamics, I don't know, are you seeing lots of people come in just feeling this is not the best time of the year for me. I don't know what you're hearing, but I hear that all the time too and just I don't know why we don't talk about this more. [CASSIE] I think it's really a mixed bag. I think even for people, for anyone, and this is maybe speaking from my own experience here now, but especially when you've done the work, when you have done the emotional work around why you might be using food and you've done your work around the trauma that has impacted the way that you interact with the world and you've done that emotional work, you are so much more aware, I think of the mind fields. And in some ways ignorance is bliss. So there can kind of be that hesitation, like, oh, there's good things here. I want to experience these good things, but there's also difficult things. I think holding space during the holidays, and like I said to something I've been thinking about personally, holding space during holidays for the things that are uncomfortable and the things that are amazing and great is almost more challenging than just going completely one way or the other. But for me personally, I talk a lot about all or nothing thinking and how the world really isn't black and white and food isn't black and white and feelings aren't bad. So how can we hold space for both the difficult and the wonderful and feel it all without using food or other substances to numb those feelings? I think that's part of the, I guess the humanity is the word that's coming to holidays. [CRISTINA] Also speaking about this at the actual holiday events, I hear all the time, "How do manage if there's all my fear foods there?" I don't know if you get people in and talk them through, maybe their misperceptions about food and what they're actually fearing and give them some maybe education. Like you said, in the beginning you had to unlearn a lot of things because I think a lot of people, on social media, there's a lot of misinformation about this food is bad and this food is good. They fear food because of that misinformation. So I don't know if you go through that with people and help them kind of learn that maybe their fear foods aren't so scary and what they've learned about them is it's misinformed. So I don't know if you're getting any of that too. [CASSIE] Yes, for sure. Where I like to start with that conversation is just to validate, just to validate. What I mean by that is we've been told these messages again and again. Then what happens for so many of us is we have experiences that prove to us that the message was true. I have so many clients who have their trigger foods or their fear foods, whatever you call them, that thing that they eat and now they're going to binge. And they believe that that's true because it has happened to them before, maybe time and time again and they feel like they just cannot have control around X, Y, Z food. So just validating like, "Hey, this is the place you're in and that's an okay place to be," I think is really important to start because we have to let self-compassion again, is that acceptance? Like, this is where I am. It's okay to be here. I don't have to stay here, but this is where I am. Then I like to paint a picture of what is possible. It really is possible to walk into a holiday meal, see everything on the table, even foods that once were major triggers or fear foods for you and to enjoy however much you want of any of those foods, without fear or anxiety. So just helping people understand like this really is possible for you, because I think so often you've been, the women I work with have been stuck in these cycles for decades. They need help believing what's possible for them and like science says, other people's experiences, my experience says this is possible. So I think believing that is important. And then comes the nervous system. So when you've been eating frequently you will feel more satisfied and more comfortable and more peaceful in your body. So you can walk around those foods and feel like you're more in control. I had a client say once when we were really working on calming her nervous system, she said, I finally have the freedom to make healthy choices. I think that's a good kind of synopsis of what it's like to have that nervous system calm down. Those fears can be running in your head, but when you nervous system is calm and you're not in fight flight or free, you can actually go, okay, fear. I see you. You are here, that acceptance. How can I be kind to myself, even though I'm fearful? What's the best next step for me? So once that nervous system is calm, we can try things like mindful eating and enjoying a piece. Or I always say, especially like big feasts or buffets, I like to just recommend a plate model. Make sure you have your protein on a quarter of the plate, get some starches on a quarter of the plate, half a plate of veggies, if you can, if it's available and you can add as much other stuff you want on there. I'm picturing the fear foods here or dessert, but it could be any of that, but sometimes just having a rough scaffolding or framework can also give people a little bit of peace in these early days before they learn to really trust themselves and their bodies. [CRISTINA] I think people might hear that and be like, okay, that's what I need to do. I need to have that plate. There's no rules here. But I like that you just said, for people just to kind of acknowledge that they have fears because I think that's important. But also just to go and look at why they're having the fears about that and if maybe it does get triggered by family because oftentimes