Tag Archives: The Institute for the Psychology of Eating

From Marc David- Is There Hope for Your Eating Challenge?

I know that this has taken a long time to show up on my Newsletter, but despite the lateness of this posting, I find that what Marc David is discussing is really important and resonant with me no matter when he first sent it out.

I hope that it has some meaning for you as well.

Love to you all,

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Is There Hope for Your Eating Challenge?

Posted on July 22, 2013 – 3 Comments

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Every day, I’m impressed and humbled by the sheer number and variety of eating challenges that so many people seem to face. An eating challenge might mean that someone simply is eating the kind of poor quality diet that industry and media shoves down our throats that robs us of the birthright of true health. Eating challenges could mean the desperate desire to lose weight, and the absolute frustration of trying so many different kinds of diets and strategies that fail to give us long-term and sustainable results. Eating challenges could mean overeating, binge eating, disordered eating, and the many ways we reject our human form, perhaps even hate it, and try to morph it through diet and exercise. I’ve watched too many people spend a lifetime struggling around food. Perhaps the silent question that consistently runs through these challenges, like a quiet river, is this:

Is there hope?

Hope is both a fuel and a fire. Hope allows us to move forward. And oftentimes, it seems as if hope is a distant memory at best, or at worst, something lost. But the good news, as the poet Alexander Pope reminded us of in 1734, is that hope springs eternal. Secretly hidden within every human challenge we face are the seeds for its solution. Really.

So how can we find the beautiful remedy hidden deep within our eating challenges?

Let’s get down to business. You deserve hope, and indeed hope is always trying to track you down, even in your darkest hours. But hope doesn’t so much rescue us. Rather, it points us in the right direction. Hope shows us the place where solutions are found. I’d like to offer you 5 suggestions, various roads that you can travel which all lead, in my experience, to the place where hope transforms into healing. As always, check it out and let me know what you think.

1 – Change Your Worldview

One of the first steps to finding hope with whatever eating concern, or health issue you might face, is to notice where your worldview needs to change. We get locked into apathy and despair the moment we believe in an unfriendly universe that either doesn’t care, or at worst: is out to get us. It’s easy to think that we’re truly alone in our suffering, and that no one could possibly understand what we’re going through. To find hope, at some point, we have to see the world through fresh eyes. We have to notice the kinds of limiting beliefs that keep us locked into a cycle of pain and frustration. Changing one’s worldview isn’t easy. We get locked into strong beliefs about how we see life. Republicans stay staunchly Republican, Democrats stay locked into their Democrat-ness, and it’s easy to assume that our religion, our way of eating, and our philosophy of living is clearly the right one. Yet, one of the greatest acts of transformation that a human can do is to change to a better and more efficient way of seeing the world. Rigidity is death. Flexibility is life. If you need proof of this, simply compare dead bodies to living ones. So, if you’re ready to stretch a bit, then you’re ready to find the hope that you want and the solution that you need. I think these next four principles will help take you where you want to go.

2 – Food Challenges Are Not About Food

As odd as it may sound, a majority of our food challenges are not merely about food. Yes, it’s a great idea to eat healthy food. Yes, certain foods can be rather addictive. And yes, there are so many different kinds of junk foods out there that have the power to hook us, but, I believe that at its core, our challenges with food go deeper, are way more interesting, and more telling than we might ever imagine. In other words, overeating doesn’t mean we have a mere willpower issue with food and we need to learn to control our appetite. Binge eating does not mean that we’re complete and total losers who have absolutely no control because we’re fundamentally damaged. Excess weight does not mean that we’re undeniably lazy when it comes to food. And our inability to change our body to the hot and sexy creature that we want it to be isn’t because we simply need to get better at diet and exercise. Our challenges with food, body and weight are here for a beautiful reason. They have a purpose. They have a message. It’s time to listen to our eating concerns and cozy up with them like never before. Which leads us to this next place:

