Kweencast episode with Molly Alliman, @balancebymolly: food morality, eating disorder recovery, getting to a positive place with food
MA: Food is necessary for our survival, it’s not moral. For something that we need to survive you cannot place a morality on it, you just can’t, it doesn’t make any sense. Right? Like if you think about that, how can you claim morality on something that you need for survival?
AB: I’m Ali Bonar and welcome to Kweencast, the show where we interview Badass Kweens about body image, business and beyond.
AB: Hi friends! Welcome back to Kweencast. Today I’m talking to Molly Alliman who is someone so near and dear to my heart. Molly was the first person I ever told about any of my food and eating issues. She single-handedly changed my relationship with food. She coached me from a place of scarcity and anxiety around food to abundance and just nourishing my body, and she is just such an incredible person. And, I am so excited to share this episode because she drops some serious knowledge bombs. Especially we talk about food morality - so good versus bad food - we talk about why gluten may not be the devil for most of us. And we also talk about how to heal your relationship with food and really to get to a place where you enjoy eating and you have no anxiety around it, and you eat things that feel good in your body and feel good to you, because we’re all individual, we’re all different. And, something else I wanted to quickly before we dive right in is that Molly is launching her new Fear to Freedom course today. It basically takes everything she teaches to her clients, like me, on healing your relationship with food and delivers it directly via video modules, worksheets and group support. I’m a huge fan of group coaching. I think it’s one of the best ways you can learn and as I mentioned before, Molly single-handedly changed my relationship with food. So, I’ll include all of this in the show notes and all of the Kweencast listeners are going to get 15% off so, yeah. I’ll include all of that in the show notes so you guys can check that out after the show. But let’s just dive right in shall we? Because there’s so much to get into and Molly is so incredible, and I can’t wait for you guys to listen!
AB: Molly to me is a very a special person. She was really the first person that I told about my issues with food. I had kept it inside for so long and it was really you know, pun intended, eating away at me and she really just served as, you know, my confidant but also my guide into my healing journey. So, I’d love for you to introduce yourself because you know, you’re very motivational.
MA: Yeah! You’re such a special part of my life too, Ali. You know I was looking at emails and we worked together exactly three years to the date. So, May of 2017 is when we started to work together, which is crazy. Yeah, it’s just been like so special to see you and your journey since we had worked together. Those who are listening who are wondering, you know why we worked together? So who the heck am I? I’m a Health Coach. I’m a full time Health Coach and Nutritionist. I work one-on-one with my clients to help heal their relationship with food. It’s definitely bigger than that, but I think that, that kind of sums up what I do. When I started working, and this is why Ali this is why you’re so special to me, when I started working as a Health Coach that wasn’t what I did. I was your classic nutritionist who helped people discover ways of eating that worked for themselves; in terms of meal planning, proteins, fats, carbs – putting everything together – classic Nutritionist. And then, what I found in working with women was that everybody, or I should say nobody, really had a good relationship with food. And I remember when you contacted me and you said that you really wanted to work on your anxiety around food and healing your own relationship with food, and I was very open and I said, “You know that’s not really what my practice is about.” And you said, “Well I like that you have such a good relationship with food yourself.” And I remember saying, “Let’s do it. Let’s dive in and try it out and see what happens.” And I think you’d agree with me, what happened was total magic, right?
MA: And from that, from working with you, my whole practice has pivoted for the past three years and now I exclusively pretty much work with women to heal their relationship with food and to also heal their guts. So really, who the heck am I? Gut healer, food relationship healer – because those two things, in my mind, really go hand-in-hand. Yeah!
AB: Wow, that is so awesome! Yeah, I mean I tell everyone that I when I first reached out to you it really was because I, you know, had never talked to a therapist. I had this kind of mindset that therapy was an kind of old crotchety woman, you know, peering over her notebook like silently judging me for what I was saying. So I was so afraid to open up.
MA: [laughing] Yeah!
AB: Then I saw you on Instagram and it’s just like, you’re just this bright, you know, positive, like sunny person and I was like, “Wow she looks really welcoming and, you know, and like someone that I could like just be friends with!” So yeah, I think you just have that way about you of making people just feel comfortable too, like with sharing kind of the heavy stuff. Because I mean, and going back to what you were talking about, you started off as a Nutrition and Health Coach, but health is so much more. And I know you agree with me, it’s so much more than what’s on your plate. I think it really was a natural evolution for you to shift into more even, you know, mental health and spiritual and meditation and stuff like that.
AB: So, what’s kind of been, I mean for you, you know, obviously you got into health for a reason and I feel like a lot of people in the wellness industry have sort of like a food story. So, what’s kind of you’re journey with food been like? And where does it look like today?
MA: Yeah definitely. My relationship with food has been oops…
[dropped ear phones]
AB: Happens to me all the time!
MA: Uh we’re on video, my ear buds fell out! One of these never stay in. So [laughing] it’s really funny for people who are listening, who can’t see us, they’re like, “What is happening?”.