these messages come from people that you were raised by and having maybe like a shield around yourself too. Because I ask, I don't know if people come to you and say this, "Oh my gosh, I know I'm going to be at the dinner table and everyone's going to be talking about how much they're eating and diet talk's going to come up and they're going to comment about oh my gosh, I need to go on a diet after this or I'm eating so much. They talk about weight and this and that. So I don't know, it almost perpetuates all their figures and brings everything back up and it gets so self-conscious about what's on their plate and almost negates a conversation they might have with you going, "Oh my gosh, wait a minute. Here it comes." [CASSIE] I just talk about permission. I think a really great example of this is I had a client who told me a story of her granddaughter's birthday party. She brought the cake out and she served everybody cake and she didn't want to eat cake in front of everyone because she was afraid of what people would think about her if she was eating cake. Again, everyone else is eating cake and probably no one's really looking at her. I mean, and maybe they are because families can be mean sometimes, but she was afraid to eat the cake in front of everyone. So she brings the cake back into the kitchen and every time she goes in the kitchen, she ends up having a piece or a couple pieces and by the end of the day, the cake was gone. She had finished the cake off secretly. But she didn't want anyone to see her eat it. And of course she felt so much shame around that, so much guilt. I mean, it's one of those stories that tugs at your heartstrings, but after implementing these principles of caring for your nervous system and practicing self-compassion, watching your thoughts, all of these things she was able to go to her other grandchild's birthday party and enjoy a piece of cake with everyone else. Part of that was giving herself permission again, that internal, rather than external messaging. She gave herself permission to have as much cake as she wanted. She ate the cake after the family meal and she was satisfied and she felt good in her body. She had her protein, all of these things. So when she had her cake, she really enjoyed it. She enjoyed the heck out of it. She gave herself permission to do that and she gave herself permission to have more if she wanted it, but she found she didn't really need it. It was more about connection and being with everyone else than the actual cake itself and that was it. She had one slice and she felt proud of herself not because she only had one slice, but she felt proud of herself because she gave herself permission rather than going off how she perceived other people were perceiving her which actually, there's this great study by the Ohio State University that shows women, I believe it was 35 and up tend to base their body image on that same thing, how they perceive other people perceive their bodies. So it's a really common concern, that external, being more preoccupied with the external messaging than the internal. But once you can flip the switch and give yourself permission to enjoy your food and the other thing is maybe set some boundaries if you feel comfortable. Some people don't feel safe enough to say, "Hey, let's not talk about diets or no one else can talk about what I have on my plate. I don't want to hear you talk about it." It depends on the kind of relationships you have, but that could be another supportive way to protect yourself. [CRISTINA] Absolutely. Well, you've given us so much great information and I know people out there probably are going, yes, thank you for talking about all of these things. Maybe people haven't heard about any of these things, so great information, new information for some people. So thank you. Any last words before we end? [CASSIE] Can I share where people can find me? [CRISTINA] Oh yes. I was going to ask you that too. [CASSIE] I'll give my last words first. My last words for if you're listening is may you be kind to yourself and to your body and your relationship with food. I think may I be kind is kind of a mantra that I've stolen again from Dr. Kristin Neff. I'm pretty much her biggest fan girl. You can check out her new book, your Self-Compassion. It's pretty great. But that's one that if you can hold on to that and think about being kind to yourself with your eating and your thoughts and your choices, you're going to be better off. I think that's true. [CRISTINA] Fantastic. Yes, absolutely. I want to ask you how people can find you, because I'm sure after this people are going to be like, okay, how do I find Cassie? How can they find you? [CASSIE] Yes, please. So if you go to cassiechristopher.net/free, you can download my guide, your done dieting, but still want to heal emotional eating. It's a roadmap I've put together that gives you the exact steps, a lot of what we've talked about today, like how to become more self-compassionate, how to calm that nervous system, giving you kind of the roadmap of what it's going to take to feel comfortable around food and in your body and then the first couple steps that you need to take to start that journey. So there's some, if you love self-reflection or you love kind of journal questions, all of that is there for you at cassiechristopher.net/free. [CRISTINA] Fantastic. If anyone did not get that done, don't worry. It's going to be on the show notes on the website. So head over there after the show. Thank you again, Cassie. I really appreciate all this great information. [CASSIE] So fun. Thanks for having me. [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.