3 – Food is a Doorway

Our challenges with food, body, health, and weight, are essentially a doorway. They position us in knocking-distance of the door. It’s easy to stay on the doorstep and do all kinds of dieting, exercise, or strategies that ultimately don’t work. It’s easy to sit at the doorstep and wonder why we can’t find an opening. Knock on the door. It opens up right away… And quite suddenly, you’ll begin to find yourself in a new place with new possibilities. Of course, entering any new place or space can be uncomfortable. The truth is, none of us know where the door leads to until we knock and open. The doorway to our food challenges might lead us to where the real action is – unhappiness in a relationship, loneliness, past hurts, past abuses, unfulfilled desires, a lack of connection, a deep desire for people who understand us, a longing for authentic communication, the need for greater purpose in life, and so much more. Food is simply this symbolic place where we often enact these greater life challenges when we are unable to confront them head-on. In truth, the door is always open to you. Are you ready to walk through?

4 – Food is Teaching Us, Helping Us Grow

If you are ready to walk through that door, then the first thing we tend to see, in our brave new world, is that our relationship with food is here to teach us, and is here to help us grow. It’s as simple as that. You don’t need to make it any more complicated. I’m not saying it isn’t easy to deal with our challenges with food and body, I’m simply saying that in principle, there’s nothing wrong with us because we have a food, weight or body challenge. Life is a classroom, and for many of us food is one of our most faithful teachers. If you’re willing to be a good student, the learning will be forthcoming. You’ll need to study a bit, the tests might be challenging, but life will always give you a passing grade for your hard won efforts. For many people, this is a significant and powerful change in worldview. And I believe, an extremely necessary one. If we want true hope for our eating challenge, then we need to see that despite the difficulty of it, there is a hidden benevolent function within it. It’s doing its best to be a great teacher for us. And with great teaching comes great learning, and great results. We don’t always get to choose, so it seems, the lessons that we learn – but if you get on board with the wisdom of life, then I personally promise you that, within time, your eating challenge will transform into a source of wisdom, strength, and compassion.

5 – There’s Something Greater Going On

If you wish to turbo-charge the process of finding hope, and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, for whatever eating issue you might face, then perhaps the last step is to awaken to the possibility that there is something greater going on here. There’s a wisdom to life that’s indeed intelligent, thoughtful, and profoundly more clever than anyone of us. If we believe in a random, loveless, chaotic and meaningless universe – then this will assuredly be our experience of life, and continued suffering is practically guaranteed. If you’ve been duped into thinking that there isn’t a powerful force of conscious design that moves and shapes all of creation, including your very important life, then this is perhaps the greatest worldview shift that any of us could make. We can never fully understand the forces of fate, destiny, and cosmic intelligence. But if we choose, we can experiment with being humble in the face of it all, and do our best to respond to how life is laying out our grand education. We’re all paying a lot of tuition to be in the school of life. Don’t let all that cash go to waste. Look around you at the magic of the world, notice it every day, and remember that no matter how challenging your eating concern might be, it’s secretly guiding you into your greatness.

Please join in the conversation: What kinds of doors have you been knocking on, sitting on the stoop, or walking through?

Warm regards

Marc David
Founder of the
Institute for the Psychology of Eating

– See more at: http://psychologyofeating.com/hope-eating-challenge/#sthash.hLe3nIDy.dpuf


From Marc David- Nourishment From The Heart

I l0ved this simple heartfelt story about Marc’s Bubbe ( Yiddish for Grandmother) and how deeply she nourished her grandson with her love-filled food.

It speaks for itself!

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Nourishment from the Heart

Posted on August 6, 2013

Capture3-16-2011-9.48.04 PM8-8-2013-7.44.10 PMFor those of you who don’t know, Bubbie is the Yiddish term for grandmother. And even more important, for those of you who don’t know, my Bubbie was arguably one of the greatest Bubbie’s ever on the planet. She was the embodiment of unconditional love. I actually can’t recall ever seeing her without a smile on her face. Her mission in life was simple  – bear children, raise them, feed them, love them, and then repeat same with grandchildren. The more I study nutrition and eating psychology, the more I learn about the science of food and how it impacts our DNA and our metabolism, the more I come to respect the simple and timeless eating wisdom that my grandmother stood for. Once you ate her meals, you understood in your bones that food is really love. You knew in your heart that food cooked with love touches the body and soul in a way that can last forever.