MA: My relationship with food has been definitely a really rocky one, but, interesting to say the least. So, I had gut issues from an early age. Had my gallbladder removed at the age of 24. I’m an IBS sufferer, chronic heart burn, stomach pains…all started in my early twenties when I was living definitely a different lifestyle than I am now. I went to the University of Arizona, if anyone is listening and went there, it’s definitely a party school. So, I was binge drinking. I was binge eating. I was staying up all hours the night burning the candles at both end, and it really took a toll on not only my gut health, but with my relationship with food as well. When I was bingeing in my early twenties, I didn’t recognize it as either a problem or something that needed to be fixed. To me, it was my normal to come home after a night of binge drinking and eat like a whole Stouffers Macaroni and Cheese family size, right? Or two have two bagels with cream cheese, maybe 3, in one sitting. And that was kind of like, I’m like, “Well I’m binge drinking, and that’s what happens when you drink. You get really hungry and you eat all of the things.” But what I was really doing was suppressing some really hard emotions that I was dealing with at the time. I had lost my father when I was 19 years old, and I didn’t know how to deal with what came up from that. And so food was a way, where every time those emotions would come up, I would use food to suppress them and shove them down. Your gallbladder is responsible for digesting larger meals and meals that are higher in fat. So, for lack of a better way to say it, from binge eating I lost an organ, which is pretty crazy! It gave up on me and I had to have it removed. And, so I’ve had to adjust the way that I eat since then. It’s crazy that necessarily wasn’t exactly my rock bottom, that wasn’t when I decided to fix my relationship with food because I didn’t even know what that meant at the time. This was a long time ago. I’m 37 years old, so if you think about it back then when I was in, you know, in my early twenties, people didn’t talk about stuff like this. This was such a taboo subject and it still is a taboo subject in terms of our relationship with food is very shameful and it comes with a lot of guilt as well. And I was, I was feeling very shamed for what I had done to my body, you know my drinking habits and also my eating habits. And it took a long time of like trying to heal myself and unwind from those behaviors and habits. And in the meantime, I was also trying to heal my IBS as well. Which is really horrible to have in your twenties, and your single and your trying to date, and you have to run to the bathroom.
MA: [laughing] There’s so many moments and stories I could share about that that are like embarrassing enough, and maybe like funny later in life, but at the time it was absolutely terrible. And, really what we’re taught from nutrition is that if you have digestive disorders such as IBS or maybe now CIBO, which is popular, that you have to fix it by removing foods from your diet. And that’s what I did. I overcorrected binge eating and I went straight into orthorexia. Orthorexia is another form of disordered eating where you believe that everything has to be perfect – the perfect ingredients, perfect amounts of food, the perfect types of foods. I over corrected and I went off of the drive-through burrito but I went straight into, “Oh if I’m going to have a burrito it has to be on a sprouted wheat tortilla with brown rice and pasture raised grass-fed cheese, and organic beans that come in a glass, and not a terrible you know…”. So I totally course corrected, and from that my IBS healed, right? So mentally I was like, “Wow. This is the way to do it. If I can heal my IBS from working this way, from eating this way, then it’s working and that must mean that I should continue along this path.” Again, not knowing that I had disordered eating at the time.
It wasn’t until I came into my profession now, until I left my corporate career and went back to school for nutrition and learned more about our relationship with food and how that really effects who we are and what I had been suppressing for so many years, and for using food for control for what I wasn’t able to control in my life. And I think now as a Health Coach, to kind of where I am in my journey now, it’s so important for me to work with women to heal their relationship with food because it had literally taken me 15 years to get to where I am today, which is absolutely nuts. You know, I’m like that’s not how long it should take to heal your relationship with food. So I created programs that very specifically work with women with either orthorexia, and food obsession and food anxiety. Or women who have binge and restrict cycles with food as well. It became a passion to help other women. I think that was a big healing part of my journey with food as well…yeah.
AB: That’s awesome. Yeah, I, honestly, I feel like going back to what you were saying about you know just not even knowing you had an eating disorder or disordered eating. And I feel like I struggled with food before I saw you, you know that was three years ago, that was like at the very end. Like I had been struggling since I was probably 15 or 16 like it had been, you know, almost 10-years. I just think for the longest time, when I came to see you, I felt like, and I don’t know if you remember this, but I was terrified carbs first of all, that was like my biggest thing.
MA: Yeah. Mm hmmm.
AB: Oh, like carbophobic! And like, the thing that I always try to tell people is just it’s a spectrum. For me, I was, you know, at like a normal weight. I wasn’t super frail or underweight – like not the classic kind of stereotypical anorexic woman that you think of. And so I even hesitated to see you because I don’t feel like my issues are that bad. And yet, here I was literally thinking about food 24/7. And just planning my next meal…so many things. And at the time I seriously didn’t think I had an issue. I just was like, you know, I feel anxiety around food, but I didn’t understand why. Like I thought it was something wrong with me not this obsession. And I think I was pretty orthorexic too, now that I think about it because I think it was more so like food groups like carbs and whatever.