I’d like to share with you a story about food and love and the timeless heart of a grandmother that changed me to the core, and helped inspire me on a mission to transform the way the world nourishes itself. I think it would make my grandmother very happy if you listened.

First, let’s talk about the menu. I wish this didn’t sound so cliché, but this amazing grandmother really knew how to make chicken soup. This was the real old world stuff. Real chickens who were running around on a real farm eating real food and cared for by real people. She spent hours preparing the chicken, the vegetables, talking, smiling, and being the center of the universe in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn New York. Even as a young child, I knew I was in the presence of someone special. Her smile could light up the world. Her generous nature was extended to all. She spoke Russian, Yiddish, English, Polish, and wore a hearing aid that made a funny buzzing noise and never really quite worked. I think hearing aids today are much more efficient.

And somehow, it always came back to the food.

We all gathered around her table because there was no better place to be. Feuding relatives came together and ate in peace. The hard-working men and tired housewives of my family would find refuge in her meals. Bubbie knew how to feed people without even trying.

She didn’t so much know her place in the world as she simply lived it and occupied it and breathed it every day. I think if I had three wishes for the world, it’s that every child born would have a Bubbie like the one I had. World peace would be assured.  Everyone would be well fed. Good health would be forthcoming. And you would know that you were loved, and that the old ones are indeed the best ones.

The unfortunate thing about grandparents is that they’re closer to death’s door than the rest of us, and often what that means is ill health, or disease, has an easier time of finding a home in the body of our elders. At some point in her 70s, she degenerated fast. I don’t remember what they called it back then, but these days we call it dementia or perhaps Alzheimer’s. She started losing her memory, she couldn’t recognize people, and no one knew what to do. So my parents put her in a home for old people who needed care and attention round-the-clock. Everybody cried. Once inside, she deteriorated even more.

At some point, she went into a vegetative state. She couldn’t eat and was often put on a feeding tube. At other times, she could take spoonfuls of Jello or pudding. She had no control over her body, her head and neck would spasm and move in every random direction, her eyes could no longer focus and would just roll around in her head, and she could no longer speak. Sadly, she was in this state for about four years. Once a week we would visit her, and my mother would feed her, brush her hair, and cry. 12-year-old me would do my best to be a man for my mom and keep it together while she fell apart.

I wanted to feed my Bubbie the spoonfuls of Jell-O, but for some reason, my mother wouldn’t let me. I’m not sure why, but I’m sure she had a good reason. Jell-O seemed such a strange food to give to such a noble and nourishing woman. Perhaps Jell-O is the one food that bookends so many lives. We give it to the very young, and we give it to those who are exiting this world. The field of nutrition surely has its irony.

So my story goes like this:

One weekend, on a visit to this precious old woman – her name was Esther Weinstein – like the many visits we did before, my mother brushed her hair, fed her Jell-O, and cried. But this time – and I hadn’t noticed this before – my mother needed to find a restroom, but didn’t want to leave me alone with my grandmother. She’d never left me alone with her before. Perhaps my mom was trying to care for my sensitive soul. She was torn. Somehow, leaving me alone with the shell of my Bubbie, head rolling, eyes spinning, mouth drooling would be too much for me. But I assured her I’d be okay. So she left the room. And then something very interesting happened:

Alone with my grandmother, sitting by her bedside, I picked up the spoon, dipped it into the Jell-O, and was about to feed her for the first time, ever. And before I could, she turned to me, her eyes perfectly focused and clear, her neck positioned to face me squarely, and she started speaking in the most articulate and lucid way.

This is what she said:

“Please, don’t ever let this happen to you. I know who I am, I know what I’m thinking, I know what I want to say, but I just can’t say it. I can almost speak the words, but they never come out. You don’t know how terrible this is. Please don’t let this happen to you. Please don’t let this ever happen to you. Just take care of yourself. I want you to be safe”

With her eyes still locked onto mine, piercing through me with the wisdom of the ages, with pain and anguish and longing, she began speaking in Yiddish, the language of her childhood. I had no idea what she was saying, but I hung on every word.

At some point, my mother walked into the room. And at that exact moment, Bubbie returned to her dementia, to her faraway place, to the prison that was her frail body and the nervous system that would simply not cooperate to speak the words that her soul wanted to say. I still had the spoonful of Jell-O in my hand.

I never had the chance to feed her.

Of course, I promptly reported this experience to my mother who looked at me with some combination of shock, disbelief, and hope. She wanted to hear the story over and over again, so I told it. Bubbie hadn’t spoken a word in four years, she hadn’t focused her eyes in all that time, and we had forgotten so much of this beautiful matriarch that we once knew. She never spoke again. She died months later.

On one level, our nutritional journey is a very simple one: you’re born, you eat, you die. In between all of that is hopefully a life well lived. I think if my grandmother could feed the world, she would. Oftentimes, our greatest heroes aren’t those who fight the wars, or make the fortunes, or hit the home run. Our greatest heroes aren’t the famous people in the movies or the ones that sing the songs on the radio. Sometimes, our greatest heroes are the ones who nourished us. The ones who loved us without conditions. The ones who fed us with all of their hearts.

If only we could take just a little piece of that love, and put it into our kitchens, share it with our family and friends, plant it on our farms, sneak it into our factories, or put it into our nutrition books. The world would instantly be a better place. We’d be more healthy and joyful. And I know my Bubbie, wherever she is, would smile.

What are some of your most heart-nourishing meals or experiences?

Warm regards

Marc David
Founder of the

Institute for the Psychology of Eating

– See more at: http://psychologyofeating.com/nourishment-heart/#sthash.pQFQCn4L.dpuf

From Marc David- “The Brain In Your Belly”

The Brain in Your Belly



braininthebellyIf you’re a lover of intelligence, then it’s reasonable to assume that you’ve got some high regard for the brain. How many people would argue against the supremacy of one of our favorite and most useful organs? Modern medicine understands the head-brain to be “command central” – the place from which our entire life receives its marching orders. But there’s another kind of intelligence that’s an equally potent metabolic force, and it’s found in the belly. Some call it the “gut-brain,” others proclaim it to be the “brain in the belly.” However you choose to name it, it’s way smarter than you might have ever imagined. And putting this extra brainpower to work can forever change your metabolism, and your life. Let me explain:

Have you ever had “butterflies” in your stomach? A “lump” in your throat? Have you ever been moved by a strong and undeniable “gut feeling” about something or someone?

Few people would say they had an elbow feeling or a kidney feeling, but gut feelings are highly regarded as a source of intuitive knowing and insight in many cultures around the globe. As it turns out, gut thoughts and feelings are not a fanciful notion but a physiological fact. Rather than the one brain found in our head, scientists have revealed that we have two brains – the other one is located in the digestive tract.

Known as the enteric nervous system (ENS), the gut’s brain is housed under the mucosal lining and between the muscular layers of the esophagus, the stomach, and the small and large intestines. The enteric nervous system is a rich and complicated network of neurons and neurochemicals that sense and control events in other parts of the body, including the brain. Amazingly, when scientists finally counted the number of nerve cells in the gut-brain, they found it contained over one hundred million neurons – more than the number of nerve cells in the spinal chord. The implication here is that we’re talking about a huge source of potentially untapped intelligence.

What’s fascinating to note is that researchers have observed a greater flow of neural traffic from the ENS to the head-brain than from the head-brain to the ENS. In other words, rather than the head informing the digestive system what to eat and how to metabolize, the locus of command is stationed in the belly.

Your gut clearly has a lot to say, and the head-brain happily listens.

In addition to an extensive network or neurons, the entire digestive tract is also lined with cells that produce and receive a variety of neuropeptides and neurochemicals, the same substances, in fact, that were previously thought to be found in the brain alone. These include serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and glutamate. Even more eye-opening is the fact that many hormones and chemicals previously thought to exist only in the gut were later found to be active in the brain. These included: insulin, cholecystokinin, vasoactive intestinal protein, motilin, gastrin, somato-statin, thyroptropin releasing hormone, neurostensin, secretin, substance P, glucagon and bombesin.

The enteric nervous system (the gut-brain) and the central nervous system (the head-brain) also share another intriguing similarity. In the sleep state, the head-brain moves through cycles of 90 minutes of slow-wave sleep frequencies, immediately followed by rapid eye movement (REM) sleep in which dreams are produced. The gut-brain also moves through a nightly cycle of 90 minutes of slow-wave muscular contractions followed by brief spurts of rapid muscular movements.