MA: Mm hmmm, mm hmmm.
AB: But do you have any tips for people, obviously seeing someone like you is the best thing I can recommend. But maybe if they can’t afford it or they’re just starting to try to heal their relationship with food on their own. What are some little tips or steps they can take in that direction?
MA: Yeah, that’s a really good question. I think it really starts with going inward on that, in terms of where the obsessive food thoughts really lie. Usually those are within food fears and food rules. So, I always say the first step to starting to heal your relationship with food is recognizing, kind of like you said about cards right, recognizing where your fears lie with food. And usually that has to do, yes, with food groups. So, you have food fears around certain types of carbohydrates, or you have food rules around certain types of carbohydrates. For example, the only type of carbohydrates you’ll eat are plant-based, like sweet potato or squash or whatever it may be – but you won’t touch any gluten or maybe you won’t touch any grains. So, sitting down and really recognizing what your food fears are and what your food rules are, your rules around food, is a really great first step to take because you’re just taking stock then of your relationship with food at that point. You’re just realizing that how you’re eating is actually dictated more by rules and by that fear rather, than desire and want and cravings and enjoyment around food. Because when you create rules around food it takes away that enjoyment from it, it takes away what you really want. For example, if you have a food rule about intermittent fasting, let’s say you have a rule about not eating within a 16-hour window but you wake up in the morning and your hungry and you deny that hunger and you deny that enjoyment of having the breakfast that you really desire to stay within that window or that food rule. Or maybe you’re hungry at night after dinner, right? Some people who intermittent fast eat dinner at 5 pm and then by 8 they’re hungry again and they’re like, “Can’t eat…gotta make that 16-hour window.”. And again, that’s just denying your body of its basic needs and its basic instincts and also that enjoyment as well of eating when you’re hungry and enjoying how that food smells, and tastes and feels in your mouth – and I think that can be pretty damaging. So, I think that’s the best place to start to try to unpack your food rules first. Even if that’s just writing down and recognizing them and becoming aware of them.
AB: Yeah, I think that’s so important with food rules. I, you know, for so long I had these rules of like the time, what you were saying about the time thing. So, after 8 pm I, even if I was hungry, I wouldn’t eat because it had been instilled in me that calories you eat after a certain time will accumulate on our body somehow. So, what are some common food rules that you hear of people? And once you say them out loud, they’re super ridiculous, but in our heads, they feel so significant.
MA: They makes so much sense in our head because at some point we’ve heard that that’s what we should be doing, and we integrate that into the way that we eat. I think carbs is definitely the number one thing, right? Carbs have become enemy number one lately, which is really funny how like diets loop around from the 90s, from like the South Beach Diet and the Atkins Diet. But I think carbs is definitely like “numero uno” for people. People have a lot of rules around carbohydrates. Whether that’s they can only eat one carbohydrate a day, right? Or whether that they can only eat carbohydrates in the morning or carbohydrates at night or carbohydrates at a certain time. Or, certain types of carbohydrates. Like some people have a “no gluten rule”, like hard stop at gluten. “Gluten is going to make me bloated. Gluten is going to make me gain weight. Gluten is going to give me digestive issues.” Or at the opposite end, “Gluten is going to make me feel great if I don’t eat it. I’m going to have less breakouts if I don’t eat gluten. I’m going to lose weight if I don’t eat gluten. I’m going to feel more energized if I don’t eat gluten.” And the reason why you think that is because at some point you saw somebody on the internet or on Instagram who cut out gluten who is saying how great they feel, and so you want to feel that great too! But our bodies are so different. How one person works and whatever their rules around food are going to effect you and your gut totally differently. I always describe our guts as being like fingerprints, everyone’s gut and how it digests food is so different. So, we can get into that later, but carbs are always number of food rules…every single time. I haven’t really met a client of mine who hasn’t had a rule, or rules plural, around carbohdyrates. And, I then think the other one I get the most is about times that you eat during the day. Not only like when you have breakfast, either waiting until 10 sometimes until noon, somtimes till 2 pm to break that fast, or that you can’t eat later at night. And one that I talked about the other day was about not eating a full meal if it’s not around meal time too…so like being afraid about, “Oh what happens if I’m hungry between meal times, and a snack isn’t just going to do it.” And a lot of people are like “it’s not lunchtime” or “it’s not dinnertime” so I’m not going to eat a full meal and I’m going to wait until it’s that, you know, noon or 1 pm, or 6 or 7 pm time when again you may need a full meal at 4 pm because for so many reasons your body’s hungry.
MA: So those are the two biggest ones that I hear all the time.
AB: Yeah, yeah. Those are great. And I mean, I still find myself, you know, catching myself where it’s just little things where it’s like where I start to make eggs and I’m like, “I’m just going to make two eggs” and it’s like drilled into my head where you can only have two eggs max. And so I caught myself the other day and I was like, “But, I’m really hungry. I’m going to make more than two eggs.”
AB: Or like little things where, you know, it’s like you know I had kinda of a carb heavy lunch like maybe I’ll just do a lower carb meal for dinner. Kind of like that bank account mentality that I feel has all been drilled into us, of just yeah… And so it’s little things like that and I think it’s really hard to, you know, break those rules and this kind of leads perfectly into my next question about food guilt. When we do break these rules we feel guilty about it or shameful a lot of times and, for me, it would often trigger a binge you know if I ate something that I didn’t think was good then I would just be like, “Fuck it! I’m just going to go ham and then eat perfectly clean the next day.” So tell me about food guilt because I know you’ve talked about this on your stories recently.
MA: Yeah, I think the “fuck it” mentality definitley goes along with “food group”, I put those in the same category, right? Exactly what you said that a lot of us have that moment in time when we’re like, “Okay, I’m going to have the bag of cookies, but since I’ve had one of them I might as well keep on going and eat the whole thing. Screw it. I ruined it. And then tomorrow I can start over and eat super clean or super healthy.” Those are the words to pay attention to when it comes to food labeling. So the words clean and the words healthy, clean vs. dirty, unhealthy vs healthy, good vs bad, right? Those are all labels, and when we think about the word guilt and what it really means and where that comes from we feel guilty when we do something bad. If we think about even from childhood when we’re punished by our parents when we do something wrong or bad and we feel really guilty about that. So that guilt comes from doing something wrong or bad. When we label food as bad or we label foods as unclean or unhealthy that is what exactly creates that guilt. If you open that bag of cookies, I’m thinking of like Famous Amos cookies – if anyone knows those bags of mini chocolate chip cookies.
AB: Yeah! So good!
MA: Or you open a sleeve of cookies. I’m more of a chewy Chips Ahoy girl. But you open it and you immediately have this thing where you say, “Ah, I’m being so bad right now.” You know that like internal monologue. Or you’re like, “Wow, I’m really falling off the wagon here.” You know? You’re like labeling the activity of eating those cookies and also the cookies themselves as being bad. And so when you perform an act of being bad, like eating cookies that you’ve labeled as unhealthy, that creates guilt. Of course you’re going to feel guilty for doing that. So, when you remove those labels the guilt starts to fall away, because there’s nothing tied to those cookies, and then they don’t become this bad thing or this bad behavior they just become a cookie. And that’s it.
No food is better than the other. So kale salad isn’t better than a cookie, right? At all. A gluten-free cookies isn’t better than a processed Chips Ahoy cookie. All foods are created equal. It sounds crazy to say that because people are like, “Well that’s not true because processed ingredients are bad for you. And kale has more nutrients thank a cookie.” But by saying that you’re even thinking about it the wrong way. That’s kind of what you need to unpack there first and foremost, is why you have those labels around food and how food as really effected you physically and mentally for why those labels are there. Because that’s where that guilt comes from right away. Food is necessary for our survival, it’s not moral. For something that we need to survive you cannot place a morality on it. You just can’t, it doesn’t make any sense. Right? Like if you think about that, how can you claim morality on something that you need for survival? And that’s where that feelings of guilt and shame come. I don’t know why I’m going to bring sex into this…but I am, because I think that like sex is something that we need. We need sex for survival and there’s so much guilt and shame around it too. So you think about all of these basic human needs that we’re basing morality on, who we are as a person. Because a lot of people who eat clean are like, “I’m morally better than people who eat processed foods.”
AB: Yes! That was me.
MA: Yeah! A lot of people really believe that and there’s nothing wrong with that, that’s what you’re taught and those are the beliefs engrained in you from diet culture and diet mentality. People not only shame themselves but shame others as well.
AB: Totally. Oh my god, and yeah, I remember, I don’t think I’ve ever shared this but like I remember when I was right around the time right around before I started seeing you like I felt legitimately better than other people because of how I ate. Like I would look at other people at restaurants or going through the McDonalds drive-through and being like, “Ugh! Like peasants!” Like you know so holier-than-thou? “Oh, you guys are eating fast food? Like ew!” And it’s so disgusting to just think that’s…and I truly believed it you know? And this is the first time that I’m really even talking about it because I forgot that I had really thought that way. And also going back to the food guilt side of things and the morality around food. I think that also something that happened when I stopped, you know, treating foods as good and bad was it also helped me with you know, I would put foods that I thought were bad on a pedestal, like ice cream and cookies. And then because they were on a pedestal, I tended – when I did eat them – to totally disregard my hunger and satiety cues and I would overeat them every single time. Similar to what we were saying earlier, it’s that kind of “fuck it” mentality. And I think people are afraid to treat all foods as equal because they think, “Oh well I’m just going to eat donuts and ice cream all day.” But can you explain why that really isn’t the case?