Is your gut dreaming?

Another compelling discovery is that the entire digestive tract is lined with specialized cells that produce and receive endorphins and enkephalins, chemicals that yield an array of sensations including joy, satisfaction, and pain relief. Most of the digestive sensations we are aware of tend to be negative ones, such as digestive upset and discomfort. Yet, the warm gut feelings we sometimes experience after a satisfying meal or an exciting encounter are, in part, the enteric nervous system squirting pleasure chemicals at distant and neighboring cells. Your gut is literally designed to let you know when you’re feeling good – just in case you forget to notice.

As many of us know, the gut is often a barometer of our emotional states and stresses. Those who suffer from peptic ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome, heartburn, upset stomach, and other conditions would certainly concur. So when we say we can’t “stomach” a situation, or something makes us want to “gag,” or we have “a knot” in our stomach, we’re actually expressing real-life psychophysiological sensations that arise from the enteric nervous system – the brain in the belly.

Perhaps this is why the gut produces and abundance of a class of chemicals known as the benzodiazepines. These psychoactive substances are the active ingredients in the prescription drugs Valium and Xanax. That’s right – your gut naturally produces these drugs, in their exact chemical form, without a prescription and at no extra cost.

In Japan, the midsection is considered the seat of wisdom and the locus of our center of gravity, both physical and spiritual. Known as the hara, this place of ultimate balance is centered around a point just below the navel. The Japanese quite literally refer to the hara as their place of higher thought just as Americans might point to the head as the location of “central command.” In other words, when we Americans say in a convincing tone, “I know,” we’ll point to our heads.

When the Japanese say, “I know,” they point to the belly. That’s because the Japanese are, in part, accessing the neurochemical potential of the gut-brain. Americans express this understanding to a different degree when they compliment someone by saying, “You’ve got guts.” Seldom do we praise others for having a liver or a spleen.

What all this means is that there’s a tremendous amount of brain power in your belly, and such power goes largely untapped.

You’ve probably heard the estimates that we use less than 10% of our brain capacity. Well, the same applies for our use of the gut-brain’s potential. It’s an untapped source of wisdom, power and information.

So if you think you have a problem because your brain can’t process all the contradictory information about diet fed to you by the media and the experts, think again. You really don’t have a problem. Your brain isn’t equipped to handle all that input by itself. It’s not designed to handle a “high-fact” diet. When it comes to food, we are physiologically wired to hear the gut-brain speak its mind. The head-brain plays a mutually supportive role.

Seldom will you see a lion all confused and anxious about which would be the best nutritional choice for the evening meal – zebra or caribou – or whether hippopotamus should be avoided altogether because it’s too high in fat. Animals instinctively know what to eat. So do we. We just don’t know that we know this.

Usually when people decide to focus on the belly it’s about making the belly tighter or tougher. But let’s take care of first things first. Make the belly smarter before endeavoring to make it harder. The less intelligent your gut, the more difficult it will be for your belly to find its proper tone. A well-defined muscle is an intelligent one. The obsession that so many Americans have with “tight abs” is a misplaced desire to use the wisdom of the midsection more proficiently. By trusting our ability to access gut-knowing, ego-driven fears naturally fall away and our true self-respect is revealed.

Our gut intelligence has been underused, and perhaps even dumbed down from decades of poor quality food, stressed eating and an ever more toxic world. So it’s time to exercise your gut wisdom. Can you tune in to this part of your physiology? Can you ask your gut for feedback? Do you notice your gut feelings? What does your gut-brain say your body is hungering for? How does it assess the person in front of you? Again, the enteric nervous system is capable of its own unique kind of intelligence that’s different from head brain intellect. It has it’s own brand of smarts that’s delivered via subtle sensations, curious feelings, instinct, and intuitions. So, do you have the guts to listen to your gut knowing? Are you ready to stop judging your gut, or exercising it into submission just for a moment, and hear its whispers? And if so, what does your gut have to say to you?

Warmest regards,

Marc David