MA: Yeah. That’s really, really important to understand. I’m so happy you brought that up. The reason why we binge on foods is because we restrict them. Period. So, I always say to any new client of mine that I’m working with who’s on the binge and restrict cycle and labels themselves as a binger. I always kind of correct that and turn it on its head and say you’re not a binger you’re actually a restricter, and that’s where you need to start. Because what happens is you label those foods as bad or something that you can’t have, so: the cookies, the cakes, the burritos, the sandwiches, the carbohydrates – like you said you place them on a pedestal. They become a special thing. When something’s special or something feels too good you kind of tend to back away from it a little bit, you’re like, “I’m not going to have too much of that because I’m afraid that I’m going to lose control. I don’t trust myself around that food.” Right? So, all these kind of conversations in your head pop up around that food. People are always like, “Oh, I can’t control myself around cookies.” Cookies are my favorite one. Or, “Cookies are my downfall. Those are my downfall so I can’t be around those, so I’m not going to have them that often.” What happens then when you restrict and when they eventually come into your life – we’re never free of cookies – you’re going to go for it because you haven’t had those cookies for so long. They are going to taste so good! Right? Especially with carbohydrates, and here is the tricky thing about restriction and about bingeing that really messes with people’s especially why carbohydrates is number one, is that when we restrict carbohydrates we are restricting that glucose and we are restricting that energy that we really need to survive. For our hormones to thrive, for our mood and energy to thrive, we need carbohydrates, gluten included. When we take those out of our diet our body is starved of energy, it’s starved of that light that energy. So, when you have carbohydrates and you give your body that quick hit of energy that you haven’t had in so long your body is like, “I want more, give me more because I’ve been so deprived of this!” Carbs and sugar are the quickest forms of energy. So, your body is going to crave carbs and sugar first when you binge. Your body is going to crave carbs and sugar when you go “overboard” or “fall of the wagon” or whatever it is. So, then what that does is it creates that cycle when you’re like well then carbohydrates and sugar must be bad because those are things I can’t control myself around. When in reality that’s actually your body doing its job and that’s your body being good to you. Because it’s saying, “Give me that energy that you have deprived me of. And give that to me in the form of white carbohydrates and white sugar because those are the quickest sources of energy, and that’s what I need right now for survival.” So actually, that like feeling of being out of control around food is survival. That’s your body doing its job. So if you just allow yourself to have the white carbohydrates, the white sugar, or carbohydrates of any form – I always work with clients who slowly ease back into carbohydrates – but then you start to give your body the energy that it needs consistently, then it won’t have that feeling of being out of control around it because you’ve already been providing it with that energy.
MA: Yeah. Carbs are just – I can go on and on about carbs and how important they are, not only for your health but also your relationship with food as well.
AB: Yeah. That is so important. And, I mean I remember just, I was so afraid of carbs and so when I would binge, I would just remember bingeing on nut butter and you know random like, even like roasted vegetables sometimes. And I’m sure you hear that as people bingeing on healthy food even, or stuff that they have allowed for themselves, but it’s the behavior and the habit is really what’s problematic it’s not really the food itself. And it scared me – because I’m like what the heck – it’s not even like anyone wants to binge, it’s a very out of control feeling and especially when you’re trying so desperately to control your food, the worst thing that could happen to you, you know?
I’d love to move into like quarantine, because obviously the world that we’re living in right now is very different and triggering and tough for a lot of people that have struggled with food in the past or are currently struggling. You know we’re stuck at home, there’s an abundance of food and also just the stress you know, emotional and financial – so do you have any tips for people, or have you experienced any feeling triggered yourself with the current situation?
MA: Yeah – welcome to a pandemic right? We are now – you know I think it’s also a place of privilege to come from too. A lot of you who are listening are in a place of privilege to be able to work from home right now. Which is incredible when you think about it. With that comes being home all day around your pantry and around your fridge, right? With that comes access to food whenever you want it. I hear from a lot of people who are struggling right now during home quarantine that it’s that access that is really the problem for them. And they’re like well, “Now I’ve just started to snack all day. I’m not eating full meals. I can’t pay attention to my hunger or fullness cues. I’m bored. So, I’m eating to fill that space and that time.” And I always remind people, I’m like, “Yeah that’s okay. Of course you’re eating to fill that space and time because you’ve never given yourself any other activities or toolbox that built with things to fill that space and that time. Food has just always been that for you. So, until you really build a toolbox of other activities to fill that space and that time of boredom it’s going to always be food. And that’s actually totally normal.” As Americans we live in a society that is all about productivity and it’s really hard for us to do anything for enjoyment that’s not productive.
AB: So true.
MA: So as you’re listening, think of something that you’ve done recently that is just about enjoyment and not about being productive. I bet that’s really hard to think about what that is, right? And guess what actually eating is something that is pretty enjoyable, not really productive when you think about it. You’re not accomplishing anything, other than giving yourself energy or focus for work that day. But think about things that you love, the hobbies that you enjoy, maybe things that you haven’t done for so long that maybe now you have the time to do them. Not saying that takes food off the table as being something to fill that boredom during home quarantine, but it just becomes one of many choices that you have to fill that time. So when you give yourself choice, and I always say that again and again, it’s not about perfection it’s about choice. If you just give yourself the choice of what to do to fill the that time of boredom during home quarantine if can be food or it can be anything else, you know? And that kind of opens it up and that’s one thing I realized because you asked myself and how things have changed for me during home quarantine – I’m definitely eating a lot more carbohydrates during home quarantine. Since March I have been like carb queen. I want to say I’ve always been carb queen but a little more than normal, right? Like oatmeal for breakfast, breakfast burrito for lunch, rice and whatever for dinner – like carbs in every meal – because for me carbs are comfort and this is a time that is like yeah really unstable for myself and for a lot of people, and I think we turn to food for comfort when we’re unsure when there’s that uncertainty and that anxiety. And I think where my relationship with food is, it’s like, “I’m okay with that. I’m like cool I need a little comfort and a lot of carbohydrates right now so I’m going to do that. So be it however that changes my body or my digestion. That’s really what I need right now to comfort myself.” So that’s been the big change for me too is leaning into whatever comes up because I am eating so differently than I usually do because my life is different right now, and my emotions are different right now. And that’s not just home quarantine, that’s life in general. It will always be up and down for when there’s stress, when there’s anxiety, when there’s big life changes – where we turn to food for comfort – and it’s really normal to eat for comfort. It really is and it’s okay to self-soothe. But like we were talking about earlier, to know the difference between overeating, emotional eating and binge eating – because all three of those things are different. And we sometimes group those together.
AB: Yeah can you explain that?
MA: Binge eating, a lot of people think they are binge eaters when they might not be. Binge eating is different from emotional eating because it’s actually free of emotions. When we eat emotionally, we’re really present. We’re like, “I’m eating some chocolate right now because I’m watching The Notebook and it’s really sad.” Or, “I’ve had a bad week I want to eat chocolate to make myself feel better. I know that I’m emotionally eating. I know I’m feeling sad and I know I’m using chocolate to try and make myself feel better.” That’s totally normal, totally fine, totally normal. That’s emotional eating, because you know what emotions you’re experiencing. Binge eating is different because binge eating is actually a suppression of emotions. So, we binge eat in order to numb and to not feel. Binge eating is the opposite of emotional eating because there’s no emotion in binge eating whatsoever. You completely shut off and you shut down and that animalistic tendency to continue to eat, to numb and suppress continues right until you make yourself sick or you “come to” – which I hear a lot from clients. It’s like a blackout and you come to at the end of a binge. Overeating is different than both of those because overeating sometimes has really nothing to do with emotions, whether they are there or not there, overeating is mainly like, “Dang these cookies are good I’m going to have more!”. Or like I’m out, let’s reminisce on the times when we went out to dinner and you’re like, “Dang this meal is so good! The dessert menu looks fantastic, I want to eat a dessert, even though I know I’m full right now. I just want to enjoy that.” So usually overeating comes from that enjoyment of a meal where you’re full but you want to keep on eating to continue that experience of enjoyment, whether that’s with others or with the food itself. And then you overeat, or you eat past the point of being full. So, that’s really the difference between those three things: overeating, emotional eating and binge eating are all very different.
AB: No, that’s so important. Because I definitely have had times where I’m sure, you know, I’ve misspoken, or I’ve used the term binge, “Oh I binged, you know.” People say it casually like, or even let’s binge a Netflix show, and I think in our culture it’s very easy to say, “Oh, let’s binge this.” But binge eating is no joke. Like everything you said, and then and also accompanied by immense feelings of guilt and shame after you’re done eating. Which I’ve never felt with just you know, now I feel like I have a very great relationship with food, and I overeat all the time but it’s like when Eric and I are you know, (tbt to going out to restaurants). When we had like gone to a restaurant had like an amazing dinner and see the dessert menu, like you said, and like after I’m done eating, I’m like damn, we’re both like, “Okay we’re stuffed!”, but we don’t feel guilt and shame. Like that meal just slapped super hard and we’re glad that we did that, yeah.
MA: That meal was a dime piece and I like got all up in that.
AB: Exactly! Exactly. Um, cool – so we’ve been talking about a lot of food but in the interest of time I definitely want to touch on the second half of what we wanted to talk about which was leaving the corporate world. So, you worked in finance for a while, 10+ something year, a lot of years.
MA: A lot of years! 13 years.
AB: 13 years. Dang girl, damn! You left that career that whole industry for something completely different which is what you’re doing now. So, tell us about that. You know, what was your experience like in finance and what led you to create this second life for yourself?
MA: Finance was such a big part of my life for such a long time. I think a lot of this conversation comes back to thinking about things in your life that give you safety and security versus things in your life that give you fulfillment and taking stock of that. Banking for me was like my safety and security for such a long time. It did give me fulfilment in the beginning. I loved climbing the corporate ladder and predominately male industry, I loved that, and that gave me a huge sense of fulfillment for probably the first 10 years of my career. I loved being the only woman in the board room, right? I loves being told that I couldn’t do something and shattering that feeling. I loved being the only woman on the technology banking team that I was on. It was a great feeling, and also a terrible feeling at times too, if you want to bring misogyny or patriarchy into it. But it was a good feeling for a long time and then one day it just wasn’t. One day the fulfilment just went away, and I stayed. And this is true of any relationship whether it’s relationships with a romantic partner, a friendship, a job and career, or even a relationship with yourself. When you start to realize that you’re staying only for the safety and security of what that relationship gives you and not fulfillment. So, banking gave me that safety and security of that paycheck. The safety and security of knowing that I could pay my bills. Safety and security of knowing that I could have savings, retirement. But it stopped being fulfilling. And I went for like three years that way and I was like, “This isn’t working. This isn’t what I want.” And I had been through a lot of like shit, in terms of stuff with like men as well in banking – I mean I can go on and on. If anybody works in corporate America in a predominately male industry, misogyny is real, the patriarchy is real. And it can be really, really hard. I think that played a lot on my relationship with food as well, because there was like a certain look as a woman in banking that you kind of had to fulfill. I mean I remember that my closet was divided into half of like Molly clothes that were truly me and what I wore, and the half were like my banking clothes. Like my suits and my skirt suits and my dresses and my jackets and my high heels, that fit this role about what you were supposed to look like as a woman in that career. And I think my relationship with food definitely went alongside that, in terms of being able to fit into those clothes and what I thought was the appropriate body type to have in that industry, which is just fucking crazy when you think about how like fucked up that is. You know?
AB: Yeah! Yeah.
MA: Like the fat-phobia. Like everything about that is just like absolutely insane. And also, just when you’re in a room with important people, with tech CEOs and CFOs, of wanting to look a certain way and appear to be a certain type of person. What that does is it started to shove down my true sense of self of who I really was, and with that my relationship with myself and with food definitely suffered as a result. So, the last like year of my job I was working for the second biggest bank in America if you think about terms of asset size – if you guys want to Google and figure that one out. I would come in to like the high rise building on the 21st floor and my beautiful office and would close the door every day and I would just sob in the morning. I would cry, I was just like, “I don’t want to be here. This is so awful. But I don’t know what else to do because what am I supposed to do? Follow my passion? Go back to school about nutrition? What am I supposed to do, like, start my own company and like teach others how to eat? That’s preposterous! I could never do that. And why would I leave my cushy paycheck and my cushy bank office and all that safety and security for like the fleeting thought of possible fulfilment?” It was just nuts, and then after a while that shifted to becoming the only option that I had. It was crazy how that happened, like one day I was like, “Shit that’s like the only – the only option that I have right now is to leave banking and start my own nutrition practice.” I knew I had to do it. I enrolled back in school. I went to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I was lucky to be able to do school in New York and I did it all online which is great. Like I would shut the door to my office and watch video modules and like people would knock and I would like quickly change the screen and was like, “Come in! I’m just working on this deal here.”
I got caught. I remember, this is one of those moments where I’m like, “Am I getting fired?”. I scanned an insurance document with my LLC, Balance By Molly, on the insurance document and big brother at this bank I worked with caught it and they sent the scan back to me, my boss and my boss’ boss and were like, “Hey, we notice that you have a company. This needs to be approved.” And I was like, “Oh my god! I think this is the moment. I think this is when I’m going to get fired. They found out! Big brother caught me!” It was crazy because my boss came into my office and was like, “Hey that’s cool, you know. I will approve it. It’s no big deal. Side hustle away.” And I’m like, I don’t want this to be my side hustle though, I want this to be my full-time gig. I eventually started to listen, it was around that time when the Beyonce Lemonade album came out in 2017 and I would listen to the “Sorry” song and [sings] “Middle fingers up. I ain’t sorry.” And I was like I can’t feel sorry for leaving this bank. Like middle fingers up, you gave me what I needed and now I’m over you.
AB: Yup. Yeah. Thank you next.
MA: Thank you, bye, next. And then I just dove, I do everything that I recommend for people not to for starting your own career, where I was like side hustle be damned. I’m just going to go full fucking throttle into being a full time Health Coach because I really believed that, and this may just be my personality, but I believe that if I side hustled that I wouldn’t ever fully commit. That there would always be that that “one foot in, one foot out” kind of mentality and that every bonus and every big deal that would come through would keep my foothold in banking. And I was like I have to give that up – I have to fully leave in order to fully immerse myself. And thankfully it worked. And thankfully I had major self-doubt and fear which I deal with every single day as a business owner, I think you know that, Ali.
AB: Yeah, totally.
MA: You’re scared shitless.
AB: Ugh it’s just sweaty as hell.
MA: This is going to be the day that everything fails. And if people stopped wanting to be my clients and if people wanted to stop buying granola butter, this could be it this could be the end. So, thankfully coming from a finance background I was smart about it. I budgeted, I saved. I put away enough money if I needed to fail for a long period of time, I would have that. And what’s incredible is that I never had to use any, I never had to use a dime of it. I had so much self-doubt and fear and I went into it just like, even pat myself on the back today I’m like, “Damn like I kind of rock and rolled it and I did it.” You know? And I didn’t have to use any of those savings and that’s like pretty incredible and that’s what I go back to every single time I have that fear and self-doubt. And like you did it and you continue to do that, and that fulfilment is there. That safety and security will come. Do what you love, and the money will come. Always, always. 100%
AB: Yes! Preach. Yas queen!
AB: Yas queen! I mean just the one thing that really gets me going is just how the corporate 9-5 is, you know, it’s definitely for some people, but it’s no more secure than running your own business. I mean coronavirus is a perfect example and if anything comes out of this pandemic is like, you know, my mom is dentist and like she wasn’t working. None of us are secure so why just hate your life day in and day out to work for someone else when if actually your passion lies in doing your own thing. At least you have control over if your business is successful or not versus waiting, “Oh hopefully I don’t get fired today or you know furloughed or whatever.” So yeah, I think that’s so incredible. So, for people listening that maybe are interested in starting their own thing, how did you push through that self-doubt and insecurity? Because yes, I’m with you. I feel it every single day. It’s not something that like magically goes away but are there any things that help you handle it?
MA: Yeah, my advice for that is probably the opposite of what people want to hear. My advice is to actually keep that fear and self-doubt, but just put it in the back seat. Don’t let it become a passenger, don’t let it tell you where to turn, don’t let it give you directions, don’t let it change the radio, don’t let it change the song. Put it in the backseat. It’s there with you on that journey but it doesn’t dictate where you’re going or what you’re listening to. Having it there can be actually like a motivator for you, at least it is for me. I always say that fear is a sign of what you’re supposed to be doing and that if you’re really scared shitless about something, then that’s probably what you should be doing. Fear is an indicator. Self-doubt is an indicator of what our desires and our passions are and what we should be doing. And I think that’s true for any creative. If you’re scared to do something, if you have that feeling of fear around starting your own business or whatever it is, that’s probably what you should be doing. So, I would say, if fear ever went away, for me that would be a bad sign. I actually like having it there in the back seat. Again, it’s with you on the journey it’s just not giving you directions and telling you where to go.
MA: You are in the front seat. You have the wheel and you can make that decision every single day. And fear is just there as an indicator to keep on going and that’s it.
AB: Yeah, I mean I think the only thing we really should be afraid of is that feeling of complacency. Of not changing and not evolving and yeah, staying stuck. Um, amazing! Well, we’re up on time which is so crazy. I feel like I could talk to you forever, but last question which I ask everyone is, “What makes you feel like a Kween?”
MB: What makes me feel like a Kween? That’s such a great question. Gosh that’s like one to think about. What makes me feel like a Kween is probably finding that confidence from within. I feel like a lot of us don’t know where to look for confidence especially when that fear and that self-doubt is there for you. So, I feel like a Kween when I find the confidence to try something new, whether that’s in my business or in my life. Right now, I’m trying a lot of new things in my business. I’m launching a new online course which scares the shit out of me.
AB: Yeah! Tell us about that.
MA: I’m like I have to find the confidence to do this because I know so many people will benefit from it. You know you talked about people being able of what they can afford or not afford, so this is everything that I teach in my practice to my clients I’m putting into an online course, step-by-step of how to heal your relationship with food. Step-by-step. Soup to nuts. Everything that you can think of from hunger cues to full cues, food rules, to the binge-restrict cycle, to your body and body neutrality, how to stop obsessive thoughts around food, how to stop the binge-restrict cycle – it’s all in there. I’m hopefully launching it in June. Maybe when this comes out it will be available, so I’ll give you the link so that you can put that in the show notes if you want to check that out. For me that has taken a journey of confidence to know that what I put out there in the world will be received by people and will hopefully change your relationship with food and therefore change your life as well, because that’s what’s really, really important to me.
AB: Well you’ve definitely changed my life, so I know you’re changing so many others too. Thank you so much for being here, Molly and yeah, I’ll include all of that in the show notes and you can find Molly @balancebymolly on Instagram and is your website balancebymolly.com?
MA: That’s it – Balancebymolly.com
AB: Perfect, awesome! Thank you so much, this was so great!
MA: Thank you, Ali! You’re the best!
AB: Woo! [bomb ass music] Thank you guys so much for listening. Don’t forget to leave a review. We give away free Granola Butter every week to people who leave awesome reviews on Apple podcast and all you gotta do is leave us a review. We pick a new winner every week…free Granola Butter. Alright you guys I will see you on Sunday with a fun solo episode. I appreciate each and every one of you and if you have any questions, comments, concerns feel free to shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org or you can shoot me a DM on Instagram @Avokween. Alright you guys, have a great week! Talk to you soon. Bye!